An Unnatural Vice by K.J. Charles

 Sins of the City, #2 

Source: Netgalley ARC
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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.

I think this is supposed to be a trilogy like Society of Gentlemen was. The first book, An Unseen Attraction, introduced endearing, naïve Clem who found his love interest and also showed his other friends, part of a close group of likeminded individuals (like Society of Gentlemen.) Besides being historical, that's where the similarities seem to end.

While I enjoyed the first of the series, this one was even better. K.J. Charles gave one character a truly horrible, detestable profession and made him a major character and love interest. Without guilt he plays on people's grief and emotions as a spiritual medium. The book showcases his life and his growth and his realizations, as well as opening his heart to possibilities of an actual relationship. On the other hand you have the character Nathaniel, Clem's friend introduced in the first book, who is hurting from a tragic death of the man he loved years before and has made it a mission in his life to end con artists through his journalistic pen. He has a strong moral compass, perhaps a bit too rigid, but after meeting and knowing Justin he starts to see how destitute and desperate the poverty-stricken have it.

The two having professions that didn't complimented each other to that degree was interesting enough, but once you throw in the differences with their class, history, outlook and upbringing, you have even more of the opposites attract mentality. At the core of the story is a continuing mystery from the first book - the man who tortured the grumpy boarder is still around and still searching for evidence to hide a secret. Justin and Nathanial find themselves in genuine danger as they must escape the city for awhile and find each other, but they also have to solve this crime before its the death of both of them.

The third friend in the series, Mark, will probably be the focus of the last story. I have a feeling who his romantic interest will be from the end of this one. That will turn out interesting. I like how the author takes unconventional heroes with tragic pasts (but no angst) or some kind of difference and gives them normal lives. Clem was a little slow-witted, Justin has a checkered history, and Mark is an amputee with a serious and jaded outlook.

As always K.J. Charles writes well with evenly-flowing rhythm and dialogue, and her characters and plots are different enough from each other that they're not formulaic. There's more than unrealistic steam, there's actual heart and realistic bonding with her characters. Besides that, there really is steam when it's needed, it's just made more plausible and enjoyable because the emotional connection has taken place first.

I was happy to take yet another trip to Historical London through the author's talented imagination - thanks to Netgalley for this one in exchange for an honest review.

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