Sins of the Cities: An Unsuitable Heir – K.J. Charles
A private detective finds passion, danger, and the love of a lifetime when he hunts down a lost earl in Victorian London.
On the trail of an aristocrat’s secret son, enquiry agent Mark Braglewicz finds his quarry in a music hall, performing as a trapeze artist with his twin sister. Graceful, beautiful, elusive, and strong, Pen Starling is like nobody Mark’s ever met—and everything he’s ever wanted. But the long-haired acrobat has an earldom and a fortune to claim.
Pen doesn’t want to live as any sort of man, least of all a nobleman. The thought of being wealthy, titled, and always in the public eye is horrifying. He likes his life now—his days on the trapeze, his nights with Mark. And he won’t be pushed into taking a title that would destroy his soul.
But there’s a killer stalking London’s foggy streets, and more lives than just Pen’s are at risk. Mark decides he must force the reluctant heir from music hall to manor house, to save Pen’s neck. Betrayed by the one man he thought he could trust, Pen never wants to see his lover again. But when the killer comes after him, Pen must find a way to forgive—or he might not live long enough for Mark to make amends.
An Unsuitable Heir is the conclusion of the Sins of the Cities series. Following the events of the second book, An Unnatural VIce, Pen and Mark’s story starts with Mark discovering the identity of the Godfrey twins and Pen and Mark hooking up. Pen was soon introduced as the missing earl much to the consternation of the remaining Taillefer family members. Because the killer was still at large, Pen and Greta were sent to live in Crowmarsh for their safety but it seems the killer followed them there.
Pen is what modern people call gender queer at a time when the Western world couldn’t even begin to accept homosexuality. Working as a trapeze artist with Greta lets him be himself. He and Mark just clicked right away. I really like Mark’s open-minded pansexual attitude and how he and Pen fit together quite nicely.
“Serves you right. I roll you cross-eyed and you tell me you’re not fussy?”
“I’m not,” Mark said. “I told you from the start, mate. I like men, I like women, I like whoever, however they want to be—as long as it’s you. That’s the only thing in the world I’m picky about.” He smiled into Pen’s eyes, saw him smile back. “But I’m a bloody stickler for that.”
Greta also found her happily ever after with Tim who I mistakenly suspect as the killer. That was really stupid of me. Tim is likable if nondescript and I like his blase attitude towards men kissing men.
I wasn’t really over the moon with the romance. They were OK but what kept me reading were the mystery and the family scandals. K.J. Charles called the trilogy her “total Victorian sensation fiction, channelling my love for Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Dickens in his wilder moods, and the other glorious writers of complicated plots with scandals, secrets and shenanigans up the wazoo“. A Victorian soap opera it is and with superb voice acting from Matthew Lloyd Davis, I felt like I was in on the action. His delivery of old man Desmond was really spot on.
One major conflict in the book is Pen’s dilemma. If he becomes an earl he had to cut his hair, wear a suit and be confined to what society considers to be a man. But then he cannot just throw his inheritance away and ruin his future along with Greta’s. Half of me wanted Pen to be the earl while half of me want him to be a trapeze artist hence the resolution was moderately satisfying but not as clever as Society of Gentlemen. The big reveal didn’t reveal anything too shocking. It was more of a confirmation of things that happened in all the three books. In the end, I think Justin Lazarus stole the show.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love