Author: K.J. Charles
Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link: Amazon
Type: Novel in a Series
Received from Publisher
Blurb: 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.
Review: Reading a new KJ Charles story is like savoring fine chocolate- for several hours. Well, it is to me at least! This is the second book in her Sins of the Cities series, and it continues the colorful central plot of murderous intrigue and mysterious heir apparent from the first book, An Unseen Attraction. While old favorites are present here, two different delicious MCs are front and center. There is sufficient backstory within for this book to be perfectly readable as a standalone, yet really, why would you when book one is too good to be missed.
Justin Lazarus is The Seer of London. He’s deft at sleight of hand, parlor tricks, and possesses a skilled tongue and sharp memory. Lazarus, in spectacular fashion, gives the ladies and gents of London what they want to see and hear. They get the comfort they are seeking – he gets their coin. Does it matter that he’s a fake, a charlatan? That his dupes are so easily led? Not to him, Lazarus is not the apologetic type. In fact, he comes across as quite the lowest of cheats, especially in the eyes of Nathaniel Roy.
Nathaniel Roy is a journalist. He basically loathes all things paranormal. He certainly can’t abide a swindler, a fraud, and surely all spiritualists are such. He meets Justin at a séance while researching a story and is immediately appalled at the man’s brazen air. Nathaniel knows the man is faking, yet he’s also impressed by his theatrics, his skill, the realness the despicable man brings to the entire experience. The depth and heat in the man’s grey eyes…. He’s also inexplicably and frustratingly captivated. Justin exudes a magnetism the likes of which Nathaniel hasn’t experienced in years.
Right off the mark we have the set up for a volatile relationship. Bringing two men together who are quite opposite, who actually do.not.like. one another, is something the author does oh so well. Justin is wary of Nathaniel and his skepticism, yet his keen powers of observation lead him to believe there may be ways to keep the man quiet, or to make him beg. Nathaniel is unnerved by the base attraction he feels toward Justin, yet he vows to bring down his sham of a business. On the heels of a turbulent, satisfying slaking of lust (can you say pure carnal, angry sex?) the two men unwittingly find themselves working toward a common cause. A case of murder and missing heirs among the aristocracy crosses each of their paths; where their combined knowledge may lead to the truth, it also endangers their lives.
The mystery elements are a very clever carry over from the previous book. Known characters and settings are in place. Clem Talleyfer’s family is key to this, so he was present quite a lot in the book, no hardship there as he is a marvelously drawn character. All of this provides a seamless segue by which to toss Nathaniel and Justin together and to continue the overarching plot from book one. There is an excellent balance of suspense, mystery and action twined in the interpersonal interactions between the two men. Forced into hiding together, the pair move beyond their near violent physical attraction where they begin peeling back layers, discovering truths, and cease running from their pasts. I really love how the author explores each man’s upbringing, their fears, their fondest wishes. We – and they – find out what drives each man, what has caused the characteristics each initially despised in the other. The dialogue between Nathaniel and Justin is truly lovely. Well, at times I suppose it is quite filthy and vulgar, but it gets the job done. Seriously, their conversations made me all smiles and tears. By the end of the story each man had tempered somewhat, their edges smoothed, but by no means were they unrecognizable. Such a pleasure to read.
As with all of the author’s stories, I can look forward to accurate portrayals of history. London becomes a character all her own in this story: thick, putrid fog, fetid garbage- strewn streets, overrun sewers. Eww…yet, yay for authenticity and ambience. The spiritualist era, culture, what have you is fascinating to me. Such an interesting profession to assign a character, just as taxidermy was in An Unseen Attraction.
This story had it all for me: Imperfect, intriguing characters with gut punching relationship dynamics; a captivating, full-of-twists suspense angle; a rich, evocative writing style. Those plot twists, well I can’t spoiler but oh my, how very, very clever. I sure hope I didn’t swallow any flies while my mouth was open. Good stuff this. Can’t wait to see how the mystery element continues to play out in the next book, and also see how Nathaniel and Justin – as well as Clem and Rowley – are getting on. If I have the hints correct, the next featured couple promises to be beyond divine.