Sophie Campbell is determined to be mistress of her own fate. Surviving on her skill at cards, she never risks what she can’t afford to lose. Yet when the Duke of Ware proposes a scandalous wager that’s too extravagant to refuse, she can’t resist. If she wins, she’ll get five thousand pounds, enough to secure her independence forever.
Stays at the Vega Club . . .
Jack Lindeville, Duke of Ware, tells himself he’s at the Vega Club merely to save his reckless brother from losing everything, but he knows it’s a lie. He can’t keep his eyes off Sophie, and to get her he breaks his ironclad rule against gambling. If he wins, he wants her—for a week.
A week with Jack could ruin what’s left of Sophie’s reputation. It might even cost her her heart. But when it comes to love, all bets are off . . .
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My Once and Future Duke: The Wagers of Sin
Sophie Graham has wonderful memories of the first twelve years of her life. Her parents were deeply in love, and traveled all over, as her mother was an opera singer. Upon her parents’ unexpected deaths, she was left as a ward to her grandfather, who wanted no part of her. Viscount Makepeace disowned his son years ago for marrying a singer against his wishes, and now he ships his granddaughter, Sophie, off to Mrs. Upton’s Academy. Sophie stays there until she turns eighteen, at which time, her grandfather cuts off his funding and says she is on her own. Sophie works as a companion for a time, and a bequest from her employer gives her a stake for the future she’s planning. She reinvents herself as the widowed Sophie Campbell, and sets off to London to make her fortune at the gaming tables.
Jack Lindeville, Duke of Ware, has reached his limit of what he will tolerate from his younger brother, Philip, whose latest gambling debt is over two thousand pounds. Jack finds Philip at the Vega Gambling Club the very evening he promised to stay away for a full month. Not only is he there, but he’s in the process of losing another large sum to a lovely lady. Jack has had enough, and confronts Philip directly, in front of his friends. Sophie is Philip’s gambling partner, and she feels compelled to add fuel to the flames of their confrontation, bringing Jack’s attention to her. Soon Jack is goaded into gambling with Sophie, and their wager escalates to five thousand pounds if she wins against a week in his company if he wins. Since Sophie is a skilled player and odds calculator, she accepts the bet, thinking how close she will be to her goal of financial freedom. However, Sophie can’t calculate luck, and it’s on Jack’s side tonight. He wins the bet, and hustles Sophie out to his carriage, and off to his estate, Alwyn House.
Jack is too honorable a man to expect sexual favors from Sophie. In fact, the whole wager and loss of his temper was totally out of character for him. He won’t deny that he found her desirable from the first moment he saw her, but he felt he had to remove her from his brother’s company. Alwyn House is Jack’s sanctuary, away from the demands of his title and his family. He treats Sophie with the utmost courtesy, and she is charmed by the more relaxed and charming version of the Duke of Ware. Over the next several days, they explore his home and his estate, and become better acquainted. Before the week is up, they spend a passionate night together. While Jack is more than willing to continue seeing Sophie once they are back in London, Sophie declines. She is barely on the fringe of polite society due to her gambling, and a liaison with a duke would completely ruin her. They say a sad goodbye, never expecting to see each other again.
While Philip had previously been friendly and flirtatious with Sophie, he now exhibits a possessiveness and determination to have her that is unbearable, and Sophie seeks help from Jack. Seeing Sophie again fills Jack with joy, and despite their best intentions, they begin an intense and steamy affair, and soon they are deeply in love. Even though Jack begins seriously thinking of forever, they have several obstacles to overcome, including his family’s very shocking expectation of him.
I found a very sad part of this story to be the way brothers Jack and Philip drifted apart. As young boys and men, they were very close, but their father’s death seemed to change all that. At the young age of twenty-four, Jack came into the title before he was fully prepared. He had to put away the youthful pleasures he enjoyed and become responsible. While he became more steadfast and serious, it seems that Philip became more irresponsible and resentful of Jack. I admire the man Jack is – his honor, his strength. I love the way he treated Sophie and never judged her, and I love how he came to the realization that he needed her in his life and her background didn’t matter. At first I questioned Sophie’s decision to make her fortune by gambling, as it seems so seedy. Yet, there are very few choices for a woman in that time if she wants to be independent. Her lifestyle never turned her hard or bitter, and she held true to her own set of principles. MY ONCE AND FUTURE DUKE is a fabulous read, with likeable characters who had a strong chemistry and a wonderful camaraderie and romance. I devoured this warm and well written romance in one sitting, and highly recommend it. ~Rose