Title: The Lady Risks All
Author: Stephanie Laurens
Availability: September 25, massmarket paperback and e-book (Avon)
Neville Roscoe, notorious and enigmatic, lives resolutely outside society, bound only by his own code of honor – until challenged by his desire for the one woman he cannot have.
Miranda Clifford is a lady imprisoned by rigid respectability – until tempted by a passion beyond her power to deny.
Flung together in peril, through danger and intrigue, they discover a love impossible to ignore … or keep.
Memorable Line: “I love you as you are, for who you are, not for who you were, or who you might be.”
Everyone thinks they know Lord Julian Delbraith, younger brother to the Duke of Ridgware: wastrel, rake, inveterate gambler. Well, everyone is wrong. While Lord Julian has inherited his family’s ‘cursed’ gambling addiction, he’s hardly the deadbeat they all assume. In fact, he’s an independently wealthy man with a strong moral center who rarely loses at games of chance. Unfortunately the same can not be said of his older brother, the falsely-perceived “good son.” After bankrupting the duchy, pawning his duchess’s jewels, mortgaging every property and emptying the family coffers, Julian’s brother George takes his own life. His suicide will bury the Delbraith family in debt, scandal and ruination unless a miracle happens. Lord Julian provides that miracle by disappearing from society and reinventing himself as Neville Roscoe, London’s ‘gambling king’ (a phrase used way to often in this book for my taste), successfully running a multitude of gaming clubs, hells and dens.
There’s still more to Roscoe than meets the eye, just as there was when he lived his life as Lord Julian. He’s not the heartless thug his associates and society believe him to be, he’s actually quite the philanthropist, funding orphanages, schools and other various good works. He also maintains a close and loving, albeit secret, relationship with his family, including acting as co-guardian for his nephew, the new duke.
Miranda Clifford initially falls into the category of people who judge Roscoe for how he earns his money without knowing the man behind the reputation. When Miranda learns her younger brother is secretly spending time at Roscoe’s home she is determined to ‘rescue’ him before he succumbs to scandal. Miranda is exceptionally sensitive to the issue of scandal due her oppressive childhood and the fates of her mother and sister.
Unfortunately for Miranda (but fortunately for the reader), her attempt at stealthy reconnaissance of Roscoe’s home is thwarted when Miranda is discovered by Roscoe himself. From the moment they met, I was hooked on their chemistry. The yoke of her snobbish aunt’s “doctrine of inviolate respectability” that has been smothering Miranda is momentarily lifted in his presence. I’m reluctant to label it the beginning of her character’s evolution, as it’s more of a revealing of who she really is rather than who she’s been told to be. Roscoe allows her to be the intelligent, independent, passionate woman she’s been hiding from the world.
When Miranda’s brother Roderick goes missing she turns to Roscoe for assistance, forcing them to spend more and more time together. I thought the mystery behind Roderick’s disappearance and the revelation of the culprit was very well done, it kept me guessing until the end.
One thing I really enjoyed about the relationship between Miranda and Roscoe was the fact that they were comfortable in one another’s presence. Yes, there was an instant attraction between them, but there was also a true sense of friendship and camaraderie. Roscoe listens to Miranda’s ideas and implements some of her plans during the search and rescue of Roderick, showing their growing partnership. In each other they discover someone who will accept them as they truly are, no pretense and no hiding.
Miranda is twenty-nine and not some shy missish debutante, making her more than a match for the occasionally autocratic Roscoe. I think her maturity made a real difference in the story, as it allowed them to approach their liaison from a completely different level. Miranda is a woman who knows what she wants and is willing to take it – and she wants Roscoe (and really, I can’t blame her as he’s quite delicious). The challenge comes in overcoming Roscoe’s protective instincts and teaching him it was alright to reclaim all he sacrificed for his family’s happiness, namely his own chance at love and family.
The pacing and prose of the book occasionally pulled me out of the story. Unfortunately I found this happening most frequently in the more ‘intimate’ moments. Don’t get me wrong, I love a nice lyrical love scene, but these where a bit over-the-top for my tastes. It’s against my nature to skip over the ‘naughty bits’ but I found myself rolling my eyes rather than getting lost in the moment with them.
*I received an advanced digital copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*