subtle blood coverRating: 4.75 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Life has finally settled a bit for Will Darling and Kim Secretan. Kim is helping out at Will’s bookstore. Maisie and Phoebe are making a splash in Paris. And Kim and Will have promised one another no more lies or secrets. They are enjoying a quiet life together for the first time in a while, and even the specter of the remnants of Zodiac doesn’t loom too large.

All that changes, however, when Kim’s brother is accused of murdering another lord at his club. Kim’s family is awful, and Chingford is particularly loathsome. The man also seems incredibly guilty of the crime and is totally unwilling to do anything that could dispel that notion, particularly if it means talking to Kim. The problem for Will and Kim, however, is that if Chingford hangs, Kim becomes the heir. Not only would it put Kim back in the sights of his father (whose horrible treatment had Kim previously engaging in self harm), it also means that Kim and Will’s relationship will come under increased scrutiny, among many other problems. As much as he detests his brother and believes the man to be guilty as sin, Kim feels he has no choice but to help keep him from facing the death penalty.

Chingford’s unwillingness to do anything to help himself is just the first of the problems with the investigation. Will and Kim also face roadblocks at the club and a host of other complications, including threats to both men. As Kim and Will dig even further, more threats arise and old enemies resurface. Now, they are not only working to save Chingford, but to save their own lives as well.

Subtle Blood is the third book in K.J. Charles’ fabulous Will Darling Adventures series. I went crazy for the first two books, so I have been eagerly awaiting this installment and it was all I hoped it would be. As with the first two books, the story balances the growing relationship between Kim and Will with a mystery/suspense storyline. Here the mystery focuses on a murder and the accused is Kim’s brother, Chingford. The man is repellant and awful and he tormented Kim as a child. But Kim quickly realizes that his fate is very much tied to Chingford’s, as Kim has no desire to be the heir. That means figuring out who really committed the murder, or barring that (since Chingford looks spectacularly guilty), at least helping to find some mitigating circumstances that would keep him from hanging. The story gets twisty and exciting and lots of threats pop up for both men. Charles does such a nice job with this series, having the mysteries start slowly and just build and build until things are incredibly intense and thrilling.

What makes the mystery really pop here is how very much it is tied to the personal end for both Kim and Will. They are very happy and content with their lives together, and their situation is aided by the fact that Will is mostly unknown and Kim lives largely apart from his family. If Kim suddenly became the heir, there is no way they could fly under the radar as they do now. Kim fears that Will wouldn’t be able to stand not only the increased scrutiny, but also the change in their stations. Will has always been sensitive about the class difference between them, and for Kim to suddenly become the heir, this chasm would widen even further. But there is more than just how it would affect their relationship. There is also a lot of family hostility that has shaped Kim and he survives by staying away from his toxic relatives. The idea of once again being under his father’s watchful eye has major implications for Kim’s mental health.

We have seen the relationship between Kim and Will grow over the past three books, starting with Slippery Creatures, where Kim spends as much time lying to Will as not, and the development of something more solid between them in The Sugared Game. And here we really see how far these men have come, how much they have grown, individually and together, and how much they mean to each other. Things settled for them at the end of the last book and here we really see it all play out. They are committed to each other and solidly protective over one another. I love the dynamic between them. They are sweet, sexy, and fierce, but also there is a sense of humor about them, a casual way of interacting and jesting that highlights how comfortable they are with each other. I love Kim’s bemusement as Will goes into “fight first” mode, as well as Will’s admiration for Kim’s razor-sharp mind as he puts the pieces together. I just adore these guys together and if you have enjoyed them as a couple in past books, I really think you are going to be delighted by this story.

For those wondering, we do get an update on Phoebe and Maisie here, and while they don’t have as quite as much page time as in past books, they still play a pivotal role in the investigation and the climax. I love what Charles has done with these side characters and they are tough, smart, and forces of nature.

This series was set up as a trilogy, but I could easily read more books for Kim and Will and all their adventures. I love this couple and the mysteries have been excellent and very exciting. If you haven’t read this series, particularly if you are fan of mystery or historicals, definitely check out the Will Darling Adventures.

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