Some might remember that I reviewed part of this anthology a little while back. I wanted to be able to share some significant thoughts because those first two I read hit me right between the eyes and brief little sum-ups would not work for me. Here’s the link to my earlier review on the other two books if you missed it: http://delightedreader.com/gambled-away-by-rose-lerner-isabel-cooper-jeannie-lin-molly-o-keefe-and-joanna-bourne-review/
Well as promised, here are my thoughts on the rest of the novellas in the book. Let’s just say this antho was a Full House for me, a dominant hand of authors, and a winner all around. I had previously thought that two authors were new to me, but oopsie, it turned out that only one was.
Just as a refresher, this is a historical romance anthology and the theme is gambling. The authors were creative and with most the gambling theme was so much more than a literal game. Most of the stories are standalone, but even the two that weren’t, can be read as such.
So, here are the last three I read which so happen to be the first three in the book:
All or Nothing by Rose Lerner 4 stars
A bawdy story about a Jewess running a London gaming house with her lover and the young architect who falls for her. Simon has to go to his former lover’s house party where he’ll work on a folly. After winning Maggie’s services in a bet, he decides having her come as his mistress will give him a buffer from his host and the other guests.
Both are trying to find themselves and ashamed of their secret kinks and needs. The time at the house party reveals surprising possibilities about being together. This is a high heat story set against the Regency period. Well developed shades of gray characters with a heroine open about her sexual needs and desires and a hero that is learning to be. A little loose on the plot in that at first I wasn’t sure who the hero was romancing his host and best friend or his lady friend, but still an engaging story from start to finish though let me tell you, anything goes with this one.
The Liar’s Dice by Jeannie Lin 4.5 Stars
#2.5 Lotus Palace series
Wei-Ling lives a comfortable, sheltered life and her family is everything to her. And yet, she feels stifled by the societal constraints on women. She has a yearning for more knowledge, to hear and discuss ideas, and to see and do new things away from the confines of her family home. Her disguise as a young scholar and a night in a tea house leads to her presence near a murder, an investigation, a new acquaintance with the intriguing Gao, fears her oldest brother might be involved in the murder and back to gambling. Wei-wei follows the trail to the truth fearing its answers, but needing them even while she can’t keep Gao out of her thoughts.
I love the Lotus Palace series and was thrilled to get this follow up installment that tells the story of the hero from book one’s sister. Characters from both earlier books move through this shorter story. The color and culture of historical China were so well-drawn and I loved Wei as a narrator. Her thirst for knowledge and enough freedom to pursue it and her need to track down the truth about her brother and the murdered man along with her interest in a man from a lower class made for a great story. The end left things open-ended yet hopeful. Won’t lie, I did want to see it carried through further with Wei and Gao. I can’t wait to continue with more from the Lotus Palace series.
Raising the Stakes by Isobel Cooper 4 stars
A con-lady wins a magic flute in a poker game and it conjures an elf who is now her partner in swindling a swindler so she can pay off her family debt on the farm during Dust Bowl days of the 1930’s.
This was a fun one. The author created a cynical, but rascally heroine who has to pull a ‘Robin Hood’ to save her family. Her new elf partner is game for anything and the pair trick another type of con-artist. This was a fun and complete story, but I wistfully wish it was developed into a novel-length piece where backdrop for both characters could have been teased out more.
So, all together, this was a lovely variety of historicals from different settings, time periods, heat levels, and tones. Each author had a distinct voice to their story and I could appreciate what each one brought to the table. This will be no long shot for the historical romance lover.
My thanks to the authors for the opportunity to read the book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #216 HR
New to Me #91 author
Bad Boy #26
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