Published by Avon on February 27th 2018
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
What happens at the infamous Vega Club . . .
Sophie Campbell is determined to be mistress of her own fate. Surviving on her skill at cards, she never risks what she can’t afford to lose. Yet when the Duke of Ware proposes a scandalous wager that’s too extravagant to refuse, she can’t resist. If she wins, she’ll get five thousand pounds, enough to secure her independence forever.
Stays at the Vega Club . . .
Jack Lindeville, Duke of Ware, tells himself he’s at the Vega Club merely to save his reckless brother from losing everything, but he knows it’s a lie. He can’t keep his eyes off Sophie, and to get her he breaks his ironclad rule against gambling. If he wins, he wants her—for a week.
A week with Jack could ruin what’s left of Sophie’s reputation. It might even cost her her heart. But when it comes to love, all bets are off . . .
A whisper went around Mrs. Upton’s Academy for Young Ladies soon after tea. A new student had arrived, and she must be of rare family and fortune. One girl caught a glimpse of the carriage waiting outside, glossy black with an escutcheon on the door, and soon the whispers grew fevered: it must be a duke’s pampered daughter, or even a foreign princess.
They were wrong. Twelve-year-old Sophie Graham was an orphan, and she was the granddaughter of Viscount Makepeace, not a duke or a foreign dignitary. She also wanted nothing to do with him, and the viscount returned the feeling in full. Within a week of her arrival at his gloomy manor in Lincolnshire, he’d declared that she must go to school as soon as possible. Now she stood silently in Mrs. Upton’s office, listening as her grandfather tried to browbeat the headmistress into accepting Sophie.
“The trouble is, my lord, I do not usually accept new students midterm,” Mrs. Upton tried to explain. She was a moderately tall woman, fashionably dressed in subdued colors and devoid of embellishment, and she seemed utterly unafraid of Makepeace. Sophie respected her instinctively for that.
“You must. Her parents died of some gutter-borne fever.” He glared at Sophie, who gazed back without expression. “They left nothing for her, but abandoned her to my charity. She needs feminine influence and proper instruction in some decent trade.”
“Sir, we are an academy for young ladies,” replied Mrs. Upton, laying a delicate stress on the last word. “We do not instruct students in trades, but in fine arts and social graces—“
Makepeace waved this aside. “I don’t care what you teach her. She’s a wild thing, neglected by her no-account parents. I have no use for a hoyden.”
The headmistress glanced at Sophie, who remained still and quiet. She was not a hoyden, and her parents hadn’t neglected her. But she did want very much to be accepted by Mrs. Upton, and so she did not argue with the hateful lies her grandfather was speaking. “My lord, our students come from the finest families in Britain. Our reputation rests on my personal assurance that every young lady here is of the best character and demeanor, in need of the instruction we offer for her future life.”
The viscount barked with angry laughter. “I see your point! My son ran off with an opera singer—French, no less! Is that what you want to know? Good blood never does mix with common stock. Well, the girl is half wild and there’s nothing to be done about it, but she bears my name and that, madam, is superior to whatever standard you maintain.” He glanced around the understated room in obvious disdain. “Your establishment was recommended to me, and I wish to be done with the business as soon as possible. Name your price.”
Mrs. Upton’s face had grown expressionless during his tirade, but now she took another, more measuring look at Sophie. In the end, something—either in Sophie’s expression or in her grandfather’s final words—overcame the headmistress’s doubts. Sophie was sure it was the money. She didn’t blame Mrs. Upton; in fact she hoped the woman extorted an enormous price. Makepeace would pay anything to be rid of her, as she had learned quite explicitly in the three weeks since she’d been left in his care, and she hated him enough to savor him being rooked for every farthing.
“Thirty percent, my lord,” said the headmistress. “For a thirty percent premium on our usual tuition, I believe I can make room for her.”
“Done.” Makepeace reached for his walking stick and heaved himself out of his chair. “Her trunk is outside.”
“Would you care to see the grounds?”
“No.” The viscount led the way to the carriage, where Sophie’s small trunk had already been removed from the boot and left on the gravel drive.
Makepeace yanked on his gloves, his thick white brows bristling in a ferocious scowl. “I’ll pay the tuition until you’re of age,” he growled at Sophie. “Not a moment longer. You’d best try to learn something of value here, for you shan’t be my responsibility.”
“I never asked to be.” She raised her chin and met his stare. “Goodbye.”
Five winners will each receive a paperback set of…
What a Woman Needs and What a Gentleman Wants by Caroline Linden.
~~Reviewed by Tracy~~
The book opens with a 12-year-old Sophie Graham, orphan and granddaughter of Viscount Makepeace being dropped at school. Her grandfather had disowned his son for marrying an opera singer and makes it clear that he wants nothing to do with Sophie, he will pay her tuition until she is of age and then he wants nothing to do with her. Sophie is glad to see him go and intends to excel just to spite him and formulates her “Grand Plan”. She meets her new roommates, Lady Georgiana and Miss Eliza Cross and for the first time in her short life, she has friends.
Twelve years later, Sophie Graham is now Mrs. Campbell, a young widow who gambles at the Vega club. Sophie has a plan – a Grand Plan, after she left school at 18, she became a companion to an elderly Lady Fox, Lady Fox left her a small sum when she passed and Sophie moved from Bath to London, on the way, she invented a past for herself, including a dead husband and she will use her skill at cards to win enough money to either marry or be financially independent. All is going according to plan until Lord Philip Lindeville starts to become a nuisance. He is a charming man but a reckless gambler – he definitely does not fit into Sophie’s plan, but she can’t seem to shake him. She offers to play hazard with him, hoping to have him lose and leave her alone.
Jack Lindeville, Duke of Ware is at the Vega Club to settle his brother’s debts, he is livid and tired of Philip’s careless and recklessness, but Philip has promised to change and stay away from the Vega Club for the next month to prove his intent to change. As Jack is walking out of the club, he spots Philip and sees red, he is gambling with a woman and when Jack sees her, he is immediately struck with the most intense desire he has ever felt. He goes to confront Philip and when the woman intervenes, Jack challenges her to an outrageous wager – 5000 pounds if she wins and her promise to spend a week with Jack if she loses, Sophie is stunned and knows she should walk away, but as she has been winning and Jack has been losing, she takes the bet – and loses. Philip tries to save her, but Jack simply whisks her away.
Jack tells himself he only made the bet to keep Sophie away from Philip, but he doesn’t deny his attraction to her. He takes a protesting Sophie to his country house, Alwyn House, Sophie tries to reason with Jack, she knows her reputation will be irrevocably damaged if she is gone for a week, she swears that she has no designs on Philip and promises to stay away from him if Jack will just take her home. Jack refuses. They go to Alwyn and ended up being trapped there for days because of the weather. At first Sophie is angry and lets Jack know it. For his part, Jack is trying to figure Sophie out, he wonders what her motivation is and if she is looking for a protector.
Once Sophie accepts that she is stuck in the country, she tries to make the best of it, Jack is nothing like what she expected based on Philip’s stories and she finds that she actually likes him and to her horror, desires him. They spend the next few days together getting to know each other and forming a friendship, but the desire is there, simmering like a covered pot. The night before they are to return to London, the pot overflows and they make love. Jack doesn’t want to let her go, but she refuses to be his mistress and he can’t ask her to marry him after only knowing her a few days. She makes him promise to stay away from her and forget they ever had an affair, he agrees. They part and both immediately miss each other. But Sophie cannot afford to engage in an affair, she has a PLAN and being a mistress, no matter how tempting, is not a part of the plan.
They have been apart for five days when Sophie goes to see Jack. Philip is being a problem and she asks Jack to talk to him. Jack is overjoyed to see her and promises to take care of Philip. She thanks him and they kiss, things become heated and would have gone farther if they had not been interrupted by a knock on the door. Sophie leaves and admits to herself that she doesn’t want to be apart from him. Jack feels the same, but will honor his promise to her.
Later that night, they meet again at Vega’s, he is shadowing Philip to keep him away from Sophie, but he all but ignores her. She is grateful, she told everyone that she had been ill and that is why she hadn’t been at the club for a few days, she said that Jack didn’t hold her to the wager and took her home. She knows now that marriage to another man is not an option, but she still has a reputation to uphold. When she is leaving, Jack is leaving too and lets her take the Hackney, he says he will walk. She leaves and sees him walking, she has the driver stop and invites Jack to share the carriage. She then invites him into her house. They embark on an affair. They both know they are falling in love, but neither is sure of the other’s feelings and events in their pasts make them wary. When Sophie tells Eliza what happened with Jack, Eliza urges her to tell him the truth about her past.
Jack has been toying with the idea of marriage to Sophie, he is ready to declare himself when his mother drops a bombshell on him. He knows he loves Sophie, but he needs to sort out this problem before he asks for her hand. Sophie is resolved to tell Jack everything about her past, but is worried that she will lose him. That night when Jack arrives at her house, she tells him everything, including that she loves him. He tells her he doesn’t care about her past, he loves her and wants to marry her.
It seems like smooth sailing to their happily ever after, but jealous brothers, interfering mothers, well-meaning friends, personal insecurities and doubts may end their HEA before it even begins.
I thought this was a wonderful story, full of emotion, secrets, incredibly likeable characters, steamy love scenes, quickly resolved problems and a truly beautiful HEA. I did knock off ½ a star because there is an event in Sophie’s past that I didn’t feel the author fully explained and I wasn’t super jazzed that they made no attempt prevent pregnancy during their affair, which considering how much Sophie valued her reputation, seemed out of character.
I would highly recommend this story and can’t wait to read Eliza and Georgiana’s books!!
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an uncorrected eARC that was provided to me by Edelweiss and the publisher*