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Cover of Any Old Diamonds

Lord Alexander Pyne-ffoulkes is the younger son of the Duke of Ilvar, with a bitter grudge against his wealthy father. The Duke intends to give his Duchess a priceless diamond parure on their wedding anniversary—so Alec hires a pair of jewel thieves to steal it.

The Duke's remote castle is a difficult target, and Alec needs a way to get the thieves in. Soldier-turned-criminal Jerry Crozier has the answer: he'll pose as a Society gentleman and become Alec's new best friend.

But Jerry is a dangerous man: controlling, remote, and devastating. He effortlessly teases out the lonely young nobleman’s most secret desires, and soon he’s got Alec in his bed—and the palm of his hand.

Or maybe not. Because as the plot thickens, betrayals, secrets, new loves, and old evils come to light. Now the jewel thief and the aristocrat must keep up the pretence, find their way through a maze of privilege and deceit, and confront the truth of what's between them...all without getting caught.

Alec Pyne is the cast-off son of a duke, who hires a pair of jewel thieves to rob his father in revenge. Cue constant threats of betrayal, unexpected feelings, and HEISTS. Oh, and as you may have noticed when I squeaked about this before, I really liked it. It has possibly knocked Spectred Isle off its spot as my favourite KJ Charles book, which em>seriously takes some doing.

Any Old Diamonds is set twenty years after the events of of the Sins of the Cities trilogy, and about seventy years after the events of the Society of Gentlemen trilogy. Did you know those two series took place in the same version of London? I didn’t either! But there were cameos and references that made me clap like a seal when I saw them, and I was delighted to see the female characters being carried forward, because I honestly wanted to see who they became! (Susan Lazarus! If you want the one I really clapped like a seal for, it was her and her entire existence in this story.) The story itself is pretty much fifty-fifty of Jerry steering Alex through a fake friendship (like fake dating but infinitely more confusing in the emotions) and back into his father’s good graces, and the heist itself, which is the best ratio for these things, and about the same proportion of bleak melodrama to slow-building romance.

The feelings are so good in Any Old Diamonds. It doesn’t shy away from the repercussions of trying to resume contact with an abusive family member, not just for Alec himself, but for his siblings as well, and the things that Alex had to put himself through mentally to be able to do that felt horribly realistic. Especially the parts where his father shows the sort of parent he could have been in another lifetime, because KJ Charles depicts Alec’s conflicting emotions and his grief perfectly. Jerry’s reaction to finding out what he’s unintentionally been putting Alec through is exactly what I wanted. Plus, it has my favourite trope of unspoken feelings, where so much of it is communicated through how the characters act instead of what they say! The way that you can see them respecting each other, and Jerry falling in love by degrees without really wanting to is great, as is the way that the entire story hinges on whether or not Alec can trust Jerry at all, and how much of their relationship is actually real or public performance. (Malka Older pointed out that trust is fundamental in both plots and yes! That's it exactly! Especially because by his own admission, Jerry is a terrible human being who should not be trusted! In related news, Any Old Diamonds does a fantastic job of balancing the “Can he be trusted or not?” drama for the audience throughout the book, and balancing Alec’s desire to believe their friendship at least could be real with the knowledge that Jerry is a very dangerous man who is excellent at pretending. ... Basically all that good fake dating nonsense.) The spoken feelings are good too; I was very here for the confrontations, and the way that so much of his family life clicks into place for Alec during the book.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but I will say that it was appropriately twisty and dramatic (we’re talking “Get to the end and then having to go back to the beginning to pick up all the clues” levels of twisty and dramatic), and it has the classic manor house mystery denouement that I am very weak for. The characters are fantastically drawn – especially Alec’s father and step-mother, who are very plausible villains with distressingly realistic attitudes to the people they’ve wronged; and Templeton, who has lines in maybe three scenes in the entire book, but his presence and character come through strongly through the way that he’s spoken of by the people who know him.

The long and the short of it (too late!) is that Any Old Diamonds is excellent, and I wasn't kidding about it knocking Spectred Isle off the top spot in my list of KJ Charles books. It’s incredibly satisfying, and I really need people to read it so that I can yell about it without worrying that I’m spoiling anyone.

[Caution warning: murder, suicide, abusive and neglectful parents/spouses]

[This review is based on an ARC provided by the author.]


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