4.5* – KJ uses the word “lovely” a lot, not just in her books, and it’s very appropriate since that’s what her novels are. Her writing is alive and it clearly speaks to my emotions, as my mind feels very full when I read her. To the point that there’s so much noise, I sometimes need to take breaks to let it breathe (do minds breathe?). It may not sound like it, but it’s a good thing.
Cath Monroe (Sam’s best friend from Coming Home) meets Rica Diamandis (remember Tal from Kick Back? Rica is their sister) at a teacher convention. They hit it off, have a drink together, flirt a little then part ways without exchanging phone numbers. Shortly after, Rica is introduced as the new Art teacher at the school where Cath teaches. They decide to put the flirting aside, without much success. At about the same time, Cath’s father is hospitalized with a possible brain tumour. Cath, who is very used to controlling her emotions, finds herself unable to keep them at bay when her heart insists on opening on all sides. Life gets messy and she doesn’t do messy.
I loved Sam because she’s the sweetest character ever while still being realistic. Cath is very different yet their being best friends makes total sense, as she is as kind and loyal as Sam. Cath is sensual and flirty and very much at ease with her body and her sexuality – she’s bisexual – and probably comes across as laidback to those who only know her on the surface. She’s passionate about her work and the people she loves yet closed off to the unknown. The feelings Rica brings out are very much unexpected and not completely welcome at first. Things get even more challenging when Cath finds out who Rica really is and what she triggers in her.
Art of Magic is KJ’s first attempt at first person. I remember reading on social media that she had first written this in third but Cath told her to change to first. In the beginning, it’s a bit wonky and you can still feel the third, but it doesn’t last more than a few pages. Another first, if I’m not mistaken (crappy memory and all), is how sexy this latest novel is from the start. I mean, like, really sexy. Hot.
In addition, KJ ventures into magical realism territory, which is both surprising since neither of her previous books even hints at it, as far as I remember, and not because it’s right there in the title (I’m borderline facepalming right now).
There’s something magical when you meet the right person for you, when the chemistry is so strong you can feel it when you touch, even in the most innocent touch. When you feel the energy flowing from their skin into yours. I was trying to explain this to friends the other day, how I hate to be touched (sensory stuff) except when it’s my wife doing the touching. When she touches me (and I’m not talking about sex, or not just sex), it’s like my skin relaxes into hers, the contact feeds my body and my heart and my soul. There’s undeniable magic there. In this book, KJ takes that magic to the next level.
As much as I have enjoyed what I’ve read by her so far, her books and the reviews she posts on Facebook and on the Les Rêveur website, I didn’t know if she could pull it off or if it would feel weird, but she absolutely did. There’s a measure of weirdness but she embraces it through Cath’s reactions to Rica’s “power” and what comes next, and something really beautiful comes out of it all.
There’s also (and that was really unexpected) one of the hottest fully-clothed scenes I’ve read in a while.
Discovering Cath’s story made me want to re-read Sam’s, and in the best timing ever, Coming Home was recently released in audiobook, with a brand new Australian narrator I can’t wait to hear.