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New Release Review! THE WAGER OF A LADY by Kathleen Ayers (Beautiful Barringtons #4)

Leo believes in playing the odds and is rarely surprised until he meets Georgina, the rebellious young bride of Lord Masterson. A game of cards quickly turns into an unforgettable night that leaves Georgina compromised in both heart and body. Fans of steamy historical and secret baby romances will devour The Wager of a Lady by Kathleen Ayers, the next book in the Beautiful Barringtons Series.

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A notorious bastard of a duke.

Leo Murphy believes in playing the odds, as long as the house wins. As the owner of Elysium, London’s most exclusive gambling hell, Leo’s existence depends on predicting his opponent’s next move. Rarely is he surprised. Until he meets the young bride of Lord Masterson losing at cards.

Georgina is beautiful, intelligent, possessed of a razor-sharp wit and a rebellious nature.

She is completely unexpected.

Leo is so struck by Georgina he doesn’t know whether to bed her or befriend her. He decides to do both.

A rebellious young American.

Wed to the scandalous and elderly Lord Masterson, Georgina detests London. Mocked for her accent and her family’s pedigree, she wants nothing more than to return to New York. When the wickedly attractive Leo Murphy offers to teach her how to play cards, she assumes he merely wishes to admire her bosom. She’s half in love with him before the evening ends.

A wager that ruins them both.

One unforgettable night with Leo leaves Georgina compromised in both heart and body. Now she’s keeping secrets from everyone, especially from Leo. 

Will he forgive her? Or let Georgina go forever?

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His steps slowed as he caught sight of the faro table. Not because Larkin was nervously twitching, terrified he’d make a mistake in front of the Duke of Windmere who sat at his table. No, it was because of a slender back clad in powder-blue silk.

Gold ringlets hovered at the base of her neck. One had fallen loose, cascading down the creamy expanse of her left shoulder. Her head tilted to the right as she listened to something Larkin said. She smiled back at the dealer, answering him in a flat, nasal tone.


Something stirred inside Leo, wholly unexpected at the sound of her, though it wasn’t the first time he’d heard an American speak. He came up behind her, taken aback by the soft aroma of wildflowers. An entire field of them.

Arousal, sharp and swift, wound its way down his thighs. And he hadn’t even gotten a look at her face. Then there was the insane urge to run his lips across her shoulder, maybe tug at that golden curl with his teeth.

Larkin looked over the woman’s shoulder, catching Leo’s eye. He dipped his head. “Mr. Murphy.”

“Everything going well this evening, Larkin?”

The young lady seemed uncaring of his presence so close to her. She didn’t turn or acknowledge him. Didn’t she know who he was?

Highly unusual. Everyone in Elysium knew who he was. Leo found himself intrigued. A rare occurrence and something for which the odds were very low.

“Very well, sir.” Larkin turned to Windmere.

Leo studied the delicate shape of the young lady’s profile as her brow wrinkled in concentration. She was very young. Barely out of the schoolroom. And yet, she displayed not an ounce of discomfort sitting at a faro table alone at a gambling hell. A glass of wine remained untouched at her elbow as she studied the cards in her hand.

“Perhaps I can be of assistance.” Leo took the seat next to her.

“I sincerely doubt that.” She didn’t turn in his direction; instead, her chin tilted so mulishly one might have thought she was bracing herself to take a punch to the jaw instead of being offered aid by a gentleman.

Defiant little thing. “Are you sure? I’m rather good at cards.”

“Hmm. So claims every other lord in here.” The neckline of her gown was almost indecent, giving Leo a glimpse of what was clearly a pair of magnificent breasts. “Gentlemen say such things,” she continued, “so that under the guise of looking at my cards to assist me, they might admire my bosom.” Her gaze slid to his waistcoat; she shivered with what appeared to be distaste before barely glancing at Leo’s face. Her attention returned to her cards. She was completely uninterested in him.

“Is this the way all Americans behave?” The odds of any female in Leo’s immediate vicinity ignoring him were incredibly low. That is to say, it never happened.

She turned to face him with a sigh of exasperation. “Very well. I can see you wish us to become acquainted and won’t leave me in peace until you accomplish your aim. I am Lady Masterson.”

Copyright 2022 @Kathleen Ayers


Leo and Georgie’s story was deliciously angsty, and I was here for it!

Leo was born on the wrong side of the blanket, and unfortunately found out about it in a spectacularly awful fashion. Even though his father “claimed” him, Leo’s been resentful of his father ever since and his relationships with the rest of his family are…complicated.

Georgie knows all about complicated families–hers sent her to England to marry an impoverished lord with highly questionable morals after a single discretion on her part. Life across the ocean is pretty miserable–the only bright spot soon becomes the time she spends at Leo’s gaming hell.

I have to admit I spent a good chunk of the book rather aggravated with Leo–his obsession with his “inferior” birth really gets in his way for a good 70% or so of the book (not to mention his whole life up to that point). He buries his feelings for Georgie deep and yeah, the bulk of their relationship issues are his fault. Normally I wouldn’t be a fan, but Ms Ayers’ writing here really convinced me that even though they made me crazy, his feelings were valid. And of course he does eventually get over himself to get to that HEA with Georgie, so there’s that…

Georgie is a wonderful character–like Leo, I constantly had to remind myself of how young she was, because goodness did she have to make some big, scary decisions. She is strong all the way through the book, and even when she made dubious decisions you totally understood why she made those choices. There are some villains here, and they’re fairly one-dimensional, but they do their job of nudging our hero and heroine toward their HEA, and I didn’t hate that.

This book covers a lot of time–jumping months and even years at one point–so if you’ve read other books in the series (which I haven’t yet, but OMG am I going to!) it looks like there’s a bit of overlap–Tony goes from bachelor to married man without spoiling anything more than the name of his wife, which you can also learn from his book’s ( The Theory of Earls ) blurb, so it’s all good. It absolutely worked as a standalone, but I learned just enough about Leo’s siblings (and father/stepmother) that I added the earlier series books to my TBR before I even got to the end of this one.

Rating: 4 stars / A-

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.

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About the author:

Kathleen Ayers is the bestselling author of Regency and Victorian romance with strong, witty damaged heroes who can’t help falling for intelligent, sassy heroines. An avid reader, Kathleen fell in love with historical romance as a teenager after picking up a copy of Sweet Savage Love. She reads everything, from romance to thrillers, Stephen King and fantasy. When her nose isn’t stuck in a book, Kathleen tries to garden (with mixed results), works on perfecting her charcuterie board skills and enjoys a good wine tasting.

A Texas transplant, Kathleen shares a backyard swimming pool with her husband, son and two very spoiled dogs.

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