The Wagering Widow is another story for the keeper shelf. Not nearly as harrowing as The Mysterious Miss M it is still far from what is the norm in current Regency romances.
Guy, Lord Keating, desperately needs money to pay off his late father’s debts. As fate would have it, plain Emily Duprey has developed a tendre for him and is more than willing to elope. Expecting her to be an heiress, Guy is in for a bad surprise when soon after the deed he’s informed by her father that her fortune was all a ruse to fend off the creditors.
Ashamed to have married Emily only for her fabled inheritance, he can’t help resenting her for keeping him from “earning” the fortune needed to feed his family, his tenants and to pay for his younger sister’s tuition. Despite despising the life of a gamester -- his father and older brother only too willingly gambled away all there was to their name -- he reluctantly makes it his mission to accumulate the necessary funds for a better life at the gaming tables. All the while staying away from his perfect and reserved wife.
Emily's only desire was to get away from her parents, a gambling father and a drunken mother who have no care for her well-being. Surprised by the sudden interest but relieved for it, she only too eagerly accepts Lord Keating’s offer. Accustomed to behaving properly and hiding her emotions, less she be ostracized like her parents, she is unprepared for how to behave as a newly wedded wife. She retreats by keeping her emotions and her desires behind a polite mask.
When she’s told about her father's deceit and the reason behind her hasty marriage she feels dejected. Again. And when her husband takes up the cards, staying away from her and their home, she conceives of a plan to gain her independence, her freedom and the means to control her own life. She will use her talents at cards and leave her husband as soon as she can afford it.
With the help of her brother and her maid she is introduced at the right address as the masked Lady Widow, a mysterious and alluring woman. Men vie for her attention, for her favors. And Emily is enjoying it. Living out the dream of being desired, of having power over men. Then Guy makes the acquaintance of the tempting Lady Widow and recognizes in her his non-descript wife. He’s intrigued and resolves to join the game…
Guy is a very interesting hero. Seen through Emily’s eyes only glimpses of his caring nature are revealed, but being allowed his point-of-view the reader never doubts for one page, that he is more than worthy and definitely heroic in how he desperately tries to provide his loved ones with a lifestyle they deserve. Sure, an explanation at the right time and the trust to expose the dire state of the family’s monetary affairs could have prevented the lies and misunderstanding, but it also would have kept Emily from reveling in her sexuality and discovering her hidden strength. After all, it is the mask, her persona of Lady Widow, which allows her to freely flirt with her husband and to reveal her true desires.
Diane Gaston (also writing as Diane Perkins for Warner) once more introduces characters that need all the pages their story is written on to grow on a reader. She leads her readers into a world away from the sparkling ballrooms, the flirtatious conversations and the dazzling gowns. It’s a darker, more solemn side of Regency life, portraying the struggles of the less fortunate. Emily and Guy belong to the fringes of polite society. No Incomparable, no wealthy duke found in this very different, very original and always very recommendable story. Diane Gaston not only bends the rules, she breaks them.
Fans of The Mysterious Miss M will be delighted to recognize several of the characters and I’d be surprised if it is not Cyprian Sloane who will get his own story in the upcoming Mills & Boon release A Reputable Rake. Already he’s in danger of stealing the show whenever he appears on the pages.
The Wagering Widow is available from Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk. As with Diane Gaston’s previous release The Mysterious Miss M I urge you to get your hands on it. In Regency romance history it is definitely the latest on dit. A scandal so outrageous and exotic it is too delicious to miss.