Lord of Chance (Rogues to Riches #1) by Erica Ridley (audiobook) – Narrated by Marian Hussey

This title is available to download from Audible via Amazon.

Disguised as a country miss, Charlotte Devon flees London, desperate to leave her tattered reputation behind. In Scotland, her estranged father’s noble blood will finally make her a respectable debutante. Except she finds herself accidentally wed to a devil-may-care rogue with a sinful smile. He’s the last thing she needs…and everything her traitorous heart desires.

Charming rake Anthony Fairfax is on holiday to seek his fortune…and escape his creditors. When an irresistible Lady Luck wins him in a game of chance – and a slight mishap has them leg-shackled by dawn – the tables have finally turned in his favor. But when past demons catch up to them, holding on to new love will mean destroying their dreams forever.

Rating: Narration – B; Content – C+

In Lord of Chance, the first in Erica Ridley’s new Rogues to Riches series, we are introduced to the handsome, charming Anthony Fairfax, a somewhat rackety young man who supports himself and his family by means of an inveterate gambling habit. Ms. Ridley has already released a number of her books in audio format (her Dukes of War series, narrated by Stevie Zimmermann) but this is the first I’ve listened to and I have to say that the result is a mixed bag. The narration by Marian Hussey is good, but while Ms. Ridley has a deft touch with the humour and dialogue, and she does briefly touch on a couple of darker themes, the story is a little too fluffy for my taste.

In order to escape pressing debts, Anthony Fairfax has left London to try his fortunes elsewhere. He is currently at a small inn on the Scottish border and things are looking up. On this particular night, it seems he cannot lose, and he can’t help but attribute this to the mysterious, cloaked woman he has nicknamed “Lady Fortune”, who is sitting quietly on the other side of the room. But when Lady Fortune is encouraged to join the card game, it seems she makes her own luck, because she cleans Anthony out completely and wins everything on the table.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Lord of Chance (Rogues to Riches #1) by Erica Ridley

This title may be purchased from Amazon

Disguised as a country miss, Charlotte Devon flees London, desperate to leave her tattered reputation behind. In Scotland, her estranged father’s noble blood will finally make her a respectable debutante. Except she finds herself accidentally wed to a devil-may-care rogue with a sinful smile. He’s the last thing she needs…and everything her traitorous heart desires.

Charming rake Anthony Fairfax is on holiday to seek his fortune…and escape his creditors. When an irresistible Lady Luck wins him in a game of chance—and a slight mishap has them leg-shackled by dawn—the tables have finally turned in his favor. But when past demons catch up to them, holding on to new love will mean destroying their dreams forever.

The single title 2017 release is an expanded “Author Edition” of the story that first appeared in the Scandal’s Daughters anthology.

Rating: C+

Erica Ridley’s Lord of Chance is the first in a new series from the author entitled Rogues to Riches. Our rogue this time out is one Mister (not Lord – so what’s with the title?) Anthony Fairfax, a charming but rather rackety young man whose appetite for gaming has seen him run up such large debts in London that he has travelled to Scotland in order to try to win enough money to enable him to repay them and return home.

While enjoying a reasonable streak of luck at a small inn not far from the border, Anthony’s eye is repeatedly caught by a young woman whose face is hidden behind a hood, but whose form is pleasing. He nicknames her ‘Lady Fortune’ in his mind, as her presence seems to have helped turn his fortunes. All that changes, however, when she is invited to the table and decides to play. Anthony’s Lady Fortune makes her own luck, it seems, and she cleans him out, winning everything on the table, and in addition, Anthony’s promise to do her bidding for the night ahead. It will come as no surprise when I say that his idea of doing the lady’s bidding all night is rather more lascivious than hers.

Anthony may be a wastrel, but he’s still a gentleman, so when the lady is accosted on their way out of the public room, he steps in and tells her drunken admirer that she is his wife and he should treat her with more respect. The pair then proceed to her room, where Anthony proceeds to make himself useful by ironing and folding her gowns (er… okay) and, in gentlemanly fashion, spends the night on the lumpy sofa.

Charlotte Devon has travelled to Scotland in search of the father she has never met. Her mother is a famous – or infamous – London courtesan, so when Charlotte ruefully reflects that she was ruined before she was even born, she isn’t wrong. Unfortunately, this is an era where the sins of the father were visited upon the children, and her illegitimacy, her mother’s profession and her strong resemblance to her mother all mean that Charlotte has little chance of achieving the sort of respectability she craves.

Judith Devon hinted that Charlotte’s father was a wealthy man, a Scottish Laird, in fact, and Charlotte intends to find him and present herself to him as his daughter in the hope that the kind man her mother recalls will find some space for her in his life, or that at the very least, her being the daughter of a lord will help erase some of the stigma of her birth.  To this end, she is wearing a distinctive ruby necklace and pair of earrings that he gave to her mother, in the hope that someone will recognise them and be able to direct her to him.

The flimsiness of this plot point was too much for me to swallow, I’m afraid.  I’m supposed to believe that Charlotte is reasonably intelligent, yet she travels all the way from London to Scotland – an extremely difficult and possibly dangerous journey in 1817 – to find a man whose name she doesn’t know, whose place of abode she doesn’t know and whom she has never even seen  – hoping that someone will recognise her jewellery?!  (The fact that someone actually does recognise it later in the story is by the by – that’s just an overly convenient plot-point and doesn’t excuse such a ridiculous reason for Charlotte being in Scotland in the first place.)

But back to the story.  Something both Anthony and Charlotte had failed to take into account is that by announcing they’re man and wife they have become so; this is Scotland and simply by declaring themselves to be married in front of a roomful of people they are, in fact, wed.  This creates even more problems, seeing that Anthony is likely to find himself in debtor’s prison unless he can find two thousand pounds with which to pay off his debts (a huge sum) – and because Charlotte is his wife, everything that was hers is now his, and thus can be used to clear part of what he owes.

Anthony is determined not to drag her down with him, however, and thinks that perhaps he can persuade his major creditor – a former friend – to take payment in instalments.  To this end, he starts doing odd jobs to earn money, and although the pull to take his earnings to the tables is strong, to his credit, he manages not to do so.  There’s one particular passage where Ms. Ridley does an excellent job of showing that Anthony really does have a serious problem, but unfortunately, it just adds to the difficulty of believing, later on, that a man in the grip of such an addiction can turn his back on it and reform practically overnight.

While the overall tone of Lord of Chance is quite light and fluffy, the author does touch on some darker themes. Anthony’s gambling habit is not glossed over (although as I’ve said, he is able to break it too easily) and the situation faced by someone like Charlotte, whose parentage means she is destined to be looked down on through no fault of her own draws the reader’s sympathy. And then there’s Anthony’s family, who live far beyond their means and have no clue how to make the sorts of changes to their lives to enable them to get themselves out of that cycle of being plump in the pocket and then in debt in which they are living.

The author has a talent for writing light-hearted, funny and sometimes innuendo-laden banter, and there’s no question that, but for his gambling habit, Anthony makes a charismatic and rather endearing hero. He’s upbeat, generous and is clearly devoted to his family, no matter that he is pretty much supporting them by whatever means he can and they don’t make it easy for him by being such spendthrifts.  Charlotte’s character is less well-defined and I found her fairly dull for the most part, although I did like her pragmatism and could understand her yearning for respectability.

The romance, however, is weak and underdeveloped.  I felt like I blinked and missed the part where we saw Anthony and Charlotte actually falling in love; they trade quips and feel attracted to each other, but there is little chemistry between them, and while I’ve rated the book as ‘warm’ in the sensuality stakes, the principal love scene is pretty tame, and honestly, I only used that rating because ‘subtle’ doesn’t quite cover it!

From looking at Amazon and Goodreads, it’s clear that Ms. Ridley has a large following who appreciates her particular brand of frothy, light-hearted historical romance, and I’m sure there are many among them who will enjoy Lord of Chance.  I, however, tend to like a little more substance and character/romantic development in the romances I read, both of which are lacking here. That said, the book is well written (in spite of a few typos) and if you’re in the mood for a quick, low-angst story, it might suit your tastes more than it did mine.

The Viscount’s Christmas Temptation (novella) by Erica Ridley

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Certain individuals might consider Lady Amelia Pembroke a managing sort of female, but truly, most people would be lost without her help. Why, the latest on-dit is that rakish Viscount Sheffield is canceling the fête of the year because he hasn’t time for silly soirees. He doesn’t need time—he needs her!

When a flash of lightning destroys the venue for his family’s annual Christmas ball, Lord Benedict Sheffield intends to enjoy a relaxing holiday for once. But after twelve days of beguiling Lady Amelia’s guerrilla tactics, he’s up to his cravat with tinsel . . . and tumbling head over heels in love.

Rating: C

The Viscount’s Christmas Temptation Is an entertaining novella/short story which is the prequel to Ms Ridley’s forthcoming Dukes of War series.

Lady Amelia Pembroke , sister of the Duke of Ravenwood has run a ducal household since her teens and is now, at the grand old age of twenty-nine, quite happy organising her younger brother’s ducal existence. Until it occurs to her suddenly that while her brother is three years’ her junior, he’s not a boy any more and will soon be thinking about taking a wife, who will of course take over the running of his household.

With her usual fast efficiency, Amelia comes up with the solution to her problem – she’ll find herself a husband. Money isn’t a consideration as she has plenty of her own, but she wants an earl, marquess or duke, so that her children will have the natural advantages in life afforded by a courtesy title, and it would be nice if the prospective groom had a large home and a number of properties for her to manage to stop her growing bored. Fortunately for her, there will very soon be an opportunity to scope out all the prime candidates, as anybody who is anybody will be in attendance at the annual Sheffield Christmas Ball.

But there’s a snag. A freak bolt of lightning and the subsequent fire have burned down the Sheffield’s ballroom and the event has been cancelled. But that’s no impediment – Amelia will simply lend a hand to Viscount Sheffield and help him to make alternative arrangements. Even by this early stage of the story, it’s clear that Amelia “lending a hand” basically means her taking over all the arrangements, making contingency plans for her contingency plans and generally organising the hell out of everything with the sort of military precision a general would envy.

Benedict, Viscount Sheffield, hadn’t expected to inherit a title and estates, but he nonetheless takes his responsibilities seriously, works hard during office hours and plays hard out of them. The last thing he wants landing on his doorstep fifteen minutes before the end of his working day is a managing female. And worse – an intriguing managing female. Amelia spouts forth her plans for the solution to his problem – he thinks he’ll humour her and she’ll go away.

Little does he know.

Of course, Amelia finds her husband while learning that not everything has to be organised to within an inch of its life, and also that while planning is important, sometimes a deviation from that plan is not a bad thing. Like marrying a viscount instead of an earl, marquess or duke.

All in all, this is a charming story that rattles along without much pause for breath (rather like Amelia!), with the romance between the central couple happening at an eye-watering speed. Because of the story’s length (or lack of it) the characters aren’t very well developed either, but there’s a lot of humour in the writing and I have to give Ms Ridley credit for the way in which she managed to make an endearing character of Amelia, when she could so easily have been too superior and quite unbearable! And while Benedict is little more than a foil to her, he’s still quite charming, and I rather like the way he gets into Amelia’s head and works out what she’s up to without indulging in a fit of the man-sulks, while realising that she needs to learn how to let her hair down and have fun for a change.

But. And here I’m on my soapbox again. The Americanisms and modernisms are intrusive and caused me to knock off at least a half grade from my final rating. For instance – in England 2014, we don’t refer to Christmas as “the holidays”. The Christmas period is just “Christmas” – and while I haven’t looked it up, I suspect it’s even less likely to have been referred to as anything else back in 1815. So the “holiday party” referred to in the first chapter should have been called a “Christmas party”. (Actually, a “holiday party” is more likely to have meant a group of people going on holiday somewhere!)

Then there’s the fact that at the end, the hero kisses the heroine passionately on the lips a couple of times in public. It may have taken place beneath a Kissing Ball, but such a thing would still have been quite scandalous, as would the fact that after it, they’re walking along and she has her head on his shoulder. They’re not married, but even if they had been at that point, such things were just not done in public at that time. Neither would an unmarried woman be permitted to ride alone in a closed carriage with a man to whom she was not related, regardless of the fact that she regards herself as being past the first blush of youth.

I realise in the latter case, that the unchaperoned carriage journeys were needed in order to advance the plot, but it’s rather a big error, and I’m sure the author could have found a way around it.

As a result, the jury’s currently out on whether I’ll be picking up another in this series. There’s a lengthy excerpt of The Earl’s Defiant Wallflower at the end of this, which does look intriguing, although there is a similar modernity of tone which is making me hesitate.

*puts soapbox away*

All that said, The Viscount’s Christmas Temptation is a decent read, and certainly not a bad way to spend an hour or so on a winter’s afternoon.