Review & Giveaway: Magic Mansion by Jordan Castillo Price

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, 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....

Jordan Castillo Price is putting the spotlight on her backlist; choosing to feature one of her back list each month. January kicks off with Magic Mansion.

I am having so much trouble writing a review for this book, Not because I didn't like it, as you can see I gave it five hearts and I read it twice within about ten days, but because I want to write an essay on everything I loved about it, which would be impractical and pretty spoilerish! I've highlighted the hell out of it as well, something I rarely do.

On the surface I shouldn't like this book. I read the blurb and it is about two things I'm pretty unfond of - magic and reality TV (with one I HATE not knowing how it's done and with the other I hate watching desperate people be humiliated for money) In fact, it is fair to say I only read this because it was written by Jordan Castillo Price and she is one of my go-to authors. I am SO glad I did.

"John was stunning in an Edwardian cutaway coat and deep burgundy ascot. In his top hat (silk, not satin) and his striped trousers, he looked like he was seven feet tall. But it wasn't just height he possessed. It was presence. His audience approached him in awe, and when he greeted them, gravely, in his deep and profoundly serious voice, Ricardo could practically see them all break out in goosebumps.
In fact, he did, himself. "

There is one reason that this book resounded with me so much and that is because I fell utterly in love with Professor Topaz. I think (I hope) readaholics will understand this, that feeling of a character being more real than actual real life people, to the point where you can't get them out of your head. I guess it's why fandoms are so big, the interweb has given us obsessives a place to meet and share our passions. 

Unlike TV programmes though, with a book there is no actor to put a visual to the name, no visual to blur the lines between character and actor (does that make sense). With a book it is literally all in your head. or my head in this case. Professor Topaz, John, got in my head so much that I started rereading pretty much straight away. One particular scene near the end is so imprinted on my brain that it's what I've been thinking of before I fall to sleep each night. It's not even the scene so much as John on the scene. It's stuck in my brain like some kind of visual earworm. A mindworm?

Why? I don't know. I've tried to put into words what it is about this character that has me so stupid, and all I come up with is a rambling paragraph of nonsense. He's far from your typical 'hero' - for a start he's 63. He's not an alpha male in the typical body-builder, muscles of steel, bad boy kinda way. Nor is he a geeky nerd. He's just him...
A gentleman.
Charming in a quiet way.
A showman.
A friend.

He got inside my head and I couldn't stop thinking about him. I loved it. I love being consumed by a book, love that feeling of falling onto it, of living it. 

For those of you who have yet to try work by this author, i would really, really encourage you to do so. Especially if you're fed up of reading the same stories again and again. I love her characters and settings. 

Magic Mansion was an interactive book as it was being written. It is set around  a group of magicians competing in a kind of Big Brother environment. during the writing process, the contestants of the 'show' were voted off by her readers. Castillo-Price didn't know who would get voted off - and from what I've read, was often surprised by the result - which made the story writing fairly spontaneous. It's difficult to plan if you don't know which character is going to be still in the book. What a skilled writer, I'm very much in awe.

We are with the magicians as they experience life in the mansion and as they find out which tasks they are to compete in. Though it is mainly written from John and Ricardo's POV (I also love Ricardo, by the way, he just didn't side-swipe me quite as much as the Professor, I totally get how he fell for the man), we do have some 'video diary' thoughts of other contestants and some introductions as if we were watching the show itself. It sounds like it shouldn't work... but it does.

The cast of characters and crew are fantastic. The tasks and eliminations; amazing. The hints of true magic in a world of show magicians and illusionists are perfect. It really is a fantastic book that I'm beyond glad I read.

For more information see Goodreads.

A copy of this book was given in exchange for an honest review.

To buy links:
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Excerpt from Chapter 1: 

The stairs to John’s apartment seemed narrower than they had on his way to the hospital. The overhead lights, dimmer. The smell of cigarettes and sweat and cooking grease, more pervasive. Sorrow made the world a darker place.

Music throbbed from the apartment beneath his. He could knock and tell them to turn down the TV set…but what difference did it make? In the scheme of things, how much did the annoyance of a soundtrack blasting through the floorboards really matter? Besides, perhaps it was a comfort to know he wasn’t entirely alone—even if those other persons dwelled below him, and referred to him as “that asshole who should just turn up his own TV.”

He let himself in and hung his suit coat carefully in the closet, then slid the knot of his tie all the way down and stepped into the apartment’s living room. Framed posters in lavish colors filled the room—mere inches apart—so the slivers of wall that showed between them seemed more like an accent, disguising the fact that the rest of the place was painfully austere. Ringleaders. Clowns. Acrobats. But mostly, magicians.


Most of those from his mother’s generation, great showmen from the sixties and seventies, had passed. And most of those from John’s generation had retired. They encouraged him to do the same—and so he was unlikely to call any of them for moral support over the incident at the hospital. They’d tell him he was wasting his time, and that it was too expensive to live in California, and that if he moved to Florida he’d be deluged by wealthy widows who’d be so grateful for a private performance that he could start living the high life again.

He might remind them that while he had nothing against the company of ladies, he’d never been inclined to get romantically involved with them. And depending on which one-time illusionist or retired emcee he was speaking to, they would encourage him to stop being so picky—because at our age it’s more about the companionship than the sex, anyway—or they would drop the subject entirely and find a quick reason to get off the phone.

Even though he didn’t expect to hear anything that would lift his spirits, John considered who he might call and glanced at the phone.

It rang.

Providence? John crossed the room and looked down at his caller ID. No, not providence…his agent. He picked up the phone.

“Hello, Dick.”

“Guess who I just got off the line with,” Dick Golding said. John sighed, quietly, to himself. Dick didn’t wait for an answer. “Saint Mary’s. You know what they told me?”

“I’ve already spoken with—”

“They said you showed up today and talked the nurse on duty into letting you perform. Gratis.”

“I did.”

“Hell, John. Not only is this hospital circuit the kiss of death, but now you’re doing it for free?”

John considered the question, then said, “Apparently, not anymore.” A commercial, much louder than the TV program itself, blasted through the floor. Windows, siding. Tax incentive. Free installation.

“Look, popular magic, these days—it’s all about the young kids. The Criss Angels. The David Blaines. What you need is a steady gig with a more mature clientele. I’m not saying you’ve got to move to Vegas, but a long-term gig there, four months, might change your mind—”

“I’ve lived here all my life. I have no desire to move to Las Vegas.”

“The cost of living there, compared to L.A.—”

“No desire whatsoever.”

Dick sighed, then. And not to himself. “I’m not gonna lie to you, John. We’re pals, and I keep you on for old time sake, but you need to start living in the present. If you won’t take a gig in Vegas, and you won’t consider the cruise line I pitched last week, then you might need to look into something…edgier.”


“You and Casey—maybe it’s time for a book. A memoir. Casey Cornish and Professor Topaz: Behind the Curtain.”

John glanced at Casey’s last promo shot. Rakish, blond, sparkling eyes and a broad smile. He’d been sixty-two at the time—but he looked as dazzling as he had in his late forties.

“You two could be the next Siegfried and Roy,” Dick suggested.

“We never performed together.”

“So it’ll be a big revelation that the two of you were an item.”

“Roy Horn was mauled by his own tiger onstage. Casey was hit by a car on the way to the post office. I doubt that will sell nearly as many copies.”

“Focus on your love life. Cater to the gay crowd. I know you’re capable of stringing a few sentences together. Open up your word processor and just start anywhere—we’ll hire an editor to clean it up later. Easy peasy.”

The thought of parading his relationship with Casey in front of the world in print, especially for the sake of money, made John ill—even when he realized that Casey himself might have encouraged him to do it. Casey had been the affable half of the couple, and he’d always said that any publicity was good publicity.

Unfortunately, the likelihood of Casey and John being the next Siegfried and Roy was minuscule. Siegfried and Roy were stunningly popular; they’d been top-ten in the highest paid performers in the United States when Roy had his accident. Casey had been unemployed and up to his neck in credit card debt when he was killed.

The downstairs TV noise grew even louder.

“Once that book comes out,” Dick said, “think of all the doors of opportunity that’ll open up to you. Piano bars. Gay cruises. You can make double, triple rates if you specialize—you’re still a good-looking guy, you’ll get top dollar.”

As distinctly as if the set had been playing in his own living room, John heard the words, “Lights…camera…magic.” He lowered the handset from his ear, with Dick still going on about how he should cash in on his homosexuality while gays were “hot,” and focused instead on the commercial downstairs. The voicework was hastily produced, a local spot with too much audio high-end and no background music, which made the words carry right through the floor. “Do you live in the L.A. area? Are you a professional magician? If so, Magic Mansion is looking for you. Call 888—”

The channel changed. An inane laugh track swelled, then fizzled. Theme music piped in. John could hardly pound on the floor and tell the neighbors to change the channel back. Not only would they misinterpret the knocking as a complaint about the noise level—the number would be long gone. John raised the phone to his ear again, and found Dick saying, “…you never know. If you start getting out more, maybe you’ll meet someone.”

“Dick,” John cut in. His agent fell silent. “What do you know about Magic Mansion?”

Jordan Castillo Price is kindly offering up an ebook copy of Magic Mansion to one lucky person. To be in with a chance comment below with your favourite magic act - or, if you're not a magic fan, tell us why. Don't forget to leave a way to contact you - email, twitter, facebook etc! A winner will be chosen at random sometime Friday 5th February (it'll be in the afternoon, GMT!!) and notified as soon as possible.


  1. Thanks for the great review!

    I am not particularly "not a fan" of magic acts. I have just never seen one that I can remember. I did enjoy Colin Firth's movie Magic in the Moonlight that was about a magician in the 1920s. I am with you in my dislike of reality TV programs.


  2. I used to love David Copperfield's shows on TV when I was younger. The few times I've seen Penn & Teller, I have to say I was pretty happy with their show.

  3. I'm a sucker for classic tricks, like getting doves out of hats or making things/people disappear... I also love when they make something levitate. It's just amazing!!! ;)

  4. Angela:
    Thank you for the review and for sharing an excerpt.


  5. I have grown within a family that were members of the Magic Circle, but they always kept the secret of a trick or an illusion. Interesting fact my father actually created a few tricks that were used by some famous magicians and was friends with Tommy Cooper and a few other magicians of the 1970/80's. My grandfather was one of my favourite magicians, partly as he used to set up little magic shows just for me. Thank you for a chance to win a copy of Magic Mansion slholland22 {at} hotmail {dot} com

  6. Huge apologies for the delay in commenting here - congratulations Sula, you were our randomly chosen winner. :)

    I'd go crazy if people I knew were keeping magic tricks secret. That is exactly why I don't like it!!! But wow - that is pretty darn cool!!