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It’s been a while since I pretty much gulped down in about 2 days. Let me tell you that it’s a rare occurrence for me nowadays. But Wendy LaCapra’s newest historical romance, book 1 of Lords of Chance series, Scandal in Spades, managed to do just that. I was hooked from the first page till the last. I enjoyed almost every bit of it—the storyline, the characters, the humorous moments and the banters between the H and the h. Lord help me, but I wanted more when it ended. MORE!
Lords of Chance is Wendy’s 3rd series after the Furies (now complete) and Mythic Dukes (ongoing). I’ve been a fan of hers ever since I read the Furies series. To me, she was a rising star in the arena of Historical Romance. Her absence of a year and a half due to personal reason was greatly felt and I personally kept checking for a new release announcement. So I was ecstatic last year to learn that she’s back to writing—with not one but two series!
Lords of Chance is a Regency set series with 3 peers of the realm, 3 Lords who are old friends, as the center of the storyline. They go by sobriquet taken from the cards—Spades, Clubs and Diamonds. The latest, a new addition to that small group came in the form of Lord Markham; Hearts to complete the circle. He’s also the youngest in the group, often jokingly called as the ‘pup’. But unknowing to him, he was being groomed by our Spades for an ultimate purpose. No, nothing nefarious but that didn’t mean it was any less important to Spades’s own existence. In fact, his life has been upside down for a while now and only Markham could solve his problem. At least, that’s what he thought.
Book 1 is the story of Marquess of Bromton, Giles Langley, who is the aforementioned Spades. Giles, who is known as Bromton in his circle, or simply ‘Brom’ to his closest of buddies like Lord Farring (Clubs) and Lord Rayne (Diamonds), has been taught and trained to be the Marquess since his tender years. His a$$hole of a father had no other purpose in life, and he wanted his heir to be a mini me of himself. There should be nothing important than holding up your own ancestry and keep the Langley line going. And when I say keeping it going, I mean by any means possible.
Giles’s childhood was hardly a fairytale for all that he was born in a family of high status and rich beyond anyone’s measure. In fact, he has been miserable as long as he can remember. His father never showed one ounce of affection, and his mother simply abandoned him to the man. She stopped showing any affection after the order came, when the Marquess emphasized that Giles needed a strong hand to become the future Marquess, and not some wuss who hid behind his mother’s skirt. A young Giles didn’t know why his mother abandoned him to that a$$, so no, he had no love for his father. In fact, he was confused about a lot of what happened to him in his childhood. He isn’t anymore...
Giles didn’t have a good relationship with his mother either as you can only imagine. One thing the late Marquess was successful in was to beat Giles almost into an image of himself (yes, beating was involved as a part of the so-called training). But he wasn’t entirely successful because, though he’d built a stony outer shell around himself, Giles still felt where it matters. And he loved his mother even if he hated her for abandoning him to the nightmare of his young life. Yet, despite everything, one thing Giles can’t help being is Lord Bromton. It was in the very essence of his being. This was what he’d lived for and aspired to be every day of his life until the day his mother announced she’s getting married to some artist of no consequence. As if the moment she was free of the late Marquess, she needed to escape her existence as the Marchioness. She wanted out and she didn’t care whether Giles approved of it or not.
Giles hated it. Hated what his mother did. But more than anything, he hated how distant and formal his mother always sounded, never calling him anything but Bromton. No ‘Giles’ for her, let alone any pet names. He hated the feeling of being abandoned once again, even now when he’s old enough in his early 30s and more than capable of handling a big legacy as the Langley legacy. But what he hated his mother the most was for the fact that she hit him back for his cold denouncement of her remarriage with the word ‘bastard’, confirming once and for all that he has not one ounce of Langley blood in him. Like hell, the irony! The late Marquess wanted an heir and she had to conceive by any means possible.
Since then Giles’s life has been awry. No, from the outside no one can tell. Giles is always controlled, quite... calm. He’s been going to his little group, enjoying with his best buddies, having a drink or two and playing cards. But inside he was being ravaged by the thought of it all. For all the training, and all the crap he’d taken from the old Marquess, he wasn’t even his son! He didn’t have any legitimate claim on any of this, even if he was totally legal since the Marquess accepted him as his own. How can he live peacefully knowing his very existence was a lie? For all the training of becoming a cold a$$hole, Giles wasn’t immune to the hurt and misery it brought him. Now it explains why that’s the case. He had no Langley blood in him after all.
After much deliberation, his own true nature won over when Giles finally decided it’d be the best thing to return the Langley legacy the peeps who have the blood flowing in them, even if they were distant relatives. Because blood matters to a Langley. Giles has been searching, and was finally able to find a distant line of the Langleys in the form of the current Lord Markham, Percy Stanley. Giles did what he had to do, befriend Markham and invite him in his inner circle with Lord Farring and Lord Rayne. He had been subtly grooming and training him to become a person who can shoulder the responsibilities that would be bestowed on him soon. Now all that was left for him was to find a way to hand it over. Without Markham knowing the real reason behind it of course.
A youngster in his early 20s, Markham was just bemused that such high-born Lords were so interested in him. He, for all the town polish he’s been trying to drench himself into, was still a boy who was raised in a country estate and not particularly rich. Percy was orphaned young but he had 2 sisters. The eldest Katherine, and the youngest Julia, who is yet to make her debut. Percy loved both his sisters, even though his love for Katherine made him worry for her happiness. Katherine had a bad start in her early years. She was engaged twice, with none coming to fruition. The first beau died, the second abandoned her for his mistress. Then the only Beau that mattered then, the Brummell, denounced her so badly at a public event that any of Katherine’s existing changes of marriage were destroyed. She now takes care of their country estate in Percy’s absence, planning her life away to spinsterhood. Percy knew that this is not the life Katherine wanted for herself and he wanted to see her happy.
So when in a pre-planned (by Giles) card game, Giles bets his entire legacy and deliberately loses to Percy, a bit of a dilemma arises. For one, no one could believe Giles did that because no one really knew the reasons behind it. Percy, amongst them all, was more than flabbergasted and couldn’t even take this seriously because he thought it was all a joke. I mean, why would a man do that? At a point of negotiation, when Giles seemed nonchalant about the whole matter, Percy was desperate not to have to take up on such a humongous responsibility—I could tell that he was overwhelmed by it all—and a solution comes to him. He throws back his own challenge at Giles; a chance to win Katherine’s hand. No, not by another stack of card game but by meeting her in person, then courting her. If that didn’t work, Percy would do whatever Giles asked him to do.
And for Giles, it wasn’t remotely a solution—why would he wanna bother with a spinster in the making ffs?—until it became THE SOLUTION to all his problems. If all goes as planned he won’t even have to lose anything! All he has to do is to woo Katherine Stanley, marry her and have the most anticipated legit Langley heir. An heir who’d finally have the Langley blood in him... from his mother! What if she’s a spinster? As the saying goes, by any means possible...
I know this kinda make Giles look like a madman, an a$$hole exactly like the old Marquess but trust me, he wasn’t. Yes, his thought process was still regulated as he was trained from childhood. He wanted to make certain of a legit heir, and he was going to have one whatever it took. I won’t say his thought process wasn’t that of an a$$hole but it was what it was. He was sure he’d be able to woo Katherine without much effort. After all what did it take to woo a spinster who should take this as a blessing? He vaguely knew of her past ‘scandals’ and why she retired to the country and never returned to London for years. But, right now, nothing mattered. His own life was a big scandal, or would be one if anyone got a whiff of his mother’s indiscretion. Besides Giles was goodlooking with dark hair and bright blue-grey eyes and totally assured of his own influence. He was certain no one will dare say a cross word to Katherine about her past after she’s the Marchioness.
Here I ought to mention that Giles was engaged to Rayne’s younger sister, Lady Claudia. It was a match made in the cradle or some such thing, meaning done by their parents when they were young. Giles was quite used to with the idea and liked Claudia much. However, after the revelation of his non-Langley status, he broke off with her. It has caused a rift between Rayne and him, though Claudia wasn’t remotely sad about the whole matter. Though he and Rayne still talk and keep each-other’s company, an invisible strain is always there. Rayne’s property lies next to Giles’s and they’ve been buddies for a long time. He’s older than Rayne and thought of him as a younger brother. But now Giles knew that this strain may not be one that can be amended, especially if Rayne knew that Giles has gone off to marry someone else. Rayne took it as a dishonor to Claudia, even if she gave Giles her blessing to marry somewhere else already.
Ever since her parents died, Katherine had taken care of her two younger siblings. It’d seem like she has also been taking care of the modest Stanley estate on her own since her disaster of a betrothal. Um, make that two betrothals. But her first betrothal was with the man she thought was the life of her life; Septimus Chandler, the village vicar’s son, born to do many great things, who was already following his father’s footsteps quite diligently when he died. He was all Katherine thought was kind and pure. In fact, she found Septimus so pure, she’d always ignored the fact that maybe it was her who was more interested in the whole thing than him. That Septimus had a way of pushing her away and seemed to enjoy that too. It was something Katherine would come to realize later after Giles began courting her seriously.
But for now, she was still in that contented illusion that their love was mutual and had illness not taken Septimus, they’d have been happily married and continued on with his life’s work. Hell, Katherine was even training herself to be the biddable wife because that was one of Septimus’s major complaints about her. For now, Katherine thought, her one chance at love has passed. But she still would’ve been happy to be married, be a wife and mother, run an estate like her father’s estate. Unfortunately, after 2 broken betrothals, one that ended in a deep heartbreak, and then her denouncement by Beau Brummell, which was followed by eager peeps trying to gain access to their home by any means to have a look at Markham’s scandalous sister like she was some kinda oddity, Katherine has had enough of that type of ‘excitement’. She was happy to be a spinster, planning away Julia’s coming debut. She tried her best not to think of the future. For now at least.
So when she found out Percy had invited a peer of the realm to their home, nope, Katherine wasn’t happy. She didn’t need that kinda problem in her house once again. Julia didn’t need another scandal which may botch her chances. But when she beheld the extremely handsome, brooding Lord Bromton, her belly fluttered and her legs quivered and Katherine knew it wasn’t good news. She was going down that path again, the path that Septimus didn’t like. The path to attraction and lust. But Katherine couldn’t help it, couldn’t help the physical pull to a person she was attracted to. In fact, she believed very much in physical love and longed to experience with a person she loved. Unfortunately, Septimus wasn’t amused about it. Their one brief foray into that ended in disaster. I, personally thought, Septimus was an a$$ and he treated Katherine quite poorly in the name of the so-called righteous. But a young Katherine didn’t know any different; she didn’t until Giles made it possible for her to realize that she’d have been miserable with Septimus in the long run.
Their counting was the stuff of dreams, at least for me. Their chemistry, the banter, sometimes funny oftimes full of hot innuendoes without sounding crass, was SO GOOD to read. It was one of those things I long to read in every book but don’t often experience. You just know from the moment they were introduced and spend time together in the folly built by Katherine’s mother, that these two belong together, no question asked. Giles wasn’t sure what to expect but was pleasantly surprised to find Katherine was very pretty, intelligent and undoubtedly accomplished. He was quite smitten on spot, though he hid it well until later when he couldn’t anymore.
I would’ve loved seeing them having a smooth sailing but that wasn’t gonna happen, no thanks to Rayne the a$$hole. He and Farring went to check up on Giles later in the story. Rayne and Julia shares something and I can’t wait to see how that progresses in their story. BUT, he wasn’t over the fact that Giles didn’t marry Claudia and he had to ruin it for him. SMH. I was SO mad at this a$$ that I can’t even explain. *SMH*
There were quite a few heart-wrenching moments in Scandal in Spades. One, for me, was Giles’s yearning for his mother’s love. Yes he loved Katherine with the same type of intensity, even if it was a different type of affection. But his yearning to make amends with his mother was a palpable thing throughout the story and I almost hated the woman for being so cold to her only offspring... until later that is, when things started unraveling. And when Giles and Katherine were going through their ‘big mis’ my heart broke more for Giles cause he thought he was being abandoned by another person he loved. He blamed himself for, somehow, again mucking up another life. Now that person also hates him as much as his mother did. So for me, the last scene with his mother needed to happen. And I was so glad that finally they had the talk that should’ve happened a long time ago.
Now, this story is mostly perfect but there were a few things that bugged me. The first and foremost was Giles deciding not to learn his real father’s identity. I thought it should’ve been revealed. I was really curious to learn what had happened and who was that man. The second thing was the love scene, the only one. After reading the type of chemistry they shared, I was rather disappointed in that area because it happened when Giles and Katherine were cross with each-other. There was nothing after they made up and the story kinda ended with a rush. I SO WISHED there was at least another chapter to tidy things up before the conclusion. :(
But all in all, Scandal in Spades is a marvelous beginning to what I already think would be a smashing series. I totally LOVE the characters and can’t wait to find out what happens next for who, also hoping that we catch a glimpse of Katherine and Giles in the process. 4.5 stars and recommended for any Historical Romance lover!
ARC received in exchange of an honest review, thanks to Entangled Scandalous (and Holly).