People in this conversation
- Elizabeth Schroedle
- Marcy Shuler
- Barbara Elness
- Sandy Xiong
- Flora Segura-Buchler
- Janie McGaugh
- Michelle Fidler
- Mary Holden
by Miranda Neville
Gambling fever gripped late 18th- and early 19th-century London. In fancy clubs like White’s and Brooks’s and low “hells,” rich men were lured by the delights of dice and card games and early forms of roulette. Fortunes were won and lost. Gentlemen lost everything, leaving their families penniless and sometimes blowing out their brains in shame.
We all know the story of the invention of the sandwich, created for the Earl of Sandwich who wanted a meal he could eat without getting up from the card table. Gamesters wore straw hats or eye shades to protect their eyes from the glare of candlelight during marathon sessions that could stretch out over several days and nights. The statesman Charles James Fox is perhaps the era’s most famous loser. It’s estimated his lifetime losses totaled two hundred thousand pounds – about $20 million in today’s money. His rich and indulgent father covered Fox’s IOUs. Because gambling debts weren’t legally enforceable, they became “debts of honor,” a term that makes me snort when I think of idiot gentlemen paying each other huge sums of money while ignoring the tradesmen who supplied them with food, clothing, and other goods on credit.
Gaming often appears in historical romance, with writers like Lisa Kleypas and Sarah MacLean writing wonderful gamester heroes. My Wild Quartet series concentrates on the darker consequences of games of chance. In The Importance of Being Wicked, the heroine Caro’s first husband was addicted to gambling, leaving her in dire financial straits. I’m currently finishing the third book in the series in which a youthful gaming disaster changed my hero’s life.
And then there’s Marcus Lithgow, the hero of The Ruin of a Rogue. Marcus is a rogue all right, as readers of The Importance of Being Wicked already know. He’s a professional gamester, traveling around Europe in pursuit of the next pigeon to pluck. But Marcus has a problem. Lady Luck has deserted him. Marcus knows the odds. (Aside: probability theory was developed from the calculations of eighteenth century gamblers.) His current run of bad luck makes no sense, but he’s not stupid enough to disrespect a losing streak. Instead he decides to court an heiress. The heiress he sets his sights on isn’t stupid either, but that’s a topic for another blog.
Do you like to gamble? Speaking for myself, I’m not fond of losing money so I’ll never blow more than a few dollars on the slots. I love playing cards, not for money. I enjoy bridge and I used to play piquet with my mother, knowledge that has come in handy writing historical romance.
What’s your favorite game?
One commenter will win my GAMESTER’S PACKAGE including an historical pack of cards, an eye shade, and something to eat between games (quite likely involving chocolate, and a selection from my stash of books.)
Sorry, this giveaway is for U.S. readers only. The prize for my chat with Kieran Kramer is open to all so I hope international readers will join us at 11am EST.
Contest open to US residents only, age 18+. Winners will be decided by randomly selected from the comments received. The winners will be announced on the Discover a New Love blog on Thursday, September 5. Winners will have five business days to claim their prizes or an alternate winner will be selected.
Miranda grew up in southwest England. During her misspent youth she devoured the works of Georgette Heyer, Jean Plaidy and any other historical novels she could lay hands on. As a result she attended the University of Oxford to study history, ignoring all hints that economics might be a more practical subject. Miranda spent several years writing catalogues of rare books and original letters and manuscripts for Sotheby’s auction house in London and New York.
Miranda now lives in Vermont where she enjoys skiing and writing romances set in Regency England where it hardly ever snows.
You can follow Miranda online at:
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