Rating: 2.75 stars
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Unlike his dependable and serious father, Sebastian Pope is something of a wastrel. He only cares about his books, his dog, and his studies. Sebastian’s lover, Robert, is now dead by his own hand and Sebastian is still mourning his loss.
Andrew Brodie is a straight-laced clerk for Sebastian’s father and as seemingly buttoned up as he is stoic. Unbeknownst to Sebastian, however, Andrew’s past is a dark one and while he has worked hard to improve his station in life, someone desperately wants to drag him back down.
Sebastian finds himself intrigued by Andrew and, for the first time in his life, Andrew experiences love without the expectation of payment or control. But blackmail and murder threaten their chance at happiness and even their very lives. Andrew and Sebastian must find a way to bury the past for good or find themselves consumed by it.
Unspeakable Vice is a historical romance between two men from different walks of life, but who both find themselves outcast for one reason or another. It’s technically considered Victorian, but I wouldn’t say there is enough historical content to really get much beyond that. Andrew and Sebastian are both the kind of stock characters we’ve seen before, but they are saved from being complete caricatures thanks to a bit of depth. This is particularly true for Andrew, as we see a man who has suffered poverty and abuse nearly all his life and, despite this, has managed to rise above it. I’m not sure I ever really bought into the romance between him and Sebastian, however. There just wasn’t much heat between them and Andrew was basically stuck in a sad sack mopey phase most of the book, so most of the time he seemed to just be going through the motions. That sounds harsh, but Andrew’s overall attitude plays into the tone of the entire piece and becomes repetitive.
The characters get somewhat lost in a plot that meanders and leans towards to the melodramatic, rather than telling a truly suspenseful story. The pacing in Unspeakable Vice struggles to find an even keel. There are times it flows smoothly and others where it either slows to a crawl or reads as awkward and rudderless. When combined with a high dose of melodrama, often to the point of eye rolling, I just didn’t feel as though the book ever found it’s true balance.
Unspeakable Vice wasn’t a bad read, but I can’t help thinking that it could have been better. If the characters were just a little more well developed, the pacing more firm, and the melodrama scaled back, then I would have had a much more enjoyable read. As it was, I found this one something of a shrug; far from offensive, but quickly forgettable.