Julien and Kahlil met as kids at Saint Bernadine’s School for Boys when they were both orphaned. They were the best of friends and fell hard for each other while trying to keep their relationship a secret. Kahlil was always a little jealous of Julien for his looks and the extra attention he got at school. But Kahlil didn’t know any of the horror that Julien lived every day.
Julien is now a trained assassin known by his code name, Nightingale, and he is feared by many — except those who devastated his childhood, and Julien knows it’s time for vengeance. Kahlil, now an accountant, will do anything for Julien and is ordered by his employer to take on an assignment with Julien. Julien has been waiting patiently for his time to strike and he will not rest until all of his tormentors are dealt with—preferably in painful ways. Life for Julien has been dark for so long, but Kahlil offers him a sliver of hope for a better life. But Julien is keeping so many secrets and while Kahlil might forever be in love with Julien, he might finally be ready to walk away before he truly understands Julien.
Before I started this book, I thought again about what I might have gotten myself into given the content warnings. While the main plot of the book is dark, and there is a sense of what Julien went through as a child and still as an adult, most of the action and traumatic events are off page and not recounted in great detail. Nightingale is also part of the Virtuous Sinners multi-author world, where the main character in each book is a killer with a virtue, and Julien has patience to wait years to carry out his revenge.
It was interesting at first getting involved with the characters and getting into the story. Kahlil gives us background on his relationship with Julien and now how, even as an adult, he is still in love with and in awe of Julien. Kahlil knows Julien is an assassin, but for as much as Kahlil thinks he knows Julien, he really doesn’t know him at all.
Julien’s story is traumatic and filled with abuse. He was taken as a young boy to the school for boys where he became a favorite of the Father there and had no one to protect him. The abuse escalated over the years and Julien has nothing left but the need for revenge and love for Kahlil.
I then started to need more from the story. While there is a good sense of the trauma that Julien lived through, it is all told to us rather than shown. Not that I needed to see countless graphic details on page of Julien being abused as a child, but for this to be listed as such a dark book, it didn’t really hit that tone for me as it played out. The “bad guys” then were shown as one-dimensional stereotypes and the beats of the story became expected.
This book works as a standalone and I would suggest this if you wanted a book about darker subjects, but stays away from on page descriptions and deep character development.