Gambled Away by Rose Lerner, Isabel Cooper, Jeannie Lin, Molly O’ Keefe, and Joanna Bourne #Review

Gambled Away by Rose Lerner, Isabel Cooper, Jeannie Lin, Molly O’ Keefe, and Joanna Bourne #ReviewGambled Away by Isabel Cooper, Jeannie Lin, Joanna Bourne, Molly O’ Keefe, Rose Lerner

Genres: Historical Romance
Published by Indie/Self Published on May 31, 2016
Format: eBook
Source: Author
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five-stars      four-flames

The Historical Romance genre paired with the theme of gambling was too good to miss. Put that with this line up of writers and…be still my book-loving heart, I’m all in.

As this is an anthology, I’d like to touch on each story individually so I’ll arrange things in mini reviews that I’ll break up in a few post segments. I’ll be reading it out of order, but these novellas can be. Some are loosely connected to existing series and others are entirely standalone.

 Redeemed by Molly O’Keefe 5 stars
Two very broken people, a former spy and a former army surgeon, who have been beaten down by life have a chance at redemption. James has buried the pain and loss of his soul in an addiction, has hit rock bottom.  He was practicing medicine, but now he has walked away from even that after he almost got his best friend killed because he was lost to his drug instead of doing his job.  He pushes everyone away preferring oblivion to feeling. But then something inside him rises up to meet one last challenge with one look at the enslaved woman who is tortured each night she is forced to perform for her cruel captor in the whore houses and gambling saloons around the country. James can’t save himself, but maybe he can save Helen. And Helen? Indomitable even after she has been stripped of everything she holds dear even her pride after the extent of the work she and her mother did in the war effort against the south was known to the man who wants revenge.  He wants to break her, but she holds on.  She gave up hope of freedom long ago, but James is dangerous to her because she desperately wants to believe he can free her though she knows he cannot.

I cannot express just how moving and intense this novella was. From the beginning, the reader is drowning in the feels and wants so badly for these two people who have hit the bottom to get a break and have a chance at even a little happiness. The author addressed the horrors of war for the survivors and provides a villain that is so cloyingly evil that death is not good enough. And the denouement after the climax of this story was no less easy than what came before. No. This is not easy, but it is so worth it.

Gideon and the Den of Thieves by Joanna Bourne 5 Stars
Intriguing story set in a thief lord’s empire of London in Georgian times. The heroine is an indentured woman to the King of Thieves, the enigmatic and diabolical Lazarus. Aimee appraises the stolen treasures and does her best to protect her friends in the band of thieves while dreaming of freedom. Into her shadowy world steps dangerous, lethal Gideon who is there to free his sister from Lazarus. A cunning, complex game is afoot and all of them are pawns of Lazarus, but Aimee needs to keep the potentially volatile Gideon from having it all explode in their faces and keep herself from making a mistake when it comes to the strong attractive man who makes her feel safe.

This was a fascinating and deep story.  If you like shades of gray and peeling back a story layer by layer, here you go.  I can’t say what I enjoyed the most whether it was the complex characters or the complexities of the plot. I am doubly amazed since it was all told in the length of a novella. Romance is my thing, but this story was so much more than that and the romance was possibly the weakest element. Personally, I felt I got the best pirate story that had no real pirates in it. And apparently this novella is set in the Spymaster world of the author’s novels so I can encounter many of these intriguing characters again if it is my want.

So, these were actually the last two stories in the anthology.  They were unputdownable, edgy, and full of atmosphere.  The gambling theme that both portrayed took on deeper nuances than just people playing for money.  I loved it and I can’t wait to see what the other authors have in store.

These are definitely for the historical romance lover who wants to trod down darker paths and away from the bright lights of the ballroom.  These characters and their situations are not easy, but the reader will be pulled in and vested in their lives.  Take the gamble, you’ll be happy you did.

My thanks to Molly O’Keefe for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

About Isabel Cooper

Isabel Cooper lives in Boston with her boyfriend and a houseplant she’s kept alive for over a year now. She maintains her guise as a mild-mannered project manager working in legal publishing. She only travels through time the normal way and has never fought a demon, but she can waltz.

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

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  • This sounds like such an intriguing anthology and I love when an author takes the time to make a novella intense. Adding this one to my tbr list!

    • Oh yes, I think these will be worth the read, Angela. I broke them up into three reads so I didn’t have to rush them. Looking forward to the rest of them.

  • Oh those historical spies

  • When you get a lot of story in a shorter book that really is nice.

    • Yes, novellas are hit or miss for me, but these were complex and complete. Loved it!

  • Debbie Haupt

    I love anthologies I actually picked Grand Central for my library in-person book club this month and Jeannie Lin is a local and fave author too!

    • Hey, that’s great, Debbie! I adore Jeannie Lin’s books. I can’t wait to read this novella from her Lotus Palace series and was thrilled to see she has a new historical coming out this year, too. Hope your book club enjoys the spotlight on Grand Central. Love anthologies, too, and this one is shaping up to be a good one.

  • I’m only familiar with one of these authors, but I love anthologies so I’m adding this to my list. Great reviews!

    • There are two authors in this one that are new to me and the rest familiar, but that is what is fun about anthologies for me- little of the new sprinkled in with others I enjoy. Hope you get the chance, Lekeisha!

  • Fantastic review, you have me making grabby hands.

    • Oh yes, you will definitely want to grab. These are starting out well. I’ve got the other three coming up next.

  • I have read one of Rose Lerner her books and quite enjoyed it. And I own one of Jeannie Lin her books. The theme for this anthology sounds fun with the historical romance and gambling. And it’s interesting how these stories focus a bit more on the darker parts. You sure make me curious with these reviews! I am looking forward to your review of the other stories.

    Redeemed sounds like a very moving story indeed. I am not a fan of the cloyingly evil villains usually, but it does make it easy for the reader to fully dislike or even hate the villain. I actually have a review planned on the blog this week which had a villain like that, he gave me the chills. It must be great to see those tow character who hit rock bottom have a chance at happiness, it seems even sweeter when they find happiness after being gone through a lot.

    Gideon and the Den of thieves sounds like a good one. I like stories like that with multiple layers and shades of grey. And complex characters as well, sounds like a story I would enjoy. I always find it impressive when authors can write a good romance in a novella length story.

    • This was my first Rose Lerner read, but I adore Jeannie Lin books and have read the two novels in the series this novella is from so I was glad to see it.

      Yes, Redeemed’s villain is one of those that leaves the reader feeling tainted. He didn’t see himself as evil and I think that was what got to me the most. But, yes, seeing the hero and heroine find each other and find hope was great.

      I had read other stories by Joanna Bourne and liked them, but Gideon and the Den of Thieves really hit the spot for me. It was the complexity of it for sure.

      I’m finishing up the other three reviews this week and hope to have it up here at the blog within the month. 🙂 I just knew I couldn’t say all I wanted if I tried to review all of them together. Too long. LOL

  • Oh I need this for just the O’keefe one. I enjoyed the one I tried from her earlier this year and have been wanting to try out more of her work. Sounds like she’s pretty dang solid.

    • I think we read the same one from her (Everything I Left Unsaid?) and yes, she is turning into a solid go-to gal for me. I know she wrote lots of other books and people love her stuff, but these were my first encounters and I was pretty impressed.
      I just snagged the next one in the Everything I Left Unsaid about his brother Max. Looking forward to that one.

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