Lilywhite Boys: Any Old Diamonds – K.J. Charles
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.
This is the story of the wicked thief who taught a lord to lie and how the lord undone him with his truths.
Jerry Crozier was all that was advertised and more. Controlling, remote and devastating. He is unapologetic about what or who he is. The man was as compelling as the sweet whisperings of Lucifer. Alec stood no chance of resisting.
Lord Alexander ‘Alec’ Pyne-ffoulkes has the kind of innocence that begs to be ruined. And he was very much willing to be so. His submission belies an inner strength capable of tapping into his baser nature and going against everything he loves just to get revenge. All without losing said innocence at all.
Alec gave Jerry complete control to do whatever he pleases. Jerry is a man who LOVES control. In all fairness, the whole thing was beautifully done. I’m just not a fan of BDSM so the plaything aspect wasn’t something I go for in romance stories.
It started as physical. As the story progressed, we see subtle hints of finer feelings. This was my favorite parts. The gestures were so simple, a tighter grip or a change of breath, and so casually mentioned you’d missed it if you don’t pay attention.
The story focused more on the relationship between the two main characters. The progression was flawless. Jerry taught Alec how to play the long game. All throughout, we see the master thief in control until… he wasn’t. Because Alec SAW him.
I see hints of Gabriel ‘Ash’ Ashleigh (Society of Gentlemen) in Alec. Especially in how his naivety could be so effective in making him the best kind of liar. The kind who tells the truth. This particular characteristic was masterfully put to good use all throughout the book.
The heist plotline, while secondary, was still top notch in its execution. We meet another Lilywhite Boy, Templeton Lane and private detective, Susan Lazarus. Suzy, who we first meet as a child in Sins of the City, is all grown up and ready to kick some ass. She and Temp has some pretty interesting history going on. They have their own book.
The family drama was as sordid as to be expected. According to the author, this was based on a real life couple. And since the author does not write one-dimensional characters, she even made the stepmother and Alec’s father vile yet sympathetic enough to make Alec think twice about his revenge.
The big twist! I totally didn’t see it coming. The author really outdid herself with how this particular scene was written. It was a tricky thing making us see a character from another’s perspective while still writing in the first character’s POV. The result? I was as flabbergasted by the whole thing as Jerry and Temp.
Any Old Diamonds is one of K.J. Charles best written books. The character portraits were some of the best I’ve come across with. It’s very twisty and unpredictable. And so very clever!
The Lilywhite Boys takes place 20 years after Sins of the Cities. It is not necessary to read the earlier series to enjoy this but why miss out on meeting the deliciously devious Justin Lazarus and his friends? Sins of the Cities review here.
K.J. Charles books here.
5 Stars – absolutely perfect
Not Dead Yet – Jenn Burke
Dying isn’t what it used to be.
Wes Cooper was dead. Then he wasn’t—though he’s not exactly alive, either. As an immortal not-ghost, he can transition between this world and the otherplane, which makes him the perfect thief for hire. For seventy years he’s made a “living” returning items to their rightful owners, seeing his fair share of the bizarre in the process. But he’s never witnessed murder. Until now.
His latest mission brings him more than he bargained for: a very-dead actor who is definitely going to stay that way. It’s just Wes’s luck that his ex-boyfriend, Detective Hudson Rojas, is assigned to the case. Hudson broke Wes’s heart years ago—and could again, given he’s rocking a hot silver-fox look that shouldn’t be legal.
As they work together to track down the murderer before anyone else gets hurt, it becomes clear Wes and Hudson have unfinished business. And when a secret Hudson’s been keeping threatens more than just their happiness, it might mean the end of their not-life together—permanently.
This book is approximately 91,000 words
Not Dead Yet by Jenn Burke has one of the most unique premises I’ve encountered for a while, putting a fresh spin on the ghost lover trope.
First, it’s set in Toronto and I can’t even remember the last time I’ve read a book with a Canadian setting. So that’s a big plus. Also, Wesley Cooper is a not-ghost. He’s 110 years old, killed by a lover in 1933 and brought back to life by his lover’s sister who was a witch.
Wes works as a ‘recovery specialist’ aka glorified thief who retrieves certain items per client request. He can become a ghost and go to the other plane at will, which is a very useful ability for his job because ‘no breaking, just entering‘. He has not aged in a century and forever looks in his 20s.
The other MC is Detective Hudson Rojas, Wes’ ex-boyfriend, with whom he parted in not so good terms. They met in the 80s when people were not open to gay relationships especially in the police force. They met again when Wes was involved in a murder case. Hud turned out to be quite the silver fox at 58. Interestingly, he stopped aging in his 30s (he turned grey early) because, well, you’ll see.
These established the backbones of a highly entertaining paranormal mystery. The world-building came naturally. Nothing too complicated on the surface, very magical realism feels. But as I get deeper into the story, it became obvious that there’s more to this than merely witches and ghosts. There’s so many fun things you can do with this set-up and different avenues to explore.
The story is told in Wes’ POV. I loved his ‘voice’. Wes is very open with his feelings. He could be a tad dramatic sometimes but his thoughts never failed to be funny.
Hudson is the opposite of Wes. He’s grumpy and blunt. He was an asshole to Wes many times. As in, downright insulting at some instances. Then just like that, he turns on the charm. The hot and cold treatment should have been a turn off but Jenn Burke pulled it off really well and I can’t even dislike Hudson that much. He had his reasons.
I really enjoyed the slow-burn, second chance romantic subplot. It was integrated nicely to the story. It’s pretty obvious that the spark was still strong which was highlighted by how easily they traded zingers as if they never parted. And since slow-burn is my jam, I get a thrill out of the whole process of catching up, dancing around barely suppressed feelings and hashing it out.
It’s not just the romantic chemistry between them. I liked how the the contract thief and the police detective worked together in the case. Their shared history and complimenting abilities was put to good use in the investigation. Their partnership came together through necessity but they just clicked on many levels.
Very likable supporting cast too, with Lexi, Wesley’s witch bestfriend and the great grandaughter of the witch who brought Wes to life. There’s also Evan, somebody they adopted because Hudson accidentally killed him when Wes appeared out of nowhere. I appreciated the found family thing forming for these people who always end up alone as their loved ones come and go through the decades.
The book also has a good ace rep. Wes is demisexual and Hudson is one of the rare few who did it for him. Appropriately, it’s a low heat book with only one sex scene. Low heat or no heat makes reading more convenient for me because it usually means less pages to skip.
The mystery was a well-written one. For one of his jobs, Wes had to retrieved an item from the house of an actress, only to walk in on her being strangled by a shadowy being. Who suddenly looked directly at Wes while he was still in his ghostly form. That should have been impossible!
Not Dead Yet effectively blended police procedural and paranormal. It kept me engage all throughout the story and kept me in the dark until the big reveal. I had a few suspects but then there were more mysterious agendas from mysterious masterminds in action. And with this, things unraveled fast. The two men were in a whole world of trouble!
The story ended with a great jumping off point for the next book. Wes and Hudson came to an agreement. Major career changes were planned. Something is happening to Wes and he doesn’t know what. I need to find out more ASAP!
Overall, Not Dead Yet is shaping up to be a very promising series. It’s heavy on humor, light on spook, with a just the right balance of romance, mystery and paranormal that really worked for me. Recommended if you like your ghosts sassy, your detectives gruff and your stories twisty.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits