Title: An Unsuitable Heir (Sins of the Cities: Book Three)
Author: K.J. Charles
Length: 246 Pages
At a Glance: With all the dangling pieces of this series wrapped up, this last installment, An Unsuitable Heir, is by far the best of the lot and one I can highly recommend to you.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: A private detective finds passion, danger, and the love of a lifetime when he hunts down a lost earl in Victorian London.
On the trail of an aristocrat’s secret son, enquiry agent Mark Braglewicz finds his quarry in a music hall, performing as a trapeze artist with his twin sister. Graceful, beautiful, elusive, and strong, Pen Starling is like nobody Mark’s ever met—and everything he’s ever wanted. But the long-haired acrobat has an earldom and a fortune to claim.
Pen doesn’t want to live as any sort of man, least of all a nobleman. The thought of being wealthy, titled, and always in the public eye is horrifying. He likes his life now—his days on the trapeze, his nights with Mark. And he won’t be pushed into taking a title that would destroy his soul.
But there’s a killer stalking London’s foggy streets, and more lives than just Pen’s are at risk. Mark decides he must force the reluctant heir from music hall to manor house, to save Pen’s neck. Betrayed by the one man he thought he could trust, Pen never wants to see his lover again. But when the killer comes after him, Pen must find a way to forgive—or he might not live long enough for Mark to make amends.
Review: The final chapter in K.J. Charles’ Sins Of The Cities series is by far my favorite, and that is saying something considering I wasn’t sure this author could ever create someone as lovely as Clem, whom we initially meet in the first novel. In realizing a person such as Pen, however, I feel this author not only presented us with an incredibly rich and internally beautiful character but also gave us a very real and poignant view into the world of a non-binary/gender queer person. Before I go further, please forgive my stumbling over attempting to explain Pen’s views on his sexuality. I will do my best to present this character in the spirit the author wrote, but it will pale in comparison to the beauty of the novel’s actual description itself.
Pen is neither male nor female and refuses to live a life chained to either sex. Given that this novel is written within a historical context, where a man presenting as a woman is against the law, it becomes even more problematic that Pen must refuse to accept the aristocrat role he has been born into when confronted with the circumstances of his birth. But it is the way in which Pen attempts to describe himself to Mark, the private detective tasked with finding him and his sister, that truly tears at the emotions. The despair Pen feels when trying to help Mark understand that he neither feels like presenting as the man he has been born as nor as a woman all the time, but rather both and yet not. He really wants to know why he must be labeled as either. Why not be able to live a life where the fluidity of not choosing a sex or identifying as a certain one is the norm rather than an abomination?
Pen simply cannot be an Earl, dress as one, be tied to the trappings that come with it or the feelings associated around it when he desires to wear a bit of silk that day or earrings or paint his face or embrace a more feminine aspect. He feels wrong attempting to be just one or the other—male or female—and becomes physically ill when forced into a single role. It is wrong to think of Pen as a modern transgender person, for he is not. He is, simply, Pen, and had the novel not referred to Pen as “he” throughout, I would be stating that it is “their” desire to live as they choose. And Mark seems to be the only person, other than Pen’s sister, who can understand.
If you have been following the series, then you know that Pen and Greta are the long-lost heirs to the deceased Earl of Moreton, and in danger because of it. There is a killer on the loose, and he is determined to keep Pen from becoming the Earl, and has been killing left and right attempting to find the elusive acrobat. Pen and Greta have made their home in the air, in a trapeze act that defies gravity, and the two of them are determined to remain in the shadows and have nothing to do with their accursed relatives. Mark is on the job not only to find Pen and Greta but also to convince Pen to take on his destined role—despite knowing that to do so would kill Pen’s spirit and leave him trapped in a life that is unbearable for him. But two may have already lost their lives to Pen’s secret, and friends are being threatened daily, so Mark has no choice but to bring Pen and Greta to light—even though in doing so it will break the fragile attraction he has for Pen and make it impossible for the two to ever be more than mere acquaintances.
The real beauty of this story was the evolution of the relationship between Mark and Pen and all they go through just to be with each other. Between attempted murder and Pen’s own despair over having to play a role as a gentleman, we watch the rapid yet remarkably genuine pace at which these two men discover each other and how they fit together. To finally find someone who understands how Pen views himself—how fluidly he desires to live his life, and who finally sees beyond the physical trappings to the person beneath, is just breathtaking. Mark gets Pen on a level no one ever has before, and their fight to remain true to that, and to each other, makes this novel just outstanding. Alongside their story is the final discovery of who has been masterminding and committing the gruesome murders in both previous novels. With all the dangling pieces of this series wrapped up, this last installment, An Unsuitable Heir, is by far the best of the lot and one I can highly recommend to you.
You can buy An Unsuitable Heir here: