Author: Nancy M. Griffis
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 3.5 stars
Received from Publisher
Blurb: Adventure brought unlikely lovers Lord Leonard “Leo” Harris and Master Leathersmith Gerald Smithson together. Now it threatens to tear them apart. Three weeks before their wedding, a plague strikes Victorian London—the worst to engulf the city in five hundred years. The symptoms are eerily reminiscent of the Black Death with boils, a horrific death, and immunity to magical cures. As one of the most powerful mages in the country, Leo searches for a cure and the person behind the scourge all while Gerald must finalize wedding plans and try to thwart a persistent—and unwanted—“admirer.” It’s a race against time as Gerald shows symptoms, and Leo must fight a powerful Dark Mage to get the cure before he loses the love of his life.
Review: I had read the short prequel, A Most Unusual Courtship, immediately prior to reading this story, and it whetted my interest quite nicely. There was such interesting world building – I wanted to know more about Leo, Gerald and their version of Victorian London. With A Most Unusual Wedding, the world building continued to be of interest, and all of the basic elements were fantastic, but I was left feeling that everything could have come together better.
Despite the title, this book was really not about a wedding per se, but rather some bizarre events of a magical – and often sinister – nature that took place in the weeks leading up to one. A welcome twist to the London culture in this story, was that same gender marriages, while perhaps not favored by some, were quite legal and considered part of the norm. Other Victorian customs were adhered to, such as courting and asking parent’s permission for marriage. Arranged marriages among the aristocracy were often the case vs love matches. The existence of mages was also quite normal. Indeed, nearly ¼ of the populous possessed some ability to perform magic. A counsel was in place to relegate and track all with magical power. The invocation of Dark magic was very frowned upon, but alas it seemed the council had gotten lax at policing those who would practice it. I enjoyed how the world building spun out organically as the story unfolded.
Leo is a charming, powerful young mage – and a Lord. Gerald is the unassuming, well reputed master leathersmith he fell in love with while they worked on a project together, creating charmed pieces for the royal family. I liked both men immediately, particularly Gerald. They each know their own mind, are brave, kind and have quite the cheeky sense of humor. The book started just a few weeks prior to their wedding. I figured their journey to finding love, deciding upon marriage, meeting each other’s family etc. would be divulged, be it through flashback or even conversation. Sadly, it wasn’t. Gerald was taking the course of waiting for their wedding night to have sex with Leo, something Leo found charming and was a great sport about. Something I was never clear on was whether Gerald was actually a virgin…It was intimated that he was, but never spelled out. Leo, while not quite a rake, was definitely experienced. Gerald wanting to wait felt quite right, it gelled with his character. It also made for some nice sexual tension through the story, with a lack of contrived resistance. Gerald had strong reasons for loathing mages, yet his best friend was one, and he fell in love with one. This was an interesting dichotomy, and Gerald revising his opinion of mages worked well as a theme throughout the story.
The alternating third person POVs worked very well, and was in fact crucial. Part of the reason is was crucial is because Leo and Gerald spent so much time apart. Leo was working at saving the city from a plague, and Gerald was basically attempting to prepare for the wedding while trouble kept finding him. I felt as if I learned a lot more being in Gerald’s head than Leo’s. Gerald’s best fiend Harry was a rocking sidekick. Likewise, his Uncle Daniel proved a stronger man of more depth than outward obvious appearance initially led me to believe.
I want to point out that despite Gerald acting naively at times, and being quaint and staunch in some of his traditions, he was very much his own man. Being courted by Leo and wishing to wait for their marriage to consummate their love did not serve to unman he, or Leo, in my view. Rather, this came off as refreshingly noble, showing depth of character on both of their parts. The many sub plots in this story featured a large mash up of possible suspects, and mysterious happenings. This did keep my interest, however I felt the build- up in the first 1/3 of the story wandered and the writing here could have been tighter. So many carriage rides were detailed! I also winced a bit at the number of times it was written that Leo had to “tug him down” every time he kissed Gerald. Establishing early on that Gerald was significantly taller made this crystal clear, and I needn’t be reminded every time. It took away from the actual emotions expressed during the kisses. More background on Leo’s past and his family would have been welcome. One thing that was clear was that his Uncle was not in favor of him marrying “beneath” him, and I imagine this will play out more in the next book. I felt as if I still didn’t quite have a handle on Leo even after finishing the book – both emotionally and in regard to his absolute power abilities (other than he was apparently one of the most powerful mages in London). It was hinted that he was even an elemental? Hmmm. Gerald presented as much more fully fleshed out.
I was certainly kept wondering about the motives of certain people. Who would prove shady, who would prove on the up and up. Would the perpetrator of the plague be someone known, or a wild card…likewise with Gerald’s secret admirer? How far would Leo be drawn by Dark magic? Would Leo and Gerald’s wedding take place as planned? Alas, the climax of figuring out the baddy was rather anticlimactic after quite a long build up and effort to find him. The whole subplot of Gerald’s stalker bothered me. It was so obvious, and really seemed it should have been to Gerald as well. I realize Gerald’s a nice guy who saw the good in most people, but I didn’t quite buy that he was that naïve.
I wasn’t surprised by the ending, other than it ended rather tame… two of three major issues having long been resolved. Not typical of most books involving mystery and intrigue, but different is OK. There is an open ended issue regarding Dark magic in the empire, an issue Leo is strongly tied to. This should prove a nice segue into the next story in this series. I hope there is more on page depiction of the growth in the relationship between Leo and Gerald, more time spent on their interpersonal dynamic.
I do look forward to more of these characters’ adventures. Leo and Gerald’s magic filled London has so much potential, as do they.