Review: An Unsuitable Heir by KJ Charles


Title: An Unsuitable Heir (Sins of the Cities #3)
Author: KJ Charles
Genre/Themes: Historical, MM romance
Release Date: 3 Oct 2017

Author's links: Website / Twitter / FB Group / Goodreads
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My rating: 3.5 Stars


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.


Note: In the story Pen says he is neither a man, nor a woman but for lack of better term, Pen uses he/his pronouns. In present-day terms I see him as genderfluid or enby. I've decided to follow the author's choice and go with he/his pronouns and genderfluid for the sake of clarity in my review.

I must admit this is a rather difficult review for me to write. On the one hand I did enjoy a lot about this story and liked how it completed the mystery/crime arc of the series. I was excited to finally read Mark's story and was curious about Pen since I haven'rt read many genderfluid characters so far.

Overall, I'd say reading this romance was a positive experience but still there are some things that bothered me and took away from my enjoyment.

WE get the usual, detailed, engaging rich writing that we have come to expect from KJ Charles. The story is rich in details and follows the tone and general atmosphere of the whole series. I have to admit that finally uncovering the mystery was rather satisfying,

I  liked Mark from the earlier books but here I had mixed feeling about him. I liked how open he was to everyone, how his pansexuality was expressed, his desire to care for others, to give them pleasure was an admirable character trait. Yet, especially at the beginning his "I like everyone and everything" made him appear bland, I felt it made him lack any personality of his own. As it turned out (to his own surprise) he is far from ordinary and simple in his likes. And it was Pen who encompassed in himself everything Mark found appealing, the mix of male and female had an irresistible pull on him.

I was very curious about Pen. I liked how his genderfluidity was presented (I'm saying this from POV of a cis het female reader). His struggles with himself, the society in general and the particularly difficult situation he found himself in were terrible.

I felt bad for him, forced to make a choice and suffering through Mark's betrayal (though I understood both sides here, Mark did it as the only way he saw to keep Pen safe, and Pen felt betrayed because his explicit wishes were so blatantly disregarded). Pen's very real sense of lack of choice in his life was very vividly presented and had a powerful impact on me as a reader.

My biggest concern was the comparison between Mark's disability and Pen's gendefluidity. It was done a few times and worked as a way for both of them to understand the other. I see its usefulness in that aspect but I also felt it carried the the subtext that only someone with a "flaw" could understand another person with a different "flaw". This didn't sit well with me at all from my very limited, outsider's perspective on both being disabled and being gendefluid.

I saw Mark as loving everything about Pen, his appearance, his character, his strength and vulnerability and i was convinced of the depth of his feelings for him. It was a sudden realization that Mark has a type, a preference and Pen is exactly what he wanted/needed in his life and he did his best to keep Pen in his life and make him happy.

On the other hand, I wasn't very much convinced of Pen's feelings for Mark. I saw him as grateful for being accepted for who he is, feeling good about being loved and cherished but for most part of the story I really didn't see his own affection/love for Mark. I it was only in the end that we saw Pen showing his feeling for Mark for who he is not for what he did for him.

On a more positive note, I liked how things worked all for everyone in the end. I felt the good people got the chance at happiness they deserved (we see the couples from the previous series, as well as Pen's sister in HEA/HFN situation) and bad guys got what they deserved.

In conclusion, it would say it is moving, thought-provoking story exploring some complex  issues of personal identity, disability, love, acceptance and the choices we make in life. 

Purchase links: Publisher / Amazon / Kobo

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