KJ Charles is one of my favorite authors. I’ve had the books in her Victorian-era queer romance/mystery Sins of the City series on my TBR; I read the second one first a couple of years ago, but now I’m going through the series in chronological order.
Clem Talleyfer’s work has a boarding house manager involves a great deal of predictable routines, which is a good thing, because adapting to changes isn’t easy for Clem. His most favorite part of the day is sharing a cup of tea with Mr. Rowley Green, one of the lodgers.
When one of the other lodgers turns up dead on their doorstep, Clem and Rowley are determined to figure out what happened, it becomes apparent that it was not an isolated incident and they are both in danger.
An enjoyable aspect of the book is that neither of the protagonists are gentlemen per se: Rowley is a taxidermist and Clem is the half-Indian illegitimate son of an earl. Clem and Rowley’s meeting is somewhat of a perfect coincidence. Clem’s father claimed him and sent him to school, but his brother—the current earl—set him up as manager of the boarding house, with the intention of that being Clem’s source of income. Rowley, on the other hand, came from an impoverished background and has found respectability through his “preserving” work.
I’ve read a lot of romances where a quiet, introspective character is paired with a boisterous one, but I can’t think many with two quiet characters. Clem and Rowley work so well together. They’re both perfectly content with their predictable routines, and certainly don’t go looking for adventure—they’re dragged into the incident very much against their will and are only interested in exploring the matter further out of self-preservation (no pun intended).
Clem is clearly neurodivergent. I’m certainly not qualified to diagnose him with either autism or inattentive ADD, but he does have difficulties with what we now call executive functioning. Clem needs to mentally repeat the steps of everyday tasks like locking up for the night and making tea, lest he forget them. I appreciated this for several reasons: first of all, I’m neurodivergent, as is everyone in my family—and it was so lovely to see characters like me featured in a romance. Second, it was so heartening to see Rowley recognize the things Clem needs help and step up to assist him without being obvious about it. On that note, I loved the sweet and tender way that Clem and Rowley’s romance developed. Rowley loves Clem for who he is and is more shocked by Clem’s proximity to aristocracy than being “different”.
The mystery aspect is satisfying; although there is some resolution by the end of this book, the characters are left with unanswered questions that drag out across the entire series.
I would absolutely recommend An Unseen Attraction. I loved everything about this book, and I’m looking forward to finishing the series. I should point out that I listened to the Audible version, and Matthew Lloyd Davies does a wonderful job with the narration.