on August 28, 2018
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When you gamble at love...
When Hugh Deveraux discovers his newly inherited earldom is bankrupt, he sets about rebuilding the family fortune—in the gaming hells of London. But the most daring wager he takes isn't at cards. A wealthy tradesman makes a tantalizing offer: marry the man's spinster daughter, and Hugh's debts will be paid and his fortune made. The only catch is that she must never know about their agreement.
You risk losing your heart...
Heiress Eliza Cross has given up hope of marriage until she meets the impossibly handsome Earl of Hastings, her father's new business partner. The earl is everything a gentleman should be, and is boldly attentive to her. It doesn't take long for Eliza to lose her heart and marry him.
But when Eliza discovers that there is more to the man she loves—and to her marriage—her trust is shattered. And it will take all of Hugh's power to prove that now his words of love are real.
~~Reviewed by Tracy~~
Hugh Deveraux, the new Earl of Hastings has a rude awakening after the death of his father, his wonderful father – who was loved and admired by one and all, the estate is bankrupt and there is no provision for his sister’s dowries or his mother’s widow’s portion. Hugh is devastated and determined to set things right without upsetting his grieving family. His options are limited, so he decides to move the family to London and he will gamble to support them until he can find an heiress to marry.
His plan seems to be working, he has been gambling at the Vega Club and has managed to pay back some of the debts and has kept his mother and sisters in the dark about their true circumstances. When a huge loss at the tables brings him to the attention of Edward Cross, Hugh’s life takes a huge detour from his original plans.
Elizabeth “Eliza” Cross is the only child of Edward Cross, she is plain in appearance and shy by nature, content to tend her father’s house, she has given up hope of ever marrying and having a family of her own. But all that changes when Hugh comes to call on her father. She is smitten, but doesn’t believe he will ever notice a mouse like her. But to her surprise, Hugh is kind and attentive to her and when their paths cross more and more, she begins to have hope that he might be interested in her.
Hugh is not happy, Edward Cross bought up most of his debt and has basically blackmailed him into courting his daughter. As much as he would love to tell the man to go to hell, he cannot afford to, especially when his sister’s suitor declares himself and wants to marry quickly. With no money to fund Edith’s dowry, Hugh accepts Edward’s “bargain”. He is delighted to find that Eliza is nothing like her father, yes, she is plain, but she is kind, loving and has a wonderful sense of humor. The more time he spends with her, the more he likes her. His family is not happy with his choice and tries to convince him to stop courting her, but Hugh won’t hear of it and proposes. He has come to truly care for Eliza and wants to marry her, but he also wants to make sure she never learns how the courtship started.
Eliza is deliriously happy, she loves Hugh and is excited to have a family. His family is not exactly welcoming to her and she excuses it by assuming they are keeping their emotions in check as most of society does. Hugh is called away on their wedding night and leaves her alone, she is a little hurt that his family ignores her, but again she makes excuses for them. The next morning, they are cold to her at breakfast and she tries her best to be friendly. Hugh has been dealt a shock, Reggie Benwick, his sister Edith’s betrothed demanded to see him – on his wedding night! Reggie and his father Viscount Livingston demand that he set Eliza aside or Reggie will not marry Edith. Apparently Edward Cross and Lord Livingston had business dealings and the viscount lost a hefty sum. Hugh refuses and expects Reggie to honor his promise to his sister. But when Reggie demands an outrageous dowry, Hugh knows he will have to tell Edith the truth, he is angry about the irony, he married Eliza, so Edith could marry and because of his marriage, she is being jilted.
He confides a little bit of his dilemma with Eliza, but is careful not to let her know the entire truth. Eliza has not had an easy time with his family and he knows they will blame her for Edith’s jilting. He cares for Eliza and wants to protect her, but he knows she is right, he will have to tell Edith the truth about Reggie.
Slowly, his family begins to warm to her and her relationship with Hugh is better than fine, he finally confessed his love and all is right in her world – until it isn’t. Eliza discovers the truth and is heartbroken, Hugh tries to explain, but Eliza doesn’t know what to believe. Can Hugh convince her his love is true? Or will Eliza’s insecurities doom them to a life apart?
This was a lovely read, well written and paced perfectly. Eliza is probably the nicest heroine I have ever read and I just adored her. Hugh was also a great hero, he didn’t always make the right choices, but he did everything with his family’s best interests at heart. The secondary characters were, in turn, annoying and at times manipulative, but never enough to hate them, the love scenes where warmish but never felt gratuitous, there are some amusing moments, a little heartache and finally a very touching ending. I am happy to recommend this book and even though it is the second book in the series, it can easily be read as a stand-alone title with no issues.
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book.