Title: An Unnatural Vice
Author: K.J. Charles
Lenght: 250 pages
Genre: Romance, Historical
“He had never in his life been with anyone whose will was as strong as his own. This didn’t feel like a flirtation; it felt like stags circling, antlers ready to clash.”
An Unnatural Vice is the second book in K.J. Charles’ new series Sins of the Cities. It picks up the story from An Unseen Attraction and masterfully amps up the action. Nathaniel Roy, close friend of Clem Talleyfer, swears to help him navigate the legal troubles of his large family after the closing events of the first book. To be able to do so, he is forced to seek aid from Justin Lazarus, The Seer of London, a professional liar and one of the city’s foremost mediums, and the two become entangled in each other. As people with very strong personalities, they immediately clash and must figure out how to be able to work together. As the Taillefer family situation gets more and more complicated and more players enter the fray, they attract notice of someone they shouldn’t have and now, with a murderer after them, they need to close ranks to protect each other.
The story is set right in the middle of the boom of Victorian spiritualism, at a time when it was most prosperous and popular. I always found the industry around mediums fascinating, and despite knowing well enough that all we see is fake, I was right there with Nathaniel, unable to believe my eyes at some of Justin’s more elaborate tricks. The fact all of them were real and possible at the time shows us the power of well-done research and it makes the book come alive.
“Listen to me. You are not alone, and i will make sure you’re protected.”
Where this book shines the most are characters. Nathaniel and Justin are complex, fascinating characters and watching them interact with each other and their friends is absolute joy. Nathaniel is someone who has been in deep grief for many years now, and as someone in the same situation as him, I found his portrayal very touching and relatable. The way his grief always boils underneath the surface, ready to poke it’s head out at any occasion, is both heartbreaking and soothing to me. He takes his pain and transforms it into righteous anger towards injustices. He’s hot-headed and rude, but also kind and supportive towards those who deserve it. He sees through the masks people put up to protect themselves. Once he recognizes Justin’s worth, he does nothing but support and back up his choices, genuinely helping him to grow as a person. He shows us how important it is to have a good emotional support during hard times, and that it is okay to be weak, and ask for help.
Justin is one of the most fascinating characters I’ve read about it a long time. His front as a rude, manipulative, lying and thieving menace is just that- a front. He is no angel of course, but behind his asshole facade, he is a deeply lonely, caring man, with a magnificent brain, who is tired of his current life and wishes for more. He is someone who was born with nothing and clawed his way up using his skills and refuses to be ashamed of it. His relationship with his assistants is touching and unexpected, making me tear up at certain parts.
Nathaniel and Justin’s relationship is beautiful. They start off by antagonizing each other, two men from opposite sides of social divide: a well-born investigative journalist on a crusade and a fraudulent famous medium from the gutters. Despite that, they share explosive chemistry since the moment they met, and at points, their sexual tension was literally unbearable. It only grows as they are forced to work together, both men aware how much they desire each other. But as they get to know each other, different feelings join the attraction: respect, protectiveness, tenderness. They help each other to be better people, which is the best kind of relationship. Also, as someone who genuinely doesn’t like explicit scenes in books, the scenes in this book were incredible. Charged, funny and sexy, tender, and full of emotions. Justin and Nate climbed their way to become one of my favorite fictional couples and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them for days.
Sometimes, second books in trilogy suffer from being weaker, but An Unnatural Vice is absolutely not one of them. The overall story of the trilogy is well-integrated and sets up the final book with gusto. Upon finishing the book, my first thought was “but now I desperately need the last book!!” and ever since, my head has been filled with speculation. I adored this book, the characters were wonderful and the relationship between all of them made me genuinely emotional. Definitely one of K.J. Charles’ best works.