Title: An Unsuitable Heir (Sins of the Cities #3)
Author: K.J. Charles
Publisher: Penquin Random House – Loveswept
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Genre(s): Historical Mystery
Page Count: 246
Reviewed by: Crabbypatty
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
A private detective finds passion, danger, and the love of a lifetime when he hunts down a lost earl in Victorian London.
On the trail of an aristocrat’s secret son, enquiry agent Mark Braglewicz finds his quarry in a music hall, performing as a trapeze artist with his twin sister. Graceful, beautiful, elusive, and strong, Pen Starling is like nobody Mark’s ever met—and everything he’s ever wanted. But the long-haired acrobat has an earldom and a fortune to claim.
Pen doesn’t want to live as any sort of man, least of all a nobleman. The thought of being wealthy, titled, and always in the public eye is horrifying. He likes his life now—his days on the trapeze, his nights with Mark. And he won’t be pushed into taking a title that would destroy his soul.
But there’s a killer stalking London’s foggy streets, and more lives than just Pen’s are at risk. Mark decides he must force the reluctant heir from music hall to manor house, to save Pen’s neck. Betrayed by the one man he thought he could trust, Pen never wants to see his lover again. But when the killer comes after him, Pen must find a way to forgive—or he might not live long enough for Mark to make amends.
K.J. Charles writes beautifully of Victorian London and at the end of her Sins of the Cities series, the back alleys and nooks and crannies of London and the Jack and Knave pub feel real, and the lives of working men (Clem and Rowley), lawyer / journalist Nathaniel Roy, the faux spiritualist Justin Lazarus, and acrobats Pen and Greta and the enquiry agent Mark Braglewicz are beautifully interwoven and give us a glimpse of life beyond the typical Lords and Ladies historical novel.
In the background of the two prior books in the series, Mark has been looking for the heirs to the Tallyfer fortune, and in An Unsuitable Heir, he finds Repentance (Pen) and Regret (Greta) Godfrey hiding in plain sight as the Flying Starlings at the Grand Cirque. We finally get the answer to the mystery of who is the killer, and the issue of the inheritance is (rather neatly) resolved. But the real heart of this story is the romance between Mark and Pen.
Pen identifies as gender non-binary and all he really wants out of life is for people to let him to be himself, but as the heir of a fortune and a member of the Peerage, he is doomed to a life of “normality.” Pen wants a life where he doesn’t have to hide or sneak, and “dressing as I wanted wasn’t an eccentricity to tolerate, it was what I was supposed to do:
Pen’s mind didn’t always fit his body. Jaw, beard, shoulders, prick; they all said one thing and it wasn’t him. He couldn’t change what parts his body had … but he could change how it looked. Long hair and eye paint, jewelery and scarves; he put adornments that said ‘woman’ on a body that said ‘man’ and together it added up to something else. To him.
Mark is the son of an anarchist, can’t be bothered about “God and religion and whatnot” and his mantra is “I’m not going to tell anyone how they should be.” Mark sees Pen “well, looking like you should be.” The costume, the movement, the power and grace. Masculine, feminine, human, animal, physical, and elemental, all at once.” Born with one arm, Mark is uniquely suited to understand Pen, as Pen says:
Are you the man you would be if you’d been born with two arms? Don’t you think that changed anything about you – how you were treated, how people saw you, how you reacted to them? Or if you’d been born with two arms and lose one aged twenty, say. Would you be the same as you are now?”
I think this is the strongest book of the series and I give it 5 stars and a Recommended Read.