Diane, the widowed Lady Cameron, has returned to London and set the ton on its collective ear by announcing her intention to open a gambling club in her home. It is to be like none other, with genteel ladies running the games and taking the coats and serving the food. It is scandalous, but intriguing; especially as everyone knows that Diane's late husband was a poor gambler and died penniless, leaving her stranded in Vienna.
Diane is indeed penniless, but she has something better than money - she has proof of Oliver, the Marquis of Haybury's, deepest, darkest secret, which she uses to compel him to loan her the money to set up her club. Seething all the while, he does so - but neither of them can forget their time in Vienna.
Recently widowed, Diane and Oliver shared a wild and passionate fortnight, at the end of which Oliver up and disappeared, leaving Diane as alone and penniless as her husband did, but with the addition of a broken heart. She has every reason to hate Oliver but she is desperate. So she and Oliver begin a tenuous, shaky partnership.
I thought all the details of getting the club together were interesting - finding and training the staff, transforming a house into a club, etc. But the constant bickering between Diane and Oliver was exhausting. Bickering is really too mild a word. Their every interaction is fraught with malice and accusations and really hurtful words. I could understand Diane's loathing of Oliver, but what is Oliver's beef with her? Sure, she's compelling him to help her, but his antipathy toward her was evident long before they became partners. They were both always trying to figure out the other's game and looking for hidden motives in every word. But make no mistake; Oliver was completely in the wrong regarding their past. He left her, a penniless, weepy, heartbroken woman, alone in a foreign country, because he liked her too much, got scared and ran away back to England. There was nothing in that previous relationship to make him want to hurt her or suspect her of playing games with him now, so his attitude toward Diane was inexplicable to me.
This tension and game-playing and anger went on far, far too long and made an otherwise interesting plot tedious and aggravating. Suzanne Enoch usually works for me - she's a solid, dependable, enjoyable writer - but Diane and Oliver just about did me in.
Reviewed by Cheryl Sneed, October 11, 2011