The Lady Risks All
Avon / September 25, 2012 / $7.99 print, $5.99 digital
Neville Roscoe, notorious and enigmatic, lives resolutely outside society, bound only by his own code of honor—until challenged by his desire for the one woman he cannot have.
Miranda Clifford is a lady imprisoned by rigid respectability—until tempted by a passion beyond her power to deny.
Flung together in peril, through danger and intrigue, they discover a love impossible to ignore . . . or keep.
In Stephanie Laurens's The Lady Risks All, the men in Lord Julian Delbraith’s family often succumb to the family curse: inveterate gambling. Unbeknownst to most, Julian, though a gambler, never loses. When his seemingly stoic older brother gambles away the family fortune and then kills himself, Julian steps up to save his mother, three sisters, daughter-in-law and young nephew from ruin. In addition to serving as co-guardian for his nephew (the heir), Lord Julian decides that he must adopt a new persona: Neville Roscoe, who over the course of twelve years builds an empire of gambling halls.
Miranda Clifford has been raised by her two aunts to keep one consideration in mind at all times: respectability. Though minor gentry on her mother’s side, the fortune that Miranda and her brother inherited came from the mills owned by her father’s family, and her mother’s sisters constantly feared that the taint of money made from trade would color the ton’s view of both them and their charges if they ever stepped off of the straight and narrow path set for them.
With these considerations in mind, Miranda follows her younger brother, Roderick, one evening, when he goes into the home of the infamous gambling king, Neville Roscoe. When Roscoe himself discovers Miranda sneaking around his house, expecting to catch her brother in the act, he offers her the chance to observe through a window, and what Miranda learns surprises her. Rather than turning into a profligate, Roderick has become a member of a philanthropy guild run by Roscoe.
Feeling a bit chastised and very relieved, Miranda allows Roscoe to walk her home. The two take to one another and feel a physical attraction when they touch, but do not act upon their responses. But when Roderick disappears and Miranda’s aunt forbids her to contact the police, fearing the scandal, Miranda turns to Roscoe for help.
At ages thirty-eight and twenty-nine, respectively, Roscoe and Miranda provide a different sort of hero and heroine for readers, and this aspect may well have a great deal to do with why the book focuses as much on their personalities and character growth throughout the novel as on the romantic elements. Because of this approach, the growing relationship between the two feels realistic.
After a conversation with her aunt when she returns home from following her brother to Roscoe’s, Miranda feels the weight of her life sharply:
Closing the door, she paused, all but palpably feeling the restraints of her aunt’s doctrine of inviolate respectability cinching around her.
Weighing her down. Hemming her in.
Trapping her. Smothering her.
While she’d been focused on saving Roderick, through her interaction with Roscoe and the walk back to the house, that feeling of being of smothered, of being restricted and restrained...had weakened, eased...
Tonight had been a momentary escape. A fleeting few hours in a different world, one that operated under different license.
As the story progresses, Miranda courageously moves out of her comfort zone in order to find her brother, and she makes a very conscious decision to learn first-hand what she has been missing in the arena of intimacy.
For his part, Roscoe has long denied himself the one thing he has always truly desired: a domestic life of his own. After basically sacrificing himself for his family as a younger man, having Lord Julian disappear in order to earn a living to support everyone via a method not socially acceptable, Roscoe has not sought out any deeper, lasting relationships with women. Though he feels an immediate attraction to Miranda, he tells himself that nothing can ever happen between them, given his reputation.
With the stifling restrictions placed upon her by her aunts, Miranda lacks knowledge of certain aspects of the wider world and how people may really think. Though his constraints are self-imposed, Roscoe limits his experience of the very elements he craves. In their hunt for clues in Roderick’s disappearance, Miranda and Roscoe learn a lot more about one another, but also discover a few things about themselves in the process—such as what really is worth risking in life, and what can happen when you do.
A former librarian, Carol spends her time reading, writing, editing, listening to music, moderating convention panels, and best of all, playing with her amazing grandsons. Carol may be found online at Bitten by Books, where she reviews, edits, and writes a column on genre television shows.