Nathaniel Roy is a journalist working on a story about fraudulent spiritualists at work in London. His assignment takes him in the path of Justin Lazarus, the Seer of London. Nathaniel has nothing but disdain for Justin. He knows Justin isn’t really speaking to the dead, but instead swindling innocent, grieving people out of their money. He expects to hate the man on sight, yet something about Justin draws Nathaniel in despite himself.
Justin grew up on the streets and has no remorse for the gullible people who hand over their money hoping to speak to the dead. Justin has learned to do what he needs to do to survive and if that means taking coin from rich fools who should know better, he is fine with that. When Nathaniel shows up to investigate, Justin knows he is in trouble from the skeptical man. But he too can’t help the attraction he feels.
The men are at odds from the start, but soon find they are linked together by a crime involving an aristocratic family, attempted murder, and secret heirs. The men realize that they must band together to figure out what is going on. And when their lives are threatened, they need one another even more. As the men spend time together, the walls between them begin to come down. But even as they are falling for one another, people seeking to silence the men from revealing what they have learned threaten their relationship and their lives.
An Unnatural Vice is the second book in K.J. Charles’ Sins of the Cities series and it is absolutely fabulous. The story follows closely on the heels of the first book, An Unseen Attraction. While this book features new MCs and their relationship, the series does continue the suspense elements that begin in the first book with regard to Clem’s brother’s potential heirs and the murderous attempts at keeping things quiet. Charles’ does a nice job catching us up with this plot and I had no trouble following along and remembering the details as the story here unfolds, even several months after reading the first book. I think a new reader might be able to make this work alone, but really you will want to read the first book before this one to fully understand the nature of the suspense plot and all the players. I think the book will be much richer for having the background.
An Unnatural Vice pretty evenly balances between the relationship end of things and the suspense elements. I think the suspense part of the story comes more to the forefront here than the first book, and I loved the way it ties these guys together. The connection is pretty clever and it allows the men to work together against a common enemy, even as they are personally at odds. Things develop nicely with this larger plot and move forward quite well. At the same time, the overarching story does remain incomplete and the hints we get for the next book and the MCs are completely tantalizing!
I love Charles’ work and pretty much read everything that she writes. And this story is particularly good, as Charles really excels at the enemies to lovers element, one of my favorite tropes. When this type of story works well, the tension between the characters feels real and strong and for more than just show. Charles does a wonderful job here really showing that tension between Justin and Nathaniel and letting it crackle throughout the book. Even as they are hot for one another, it is clear that they are at odds and it carries well throughout the story as they move from enemies, to grudging acceptance, to friendship, to love. Nathaniel comes to care deeply for Justin, but he is also clear that he can not ever be happy about what Justin does for a living. At the same time, Nathaniel makes Justin a priority and is willing to support him in what he needs, even if it is not the life Nathaniel wishes for him. So this aspect of the plot works so well and really gives the story some fire (plus some intense hate sex).
Justin and Nathaniel are such great characters and Charles develops them so well. We come to really understand what drives both of these men, what grief they have experienced in their pasts, and what shapes them into who they are today. I love the spark between them, the bit of fire that carries through everything they do, even as they fall for one another. And how they are so drawn to each other despite themselves.
So this is another wonderful story by an author whose work I just adore. Charles sets things up wonderfully for the next book in the series and I particularly loved how the suspense plot is integrated into this story. We get a chance to connect with many of the characters we meet in the first book, while also introducing a fabulous new relationship and furthering the larger mystery. So I absolutely loved An Unnatural Vice and it definitely takes its place among my favorites by the author. I highly recommend this series and this book.