Tag Archives: historical

Book Review of An Unsuitable Heir (Sins of the Cities #3), by K.J. Charles

I received a copy of a copy of K.J. CharlesAn Unsuitable Heir through Netgalley. I reviewed the first books, An Unseen Attraction and An Unnatural Vice earlier this year.

Description from Goodreads:
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.

So, Pen is non-binary/gender fluid and Mark is pansexual, in a time when such language didn’t exist. I imagine this last fact made the story a difficult one to write, because I found the lengths to which the characters had to go to describe themselves without the words sometimes didactic and difficult to read. But honestly I really quite enjoyed this conclusion to the series (a series that happily contains more representation of varied identities, bodies types and abilities than the collection of several other authors put together).

I enjoyed it, but it was my least favorite of the three. I don’t mean to be dismissive of Pen’s situation, because it was horrible, but I got tired of his panics. Further, I felt he was frequently stressing over being unable to express his more feminine aspects, with the understanding that he’s sometimes perfectly happy being perceived as male. But I don’t once remember him being satisfied in his more observably male appearance. It felt ill-balanced. And obviously I understand that one of those would have been considered normal and not noteworthy, while the other stress-inducing because it would have been considered deviant. But throughout the whole book he never seemed to have a good body day, which readers were meant to understand he did have sometimes and I’d have liked to see.

I cannot express how much I loved the way Pen and his sister refused to be bullied or bow to the aristocracy, however. Loved it. Further, I think we all deserve a Mark in our lives, someone 100% accepting and willing to have the awkward conversations that eventually make us more comfortable. I adored him. We got brief cameos of all the other characters in the series, which I liked. But the first half of the book is almost entirely recap of the first books or seeing scenes we’ve already witnessed from the point of view of new characters. I found this a tad tedious, but the last half was all new and exciting.

I did see the side pairing and eventual solution to who should become Earl coming very early on, but I didn’t figure out the larger mystery of the murdering mastermind. So, I was held in suspense until the very end and liked it. I found it really quite satisfying in the end.

All in all, I ended the book and this series happy and, as always, look forward to more of Charles’ writing.

Review of Beauty Like the Night, by Joanna Bourne

A friend sent me a copy of Beauty Like the Night, by Joanna Bourne. [You know who you are and thank you.] As a bonus, here’s a picture of my pup Moto, four months old.

Description from Goodreads:
Severine de Cabrillac, orphan of the French revolution and sometime British intelligence agent, has tried to leave spying behind her. Now she devotes herself to investigating crimes in London and finding justice for the wrongly accused.

Raoul Deverney, an enigmatic half-Spaniard with enough secrets to earn even a spy’s respect, is at her door demanding help. She’s the only one who can find the killer of his long-estranged wife and rescue her missing fourteen-year-old daughter.

Severine reluctantly agrees to aid him, even though she knows the growing attraction between them makes it more than unwise. Their desperate search for the girl unleashes treason and murder. . . and offers a last chance for two strong, wounded people to find love.

I believe this is my first Joanna Bourne novel. I generally avoid historical novels of this ilk, especially if they have a romantic component. I so often can’t stomach the gender politics in them. But this one came to me along with a friend’s recommendation. So, I gave it a try and was pleasantly surprised. It’s the sort of book in which the hero respectfully things like this:

One did not, he suspected, write poems to Severine’s eyebrows. One slew dragons for her, or stood slightly to the left, holding her spare lance and buckler, while she did the slaying.

This is a male/female relationship I can appreciate. What’s more, the sort of man who will allow a woman that power is the sort I want to read about, and the woman who inspires such thoughts in a heroine I’m interested in getting to know.

I did find the language too purple and flowery at times, especially around the romance/sex. And as much as I loved the sarcasm and repartee, it did go overboard at times, making everyone sound quite similar. All in all, however, if all of Bourne’s work is in this vein, I’m up for a lot more.

Book Review of An Unnatural Vice, by K. J. Charles

I received an ARC of An Unnatural Vice, by K. J. Charles, through Netgalley. And since I’m vacationing in Florida along with the lovely Tropical Storm Cindy, I’ve had lots of time to read. Luckily, where I am there are bucketsful of rain, but little wind and no lightning, so I can still sit outside, on the lovely screened porch, listen to the rain, look at the water and bask in the negative ions as I blissfully read without guilt because I’ve not taken the kiddos to a proper beach, just let the frolic in the pool. Everyone is happy.

Description from Goodreads:
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.

Another lovely book by Charles; she just so rarely lets me down. I very much enjoyed Justin and Nathaniel’s fiery passion, most when it was still in the enemies stage of this enemies to lovers story. The little bit of mystery was easy to figure out, but still pleasant, and I’m still on the hook for who the over-all, big baddy is. (Hopefully this will be revealed in the next book. I don’t like to be strung along too long.)

I did feel the two men went to declarations of love too quickly. I thought the enemies, to friends, to lovers was well paced. But then suddenly there was love and sentimentality and such, and I thought that was a leap. I also very much disliked Nathaniel’s sense of moral superiority and the fact that Justin acquiesced to it. The tone of ‘let me show you how wrong your life is and how to live properly’ grated on my nerves from start to finish.

All in all, however, I finished this pleased as punch and can’t wait or the next one.