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
The Tutor – Bonnie Dee
Gothic romance with a twist.
Elements of The Sound of Music, The Enchanted Garden, Jane Eyre, and “true” ghost hunting shows make this story feel familiar. Gay love makes it unique.
Seeing an ad for a position at a Yorkshire estate, typesetter Graham Cowrie decides to make an upward career move by passing himself off as a tutor. How hard can it be to teach a few subjects to a pair of nine-year-old boys? But on his arrival at the ancient house, he finds the staff creepy, the twins odd, and the widowed master temporarily absent.
His first meeting with brooding, stern, but oh-so-attractive, Sir Richard doesn’t go well, but with no other prospects vying for the teaching position, Graham manages to keep it. His mission soon becomes clear, break down the walls of reserve both father and sons have erected and attempt to bridge the gap between them.
But strange sounds, sights and experiences keep Graham on edge until he finally admits the Hall is haunted by two entities with very different agendas. Graham works to appease one and combat the other while protecting the broken family he’s grown to care for.
This seems like a book where there should be a person on the cover running away from a foreboding manor while looking back. However instead of a woman, it should be that book model above. Rowan Mcallister’s We Met in Dreams had one such cover.
The Tutor is a Gothic novel without the deep, complicated prose of the Gothic classics. It is dark, atmospheric and creepy but the scare factor is blunted by the irreverent humor and blase attitude of the almost always cheery Graham Cowrie. Graham is, in his own words, a jovial, affable person with an active imagination. He really is. He tends to be cheeky even to the ghostly voice of the dead wife, Lavinia, in his head.
He laughs at the face of spirit possession.
Graham, whom I suspect is an atheist, seems to only half believe this ghost business the entire time even when he was looking for ways to exorcise the spirits. I liked this side of him. His personality was what carried the book to the end.
Richard Allinson is a dour, sad man who is terrible at dealing with his traumatized sons. I don’t know what attracted Graham to him other than he is handsome and he pinged on Graham’s gaydar. That and their mutual love of books perhaps. Whatever the case I think Richard and his equally sad sons need a ray of sunshine in their lives and if Graham is it, then who I am to say otherwise. Graham certainly loved playing the coquette with Richard and Richard wasn’t so bad after having all his USTs resolved.
Whitney and Clive are nine-year old twin boys grieving the loss of their mother. Clive does not speak because of the trauma and Whitney is the one who speaks for both of them. At first, they try to drive Graham away with pranks and tricks but Graham won them over with his fun, inventive lessons and masterful story telling. Juggling the responsibilities of tutor, nursemaid and caretaker, Graham tries to keep young active minds occupied, help the boys get over their loss and try to reconcile them with their father. All that is missing in this scenario is a talk about favorite things and making play clothes out of draperies.
Allinson Hall is exactly the kind of house with a name I want to get lost in, minus the malevolent spirit. Can you imagine all the secret places you can discover?! As much a character as a setting, the hall is dark, gloomy and cold and infects its inhabitants with melancholy so profound they kill themselves. It doesn’t help that it rains all the time and nobody seems to have an umbrella.
The resolution was cliche. I keep thinking maybe we will get an ending where all these mysterious happenings would be explained by perfectly logical, non-supernatural means but Bonnie Dee went ahead with the ghosts, evil spirits and Exorcism 101 techniques. Funnily enough, Graham still seems to be taking things a bit too lightly. He really is the best guy to take when exploring haunted houses.
By itself, the story was moderately enjoyable but I could definitely say the experience was made better because of narrator, Ruri Carter, whose dry comments and occasional profanity as heard through Graham’s acquired posh accent seemed funnier than they actually are. When a plummy voice says “fuck”, I imagined this is how William sounds like when he says “Fuck you, Harry! I’m next in line.”
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love