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Review – An Unseen Attraction

An Unseen Attraction, Gay Historical Romance by KJ Charles (also counts as Mystery)

Series: Sins of the Cities #1

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t quite have auto-buys when it comes to authors because I tend to take forever to buy books that I desperately want. It drives Hubby crazy. But whatever my own weird equivalent of an auto-buy is, KJ Charles is one of them. Not only does she write gay historical romance as though it is not a gimmick or in a novelty in comparison to heterosexual historical romance, she’s also an excellent storyteller and damn classy.

Clem Talleyfer is an Indian-Englishman who doesn’t quite belong anywhere. He doesn’t speak Hindi and he was otherwise denied that half of his heritage, so he has trouble fitting in on that side, and being dark-skinned and illegitimate are enough to keep him from being considered truly English. He’s also clearly on the autism spectrum, which comes with its own social difficulties. I adored Clem. He’s sweet and self-aware, compassionate nearly to a fault, and loyal. His support network was also lovely.

Clem runs a boardinghouse. One of his tenants is Rowley Green, an intense, bespectacled taxidermist who sees his profession as artistic. The two begin with a quiet friendship of sharing tea and conversation in the evenings. They’re each crushing on the other, but neither is quite ready to risk making a move.

Then one of the other tenants, a massively unpleasant drunkard, turns up on the front steps dead and showing signs of torture.

It’s difficult to articulate what I liked so much about this particular book. There are tonnes of things that I wouldn’t have thought of beforehand that I apparently needed in my life. Polish Mark the PI, Rowley’s artistic musings on the art of stuffing animals, trips to see occasionally cross-dressing acrobats. The romance is a slow burn, which I mightn’t have expected to like, but did. The mystery is amazing, so the less said about it the better: Go Read This is all I have to say on that score.

In fact, just Go Read This.

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Friday Book Review – The Unfinished Clue

tuc

NOTE: This review is slightly edited/enhanced/betterised from the original posted on Goodreads. All reviews from now on will be betterised.

Georgette Heyer is just amazing. Incredibly prolific authors tend to fall into two categories: universally adored, and marvelled at for the work volume but not much else. Like Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer is in the first category.

The first Georgette Heyer book I read was The Talisman Ring, which shot me into severe love with the way her characters spoke to and treated each other.  Seriously, I was on the second page when I had to shove the book at my husband and say, “THIS. THIS.”

THIS

But we’re not here to talk about The Talisman Ring. We’re here about General Thingy and The Unfinished Clue. It’s not as humorous or witty, but it definitely does not lack the Heyer tang.

One thing that Agatha Christie has taught me is that I like mysteries with unpleasant victims. The General is a blustering brat of a man, and though his death isn’t a relief, there was no immediately clear view of just who murdered him. The harried second wife? The emotionally excitable son? The list covered just about everyone.

Including the bizarre Mexican dancer, Lola de Silva. Some context is necessary. I’m half-Hispanic. Third generation American from Mexico on my mum’s side. And I thought this character was equal parts hilarious and obnoxious. She’s so very clearly a British idea of a Mexican, that I thought she was a sort of shout-out to Lola Montez, who was Irish. So I saw no reason at all to be offended.

bitch please

How could you not want her in your novel? She is also in Royal Flash.

Sometimes the pace slows down too much, particularly after the murder. That’s always a risk with this style of mystery–house guests accused of murder, real DIs don’t solve mysteries overnight. It didn’t bother me. The book is not overly long, and the slow pace is not a neon sign blinking PADDING PADDING PADDING. And Dinah was funny. I wish there had been a bit more of her, since she’s basically the bright young thing who is smarter than the average bear girl. But I guess there was technically enough. Her romance with Inspector Harding was cute and unobtrusive.

When I first realised how the ending was going to go down, my eyebrow went up, but then (spoiler, highlight to read) they read the confession letter, and I could kind of understand why the murderer committed suicide. The only reason it bothered me was that I have seen it in quite a few mysteries. It has to be done well or I get twitchy. I still don’t know if I think this one was done well or not.

This is only the second Heyer book I have read, and it’s the first murder mystery one, so I can’t really recommend it among the greater body of her work. I liked it, but it’s not one I would gush about like The Talisman Ring. Seriously, go read The Talisman Ring.