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Romance and other things


Really liked but please forgive the clunkiness of the review, it was giving me hell.

Witches of London - Lars - Aleksandr Voinov
Some problems you can’t solve with magick—and some you can.

After a homophobic pagan group rejected him, Lars Kendall is a solitary heathen on the Northern Path, loyal to the gods of the Norse pantheon. But being on his own sucks. So when he finally meets a mixed group of other queer witches and magick-users, it’s like finding family. If family involved exploring past lives and casting spells.

Rhys Turner quit a stressful job in the City after his high-strung boyfriend of six years walked out. He sold the expensive flat in central London and bought a run-down house out in the suburbs. Never mind that it needs walls knocked down, its garden landscaped, and what the hell is up with that carpet?

With his health failing, Rhys is desperate for a clean slate and a new start. He isn’t ready to fall in love with anybody, least of all the hunky builder who looks like he’s stepped out of a TV show about Vikings—tattoos, long hair, and all. But as strong and loyal as Lars is, he also has a very soft heart, which might be the hardest thing for Rhys to resist.
Dear Aleksandr Voinov,
There are not that many m/m romances which feature modern pagans in fact while I know I read a couple of the them,  nevertheless  off the top of my head I could not remember any, so when I read the blurb of this book I could not click fast enough so curious I was. And I was curious not only because I was eager to read and learn about something new,  I was curious because while I do not practice paganism and don’t know much about it, what I do know, some general principles so to speak, resonate with me very much.
I wanted to get to know Lars better from the moment I “met” him, when he is giving the gifts and having conversation with the Gods he worships in his garden.
"He closed his eyes and took several deep breaths, reached out in his mind to the trees before him, the ground underneath him, solid, alive, and the night wind on his face. The smell of the torches.  The vastness of the sky above him, with the stars and full moon beyond.  He emptied his mind until just those things remained. Only then did he speak the names of the gods in his mind: Odin, Freya, Thor, and all the others”
As blurb tells you Lars follows the Northern Path and worships the Gods of Norse Pantheon.  After giving gifts to Gods he is asking them for guidance and runes he draws from the bag show new beginning and other positive things.
And then almost right after that Lars gets a phone call from Amanda “The organizer of Queer Witches Group” – Lars somehow tried to connect with them on the Internet a while ago, but she was travelling before and only now got his message. It turns out that Amanda and her girlfriend Sue live close by to Lars and group meets at their house. Lars is invited to their meet up.
Lars is renovating houses for a living. I got an impression that he does all kinds of building jobs, he is in charge of building crew and also seems to know plenty of subcontractors who could do jobs Lars or his men could not do.
So before Lars gets to the meet – up he meets a potential client who bought an old house and wants it if not completely redone, then very substantially redone and it does needs very substantial repairs. The client’s name is Rhys Turner, their meeting ends up with Lars giving Rhys the names of his past clients so Rhys could check out his work and if Rhys likes it, he would call Lars and confirm.
Meet up with “Queer witches group” goes very well; Lars hits it off with all five regulars who come to almost every meeting - Amanda, her girlfriend Sue, Julian who is professional astrologer and two other guys. 
Rhys also calls Lars back and basically wants him to work on the house.
The story spent a lot of page space showing to the readers some of Pagan spiritual practices and I guess since the blurb uses the word magics I would use this word as well. I simply do not want to use a wrong descriptor here. It is all very well incorporated in the story and felt very real to me, but beware – in my opinion the story belongs to the fantasy genre just as much as it belongs to the contemporary one.   I am not saying this just because some facets of Paganism are described in a lot of detail – no, it is just some very specific things which took place in the narrative to me seemed like Fantasy elements.
And of course we have Lars’ and Rhys developing relationship, which I really liked. It is set amongst Lars renovating the house and complicated by Rhys’ illness.  I was very pleased how the author chose to handle the illness – I have read some reviews before I bought the book and comment from one of the reviews stuck with me. The reviewer said something along the lines that Rhys was ill in every scene in the story and I agree with that and I say it as a compliment. To me this means that the storyline was handled consistently. The author did not forget about Rhys’ being sick in one scene and made him not well again when it would suit the needs of the plot again. Anyway, it was depressing to me, but I also really liked it.
I was also a little worried when  Lars and his friends tried to help Rhys with their faith, their energy, their magics – I do not want to spoil the story, so I am going to be vague about it. But basically I was afraid that Rhys’ will get cured magically and it would not have sat well with me.  I was glad when the story went in a little bit different direction, which was also very satisfying to me.
I really liked Lars – kind, loyal soul who knows really well who he is spiritually, but always seemed interested in learning more what other people were doing and who was just very  kind to everybody around him. I liked Rhys too and his doubts made perfect sense to me considering how sick he was. The conflict was perfectly understandable and them getting back together  somehow felt right too.
The ending is a nice HFN, which to me made perfect sense and if Julian (the astrologer from the group) is the next one to get his story, I would love to read it. I thought the “I love you” moment was really beautiful.
"I don’t want to make excuses, but it was a spectacularly low point in my life.” “I understand.” Lars looked up into his eyes, and saw Rhys vulnerable and clearly freaking out a little. He ran his hand along Rhys’ face. “It’s okay.” “I wasn’t ready to commit to anything or anybody. I was determined to wait until the rest of my life was more in control, until I knew whether I’d live or die, you know.” Rhys blinked a few times. “But the truth is, I never really had that choice. Maybe it wasn’t even my damn decision to make, I don’t know. You just came into my life and from that moment on, I was just lost in that feeling, and it was terrifying.” “What feeling?” Lars’ throat felt tight. “I love you.” Rhys’ widened eyes hinted at terror, though tempered with something more, something so much bigger. Hope. Lars drew him into a tight hug, and Rhys  clung to him immediately. He ran his fingers through Rhys’ hair and held him, so glad they could be like this, skin on skin, as lovers, as friends, as partners. No more hospitals for a while, instead freedom to travel, freedom to work out where they were going to take things. “I love you, too.” Rhys relaxed into the embrace. “Oh thank god.” Lars chuckled. “Yeah, I think they have something to do with it.” They kissed lazily until the fire had almost burned down, and rested on the bed."
Grade : B+