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Sins of the Cities #2

An Unnatural Vice

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In the sordid streets of Victorian London, unwanted desire flares between two bitter enemies brought together by a deadly secret.

Crusading journalist Nathaniel Roy is determined to expose spiritualists who exploit the grief of bereaved and vulnerable people. First on his list is the so-called Seer of London, Justin Lazarus. Nathaniel expects him to be a cheap, heartless fraud. He doesn’t expect to meet a man with a sinful smile and the eyes of a fallen angel—or that a shameless swindler will spark his desires for the first time in years.

Justin feels no remorse for the lies he spins during his séances. His gullible clients simply bore him. Hostile, disbelieving, utterly irresistible Nathaniel is a fascinating challenge. And as their battle of wills and wits heats up, Justin finds he can’t stop thinking about the man who’s determined to ruin him.

But Justin and Nathaniel are linked by more than their fast-growing obsession with one another. They are both caught up in an aristocratic family’s secrets, and Justin holds information that could be lethal. As killers, fanatics, and fog close in, Nathaniel is the only man Justin can trust—and, perhaps, the only man he could love.

238 pages, Kindle Edition

First published June 6, 2017

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About the author

K.J. Charles

57 books7,899 followers
KJ is a writer of romance, mostly m/m, historical or fantasy or both. She blogs about writing and editing at http://kjcharleswriter.com.

She lives in London, UK, with her husband, two kids, and a cat of absolute night.

Twitter https://twitter.com/kj_charles
Join the lively Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/13876...
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Please **do not** message me on Goodreads as I no longer check the inbox due to unwanted messages.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 706 reviews
Profile Image for Heather K (dentist in my spare time).
3,843 reviews5,567 followers
July 20, 2017
*4.5 stars*

Excellent, excellent, excellent! This book is simply K.J. Charles doing what she does best.

I'm a huge K.J. Charles fan, but I was a little worried about this series. I'm not a huge fan of suspense and mystery, and the fact that the stories in all three books link together in a "to be continued" kind of way worried me. I wasn't crazy about An Unseen Attraction, but the characters in An Unnatural Vice just spoke to me.

I am loving enemies to lovers more and more, and here we get the intense combination of combustible sexual attraction along with strong hatred, and the result is explosive.

Justin was simply glorious. I love a flawed character, a scrappy character, and Justin did what he had to do to survive. He was fierce and so, so bright, and I just adored him.

Nathaniel was also a wonderful character. I have a soft spot for second chances at love after a partner has died, and I felt the love Nathaniel had for Tony alongside his growing affection for Justin. K.J. Charles crafted him perfectly. Plus, bonus points for making him big and hairy (*grins*).

The plot was exciting, in fact, a bit too exciting for my tastes. Like I said, suspense isn't really my thing, and I liked the moments when the two were figuring out their relationship more than the moments they were fighting for their lives. Gulp.

I'm hoping and praying that this series keeps getting better and that book three will floor me. I know K.J. Charles can pull it off.
Profile Image for Sam (AMNReader).
1,245 reviews266 followers
December 14, 2019
Reread December 2019: hi, hello, yes, I am now referring to this book as "the worst" because it ended again.* Will have to read a third time to see if it happens again.

*Do not get me wrong, this book has near-perfect pacing.

If anyone needs me, I'll be stitching J&N on my pillows. Thank you, good night.

(Reread #8 completed)

______Original Review___

“Tell you what, my spirit guide’s a fucking tart.”

I lived in this book. I don't know what else to say. Few books hit me with the intensity that this did, fewer still where I take my time reading, soaking, rereading passages or relistening to full chapters.

Few books make the setting a character so effectively, and I can tell you, I've never enjoyed a suspense plot in a romance because one always gets cheated...But none got cheated here. Somehow, it suited the characters and the relationship.

To say I was a goner from the point Nathaniel describes Justin is probably not correct. I was a goner from the prologue, immediately entranced by Justin's voice, his intuition, and his observation. But I knew this book was going be something special unless something went really really fucking wrong from this passage:

The Seer of London was aged perhaps thirty, of no more than average height, on the thin side, narrow-shouldered, narrow-faced. His hair was too long, and fell over his forehead; he seemed to be striving for the goatee Nathaniel had vaguely expected without having the wherewithal to achieve it; his plain coat was a little worn at the cuffs. He was the sort of man one would have passed in the street without noticing, except for his eyes. They were grey, large, and luminous, almond-shaped with winging brows, and remarkably intent. They turned his face from pinched to something slightly odd, almost elfin. Something not quite wicked, but nothing good.

Something tempting.

But nothing went wrong from there. Nathaniel was, for me, super relatable. Reserved, skeptical, ruthlessly committed to fact and truth. Justin was equally recognizable-driven to survive, ambitious in his independence, and a bit ruthless in those pursuits. He’d be easy to dislike, looking as if he preys on people, but his lack of apology-almost righteousness-for it really worked in his favor. There was an intensely antagonistic dynamic, so well done you knew that it bordered on passion and hatred, more importantly, the characters knew.

He’d gone for Roy harder than he had for anyone in a while because it had felt like more than just another tedious seance. It had felt like a duel.

Unsurprisingly, this dynamic between the upstanding journalist Nathaniel Roy and the unapologetic charlatan-both who were so competent it was damn respectable-created some heavy sexual tension. While I wondered how this would culminate with them as partners and lovers, I did not doubt that it would. Somehow, due the challenges they both brought forth, the scenes became so large and combustible, and KJ Charles did not hold back the resolution as long as I’d expected-which is good, really really good.

“Oh come.” Roy inclined his head a fraction closer. “Between us. Admit what you are.”

Justin gave him a tooth-baring smile. “I will if you will.” Roy inhaled sharply, and Justin felt his grin widen at the scent of blood. “You call me a liar, Mr. Roy. Which of us is the more honest, here and now?”

“I cannot think of any company in which you would be the most honest person present.” Scathing words, uttered very low, with those summer-blue eyes fixed on his face.

Roy was going to act. Justin felt it as a certainty. He didn’t know how, or what the man would do but he would force Roy into making the first move somehow, and the reckless exhilaration was making his blood sing as much as Nathaniel Roy’s parted lips and widened pupils. This was what he lived for. The challenge, the battle.

“Would you like me to speak the truth now, Mr. Roy? Or will you find a way to stop my mouth?”

Roy lowered his face, closer, enough to feel the heat of his skin, lips a breath away from Justin’s. He whispered, like a caress, “You are born to be hanged.”

“And isn’t it fun?”

Both Nathaniel and Justin are faithful, loyal men to their people. Both ruthless, yet caring. Both vulnerable, but not obviously so.

I’m not afraid to call this installment a masterpiece. I’ve read so few romances, particularly enemy-to-lovers, of this caliber. This was a stunner as much for the masterful pen and prose as it was for the utterly atmospheric plot and incredibly fleshed out characters. Their conversations killed me. The sex scenes served a purpose, both as vulnerability being exposed, protection being offered, and frustration and fear being excised.

He had never in his life been with anyone whose will was as strong as his own. This didn’t feel like a flirtation; it felt like stags circling, antlers ready to clash.

And man….if I’m asking nicely would’ve shown up in my coat pocket I would’ve exploded. Consent was an absolute integral part of the dialogue, dealt with head-on in a manner that was both sexy and respectful. Careful, but didn’t undermine the explosiveness and unrestrained chemistry between these two. I also appreciated that each man demanded what was best—what was good—for himself, and eventually each other.

I hate what you do, and I kneel at your altar anyway.

But this is KJC, so don’t forget the healthy dose of humor.

“…And listen well or I shall make you read my father’s much applauded sermon on the topic of the Sinner who Repenteth.”

“Fucking try it.”

I won’t even try to capture the tenderness in this book. I have about 100 highlights demonstrating that. I really admired Nathaniel’s confidence in sharing these feelings, in facing them and a good deal of what worked for this book was that he didn’t continually chase away guilt for falling for a man who was in a profession that he didn’t respect, all the while finding a way to be proud of him.

”No strings, Justin. I want you on your feet, not your knees…”

What was especially miraculous was after the disappointing first installment of this series, I came to appreciate the quiet strength between Clem and Rowley as well.

But this book, I’ll never be over. I utterly hate it for ending.
Profile Image for Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*.
2,389 reviews1,057 followers
April 11, 2017
I think this is supposed to be a trilogy like Society of Gentlemen was. The first book, An Unseen Attraction, introduced endearing, naïve Clem who found his love interest and also showed his other friends, part of a close group of likeminded individuals (like Society of Gentlemen.) Besides being historical, that's where the similarities seem to end.

While I enjoyed the first of the series, this one was even better. K.J. Charles gave one character a truly horrible, detestable profession and made him a major character and love interest. Without guilt he plays on people's grief and emotions as a spiritual medium. The book showcases his life and his growth and his realizations, as well as opening his heart to possibilities of an actual relationship. On the other hand you have the character Nathaniel, Clem's friend introduced in the first book, who is hurting from a tragic death of the man he loved years before and has made it a mission in his life to end con artists through his journalistic pen. He has a strong moral compass, perhaps a bit too rigid, but after meeting and knowing Justin he starts to see how destitute and desperate the poverty-stricken have it.

The two having professions that didn't complimented each other to that degree was interesting enough, but once you throw in the differences with their class, history, outlook and upbringing, you have even more of the opposites attract mentality. At the core of the story is a continuing mystery from the first book - the man who tortured the grumpy boarder is still around and still searching for evidence to hide a secret. Justin and Nathanial find themselves in genuine danger as they must escape the city for awhile and find each other, but they also have to solve this crime before its the death of both of them.

The third friend in the series, Mark, will probably be the focus of the last story. I have a feeling who his romantic interest will be from the end of this one. That will turn out interesting. I like how the author takes unconventional heroes with tragic pasts (but no angst) or some kind of difference and gives them normal lives. Clem was a little slow-witted, Justin has a checkered history, and Mark is an amputee with a serious and jaded outlook.

As always K.J. Charles writes well with evenly-flowing rhythm and dialogue, and her characters and plots are different enough from each other that they're not formulaic. There's more than unrealistic steam, there's actual heart and realistic bonding with her characters. Besides that, there really is steam when it's needed, it's just made more plausible and enjoyable because the emotional connection has taken place first.

I was happy to take yet another trip to Historical London through the author's talented imagination - thanks to Netgalley for this one in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for * A Reader Obsessed *.
2,107 reviews432 followers
November 10, 2021
3.5 Stars

Charles consistently delivers on this connected trilogy as the search for a missing heir continues.

Here, the story is passed onto Clem’s friend Nathaniel, who is trying to find a lost earl in order to financially help Clem maintain his livelihood. Nathaniel’s search brings him to a charlatan’s door, and though Nathaniel knows he’s a fraud, he can’t help but be repulsed and intrigued at the same time by the enigmatic Justin.

When men of ill repute come looking to get what they perceive as their just reward for finding the missing earl, it puts everyone in danger and reveals an even greater conspiracy behind all the secrets.

This had a nice mix of enemies to lovers, touching on the social divide and its barriers, along with some very explicit covert smexy. I’m still not a huge fan of historicals but as always, Charles makes a strong case for them, and I will concede that she does quite the excellent job - so much so, I’ll forge on ahead and finish this trilogy off!
Profile Image for Ms. Smartarse.
580 reviews241 followers
December 28, 2022
Self-righteous rich lawyer-turned-journalist Nathaniel Roy is out to save the world. Or at least expose its seedy underbelly, including Justin Lazarus' shady spiritual business. What he didn't count on, was finding the contemptible charlatan so attractive.
Justin Lazarus for his part, is London's best fra-- erm spiritist. Well-aware of Nathaniel's growing interest, he chooses to accept the challenge: wouldn't life be dull otherwise?


Somewhat similarly to A Seditious Affair, the author chose to go the "love conquers the differences in social circles", with a side of angsty agonising over each other's deal breaking flaws: Nathan's privileged righteousness, and Justin's unapologetic criminal inclinations, respectively. Unlike in the prequel, this aspect was handled subtly enough that it made me contemplate it, rather than constantly feeling chastised.

It must be wonderful if you can afford to do the right things. I can’t, so I’m going to carry on being petty and contemptible for money.

check your privilege

The murder-mystery didn't really play too big of a role: mostly a convenient excuse to throw the two protagonists into close proximity, or a teaser for the final showdown from the sequel. Instead, the comedic banter component was upped quite a bit, thanks to Justin's wicked sense of humour.

"You're the tenth we've tried," Nestor added.
"Tenth. Really?" Justin gave the Potters a mental black mark. Tenth indeed. He might be a fraud, but he counted himself very much first among equals in the community of frauds, except for the "equals" part.

"Why don't you live here?" he asked with his mouth full. "If this woman cooks for you. Live here and marry her, that's my advice."
"Well, [Mrs. Haughton]'s seventy-two," Nathaniel said. "And Mr. Haughton might object."

Score: 3.7/5 stars

Can anyone point me toward a sensual representation of St. Sebastian's torture? I've never found religious art anywhere near arousing, least of all the frescoes depicting martyrdom. I have however readily devoured many a doujinshi featuring questionable kinks.

we all judge

Tell me, Nathaniel: is this a remnant of religious propaganda? A side-effect of growing up in a clerical household? Or just a matter of taste?

Review of book 1: An Unseen Attraction
Review of book 3: An Unsuitable Heir
Profile Image for Holly.
1,415 reviews960 followers
June 13, 2019
This was my first MM romance (we'll I've read ones that included MM but it wasn't the central focus or it also included a woman thrown into the mix). I enjoyed this quite a bit! Nicholas was perhaps a little flat minus his grief for Tony, but Justin was a much more nuanced character that I was fully into. The background mystery didn't interest me as much, perhaps because I missed the first book. I'd definitely read another book by this author but not one from this particular series I think.
Profile Image for SheReadsALot.
1,838 reviews1,184 followers
June 20, 2017
Group unicorn review with Adam and Chelsea

4.25 Hearts
--Once again, KJ Charles blew my expectations to smithereens after reading An Unnatural Vice.

Once again, she delivered word porn to savor. And wrote a mystery arc that I was fully engaged with and can't wait to be solved.

Once again a set well written characters that I just wanted to pick apart and re-read over and over.

The leads in the second in Sins of the Cities series, are the serious, crusading former lawyer, now journalist Nathaniel Roy and the deviously cunning spiritualist Justin Lazarus. I don't there isn't a theme this author couldn't conquer. Vice is enemies to lovers and is always my weakness which the author writes it sooooo well.

Nathaniel is writing an expose on the frauds that are spiritualists. The alleged psychics that can communicate with the dead and tell the grieving their loved ones' wishes from beyond the veil... for a price. Nathaniel visits a popular to see the schemer in action. Enter one of my favorite KJ Charles characters, the "Seer of London" aka Mr. Justin Lazarus.

From their first meeting the adversaries are attracted to each other, even if they think that other person is in the wrong. Archbishop's son Nathaniel might be atheist, but he will always fight for what's right. And Justin grew up in the gutter, so whatever he can do so he doesn't have to scrape and bow to anyone. And if that includes fleecing the idiots with fat pockets, so be it.

While the two men argue and try to outwit one another, the arc from the last book is churning along. It might seem slow in spots, but I think it might've been the parts where introspection was given from either man's POV. The men can't deny their lust and act on it rather quickly. And it never fizzles out. They just kept getting better and hotter. Hints: big guy bottoming and hate sex! Wherever the two had sex, floor, backroom or bannister...it scorched.

While Nathaniel is steadfast in getting the rightful heir in place, he can't help but see the good in Justin. Obviously so as Lazarus is the first man in over five years that Nathaniel ever looked at in passion. The author didn't make Nathaniel's past lover, Tony feel like a silent partner that kept a noose of grief around the neck. But the pain of missing his lover definitely came across.

Justin is amoral and doesn't give a fuck what anyone thinks. It was love at first read once I got to delve into that criminal mind. Lying, deceitful, always thinking twenty steps ahead, tricky as hell. That's Justin and more. He's so multifaceted. And underneath the cunning exterior with the eyes that never missed anything, is a damaged man who just needed someone to understand him.

"I hate what you do, and I kneel at your altar anyway."
"Then you're a fool. I lie and cheat and I'm so jealous of a dead man I could die myself-"

The mystery is coming to a head. A lot of truths were finally uncovered, there is still the suspect from book #1 running around. What is the motive. After finishing, it doesn't seem to be over. I can't believe the hints to the next lead was there in book #1. And I can't wait for #3 to be out - the protagonists (Mark which already knew and his love interest will be very, very interesting.) Their history seems like it might possibly explosive.

As for An Unnatural Vice, I enjoyed this even more than book #1 just for the pleasure of reading Justin.

Highly recommended especially for readers who love devious characters!

A copy provided via Netgalley for an honest review.
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 57 books7,899 followers
October 11, 2016
The second book of my Sins of the Cities trilogy that begins with An Unseen Attraction. In which the plot thickens, and so does the atmosphere.

Justin Lazarus, the Seer of London, is a fraudulent spiritualist, plying his trade on the grieving and gullible. This puts him on a collision course with Nathaniel Roy, investigative journalist. But the men are linked in a number of ways they don't expect. As both family secrets and blood continue to spill, and the worst fog of the nineteenth century closes in on London, the professional liar and the seeker after truth may have to make common cause to survive.


I love Victorian Sensation novels. I love all the trappings: family secrets and wild coincidences and huge casts and outrageous villainy and aristocratic families and sordid rookeries and grotesques and pathetic fallacy (which means, in case you were wondering, the thing when the weather behaves in an artistically suitable fashion). I am totally going for Victorian Sensation in this book, which also contains the single worst, most amoral, reprehensible, stone-cold git of a hero I've ever written. I had a huge amount of fun with him and this series; I hope readers will too!

Oh, and this is probably the point to say that neither the vice of the title nor the sin of the series title are what you may be thinking. :D
Profile Image for Vivian.
2,839 reviews389 followers
May 4, 2017
Men on opposite sides.

Nathaniel Roy and Justin Lazarus are two miserable bastards that don't really evoke sympathy at the onset of the book. Possessing diametrically opposed viewpoints of the world it makes for an interesting discussion as the book progresses. I can't say that either character is endearing, but the gulf between the two has a bridge and it is traversed as they begin to understand the basis for each other's stance. But, I just never felt invested in either one.

While I enjoy Charles' writing this lacked the depth of historical data of Charles' "Society of Gentlemen" and the drama of "A Charm of Magpies". I suppose Victorian England has never been my favorite period so this might not have been as good a fit as the others. But, it was Justin's similarity in character to Jonah from "Jackdaw", which makes for a flawed protagonist. You can understand their decisions, but it's hard to admire them. In fact, the interaction between Ben and Jonah in "Jackdaw" is quite similar to Nathaniel and Lazarus, here.

Ultimately, the one thing that annoyed me most, and I was wondering as the available pages left to read dwindled, that it literally ends with a To be continued. There is a major plot point that is left dangling while the characters' romance seems to be wrapped up. I did not find the series arc plotting as seamless as "Society of Gentlemen".

Enjoyable read, but not compelling as I put it down many times without a problem.

~Copy provided by NetGalley~
Profile Image for ~Mindy Lynn~.
1,396 reviews580 followers
June 1, 2017
4 spiritualism stars!

I enjoyed this one much more than I did the first one which I can only hope will get even better with the last book in the series.

Justin Lazarus was by far the most interesting character so far in this series. I really enjoyed the back and forth bickering between him and Nathaniel. These men didn't know if they wanted to fight or strip down and get their sexy on. Sometimes they ended up doing both. There was no lack of steam in this book. The sexual tension was strong as was the chemistry. Nathaniel and Justin were such opposites you would think they wouldn't fit, but they did. Opposites attracting and all that. But man these guys knew how to push each others buttons.
Justin hasn't had an easy life and has had to do a lot of unsavory things to become the Seer of London. But he won't apologize for it. Even if he want's to be someone Nathaniel could be proud to be with. Nathaniel has had a privileged life being the Bishops son. He has never want for anything and can't even fathom what life must have been like for Justin. And although Justin's career choice is one Nathaniel detests, he see's beyond that to the man Justin truly is and he wants him.
This book had a great mix of mystery and romance. We learn a lot more in this book. Some of the mystery is solved but the more important mystery of who is behind it all has been left opened. I can't wait to read the next book.

Happy reading dolls! xx


Profile Image for Caz.
2,647 reviews1,002 followers
June 8, 2017
The feeling that washed over me when I finished An Unnatural Vice isn’t one I experience all that often, but I suspect we all know what it is; that wonderful sense of awe and sheer elation that settles over you when you’ve just read something incredibly satisfying on every level.  A great story that’s excellently written and researched; characters who are well-drawn and appealing; a book that stimulates intellectually as well as emotionally… An Unnatural Vice has it all and is easily one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

The Sins of the Cities series has been inspired by author K.J. Charles’ love of Victorian Sensation Fiction, stories full of intrigue, murder, blackmail, missing heirs, evil relatives, stolen inheritances… I’m a big fan of the genre, and I absolutely love the way the author has brought its various elements into play in terms of the plot and overall atmosphere. The events in An Unnatural Vice run concurrently with those of book one, An Unseen Attraction, so while this one could be read as a standalone I’d definitely recommend reading the series in order.

Handsome, well-educated and wealthy, Nathaniel Roy trained in the law, but now works as a crusading journalist, dedicated to exposing social injustice and waging campaigns against industrial exploitation.  His editor has asked him to write an article about the mediums who prey on the wealthy, and as part of his research, he arranges to attend a séance held by the so-called Seer of London, Justin Lazarus.  Highly sceptical and determined to expose him as a fraud, Nathaniel is nonetheless fascinated by the man’s skill at what he does while being frustrated at not being able to work out how the hell he is manipulating the various objects in the room without touching them.  Worse still, however, is the unwanted spark of lust that shoots through him when he sets eyes upon the Seer for the first time, a visceral pull of attraction he hasn’t felt in the almost six years since he lost the love of his life; and the way Lazarus seems able to see into the very depths of Nathaniel’s soul is deeply unnerving and intrusive. He hates it at the same time as he is fascinated by the things Lazarus tells him and finds his convictions shaken and his thoughts consumed by the man over the next few days.

As far as Justin Lazarus is concerned, the gullible and credulous who make up the bulk of his clientele get exactly what they deserve and he refuses to feel guilty over giving them what they want – deceit and lies and sympathy – while they watch the people around them steal, whore or starve in the streets.  But a sceptic like Nathaniel Roy represents the sort of challenge Justin can’t pass up; he isn’t surprised when the man requests a second, private, meeting, and he uses it to push all Roy’s buttons, opening up the not-fully healed wounds of his grief while playing on the lust Justin had recognised at their first meeting.  The air is thick with suppressed desire and not-so-suppressed loathing as the two men trade barbs and insults – and even Justin recognises that this time, he’s probably gone too far and made an implacable enemy.

Mutual enmity notwithstanding however, Nathaniel and Justin are destined to be thrown into each other’s orbits once again when Justin receives a visit from two men who are trying to locate the children of a woman named Emmeline Godfrey who, they tell him, had been part of their “flock” until they ran away aged fourteen.  Justin recalls the desperate woman who visited him a year earlier asking about her twins, and the men want him to find them.  Sensing an opportunity, Justin puts on a show without telling them anything and thinks that’s that – until he remembers seeing an advertisement in the newspaper offering a reward for information about the same twins, giving Nathaniel Roy’s name as the person to contact. Always on the lookout for a way to make money, Justin decides to approach Roy with what he knows – but their discussion quickly descends into an erotically charged slanging match in which the mutual lust and hostility that has hung in the air between them since their first meeting boils over into a frenzied sexual encounter.  Despite having been turned inside out by “one of the better fucks of the nineteenth century”, Justin is still keen to focus on what he can get for his information, while Nathaniel just wants him gone, berating himself for having been so damned stupid as to have let things go so far.

Readers of the previous book will recall that Emmeline Godfrey was the name of the woman the now-deceased Earl of Moreton married in secret some years before contracting a later, bigamous marriage.  This means that the male twin is now the rightful earl, but with money and estates at stake, someone is going to great lengths to silence those who could reveal the truth – and now, Justin Lazarus has unwittingly put himself in the firing line.  A solitary man who has built a life in which he answers to and depends on nobody, Justin has no-one to turn to when he finds himself on the run from the men threatening him – no-one, that is, apart from the man who despises him and has sworn to expose him as a fraud – Nathaniel Roy.

On the most basic level, this is an enemies-to-lovers romance, but in the hands of K.J. Charles it is so much more than that.  Nathaniel is a man who is going through life by the numbers and doesn’t quite realise it; frozen by grief, he doesn’t expect ever to feel love or desire again and certainly not for a shifty bastard like Justin Lazarus.  Nathaniel finds it difficult to understand why a man gifted with such perspicacity and insight would choose to make a living by cheating the weak and vulnerable; but when Justin turns to him for help and Nathaniel glimpses the clever, amusing and desperately lonely man lying beneath the tough, prickly exterior, he is unable to deny the truth of his feelings any longer and admits to himself that he is coming to love Justin in spite of everything.  Justin is unapologetic and suspicious at first; born in a workhouse to a mother he never knew, his has been a hard life and he’s done what he had to in order to survive. He’s made something of himself through hard work, quick wits and sheer strength of will and doesn’t want to be beholden to anyone.  He tries to push Nathaniel away and dismisses his assertions that Justin is a better man than he believes himself to be, but Nathaniel’s obvious belief in him gradually starts to break down his emotional barriers.  The chemistry between the pair is off the charts, but amid all their snarling, vitriolic banter, come moments of real tenderness and understanding and watching these two damaged and very different men fall for each other is gut-wrenchingly beautiful. By the end of the book there is no doubt that they are deeply in love and in it for the long haul.

The writing is exquisite and the book is full of incredibly evocative scenes, whether it’s the descriptions of the thick, poisonous pea-souper that envelops London or the excitement of the opening séance, which is a real tour-de-force.  The mystery of the missing Taillefer heir is smoothly and skilfully woven through Justin and Nathaniel’s love story and the ending brilliantly sets up the next book, An Unsuitable Heir, due for release later this year.  But while the mystery is certainly intriguing, the real heart of the book is the complicated, messy but glorious romance between two bitter enemies.  An Unnatural Vice is a must-read and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Profile Image for Kerri.
973 reviews344 followers
January 5, 2023
I liked the way this followed on from the first book, building on the mystery, but from two other perspectives, who are also the prospective couple. I will admit I was more invested in that mystery than the relationship between the protagonists, but I'm keeping the rating at four stars*, because I don't think it's fair to complain about the romance in a romance book - that'd be like reading Lord of the Rings and being irritated that the story contained Hobbits!

I did appreciate the way the difficulties of moving on after a previous long term partner has died was portrayed, and I liked the glimpses of Clem (one of the leads from the first book) from a new viewpoint.

I will continue with the series, as I am interested in seeing how it all wraps up.

*Also because I appreciate that the characters felt fairly real to me, as did their interactions, something they was lacking in a few romantic books I read last year. It's kind of like comedy isn't it? How subjective it can all be. I find this with movies as well, and can be surprised at the films I do or don't buy into.
I love "13 Going On 30"** for instance, and wholeheartedly believe in that relationship, even though I don't actually believe you should have to find and secure your future husband at the age of 13. Then there's "When Harry Met Sally", which many love. I like Harry. I like Sally. I don't like them as a couple. My slightly longwinded point is, I think I have to read or watch the love story in its entirety, and then it either falls into place and I think it's wonderful ("An Affair To Remember", "Carol", "The Princess Bride" ) or I sit there baffled by everything that has just happened, wondering why I am supposed to care about this ("The Wedding Planner", "Maid in Manhattan" ***). But the thing that might bug me about those films, or resonate completely, might be unnoticed by someone else. My low might be the moment that makes them laugh.

Sometimes I end up skipping anything too 'romance' based, whether book or film for quite a while, because I clearly don't adore the genre. But I keep giving them a go because sometimes I do find one that I enjoy, and it's not always an obscure one either - I recently enjoyed "Crazy Rich Asians", much more than I had expected. And I do enjoy it, it's oddly exciting, to think, "Yes, I too believe these fictional people make a good a couple, and should make an airport dash or something to prove it. Or maybe just have a conversation in the privacy of their home, whatever suits".

**also known as "Suddenly 30"
***I don't actually dislike Jennifer Lopez, just don't enjoy these two films. The issue with the latter film, in my opinion, is not her anyway. It's that Ralph Fiennes seems to have no idea how he got there.
September 2, 2017

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California is having a devastating heatwave statewide right now, so it was nice to pick up this book with its icy looking cover and Gothic, foggy London setting, while trying to ignore the scorching temperatures outside. I *almost* wanted to reach for a scarf. K.J. Charles was that convincing in her narrative. (Maybe her next story will take place on a cruise ship in the Arctic - please.)

Sins of the Cities is K.J. Charles's newest series. I wasn't a huge fan of the last one (AN UNSEEN ATTRACTION) because something about Rowley's and Clem's stories just rubbed me the wrong way. Their characters felt wooden, the romance felt tepid. I ended up giving the book 3 stars, but it was a generous three that was more of a 2 in fancy dress. Still; I've never found fault with Charles's writing, so when this book went up, I immediately applied for an ARC, hoping the series might be redeemed.

AN UNNATURAL VICE is so much better than AN UNSEEN ATTRACTION. I found both characters fascinating. Nathaniel is a moralistic journalist who is the son of an archbishop. He's is planning on exposing Justin, a cold-reading medium, as a fraud for taking advantage of people's grief for financial gain. This hits him especially hard, for personal reasons due to his own tragic history.

But this being a romance novel, the two of them are basically thrown together when they get involved in matters of inheritance involving the Taillefers (Clem's family, from the previous book), and the ever-thorny problem of murder. Justin has information taken from one of his clients that people are willing to kill for. And since he comes to Nathaniel for help, Nathaniel ends up getting sucked in, too.

AN UNNATURAL VICE had everything that UNSEEN ATTRACTION lacked. Both characters had great chemistry (including one of the best hate-sex scenes I've read in a while), that developed along with their characters as the story went on. Justin starts out as a despicable, selfish, enterprising character, but he's also still very nuanced, so even though I didn't like him at times, I never hated him and it was easy to understand why Nathaniel ended up falling for him when he did.

With such a bright star, it's easy to eclipse the other characters and that's sort of what happened to Nathaniel. He's your typical good-guy hero, marred only his tragic past and a bit of a penchant for rough bed sport (although nothing too spicy - 50 Shades of Gay, this is not). I thought the romance and the mystery were well-integrated, and the author had clearly done her research on cold reading and sleights of hand, which I really enjoyed because I wrote a paper on that very subject in college.

Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Ariana  (mostly offline).
1,345 reviews37 followers
July 13, 2017
Absolutely stunning!

An exceptional enemies to lovers romance.
These two guys REALLY loathe and despise each other when they meet.

Nathaniel is glorious: a man of stature, honest, good, upstanding and gorgeously hairy (sorry, my mind just went off tangent there *G*), and he has barely recovered from the death of his long term lover. He hates what Justin represents: “the exploiter, the liar, cheat, kiter, and fraud”.

The thing is: Justin really is all that. For the first third of the book I couldn’t help despising him, too. The man has no conscience and is by all means a “callous, moneygrabbing liar”. And he is quite happy to identify himself as such without any remorse. The fact that he lacks a “moral or social responsibility” doesn’t bother him.

So why on earth is Nathaniel attracted to the man? How can he square what he knows about the man with what he feels when he sees him?
KJ Charles explores the dilemma of their relationship beautifully, delicately and in heart wrenching depth. (and I just revelled in her beautiful writing!)
Did she succeed in changing my mind about Justin? Of course she did, and in a most brilliant way.

For Justin is “better than what he does”. He has never experienced goodness, has never been granted affection, has only ever known survival. But, like Nathaniel we can see there is so much more under all the layers of cynicism: his dedication for his “familiars”, his weariness at his profession, his deep vulnerability … just - he is “frightened to hope”.

Together, Nathaniel and Justin are explosive – both are determined, strong-willed men, neither easily willing to give in to the other – the way this translates into their love making needs to be seen to behold. Hot! is all I say here.

This absolutely amazing love story between two most unlikely men, combined with the mystery plot continuing from book 1 make An Unnatural Vice a gripping, exciting and totally captivating read. Couldn’t put it down and can’t wait for Pen’s story in book 3!

Highly recommended
Profile Image for Andrea.
882 reviews132 followers
October 31, 2019

Justin and Nathaniel might just have replaced Julius and Harry from A Fashionable Indulgence as my favorite couple. And I love those two idiots to pieces! But these two just resonated with me on a more personal level (mostly because Justin might be even more fucked up than I am, and I could totally emphasize with the poor thing), and oh the feels....

Anyways. This book picks up right where An Unseen Attraction left off (in fact, the beginning of this one takes place at the same time): the Taillefer family is still in shock after the last Earl died, looking for his true heir, and generally being all around unpleasant to poor Clem from book #1. Trying to find the late Earl's first wife's twins is proving very hard for the gang, and things are not made any easier by the appearance of one Justin Lazarus, a medium who goes by the sobriquet "The Seer of London", who was the last to see the Earl's wife before she died. Trying to wheedle some money out of the family in exchange of information, he did not expect to be drawn into the mayhem this case proves to be. He and Nathaniel, who is representing Clem as his lawyer, have their work cut out for them, and try to find the various blackmailers, torturers, and killers who are involved in this case, all the while fighting their unwanted attraction for each other...

I absolutely LOVED Justin and Nathaniel. Both on their own and together. I mean, medium and agnostic lawyer? You can imagine the fighting and the bickering just by that, right? Now multiply that by about a hundred, and you have the most intense and fun rivals-to-lovers story I have ever read.

""You're a rogue." Nathaniel's lips felt stiff. "A rogue, a cheat, and a liar." "I said it before: I'll tell you the truth if you will." ... "Bloody liar," Nathaniel told him hoarsely. Lazarus bent, biting at his ear and neck, making Nathaniel writhe. "You self-righteous piece of shit." Nathaniel grabbed his hair. "Just admit it." "I will if you will." Lazarus's hips ground against his. "Prick."

So yeah. There was hilarious, intense sarcastic bickering (my favorite!). But there was also so much more to these two.
On the one hand you have Nathaniel, son of an archbishop, who lost his faith when he buried his lover. At the beginning of the story, he sets out to write an exposé about mediums and their filthy tricks, appalled by the idea that someone would chose to make a living by lying, cheating, and stealing from the bereaved. He is fascinated by Justin and his tricks very much against his will, and his struggle to decide how to deal with the fact that he is falling in love with someone who basically does everything he detests for a living (and to make that distinction between who Justin is and what he does) was so intense and lovely! I loved seeing him reluctantly accepting his feelings.
And then there's Justin. Oh, my sweet, precious Justin. Born in the gutters and raised by a medium who caught him stealing from him, he has learned the hard way never to rely on anyone, never to accept help, and to always look for strings. Accepting the fact that someone just might love him for who he is proves to be his toughest challenge yet. I loved this prickly little shit to pieces. He was adorable, sarcastic, and so incredibly sweet underneath it. Or, in Nathaniel's words:

Justin was a damaged man, with a tangled mess of pride, ruthlessness, obstinacy, and a resentment grown like brambles around his heart and soul. This would never be easy ... but it would be worth every scratch and gouge for those precious moments when the brambles parted, letting him through.


Where was I going with this again? Oh right. Those two are freaking awesome together. That's all I wanted to say :D

This series is not really my favorite though. I don't really care much for drama (and it takes a very skilled writer to make me not totally hate it, so hats off to Ms. Charles!) and the idea that the drama is stretched out over three books made me very reluctant to pick this up in the beginning. But I shouldn't have worried. If anyone can manage to make me tolerate drama by wrapping it in a wonderful atmosphere, it's this author. I admire her for the way she brings Victorian London to life: just the idea of making one of her heroes a medium (and doing very impressive research!) is such a wonderful change, and. Oh just read it yourself. I seriously need to stop gushing!

So to sum up. Impressive research, a wonderful atmosphere, hilarious and intense bickering, adorable characters... What more could you possibly want?

I'll leave you with one of the many, many, passages I highlighted (seriously, it feels like I highlighted most of the book):

"Justin, I love you. For yourself as you are; for who you once were and who you could be; and because you have much the effect on me of about three stiff drinks, all the time. And I'd count it as a privilege to accompany you along the path you've chosen to walk. To light your way, if you want to call it that, until you realize you're perfectly able to do that yourself."
Profile Image for Sofia.
1,136 reviews192 followers
April 16, 2017

This book is like a Fast and Furious action movie - from the first kick of the ball, the action on the ground moves so fast that I was left breathless at the end whistle. Whilst craving for more as we are now in the middle of the story and I do want to read the end bit yesterday before tomorrow.

A'la Charles this story has become quite intricate, tangles within tangles. I was indeed happy to have deducted a solution to a particular tangle before the reveal. Felt like a feat.

Over all considering the two parts of the story An Unseen Attraction and this one, I like how Charles is building up the story, the different perspectives being given, the different people, the different romances and sincerely hope that the finale will be as good as these two. The story deserves it.

An arc gently given by publisher/author in return for a review.
Profile Image for CrabbyPatty.
1,566 reviews172 followers
May 15, 2017
An Unnatural Vice is the second book in K.J. Charles' Sins of the City series. The two books occur pretty much concurrently and you really need to read An Unseen Attraction first.

Nathaniel Roy is an impressive man - wealthy, handsome, sure of his position in the world and absolute in his convictions. Formerly a lawyer, he is now an investigative reporter and he's got his sights on Justin Lazarus, a despicable low-life spiritualist who calls himself the Seer of London. Nathaniel is confident that Lazarus is nothing but a scam artist ... until he attends a seance and Lazarus gives him the name "Tony" - Nathaniel's beloved gentle merry-hearted partner who died unexpectedly 5 years ago, leaving Nathaniel mired in grief.

Every morning Justin Lazarus awakes - in his own bed, alone and safe - is a luxury. To say he's known hard times is to trivialize his rise from the gutters, solely by the strength of his will and intellect. He's got no sympathy for the gullible sheep who come to him for spiritual guidance "beyond the veil."

Lazarus and Nathaniel despite one another, but their unresolved sexual tension positively electrifies their interactions. And when the men first fuck ("one of the better fucks of the nineteenth century") it's accompanied by endearments such as fraud, prick, bloody liar and "you self-righteous piece of shit."

But soon they are thrust head-first into the Talleyfer inheritance mystery (begun in An Unseen Attraction) and are forced to leave London and hide away in Nathaniel's country estate to escape a truly frightening murderer who cuts off fingers and pulls teeth to get information.

Their interlude away is beautifully nuanced as K.J. Charles slowly reveals Lazarus' background and we begin to see how these two dissimilar men may be perfect for one another. Like its predecessor, An Unnatural Vice solves a bit more of the underlying mystery of the Talleyfer heir, and it appears that the third book in the series (An Unsuitable Heir to be published October 3, 2017) runs concurrently with much of this book.

I think this is the best book of the series so far, I definitely recommend it and can't wait for the final book in the series!

I received an ARC from the Publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Review also posted at Gay Book Reviews - check it out!
Profile Image for Adam.
610 reviews309 followers
June 11, 2017
Group review with Baby and Chelsea

Nathanial Roy and Justin Lazarus are two completely different men. From the moment they meet, they’re at each other’s throats. The mutual dislike is intense. But underneath that, there’s also a strong current of desire.

Most of Nathaniel and Justin’s issues boil down to the fact that they see the world differently. Nathaniel wants justice and order. Justin see life as a jungle - you either eat, or get eaten.

Justin seems cold and aloof at first, but I was immediately drawn to him. Through his POV, readers see that the shell around him is only for protection, and he had very little control over how his life turned out.

Their first few meetings are disasters. I thought they were hilarious. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t want to see two potential lovebirds shoot daggers at one another, but these two so obviously wanted each other, that it was just funny.

And of course, once Justin and Nathaniel finally gave in to what was building between them, they were hawt. Angry sex FTW!


Things are made more difficult when the two MCs are embroiled in the scandal involving bigamy and murder from book 1. Though Nathaniel and Justin are accidental players in the game, I was more entertained by the mystery this time around than I was in book 1.

The twists and turns kept me hooked, and the action scenes kept me on the edge of my seat.

The situation that the MCs find themselves in also forces them to figure out what they really want from each other.

The big stumbling block in the relationship is Justin’s career as a fraudulent spiritualist. Though I understood why Nathaniel had issues with it, I thought he was being deliberately stubborn by refusing to see things from Justin’s point of view.

But my annoyance with Nathaniel was short-lived. Once the two finally decided to be honest and open with each other, and actually talk, it didn’t take long for them to find a way forward.

Overall, I really liked ‘An Unnatural Vice.’ The main characters are complex and interesting, the mystery was engaging, and the romance was angsty but with an excellent happy ending. I’m looking forward to book 3!

Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,375 reviews1,836 followers
June 6, 2017
Justin Lazarus was without a question a disgraceful fraud, but as as his lips moved in silent prayer, Nathaniel could not help the thought that he looked like a glorious fuck.

Now this is the kind of book by Charles I've come to love.

"I wish I could say I was someone else underneath, but I'm not."
"I wish you understood that I don't want someone else."

AN UNNATURAL VICE picks up midway during book one in the Sins of the Cities series. The plot that began in book one is still present in the sequel (and now I understand is what ties the whole series together) and becomes even more complicated but oddly even more fascinating. I didn't find AN UNSEEN ATTRACTION to be very compelling, for which I unfortunately blame the leads, but all those confusing elements -- bigamy, illegitimate heirs, murder, torture -- are still very relevant but also not; they aren't directly tied to the main pairing though they are definitely caught up in it all.

For a man to set himself up as a false prophet and lay claim to more than mortal powers struck Nathaniel as profoundly blasphemous, even though he believed in neither prophets nor powers.

We met Nathaniel in book one, one of the queer men of Clem's acquaintance who frequented the safe establishment set up for those of less acceptable persuasions, but all we knew about him was that he was versed in law, currently employed as a journalist, and had lost his lover a few years back. Well, in book two we discover all that and more as he applies himself to unmask and take down one of the local mediums known as The Seer of London.

It had been child's play to take Nathaniel Roy apart.

Justin Lazarus has been lower than low. He was born in a workhouse, lived in the gutters, did whatever it meant to stay alive, and he's now a successful medium, preying on the rich in cash and guilt but the weak in spirit and sense. Sometimes, too, just the gullible. He makes no excuses, refuses to apologize, and will use whatever edge he can to hook his clients and have them coming back for more.

They came in their dozens, bleating for miracles, so ready to believe that he barely had to work at fooling them. They begged him to help himself to their trust, their secrets, their money. They wanted him to deceive them, so he did, and it served them right. It served them all right.

Nathaniel's investigation into Justin's schemes, however, take a back seat when the inquiry surrounding missing twins, one of whom happens to be legitimate son of the Earl of Moreton, who would be Clem's (book one) cousin, crosses both their paths. Vicious desperate people, looking for a payout, abduct Justin hoping to force his help via the spirits to locate the young man, and after he escapes he can think of only one man to turn to : Nathaniel.

"I would like to know how you knew my name."
"The spirits enlightened me."
"Can you not refrain from this mummery for a single moment, you damned fraud?"
"If I were a fraud I would be very ill advised to let you know it."

The push and pull, the hate and impossible fascination, between these two was everything that I love from this author. She excels at matching up personalities and backgrounds that shouldn't align and yet do.. perfectly. I loved the dialogue surrounding faith and belief, morals and honour, not to mention the dilemma in caring about someone who does things you cannot respect.

"It must be wonderful if you can afford to do the right things. I can't, so I'm going to carry on being petty and contemptible for money."

"Don't try and redeem me. If I wanted someone to make me a better man, I'd find myself a woman."

The evolution of this relationship, of Justin specifically, was wonderful. I loved watching him want, watching him acknowledge what he wanted and know he couldn't have it, his own identity crisis, and I loved the clash that came when he called Nathaniel on his picking and choosing what to like about Justin. I normally have a problem with the fight that breaks up a couple in a romance (not always, but more often than not) and while I wouldn't really call the fight in this story the "break up" it still functioned with the same purpose of identifying the problems and throwing down the gauntlet to finally tackle their issues. And it was perfect.

Justin believed in nothing, cared for nothing, hoped for nothing. He worked alone in an immense starless darkness that made Nathaniel's own loneliness seem trivial, and it was the cruelest irony that he sold hope and belief.

While Charles has given me yet another brilliant hate-to-love pairing, full of layers and angst and real growth, I also discovered a love of the setting in this book. Mostly because we had the contrast of the foggy, dirty, dark London with the bright, clean, country air, and it made London feel like a character in its own right. I love this author's writing, not just for the sexytimes and the complicated characters within the pages, not just for the humour and cleverness, but for how she makes everything feel so present and important. How a clever con-man, used to picking on up clues and noticing how someone takes their tea after only one observation, can walk blindly through a city in a dense fog and know exactly where to go, what turn to take. And, actually, it was exactly at that moment that I knew where Justin's future path would go and I loved that I turned out to be correct in that sense.

"Oh well, no harm done."
"Except that we were nearly murdered. But what's that in the great scheme of things?"

Even though we're very aware of who the missing heirs are, right from the very beginning (and also I think maybe by the end of book one? I've read these too close together to remember), I loved how the mystery and suspense of the story played out. Mostly because of how much bigger things got. And of course we won't see just how far it all actually goes until book three. Which I am so bloody excited for now that we've met the man who will match up with Mark.

"You light things up. It's been so bloody dark and you kept lighting candles until I couldn't blow the damn things out any more, and you keep doing it and you won't stop and.. please don't burn me down."

That being said, I'm not sure how they'll top the princeling and the fraud -- especially after that scene in the last chapter -- but I can't wait to see Charles try and do it anyway.

4.75 "my spirit guide's a fucking tart" stars

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Profile Image for Chelsea.
865 reviews7 followers
October 2, 2017
4 hearts!

Well Nathaniel and Justin couldn't have been more different from Clem and Rowley and as such we got an entirely different type of story! Where Clem and Rowley were all sweet explorations and careful considerations, Nat and Justin were all hateful fucks and shoving their opinions in each other's faces.

When we get down to brass tax, Justin is a liar who literally doesn't give a shit about anyone or anything other than himself and the two girls who live with him. Nathaniel has a very strong moral compass and generally believes he's right about most things. These two clash!...to say the least and you can feel it on page. Their fight, anger and passion towards each other is so obvious it's hard to see how they'll come together… and when they do... Wow.

Anger-fucking at it's finest!

It surprisingly doesn't take too long for Justin to need Nat's help and for Nat to give it freely, which was the last thing Justin expected. They start to get to know each other and it is lovely to see. I think I would've liked more of this scattered throughout the book though. By the time we get to the 'getting deep’ stages of their 'relationship’ it's all in one clump and became a little slow….if it was more evenly spread this would've been a 5 heart read!

The mystery that started in Book 1 continues and develops more. I felt there was definitely more mystery and less relationship in this book compared to the last one, which was also a little downer for me.

This was a great addition to the overall trilogy though and I'm super excited about this new heir and can't wait for book 3!!!!

See the other Unicorns review over in the blog 😁🦄

Profile Image for Laura (thebookcorps).
835 reviews171 followers
August 3, 2017
4.5 stars

Thank you very much to Random House Publishing Group – Loveswept for providing a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Every time I read a new K.J. Charles book I always think she can’t possibly do better than her previous novels, and I am always, happily, proved wrong. An Unnatural Vice was no exception, featuring an insidious murder mystery, a crafty fraudster, a crusading gentleman journalist, and a passionate romance – this book was impossible to put down.

As usual, Charles’ Victorian world-building was true to form and so historically accurate I briefly blacked out from the sheer joy of reading such a factual novel. I love how precise and detailed she is, from the correct usage of slang, to comprehensive research about real-life events, to the inclusion of 18th century magic tricks (that she refuses to explain how they were done, but, whatever). Charles even compiled a mini bibliography at the back of the novel for anyone interested in learning about Victorian mediums and spiritualism, and the terror of the London fog (most of which my knowledge only comes from watching Netflix’s The Crown, so thank you for that).

Justin Lazarus is, hands down, one of my favourite K.J. Charles characters – he is now amongst such greats as my angel Dominic Frey, gruff Silas Mason, foxy David Cyprian, and gentle-giant Richard Vane. Every character Charles brings to life is so distinctively individual. They don’t feel like characters on a page – they feel like real life people. Each one has idiosyncratic personalities that the reader can’t help but fall for. Justin, albeit a pessimistic fraudster who makes a living off the grief of the wealthy, doesn’t believe he is worthy enough of a loving relationship, and doesn’t want to risk anyone seeing ‘behind the veil’ as it were, to who he truly is inside. Despite having an amoral viewpoint of the world, Justin goes through some exquisite growth in the novel and comes to understand that living life with no holds on you is actually no way to live.

Nathaniel is the other protagonist, who we were introduced to in An Unseen Attraction, the first book in the Sins of the Cities trilogy. Nathaniel is still grieving after the death of his lover years ago, and he has invested himself in exposing Justin as a fraud, because the man preys on people at their most vulnerable. Like Justin, Nathaniel goes through wonderful development as he comes to terms with the fact that maybe his moral compass might be a little too inflexible and he has his eyes opened to the realities the London poor actually live through.

I simply adore the enemies-to-lovers trope and have been patiently waiting for K.J. Charles to try her hand at it. Not only do Nathaniel and Justin verbally clash, they come from two completely different worlds: Nathaniel hails from a wealthy gentile family – his father is even an archbishop – while Justin hails from the gutter and has had to experience many horrors just to stay alive. Their fights were suffused with genuine contempt, sexual tension, and seething anger – it was amazing. The two protagonists, despite practically hating each other, also perfectly complimented one another which made for some hot and tense sex scenes, but just as many loving and romantic scenes too.

Like Charles’ incomparable Society of Gentleman series, the Sins of the Cities follows three different couples over three novels, with one plot line interweaving between the books and bringing the characters together. In this series, that plot line is the search for the missing earl who was alluded to in the first novel and Justin and Nathaniel find themselves unwittingly caught up in the search as dangerously unhinged people come to town, believing that Justin, as the Seer of London, can find the missing earl, Repentance Taillefer.

Charles has set up the last novel in the series perfectly, and I am honestly annoyed at how many months stand between me and the answers I desperately need. I can’t wait to learn more about Mark, Nathaniel’s friend, who will be one of the protagonists in An Unsuitable Heir. That’s what I love about K.J. Charles’ books: there’s a books for everyone: whether you’re looking for a sweet, uncomplicated romance (Clem and Rowley, An Unseen Attraction), a devastating love affair (David and Richard, A Gentleman’s Position), or an intense, intellectual meeting of the minds (Dom and Silas, A Seditious Affair), K.J. Charles has it all. I look forward to reading about Mark and Pen in the next novel, and am impressed by Charles’ decision to focus on an amputee as a love interest – I don’t have to tell you how rare it is to read a romance novel where the love interest isn’t ‘tall, dark and handsome.’

An Unnatural Vice is a well-developed, entertaining romance that left me breathless. K.J. Charles has yet to disappoint me and I cannot begin to explain how excited I am for the final novel in the series. Keep these historical romances coming, Charles!
Profile Image for Mel.
648 reviews78 followers
June 6, 2017

He had never in his life been with anyone whose will was as strong as his own. This didn’t feel like a flirtation; it felt like stags circling, antlers ready to clash.

An Unnatural Vice is an enemies-to-lovers story at its best. The animosity in the beginning and the undercurrent of attraction are palpable and believable. Moreover, since we get both point of views of Nathaniel and Justin in this book, we are able to like and understand them both early on, while they are still resenting the hell out of each other.

Their wits and characters clash and it is simply a joy to accompany them through the stages of their relationship. From opposition to careful trust to friendship and love. I respect the author so much for the way she wrote Nathaniel and Justin and how she gave them the perfect story and a perfect solution and ending. The balance between independency, on the one hand, and reliance and support, on the other, is amazingly well done and it is very rewarding to see that Nathaniel and Justin complement each other so well. Their feelings for each other were simply beautiful.

Nathaniel didn’t delude himself. Justin was a damaged man, with a tangled mess of pride, ruthlessness, obstinacy, and resentment grown like brambles around his heart and soul. This would never be easy. But it would never be flat and tedious and deathly either, as life had been for so long. And it would be worth every scratch and gouge for those precious moments when the brambles parted, letting him through.

With these two also comes along sexual tension that is off the charts. Scorching hot. Utterly touching. Mind-blowing.

But their relationship is not all challenge and edges. On the contrary, they learn to work together and they spend a lot of time together in which they talk and get to know each other. There are many tender moments between them as well. But they are never losing their spark. Gosh, I think I could go on and on about it, I loved this so much.

The language, setting, and secondary characters are, as always with K.J. Charles, also really well done. Time and place come alive on the page and I want to give a special shout out to the London fog in this case. It was woven into the story amazingly well.

The relationship between Nathaniel and Justin already left me with no boring minute. Add to this the mystery and suspense surrounding the heritage of the earldom with it’s (hidden) players and dangers and you have a thrilling story that will leave you breathless and loath every break you have to take in between. But I want to stress that it’s not a hectic or pressing read. You still have the time to enjoy the details on the way.

I was, however, not surprised by who the lost heir is. I dunno whether I was just surprisingly brilliant or whether it’s actually quite obvious. I’m curious about what other readers have to say on this. But having an idea about it early on, did not take away from my enjoyment in any way, since it’s less about the mystery of who and more about the finding him and not getting killed in the meantime.

An Unnatural Vice resolves the next story arc in the broader scheme of the series satisfactorily, so there is no cliffhanger, but it also sets up the third and last book, which I am very curious about now. Very. I want to read it now. Please and thank you.

The only tiny niggle I have about this book is that I thought the séance scenes in the beginning of the book were a bit too long. But this spiritualist part of the story – Justin’s shady profession of being the Seer of London – was actually really interesting to read about.

I don’t think you can read this book on its own. If you’re considering reading the series, you have to start in the beginning, which, really, is no hardship because An Unseen Attraction is awesome as well. So do yourself a favour and try out this wonderful historical romance series.
Genre: Historical, Romance, Mystery, Suspense
Tags: M/M Pairing, Bisexual Character, Gay Character, Enemies to Lovers, Spiritualism, Class Differencec
Content Warnings: Murder (Off-Page), Mention of Past Suicide Attempt, Mention of Past Abuse
Rating: 5 stars
Blog: Review for Just Love
Disclosure: ARC for Review
Profile Image for Mandi.
2,299 reviews722 followers
June 13, 2017
Favorite Quote: "You - are the worst man - I have ever met."

Lazarus's teeth scraped his shoulder. "And yet here you are, under me...."

Guys, there is hot hate sex in this book. Do I need to say more?

The Seer of London, Justin Lazarus, makes a living calling spirits from beyond the veil, gladly taking people's money to tell them what they want to hear from their deceased loved ones. Can he really talk to spirits? No, but he doesn't feel bad about making a living deceiving people. Justin grew up poor, only recently having enough money to sleep in a clean bed all by himself. With the help of some few trusted staff, he puts on quite the show to convince people he is the real deal.

Nathaniel Roy is a journalist determined to expose this fraud. Once a lawyer, Nathaniel had his sights set on figuring out just how Justin puts out the candle flames without a breeze and makes instruments play and the table shake. After attending one of his spiritual readings, and after Justin exposes Nathaniel's deepest secrets, he is even more determined to bring this guy down. Nathaniel lost the love of his life after a ceiling tile fell on him. For years Nathaniel has been grieving and lonely. Although he has some friends who have supported him, it's been hard for Nathaniel to move on. But then he meets Justin, and hates him, yet is attracted to him.

Enemies to lovers - yum, yum, yum.

Justin Lazarus was without question a disgraceful fraud, but as his lips moved in silent prayer, Nathaniel could not help the thought that he looked like a glorious fuck. The bad kind, of course; the kind that left a man feeling dirty and ashamed and degraded in his own eyes. The kind Nathaniel had never had in practice, and wouldn't have admitted to imagining, but could see all too clearly. Bending the medium over his own table, holding him down. You want the furniture to move, Mr. Lazarus? That can be arranged.

You go get yourself some hot hate sex Nathaniel! Nathaniel is an atheist, so he doesn't believe in the after life or anything spiritual. Besides his editor wanting this story, once Justin secretly digs into Nathaniel's past, and then brings up his dead lover, this enrages Nathaniel to no end. But a problem comes up that makes them work together. If you read book one, there is an associate of Nathaniel's who is entangled in an inheritance problem and may have a relation who is a possible bigamist. This guy hires Nathaniel for some legal advice and Justin gets pulled into it as he has some secret proof that could get Nathaniel's client justice.  You don't have to read book one necessarily (especially to follow along with the romance) but you may be a tiny bit lost with the mystery/conflict portion of the book.

But who cares about inheritances, and bigamists when we have scenes like this:

"Bloody liar," Nathaniel told him hoarsely.

Lazarus bent, biting at his ear and neck, making Nathaniel writhe. "You self-righteous piece of shit."

Nathaniel grabbed his hair. "Just admit it."

"I will if you will." Lazarus's hips ground against his. "Prick." He plunged his tongue between Nathaniel's lips again, making rasping, incoherent noises as Nathaniel clawed at his back, not caring if he left scratches, wrapping his legs around Lazarus's hips. They were rutting like animals, still half clothed, every bit as much fight as fuck.

Their romance goes from heated enemies to friends to lovers with a nice HEA. I really loved these two together. A fun read.

Grade: B+
Profile Image for Charlotte (Romansdegare).
86 reviews63 followers
October 22, 2022
KJ Charles Backlist Read Part 12

A first-time read for me. I think this might be the most *romantic* of KJ Charles's books? Which I realize is kind of a meaningless term, especially if I'm going to struggle to define it. But despite packing in the plot as always, this book gives the romance so much space to breathe- both in longer sequences where Justin and Nathaniel get away from London and spend days together, and in quiet moments stolen from the plot where they think, and talk, about their own feelings. It means that there's space for sex, and chase sequences, and dramatic rescues, and a bit of murder of course, but also so many moments of quiet domesticity: taking walks and making each other tea, and a tiny moment that stole my entire heart (Nathaniel sees Justin washing his face at the sink and imagines turning him around and kissing him casually, like it was something he did every morning, and ok THAT IS THE DEFINITION OF ROMANCE TO ME).

I mentioned in my last review that I liked how An Unseen Attraction showed the characters' bond in how they appreciated each other's competency at often-denigrated jobs, and I loved equally how this book turned that inside out, and made Nathaniel's discomfort at Justin's work a believable source of conflict. I wouldn't have minded if the book leaned a bit more explicitly into the element of class there - especially against the backdrop of Justin and Nathaniel trying to prove whether a poor runaway is actually an earl - but then again, I wouldn't have taken anything away from the pacing of the romantic storyline. And I appreciate a book that lets me do some of that thinking on my own. There's so much below the surface of this book, and I enjoyed it both reading about it and thinking through it all immensely.

Favorite quote: "Look, there's a thing I trot out in seances to sound meaningful: 'One candle can light a room, or burn down a city.'" He pulled away enough to look into Nathaniel's face. "Well, you light things up. It's been so bloody dark and you kept lighting candles until I couldn't blow the damn things out any more, and you keep doing it and you won't stop, and..." He swallowed; forced the words out. "Please don't burn me down"
Profile Image for Dianne.
6,765 reviews584 followers
April 27, 2017
He was a journalist on a quest to uncover charlatans exploiting the grief and pocketbooks of those who have lost loved ones. His number one target is the Seer of London, Justin Lazarus, but Nathaniel Roy had no idea what he would discover when he went undercover.

These two “enemies” would find themselves wrapped up in aristocratic intrigue where no one can be trusted, except each other, but will their growing feelings cloud their judgement? What really goes on behind the London fog?

Set in Victorian London, AN UNNATURAL VICE is a thriller mystery wrapped around an unlikely M/M love affair between two men initially determined to undermine each other. K.J. Charles knows how to keep a tale dark, weighted with rich details and an atmosphere of shrouded mystery. This is not a fast-paced tale, and at times seems to lag along a little, but definitely has that historical feel on the streets of London.

I received an ARC edition from Loveswept in exchange for my honest and voluntary review.

Series: Sins of the Cities - Book 2
Publisher: Loveswept (June 6, 2017)
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Genre: Historical M/M Romance
Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
For Reviews & More: http://tometender.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Alisa.
1,768 reviews174 followers
June 17, 2017
4.5 stars

Oohh.....I really liked this enemies to lovers story. The story starts with Nathaniel investigating Justin's psychic business. Nathaniel's convinced Justin and all others like him are just out to scam people and he despises how they use people's vulnerabilities against them. Unfortunately for Nathaniel he has a pretty serious vulnerability himself. He desperately misses his deceased partner and there is a part of him that wants Justin to be legitimate.

Justin is not legitimate. Justin is a cold-hearted scammer through and through. I was a bit taken aback by him at first and for the first few chapters I was wondering how the author was going to redeem him. He was not a super likable character. (spoiler alert.....she totally does)

But this is where the author weaves her magic. She knocks the hurt/comfort trope out of the ballpark time and time again in her books and this is a great example. The two men are thrown together due to fallout from the mystery in book one. A series of events finds them stuck with each other and they slowly begin to tolerate one another. They are extremely sexually attracted to each other but neither really likes the other one. As they get to know each other though that beings to change and they begin to fall for each other. It's a rough road though. Justin has been through a lot of bad things and his lifestyle choices are complicated. Nathaniel knows what it's like to be in a good relationship and he wants that again but he's just not sure he can overlook Justin's career.

This was one of my favorite books by this author. It was fast paced and entertaining and oh so filled with feelz. I loved these two together, whether they were fighting, having hate sex, trying to solve the mystery or whispering words of love to each other. It was all good. Really good.

**ARC provided through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review**
Profile Image for Caz.
2,647 reviews1,002 followers
July 13, 2017
I've given this an A- for narration and an A for content at AudioGals

An Unnatural Vice is the second book in K.J. Charles’ Sins of the Cities series, a trilogy set in late Victorian London which revolves around the search for the missing heir to an earldom. Each book features one central couple whose romance is complete by the end, but the overarching story of blackmail, bigamy and murder is carried through each one, so while it’s possible to enjoy the books on their own, I’d recommend starting with book one, An Unseen Attractionto get the best out of the series.

Almost six years earlier, Nathaniel Roy lost the love of his life in a freak accident. Since then – and with the loving support of a number of good friends who include Clem Tallyfer (main protagonist of An Unseen Attraction), he’s put the pieces of his life back together, and channels his focus into his career as a journalist, dedicated to exposing the plight of the poor and shedding light on the shady practices of big business. Emotionally, however, he is frozen, still mourning his sunny-natured, gentle lover and has never, in the years since Tony’s death, felt attraction or desire for another man.

Until the night he sets eyes on Justin Lazarus for the first time.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals
Profile Image for Bubu.
315 reviews326 followers
May 3, 2018
The enemies-to-lovers trope is my least liked one. But 0h look at my favourite shelf or my 5-star-shelf. I see lots of books with that trope.

If written as beautifully as in An Unnatural Vice, if executed as perfectly, if as atmospheric as it is here, the enemies-to-lovers trope delivers the most delicious and fun books, with the bonus of in-depth characterisation, too. And, oh wow, does An Unnatural Vice deliver.

I'll say this again and again. There's a reason why I'm letting months pass with a lot of mediocre to frustrating books; why I don't want to burn through K.J. Charles's books: There are simply not enough authors of her calibre in my favourite sub genre.

I have yet to read a book of hers that doesn't almost pulverise most of the HR's being currently published.

I could write more now, I could go into the plot, into her characters, which I strangely ever do with with K.J. Charles's books. But what's the point? I may as well link to the many disappointing HR's I have reviewed, especially in the last year and some of them from my favourite authors as well, and say 'See? Everything I'm complaining about here, is done perfectly in An Unnatural Vice.'

So yeah, if I keep it up like this, it's probably going to be November when I pick up the third in the series. And I'm fine with it, too. I'm just happy that I have something to look forward to.
Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 73 books2,498 followers
June 8, 2017
This is another enjoyable historical series from K.J. Charles, this book with an enemies-to-lovers theme, where the first was sweet friends-to-lovers. This second book picks up the threads of the ongoing mystery from the first, so they should be read in order, despite featuring a new couple.

I really enjoyed Justin, a man making a living by his wits and the skill of his hands as a fake-medium. He lives by taking coin from the gullible for a mystic performance of spirits and contact with the dead. Justin has an underlying distaste for what he does, but he covers it with the pain of his abused and street-alley poor background. No one helped him, no one cared for what he went through, and if he now uses the grief and hope of people with money to enrich himself, it's their fault for being stupid enough to believe. He mentors three youngsters, two of them pre-teen girls, and knows that their choices without his help would be prostitution, drudgery, or starvation. What matters a little fleecing of ignorant, prosperous folk, in exchange for the girls' safety?

Nathaniel is a man deeply torn. On the one hand, he hates fakery, hates those who dupe good people out of their money, especially by emotional means. On the other hand, he still misses his lover Tony so much he can't move on, and the thought that maybe, just maybe there's a real medium out there who could cross the veil and get him the goodbye he never said is a burning coal in his gut. He hates himself for being stupid enough to keep hoping. Which isn't enough to stop him. And Justin, who is clearly fake, who must be fake, cannot possibly be real, knows things no one should know about Nate and Tony.

These two men clash, each a possible threat to the other, each attracted without wanting to be. Then the events of the missing heir, and murder, conspire to bring them together.

Charles writes angry sex and attraction very well. I believed that these two might come together that way, in need long denied, and the quasi-safety of mutually assured destruction. Justin was an excellent character, his motivations clear, and his changes believable. Nate was a bit more passive than I expected for his own character, and I couldn't quite reconcile some of his choices. It left this pairing feeling a little unbalanced to me, with the weight of money having to be on the scales to help Nate out. But his angst over being drawn to a man he did not fully respect was well done.

The mystery moves a big step toward clarity, but the next layer remains to be revealed in the next book. I look forward to that one.
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