A Gentleman Undone by Cecelia Grant

No man had ever looked at her that way. No man would likely ever do so again. But he made her insides feel like clockwork for a moment, ingenious subtle clockwork instead of fallible flesh, and it occurred to her she might stay in that  moment forever, given the choice. She might bask wordless in such a transformative gaze for as many moments as remained in her life. No. Not transformative. This was who she was, quick and gleaming and intricate. She’d known that already. Now someone else knew.

Redonk Nutshell: Brilliant card shark/courtesan teams up with a gentleman to make money

Lydia Slaughter is a master at playing the game – both in the gaming hells and in the bedroom. She’s a courtesan, and though it helps her to pay her bills, she has higher aspirations of someday being an unkept woman.  She is a genius with numbers, and she has perfected her skill in counting and handling cards.  Will Blackshear is back from the war, and he’s carrying some horrific emotional baggage.  He’s taken it upon himself to honor his word to his dying friend, and to look after his widow and child.  In order to do so, he has to make some cash.  Being a younger son, he has few options but to take to gambling.  It’s here where he first sees Ms. Slaughter.  He’s intrigued by her, but she belongs to someone else, so he keeps his distance.  When she fleeces him in a game of blackjack, he finds himself unable to stay away.

Their attraction is mutual, as well as the knowledge that it’s pointless.  Lydia needs a protector and Will can’t afford to keep one. Regardless, they strike up a witty friendship, and eventually a partnership, teaming up to make enough money for both of them to carry out their promises to themselves and others.  It gets doubly complicated when they’re unable to deny their physical attraction.

A Gentleman Undone is a complex and well written historical romance. Ms. Grant has written intriguing characters who are easy to like while also remaining very human and, ultimately, imperfect. The rapport between Will and Lydia is funny and heartwarming.

“I came looking for you because there’s something I want to discuss. I expect you can guess it.”

Oh, she could guess it, surely enough. Unless he was a royal nodcock he would naturally have questions about last Saturday night at Beecham’s. She’d known that before dealing the ace of diamonds, and she’d dealt it all the same.

Well, he could have all the questions he liked. he would see in what style she chose to answer. “Indeed.” She lifted her chin finally and faced him, angling her body his way, laying one forearm on the table and the other along the back of her chair. “I surmise you’ve sought me out to compliment me on my new gown.”

“You surmise incorrectly. I’ve come for something else.” He paused, though, his gaze flicking down over the yards of indigo silk and back up. “But I’ll grant you the compliment, willingly. I suspect there’s not a man alive who wouldn’t appreciate that gown.”

“Possibly. Though I might advise you to reserve your panegyrics until you’ve seen my other new gown.” She palmed up her king and her ace with a smart flourish.

“Are you…flirting with me, Miss Slaughter?” His eyes narrowed briefly, like a sailor trying to make out the colors of a ship on the horizon. Then his mouth curved and sent smile-echoes through his whole body, loosening his posture as he folded his arms and leaned his shoulder into the doorjamb. “you must want very badly to divert my attention from the topic I came to pursue.”

Now here was a man she had use for, spiriteed and ready to spar. “Nonsense.” King and ace went back into the deck at precise intervals. “If my purpose were to distract you, I should have commenced my erotic spectacle.”

Oh he did like that. His eyes narrowed again, or rather, the lids dropped halfway and his lopsided smile took a turn for the wicked. “Its a solo act, then. I’m intrigued.”

“Perhaps.” Ha. did he think she was so easy to shock. “Or perhaps it’s an act that require the participation of some willing audience member.” She owed this man nothing. She didn’t have to mind her words with him, the way she did with Edward. She could say any reckless thing she liked.

“Now that, I’ll grant, might have succeeded in diverting me. Mere flirtation will not.”

 

I found myself smiling many times throughout the novel.  While many romance books are fluffy and quick reads, I found myself having to slow down in order to soak in the words on the page.  Finding an author who can do that in this genre is always a fantastic find.  Ms. Grant’s second novel lives up to its first, with complicated and endearing characters that will captivate and ensnare you.  It’s not the happiest of novels, but we get a realistic and satisfying happily ever after.

A Gentleman Undone by Cecilia Grant

Rating: B+

Romance: 3/5                  Raunch: 3/5

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