Welcome to a world of reckless sensuality and glittering sophistication . . . of dangerously handsome gentlemen and young ladies longing to gain a title . . . of games played for high stakes, including—on occasion—a lady's virtue.
A marquess's sheltered only daughter, Lady Roberta St. Giles falls in love with a man she glimpses across a crowded ballroom: a duke, a game player of consummate skill, a notorious rakehell who shows no interest in marriage—until he lays eyes on Roberta.
Yet the Earl of Gryffyn knows too well that the price required to gain a coronet is often too high. Damon Reeve, the earl, is determined to protect the exquisite Roberta from chasing after the wrong destiny.
Can Damon entice her into a high-stakes game of his own, even if his heart is likely to be lost in the venture?
If Shakespeare had written an 18th-century romantic comedy, it might look something like this novel. In her latest, veteran James offers a larger-than-life portrait of Georgian England, complete with oversexed aristocrats, posturing courtesans and a feuding duke and duchess. At the heart of it all is Roberta St. Giles, an ingenue who's intent on marrying the duke of Villiers, a chess player and notorious womanizer. Roberta, the daughter of the poetry-addicted "Mad Marquess," wants nothing more than an unsentimental husband like Villiers. But in her quest to become the sort of woman who would attract the duke, she finds herself falling for Damon Reeve, her tutor in the art of pleasure. James embellishes her tale with a number of characters, each with their own desires, vices and schemes. At times, the profusion of people and plot threads overwhelms the primary romance. Roberta, in particular, pales next to the vivacious but unhappily married duchess of Beaumont, who begs for her own story. Despite this lack of focus, James pulls everything together in the final third, making for a colorful, spirited romance that will leave readers desperate for a sequel.