THE GENTLEMAN JEWEL THIEF (The Hope Diamond Trilogy #1) by Jessica Peterson

In an era when ladies were demure and men courtly, one priceless treasure set England ablaze and incited unimaginable scandal and passion—the Hope Diamond.

Heir to an impressive title and fortune, Lord William Townshend, Earl of Harclay, is among the most disreputable rakes in England. Desperately bored by dull heiresses and tedious soirees, he seeks new excitement—with a dangerous scheme to steal the world’s most legendary gemstone from its owner, Thomas Hope. To his surprise, however, it’s not the robbery that sets his blood burning but the alluring lady from whom he pilfers the gem.

A string of bad luck has left the fate of Lady Violet Rutledge’s estate entirely in Hope’s scheming hands. So when his prized jewel disappears from around her neck, she has no choice but to track down the villain responsible for the theft. Only Harclay has his sights set on taking more from her than the necklace—and she’s tempted to surrender anything he desires…

Now, caught in a thrilling game of secrecy and seduction, Violet must find a way to protect her fortune—and her heart—before she loses both forever.

I have a love-hate relationship with The Gentleman Jewel Thief.  Actually, I have a love-hate relationship with William, the hero of the story.  William is the Earl of Harclay, and he is already in possession of a sizeable fortune, so when he decides to steal the French Blue, a jewel currently in the possession of Mr. Hope, I had to shake my head.  Hope is a banker, and in addition to holding the jewel, he also holds most of William’s fortune in his company.  Oh, dear!  William doesn’t quite understand that stealing from Hope is like taking a big, nasty bite out of the hand that feeds him, but he’s going to learn that the hard way,  while almost ruining Violet’s family in the process.  Usually it’s the heroine lacking in common sense.  This time around, it’s strictly the hero who needed a reality check, because his actions cause most of the bad things that happen to just about everyone in the book!

Lady Violet is struggling to provide for her family. Her father is suffering from senility issues, and most of the family fortune has been squandered away.  Violet has invested a sum in Hope’s bank, and when the jewel is stolen, literally from around her neck, she is desperate to find it.  She knows what William has overlooked – the diamond was snatched from Hope’s own home, during a ball, with hundreds of witnesses.  If Hope can’t even protect his diamond, how is he going to protect all of the money invested in his bank?  Violet watches helplessly as the shares she owns dwindle in value, causing her no end of stress.  How will she feed her family if she loses her little nest egg?

William’s wealth and good looks get him everything he could ever want.  Jaded and bored, he lives for the next big thrill.  Discovering that Hope will be displaying his new prize at his ball, William immediately sets his sights on it.  He’ll steal the jewel out from everyone’s noses, revel in possessing it, and quietly return it when the ruckus dies down.  Only it never dies down.  I didn’t understand this guy.  He likes Hope, entrusts him with his fortune, and he’s going to steal from the man?  He’s going to embarrass and humiliate a man he respects so he can titillate himself?  To dig his own grave even deeper, he backs out on a deal he made with a group of petty criminals, cheating them out of the money he agreed to pay them, and putting poor Violet in even more danger.  

My whole problem with William was his lack of maturity, and I thought it took far too long for him to grow up and change his selfish ways. I was worried that he would never get a clue, and that really frustrated me.

Violet makes up for some of William’s shortcomings.  She’s intelligent, witty, and more than a match for William.  She can hold her liquor, beat anyone at cards, and she never, ever swoons.  She even does an admiral job protecting herself against the thugs William set on her tail with his ill-thought out plan to steal the diamond.  She’s responsible, cares for her family, but harbors a hidden desire for excitement unbecoming of a woman of her station.  William brings out the bad in her, and she loves every minute of it, until she realizes that he’s going to ruin her family and cause her to lose everything she possesses.  I wouldn’t have cared how good looking and dashing William was; my impression for most of the book was that he was a cad and it was so hard for me to like him.

The scheme they concoct to retrieve the diamond is difficult to take seriously.  Maybe that’s why I left the story with such mixed feelings. This is like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – the action is so over the top that it’s hard to care about what happens next because you are so busy rolling your eyes as one unlikely, jam-packed action scene after another fill the pages.  There are duels, jewel thefts, kidnappings, ill-fated druggings, very large goons,  fat French royalty, multiple instances of upchucking, and ships set ablaze.  The action was too much for me to find believable.

There were things I really enjoyed about this book.  I enjoyed the banter between Violet and William, as well as the supporting characters.  For me, the middle of the story was the most engaging.  I liked the courtship when William wasn’t being thoughtless.  I just wish he had taken ownership of his poor decisions, and realized the misery and anxiety that he created for Violet far sooner than he ultimately did.

Julie has been blogging at Manga Maniac Cafe for over ten years, sharing thoughts on all genres of fiction.  You can learn more about her at www.mangamaniaccafe.com, or please follow her on Twitter @mangamaniac

 The Gentleman Jewel Thief (The Hope Diamond Trilogy #1) by Jessica Peterson/Berkley/July 1

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