Genre: Historical Romance.
You might think this cover is a bit bleh, and you are right, but there is a very gorgeous stepcover inside this book. I totally love it.
A runaway bride.
One year ago, Lady Camille Pryce left her haughty fiancé at the altar-for good reason. Not only was the marriage arranged before she could even walk, her betrothed was too smug to exert himself to meet her! Now, disowned, with no husband or family to support her, she's left with one option: go to work in the notorious Tantalus Club...
A Gambler at heart.
A gentleman's gaming house run by a woman, the Tantalus is no place for a proper lady; so, to save face, her jilted fiancé must retrieve her. But banned from the club, he's forced to employ his ne'er-do-well cousin instead. A handsome, experienced rogue, Keating Blackwood is the perfect man to lure Camille away. But the moment they meet, Keating instead wants to save her... for himself. Impossible? Perhaps. But if Camille can make the ultimate player lay his cards on the table - and risk his heart - all bets are off.
After the supergood first book in this series, which I gave a record of 11 stars, I had very high expectations of this one. This is a great book, but not as great as the first one, which would be almost impossible of course. Still, I really enjoyed reading this one, and loved the tiny glimpses of the previous couple in this book.
When Keating Blackwood was 21, he was a terror in London, always gambling and drinking and carousing with willing women. Then one night, the husband of his latest tumble came to his home and tried to kill him. He killed the husband instead, in self defense. The court acquitted him, but guilt ridden; he went to a little farm in the country, vowing to never return to London. With the little money he makes, he supports the widow as well as he can. She was turned out by the cousin of her husband, and forced to flee to the continent. And she was pregnant with his son as well! So Keating feels obligated to both her and his son, whom she is refusing him to ever meet.
But now his cousin, the high and mighty and extremely stiff Stephen Pollard, the Marquis of Fenton has come to ask for his help. A year ago, his bride left him at the altar, and he is sick and tired of being made fun of. He wants the charming Keating to convince him to wed him after all. The girl is working in the Tantalus Club, a gentleman’s club run by a Lady, and with only female staff. But it is not a brothel!
If Keating can convince Camille to wed him, he will get 10.000 pounds. With that money, Keating can ensure the continued wellbeing of his son. Not that anyone, least his cousin, knows about that. Stephen won’t even acknowledge him in public! So hoping that after 6 years no one will recognize him, Keating sets out for London, where he will be staying with his old friend Adam, the Duke of Greaves.
From almost the day she was born, Lady Camille Pryce was engaged to Lord Fenton. At first, she thought it very romantic, but she was also sorry that she could not flirt with other men. It was known she was taken. She was also sad that he never came to meet her, or send her a birthday gift or something. She kept hoping for something, until she set foot into the church. Bare, no flowers, almost no witnesses but the bare minimum, and a bored looking man who was looking at his watch, as if he had something more important to do. All her dreams died at that moment, and she just fled. No idea, she just did not want to live with such a cold man for the rest of her life. But her parents threw her out of the house, and in her wedding dress she roamed the streets of London. Her so called friends would not even allow her to enter their homes. After staying for a while with a cold aunt as her lowliest servant, Camille saw the advertisement of the Tantalus Club for hostesses, and she applied. A real lifesafer. For the past year, she hardly ever ventured outside of the club. She was sick and tired of the cruel remarks of the people who knew her, and the lewd proposals of men who want her as their mistress, or only a bedpartner for a night.
The first meeting between Keating and Camille is easy, it happens over breakfast at the Tantalus Club. Some ogre is giving Camille trouble, and Keating just decks the man. Of course, the club’s security was on his way already, so it was totally unnecessary. And Camille is not interested in getting to know him. Until he confesses that he is the cousin of Stephen, and he asks her why she bolted from the church, or rather, what Stephen did to make her bolt? Finally, someone who just asks her, and is interested in the answer! So Camille agrees to meet Keating later in the club garden.
And then Keating kind of bumbles things up with Camille, she even hits him with her book. But after some second chances, he finally convinces her to go for a walk with him, and she can bring a friend as chaperone. He likes her and wants to be her friend. Camille really misses going on walks and drives and such. And when some of her former friends ran into them, Keating sure deals with that threat in a unique way! After all, her reputation is bad, but his is even worse. No one has forgotten the scandal in all those years. But sometimes a bad reputation can be put to good use.
Keating is honest with Camille; he tells her his cousin is paying him to convince Camille to wed him. And he tells why he needs the money, and what truly happens 6 years ago. And so Camille has to decide. To stay at the Tantalus Club, and be a free person, or marry and become a marchioness, accepted by society and taken care of for the rest of her life. Married to a man she despises in a loveless marriage.
She really tries, Keating gets Stephen to agree to just meet with her, and talk, get to know each other. He never even introduced himself to his fiancée, and he had plenty of opportunity! Of course Keating blumbles things again when he sends flowers and let her think they are his cousins way of making up the past. Not that Camille believes him though. When Camille finds out that Stephen thinks she has had many lovers in the past year, she decides to go for it, to give in to her feelings for Keating. To have at least experienced some happiness before her marriage. Because yes, she will marry Stephen. To be secure herself, and be welcomed back home. And for Keating to get the money he needs.
I so enjoyed both Camille and Keating, and was ready to smack Stephen on the head a few times. What an arrogant and self important man. Camille’s family is also not worthy of that name. Her real family are her friends and coworkers at the Tantalus Club, those girls are great secondary characters.
And then there is Keating. He is feeling so very guilty about killing that man. But he was only 21 or 22 at the time, and he has changed. Not that he is celibate, or not drinking anymore. He even drinks to excess, which are the scenes I did not like him. But he tries, for Camille, to be a better man. I liked their outings, how they enjoyed their time together. With Keating protecting Camille from the gossips, and not caring for his own reputation, only hers. And how he could not turn her down, when she made clear she wanted to be his lover.
One of the funniest details in the book was when Keating started reading Pride and Prejudice, and even commented on mr. Darcy! I loved that! It had me laughing out loud.
© 2012 Reviews by Aurian