Book Review: A Gamble at Sunset by Vanessa Riley

Posted May 17, 2024 by meezcarrie in clean, historical, romance, Vanessa Riley / 2 Comments

A Gamble at Sunset book review

A Gamble at Sunset by Vanessa RileyA GAMBLE AT SUNSET by Vanessa Riley
Betting Against the Duke #1

GENRE: Historical/Regency Romance (Clean)
RELEASE DATE: May 21, 2024
PAGES: 336

Award-winning author Vanessa Riley turns all convention on its head for the first in an enchanting, dazzlingly diverse new Regency romance trilogy featuring a duke, three sisters, and a tantalizing bet with a most desirable reward…

“A triumphant return to romance….Riley renders the Regency in living color, with impressive historical detail and an admirably diverse cast. Historical romance readers will be entranced.” –Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

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...

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?

First of all, how could I look at that gorgeous cover and not want to dive in to the story behind it? Second, the description had me at ‘fake relationship’. Yes please! One of my favorite tropes. Once I started reading, however, it was the characters and the deeply-layered history that kept me turning the pages. Don’t get me wrong – I love the romance (no surprise to anyone here) but … and I can’t believe I’m saying this LOL … even if the romance hadn’t been part of the story I would still have been invested in the outcome. Can YOU believe I just said that? haha.

But y’all… in A Gamble at Sunset, Vanessa Riley introduces us to a fascinating group of diverse characters. Several intriguing blends of culture and ethnicity mingle together, including descendants of a Russian Black prince (this bit of history absolutely intrigued me) and of course the beautifully Black Wilcox sisters from the ‘other side of the Thames’. The history here… the discrimination…. the misogynistic & racist cartoons… the estrangement from families over loving someone of a different race… none of this is what I usually associate with the Regency era. And yet, it WAS a part of that time period and needs to be studied, with important lessons to be learned.

Not only is the history and background of these characters compelling, so is their story. The sisters, trying to hold on to their father’s once-thriving and well-respected coal business. The eldest, a new widow with deeply buried secrets and regrets. The second-born, a guarded beauty with hidden talents and dreams, in many ways the rock of her sisters. The third, the science-minded sister who wants to be a physician despite the odds stacked against her as a Black woman. And the littlest, an endearing bundle of sunshine with lots of love to share in spite of her health issues. A mysterious duke, longing for the woman who got away and pursuing her anew in his own enigmatic manner. A composer, the spare’s spare, who struggles to find his place in the world, in society, and in the heart of the woman he loves. I love that this is the first in a new series, and I also love how Riley set up several storylines here that I’m eager to see play out to their full potential in later books.

Bottom Line: In A Gamble at Sunset, author Vanessa Riley immerses readers in a Regency world that is at once both familiar and unfamiliar. Compelling history begs you to further study outside the fictional realm and opens your eyes to things you may not have learned about in school – but should have – through the beauty of a well-told story. Not only does this book entertain with a sweet romance and an engaging plot, it also sets the stage so well for the rest of the series, ensuring that readers will be invested in knowing what’s in store for the rest of the Wilcox sisters and their duke. Subtle notes of faith run throughout as well, if you’re watching for them, and I appreciated those added elements. I loved the Wilcox sisters for their communal heart and strength, as well as their individual personalities, and I look forward to visiting with them again.

Reviewer’s Note: Readers of this blog may want to be aware that there is some innuendo and very occasional mild cursing in this book. It seems like it could get spicy but it doesn’t… unless you count the actual spices mentioned haha.

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 4 stars / enjoyed it!

KissingBook Level: 4 / keep a fan handy!

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Photo Credit: Gallium by Ellis Riley

Vanessa Riley writes Regency Romances and Historical Fiction of dazzling multi-culture communities with powerful persons of color. Vanessa writes for historical romance readers who admire and acquire books that showcase women who find joy in sweeping kisses and strong sisterhoods. Even in the darkness, she promises to give you laughs and to show you how light always prevails and how love always, always wins.

Vanessa juggles mothering a teen, cooking for her military-man husband, and speaking at women’s and STEM events. She loves baking her Trinidadian grandma’s cake recipes and collecting Irish crochet lace. She’s known for her sweeping romances and humorous delivery of poignant truths. You can catch her writing from the comfort of her southern porch with a cup of Earl Grey tea. Connect with Vanessa at her website.

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2 responses to “Book Review: A Gamble at Sunset by Vanessa Riley

  1. Sounds like the author creates lots of twists and turns! I prefer romance books that bring more intrigue than just the element of romance, so A Gamble at Sunset does prickle my interest.

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