K.J. Charles is a wonderful author and I always look forward to her books. This is another new start to a series, again set in historical times, again with a mixed race relationship. Clem runs a boarding house through the 'generosity' of his brother, and becomes close to a lodger who owns a taxidermy shop next door. They don't use the term taxidermy, did that term exist then? He's called a "stuffer". The two bond into friends over evening tea, but it eventually develops into something more. On the other side of the story, an obnoxious lodger is found tortured and murdered on their doorstep, other crimes start happening, and it all comes down to a mystery they need to solve before they both end up dead themselves.
Clem is an absolute doll - Charles created a character who has always been regarded as clumsy or slow because he needs to process things mentally one step at a time. He's endearing, naive, trusting, sweet. She tossed him together with a completely different sort - a patient man who enjoys being alone because he can't stand people or anger after an abusive childhood. They both see the world in each other, despite reservations they hold about themselves. The relationship is sweet, sweet, sweet and you definitely want only good things to happen with these two. There's steamy scenes too, throwing a small nod back to some unconventional wants certain characters have in the bedroom, a bit like Dom from the Society of Gentleman series.
I like how K.J. Charles keeps putting in different types of kinks and turn-offs with different characters for different books - this stops it from getting buddled together to where it feels repetitive or formulaic. I also like seeing different sides of people and how we're all different, not perfect, and that's how it should be in books such as this as well. Also like the Society of Gentleman series, this one also has a local gentlemen's club with a bizarre mix of people who look after each other. Neither of these men are wealthy leaders in society, however, so the comparisons of those two series stops here.
The side plot is both intriguing and irritating. Despite enjoying Clem's personality, I wanted to throttle him a few times for his stubborn naivity. The mystery wasn't super strong on who the villain was, but the point wasn't to make a mystery but showcase a family dilemma they need to overcome for character growth, which is needed for relationship growth. Still I found some of it downright confusing and am not sure I get everything fully. No matter, it didn't take much enjoyment from the story, but wasn't my favorite from the author.
As usual she writes well and her relationships are winners (like how she blends opposites to each other), but this one doesn't have humor like The Magpie Series or Thinking of England, and it doesn't have as much drama conflict of Society of Gentleman. It's not her best book, but it's still an enjoyable book hard to put down and worth reading.
Reviewed after receiving from Netgalley ARC