An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles

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.

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A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn

I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in the Veronica Speedwell series of Victorian-era mysteries, but then I fell behind, and am only now getting around to catching up.

In this installment, Veronica and her friend Stoker are tasked with finding a missing diadem, the crown jewel (pun intended) in an archaeological expedition’s astounding discovery of Egyptian goods.

Not only is the diadem missing, but the leader is also missing. One might assume the two elements are connected, but that’s not the only connection: the missing man is Stoker’s former expedition partner.

As would be expected, rumors of an ancient curse abound, but despite evidence of malfeasance, that’s just superstition, right?

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Slippery Creatures by KJ Charles

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Do you like the friends to lovers trope? What about the enemies to lovers trope?

What if I told you that this was a book that combined these two tropes so thoroughly that you won’t be able to tell whether the two protagonists are friends or enemies or lovers?

Well, you’re in luck because Slippery Creatures will be available on May 13th for your reading pleasure. This is the first book in a trilogy of 1920s queer historical romance featuring Will Darling and Kim Secretan.

Will went to war at 18, stayed there for the duration, and found hard times upon his return to England. As the story begins, he has just inherited a bookshop from an uncle he barely knew. This ought to be the end of his financial woes, but it turns out to be the beginning of Big Trouble. All sorts of men turn up at the shop asking for the information/papers. Will has no idea what they’re talking about, but these men don’t seem empathetic to Will’s earnest declarations of innocence. They want the papers and they want them now. Read more

The Business of Blood by Kerrigan Byrne

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The Business of Blood is the first book in Kerrigan Byrne’s new Victorian-era historical mystery series. I have enjoyed her previous books: historical romance novels with angst-ridden heroes, and so I was very excited to read something completely different than Byrne’s usual fare.

This is, indeed, a departure: even though Byrne’s historical romance novels are darker than most of the books in the genre, potential readers should know that The Business of Blood is not a cozy historical mystery. There are fairly graphic descriptions of crime scenes, and while I don’t think it’s any worse than the depravity some of Byrne’s other characters have demonstrated, it’s still worth mentioning.

Fiona Mahoney, an Irish immigrant living in London, works as a crime scene cleaner. There is no shortage of work, and she is not easily shocked- until she arrives at the home of a murdered man posed in a gruesome fashion. All signs point to Jack the Ripper, who has been dormant for years. Fiona has been haunted by this elusive killer, and wonders if this is her opportunity to track down the man who killed her childhood best friend. Read more

Gilded Cage by KJ Charles

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Gilded Cage is the second book in KJ Charles’ Lilywhite Boys series of queer Victorian-era mystery/romance novels. If you haven’t read Any Old Diamonds, the first book in the series, I suggest you stop reading because I’m going to be unable to discuss Gilded Cage without revealing spoilers for Any Old Diamonds.

It’s really good- you’ll love it. Read more

No Good Men by Thea McAlistair

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No Good Men is a historical mystery novel written by Thea McAlistair. This book piqued my interest because it’s set in the 1930s and features gangsters and a m/m romantic subplot.

Alex is in his early 20s, and working alongside his mentor Donnie as a bodyguard for the mayor. They’re at a nightclub one night, and while Alex is talking to a man at the bar during his break, the mayor and Donnie are both shot and killed.

It turns out that Sev, the man Alex was taking to, is the nightclub’s manager, and he has mob ties. The mayor’s death might also be linked to organized crime, and so Alex begins asking questions, although it is more for his mentor’s sake than for the mayor.

And of course, the mayor’s murder wasn’t an accident, or even one disgruntled citizen. As more people connected to the case are killed, it’s clear that Alex is in the middle of a dangerous situation. Read more

Murder at Kensington Palace by Andrea Penrose

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Murder at Kensington Palace is the third book in Andrea Penrose’s Wrexford & Sloane series of Regency-era historical mystery novels. I’ve read the other books in the series, so I was interested to see how the unlikely duo was going to handle their newest investigation.

This time, the victim is Cedric, a young man who recently inherited a barony. The prime suspect is Nicholas, the victim’s twin brother- the two were overheard arguing about the inheritance and the unfairness of Cedric receiving everything simply because he had the good fortune to be born a few minutes earlier. Read more

Who Slays the Wicked by C.S. Harris

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Who Slays the Wicked is the fourteenth book in C.S. Harris’ Sebastian St. Cyr series of Regency-era historical mystery novels. I was excited about the opportunity to read this book because I have read the last few entries in the series, and I was looking forward to finding out what was going to happen next- especially when I saw whose murder Sebastian was investigating. Read more

Hexbreaker by Jordan L. Hawk

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Hexbreaker is the first book in Jordan L. Hawk’s Hexworld series of m/m paranormal historical romance novels. I’ve been a fan of Hawk’s Widdershins books, but after hearing about the Hexworld books in a Facebook group, I knew that I had to read them as well.

Hexbreaker takes place in the 1890s in an alternate version of New York City. Magic plays an important role in everyday life. Hexes are spells that can help or harm people. Witches are aided by familiars- assistants who have the ability to shift into an animal form. A witch needs to bond with a familiar in order to achieve their full potential, but bonding is a serious undertaking that can’t easily be undone.

Tom Halloran is a police officer with several big secrets. He has built a new life for himself, but his newest case is reminiscent of the terrible crime similar to the one that sent him into hiding, and he’s one of the only ones who can stop it from happening again.

Cicero is a cat familiar whose friend has been kidnapped. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to find his friend, including working with Tom, who has revealed that he is a hexbreaker. It’s unclear why somebody with a rare and powerful talent like that would be working as a nonmagical police officer, but they need to work quickly because Cicero’s friend is in grave danger. Read more

Any Old Diamonds by KJ Charles

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Any Old Diamonds is the first book in KJ Charles’ Lilywhite Boys series of Victorian m/m romance novels. I had been looking forward to reading this book after Charles mentioned a “more sociopathic than usual hero”. Good golly, if that’s not a stunning endorsement!

Alec Pyne wants to hire some jewel thieves to steal from the Duke and Duchess of Ilvar. He’s rather cagey about his motivation for this scheme, but the thieves are professional and have done their research. They shock Alec when they tell him that they know he’s Lord Alexander, the duke’s younger son. And then they ask him why he wants to hire them to steal from his parents.

Alec is rather firm in his declaration that the duchess is NOT his mother. There’s clearly a story here, and I shan’t say anything more on that note because it is quite a dreadful tale, filled with schemes and machinations.

Speaking of which- part of this jewel stealing scheme involves striking up a friendship with Jerry, one of the thieves. This is part of a long con- basically, they want to establish that Alec was tricked by his new friend. And this segues into Alec telling Jerry that he just wants someone else to be in control.

And that’s when things really get interesting. Alec cedes all control to Jerry, and the result is absolutely scorching. There is, consent, of course, which is important, but the evolution of their relationship is riveting because I never knew what was going to happen next.

Which brings me back to the main plot- there are secrets that have been mouldering and festering for twenty years, and although there are revelations here and there, it’s impossible to gather a full picture what transpired until the very end.

Everything about this book is amazing. The characterization was brilliant- from the arrogance of the Duke and Duchess of Ilvar to the despondency of Alec’s siblings. The setting is rendered with detail, and everything flows together so nicely.

I would absolutely recommend Any Old Diamonds to fans of m/m romance. This is the first book in a series, but fans of Charles’ other books will appreciate the return of characters from the Sins of the Cities series as well as allusions to the Society of Gentlemen series. This is a compelling story, full of surprises, and I can’t wait to find out what’ll happen next in the series.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book.