This book was amazing. I loved the first 2 books of the trilogy and this final one lives up to every expectation.
KJ Charles is a masterful writer. Her books always leave me searching for a way to do these review things with some sort of coherence and intelligence, but I'm constantly blown away by the characters, the storytelling, the depth, the authenticity and the atmosphere.
The main characters... Mark and Pen. Another wonderful couple who take a hold of your heart and refuse to let go. Straightforward Mark, the enquiry agent (P.I.) who one of his friends terms a "plain penny" is the very picture of stalwart dependability. He has the challenge of having only one arm, and I'll be honest, I forgot all about it until the few times it was focused on by Pen. There is one scene, early on in the book, where Pen explores the arm that was so touching and honest to God, so sexy that again, I tip my hat to KJ. I liked Mark a whole lot. I liked his sensibility, I liked his fumbling to get the right words out when he didn't want to hurt anyone, I liked his sense of humour and I loved the way he treated Pen.
Pen. Pen is gender fluid and this is not the first time I've come across gender fluid characters, but it's one of the best times. All Pen wants, really, is for people to see him as Pen - and I say him, because he says him - he's not a man, he's not a woman, he's Pen. And I liked him SO much. He's funny, he's sensitive, he's smart, he's not let the shit of his early years make him sad and bitter. And he gave me an insight into understanding gender fluid a little better and that's without KJ having to turn her book into a lecture. And Mark is perfect for him. :) I've seen some say that they felt they needed more about how Pen felt about Mark, but honestly? For me, it was all laid out right there on the page, obvious by their actions and reactions. I didn't need any deep pages long introspection or long drawn-out speeches.
The secondary characters are wonderful as well. Phyllis at the Jack and Knave pub, the servants at the estate, the members of the Taillefer family and of course our old friends, Nathanial, Justin and Clem. (Rowley was very busy with his work, I guess.) And Clem. Damn, I love Clem, he's just so calm and soothing, I was glad to see him again.
And then there's the mystery that has been woven through the trilogy finally coming to a conclusion. And it WORKED! It worked well! I had no idea who the real culprit was until near the end. That's some masterful plotting! And all the while, the Victorian atmosphere of the setting is accurately and interestingly portrayed.
While there wasn't as much of the sexytimes in this book, I felt there was more than enough romance. There was a wealth of feeling and desire in the simplest of touches so I didn't feel short-changed at all. It worked for these characters and it worked for me.
Read the trilogy, it's really fabulous!