No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Monday, December 05, 2016

2016/63: Think of England -- KJ Charles

The actual life of a gentleman spy, it seemed to him, consisted of sneaking about, breaking the rules of hospitality and generally being anything but a gentleman, and the only mysterious foreigner around was da Silva. He was probably the closest thing Peakholme had to offer to a sultry seductress, come to that.[loc. 556]
The year is 1904, and Boer War veteran Archie Curtis (nephew of Sir Henry Curtis, who appears in King Solomon's Mines) is attending a country house party in search of answers about the disaster that ended his military career and killed his friends. Was it bad luck, or sabotage?

His dislike of fellow guest Daniel da Silva -- foreign, dark-eyed, flamboyant and a poet -- is immediate and apparently mutual. But this is a romance, and while it eschews many of the more annoying tropes, opposites definitely do attract.

Think of England is utterly charming. The growing respect and friendship (as well as attraction) between Archie and Daniel is nicely paced, and Charles doesn't shy away from the difficult issues of same-sex attraction in Edwardian England. Archie doesn't identify as queer, and struggles with his urge to treat Daniel as more than just a furtive liaison.

Meanwhile, the two become embroiled in a dastardly plot that involves blackmail, hidden cameras (it's a very modern country house), the defense of the realm, corruption in high places. Daniel's frivolous exterior turns out to conceal nerves of steel, and Archie discovers new purpose in life.

Also there are canonical lesbians.

I read this on a friend's recommendation, and was impressed enough to read several more novels by the same author in quick succession. I have to say I like Think of England, with its discussions of poetry and lockpicking and psychotherapy and Boys' Own adventures, more than the others: I think it's because I like Daniel and Archie as characters.

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