Review of KJ Charles' "Wanted: A Gentleman"
This is the fourth or fifth KJ Charles novel I've read and I can honestly say she keeps getting better. When I'm reading a Charles novel, I feel like it's the book equivalent of a finely crafted watch. Her intricate plots are tightly wound and finely constructed, leading to an inevitable and satisfying conclusion that still manages to surprise along the way.
In Wanted, A Gentleman we are introduced to Theo, a down on his luck "scribbler" who plays matchmaker for desperate singles via his London matchmaking tabloid. It's a sad business for a sad man.
Martin, a freed black man, carries a sadness of a different kind. He's no longer a slave and even feels gratitude toward the family that once owned him, but freed him. Wrapped up in that gratitude is a bitterness that colors all else for Martin.
How Charles brings the two men together, tears them apart, then gets them back together (come on, you knew that was coming) is a satisfying tale driven by two very complex men in difficult situations.
There were two things in particular I admired most about WAG. The first is that both of these characters were unlike any others I'd read before. Martin's story of being captured and sold into slavery at age four, how he eventually gained his freedom, and how he still felt shackled nonetheless was utterly fresh and new. And while Theo's sad tale of woe wasn't quite as fresh, his alias as scribbler Dorothea Swann was a a world I'd never read about it.
The second aspect I admired was how Charles handled the issue of Martin's past as a slave. I'm glad the story wasn't about his being a slave and the horrors of slavery. Instead, it showed us a freed black man was able to become successful as England slowly evolved. Nor did Charles shy away from the damage inflicted by slavery, even on someone like Martin who escaped the worst of it. I found it a fresh way to deal with the entire topic.
At 155 pages, the book is a little short, but all that really means is that Charles doesn't waste a single word. All in all, Wanted, a Gentleman is a highly recommended read!