books

K.J. Charles

Books

A Charm of Magpies: The Magpie Lord (2013), A Case of Possession (2014), Flight of Magpies (2014)

Sins of the City: An Unseen Attraction (2017), An Unnatural Vice (2017), An Unsuitable Heir (2017)

Society of Gentlemen: The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh (2015), A Fashionable Indulgence (2016), A Seditious Affair (2016), A Gentleman’s Position (2016)

Rag & Bone: A Queer Trade (2015), Rag and Bone (2016)

Green Men: Spectred Isle (2017)

Unfit to Print (2018), Band Sinister (2018), Wanted, a Gentleman (2018)


A Charm of Magpies

 

The Magpie Lord (2013)

One for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for a secret never to be told
Eight for a letter over the sea
Nine for a lover as true as can be

Lucien Vaudrey spent 20 years exiled in China by his father. Now that his father and brother are both dead, Lucien has returned to England to inherit the title of Lord Crane and the earldom. But it seems like someone doesn’t want him to keep that inheritance for long.

Stephen Day is a Justicar–a magician who enforces the rules. He also has an unpleasant past with the Crane family, and wants nothing better than for the new Earl Crane to suffer has the old earl made others suffer. But he has to uphold the law, and that means he has to work with Lucien Vaudrey, who is… not what he was expecting.

“Murder?” Stephen knew he sounded scathing, couldn’t help it. “It is a crime.”

“Mr. Day, you know what they were,” Crane said. “If someone killed them, it was about bloody time.”

“No, it was murder,” said Stephen. “No matter what they were.”

“I dispute that. Hector did exactly as he chose— rape, assault, abuse— with my father’s protection and complicity, and he got away with it for thirty years and more because not one single person had the guts to stand up to them—”

I really like the world-building of these stories. And the characters. And the story.

So I guess I pretty much like everything, even if I could do without all the boinking. And even the boinking is kinda fascinating, because like magic use, homosexuality had to be hidden as well.

Also, for a self-published book, I very much like the cover. It’s extremely well done, giving you an idea of the time period, the characters, and the relationship between them.

A fun book, and I’m looking forward to the next.

Publisher: KJC Books
Rating: 8/10

A Case of Possession (2014)

The second Charm of Magpies books finds Stephen and Crane the subject of blackmail. Crane, being an Earl, would be fine ignoring the blackmailer, but Stephen, being poor, could easily be arrested for their relationship.

But then they suddenly have a much larger problem–giant rats are attacking and killing people, and those killed seem to be linked to China–and perhaps Crane.

The mystery was interesting, and it allowed Crane to talk about his time in China, and how he survived his first year there. It also explains more of why Crane and Merrick are as much friends as master and servant.

Plus, they’re fun.

Merrick came in with a bundle. “I beg your pardon,” he began, and then recoiled at his master’s appearance. “What happened to you?”

“Blame Leo. She bled all over me.”

“That’s the Hawkes and Cheney suit!” said Merrick, outraged. “I’ll never get that stain out.”

“I’ll bleed more carefully next time,” Leonora assured him.

There is, of course, boinking book. Just so you know. But I really do like the mystery and the characters and the world building.

Publisher: KJC Books
Rating: 7.5/10

Flight of Magpies (2014)

The third book of the Charm of Magpies series finds Stephen and Lord Crane struggling to come to terms with Vaudrey’s desire to leave England and Stephen’s dedication to his job–a job that offers little remuneration but a lot of danger.

Crane had promised he wouldn’t leave the country without him, and meant it, but his thoughts had undeniably turned from how he could stay in England to how he could make Stephen cross the seas with him.

Even worse, Stephen’s partner, Esther Gold, is currently unable to practice magic.

“For Mrs. Gold. I hope she’s well?”

“No, she’s sick. More or less continually, which is unpleasant for her, and since she is the worst patient of my acquaintance, fairly nasty for me.”

What is best about this series is that the characters are very well done. Each is well-developed and unique, and most of them refuse to take themselves seriously.

He wasn’t familiar with the operation of the patent stove or the boiler, and if it came to that, it was a long time since he’d made a cup of coffee for himself.

“Congratulations, Vaudrey, you’ve become purely decorative,” he said aloud.

As I’ve noted before, this is M/M erotica, so there is a lot of boinking, but I really like the characters, and I really liked the story and how Stephen and Vaudrey work out their problems.

Publisher: KJC Books
Rating: 8/10

 

Rag & Bone

 

A Queer Trade (2015)

This is a short story I picked up because I liked another series of hers I read, and the idea of an historical fantasy was worth checking out.

Crispin Tredarloe is a practitioner. He is also going to be in a great deal of trouble. His master died while he was out of town and the heirs got rid of all his papers.

His magical papers.

Ned Hall is a dealer in waste paper, and it is to him that Crispin applies, in his search for the papers, before they escape into the world and wreak havoc.

I knew nothing about this world or the characters, and was immediately drawn into the story, wanting to know more about the secret magic users.

So I’d say it succeeded in it’s task, since I immediately started a book set in the same world.

Publisher: KJ Charles
Rating: 7/10

Rag and Bone (2016)

This is set after Flight of Magpies and continues the story started in A Queer Trade.

Crispin Tredarloe is trying to learn the right way to be a practitioner, instead of a warlock, like he was trained. But it’s difficult unlearning everything he has been doing for years, and to make matters worse, there is no one to properly train him, because there are no other practitioners in London with his form of magic.

“I wondered if you could come and help me with something first, please.”

“Is it an important something?” Janossi said. “Because I am actually quite busy.”

“Spontaneous human combustion?”

“I’ll get my coat.”

Ned Hall is tired of magic. He discovered he is a Flit, but doesn’t want to practice. And on top of that, magic training is taking all of Crispin’s time, so the two hardly get to see each other.

Plus, the whole magic thing.

“Sod your parsley, your sage, your rosemary, your thyme, and your watercress if it comes to that,” Ned announced.

Both Ned and Crispin fear that the other will tire of them–Ned because he’s only a waste paper man, Crispin because he’s a failure at being a magician. Each respects the other, and is waiting to be left for greener pastures. What I like is that each has good reasons for his feelings, which makes the tension between the two characters good.

Crispin sagged. Ned probably would make a marvellous stockbroker, if it came to that, because he was actually good at things.

There’s one other book left, that I know of, involving a character who appeared in this story, and Flight of Magpies. I think I’ll wait a bit before reading it, so I have it to look forward to.

Publisher: KJC Books
Rating: 8/10


Society of Gentlemen


The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh (2015) 

Set in London in 1818.

This is the prequel to the previous three books, a short story about two somewhat minor characters who appear in the other books: Gabriel Ashleigh, brother to Lord Maltravers, who is, at best, a knave.

Gabriel has lost everything–literally everything–to Francis Webster, the man who his brother hates and tormented through school.

Throughout the stories, Gabriel is seen as open, handsome, and not very bright. He actually comes off better in this short story than he does in the following books.

Though he played a lot because everyone did, Ash wasn’t one of nature’s gamesters, preferring games of pure chance to those involving skill. He found the tension of piquet sickening rather than exciting, and disliked the silences. He couldn’t keep track of what had been played with any great accuracy, certainly not after the first few hands, and had no sense for what cards were likely to come up.

I’m very glad I didn’t read this first, because I did not like the way Frances arranged his meeting with Ash. And how he took advantage of the situation he, himself, created, albeit not on purpose.

Publisher: Loveswept

A Fashionable Indulgence (2016) 

Set in London in 1819

As I continue to read backwards through this series, we come to the story of Justin and Harry.

Harry’s father was disowned by his family, and took his wife’s name, Gordon. The family ended up on the continent when they were charged with sedition and incitement to riot when Harry was 12. After the death of his remaining son and grandson, grandfather Vane seeks out Harry, so that he might have a male to inherit.

Julius is a dandy who befriends few, and speaks to fewer of his past. After Richard Vane finds Harry and takes him from where he was working at a bookstore, Julius is given the task of taking the young man and turning him into a young gentleman.

“Manners are so important.” He glanced at Gideon. “And, as you observed, he cannot learn them at home.”

“Harry’s home is with me now,” Gideon pointed out.

“So it is,” Mr. Norreys agreed amiably.

“In any case,” Lord Richard put in, “Julius is quite right. I am very happy to introduce Harry to his peers, but as to helping him achieve the correct style there is nobody better qualified than Julius. You doubtless know the Norreys of Wiltshire, Cousin Gideon.”

Julius feels himself Pygmalion to Harry’s Galatea, and in matters of style, he is correct.

“G-good afternoon, uh, J-Julius.”

“Without stuttering. You are permitted to speak. I may even, on occasion, require your opinion.” He obviously noticed Harry’s alarm. “You need not fear being wrong. I shall tell you if you are wrong.”

“Yes, sir.”

Julius.”

“Julius.” Harry just managed to bite back the “sir.”

In matters of life and love, however, Harry is no innocent to be taken advantage of, which is a major strength of this story. It initially feels as if the power between the two is uneven, but it becomes clear that although Julius may be a man of society, he is nearly naive when it comes to some aspects of the world, and I quite liked that.

I want you to decide, so it’s nothing to do with me. I want to remain untouched by it. I want it to be out of my hands, not my choice, forgettable.

I’m a coward.

“He’s doing remarkably well. Blood will out.”

Julius tilted his head, acknowledging the sentiment rather than agreeing. In his view, Harry would be a success because of his modesty, his quick smile and eager pursuit of enjoyment, the sheer joy he took in his new life. None of those were characteristics of the well-bred people he knew.

There is, of course, lots of boinking in this story. But there is also a very good story. I enjoyed the slow discovery of Julius’ past, and why he was so damaged. I liked seeing Harry come into his own, and be forced to decide what was truly important to him. And I liked Verona, who was in a weaker position than Harry, and had some regret over how she used him.

Publisher: Loveswept
Rating: 8/10

A Seditious Affair (2016) 

Set in London in 1819

This is the second book, in the series I am reading backwards.

I read the first chapter a couple months ago, and put it down, because I wasn’t comfortable reading about BDSM.

I mean, reading boinking passages in romance embarrasses me. BDSM? (turns bright red thinking about it)

But after reading the third book in this series, I became very interested in the characters of Dominic and Silas, so I decided I’d go back and read this story.

I’m glad I did, because I really liked this story.

First, how could I not like a story that quotes Jeremy Bentham?

(T)he author argued that it was a human failing to condemn other people for their different preferences. From a man’s possessing a thorough aversion to a practice himself, the transition is but too natural to his wishing to see all others punished who give into it.

Second, the focus of the story before the BDSM is the politics of the time. Silas Mason is a radical who agitates for the rights of all men and a democratic society.

(I)t shouldn’t be fucking charity that kept children from starving and the old folk from freezing, as if the country belonged to the rich by right and everyone else lived at their sufferance and by their whim.

Politics runs through the story, both Silas’ radical politics and Dom’s Tory politics and his worries about both radical’s like Silas but also where his part is going.

“(T)hey are wrong, and dangerous, but if we cannot prove our case to be the better one, if we can only counter them by throwing away the rights and liberties that we have held precious for centuries, what does that say for our case?”

(That feels a bit familiar right now.)

But as I said, the other thread running through this story is about BDSM, and Dom’s feeling that his desires are wrong (and Richard’s wishes to keep Dom from getting killed).

“The fact is, Richard thinks there is— uh— there is something wrong with me.” Such simple words, so hard to face. “Well, Silas does not, that’s all. And I begin to disagree with Richard myself.”

“I should hope so.”

I think that statement stands by itself, with regard to so many things.

As does this one:

Dominic had had broken bones that had hurt less. And one forgot the reality of pain once the bones healed.

That’s very close to something I’ve said myself.

This is a fascinating story that does have BDSM, but it also has radical politics and a look at how deep-held beliefs can change over time.

Publisher: Loveswept
Rating: 8.5/10

A Gentleman’s Position (2016)

Set in London in 1820

I am, apparently, reading this series backwards. I’d picked up the previous two books and read a few pages but wasn’t in the mood for them at the time.

Richard is a younger son, an honorable man, and the one who has arranged safety and security for his group of friends with similar desires. He also has been rather narrow-minded for someone who’s desires are illegal.

Which is what made him a complicated characters.

What initially made Richard likable for me was his love and protectiveness of his brother.

Philip struggled with the written word as badly as any untaught rustic, and no amount of beating at Harrow had helped him acquire scholarship.

This is not the first or even second book I’ve read where a character has dyslexia, and to be clear, neither main character he has reading difficulties, but as common as dyslexia is in the population, I am glad to see it appear in fiction.

It also colors how Richard sees those he loved and cares for–as needing protection, whether they require protection or not.

It also dovetails with his sense of honor, which is of the utmost importance to him.

Keep your hands off the staff. It was as simple as that. There could be no justice where one party had all the power and the other risked his livelihood with refusal. Therefore, one did not even ask, because one could never be sure that a “yes” didn’t mask “because I must.”

Which is why the two characters are kept apart–because Richard is the master and David is his valet. And Richard doesn’t believe they can have an equal relationship. Especially, as it is pointed out if Richard fell in love with a female servant, at least he could offer her marriage and the (minimal) protection that offered.

Which is what makes M/M historicals so interesting to me–the secret societies and houses and arrangements that were created to allowed these relationships to work.

“Is there anything you do not excel at?”

“Plenty. I just don’t do those things, and so nobody finds out.”

Oh yes! I’ve pointed out to Michael that one of the reasons I tend be “right” about things is that (except for fun) I rarely argue unless I am certain of my point.

As far as reading the third book in the series first, the only issue I had was that there were a lot of characters, and I did get some of background characters confused. It wasn’t a huge issue, but it was a weakness when I hadn’t read the previous two books first.

But it was an interesting and enjoyable story.

Publisher: Loveswept
Rating: 7/10

 

Sins of the City

 

An Unseen Attraction (2017)

Set in London in 1873

This is a MM boinking book.

Clem Tallyfer is the keeper of his brother’s lodging house in London. It’s how he makes his living–surviving on the sufferance of his brother.

He’s also different, and that makes things even more difficult.

Would you like to keep looking? I’ll wait.” That was the sort of thing people said and then it turned out they hadn’t meant that at all. Clem knew he didn’t recognise sarcasm because he had been told so, repeatedly.

Clem was not a man you could read like a book, or if you could, the book was in an unfamiliar typeface, with no page numbers.

Rowley Green is a preserver who chose Clem’s lodging house because it was right next to his shop. He prefers to create life-like creations, but sometimes has to sell the … unusual.

“What is it?”

“A badger presented as the messenger god Hermes.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. Presumably someone ate toasted cheese before bed.”

I really liked the characters. Clem is neuroatypical, but he is also smart. And kind, which makes him a very complex character. Especially since he is quite aware of how his problems cause him to be viewed by society.

Clem tightened his grip. “Rowley, there are lots of people who think I’m worth looking at. Not so many who think I’m worth listening to.”

That helps to make him an incredibly compelling character. I also very much like that Clem does have friends who look out for him.

The other thing I really liked is the mystery. One of the lodgers is found brutally murdered on the doorstep of the lodging house, and events spiral out of control from there.

As I said, this is a MM romance, and that makes this very different from other historical romances, first and foremost because homosexuality was a severe crime at that time, and it made normal relationships almost impossible for such men. But what I also like is that both characters being male allows the story to ignore the limitations placed upon women (such as the lack of basic rights).

The murder and mystery were icing on the cake, especially since Clem’s mindset made it almost impossible for him to see many people in a negative light. Rowley’s struggle with that makes for a fascinating struggle, and a completely believable one.

Another note: the story isn’t completely resolved. But the next book has already been published. So that helps.

Publisher: Loveswept
Rating: 8/10

An Unnatural Vice (2017)

Set in London in 1873

This book follows–and in some cases overlaps–An Unseen AttractionClem’s brother is dead, his heir has been made a bastard, and now Clem’s friends are trying to keep Clem’s cousin from throwing him out of his home by searching for another possible heir–the children on the first wife.

Justin Lazarus is known as The Seer of London, and plies his craft with skill and cunning, caring only about the few under his direct care, and more than willing to take money from the rich and willing.

Justin used innuendo and throaty moans in the same way he used stolen information and a fanatical level of planning: as weapons.

Nathaniel Roy, a crusading journalist, had been to see one of London’s leading spiritualists in an attempt to prove fraud. He hates spiritualists and would like nothing better to prove Justin a fraud, but when Justin comes to him with a lead on the possible heir, he determines he has to work with him, if only to save Clem’s home and living.

For a man to set himself up as a false prophet and lay claim to more than mortal powers struck Nathaniel as profoundly blasphemous, even though he believed in neither prophets nor powers.

The first thing I particularly liked about this story was Nathaniel’s past: he’d had a partner and love, but after that mand’s death Nathaniel was left to struggle with his grief, having to hide it from all but his closest friends. How impossible that must have been for so many men, to never be able to show their true feelings of the loss of their loves–to have to hide such a loss from the world.

The second thing I liked was that although Nathaniel despised what Justin did, I found it easy to sympathize with Justin, who worked his way up from nothing and took from the wealthy without a second thought. I understood why Nathaniel was opposed to Justin’s trade, playing on grief and despair was it did, but Justin is pragmatic and we see his does look out for those in his care, making him as good a man as Nathaniel.

It was a couple of decades since he’d slept on the street and five years since he’d been able to afford a bedroom of his own, yet he swam back to consciousness with a sense of incredulous relief every morning. No lice, no noise, no hands on his body, no dirty floor or sacking scraping his skin. Nobody whose approach he need fear, and nobody whose absence he need fear, either.

The third thing was the mystery. Clem still isn’t out of danger, but he also isn’t out on the streets. And there are still people being murdered for the sake or the Earldom.

Plus Clem really is lovely.

“For heaven’s sake!” Clem slapped the table, making Rowley jump. “These are my niece and nephew! Edmund’s children, his legitimate children, running away from home and their mother to God knows what, and Repentance is the earl— and that poor girl, poor Emmeline, she was sixteen years old, on her own, miles from home, with child, and this—”

Rowley put a hand on his forearm. Clem put his own hand over it. “It’s not right. What Edmund did, what they all did. All of them, from my father on. Using people and not giving a damn for the consequences. It’s so greedy.”

It’s a fun series, and although there is a LOT of boinking, I really like the mystery AND the characters.

Publisher: Loveswept
Rating: 8/10

An Unsuitable Heir (2017)

Set in London in 1873

Mark is a private enquiry agent. He and his mother came to England, fleeing Poland after his mother got in trouble one too many times for her anarchism. Through the lawyer who often defended his mother, he came to know Clem and the others at the Jack, so he is willing to help Nathaniel search for the missing heir to help keep Clem from being thrown out of his home.

“Gone back off home now to bring down the Empire, trzymajmy kciuki.” He tipped his glass.

“What was that?”

“Polish. Means ‘Let’s keep our fingers crossed.’”

“Did you just drink to the fall of the British Empire?”

“I was brought up in bad ways.”

Pen and Greta Starling (Regret and Repentance Godfrey) have been working as acrobats since they ran away years earlier, when Greta was to have been forced to marry the old man who was head of the religious group their mother joined after running away.

It was working as showmen that Pen truly discovered himself: a person who didn’t always want to be male, but also didn’t necessarily want to be female, but instead wanted only to be himself, whoever that was on any given day.

Which makes him a really really unsuitable heir. I was honestly wondering how on earth things were going to work out, because Pen was completely unsuited to being the heir, but the heir apparent and his son would throw Clem out in a heartbeat, so that obviously would not work at all.

I think this is the first book I’ve read where a main character was trans. Which made it all the more interesting, since his sexuality was very much tied up in how he felt about himself at that time. It also made it impossible for Pen to live happily as the Earl, since his whole life would become a facade he could not maintain.

I also really liked many of the secondary characters, including Mr Hapgood.

“Edmund, Lord Moreton, was married to Emmeline Godfrey. Any son by that lady precedes all other heirs. It must be carefully assessed whether Mr. Pen is such a son.”

“Why are you taking his side?” Desmond demanded. His gnarled hands were tight on his cane. “You work for me!”

“I represent the Moreton estate,” Mr. Hapgood said, very coldly. “I have done so all my life. I do not take sides, Mr. Desmond.”

Also: Clem.

“Desmond’s been trying to throw me out of my house, you see. I keep lodgings, and the lodging house belongs to Moreton, and if he took it away that would be my home and my livelihood gone. Everything I’ve worked for, my future. I’d have to start all over again with nothing. It wouldn’t be pleasant.”

“Why would he do that?”

“Because he doesn’t want me to exist,” Clem said simply.

Clem is the reason that who becomes the Earl matters so much. Without worry for Clem, you wouldn’t care if Pen walked away from the Earldom. Which of course makes both the mystery and the conclusion far more interesting.

Also: a locked room mystery!

“You can’t get into the house from the moat,” Tim said. “Clem and I never did and we spent summers trying.”

Additionally, I liked the conclusion. As I said, I didn’t see how it was ever going to work out, and then suddenly realized the solution had been there all the time.

It was a nice little series, despite all the boinking, and I enjoyed the characters and the mystery.

Publisher: Loveswept
Rating: 8/10


Green Men


Spectred Isle (2017) 

Set in London in 1823

Archaeologist Saul Lazenby was disgraced during the way, and the only work he has been able to find is working for a retired Major with an interest in finding historical places and items with supernatural significance. Saul believes none of this, but is glad for the job and acceptance he hasn’t gotten from anyone else.

Saul’s professional instincts were shaped by his doctorate in archaeology from Oxford and two years working on excavations in Mesopotamia. Major Peabody believed that if the ravens left the Tower of London, the city would fall.

Randolph Glyde is the last arcanist of his family line, everyone else having been killed during the war, including his fiancee. Whitehall is trying to pull him and his compatriots into the Shadow Ministry, where the government can control and regulate the use of people and objects of a mystical bent.

He’d nearly died for his country a great deal too often; if that country was as grateful as it claimed to be, it could demonstrate that by leaving him alone.

When Saul and Randolph keep coming across each other, both are suspicious, but Randolph isn’t sure how to ally Saul’s suspicious without being seen as a madman.

Lazenby’s brows drew together. He hesitated, a thought obviously dawning, and then spoke much more calmly. “Yes, very clear. I tell you what, old chap, though, why don’t I stay with you for now? Major Peabody will pop off just as you asked, won’t you, sir?”

“What?” said the Major.

“I think this gentleman’s having some bad memories,” Lazenby said, and turned his face away from Randolph to mouth something. “So I’ll stay with him while you find someone who might be able to help, do you see?”

I’m not certain that the story has quite as strong a post Great War feel as other stories I’ve read, but then much of the story was in and about the world beneath the world, so it’s hard to be certain.

Regardless, I very much liked this story, and if you don’t mind the M/M boinking, highly recommend it.

Publisher: KJC Books
Rating: 8/10

Band Sinister (2018)

Set in England in the 1800s.

This is probably the sweetest KC Charles book I’ve read. It’s a M/M romance, and there is boinking, but there is less boinking than I’ve come to expect, and I absolutely adore the main characters.

Guy Frisby and his sister Amanda live in seclusion. Their mother was a scandal, their father squandered his fortune, forcing them to be dependent upon their aunt, who is acting in what she believes to be their best interests. Never able to leave the small town where they live, Guy spends much of his time continuing his studies, while Amanda has written a gothic novel–loosely based upon their neighbor and his friends.

“It’s all perfectly decent,” Amanda said. “Or at least, if it isn’t, the indecent parts are only hinted at, which means they’re in your head. I can’t be held responsible for your thoughts going awry.” “Oh yes you can,” Guy said with feeling.

Sir Philip Rookwood was never supposed to be their heir. But his older brother ran off with a married woman, and then died, leaving Philip an estate in which he has no interest. So he spends his time with his friends–a supposed Hellfire club called the Murder.

Sir Philip never hosted balls, or dinners, or made any effort to meet his peers or cultivate his tenants. Upsettingly for the narrative, he was an excellent if eccentric landlord, possessed of a superbly efficient steward. This was deeply resented by landowners who had more moral character but were less prompt in carrying out repairs.

They have some rather shocking ideas.”

“Shocking ideas about rocks?”

“Yes.”

“Goodness,” Amanda said dubiously.

The plot is similar in some ways to Georgette Heyer’s Venetia, but different in important ways to make a unique and lovely story. Where it’s similar is the horse riding accident, and the love the two siblings have for one another, where the elder of the two has given up much of their life to look out for the other.

Except that the romance is between Guy and Philip (although Amanda is not left dependent up on her brother and his lover at the end of the book). There are of course misunderstandings, some of which were due fact that homosexual men were forced to keep themselves hidden, lest they be jailed or even executed. But those misunderstandings are always cleared up by the two of them talking to each other.

The Bible does tell us that the sins of the parent are to be visited upon the child.”

“The New Testament tells us that children belong to the kingdom of God,” Frisby said. “And that the erring woman was forgiven, and that only he who is without sin is entitled to cast a stone at her. I’d rather hold to that.”

On of best parts of the book were the love between Guy and Amanda. They clearly and truly are devoted to each other, and one will do anything for the other.

“Don’t talk nonsense.”

“You look wonderful,” Guy repeated. “Because you aren’t feverish and you aren’t lying there barely breathing and I’m not afraid of— of— Don’t do that again, Manda, please.”

I also liked that although all the characters had horrors in their past, their love and reliance for one another allows them to be strong and relatively healthy.

(T)hat’s how life tends to work in all its aspects. We try things out, and make mistakes, and recover, and learn from our experiences. We live, we learn.

I think if you’re going to forgive someone, you should do it, and not keep dragging things up afterwards, or it isn’t really forgiveness, is it?

OBVIOUSLY, I loved this bit.

“Glorious,” Philip said, shoulders shaking. “It takes a truly special gift to find indecency in flowers.”

“Not at all,” Street said. “They’re disgraceful things. Notoriously promiscuous with bees and butterflies.”

The one thing I’d ding the story for is that there are a LOT of characters, all with their own complicated backstories, and to be honest it would have been helpful to have a cast of characters to keep them straight at the beginning.

Otherwise, I really loved this story.

Publisher: KJC Books
Rating: 8.5/10

Unfit to Print (2018)

Gil is the son of a wealthy man and that man’s housemaid, but unlike many, Mr Lawes claimed his son.

Gil had spent his childhood here under his father’s carelessly affectionate eye. The old man might have played the fool, or the knave, with his housemaid, but he had never failed in his financial obligations to their son, and had formally acknowledged Gil his own when she’d died. That was more than many would have done. Gil had been christened with his mother’s surname and inherited her looks; Pa could well have avoided presenting the county with a brown-skinned proof of his misbehaviour.

Unfortunately, when his father did, Gil’s brother refused to honor their father’s wishes.

Then his father had died, and Matthew had inherited, and Gil had never seen the place since.

There are standing orders to the servants, Matthew’s man of business had said. If you set foot on the property you are to be whipped.

Vikram has been a lawyer for years, fighting (often for free) for the poor and dispossessed–much to the chagrin of his parents, who wanted him to represent his people, perhaps in the house of Commons.

But as much as he isn’t made to feel at him in England, he isn’t sure India would be better.

I count myself an Indian, not an Englishman.”

“So?”

“So what if I went home and didn’t feel as though I belonged?” Vikram blurted the words. “If ‘home’ wasn’t home at all, what— who— would I be then? What if I was an Englishman there?”

(I really like that passage.)

Instead, he ends up searching for a missing teen, whose parents are desperate to find him, and turning a blind eye to how he brings in money and helps the family.

When Vikram’s search leads him to Hollywell Street, he doesn’t expect to find his long-lost school friend.

I really really really like KJ Charles’ stories. They always have a varied cast of characters, and although they are full of boinking, I’m okay with that for the characters and the stories.

I also like how the men talk around feelings that men of that time weren’t particularly allowed to express–especially feelings that were illegal.

“Even your ghastly cat.” “

He’s not my cat.”

“No, of course not. He just lives here. How long has he ‘just lived here’?”

“Since I moved in,” Gil admitted. “He turned up and wouldn’t go.”

“You named him, correct? You feed him. This is his sole or primary residence.”

“Don’t you lawyer at me.”

“Gil, this is your cat. You have a home, a business, and a cat. It’s more than I have achieved.”

“You can have the cat,” Gil said with feeling. “Take him.”

I did have a slight issue with the resolution of Gil’s work. I wasn’t sure it felt true–that Gil was ready to give up his anger and his burden so quickly and to turn from the way he’d supported himself. But I suppose that could have come from more internalizing than the story had time for.

As I said, these are boinking books, and not for everyone, but I really really like them.

Publisher: KJC Books
Rating: 8/10

Wanted, a Gentleman (2018) 

Set in England in 1805.

Theodore Swann runs the Matrimonial Advertiser, a paper for helping men and women find spouses. He also writes gothic novels under a pen name.

Martin St. Vincent is a freed slave who has done well for himself after being granted his release at age 18. When the daughter of the family who owned and later freed him gets herself into trouble, Martin is asked to discover what is happening and put a stop to it.

“Well, we are all commercial. This is the age of commerce. A man is worth his value at the bank.” “I know what a man is worth,” Martin said, the words tasting as sour as the beer.

What I found particularly interesting is that Martin was based loosely upon the character of Cesar Picton–a slave who had been freed by his owners and remained friends with them.

But that’s only tangential to the story. The story is finding out what Miss Conroy is up to, and how they can get her out of the mess.

The story did go in an unexpected direction, namely the past and behavior of Theodore. I can’t say I felt that the twist/surprise was at all a surprise, except in how relatively easily Martin forgave Swann.

Like the previous book, the story was fine, but it was definitely not one of my favorites, even if there were parts I liked very much.

I don’t think you have to be thankful that someone refrained from doing something terrible to you.

Publisher: KJC Books
Rating: 6.5/10