Magic Mansion

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Title: Magic Mansion
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Cover Artist: Jordan Castillo Price
Publisher: JCP Books
Genre: Contemporary Gay Fiction/Romance with a touch of Paranormal
Length: app. Novel /117000 words
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5, DIK

A guest review by Sirius

Summary: I hope you will enjoy watching this reality show which JCP created for us as much as I did

Blurb:

Professor Topaz is tired of fending off advice that he should retire in Vegas where magicians his age have an easier time finding work.

Ricardo Hart’s career has sunk so low, he’s resorted to shaking his moneymaker at bachelorette parties.

But there’s a casting call for a new reality show called Magic Mansion that could change everything for these two gay stage magicians, one recovering from the loss of his partner, and the other awe-struck by the presence of his idol. Each is poised for a critical second chance: at fame, and at love.

Who will win? Step into the Mansion, and find out….

Review:

I did not think that Jordan Castillo Price would be able to write a book which I would enjoy more than her Starving Years, but then this book came along and I was swept off my feet. I remember how fascinated I was by reality TV few years ago when Survivor et al. appeared on our TV screens. I eventually got tired of those shows pretty quickly when I realized how not real (how ironic!) and staged most of it was. At the same time I still enjoy shows where it is clear that no matter how staged some things could be, contestants still win mostly because of their skills (Top Chef now is probably my absolute favorite right now).

But the reality TV which JCP came up with in this book would absolutely be my favorite show, if it ever came alive on my home TV. As you can see from the blurb, the contestants are magicians and I was expecting them to demonstrate their talents with magic tricks during the show. Well, they did, but what I really did not expect (and I really don’t know why am I surprised when this writer constantly surprises me when taking seemingly familiar themes in the new direction) is that there is a theme of True Magic running along throughout the book. Let’s just say that some of these guys do much more than tricks and leave it at that, otherwise it will become spoilerish talk.

Actually, no, let me say something else. I am a huge fan of magic in all its showings in different fantasy/paranormal books and I love when the writer explains very well how magic works in her world. I thought that in this book, where True Magic is very important (but does not take that much of a page space)  although she left some room for ambiguity and interpretation, with just a few examples JCP was very clear. As a result, I was not confused at all when I finished (unlike some other fantasy books where I was left scratching my head as to what the magic can and cannot do even after devoting much more page space to it).

If you at some point of your life liked and still like reality shows, I can pretty much guarantee that you will enjoy this book. The challenges are dynamic and fun, and I was definitely glued to the pages and felt as if I am watching the show on my TV. I could never predict the winner and I loved all the surprises along the way. I understand that this novel was also serialized in her newsletter and the readers were voting off the contestants, but I did not subscribe to her newsletter till very recently, so I was not reading it as serial and that’s not my preferable way to read the book anyway.

Of course no matter how fascinating the reality show concept was for me, I would have never been able to enjoy the book if I had not liked the characters, and I liked them all. I loved the main couple, Ricardo and John, but everybody else shined, no matter how secondary they were. I always appreciate her female characters, but I think in this one she exceeded all my expectations with women contestants on the show. I did not know whom I liked more – Sue, Bev, Muriel or Jia Lee. They were all so real, so human and while definitely not perfect, still a lot of fun to read about. I also really enjoyed the producer Marlene and just in general what she did with the producers – she did not make them out to be cartoonish and evil like, which I also kind of expected and I was happy that it did not happen.

Every participant of the show, every employee of the show even who had the smallest part were interesting and memorable, they were not perfect, they were not horrible, even the so-called villain of the show had a touch of humanity in him. It was very enjoyable.

And finally we come to our romantic couple, Ricardo and John. There is a reason why I am talking about them so late in the review. I loved the developing romance between them and how masterfully the writer mixed it up with the competition. I thought it enriched the book significantly, but while it would have been a different book without the romance, I thought the book would have stood on its own just fine without it. I mean this as a compliment; as I said, I thought the romance was an organic part of the book, but I thought the story had enough meat to be developed without a romantic element if the author would have so chosen. Having said that, I am glad she did not choose to go that route, as much as I would have enjoyed seeing them as competitors and friends, I thought the development of their relationship was brilliantly done. It is very romantic, but don’t look for many sex scenes (I think full scenes are 1.5, or I guess you can say two, and the story is very long). I loved reading how Ricardo’s crush on his idol slowly changes into falling in love with the real person as he gets to know the real John. I really liked how John’s attraction, while very strong, is also initially full of his own insecurities. Yes, I know how those “romances” on TV are never real, but I believed in Ricardo and John, believed even though I am a very tough sell on the couples with such big age difference, but here it worked for me perfectly.

As you can see everything worked for me perfectly in this book. Very highly recommended.

21 thoughts on “Magic Mansion

  1. LadyM

    I came to this book from completely different place than you – I don’t like reality shows (and never have) and I don’t particularly care about magic. Still, I think this is one of the best books published this year so far. Great characters, moth main and secondary, great setting and social commentary, great love story… Amazing! And let me quote my MM review: I loved to hate Kevin, yo! XD

    1. Sirius Post author

      Heh, I agree no matter what place you are coming from this book is amazing :)

  2. Josephine Myles

    Great review, Sirius! I can’t stand reality shows, but I loved the way Jordan exposes all the behind the scenes manipulation for what it is.

    All the characters felt so real to me – I know this is one I’m going to buy in paperback so I can lend it to my non-ebook buying friends and convince them they should start reading m/m ;)

    1. Sirius

      Hi Josephine thank you. I am considering getting a paperback myself which I do very rarely these days.

  3. Lasha

    I love this author’s other books, but not sure about the May-December romance in this one, there might be too much of an age gap for me. However, I will trust you, Sirius. *g*

    1. Sirius

      Lasha I don’t know – I noticed that while both of us may like some of the same books overall our tastes are not that close. The only thing I can offer that overall I am not a fan of huge age difference either, but this writer made it work for me. I think it was well done to show how younger man crushed on his idol in his profession for years and how during the show he gets to know the real John. I also thought it was a very clever way to avoid Insta! Love which I hate with some exceptions, but I think you love it? Anyway – I would still say give it a chance but please don’t hold me responsible if you hate it ;)

      1. Lasha

        I asked a friend on GR who has similar tastes as me and yeah that 30+ age gap, I wouldn’t be able to get past it. Thanks, though. If the Professor had been 10 years younger, I would have been all over it. :grin:

  4. jeayci

    Great review, Sirius! I’m not particularly fond of reality shows either, so I’m glad to know that LadyM and Josephine feel the same way and loved it too. It’s been lurking on my TBR, but I may have to bump it up. :smile:

    1. Sirius

      Hi Jeayci – yes, I have a feeling that you will find enough to enjoy in the story even if you dont like reality shows. Social commentary was definitely fascinating.

  5. Wave

    I love all of Jordan’s books I have read so far but I haven’t finished this one mainly because of the age gap. She’s my go-to writer in any genre and this is the only book so far that she’s written which has taken me a while to finish, although I think the behind the scenes reality show aspect of the story is inspired!!

    1. Sirius

      Very interesting Wave. As I said to Lasha in general I am not a fan of large age difference either – I just don’t usually buy that such relationship will work. I think I can count on the fingers of my two hands (and probably still have couple fingers left) the couples with age difference over ten years that worked for me. Here she convinced me that it will work, but I totally get how readers may not be able to get past it because usually I need a lot of convincing myself.

      1. Josephine Myles

        I’m probably not a typical reader in that I enjoy an age gap in a romance, but I was a little wary of just how big this one was. However, Jordan convinced me that these two would work beautifully together, and Topaz is hale and fit for his age.

        1. Sirius

          Hi Josephine, oh absolutely – *before* I started the book, I was more than a little wary and as I mentioned before, I do not rush into reading romances with age gape more than ten years (as a rule, of course there are exceptions to every rule). She convinced me very well. Not only that, it was my impression that True magic basically makes you age slower if not on paper, but in reality. I am not putting a spoiler tag, since it is not spelled out, but it is my interpretation.

  6. Aunt Lynn

    Wonderful review, Sirius. I admit that I read the first five chapters which are available on JCP’s website for free as a taste, and while I love everything of hers that I have read (the PsyCop series is one of my most favorite re-reads) I don’t think I’ll continue on. The writing is great, the subject and setting is fascinating, but I, like Wave and Lasha, can’t get past the 30 year age difference (and this is from someone in a relationship with a partner 15 years older than me). I think about the issues I’m already having with a gap half of what is here and I cringe. I can see how some will buy it, but it’s just not for me.

    1. Sirius Post author

      Definitely understand Lynn – if you already know from the sample that book is not for you, it is better not to chance it.

  7. Pea

    I never watch reality shows – I mean, never – never seen an episode of The Bachelor, Survivor, nothing! But I do love magic, too, and I really enjoyed this book. Probably not as much as The Persistence of Memory (I ended up reading these two works pretty much consecutively), but it was still a one-night read for me. Great review!

    1. Sirius Post author

      Hi Pea, I have Persistence of memory but have no read it yet, so glad to hear you loved it :), will try to get to it soon. I loved this story too, very much. I thought Magic theme was very well done, to me their conversations with wands, rings, etc were just so very beatiful.

  8. Pea

    Yes, I and I liked the whole treatment of True Magic too! I actually was a little skeptical of Persistence of Memory when I started – the setting from the blurb reminded me too much of Roger Zelazny’s sf novel The Dream Master (aka “He Who Shapes”) – but it really wasn’t anything like that particular book, and I loved it (except I want the next book NOW!).

    1. Sirius

      OOOO, maybe I should wait for the next book before starting this one then. Hate cliffhangers. Thanks Pea.

  9. Jordan Castillo Price

    Hi Sirius, I’ve been out of town and just now saw this review. Thank you so much for your detailed and thoughtful commentary. I’m really pleased all the elements of the story came together for you like they did. I too like the way actual skill can cut through all the writers’ and producers’ machinations in a reality show.

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