Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a fantastic new historical M/M mystery/romance from KJ Charles. AN UNNATURAL VICE is the second book in her Victorian Sins in the City series, and should be read after AN UNSEEN ATTRACTION. VICE finds a new pair of lovers–as unmatched as they might be, and we get tons and tons of intrigue moving this mystery/lovestory forward.
About the book:
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.
4.5 Stars for this historical M/M romance set in Victorian-era London. This is the second book in a series and is likely best enjoyed when read in sequence.
The first book, AN UNSEEN ATTRACTION, featured the mystery, mischief and murder that befell Clem Tallyfer, bastard son of his Grace, the (late, late) Earl of Moreton as he managed a lodging house, and fell in love with Rowley Green, one of his lodgers.
This story continues the investigation of whomever killed one of Clem’s lodgers, Reverend Lugtrout, and also Clem’s half-brother, Edmund, then the earl.
It seems there is some dispute regarding the entailment of the Moreton estate. As Edmund had no legal offspring, it should go to Edmund and Clem’s uncle—who cannot wait to evict Clem from his lodging house. Clem’s dear friend, Nathaniel Roy, is charged with assisting him in his legal dealings, but Nathaniel is also a writer, an investigative journalist of the time. He’s in the midst of sussing out the sham of one Seer of London, Justin Lazarus, who makes his living preying on the elite of society as a communicator with those beyond the veil.
Justin Lazarus is a 5-bit hustler of the first order. He knows all the tricks and plies his trade on the susceptible. How is it, then, that this charlatan is able to connect Nathaniel with the deepest of his many secrets, his lost love, Tony? Not only that, Justin has unwittingly received evidence of the (late) earl’s secret marriage and even more secret progeny. Justin needs Nathaniel to help him as he becomes a prime target for not only Edmund’s murderer, but also that of two opportunistic men who wish to claim the earl’s fortune as their own.
Nathaniel and Justin have no love lost between them, but that doesn’t hide their mutual attraction. What begins auspiciously turns out to genial once Nathaniel and Justin take off for parts north to escape London’s killer fog and the actual killers chasing them. It’s a very sweet romance that develops, as these adversaries turn advocates. Nathaniel recognizes Justin’s keen intellect, and admires his wit and courage. Justin’s taken by Nathaniel, but he’s unwilling to be another man’s pawn, or possession, ever again. As they aren’t social equals it seems doomed, but Nathaniel finds a way to blend their lives, if only Justin will trust him.
I really enjoyed the suspense and thrilling moments of chase through this historical landscape. The author makes great use of the natural elements—in this case the historic fog of 1873—and brings the story into a whole new sphere. The earl’s progeny are discovered and I was happy when it turned out I had correctly guessed the identity. There’s so much chicanery happening with regard to this inheritance that the heir, once names, is still in mortal danger. It’s interesting how the story has now turned another corner and will no doubt begin a new romance that will once and for all settle Clem’s claim to his boarding house and seems to solidify the growing bond between Nathaniel and Justin. While the first book seemed to move at a slower pace, this one had several full-on investigations, and it seemed we were learning more and more—yet still stuck on the resolutions!—with each page turn. I liked the way the enemies-to-lovers trope was utilized here, and also how these guys got past their preconceived notions—and actual prejudices—to risk their hearts and lives on love. I’m so looking forward to the conclusion!
About the Author:
KJ Charles is a writer and freelance editor. She lives in London with her husband, two kids, an out-of-control garden and an increasingly murderous cat.
KJ writes mostly romance, gay and straight, frequently historical, and usually with some fantasy or horror in there. She specialises in editing romance, especially historical and fantasy, and also edits children’s fiction.
Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!