Lydia Slaughter understands the games men play—both in and out of the bedroom. Not afraid to bend the rules to suit her needs, she fleeces Will Blackshear outright. The Waterloo hero had his own daring agenda for the gaming tables of London's gentlemen's clubs. But now he antes up for a wager of wits and desire with Lydia, the streetwise temptress who keeps him at arm's length.
A kept woman in desperate straits, Lydia has a sharp mind with a head for numbers. She gambles on the sly, hoping to win enough to claim her independence. An alliance with Will at the tables may be a winning proposition for them both. But the arrangement involves dicey odds with rising stakes, sweetened with unspoken promise of fleshly delights. And any sleight of hand could find their hearts betting on something neither can afford to risk: love.
Cecilia Grant was one of my favorite debut authors last year. The first book in her Blackshear Family series, A Lady Awakened, was well-written and showed definite promise. Due to my enjoyment of that book, I was overjoyed to receive an ARC of the next book in the series, A Gentleman Undone. And I am happy to report that this book exceeded my expectations and really makes Cecilia Grant one to watch over the next few years.
One thing that I noticed in this book, and her earlier one, was that Ms. Grant is not afraid to take classic plot lines and give them a good mixing up. Specifically, she provides her own spin on the stereotypical courtesan and damaged war hero storylines. Both Lydia Slaughter and Will Blackshear fit the mold that historical romance readers are familiar with, at first glance, but then they veer off into entirely new directions. Basically, these are two damaged characters who are drawn to each other despite the many obstacles in their path to true happiness.
The heroine, Lydia, is a working courtesan who strives for her independence while still enjoying the sensual aspects of her lifestyle. I thought this was a bold choice on the part of Ms. Grant and found that it made Lydia stand out. I admired her intelligence and ambition to make her own way in life. I also felt sympathy for her especially when the secrets of her past came out.
On the other hand, Ms. Grant provides readers with Will Blackshear, the brother of Martha from A Lady Awakened. He is returning from war with more mental injuries than physical injuries. This causes some drama especially since this time period was not as familiar with the psychological damage that can occur in battle as we are today. I really fell for Will and rooted for him as he dealt with the guilt that he retained after surviving the war. He is a wonderfully well-written character who has a deep desire to be needed which his relationship with Lydia provides though not in the way that he first believes.
Both Lydia and Will are very deep and richly detailed characters. They each have their own attributes and flaws which makes them relatable to the reader. I latched on to them from the beginning and really looked forward to their developments. There is alot of sexual tension in this book which I found highly entertaining. Due to the fact that Lydia is employed by another man for a significant amount of the story, it took time for the chemistry to really implode in a sex scene. While this can be frustrating in some stories, I felt like it worked well. The interactions between Lydia and Will were always fun to read because of such obstacles.
The research that Ms. Grant did in preparation for writing this book is obvious. I loved seeing the evidence of her work without feeling like it overwhelmed the plot. I especially enjoyed the tidbits that she provided about the different methods of gambling and how Lydia and Will were able to tweak the system. This was a different side of history which grabbed my inner history dork's attention.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, Cecilia Grant is not afraid to push the envelope. The end result is that A Gentleman Undone is a dark, sensually entertaining story which shows how two people can heal each other on their path to love. After reading and enjoying both A Lady Awakened and A Gentleman Undone, I look forward to what Ms. Grant comes up with next.
**Thanks to Netgalley and Bantam for providing me with a free copy of this book to review.**
1. A Lady Awakened
2. A Gentleman Undone
3. A Woman Entangled (To Be Released 2013)