Barb’s rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: The Wagers of Sin #2
Publication Date: 8/28/18
This is a wonderful addition to Linden’s ‘The Wages of Sin’ series. It is intelligently written, uniquely plotted and the characters are all well developed and relatable. We originally met the heroine in the first book of the series, My Once and Future Duke. She is one of the nicest and sweetest heroines I’ve read in a while and I really, really liked her. Her father loves her beyond reason and is obsessed with providing her with the life HE thinks she should have and he’s not above blackmail and deception to see that she gets it. Her father could have easily been the villain of the book given what he did, but our author wrote him beautifully and made him redeemable while leaving his actions unforgivable. While the book is part of a series, you can read it without having read the first book – but I don’t know why in the world you’d ever want to do that – the first book is great too.
Elizabeth (Eliza) Cross’s mother died in childbirth when Eliza was only three years old. From that point on, Eliza was the center of her father’s world. He is a speculator (neither gentry nor aristocrat) and one of the richest men in England. His dream for his sweet baby girl is for her to marry an aristocrat and he will (and does) go to any lengths to make that happen. It doesn’t matter that all Eliza wants is someone who sees her and loves her and not her father’s money. Frankly, she’s given up on finding that and has made herself very happy tending the gardens, helping out in the parish and playing with and loving the dog (Willie) she rescued when he was just a puppy. Eliza is sweet, honest, and open, but she isn’t weak. She knows that she is no great beauty, but she has spent her life trying to become the lady her Papa wants her to be, so she is poised and graceful, but without the arrogance and entitlement that so many young ladies of the ton have. Her father just knows that if any man spent any time around her at all they would fall in love with her — he just has to choose the right man and assure that those two spend time together.
Hugh Deveraux, Earl of Hastings, has had a huge shock. When his father died and Hugh inherited, he discovered that the estate wasn’t just broke, it was 80,000 pounds in debt. Everything was gone – nothing for his sisters’ dowries and nothing for his mother’s jointure. He can’t tell his family that the man they loved, practically worshiped, left them destitute, so he turns to what he is best at to try to keep them afloat – he plays cards at the Vega Club. He’s done pretty well keeping them afloat and managing to pay enough of the debts to keep the creditors at bay. However, now his sister is getting betrothed and he must come up with a dowry for her. Imagine his surprise when Edward Cross makes him an offer that he (literally) cannot refuse. Hugh is to court and then marry Cross’s daughter without her ever finding out about the bargain.
Hugh and Eliza’s first meeting is so delightfully funny. Willie, the dog, is a handful and does not like baths. When Hugh first comes to the Cross’s home Eliza is dressed in an old dress and she’s chasing Willie through the house to dry him after his bath. She literally falls at Hugh’s feet. He is not impressed.
Eliza is surprised and very pleased when her father’s new business partner begins to show up at their home or runs into them at the theater or balls. She is amazed that he seems to like her – to really see who she is. So, when he asks to court her and finally asks her to marry him – she can only shout YES!
I loved watching Hugh and his family come to truly love Eliza – but I always knew it was going to blow up in a big way. Eliza had made a number of comments to Hugh and others about honesty and being honest and forthright, so he knew how she felt about it. He knew he should tell her, but he just couldn’t and then he convinced himself she’d never find out. She did, of course, and in the worst possible way. I love that she was straight-forward and confronted everybody involved and didn’t cut anyone – especially her father — any slack. It is a delightful love story in many ways. So, I hope you’ll read it and enjoy it as much as I did.
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