Review: Spellbound – Allie Therin

Review: Spellbound – Allie TherinSpellbound
by Allie Therin
Series: Magic in Manhattan #1
Also in this series: Starcrossed, Wonderstruck
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: July 29, 2019
Genres: Romance
Pages: 243
Source: NetGalley

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

To save Manhattan, they’ll have to save each other first…

New York

Arthur Kenzie’s life’s work is protecting the world from the supernatural relics that could destroy it. When an amulet with the power to control the tides is shipped to New York, he must intercept it before it can be used to devastating effects. This time, in order to succeed, he needs a powerful psychometric…and the only one available has sworn off his abilities altogether.

Rory Brodigan’s gift comes with great risk. To protect himself, he’s become a recluse, redirecting his magic to find counterfeit antiques. But with the city’s fate hanging in the balance, he can’t force himself to say no.

Being with Arthur is dangerous, but Rory’s ever-growing attraction to him begins to make him brave. And as Arthur coaxes him out of seclusion, a magical and emotional bond begins to form. One that proves impossible to break—even when Arthur sacrifices himself to keep Rory safe and Rory must risk everything to save him.

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First off – this cover is gorgeous! Anyone following romance has seen an uptick in illustrated covers, and I especially like this one. Second, this book is absolutely adorable! It’s a bit of a role reversal, with the older man being the softie with a heart of gold and the younger one being the prickly hedgehog.

Rory is happy, for the most part, with his quiet life working at his aunt’s antique shop, where he uses his psychometric abilities to authenticate items for her. When a wealthy man appears with a bunch of letters he wants authenticated, Rory knows it must be a test, but for what purpose? Arthur isn’t a paranormal himself, but formed friendships with several after serving in the first World War. Now back in America, he’s seeking to identify a magical relic of unknown power, and he thinks he’s found the right paranormal for the job at Mrs. Brodigan’s shop. But it turns out, it’s not the elderly proprietor who has the powers, but Rory, her nephew. The attraction between the two is a shock, but they have more important things to worry about, and Arthur will need Rory’s help if New York City, and maybe the world, is going to survive.

Arthur and Rory together are just perfection. Arthur’s older than Rory (28 to his 20), and his service during the first World War have left him even older in some ways. While he has no powers of his own, he formed friendships with several paranormals during and after the war, and he uses his money and influence (his father is a politician) to take care of everyone in his circle. He’s the quintessential caretaker with a driving need to protect everyone, though that also comes with an overprotective streak. Despite his circle of friends, Arthur is lonely; watching them fall in love while he remains alone hurts him deeply, though he tries not to show it.

Rory is a prickly hedgehog in a newsboy cap who also happens to have a lot of magic he has little control over. Sometimes he read as younger than his twenty years to me – he’s been sheltered for most of his life, and basically secludes himself in either his tiny apartment or Mrs. Brodigan’s shop. He manages to be both distrustful and naive, and that mixture was catnip to both Arthur and myself! Rory is (rightfully!) distrustful of Arthur. He’s been warned about people who’d want to use him for his magic, and he’s in danger enough from himself unwittingly scrying something and getting caught in it. It’s no surprise that Arthur’s caretaking feels to Rory like he’s treating him like a child or trying to trap him into doing favors for him. Conversely, Arthur views Rory’s rejection of his caretaking efforts as a rejection of himself.

“How’d you break your specs?”
“Let’s see, how was it?” Rory tapped his lips thoughtfully. “Oh, right. None of your business.”
Arthur rolled his eyes. The cute ones were always little shits.”

The relationship builds slowly – besides Rory’s distrust, homosexuality is illegal and coming on to the wrong man would be a disaster – but once they’re finally together, their feelings go from 0-60 very quickly. Watching their banter morph from snarky (Rory, despite his fear, is not afraid to take potshots at Arthur) to sweet was one of my favorite parts of the book, and I highlighted so many of their exchanges. I loved how clearly they saw each other – there’s a particularly sweet moment where Rory brings lunch to Arthur because he realizes that Arthur will probably forget to eat and no one else will think to do that for him. Despite the slow burn, there’s still plenty angsty sexual tension, but besides some kissing and making out, the actual sex is off-page. The fade-to-black was unexpected but worked for me, as I think their relationship dynamics were well explored outside the bedroom.

All the supporting characters were well done, including the villains, and they’re actually reflective of the diversity of 1920s NYC. The world building was well done. I don’t know much about the 1920s, but enough of the social structure was explained so that the characters’ actions made sense without feeling like I’d dropped into a history lesson. The paranormal elements were deceptively simple and easy to understand, though they were deep enough that I was left wanting to more about what other sorts of abilities existed. For the most part, the pacing worked for me, though I was more invested in the romantic tension than the rest of the plot. The way the book ends leaves no doubt that this is the first book in a series, with several plot lines left dangling, but I felt like the major conflict of the book was resolved well enough.

Overall, this was an enjoyable debut, and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for the next book in the series. If you’re looking for a book with a heart of gold hero, a prickly younger hero, and lots of snarky/adorable banter, I highly recommend this book!

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