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BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEALovely Regina Berryman was pursued by two men the two most attractive and infamous bachelors in London One was Jason Thomas Duke of Toruay whose skill and success in seduction had made him a legend of lordly licentiousness The other was St John Basil St Charles Maruis of Bessacarr the devilish Duke's only rival as the foremost rake of the realmThese notorious gentlemen had made Regina fair game in a competition where all was considered legitimate strategy in winning her affection and capturing her virtue And Regina's only chance of preserving her honor and protecting her heart was to turn the tables on her titled tempters and change the dallying way Regency London played the game of love

10 thoughts on “The Duke's Wager

  1. says:

    In her enthusiasm to see the sights while she's in London country mouse Regina Berryman accidentally attends the opera on the night where mistresses and the demimonde are on display Dressed smartly in the fancy clothes her uncle bought her she unwittingly draws the attention of two of London's most notorious libertines the Maruess of Bessacarr and the Duke of Toruay When the duke approaches her to whisper a proposition in her ear she flees the opera house in a hurry Toruay however is undaunted and becomes determined to have her as a mistress Bessacarr being none too fond of Toruay becomes determined to have her as well if only to thwart the duke Thus begins a twisted love triangle battling to corrupt the innocent ReginaThe book is brilliant in that both men are absolutely despicable in the beginning Early on Regina is left completely penniless by her uncle's untimely death Toruay and Bessacarr both exploit this to their own benefit Toruay by getting her thrown out of her home and abducting her to try to force her to accept his offer and Bessacarr by taking her into his home under false pretenses and abusing her trust by pretending to help her find work One is openly trying to corrupt her while the other is doing it stealthily Neither is concerned one whit for what Regina wants Regina is a delightful character She's penniless and powerless but her well developed sense of honor and self worth prevents her from accepting Toruay's offer She refuses to live as someone's object or pampered pet She's determined to live an honest honorable existence even if she must find employment She was educated as though she were a son by her schoolmaster father and so meets Toruay's sallies head on refusing to be taken as anything less than an eual As it's all she has left she clings tenaciously to her dignityLayton makes good use of dialog in the novel using lots of it to draw out who the characters are and why they act the ways they do Whenever the duke encounters Regina a war of words breaks out The two have lengthy wonderfully written discussions where though he becomes and determined to have her Toruay also begins to wish she never compromises herself Eventually he starts to wonder if he even wants to win this game of his Would she still be so appealing if she consented to be his mistress? What sort of person would that make him as well if she did?I just loved watching these characters grow and change No one ends this book the way they began not even the secondary characters Through well crafted meaty dialog we watch the characters struggle with their own senses of honor and self respect They all make miscalculations along the way and though all three try only two come out better people at the end It's a rare book that can write a character who manages to go from repulsive to endearing but Layton pulls it off and makes it look easy5 stars Easy I couldn't find a flaw if I had a gun to my head

  2. says:

    I just read two five star HPs and I thought I’d read a palate cleanser of a Regency to cure my bookhangover OMG – this was a five star read too #firstworld problems I know – but still I’ve been flying too high and I know I’m going to crash soonBut before I do I’ll review this one The Duke’s Wager is not a triangle in the traditional sense Yes two men are vying for the heroine but she doesn’t know that The heroine thinks that one is her protector and one is her pursuer So the heroine never dithers when a choice is presented at the end Her mind is clearly made up and this was very satisfyingAlso not clear from the title – the wager is between the Duke and the heroine – not a wager between the two men So another strike against the triangle tropeTo add to the trope busting – both men are clearly horrible at the beginning of the story They both see women as sex objects They are both milking their power and privilege for all its worth They both see the heroine as a novelty and not a person at the beginning of the story The heroine is a country gal who has been educated as a man She is not the typical Regency Bluestocking spouting political gibberish about the vote or going to the slums to do good She’s just her beautiful intelligent self at all times And because of this she is in peril for the entire novel That’s the forward momentum Will she lose her honor to survive and if she loses her honor will she want to survive? So spoilers Or how I knew who the hero wasDon’t read if you want to read the book Trust me it’s worth it not to be spoiled view spoiler The titleThe hero was honest from the start – the OM was dishonest from start to finish – first about his intentions having the heroine masuerade as “Lady Barry” his association with the trades throwing her letter in the fire etcHero’s backstory that shaped his attitude towards womenWe have a scene with the Hero his nanny and his daughter – without the heroine present This was for the reader to understand himOM’s treatment of the less than perfect cousin who was the right woman for him in everyway but he was too shallow to see itHero could see the beauty in the less than perfect cousin and even made a pass at herHeroine had zero chemistry with OM and off the charts with the HOM assumed and Hero never didBy the end of the story I hated the OM for his passive aggressiveness and deceit that I didn’t feel a bit sorry for him “losing” I see there is a seuel for him Hopefully he grew from this experience hide spoiler

  3. says:

    I shall set you free and you shall be as a little green eyed fox in the forests of London I shall keep my hounds on your traces I shall know every moment of how you fare But then you must find a proper place for yourself A safe harbor A moral and safe harbor If I find that within a certain time you have done so I shall wish you joy and keep only these tender moments safely locked away in memory But if you have not I shall come for you again And this time Regina you may play Sherharazade with a thousand tales of morality and honor and truth it will not avail you You will have failed the test You will be mine to do with as I wish A regency romance unlike any I have ever read before I am still so full of Edith Layton’s The Duke’s Wager that I find myself unable to pick up another bookMost conventional romances pit the Bad Guy versus the Good Guy fighting for the honor of the Heroine Layton has to my immense pleasure come up with a new formula presenting the reader with two awful immoral truly beastly Regency rakes both intent on capturing the tasty morsel that Regina represents completely uncaring that it would mean her utter destruction The Duke of ToruaySinjin Maruis of Bessacarry Regina BerrymanThe Duke was my absolute all time favorite He gets the best lines of the book and there are many of them I am not a good man I am at the present as a matter of record rejoicing in one of the most evil reputations in all of England But don’t pity me Regina for I swear it is well deserved But I am very wealthy and I am a duke a duke of all things And you are a commoner Moreover much to my joy you are a commoner with no connections at all No resources No protector You are my natural meat My natural prey I want youThe fact that you insist on being recognized as a thinking person with certain rights makes you all the most stimulatingYou speak almost as well as a man It will be a novelty to make love to a woman who seems to have a man’s mindYou arerather like a newly hatched chick who asks the hawk what possible joy he finds in soaring You will understand Regina Berryman is a than worthy adversary cutting him off at the knees with her sharp words coming from an even sharper mind the only weapon she has against this unrepentant rogue who has abducted countless other no names like her throughout England and the continent with total impunity Their exchanges were delicious You have been trained to give You have been used to taking But could you eversell yourself? And if you could not can you try to understand why I cannot?She felt him almost physically recoil at her words Then he began to laugh A different laugh than that which she had heard before A rich full laugh When the laughter subsided he straightened and seemed to stare off into space Then he turned again to her Well done oh well done Regina” he breathed a new and excited look on his face Can you not speak straight? Must everything be couched in that sinister poetry you affect?He seemed for one second taken aback and then he let out a genuine laugh oddly pure in contrast to his hoarse voice His eyes lit up to the shade of a summer’s day Since there is so much that you know about me can you tell me something about yourself? Some true thing?She asked watching him realizing that she knew nothing of the actual man that hid beneath the blandly smiling smooth exterior that he presented Some true thing? He laughed Oh my dear there is no true thing about me at all No less dangerous is the third party to this wager Where Toruay is the lion in this tale brutally straightforward about his intentions even so magnanimous as to give Regina a head start in the hunt that he is arrogantly confident will end with a glorious kill Sinjin is like the hyena who schemes and stalks from the shadows presenting a smiling civilized mask in order to lure Regina to the elaborate trap he has set up for her so that he can spring on her and devour her when she least expects itThis book was so rich so nuanced so layered that I could not possibly do it justice in my clumsy review Absolutely smashing

  4. says:

    This review was originally posted on my book blog This review contains spoilersEdith Layton’s The Duke’s Wager is often cited as one of the best Regency romances ever written I picked it up after a friend who shares my affection for Georgette Heyer recommended it enthusiastically Alas I can’t uite share his enthusiasm for reasons I will explain below in exhaustive and possibly profanity laced detail The short version is that while the book is well written I could not get past the fact that the book takes a smart and interesting heroine and then decides that her highest purpose in life is to be the catalyst for a man’s personal growth Especially when that man is a total bleeping asshole See? I warned you there would be profanityThe book’s heroine Regina Barryman is a tradesman’s daughter new to London She is exceptionally well educated and very clever but at the beginning of the book she makes a mistake she attends the opera on a night when members of the demimonde read classy prostitutes gather to find new clients The beautiful Regina leaves immediately when she realizes her error but not before she has caught the eye of cliché alert one of London’s most notorious rakes the Duke of Toruay The Duke immediately sets out to recruit Regina as his new mistressWhen Regina refuses him the Duke spreads the rumor that Regina has already slept with him which results in her being thrown out of her aunt’s home The Duke assumes she will now have no choice but to become his mistress but Regina refuses again Instead she seeks out her uncle’s former business partner the Maruess of Bessacarr and asks for his help Bessacarr offers his protection and even sends her to be a companion to his spinster friend Amelia Unfortunately for Regina Bessacar is only helping her in hopes of making her his mistressUnexpectedly however both the Duke and the Maruess find themselves challenged and changed by their pursuit of Regina Spoilers henceforthI have very strong and conflicting feelings about this book On the one hand it’s compelling to watch two men who are convinced that they are superior by virtue of their sex and titles deal with female common born Regina Her obvious intelligence and character shakes their worldview to the core Further Regina is a heroine to root for Although she’s described as an “innocent” she’s perceptive and forthright and never naïve I also admired how skillfully the book kept us guessing about whether the Maruess or the Duke would end up with ReginaOn the other hand oh how I wanted this book to end with both of the guys being repeatedly kicked someplace sensitive Neither man is anywhere near good enough for Regina The Duke in particular really got under my skin — he spends the whole book trying to force Regina into helpless poverty so she’ll have to be his mistress or starve for pete’s sake Eventually we learn that he never had a good family life You know what? Boo freaking hoo Fetch me the world’s smallest violin you wealthy privileged sociopathic jerkwad And the Maruess isn’t any better since he spends the book cynically trying to convince Regina that he has her best interests at heart in the hopes of getting into her pants — and thwarting his hated rival the Duke in the processI wish the book had been brave enough to end with both men realizing that they loved Regina but had lost her due to their selfish actions and with Regina moving on to live her own life Alas it is not to be As with so many “redeemed scoundrel” romances all the hero has to do to win the woman of his dreams is to briefly stop treating her like dirtI think you can read this book in two ways as the tale of a woman who rescues the man she loves from a dark and selfish existence or as the tale of a horrible man who convinces a wonderful woman to marry him despite treating her terribly for 910ths of the book I definitely fell into the latter camp Regina you deserved better I’m reminded of Darcy’s words at the end of Pride and Prejudice Now there’s a great book about love and redemption and forgiveness

  5. says:

    375 starsI’m very conflicting with this bookI like and hate it at the same time 😬I can’t write the review right now currently I’m in Geneva airport we fly to UK this afternoon midterm holiday here 😘Have a great weekend ladies see you later tonight

  6. says:

    This is no simple romance but has nuances of a psychological thriller with the mcs making chess like moves For the men it’s about winning the woman and against each other while for the h it’s a matter of trying to live her life on her own very modest terms And it certainly sent chills down my spine once or twiceThis is one book with a true triangle and three clearly defined mcs Not just in the ‘love’ sense but in the dynamics of power game play and importance of charactersMajor spoilers view spoilerI am so intrigued by the H’s characterisation the duke Jason but he's the duke throughout is a slightly built even beautiful man But not a beta Oh no If a supremely self assured and brawny man like the om can be ‘scared‘ or be uneasy around him then he has some uality that’s to be feared He has a charming perpetually amused and a genial persona with an almost child like avaricious uality If he wants something he takes it Like a woman He’s no usual ‘harmless’ rake cutting a swath among the ton widows and wives If he sees a pretty girlwoman he abducts her ‘seduces’ her never forces we are told and then lets her go richer in pocket and experience And his baser and debauched exploits are whispered about as well So he’s a much sinned and lost soul Of course he needed a h like Regina She’s an innocent but a strong girl erudite and articulate with a strong sense right and wrong with morals and principles so lacking in the men of the book She’s orphaned and alone without any resources or options certainly a prime prey for men in those times or any times Her middle class merchant background is also held against her That is overplayed in my opinion It’s not as if she comes from thieves or prostitutes or actors or uneducated masses Anyways both men use it as an excuse with much regret real or feigned for her being so un marriageable So yes she’s bound to lose the challenge or rather the cat and mouse game the H sets up with her And when it seem she’d lose it’s not the H who's there to collect the winnings It would have been the insincere om who was plotting her downfall all along The poor girl doesn't realize till it's almost too late that she cannot trust anyone and there are no white knights here So yes it’s a man one or the other who is bound to win this heavily stacked against the woman game I hate it when women have no option or say in their livesfuture They are just prey or ‘meat’ to be used and thrown away afterwards It has been so for centuries and things are only cosmetically better now Amelia and Sinjin what a lost opportunity Why didn’t the author heal their relationship? I peeked into the seuel and the word search didn’t show anything for ‘Amelia’ So sadHe isn’t redeemed in this book and certainly isn’t aware of his shortcomings the later scenes with his friend the revolting James the pining but later wisened up Amelia the disenchanted Regina tell us that he feels a vague unease and sense of wrong but is unable to grasp true enlightenment He continues in the same debauched vein in his own book tooThis book cries out for an epilogue Because we have very few actually zero scenes of the hH in a happy non confrontational and resolved harmony hide spoiler

  7. says:

    This book gave me deep and complicated feelings Premise two noblemen proxy fight with each other by attempting to seduce into mistresshood a young lady who has nobody to protect her In a lot of historical romances the heroes have sexual and romantic codes that in reality would be fairly repugnant but they are glossed over with THE ROMANCE I enjoy rake y heroes so I'm definitely the problem here In this book these types of heroes are presented as I think they would be in real life They cause irreparable harm Their behavior harms their own souls this is not a inspirational or anything but boy it really makes a powerful argument that certain types of behavior no matter what you're telling yourself cause harm To you to the lady to your community it makes them fundamentally untrustworthy it makes all of the stuff they say about being gentlemen at best lies of omission and at worst phew Really really bad So overall I could not say that I enjoyed this book as a romance Indeed I was freuently really really angry at the heroes Angry at the heroine for not walking away while at the same time full of fear for her and completely understanding that she could not really just walk away because in this time and this place a woman needed men to a agree she was worth protecting and then b actually protect her and if you didn't have those things you were really adrift and vulnerable It reminded me of a morality play Which makes it sound stiff and preachy and awful But it wasn't It was excellently written Just excellent Heroes if you can call them that who were really and truly what the men she was writing about would have been like I think Yes it's fun to say rake and really mean a basically very nice man who is sowing some wild oats before settling down but in reality men with the traits many rake y romance heroes have would have been dangerous and bad and generally terrible people And that's who these men are They have a veneer of gentlemanliness but they are predators who prey on the weak the defenseless the female So if it's morality play it's a deep feminist one I think that explores what really happens when you give rich men all of the power and women none of it when you make sexual purity an obsession that only applies to some people and so on This type of patriarchy would have been and still is in some places and some subcultures a very very dangerous place for almost all women and indeed for the souls of many men I feel like saying soul in a review of a romance novel makes me sound ridiculous but that is really what it was about for me these types of behaviors that focus on immediate personal pleasure at the expense of others I think in real life they DO cause the victimizer harm even if you don't realize it at the time I found this novel to be both VERY VERY GOOD and totally upsetting something I have very unlikely to ever want to read again

  8. says:

    This is one of those books in which the heroes featured is a villainWhen the book opens up it's from the viewpoint of the Maruis who despises the Black Duke for being depraved and licentious They both spy a beautiful young girl attending the opera on the night in which courtesans seek new protectors The Duke makes an immediate move towards her but the Maruis doesn'tWhat happens then is that the Duke doesn't give up He's sinister in his pursuit of Regina and sets a carriage outside her house so that she's unable to leave the premises Her uncle when he finds out about this reuests help from the Maruis on the basis of their many years of secretive exclusive and profitable business dealings However the uncle then passes away leaving his sister ? and nephew view spoilerRegina is given an ultimatum by the aunt who tells her that she would be given a set amount of money to speed her on her way to her old governess in Canterbury where she would probably take up governessing herself or marry her cousin Harry who's none too bright and a bit chunky in the bargain While she's thinking about this the Duke reappearsHe reappears in a fashion as to utterly ruin her reputation in front of her family and gets her cast out onto the streets where he then scoops her up into his carriage an abduction that he's done before according to rumors He tells her that it's basically a done deal except Regina hasn't been brought up like a young lady and reasons with him by means of Mill's theories that is on the rights of mankind etc And so he lets her gofor now The bargain is this if she can land on her feet using only her morals and pride and not resort to female enticements within a set amount of time he would let her go If she fails then he's coming after herRegina is set off in the middle of the city center and somehow makes her way to the man her uncle has told her about the Maruis She then reuests for a loan of money to get to Canterbury He does better than this or so he says and allows her to stay with him and his family while he posts her letters for her Except the Maruis is no better than the Duke and he burns her letters and plots to get her as his mistress as wellBoth of these men have their own agendas and each one worse than the other The Duke is the best the most sinister antihero I've seen in a while being gentle amused and incredibly scary The Maruis is initially tall dark and handsome proper in his outward dealings but possessing of shady ulterior motives They each want Regina as their mistress because after all she's not a highborn lady her only connection to London was through her late uncle the merchant Now she has nobody penniless homeless and alone with only her exuisite looks as her detriment While the Duke is honest in his dissipation the Maruis bides his time and plays her avuncular friend Who will win Regina? If you've researched this series you'll know that it's the Duke and at the end of the book both have fallen on their knees to propose to Regina a true proposal of marriage this time I give this book 4 stars for the simple reason that the Duke was the best antihero I've ever seen in a romance novel He was so sinister that I was frightened and titillated He's a terrible human being and yet by the end of the novel he has changed He's never loved a single person in his life save his old nurse and he's done things and said things to rouse men to envy and anger He is incredibly evil and so clever with it the way that he plotted Regina's downfall down to the very last aspect and yet you can't help for fall for him at the end when you realize that Regina might very possibly be his very last hope for redemption The handsome Maruis that you preferred in the beginning fades next to this slight fair man with the hoarse whisper and the cherubic smiles Regina also fades next to this man and honestly I'm not completely sure whether she deserves the role of savior at the very end She also undergoes if not changes realizations and by the end everyone has realized something new about themselves and their interactions with the other two in the complicated triangle It's a novel of complicated interactions and interesting insights I see that most people consider this Edith Layton's best work it's a pity I started with this one but as a starter to her books I would have to say it doesn't disappoint; rather it is a pinnacle of historical romance hide spoiler

  9. says:

    Don’t judge a book by its Kindle cover The Duke’s Wager is a very memorable and pleasant Regency to get stuck into Regina a merchant’s daughter goes to the Opera on the night when the lads are out with their ladyloves She ends up being mistaken for a scandalous woman by the Duke of Toruay who immediately sets his sights on her going so far as to get her kicked out on the street in what is undeniably the best scene of the story Unfortunately for him she calls on a gentleman that her merchant uncle knew for help It is none other than John Basil the Duke of Toruay’s younger rival John Basil also decides to grab Regina from under the Duke’s nose And while he doesn’t stand a chance against Toruay it's still a fun read There is like one kiss maybe two in the entire story The ending was a bit off because it ends with John Basil standing at the window for a long time after the coach takes off with the HH A bit of a damper Anyway heroes like Toruay please

  10. says:

    I wanted to like this book based on the glowing reviews but unfortunately I could not bring myself to finish it The heroine was the meat in an unsavoury sandwich the innocent victim caught up in the cruel chest thumping game of two powerful narcissistic men Men who could only seek proof of their own worth through the oppression of others and who had no consideration for the conseuences of their actions beyond the immediate satisfaction of their whims and the attendance of their pleasures I gather one if not both will eventually reach the elusive epiphany before the end of the story and redeem themselves but I did not care enough to waste my next few hours reading about their egocentric disregards for others before the inevitable enlightenment I also did not like the fact that the author devoted eual time for both these hedonistic unappealing sorry excuses for men too much time dwellling on their unpleasant ways and their cold uninvolvedsociopathic mentalities The story sounds less of a romance than the redemption of these 2 and I can't imagine how they can redeem themselves within the not so lengthy length of this novel