Hello friends! Vera here today, and I’m so darn excited for today’s post. I’ve tried to talk myself out of it multiple times knowing that (1) it would take a shit-load of time to write it, (2) in terms of views, it would likely not do that well. But nonetheless, I was unable to abandon this idea; in fact, I tried working on other posts in the meantime, and I just couldn’t focus on them. So, here I am today, working on this post simply because putting it together will bring me joy, similarly to how reading these books brought me joy.
From the title, you already know that this post will be all about K.J. Charles’ novels, and I’ll be ranking them as I’ve done with a couple of other authors. I always enjoy working on these posts a great deal, and so far I’ve been happy to see that you have also enjoyed reading them. 🥰 I hope the same will be true for this post, as Charles is the first adult romance author I’m dedicating a ranking post to.
You can click on the authors’ names if you want to see my other ranking posts:
Alice Oseman, Fredrik Backman, Emma Mills, and finally, he is a director, not an author, but I also ranked Mike Flanagan works.
Ranking and Reviewing K.J. Charles’s Novels
#13: Spectred Isle
Short Summary: Archaeologist Saul Lazenby has been working for an eccentric elderly man who is dedicated to prove that magic is real. So far, Saul has found no proof of magic whatsoever, however, he starts to experience strange things – and is constantly running into a man who seems connected to it all – at the beginning of the story, making him question if magic might be real after all.
Thoughts: I read Spectred Isle towards the end of my journey through Charles’ novels, and I’m sad to say that it didn’t really work for me. The story was filled with magic and mystery, but the magic system was all over the place. There was so much history and information to cover, and even at the end of the novel, I felt like we weren’t anywhere near to understanding this world. Due to this, the plot was disjointed; after all, I don’t think it’s possible to build a solid fantasy plot when the world underneath said plot is standing on wonky legs. To make matters worse, the cast of the novel – aka the most important part of any book for me – wasn’t anything to write home about either. The protagonists were alright, but nothing more, while the rest of the cast was completely forgettable. All that is to say that Spectred Isle is easily my lease favorite novel by K.J. Charles.
#12: The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal
Short Summary: Unlike K.J. Charles’ other novel, The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal is not a full novel, but a short story collection. As a whole, the book takes us through the life and adventures of ghost hunter Simon Feximal and his assistant / lover Robert Caldwell, with each story giving us a glimpse into a different case they worked on together.
Thoughts: I’m going to be honest and admit that I expected a little bit more from The Casebook of Simon Feximal than what I got, but I learnt to appreciate the book for what it is as I was reading it. Being a short story collection, it’s quite natural that some of the stories worked a bit better for me than others, so it took me some time to get through the whole book. The most interesting thing for me was to follow these two characters for decades of their lives and to see how they changed and developed throughout the years. Having said that, I would have love to see even more character development and would have loved to learn more about some of the recurring cast. A quick note – The Casebook of Simon Feximal is related to Spectred Isle, as the latter features Sam, a boy who, alongside his older sibling, was effectively adopted by Simon and Robert.
#11: Wanted, A Gentleman
Short Summary: Martin is a merchant who finds himself obliged to put a stop to a young heiress’s romantic correspondence in the ‘Matrimonial Advertiser.’ Theo, the editor of said gazette, finds himself mixed up in this business when Martin hires him to help.
Thoughts: As Wanted, A Gentleman is a novella, it isn’t as complex or well-crafted as a full novel, but it’s nonetheless a very-very enjoyable read. The plot lends itself very well for a novella – it isn’t super complex, but it kept me invested all through and I found it to be well-executed. The reason why this wasn’t a five star read for me is the romance. I liked the romance for the most part, but ultimately, I didn’t think there was enough space in the novella to fully develop and resolve the main conflict between the characters. Either way, I really liked this novella and it was a solid four star read.
#10: Unfit to Print
Short Summary: Vikram, a lawyer, is asked to look into a teen boy’s disappearance which leads him to Holywell Street, London’s most notorious address, as well as to an encounter with Gil, a childhood friend he believed to be dead.
Thoughts: Being a novella, Unfit to Print doesn’t have the kind of plot or character / relationship development as K.J. Charles’ full novels do, which is why it occupies a lower place on my list. Unlike with Wanted, A Gentleman, I found the relationship and the romance to be the strongest part of Unfit to Print. I especially liked seeing Vikram and Gil getting reacquainted with each other after years of not seeing each other. The biggest issue I had with the novel was its plot, as the mystery was strangely paced and was solved in a very abrupt way in the end. Nonetheless, this is a really nice read, and I’d gladly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a shorter read.
#9: Band Sinister
Short Summary: Sir Philip Rookwood is a notorious rake whose name everyone knows in the area, including his neighbor, Guy. Enter Guy’s younger sister, Amanda, who, alongside her brother, is forced to recuperate at Rokwood Hall after she suffers an accident that makes it impossible to move her.
Thoughts: I had so much fun reading this novel! Something that is quite wonderful about K.J. Charles is the way she writes her characters – most often, her supporting cast feels just as well-developed and lovable as her main cast. The reason why this novel occupies a lower place on my list is that personally, I was super engrossed in the story at the beginning and then lost interest in it a tiny bit for some reason later on. It didn’t help that, while I liked the protagonists, I loved Amanda’s character the most, so I was a bit bummed we didn’t get to see more of her story and her budding romance.
#8: The Henchmen of Zenda
Short Summary: Jasper, a disgraced British officer, is currently working for Michael, the half-brother to the King of Ruritania, who wants the throne for himself. But when Michael makes his move, things don’t go entirely to plan—and the penalty for treason is death.
Thoughts: And with that, we are in 5 star territory! The Henchmen of Zenda is the only book on this list that I was truly scared I’d dislike. Not only does it take place in a medieval-esque kingdom, but K.J. Charles made it clear in her goodreads ‘review’ that it doesn’t have a typical romance HEA. All that is to say that it didn’t sound like my kind of book at all. However, I was very pleasantly surprised by The Henchmen of Zenda and ended up having an absolute blast reading it. It’s told in first person point of view, which is incredibly rare for Charles, and it has a superb narrator who tells his story in a really entertaining way. As for the ending, I thought it was fitting for the characters, which is something I appreciated more than I thought I would.
#7: The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting
Short Summary: Siblings Robin and Marianne are the hit of the London season… until Robin sets his sight on John Hartlebury’s heiress niece. Convinced that Robin is a fortune hunter, Hart is ready to protect his niece at any price.
Thoughts: The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting is a delightful historical romance novel with a bit of an enemies to lovers dynamic between Hart and Robin. At the same time, the novel is also about family and (maybe less so) friendship and of the different ways people show they care about each other. I loved every single moment of this novel, and the only reason it isn’t higher on my list is that the rest of the books are all apart of series, so obviously, there was more space for character and relationship development in those.
#6: Proper English and Think of England
Short Summary: Proper English and Think of England can be read as standalones, but as Proper English takes place before Think of England, I recommend reading them in that order. Both novels take place at house parties and both deal with mysteries.
Thoughts: I said above that we are in 5 star territory, but I wasn’t completely honest – I rated Proper English four stars, because as much as I loved Pat and Fenella, the mystery felt very lackluster. In a big part because it started off when we were about 40% into the novel, if I remember correctly, but also because it just wasn’t particularly intriguing. The romance, however, was A+, so the four stars are well-deserved. Think of England also has a stellar romance, and it also happens to have a really engaging plot, which gets quite dark at multiple points. A cool thing about Think of England is that Pat and Fenella appear it in as a couple, and I always love seeing previous main characters through other people’s eyes.
#5: A Charm of Magpies (and Its Spin-Offs)
Short Summary: The first book in the series, The Magpie Lord, follows Lucien who is forced to ask for magical help when he is faced with a supernatural threat. Enter Stephen, a magician who has a good reason to despise Lucien’s family, but who is nonetheless willing to look into Lucien’s case.
Thoughts: I loved the way Charles mixed fantasy, mystery, and romance together in this series, and I was completely invested in each novel. As someone that really enjoys series that follow established couples, I also appreciated seeing Lucien and Stephen’s continuous relationship development in the face of the issues they had to face together. That being said, the best thing about this series is that those who enjoy A Charm of Magpies can move onto Jackdaw, a novel that follows an anti-hero from the third Magpie novel, as well as onto A Queer Trade and Rag and Bone, which follow new characters in the same world. I rated the three novels in the original trilogy five stars, while the three spin-offs received four stars from me.
#4: Lilywhite Boys
Short Summary: The Lilywhite Boys consists of two novels and a novella. The novels follow jewel-thieves Jerry and Templeton, respectively, while the novella follows their associate, Stan. Each story is focused on the romance, but they also contain mystery elements.
Thoughts: As the last series / books I had left from K.J. Charles’ catalogue, the Lilywhite Boys had a lot to live up to… and neither of the books disappointed me! I loved the characters, the romance, as well as the mystery and suspense elements of the books. Something I find really impressive about K.J. Charles is that she always manages to surprise me with her twists, even though I read a lot of mystery and thriller. Having said that, my favorite part of this series is that it provides us glimpses into certain characters’ lives that we’d gotten to know in the Sins of the Cities series. In fact, the heroine of the second book is someone that originally appeared in the aforementioned series as a child. How cool is that!?
#3: The Will Darling Adventures
Short Summary: The Will Darling Adventures follows Will, a veteran who is pleased to have inherited his uncle’s second-hand bookstore… that is, until strange visitors appear at the bookshop and start making threats. Soon, Will finds himself neck-deep in trouble, with his only help being Kim Secretan, a charming man who appeared out of nowhere. The question is, can Will trust Kim? Or is Kim part of this conspiracy too?
Thoughts: I feel like The Will Darling Adventures was the hardest to rank on this list, because the first book, Slippery Creatures, happens to be one of my least favorite K.J. Charles novel. I rated it 3 stars as I felt like the plot was all over the place, and as I didn’t enjoy the romance. The only reason I continued onto the next book was that by this time I’d developed a trust in the author, and I was willing to give another chance to this series. Obviously, I’m happy I did that. I rated the second book 4, the third 5 stars, and overall, I believe this trilogy has one of the best relationship developments that I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend starting your journey through K.J. Charles’ works with this series, but once you tried something else by her, I highly recommend getting to the Will Darling Adventures.
#2: Sins of the Cities
Short Summary: In Sins of the Cities, we follow a different pair of characters in each book, but the underlying mystery of the series continues from book to book. The first book follows lodging-house keeper Clem and his lodger, Rowley.
Thoughts: From where this series is placed in my post, you can already tell how much I adored each novel in it. Granted, my favorite romance series are always the ones where each novel follows a different couple, so I’m sure that has impacted my love for this series, but nonetheless, believe me when I say that Sins of the Cities is fantastic. As I mentioned, each novel follows different characters, however, the whole cast is connected, which means that we get to see the future / previous protagonists in the other characters’ books. The most impressive part of this series is the way it builds the mystery plot throughout the course of its three novels.
#1: The Society of Gentlemen
Short Summary: Similarly to Sins of the Cities, this series follows a different couple in each novel. However, unlike the previous series, The Society of Gentlemen focuses on the romance, and it only has a few mystery / suspense elements.
Thoughts: This was the first series I’d read by K.J. Charles, and it remains my favorite to this day. I loved the way Charles built up the romance between each couple, as well as the friendship between our cast of characters. While each novel has a few mystery elements, it is the third novel that has the most exciting / complex plot, which is excellent, because it closed the series on a high note. If you enjoy historical romance, I recommend starting your journey through Charles’ books with this series.
Have you read any of K.J. Charles’ works? If yes, have you enjoyed them? Who is the last author whose works you flew through or fell in love with? What’s your most recent comfort read?