I came across SALT MAGIC SKIN MAGIC by Lee Welch on my Twitter feed. I will freely admit I’m not a voracious reader of Victorian-era m/m romance novels, but this one had an added paranormal fantasy element and my curiosity was piqued. I wasn’t disappointed.
Overall, I loved the eerie atmosphere of the estate and the house (all those dusty corridors and rooms) and John’s magic especially. While I started reading for Soren, I most definitely stuck around for John Blake. I particularly enjoyed his relationship with his tools and environment. His working-class magical background worked well against the backdrop of the Yorkshire estate and the noble-born family.
I did have a soft spot for redhaired Soren, Lord Thornby, who is tormented by his father keeping him prisoner and seeking to marry him off. I enjoyed their antagonistic relationship and the lengths to which each man was willing to go. I liked the whispers of redemption that may or may not have come to fruition (I won’t spoil it). The eventual twist isn’t a total surprise, clues abound, and yet reads completely surprising. I liked Soren’s arc. His character didn’t feel settled initially, but that worked for me, given what he was going through. I liked how he came into his own throughout the novel.
The romance worked for me as well. Soren and John took their time (as did the plot). They stumbled and failed and eventually learned to trust each other. Their relationship grew naturally and evolved at a good pace. Their ending was satisfying.
I was surprised to learn this is Welch’s debut novel. I had no idea when I read it. The writing is flawless. The pacing worked. Setting and characters were multidimensional. Overall, I can fully recommend this novel to anyone interested in a Victorian-era m/m paranormal romance. And I will most certainly read more by this author.