Vikram Pandey is a wealthy lawyer and he tries to help out less fortunate Indian families with legal aid when needed. So many of the Indian workers in London are poor and mistreated, and it is important to Vik to provide help when he can. When a family comes to him because their son is missing, Vik isn’t sure what he can do, but he is determined to try. Sunil has been involved with older, wealthy men and has likely been selling his body, so Vik heads off to Holywell Street, the part of town where such things are commonplace.
Gil Lawless lost everything when his father died and his half brother kicked him out of the house, not wanting anything to do with a mixed-raced sibling. Gil managed to survive on the streets and now runs a book shop on Holywell Street that specializes in pornography and other illicit materials.
When Vik walks into Gil’s store, he is stunned. The two were friends as teens, and when Gil disappeared, Vik was devastated. At first he doesn’t understand why Gil lost touch, but upon learning his story, the two begin to reconnect. Vik needs Gil’s help tracking down Sunil, as Vik is fairly out of his element in Gil’s world. Gil can’t quite understand why Vik is fighting so hard to find this boy, having learned long ago that he needs to focus on taking care of himself. But he agrees to help and soon the two have not just rekindled their friendship, but acted on the attraction for one another they once had and that still exists between them. But the two men are very different, with totally different lives and outlooks on the world. Yet, they can’t deny the feelings between them and the easy way they work together. Now Vik and Gil must figure out if there is a way two very different men can be right for each other long term.
I am a big K.J. Charles fan and would read pretty much anything she writes, but I was particularly excited to see her latest story featuring two men of color, something almost unheard of in historicals. Charles does a nice job establishing the background for both of these men and showing how their race and their culture have impacted them in numerous ways. But at the same time, race isn’t the focus of the story, and instead it mostly deals with both reuniting these former friends and lovers, and looking at some big picture issues about right and wrong, as well as the small mystery involved in finding Sunil.
On a relationship end, I really liked these guys together. They are both in for a bit of shock when they are reunited, especially since Vik had assumed Gil long dead and hadn’t ever gotten over the loss. At first things are rocky between them, as Vik is upset Gil fell out of touch. But once they begin talking and reconnecting, it is like they were never apart. These men are so very different, not just in wealth and status, but also in their outlooks on life. But they are charming together and I loved the way they debate and discuss and listen to one another, even as they approach most things from totally different angles. The story takes place over only a few days, so I did think things moved quickly for the men, especially since both had such serious reservations about whether things could move past quick fling to something more. In Gil’s case in particular, I had trouble understanding why his feelings suddenly changed and I would have liked to see that transition developed a little more. But overall, I really enjoyed these guys together.
A major theme in the story revolves around the issues of right and wrong, what is moral and acceptable, when you should step in to a fight, etc. As a wealthy lawyer, Vik is determined to help others and is in a position to do so. He also believes in the law, even as it would see him in jail for his proclivities. He is judgmental about pornography, the fact that people are giving in to their desires and breaking the law, and isn’t thrilled that this is Gil’s job. He is, and has always been, a pretty rigid guy and keeps a big weight on his shoulders. For Gil’s part, he has always been the wilder, freer one. He has learned to look out for himself first and foremost as there is no one else to do so. He believes that if everyone involved is happy and getting what they want, there is no shame in these illegal acts. So I liked the way this debate is built into the story and how the guys discuss and work through many of these topics.
The search for Sunil is also interesting, not so much for the mystery itself, but watching how it flows through this world of pornography and sex. I’d call it mystery light, and I found the case entertaining, especially how it ends up all coming together. It not only gives a reason to bring Vik and Gil together, but also connects nicely with some of the bigger picture issues.
So I found this another entertaining story from K.J. Charles. If you like historicals, particularly if you are looking for one that features working men and people of color, Unfit to Print is a great choice.