Susan Lazarus trusts very few people, and that has served her well in life as first an abandoned street rat, then as a con artist and now as a private enquiry agent. Templeton was once in her trusted inner circle, her teenage misfit confidant and then first love, but when it mattered most he seemingly failed her. Susan rebuilt her defenses, found love again and when they finally crossed paths all she wanted was to thwart his criminal ways. But when he is framed for murder, she is the only one capable of unraveling the truth and clearing his name.
Charles crafts an intriguing mystery and an even more fascinating relationship dynamic between former best friends and lovers, whose reunion is under the greatest of pressure. Betrayals true and imagined, miscommunications, disinformation and misunderstanding all must be untangled before Sukie and James can contemplate starting again. Charles is artful in the ways they rediscover parts of themselves they had forgotten about and uncover the ways they have been changed by life and loss. The tension of missing, regretting and reexamining are perfectly balanced by the sharp mutual recognition, pining, and playful attraction Lazarus and Templeton share. Their shared thrill in outsmarting and out-conning adversaries and their piercing observational skills and insight make them a formidable team, especially as James finally learns to trust and do what Susan needs him to do. I particularly loved the light femdom implied in Susan and James’s sexual encounters, as he thrills in doing just what she asks of him and Susan finds comfort in controlling and demanding him intimately.
This novel has tons of Easter eggs for fans of KJ Charles’s Sins of the City and Society of Gentlemen series, as generations of queer found family have left their loving mark on Susan and James. However whether readers are brand new to Charles’ novels or longtime fans, they will find something to treasure in Gilded Cage.
Content Warnings: Murder, mention of past miscarriage, past trauma: abandonment, kidnapping, emotional and physical abuse
Ana received a digital copy of this book from the author for review.