As the book opens, Crane is being blackmailed over his relationship with Day. Crane could easily run back to China, but he won't leave Day behind. Day, meanwhile, is on a watchlist under suspicion of having turned warlock because the other justicars don't know that his sudden increase in magical power has been caused by his sexual bond with Crane. If that wasn't enough, London is being invaded by giant rats of Sumatra.
"Giant rats of Sumatra" is actually in the "product warnings" for this book. If I hadn't been awaiting the sequel to The Magpie Lord already, K.J. Charles would have had me at "giant rats of Sumatra." I love references to outside things and I love things that are mentioned but never explained, so I could only have been more excited if there was a warning for The Noodle Incident.
Generally, I love this book almost as much as I love the first one. Almost. I'll get the things that I didn't love as much out of the way first, since ultimately they're less important. First of all, in the first book I thought the time it took for Crane and Day to have sex and the various near-misses along the way made sense in the course of the story and for the characters. This book starts with them in an established relationship, so in the abstract it would make sense for there to be more sex throughout the book... but the first "sex" scene in the book is a dream sequence that takes place before we actually get our heroes into the same room, and the pacing didn't seem quite as natural. To me it felt a bit like somebody suggested that we needed to get to the sex faster, but since there wasn't a place for it to actually happen yet, Day had a dream. Secondly, Day doesn't get to sling around magic and kick butt quite as much in this book; given the emphasis on how much smaller he is than Crane, I thought it was important to the balance of power between them in the first book that above his being talented and brave, he is specifically able to throw somebody across a room using magic if he so chooses. Crane can say that Day's always in charge even if he's chained to the bed as much as he wants, but it's also true that Crane really couldn't physically overpower Day if he honestly resisted, or at least not without a serious fight, since Crane does have some ability to resist magic. The big magic showdowns in this book always include Day's other associates, so I'm not sure it's as clear just how dangerous he is in his own right this time around.
However. All of that pales next to how much I love all the things I love in this book. The story of the giant rats and the blackmail plot would be a great way to spend an afternoon even in the absence of the romance. And the tensions and anxieties in the relationship are quite believable ones; these are both men with considerable determination to protect the people who matter to them, and as a result neither are all that comfortable being taken care of. They have to find a balance of when to ask for help from each other. The big declaration of love scene is brilliant and so perfectly suited to both of them. We also get to come to know Day's associates a bit more, whom I hope we get to spend more time with in the third book, especially Esther.
I have a shelf full of ARCs I need to read and I'm debating if I can justify going back to read the short story that takes place in between The Magpie Lord and A Case of Possession next. I can't wait for bo