Thursday, May 23, 2024

Review - - A Gamble at Sunset

A Gamble at Sunset
by Vanessa Riley
Betting Against the Duke - Book 1
Publisher: Zebra Books
Release Date: May 21, 2024
Reviewed by PJ

When a duke discovers the woman he loves was tricked into marrying another, the master chess player makes the now-widowed Viscountess the highest-stakes wager of his life in a last-ditch effort to win her affection: he will find husbands for her two sisters—or depart forever. Thus begins a sparkling new series from acclaimed author Vanessa Riley.

Georgina Wilcox, a wallflower with hidden musical talents, is furious when her reclusive older sister—the recently widowed Viscountess—refuses sorely needed help from the Duke of Torrance, the only gentleman who has shown kindness to the bereft Wilcox sisters. Georgina decides to get back at her sister and shock the Viscountess by kissing the first willing stranger she meets in the enchanting gardens of Anya House. Unfortunately, her sister is not the sole witness. A group of reporters and the 
ton’s leading gossips catch Georgina in a passionate embrace with a reticent composer, Lord Mark Sebastian.

The third son of an influential marquis, the tongue-tied Mark is determined to keep the scandal from ruining Georgina’s reputation and his own prospects of winning the celebrated Harlbert’s Prize for music. Under the guise of private voice lessons, the two embark on a daring gamble to fool the 
ton into believing that their feigned courtship is honorable while bolstering Georgina’s singing genius to captivate potential suitors. Sexist cartoons, family rivalries, and an upcoming ball test the fake couple’s resolve. Will their sudden fiery collaboration—and growing attraction—prove there’s nothing false about a first kiss and scandalously irresistible temptation?

PJ's Thoughts:

I love fake engagements. I love complex families. And I love well-researched historical romances with secrets, betrayals, and unexpected turns. Riley uses all of these in the first book of her new trilogy, laying the groundwork for what I expect will be a compelling and deeply emotional payoff at the end. 

Riley breathes life into these characters and into the fabric of the city and times in which they live. She takes her time with the Wilcox sisters, with Mark, and especially with the Duke of Torrance, unfolding their stories slowly, with dips and turns, as we begin to understand what drives each of them. And, as we eventually come to learn, there are unexpected layers that will make their journeys all the more complex. I was fascinated by the fear, hope, desperation, and determination all roiling beneath the surface of these enigmatic characters. 

There's a lot of set up in this first book with attention given to each of the sisters as well as Mark and the duke. I'm okay with that. While I enjoyed Georgina's and Mark's slowly progressing romance, the real meat of this story is in the dynamics among the sisters and, especially, each of their relationships with the duke. There are so many layers to be explored and I am here for all of them.

While the storyline for Mark and Georgina is brought full circle in this first book, there are many more threads to be explored further in the next two books. I am already looking forward to Scarlett's journey in book two. This brilliant young woman with a scientific mind has already shown a propensity for pushing boundaries, uncovering secrets, and challenging the patriarchy. I'm eager to discover what Riley has in store for her. 


  1. Thanks for the review. Sounds like a fun story.

  2. Vanessa Riley is a favorite. I am looking forward to reading this book! Thanks for the review.