I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting what I got from this book, and now I can’t believe I haven’t been reading KJ Charles for years. Any Old Diamonds is a fantastic read, part romance, part revenge plot, part heist.
This is a tough book to talk about because it’s almost like a puzzle box. You can almost read it forwards and backwards. That makes it hard to avoid spoilers. Alexander Pyne-ffoulkes is the younger son of the Duke of Ilvar. The Duke is about to gift his second wife with an expensive set of diamonds. Alec wants to steal the diamonds and hires the Lilywhite Boys, Jerry Crozier and Templeton Lane to be his thieves. Why would a son want to steal from his father?
But his father had stolen from him, from all his children. He had stolen their birthright and the lives of luxury a duke’s offspring might expect, and far, far more than that. Alec had no position as a son except on his father’s humiliating terms, which made him feel hot and sick to consider.”
Alec’s desire for revenge and Jerry’s desire for lucre make them uncomfortable allies. Their illicit attraction binds them even tighter and ups the stakes for both of them.
Consider me the antithesis of a Romish priest. I take confession, I keep your silence, but instead of absolution I give you vengeance. That’s what you’re after, isn’t it? Some way to get through the armoury of wealth and title, to hit the Duke where it hurts.”
There is an uncomfortable and dangerous edge to this romance. Charles never portrays Crozier and Lane as thieves with hearts of gold. Alec feels the danger of putting his safety into their hands, and then when he and Jerry begin an affair, it’s hard to tell how much of it is manipulation and how much is genuine. Keeping in mind that homosexuality was illegal in Great Britain sharpens the danger.
This is a romance so there will be at least a Happily for Now if not a Happily Ever After. How Charles takes Alec and Jerry from the first meeting to an HFN/HEA is breathtaking.