In many period romance novels, the story focuses on the eldest unmarried daughter in a family and her prospects for marriage. But the “The Lady’s Gamble” the story focuses on Regina, the youngest daughter who sets out to save the family after her father loses everything in a gambling loss.
To put it quite simply, I adore Regina. Coming from a childhood marred by the loss of her mother, Regina grows up believing she is unattractive, undesirable, and an embarrassment to her four older, prettier, more talented sisters. The truth is far different than what Regina perceives and it is only through an unexpected friend and a love that she fears is unrequited that Regina begins to see the truth. All of this occurs while she is secretly being taught to gamble by the devastatingly handsome Lord Harrison, a relationship that his friends assume is a romantic one.
Beyond the central storyline, I love that Ms. Ayles touches on the sacrifices that we make for all types of love. Lovers don’t marry because he is dying and has a brother who can inherit the estate after he passes while she will never need to worry if a future suitor is interested in her or the wealth she inherited from her late husband. A “bastard child” endures harsh treatment by the nobility because he is devoted to his father and will not leave him. Regina risks public humiliation to win back the family estate from the man who won it from her father. Ms.Ayles even touches on the difficulty faced by Lady Cora, Regina’s chaperone, who tries to keep her attraction to other females from becoming a widely known fact among “proper society”. Even Lord Harrison put his own reputation on the line, earning money through gambling so that he could restore the estate that his father had lost almost entirely.
The love story is beautifully written – Ms. Ayles knows how to enchant her readers! – but my favorite part of the story is watching young Regina blossom. Once she is no longer living as “the baby of the family” she discovers that not everyone is offended by her quick wit, there are those who find her funny and intelligent, and that she has a real talent for playing cards and reading people. It is her growth and increased confidence in herself that makes this a truly wonderful read.