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
Sins of the Cities: An Unnatural Vice – K.J. Charles
In the sordid streets of Victorian London, unwanted desire flares between two bitter enemies brought together by a deadly secret.
Crusading journalist Nathaniel Roy is determined to expose spiritualists who exploit the grief of bereaved and vulnerable people. First on his list is the so-called Seer of London, Justin Lazarus. Nathaniel expects him to be a cheap, heartless fraud. He doesn’t expect to meet a man with a sinful smile and the eyes of a fallen angel—or that a shameless swindler will spark his desires for the first time in years.
Justin feels no remorse for the lies he spins during his séances. His gullible clients simply bore him. Hostile, disbelieving, utterly irresistible Nathaniel is a fascinating challenge. And as their battle of wills and wits heats up, Justin finds he can’t stop thinking about the man who’s determined to ruin him.
But Justin and Nathaniel are linked by more than their fast-growing obsession with one another. They are both caught up in an aristocratic family’s secrets, and Justin holds information that could be lethal. As killers, fanatics, and fog close in, Nathaniel is the only man Justin can trust—and, perhaps, the only man he could love.
The second book of the Sins of the Cities series, An Unnatural Vice centers on Justin Lazarus, Seer of London and his entanglement with Nathaniel Roy, crusading journalist. It picks up from the latter parts of An Unseen Attraction where Clem, Rowley, Mark and Nathaniel were on the business of the Clem’s family troubles.
The overarching thread of the series is the riveting mystery of who is murdering people to find information about the missing earl. Suspicious characters consulted the seer, then kidnapped him to force him to find the twins. He escaped but having no one to turn to, Justin ran to Nathaniel’s house to seek shelter. Nathaniel, his chivalrous streak a mile wide, offered his protection. Justin, unused to pure kindness, kept looking for strings attached. and Nathaniel had to keep assuring him there were none. From the get go, we know Justin Lazarus was a fraud but boy, was he really convincing. So convincing in fact that sometimes I forget that this series is historical and not paranormal. I really enjoyed the parts where he revealed his tricks to Nathaniel. Lying, cheating bastard that he is, Nathaniel still saw the good in him, his intelligence, confidence and skills. This is one of the parts I liked best. Nathaniel never lost faith that Justin could be so much more than a fake medium. But as much as I like the two characters and as clearly as I could see their chemistry, I was meh about them as a couple. I don’t know why. Bummer.
The big reveal, now that was quite something! Through Mark’s efforts, the missing Repentance and Regret were found and the chaos that ensued was a major laugh out loud moment. Poor Mark though. Can’t wait for his and Pen’s book. The Talleyfer family troubles is still far from being resolved.
Time and time again, K.J. Charles proved that she’s not capable of writing a bad story. While I am not blown away by the Sins of the Cities series, as much as I was with the beloved Society of Gentlemen and A Charm of Magpies, I think her slightly mediocre (if we can call something this good mediocre) works still read as highly enjoyable, fast paced and gripping. As expected of the author, there is strong sense of time and place. London is very much vividly present in most of her works. The cherry on top was narrator, Matthew Lloyd Davis who was a master at bringing the characters to life. His run through the entire spectrum of voices and accents was very convincing.
Unfortunately, this had to end with a cliffhanger so I recommend buying all three books before starting on this trilogy.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
Sins of the Cities: An Unseen Attraction – K.J. Charles
A slow-burning romance and a chilling mystery bind two singular men in the suspenseful first book of a new Victorian series from K. J. Charles.
Lodging-house keeper Clem Talleyfer prefers a quiet life. He’s happy with his hobbies, his work—and especially with his lodger Rowley Green, who becomes a friend over their long fireside evenings together. If only neat, precise, irresistible Mr. Green were interested in more than friendship…
Rowley just wants to be left alone—at least until he meets Clem, with his odd, charming ways and his glorious eyes. Two quiet men, lodging in the same house, coming to an understanding… it could be perfect. Then the brutally murdered corpse of another lodger is dumped on their doorstep and their peaceful life is shattered.
Now Clem and Rowley find themselves caught up in a mystery, threatened on all sides by violent men, with a deadly London fog closing in on them. If they’re to see their way through, the pair must learn to share their secrets—and their hearts.
Clem and Rowley having crushes on each other are so cute! They have been eyeing each other for the longest time so I’m glad they finally hooked up. I love how Rowley is short like Stephen Day. You rarely see that type as MC in a romance novel. Nobody made a big deal about sexuality, which is how things should be.
Clem is a cinnamon roll. He is kind and trusting to a fault. He also has dyspraxia according to official sources so he has trouble with multi-tasking, crowds and people talking all at once. Rowley is definitely the guy for him. He has infinite patience, is comfortable with silence and tries really hard to understand Clem.
Lots of times they argue, Clem was frustratingly naive and valiantly trying to see the good in everybody and Rowley was scared. Couldn’t really blame them though. It’s that damn brother!
The fact that Clem was an Indian was not really focused on until the main part of the story where it became significant because they started dealing with Clem’s brother who is an asshole through and through.
Majority of the story deals with the issue of whoever is harassing Clem and Rowley, why are they doing it, what has it got to do with Clem’s brother and how should they deal with it. During this entire debacle, we meet Clem’s friends from the Jack and Knave who try to help out.
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it