Friday, 3 July 2020

#CBR12 Book 32: "Any Old Diamonds" by K.J. Charles

Page count: 320 pages
Rating: 4 stars

#CBR12Bingo: Money!

Official book description (because I'm still reviewing books I read three months ago): Lord Alexander Pyne-ffoulkes, the younger son of the Duke of Ilvar, holds 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.

Despite owning several of them, and having even more of them on my TBR list (because they are seemingly universally loved among the various romance reviewers I follow, not to mention several fellow Cannonballers whose opinions I trust), I have actually only read one single novel by K.J. Charles, The Magpie Lord, back in 2016 when it was a book club pick for Vaginal Fantasy. Back in April, this fit with one of my other reading challenges, and now, with the launch of the third Cannonball Bingo, my massive review backlog is suddenly rather useful, as quite a few of the books I've read, yet sadly not had time to write about yet, during the past quarter of a year can be used to tick off squares on the Bingo Card.

But Malin, what did you think about the book? This book has an average rating of 4.32 on Goodreads, and unlike some books, where that number is utterly baffling, in this case, it's very deserved. This is a very enjoyable read, and while it seems like a fairly straight-forward story where a well-born, somewhat naive young man is forced to rely on unscrupulous and devious criminals in order to enact revenge on his unfeeling father, the plot proves to be a lot more delightfully twisty than it first appears. I don't want to dwell on the way in which the narrative diverged from my expectations, as that would obviously be spoilery, just be aware that this is not necessarily the book it seems to be at the beginning.

I think The Magpie Lord is one of Charles' early novels, and while I liked it fine, her writing seems a lot more sophisticated and developed now. The plot is tight, the characters are all complex and interesting, the villains of the story are utterly loathsome (seriously, just when you think there is no way they could actually be as bad as they seem, something happens and they somehow sink to even further lows) and the romance, which seems a bit unbalanced to begin with develops seamlessly as the plot unfurls and we get to know Alec and Jerry better.

I'm a huge fan of a heist story, and if you can throw in a good romance at the same time, so much the better. This was exactly what I needed from a book when I read it, and I'm going to have to make sure it doesn't take me five years before I read any more from K.J. Charles.

Judging a book by its cover: I really like the covers for these books, looking like old theatre posters or the like. The two men appear to match the descriptions of Lord Alexander and Jerry Crozier well. I also like that the cover hints at the romance between the characters without being too obvious.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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