Book Review – Fagin’s Boy by Jackie North

Oliver & Jack #1
Publisher: Blue Rain Press
Pages: 559
Characters: Oliver/Jack
POV: 1st
Genre: Historical/Literary, Series

In 1846 London, respectable young men do not fall for street thieves. This is the love story of Oliver Twist and the Artful Dodger.

Oliver Twist has one desire: to own a bookshop and live a simple, middle-class life, far away from his workhouse-shadowed past. One thing stands in his way: Jack Dawkins–The Artful Dodger–who’s just returned to London and is looking for Fagin’s old gang.

Jack’s visits cause Oliver nothing but trouble, but he finds himself drawn, time and again, to their shared past, Jack’s unguarded honesty, and those bright, green eyes.

Oliver craves respectability, which he won’t find with a forbidden love. Can Jack convince Oliver that having one doesn’t mean losing the other?

A gay, m/m Victorian-era romance with grumpy/sunshine, hurt/comfort, opposites attract, emotional scars, and pure, sweet love. A little sweet, a little steamy, with a guaranteed HEA.

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The writing style and language of this story captures the feel of the time period wonderfully. The language is very lyrical, and had a real feel of Dickens, and yet not, about it. It feels like a continuation of Oliver Twist, and not just because it uses the same characters and setting. I felt as though I’d been transported to London in the Victorian era immediately I began reading.

I loved the descriptions of the settings—they were very vivid and emotive. I could almost feel the snow and coldness. The day to day life of the time is very detailed. I particularly liked how the author described Oliver’s life in the haberdashery shop and how the boys all lived and worked together.

Oliver and Jack are interesting characters, both alone and together. I liked the way Oliver—who is really an innocent and quite naive despite his time with Fagin’s gang—slowly realises that he has feelings for Jack. It was subtly and nicely done, and very effective in showing their relationship growing slowly over time. Jack, too, was subtle, or rather as subtle as Jack can be. I loved the scenes where he tries to protect Oliver, Oliver protects him in turn, and then the way the pace picks up as their relationship builds to the point where neither man can deny his feelings.

The class system is alive and well in this story, with characters’ attitudes very much a sign and product of the time in which they live. I liked Oliver’s inner struggle as he tries to marry the future he’d set his sights with against trying to put his past behind him to the point that he’s terrified of being dragged back into that world. I thought it was very realistically portrayed, especially as he knows why he’s reacting that why but can’t stop himself, and the way the situation builds up to the point he has to confront it or lose everything that is good about himself.

I also thought the author did a great job in portraying others using the preconception of class to justify their actions. At one point a character dies, but another doesn’t see why that’s a problem, as there’s more where he came from.

Fagin’s Boy is an interesting, absorbing read, and by the time I’d finished the story I was very invested in the characters and their future together. I’m looking forward to reading more.

I’d recommend Fagin’s Boy to readers who enjoy a realistic historical story that continues the adventures of existing literary characters, and leaves you wanting more.

5 out of 5 stars.

About Anne Barwell

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning. In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra. She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ. Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical. Anne can be found at
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