The Queen of Wands by Jenna Jones

All of his adult life, J.T. Fogarty has worked to keep his vast, politically active family safe from scandal. When his late cousin’s son Charlie Tate returns to their hometown for the first time in twenty years, J.T. realizes there’s more to life than covering up other people’s mistakes. J.T. has dealt with his guilt about the accidental death of Charlie’s father by being the “cleaner” for his family, guided by his cousin Dilys. With Charlie back in her sphere of influence, Dilys intends to guide Charlie’s career, and his life, in the same way she has with so many others. However, J.T. is so taken with Charlie that he rebels against Dilys and takes Charlie under his wing, allowing himself to return the attraction Charlie feels for him. Can J.T. and Charlie move beyond the secrets in their past and find a way to stay true to each other?

The Queen of Wands by Jenna Jones is a May/December love story of longing and hope set within an unfolding family drama of secrets and lies.

J.T. Fogarty has been consumed by guilt over the death of his distant cousin and best friend Eric Tate for almost twenty years. Over time he has tried to assuage this guilt by selflessly taking care of any and all family matters as dictated by Dilys Tate Bly, Eric’s sister and self-appointed family matriarch and puppeteer. Following a long absence, young Charlie Tate, Eric’s son, returns to the family fold to study for his bar exam, but his true motivation for returning is J.T. Although reluctant at first, J.T. cannot withstand the advances of this beautiful boy and they become lovers. However, Dilys has future plans for Charlie that do not involve J.T. and J.T.’s attempts to fight Dilys on them threatens to expose past secrets that may destroy their relationship.

I found the relationship story between J.T. and Charlie to be most compelling in this novella. J.T. is a man entering mid-life who, as a result of years of guilt, does not expect or feel he deserves very much out of life. He is treated like a pariah by most of the members of his family and, as a result, hovers on the periphery of the family circle, leading a solitary and lonely existence. Charlie embodies the freshness, idealism and hope of youth and brings these qualities into his relationship with J.T., thereby exposing J.T.’s vulnerability and wistful longing for the possibilities of love. The melee of these character attributes brings a quality of innocence and purity to the dynamics of their relationship juxtaposed with the ugliness of the cloak and dagger family drama unfolding around them and makes their coming together both romantic and sublime.

The character of Dilys looms as an ever-present threat to their relationship as she tries to keep J.T. and Charlie apart through manipulation and blackmail and is the catalyst for much of the angst and relationship difficulties that J.T. and Charlie experience. Dilys is a delicious villain throughout the story, with an iron will for getting want she wants. Without giving away any spoilers, what didn’t work so well for me was the resolution of this particular story line. I found it to be a little too rushed and a touch over the top for my tastes. In this sense, a longer story may have allowed for a fuller build-up to the revealing of Dilys and her shenanigans.

Jenna Jones is best known for her gifted writing and compelling character-driven storytelling and she delivers on both these fronts in The Queen of Wands. Despite what I felt were some shortcomings in the resolution of the family drama, I thoroughly enjoyed J.T. and Charlie’s story and am certain that others will as well.

The Queen of Wands by Jenna Jones is available at Torquere Press.

NOTE: This review was originally published online by Rainbow Reviews.

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