Series: Lords of Chance, #1
Release Date: April 10, 2018
Giles Langley, Marquess of Bromton aka Spades has learned that his entire existence is a lie. He has been raised to be the Marquess and embodies the role – he is proper, he is pompous, he is entitled and he cannot abide scandal – so learning that the former Marquess is not his father and his now widowed mother has married an artist is enough to drive him to desperation – he has convinced himself that he must right the wrong done to the marquisate – so upon learning that none of his properties are entailed, he searches his family tree and forms a plan. He befriends Percival Stanley, Earl of Markham aka Hearts, a very distant relative – actually the only other male relative in the Langley line – and convinces him to place a wager on a game of vingt-et-in along with his other friends, Lord Rayne aka Diamonds and Lord Farring aka Clubs. Giles has had each man place secret wagers and “fixes” the game so Markham will win – and win he does, all of Giles unentailed property. Markham confronts Giles and tells him he knows he cheated – he refuses to take the winnings, but proposes an alternative – Giles could marry his sister, Katherine.
Katherine’s hopes of a happy life were crushed when Beau Brummell declared her the “Most Unmarriageable Maiden in England” due to two failed betrothals, her first was a love match, but he died before they could marry and the second ran off with his mistress after fighting a duel the day before he was to marry Katherine. She has accepted her lot and cares for her younger sister, Julia and manages Markham’s estate, while she might not be happy, she is content. She does worry what her tarnished reputation will mean to Julia when she has her come out next season, but she hopes the talk will have died down and her perfect behavior will ensure that Julia is successful. She is less than thrilled when Markham sends her a letter saying he is bringing home a guest. She an Julia plan how to get rid of them. But Giles is a man on a mission – marrying Katherine and having an heir, will ensure that Langley blood holds the title. He will marry her.
She is attracted to Giles, but she doesn’t trust him. Why would a man who prides himself on living a scandal free life, want a tarnished spinster? Slowly, they get to know each other and Katherine begins to fall for Giles, but she is sure that once he learns her secret, he will leave. He pushes for them to marry and she tells him to give them two weeks to get to know each other and if at that time he still wants to marry her, she will say yes. Giles is changing, much to his surprise and he is falling for Katherine. He begins to feel guilty about keeping the truth from her, but convinces himself it is a good thing for her, being married to him will improve her social standing and will help her siblings as well. So when she tells him her secret, at first he is taken aback, but he insists that he still wants to marry her and that her past is the past. Katherine is a little surprised that the oh so proper marquess is willing to overlook her past, but she is happy too and agrees to marry him.
He heads off to London to get a special license and decides to visit his mother. When she learns that his is going to marry and hasn’t been honest with Katherine, she warns him that he is making a mistake, but he is still angry with her and says truly awful things to her, so awful she tells him he is no longer welcome to call on her. Ruffled by her words but still set on his plan, he returns to Southford, where he finds Farring and Rayne at the village inn. Farring is happy for him, but Rayne is angry – Giles had a long standing understanding with his sister Clarissa, which he broke off when he learned the truth of his birth, but he never explained why and caused a rift with his friend – He sends them off to the house and tells them that he is just going to freshen up and will meet them later – he then proceeds to get rip roaring drunk with the locals. Katherine was visiting a tenant and slipped into the inn to escape the rain. The innkeeper decides to play matchmaker and sends her up to a room to dry off and then sends up a very drunk Giles. They share a moment of passion and both leave looking forward to their wedding night.
But when tension between Rayne and Giles finally comes to a head and Katherine learns the truth, will there even be a wedding?
This was a fantastic story, well written, flowed great, had probably the most realistic sibling interaction that I have ever read in a book, steamy love scenes, great secondary characters, secrets, some groveling and an ending that gave me goosebumps and made me teary eyed. I have never read this author before, but I am going to check out her backlog and will be looking out for her future books!
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher*