Lord Alexander Pyne-ffoulkes and his siblings are estranged from his father, the Duke of Ilvar, in favor of his second wife. The Duchess is cruel, haughty, and completely intolerant of Alec and his siblings and the Duke’s deference to her at the expense of his children has led to a frosty relationship among them all. Alec blames his father for his mother’s death and has never forgiven his father’s apathy when Alec’s sister lay dying. So, in order to get a bit of vengeance, Alec decides to hire jewel thieves to steal a priceless diamond jewelry set that the Duke intends to give to his wife.
Alec hires Jerry Crozier and Templeton Lane, aka the Lilywhite Boys, to break into the Duke’s safe and steal the diamonds. The only way to get access to the home, however, is for them to be invited to a house party at the estate, with Jerry posing as a friend of Alec’s. This means the men must not only maneuver to get Alec back in his father’s good graces, but also convince him to invite Jerry along to the party.
As the men spend time together, establishing their friendship publicly and planning the theft, they also begin to build a sexual relationship as well. Jerry has a way of teasing out Alec’s hidden sexual desires and is eager to fulfill them. Alec knows giving his heart to Jerry is a bad bet; the man is an unrepentant thief and liar. Yet that doesn’t stop the connection the men feel for one another. But they are facing a complicated plot in order to steal the jewels, one that becomes even more complex and filled with deceit and treachery as they get closer to their goal. Now the men must figure out if they can make it through without ending up in jail, and just maybe with a relationship between them as well.
Any Old Diamonds is the first book in K.J. Charles’ new Lilywhite Boys series, and I am of the mind that any new book from Charles is cause for celebration. The author has a way of creating such layered, well-developed characters and really exploring their motivations and what makes them who they are. The dynamic between Alec and Jerry is particularly fascinating. Jerry, for all that he lives on the wrong side of the law, really sees Alec in a way that few others do. And even more, helps Alec to see himself and really understand what he wants and reach for it. The dynamic between these guys is so engaging and I loved watching them fall for one another, even as they think a relationship is impossible. We do get a happy ending for them, though I would have a loved a bit more detail into how their lives will play out going forward. But I very much enjoyed the dynamic between the men and once again Charles has built some really rich and engaging characters.
The story focuses on the long game — the set up for their friendship, the plan to get back in the Duke’s good graces, and, ultimately, the attempt to steal the jewels. There are lots of great twists and turns, along with one huge, shocking surprise, and it really kept me guessing as to how it would all play out. Even as we know what the men are trying to achieve, figuring out exactly how they will make it all work is part of the fun. I will say that this is not a “heist caper” kind of story, despite the premise. While the jewel theft is the driving force behind the story and we do see it play out, in some ways it is almost incidental to the plot. This isn’t a knock on the book in any way, but I mention it to clarify expectations. I thought we would see more of the details of the planning, as well as the theft being carried out, and while we do get the general outline of the crime, much of it takes place off page. So again, not a negative about the book, but just something to clarify.
On a fun note, this book also connects back to Charles’ Sins of the City series, and it takes place about 20 years later. Some of those characters appear here in cameos, as well as one who shows up as a prominent side character (who I don’t want to give away). For example, the Countess of Moreton appears here, along with her daughter, and we get word of what is happening now with Justin Lazarus. So if you haven’t read that series, it won’t affect your enjoyment here at all. But if you are a fan as I am, they are fun little tidbits dropped in about old friends.
Overall, I really enjoyed this one and found Alec and Jerry such great characters. I am really looking forward to following along with the series.