Have I ever mentioned that I love Lisa Kleypas? No? Well let me enlighten you. . .
I adore Ms. Kleypas. She is a historical romance genius and I have devoured her Hathaways, Wallflowers and Bow Street Runners series as if their pages were chocolate-coated. I am also a devout follower of her newer contemporary romance ‘Travis’ trilogy and I’m chomping at the bit for her new ‘Friday Harbor’ series. All in all, I’m a little bit obsessed, and in a bid to feed my addiction I have been going through Ms. Kleypas’s backlist. Thus, I discovered her brilliant ‘Gamblers’ historical romance books.
The series is so named for a gaming establishment called ‘Cravens’ found in a lowly part of London, but frequented by the ton elite. The series revolves around the club’s infamous owner, and one of its most fabulous patronesses.
‘Then Came You’ tells the story of Lily Lawson. A beautiful and wild spinster who men lust after and the ton gossip about. Lily lives a seemingly hopeless life – an independent tomboy, she is the only woman allowed to gamble at Cravens gaming hell where she flits and flirts her way to enormous profit. But secretly Lily is in hell. Her daughter, born out of wedlock, has been taken prisoner and being held for ransom – and Lily is working herself to the bone to stay above water and keep up the payments for her daughter’s safe return. Enter Alex, Lord Raiford. Alex is betrothed to Lily’s meek and lovely younger sister, Penelope. But Penelope loves another and after meeting Lily, Alex is determined to have the other sister. . .
“Any other woman would be flattered by my proposal. Even grateful. I’m offering you something a hell of a lot better than some scandalous liaison.”‘Dreaming of You’ is about the owner of gaming hell ‘Cravens’, Derek Craven himself. Derek came from nothing – born in the gutter, once a chimney sweep and grave-robber - Derek rose in society’s ranks and made profit between the sheets of the ton, selling his body to the bored and wealthy ladies. He built Cravens and is now one of the tons most infamous revellers – rich men want to be him and rich women want to be with him. But neither cast of society would invite him into their house during the day. . . because for all of Derek’s nightlife infamy, he is still a cockney guttersnipe.
“In your conceited, self-righteous opinion I suppose it is! But I’m not flattered, and certainly not grateful. I’ll be your mistress or nothing at all.”
“You’ll be my wife,” he said inexorably.
“You want to own me!” she accused, trying to crawl away from him.- ‘Then came You’
Derek may have more money now than he did growing up, but he’s still just as hard. And one night Derek’s carousing catches up with him. A ton woman he threw overboard when he got bored wants vengeance, and sets Derek up for a beating. Knifed, beaten and bloody, Derek is practically dead in the gutter when one country mouse saves him. Sara Fielding is a famous London writer, sneaking around the low streets of London to gain inspiration for her next novel. . . when she stumbles across Derek and his attackers. Sara saves him, and to say thank-you she asks to be allowed into the hallowed gaming hell of Craven’s. . .
His body was solid and powerful, hunching over hers to accommodate their difference in height. She felt him tremble with the force of his need. He spoke just beneath her ear, his voice thick with tormented pleasure. “You have to leave, Sara. . . because I want to hold you like this until your skin melts into mine. I want you in my bed, the smell of you on my sheets, your hair spread across my pillow. I want to take your innocence. God! I want to ruin you for anyone else.”This series is set in 18th century London, and there’s a strong connection to the elite ton society of that time. But Lisa Kleypas takes her usual unconventional route by observing those people on the periphery of that society – gamblers, spinsters and female writers. All these people who the ton gossip about, carouse with and perhaps secretly want to be. . . but who are, for all intents and purposes, ‘outsiders’. Ms Kleypas is always at her best when she’s writing outcast characters – gypsy men in the ‘Hathaways’ series, reluctant brides in ‘Wallflowers’ and London detectives in ‘Bow Street Runners’. She does it again in ‘Gamblers’ and it makes for fascinating reading, not least of all because these characters can have a foot in both the lowly and upper societies without drowning in the politics of either.- ‘Dreaming of You’
The ‘Gamblers’ series is another Kleypas historical romance that concentrates a lot on family, and again in the unconventional sense. Family is always a big theme of a Lisa Kleypas historical romance, and really only the ‘Hathaways’ series is about an actual blood-ties family. Her other series’ are about the family we make, the people we collect and friends we love. The ‘Gamblers’ series is no different, with the family formed around gaming hell Cravens. I loved the club setting: the contrast of a riotous gaming ‘hell’ with the sweet story of those people who have found love while rolling the dice.
The ‘Gamblers’ series is Lisa Kleypas at her very best. Strong women, dark rakes and impossible social situations. I loved it!