Other Reviewers: Goodreads
This is an advance reader copy given to me by the author for an honest review. As with all of my review, these are my own opinions.
One of my favorite books is Mercy Celeste’s Behind Iron Lace. While the book was fairly short with lots of sex, it managed to pull me quickly into the story and the accurate description of the muggy deep south summer weather had me smiling. So, when asked to review this book, I hoped that I would enjoy this book just as much.
Morgan Monstros comes from a family of witches, but is considered a “normal”. And in this case, normal is not good. Morgan has always felt like his life was bland in a world of flavor, but never felt he deserved a chance to thrive. While taking care of his sister’s cat, Morgan discovers something unusual: he can understand him! What we discover is that the cat’s name is Fane — who is really a human. Will Morgan be able to have a normal relationship or will outside forces hamper it?
From the start we feel badly for Morgan. He is a “normal”, a word that demonstrates how beneath he is from the rest of his magical society. He remains on this isolated island taking care of the family inn. He has no protection from magic and we can see how vulnerable this makes him feel:
“I thought you weren’t poking around in my head.” Betrayal, that’s what it was. He had none of her talent, none of any of his sisters’ talents. The one true normal in the family, and they all used it against him.
We can easily relate to Morgan, someone who feels like he disappoints his family and will never fit-in.
Celeste did an excellent job with her depiction of Fane’s change from cat to human. In science-fiction so often the extreme situations are so impractical that the reader will roll their eyes. But the confusion and frustration that Fane goes through makes sense.
“I am fine. I am cat. I play at night.” Fane replied, knowing he wasn’t cat anymore. Most nights he really preferred a warm place to cuddle. The past few nights had been with Gan. Tonight, he didn’t know why he felt the need to run. “The moon calls to me. Gan should not sleep in short johns.”
I loved how we understand how Fane struggles both by time, but also by the curse of the shift. This struggle with the curse is something we can compare with the theme of sexuality.
I see the theme of Morgan and Fane’s struggle with not fitting into their society as a metaphor for those who struggle with their sexual identity. We have two men who can not control their differences with their society and because of these differences they are shunned. In fact, their lives are in danger. While dramatic here, look at teen suicide and sexual identity. Early on we see Morgan’s struggle:
“I had no choice.” Morgan’s voice broke as he spoke. He cleared his throat. “Males are rare in our world. We must marry a female. We must have children. We must carry on the magick into the next generation. I was made to choose that or chastity. To spill my seed in the body of a man is an abomination.”
In addition, Fane, has been “forced” to change (by the curse) and his quality of life is less than what it could be. He has loss his specialness (I do not want to spoil part of the plot), but by Morgan breaking the curse, he is allowed to find is true shape/spirit.
I would actually recommend this book to those who struggle with their sexuality. It is not a book that has any ground-breaking teenage moments, but I think that someone who does grapple can relate to the uncertainty and despair.
I enjoyed the building of the “mystery” and how we, as the reader, slowly come to understand the background of Morgan and Fane. The initial struggle seems silly until we understand the true struggle of our heroes.
What could be better?
There is a lot of sex, and while the sex was awesome, toward the end I actually skipped it. The balance of sex and plot is a delicate one, and Celeste tends to write a lot of sex in her novels.
I truly enjoyed this book. I have a feeling that I got a lot more of out of the theme than some other reviewers on Goodreads, but that’s ok. Sometimes you have to understand that while a book might be short and have a lot sex, it does not mean that there is not more complexity. I would certainly recommend this book and I will go and check-out some more works of Mercy Celeste.