Gilded Cage is the second book in KJ Charles’ Lilywhite Boys series of queer Victorian-era mystery/romance novels. If you haven’t read Any Old Diamonds, the first book in the series, I suggest you stop reading because I’m going to be unable to discuss Gilded Cage without revealing spoilers for Any Old Diamonds.
It’s really good- you’ll love it.
Okay, so as you may remember, one of the big revelations in Any Old Diamonds was that detective extraordinaire Susan Lazarus had a pre-existing relationship with master jewel thief Templeton Lane.
Neither of them expected a tender reconciliation; they both expected to go their separate ways with the hope that their paths would never cross again, but circumstances change.
Templeton finds himself alone, friendless, and facing a murder charge, and he has no choice but to beg Susan for help. And Susan doesn’t want to help because she doesn’t want to be caught up as an accessory, but she recognizes some shred of humanity left in the man she knew when he was still a boy. As much as she doesn’t want to turn her heart over to someone who already broke it irreparably, she can’t resist Templeton.
Reconciliation and forgiveness play a big role here; both of them were, in different ways, hurt by events from 17 years ago, and they have carried that hurt with them. It has shaped their characters and affected their decisions. This is why Susan has chosen a vocation which she can help people, and why Templeton steals jewels.
Of course, everything goes back to the jewels, and this is the source of our mystery. It’s really quite satisfying: Templeton arrives to a manor house to steal some opals- his favorite- but when he arrives, someone has already killed the master of the house. The alarm is raised almost as soon as he enters the room, so it’s clear that Templeton has been set up. But by whom? Of course, it doesn’t help that Templeton steals the opals anyway. In for a penny, in for a pound.
It’s fair to say that since there isn’t a long list of suspects, this is not a case of identifying the murderers, but more a case of proving their involvement- and it’s fascinating to see Susan dismantle the treachery bit by bit.
Fans of Charles’ other series will appreciate the connections between two of her previous series- Vane is a pseudonym for Lane- and Templeton is the related to Richard Lane- who played a large role in A Society of Gentlemen. Gilded Cage takes place decades afterwards, but I sighed with delight at the brief mentions of Great Uncle Richard and that valet of his. Susan appeared as a child in An Unnatural Vice, one of the books in the Sins of the Cities series, and she refers to Justin and Nathaniel as “her guvnors”. In both cases, it’s so nice to see that the aforementioned gentlemen truly received their happily ever afters.
I would absolutely recommend Gilded Cage. As I’ve mentioned, readers need to start with Any Old Diamonds; the other series aren’t a prerequisite, readers can always read those books after this one. This is a fun and witty mystery/romance- facing murder charges is serious business, but the narrative was infused with an acerbic wit, making for a lovely reading experience all around.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.