I liked this quite a bit, but I was able to put it down for several months, which doesn’t really speak super well of it’s ability to compel a reader. There was just something about the specific ways the pacing and the characters and the plot combined that I liked, but didn’t love.
So this is a romance novel, but it’s also a hybrid Victorian/mystery/thriller-ish sort of book, and all of the plots are not resolved (though the romance aspect is), and I’m assuming they will carry out through the rest of the trilogy. Clem Talleyfer runs a lodging house in London, a living given to him by his overbearing half-brother, Edmund. Clem is half Indian, and a bastard, and believes he should feel grateful for anything he is given by his family. Clem is also what we would probably call neuro-atypical in some fashion, probably on the spectrum, and he is also incredibly kind and trusting. He develops a quiet friendship with Mr. Rowley Green, the preserver (i.e. taxidermist) who lets the shop next door, and who also rents rooms in Clem’s building. Both of them are two lonely and misunderstood people, and they fall in love.
This actually happens rather quickly, which might have been what threw me off? We come in to their romance halfway through, and the book is just as much about figuring out the mystery aspect and the Wilkie Collins-esque Victorian machinations as it is about Clem and Rowley working things out. It was actually pretty stressful to read about the dead body of the drunk that lives in Clem’s building throwing such a wrench in their fragile new romance.
I’m actually sort of puzzled by my reaction because everything that I have loved about KJ Charles books in the past is here. She’s so good at complicated characters and their feelings, and she’s usually pretty good at plotting and pacing as well. And I think maybe she was good here and for some reason I just wasn’t feeling it. Especially since I finished books two and three yesterday as well and I loved them.