A new series from KJ Charles always counts as an event as far as I’m concerned. While I enjoy very much the author’s standalone novels and novellas, the longer works allow her ability with plots, characters, and settings to really stand out. This time around, we find ourselves in Victorian London: a very real and down-to-earth version, as opposed to the magical variant seen in some of Charles’ other series. The lack of paranormal elements doesn’t mean that the setting is mundane, of course. All the characters, from the principal players to the most minor of walk-on extras are realistically fleshed out and distinguishable. Just as they should be, although the two pivotal characters at the centre of this story – and possibly the entire series: we don’t know how the overall plot will thicken yet – are, of course, the most interesting and, dare I say, eccentric.
Clem Talleyfer is the illegitimate son of an Indian nursemaid and an English earl. Following the death of his father, Clem has run a lodging house owned by his half-brother, the current earl, with little interference other than the stipulation that he not evict one particularly annoying tenant. The arrangement suits Clem well, since he finds people difficult to get along with in the main, although he has a select group of friends at a local drinking establishment and seems to be on the verge of forming an attachment to his latest lodger. Rowley Green is a skilled taxidermist, as well as a dealer in the stuffed animals and tableaux created by other artisans. Having risen above his very humble origins, he is happy to have found a room in a house that suits him well, barring the presence of that one annoying fellow tenant.
Just as the two men are settling into a routine of spending their evenings together and exploring just what sort of relationship they can have with each other, their peace is disturbed, first by a series of break-ins and then by the death of that annoying tenant in very mysterious circumstances. Their only option is to investigate the case themselves, since the authorities seem to be following a series of clues that repeatedly lead to dead ends, and it seems increasingly likely that the mystery is related to Clem’s half-brother and his murky past activities.
Fortunately, Clem’s friends are able to bring their wide expertise into play, and the mystery slowly becomes more understandable, though not before both Rowley and Clem have found themselves imperiled. Not every loose end is tied up in this book: it’s part of a series after all, but the conclusion is highly satisfying nonetheless. I’m greatly looking forward to the next instalment of this adventure and seeing more of a particularly interesting side to Victorian London.
A slow-burning romance and a chilling mystery bind two singular men in the suspenseful first book of a new Victorian series from K. J. Charles.
Lodging-house keeper Clem Talleyfer prefers a quiet life. He’s happy with his hobbies, his work—and especially with his lodger Rowley Green, who becomes a friend over their long fireside evenings together. If only neat, precise, irresistible Mr. Green were interested in more than friendship. . . .
Rowley just wants to be left alone—at least until he meets Clem, with his odd, charming ways and his glorious eyes. Two quiet men, lodging in the same house, coming to an understanding . . . it could be perfect. Then the brutally murdered corpse of another lodger is dumped on their doorstep and their peaceful life is shattered.
Now Clem and Rowley find themselves caught up in a mystery, threatened on all sides by violent men, with a deadly London fog closing in on them. If they’re to see their way through, the pair must learn to share their secrets—and their hearts.
No excerpt available.