Author: K.J. Charles
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.
There’s something about a KJ Charles story that reminds me of candy. The circumstances of the MCs lives and the times they live in are often harsh and hard like the outer layer of a candy bar, yet the characters, the world-building, and the romance are always soft and sweet on the inside. This particular romance takes place in England in the Regency period where men were absolutely not allowed to love other men under penalty of death, and yet they did, and though it may have been rare, they sometimes found a way to make it work.
With this story, KJ Charles sketches a world in which quiet, unassuming, Rowley Green goes about the business of taxidermy in his small shop, taking pleasure in creating art with the skins of birds or wild animals, while also meeting the needs of those who bring their favorite pets to be mounted as a remembrance. He lives next door in a rooming house run by the very kind, very shy, very slow-to-speak, dark-skinned Clem Talleyfer. A bastard, half-Indian son of an Earl, his half-brother, the current Earl, gives him a job as house manager of the rooming house he owns. Edmund’s only directive is to allow Mr. Lugtrout, a former parson, to stay there rent-free with no questions asked.
Over time, the shy, handsome Clem and the shy, sweet Rowley become friends and then when an accidental touch shows there may be a mutual attraction, they slowly reach the point where the risk is worth the return, and they become lovers. Secret lovers because of the penalties of such actions, but for them, it’s not just chemistry, it’s love.
And then the parson is found murdered, and all hell breaks loose. By this point in the story, readers like me are totally wrapped up in the couple and in the mystery surrounding the murder, including the deliberate arson at Rowley’s shop and the odd circumstances occurring all around them. I can never put my finger on why this author’s stories capture my attention so quickly and so well, but it happens for more than me if reviews of previous books are any indication. Kudos to the author with this one as well. I’m looking forward to more stories in this series, and I highly recommend this to all lovers of MM historical romance mixed with a healthy dose of mystery and intrigue. And, oh yes, our guys get their HEA.