California is having a devastating heatwave statewide right now, so it was nice to pick up this book with its icy looking cover and Gothic, foggy London setting, while trying to ignore the scorching temperatures outside. I *almost* wanted to reach for a scarf. K.J. Charles was that convincing in her narrative. (Maybe her next story will take place on a cruise ship in the Arctic - please.)
Sins of the Cities is K.J. Charles's newest series. I wasn't a huge fan of the last one (AN UNSEEN ATTRACTION) because something about Rowley's and Clem's stories just rubbed me the wrong way. Their characters felt wooden, the romance felt tepid. I ended up giving the book 3 stars, but it was a generous three that was more of a 2 in fancy dress. Still; I've never found fault with Charles's writing, so when this book went up, I immediately applied for an ARC, hoping the series might be redeemed.
AN UNNATURAL VICE is so much better than AN UNSEEN ATTRACTION. I found both characters fascinating. Nathaniel is a moralistic journalist who is the son of an archbishop. He's is planning on exposing Justin, a cold-reading medium, as a fraud for taking advantage of people's grief for financial gain. This hits him especially hard, for personal reasons due to his own tragic history.
But this being a romance novel, the two of them are basically thrown together when they get involved in matters of inheritance involving the Taillefers (Clem's family, from the previous book), and the ever-thorny problem of murder. Justin has information taken from one of his clients that people are willing to kill for. And since he comes to Nathaniel for help, Nathaniel ends up getting sucked in, too.
AN UNNATURAL VICE had everything that UNSEEN ATTRACTION lacked. Both characters had great chemistry (including one of the best hate-sex scenes I've read in a while), that developed along with their characters as the story went on. Justin starts out as a despicable, selfish, enterprising character, but he's also still very nuanced, so even though I didn't like him at times, I never hated him and it was easy to understand why Nathaniel ended up falling for him when he did.
With such a bright star, it's easy to eclipse the other characters and that's sort of what happened to Nathaniel. He's your typical good-guy hero, marred only his tragic past and a bit of a penchant for rough bed sport (although nothing too spicy - 50 Shades of Gay, this is not). I thought the romance and the mystery were well-integrated, and the author had clearly done her research on cold reading and sleights of hand, which I really enjoyed because I wrote a paper on that very subject in college.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
3.5 out of 5 stars