Sophie Graham is twelve when she is orphaned and left in the care of her arrogant grandfather, the Viscount Makepeace. Her father, his second son, eloped with an opera singer (Sophie’s mother) and was summarily disowned. Sophie spent her childhood travelling through Europe with her parents. When both her parents die from illness, there is no one left for Sophie. Her grandfather sends her to boarding school, where she befriends Miss Eliza Cross, the daughter of an industrialist, and Lady Georgiana Lucas. Sophie’s grandfather pays her tuition until she is 18, then she has to make her own way in the world. Working as a ladies’ companion for a while, Sophie is left 300 pounds in the widow’s will, and uses the money to set her “grand plan” in motion. Inventing a dead husband, so she is now Mrs. Campbell, Sophie uses the gambling skills and her gift for card counting to slowly amass a nest egg for herself, gambling at the Vega Club in London. She wants to continue until she’s set aside ten thousand pounds, and then either find herself a nice husband or retire to the country and live on the interest of her money.
Having managed to save up about four thousand pounds, Sophie is still a long way off her goal when she encounters Jack Lindeville, the Duke of Ware. The duke has come to the Vega Club, forced to pay off the gambling debts of his reckless younger brother, Philip, and is determined to make the man stop throwing his money away without any care of consequences. When the duke sees his brother, who only earlier that day swore he would no longer visit the club, gambling with an attractive woman, he challenges said woman, Sophie, to a game instead. Sophie discovers that the duke is not much of a gambler, and is quite happy to keep taking his money, until the duke makes a rather extravagant wager. If she wins, Sophie gets five thousand pounds. If she loses, she is to spend the next week with the duke. As this is a romance novel, of course Sophie loses, and Jack, determined to teach his brother a lesson, spirits Sophie away right there and then. While she protests, he takes her to his country home a bit outside London, where they end up trapped for several days because of the rain turning all the roads back to London to mud.
Jack desires Sophie, but regrets his impulsive actions almost immediately. Sophie, in turn, really does not need her reputation to be tarnished any further than it already has been. She already makes her living from gambling, but otherwise makes sure her reputation is spotless. If society believes her to be the duke’s mistress, she’ll no longer be allowed to see her friends, Eliza and Georgiana, and she’ll lose any chance at a decent marriage. Nevertheless, they can’t travel for a few days, and Sophie tries to figure out why the duke acted so rashly and what makes him tick. Soon they are starting to become friends, but are also aware of the attraction simmering between them. The dukes of Ware never marry for love or on impulse, and Sophie is perfectly aware that she’s far from the suitable wife for a duke. Their relationship can’t really go anywhere, can it?
Full review on my blog.