I just love K.J. Charles so much. She goes where her interests take her, and I love when my interests collide with hers even more. I know I’m always in for not just a good romance with her, but good historical fiction. Here we’ve got a biracial purveyor of Victorian pornography reuniting with his childhood best friend from boarding school, a lawyer of Indian descent who has thought him dead for thirteen years. They meet again when Vikram, the lawyer, is searching for a missing young Indian boy and his search takes him to Holywell Street, location of many a filth peddler, where he finds Gil, who agrees to help him find the boy.
Charles packs a lot into this novella. Both men have good character arcs, there is a decent mystery plot, the romance between them is incredibly satisfying, and along the way she touches on a bunch of themes in a super skillful way, including the intersections of race, wealth, and class; British colonialism and its effects (specifically with regards to the Indian population that had migrated to Britain by this time); questions of morality vs. legality; and of course, the nuances of sex work and pornography, good and bad and in between.
I almost gave this book five stars, but I found myself wishing for a bit more, as it seemed to wrap up rather quickly just before the end, although I found the very end of the book extremely satisfying. I suppose it’s better the book left me wanting than overstaying its welcome.