Will Darling came back from the Great War like many others: with much military acclaim, but unable to find work or a way to integrate back into a society that had moved on without him. Will spent quite a bit of time struggling to find his way, often finding himself on the brink of survival. Will’s luck changed when he reached out to an estranged uncle who not only took Will in, but left him his bookshop upon his recent death. Will never imagined himself becoming a bookseller, and with 40,000 unorganized volumes taking up every inch of space, his task isn’t easy. But Will is grateful for the way his uncle’s kindness got him back on his feet.
One day, a strange man comes into the shop asking for information. Will has no idea what the man is after, and despite the threats, manages to send the man on his way. That is followed by someone from the War Office, who appears to be looking for the same information. No one is willing to tell Will what they are after, or why it is important, they are all just eager to get their hands on this mysterious something. While the War Office claims it is vital to national security, Will is wary of the pushy man and the War Office in general after seeing some of their policies first hand on the front lines. But despite Will’s reticence to get involved (not to mention he has no idea what these men even want), both parties are threatening him if he doesn’t provide the information they seek.
When Will meets the charming Kim Secretan, an upper class man who appears in the shop in the nick of time to help Will out, he is drawn to him immediately. Kim’s offer to help Will untangle the problem is much appreciated, and soon the pair are slowly figuring out more about the mysterious information that appears to have been sent to his uncle for safe keeping before his death. Having someone else to count on in the midst of all this chaos is such a comfort for Will, especially as the threats escalate. And the sexual connection doesn’t hurt either. But Will still is caught in the middle of two parties, both of whom want information, and he has no idea what is the right move. As the violence escalates, Will must figure out his next step, before he finds his life on the line.
I have been a K.J. Charles fan for years now, ever since I got blown away by her Charm of Magpies series way back in 2013. It thrills me that her books can still delight me and Slippery Creatures was no exception. The story takes place in the 1920s and there is a nice pulp fiction vibe that mirrors the style of the time. The mystery is clever, the story is exciting and thrilling, and Kim and Will are a really engaging couple.
We jump right into the action almost immediately as Will is approached by two different parties who are seeking information they believe he has. At first, Will is totally bewildered as he has no idea what these men want from him. Over the course of the story, we slowly untangle the mystery along with Will. Charles sets up an interesting conflict here in that Will comes to truly believe neither side should get the information, but both are threatening him and extricating himself from the situation isn’t easy. Neither will believe him if he just destroys the information, both parties are willing to go to any means necessary to get it, and Will is just stubborn enough to be unwilling to give in when he knows providing the information to either one is the wrong thing to do, even if that means getting hurt. Things get twisty and exciting, especially as we learn more about what is hidden and all the various motives involved.
One thing I loved about Will is that he may be in over his head, but he is also not a pushover. Will is a military veteran who can hold his own in a fight and stubborn enough not to give in when facing pressure. The easy route would be just to pass the information along and wash his hands of the whole thing, but Will knows that isn’t the right decision and he isn’t going to be bullied into it, even when he is in danger. I loved watching Will outsmart the bad guys, even when toying with them is dangerous. There is a nice line here Charles draws, letting us see Will’s real fear and uncertainty as he navigates it all (and, at times, faces true peril), while also giving us a strong hero who stands up for himself and his principles, even against pressure from all sides.
Will and Kim’s relationship grows over the story and I enjoyed them together. This is the first of a series, so we aren’t at an HEA at this point, but things develop nicely between them. I don’t want to get into too much of the relationship end, as things evolve a lot on many fronts with regard to Kim and his past and his connections, etc, so I don’t want to spoil anything here. But I enjoyed these men together a lot, and there is a really nice dynamic between them of both a sexual connection and urgency to be together, but also a bit of push and pull as the plot progresses. I liked that there is more to both of them than meets the eye and I look forward to seeing how things develop in future books.
So I really loved this story and found it a lot of fun. I really couldn’t put the book down as I eagerly flipped pages to discover the hidden secret and figure out how Will was going to make his way out of the crisis. The story is exciting, suspenseful, and sets up two really engaging characters. I can’t wait for more!