Oh, I really wanted to like this! I love the idea of it; the premise. It's an alternate-history, magical 19th Century London setting and had some terrific world-building elements. I love the idea of the magical community's hierarchy based on power levels and abilities. You've got Kings and Queens with the most power, including the ability to alter matter--change one thing into another thing. Then you've got Dukes who can create long-lasting illusions and casts spells and work potions. And so on and so forth with Barons, Viscounts and Marquesses with less and less power each time, right down to the lowest of the low, Baronets, who are essentially shapeshifters with just that one ability--to change shape--but are otherwise immune to magic. Their immunity causes them to suffer scorn and distrust from the upper-ranked magic workers who don't like people on whom their magic has no effect.
So far, it's all good. I liked the world and I even thought I might like the two main characters until I got to know them better. On paper they sound fabulous. There's Felicity, a girl who believes herself plain and forgettable. So forgettable, in fact, that people often overlook her entirely, even going so far as to sit on her because they didn't see her occupying the chair. And then you have handsome lion shifter Terrence (who is not a train), whose visual description made him look like Chris Hemsworth to my mind's eye. Mmm. And their first meeting was kinda sweet. But that's where it all started to go a little wrong for me.
The 'romance' just did nothing for me in the end. Felicity turned out to be extremely weak and timid and rather gullible and, well, just a bit stupid, really. Terrence was...okay, if you discount is horrible deception of such a sweet-natured (and stupid) young girl. The sex scenes were blah, there was no chemistry there at all. The middle part of the now obvious plot had almost nothing happening for pages and pages and also, there wasn't nearly enough exposition done on character behaviour. It would mention Terrence did something or said something strange, perhaps something a bit lion-y, but then in never explained what it meant, or what Felicity surmised it to mean, or whether he'd meant to do it. And for someone like myself who loves reading body language in books--so much so that the in-between parts of dialogue sections I often find more telling that the actual words spoken; sidelong looks, nervous hair touches, etc.--it was most aggravating that those things were included but left dangling in the wind with no explanations. And even the dialogue itself was often confusing and bizarre. A character would blurt something out, seemingly out of nowhere since the narrative hadn't prepared us for what he/she had been thinking, and I'd be left scratching my head wondering where that had come from, what were they thinking there then? Answers on a postcard, please, because the author failed to include any in her story.
To sum up then, it was disappointing, especially after showing so much promise. It was a great idea, good world building and magical social system in place, but bad characters and flat romance.
2 Stars ★★
ARC provided for an honest review.