All or Nothing by Rose Lerner
Simon Radcliffe-Gould’s career as an architect is stalled and his bank account is almost empty. Yet every week he finds himself losing money he can’t afford at Maggie da Silva’s bohemian gambling den, just so he’ll have an excuse to see the beautiful, irrepressible hostess.
Maggie thought she had her life sorted out. She has a best friend (with benefits), a successful business, and a truly spectacular wardrobe. But lately she’s been…bored. Intrigued by serious, shy Simon, she finds a way to draw him into reluctantly betting on her favors at the faro table.
A few glorious nights are all she expects. But when an old flame hires Simon to design a folly during a scandalous house party at his country estate, Simon asks Maggie to pose as his mistress so he can actually get some work done. Sure, she’d rather be his mistress, but she jumps at the chance for a well deserved, all-expenses-paid vacation. What could go wrong?
Turns out, everything: Simon has unresolved issues with his ex, it’s impossible to keep kosher, and worst of all, Maggie is in danger of losing her heart…
Redeemed by Molly O’Keefe
The men of the West flock to watch the Northern Spy, a beautiful woman who sings…while locked in a cage. In every city, Helen’s alluring and mysterious act culminates in a high-stakes poker game. The winner’s prize: a night with the Spy.
Helen Winters’ life as a Union spy behind enemy lines was no act. But now that the war is over, her heroism has her trapped. Tortured by her memories and by the man who holds her prisoner, she clings to her dreams of freedom.
Like Helen, Union battlefield surgeon Dr. James Madison lost the best parts of himself in the war. Haunted by the demons of an old addiction, he knows he’s no hero, but Helen stirs to life the man he once was—and the man he could be again.
He might win her. She might save him. Or perhaps they’ll both lose it all…
This story is part 3 of Molly’s Into the Wild series. You can find Annie and Steven’s story in book 2, Tempted.
The Liar’s Dice by Jeannie Lin
Lady Bai, called Wei-wei by her aristocratic family, has always been the perfectly obedient daughter—but only on the outside. Inwardly she dreams of freedom. When she dares to pay a forbidden visit to a public tea garden in men’s clothing, only Gao looks close enough to notice her borrowed robes. Alas, looking closely at the enigmatic Gao tells Wei-wei only one thing: he’s a scoundrel.
When the pair witness a fatal stabbing, Gao surprises her by staying at her side as she investigates the brutal crime. Together they uncover more secrets, somehow tied to her brother and the seedy gambling dens he’s been visiting on the sly. Gao seems to know far too much about the brutal ways of the street, but Wei-wei is drawn to him and his habit of seeing through all her disguises.
Wei-wei revels in her newfound independence and her growing feelings for her mysterious companion, but all too soon she’s faced with a cruel choice—discover the truth and bring the killer to justice, or protect her family at all costs.
This story is part of the Pingkang Li Mysteries series. You can find Bai Huang and Yue-ying’s story in book 1, The Lotus Palace, and Ming-yu and Wu Kaifeng’s story in book 2, The Jade Temptress.
Raising The Stakes by Isabel Cooper
Ever since the drought and dust storms hit her family’s farm, Sam’s taken to the road, gambling and running a con or two to stay afloat and send a little money to the folks back home. One night, she wins some much-needed cash and an antique flute its owner claims is magic.
Sam doesn’t believe in magic. But when she plays a few notes, a handsome warrior from another world appears, bound by an ancient bargain to destroy the enemies of anyone who possesses the flute.
Talathan soon wants to help resilient, beautiful Sam for reasons far deeper than his old debt, but magical warfare would attract too much attention in a world of Tommy guns and talkies. So the gambler and the elf come up with another plan, one which matches both their skills against a corrupt preacher.
For so long, Sam’s looked forward to nothing but the next dollar and the next deal of the cards, but as she and Talathan work together, she finds herself wanting to win more than money and play much more than one hand…
Gideon and the Den of Thieves by Joanna Bourne
Aimée Beauclerc, set adrift in England by the French Revolution, appraises stolen goods for Regency crime boss Lazarus while she plots her escape. But when Lazarus is injured, she has a choice: set her own dreams aside and stay to prop up his brutal rule…or flee and allow a bloody struggle for power that will be the death of the larcenous men, women and children she’s grown to love.
Into Lazarus’s headquarters stomps formidable soldier of fortune Gideon Gage, threatening a bloody slaughter if his kidnapped sister isn’t returned to him.
With Gideon’s skills at her disposal, Aimée just might have a chance. She offers him a bargain: she’ll help his sister if he’ll set aside his understandable thirst for vengeance and help her protect her friends, thwart the vicious killer trying to seize control of the gang, and get free of Lazarus once and for all.
Aimée’s used to gambling with her life, but as she learns to trust Gideon, she finds herself gambling with something even more precious: her heart.
This story is a prequel to Joanna’s Spymaster series. Fans of the series will recognize Hawker!
Image credits: pound coin by DJM, silver dollar by Jaclyn Nash courtesy of National Numismatic Collection, National Museum of American History, Kai Yuan Tong Bao by CZDK, silver dollar by bobby131313 courtesy of CCF Numismatics, sovereign by Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.