An Unsuitable Heir is the third book in a mystery trilogy and, as a result, this book (and review) reveals details that will be spoilers for earlier books. If you are interested in this truly amazing series, definitely start with An Unseen Attraction.
Enquiry agent Mark Braglewicz has been desperately trying to find the missing heir to the recently deceased Earl of Moreton. After a rash of murders, arson, and other attacks, Mark knows it is crucial they find the true heir and bring him to light. Hopefully then the mystery man who is killing to keep the true story quiet will finally stop terrorizing Mark’s friends.
Mark learns the heir is Pen Starling, one of the famous Flying Starlings, a brother/sister trapeze act. Pen is like no one Mark has ever met and he is attracted to him right away. But Pen is very clear that he has no desire whatsoever to become an earl. Pen has days where he feels very much a man, but just as many days where he feels much more like a woman. Being a performer gives him the ability to keep his hair long and wear paint on his face and add feminine touches when he wants. Pen knows that as soon as he would be named Earl of Moreton, he would have to live his life totally as a man, and that is something he can’t even contemplate.
Mark feels for Pen, but he also knows that there is no way to keep this secret, and certainly no way to keep Pen or Mark’s friends safe if they try. They must reveal the truth to the Taillefer family, whether it is what Pen wants or not. Pen feels betrayed, and not sure he can ever forgive Mark for forcing his hand. But the killer is still out there, and when he sets his sights on Pen, only with Mark’s help can they finally figure out who is behind the plot and stop him from killing again.
An Unsuitable Heir is the third book in K.J. Charles’ amazing Sins of the Cities series. These books are absolutely fabulous and each one develops a wonderful relationship. At the same time, they have built upon one another as the mystery of the missing heir, along with the identity of the killer, has grown over the series, culminating in this final book. It has left me totally captivated and this series is surely one of the best I have read all year.
We have been getting little glimmers as to the identity of the missing heir and the connection to the Starlings since the first book, but by the time we start here, Mark and his friends have figured out that Pen is the true Earl of Moreton. They think convincing the family to accept him will be the hard part, but no one is prepared for the fact that Pen himself has no interest in the position. The problem is, if he is truly the heir, he has no legal ability to refuse the title. Pen just wants to ignore it all, continue the life he loves that gives him the flexibility to be himself that he desperately needs. But there is a killer out there and he is closing in and there is just no way this will all go away until Pen reveals himself.
Charles does such a stellar job developing Pen’s character and helping us really see him. There are times he feels like a man, and others like a woman. The idea of being forced to live exclusively and completely as a man is so stifling it makes him physically ill. What makes this story so beautiful is how easily and quickly Mark accepts and loves everything about Pen. Mark is attracted to men, women, and those who don’t identify either way. He makes it clear that he sees Pen for who he really is, that he is attracted to all parts of him, and that he understands what it is like not to conform to society’s expectations. Mark was born with a missing arm, and so while they are not they same issue, Mark knows what is it like when people stare, when they don’t understand, and when they don’t even try.
The romance here is so lovely. These guys just understand one another, they are careful together and listen to each other and make sure to take care of other’s needs. They are sexy and romantic and I just adored the pair of them. Even as Mark makes moves that devastate Pen, we never doubt the depth of his feelings. And when they come together again, we can see how strong they are and that their bond is unbreakable.
As with the other books, this story balances the romance with the suspense end, continuing the mystery started in the first book. While the relationship takes center stage early on, as the book continues we get the thrilling climax to the story as the killer continues his hunt and they must work desperately to figure out who is behind it all and why. The story is exciting and dramatic and really nicely pulls together all the pieces we have been given along the way. I wondered how things could possibly resolve for Pen, even if the murderer was found, and I am so impressed with how Charles crafts this story, pulling it all together and wrapping it up in a way that feels true and perfect for our heroes.
So I can not be enthusiastic enough about this series. I have thoroughly loved every book, and when viewed all together, this is a masterpiece series. I have enjoyed every moment and can highly recommend it.