Review: That Potent Alchemy by Tess Bowery


Title: That Potent Alchemy (Treading the Boards #3)
Author: Tess Bowery
Date of publication: 27 Sept 2016
Genre / Themes: Historical romance / Theatre / POC / Genderfluid character

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
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My rating: 4.5 Stars


Is his love her safe place to land…or just smoke and mirrors? 

Grace Owens danced her feet bloody to become the finest en pointe prodigy of her generation, but the only accolade she longed for—her father’s approval—never came. Finally, broken and defeated, she cut ties and fled to London to live life on her own terms.

Now, after four years as an actress in London’s smaller theatres, a last-minute production change lands her right where she never wanted to be again. Front and center in the ballet—and back in toe shoes.

From his perch on the catwalks, machinist and stagecraft illusionist Isaac Caird can’t take his eyes off Grace. A woman who wears men’s clothing, but not as a disguise. An exquisite beauty who doesn’t keep a lover. A skilled dancer who clearly hates every pirouette.

The perfect lines of her delicate body inspire him to create a new illusion—with her as the centerpiece—that will guarantee sold-out shows. Maybe even attract a royal’s patronage. But first he has to get her to look at him. And convince her the danger is minimal—especially within the circle of his arms.

Featuring a gender-fluid ballet dancer, an amateur chemist who only occasionally starts fires, and an old rivalry that could tear them apart.


This is my first book by Tess Bowery and I loved is so much that I immediately got the previous two as well. I first heard about this series through KJ Charles who gave them great praise and made me curious to try it and now I wonder why it took me so long to come to them. 

This is a mf Regency romance set in the London theater scene but it's not all about the glamour and the actors and actresses, but also about the people behind the scene who make the magic on stage happen. I found it refreshing and really interesting to get a glimpse of the live of "ordinary"and, well, not so ordinary people in Regency London. 

Another element that sets this story apart from most historical romaines in that both hero and heroine are people of colour and race issues feature somewhat prominently in the story. That and gender identity issues. All this was explored in a plot involving some magic stage effects, one bet and some secret plans being stolen and it made one intriguing, tender and real love story.

I liked the author's writing style, the story flowed smoothly and there is a neat balance between the intensity of the romantic plot and intrigue of the suspense plot.

Both main characters, Grace and Isaac were outstanding. He reads a beta to me, something not represented often enough in romance and I (and Grace) found him completely irresistible. He is caring and loving and persistent without coming off of domineering or patronising. He is fascinated by Grace and absolutely open to being with her on her own terms. I loved his reaction to her uniqueness, his willingness to try new things, meet the challenges she posed, it all built the ground for the intimacy she so feared, yet craved.

As I said Grace is unique in many ways, an actress, a ballet dancer, and overall amazing, extra-ordinary human being. I found her fascinating and I loved the way the author presented her gender-fluid nature - the doubts and fears, the determination to be true to oneself, the courage it took to share this with a lover. It was interesting and beautiful though I think there was room for more in-depth exploration of this issue.

This is a very character focused story and it had everything I love in a good romance - initial hesitation, slow getting to know each other which leads to moments of tenderness and true intimacy. The romance followed the gradual growth of mutual attraction into love and desire to share one's life with the that special other person.

It short, this is a wonderful historical romance done with a lot of thought and care about the details. Definitely a recommended read!

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iBooks

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