sugared game coverRating: 4.5 stars
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Length: Novel

It’s been two months since Will Darling last saw Kim Secretan. Will knew nothing could really come out of his relationship with the wealthy lord, but it is still disappointing that Kim disappeared without a word after he and Will shared some time together. But Will is moving forward, and that includes taking his friend Maisie out dancing, now that his uncle’s estate is settled and Will is in a more comfortable financial situation.

The nightclub they go to turns out to be quite shady, with obviously illegal activity happening and an owner and manager who are definitely up to no good. But Will never expects that their night out will suddenly bring Kim back into his life. As it turns out, Will stumbled into the middle of one of Kim’s cases without even realizing it, and now Kim needs his help. Part of Will wants nothing to do with Kim after he disappeared from Will’s life without a word. But Will can’t deny the fierce attraction he feels for Kim, nor that his blood thrums with the excitement of getting involved in some action again.

The deeper Will and Kim get into the case, the twistier things become. Will knows better than to fully trust Kim, as he has come to expect the man’s lies and evasiveness. But still, it hurts when he knows Kim is not being forthright about everything that is going on. Yet Will finds himself continually drawn to Kim, particularly as he lets his guard down and lets Will see the real him. But as the case heats up, things suddenly hit close to home. Now, Will and Kim have to do all they can to not only stop the bad guys, but to protect those they care about most from harm.

The Sugared Game is the second book in K.J. Charles’ wonderful Will Darling Adventures trilogy and we are once again taken on a thrilling ride. The story picks up a couple of months after the end of Slippery Creatures and familiarity with that book is important for fully understanding the relationship, as well the part of the larger story arc that starts in the first book.

This story takes a bit longer to get going than the first, and early on it seems like the stakes aren’t quite as high. But wow, once things start rolling, this book is full of twists and turns and lots of excitement. The ending is super high octane and quite thrilling. I enjoy the way we are in Will’s POV, which keeps us slightly off balance as readers, as Will himself doesn’t always know what is going on. Kim holds a lot close, partly because of his job, but also out of a desire to both protect Will and to bear the burden of responsibility upon himself. Kim is secretive at the best of times, and it leaves the story constantly evolving as things we think we know turn out to be different than they seem. I found the tale engrossing and I was completely caught up following along to see how things developed.

Kim and Will start out the story somewhat at odds, and truthfully, it takes a while for things to really smooth out. The attraction is clearly there, and Will is drawn to Kim, but he also doesn’t feel like he can fully trust him (for good reason). I appreciate that Will is not willing to settle for crumbs, and he is very clear when he is displeased with Kim’s behavior. But I am happy to say that we leave things in a really good place for the men at the end of the book and I just really love them together. I appreciate that while Kim might be overprotective, Will is no pushover and he is ready to get in there and scrap and fight as needed. He is such a good balance for Kim. Will may be in over his head at times in terms of knowing what is really going on, but he is more than capable of holding his own, both against the bad guys or when arguing with Kim.

Kim and Will’s best friends, Phoebe and Maisie respectively, are such great side characters and both women play a big role here. I love that they are such strong characters in their own right and they very much carry part of the story. Both Phoebe and Maisie are so much more than people expect of them, Phoebe because she is seen as largely ornamental, and Maisie due to her class and race. They are both strong, smart, confident women and they are not afraid to speak out or stand up for themselves. I also enjoyed how issues between Will and Kim end up mirrored in how Will interacts with the women. Two of the main conflicts between the men are that Kim is overprotective and tries to keep Will out of things for his own safety, and the fact that he can’t share many things about what is really going on. It is interesting to see that Will ends up echoing some of that with Maisie and Phoebe, and I appreciated how he comes to recognize and remedy that.

Overall, I think this was a wonderful follow up to the first story. Charles gives such a great sense of the time period in these books and I loved immersing myself into the 1920s atmosphere. The historical elements combine so nicely with the growth and development of these characters, both individually and as a couple. And added to all that is some real excitement and a thrilling suspense. Definitely check out this excellent series. I can’t wait for more!

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