They are a dangerous duke, a fierce lord, and an infamous earl—dark, bold, brave men who know exactly what they want. And there is only one woman who can bring them to their knees…
He is first and foremost—at everything. A man who’s made his own way in the world through ruthless cunning and sheer force of will. A strong and imposing Scot who can turn on the charm but does not suffer fools. His title: Lord Chief Justice of the High Court. His name: Cassius Gerard Ramsay. His mission: To investigate the goings-on at London’s most notorious gaming hell, owned and operated by one of the most intriguing and desirable women he’s ever met.
IN THIS GAME OF LOVE, THE RULES DO NOT APPLY
Cecelia Teague was an orphan facing a rather dire future—until a secret benefactor from her mother’s scandalous past swept into her life. Sent to prestigious boarding school and later to university, Cecelia believed high society was at her fingertips…Then, from out of nowhere, she became the inheritor of a gambling establishment. Now Cecelia must live two lives: one as a proper lady who finds herself undeniably drawn to Lord Ramsay and the other as a savvy gaming hell owner trying to save her business from the very same man. He has no idea she is both women…and Cecelia would like to keep it that way. But what happens when consuming passion and escalating danger threaten to reveal the truth?
Check out my review on GoodReads over here!
“Every time she smiled at him, with every kiss or intimacy they shared, a little light had ignited within that dark void inside him. He felt less empty. What would a lifetime of her smiles do?”
““I do believe that’s the first time I’ve ever witnessed a smile on your face,” she said in a hushed tone. “It’s quite . . . brilliant.” Her fingers reached out and traced his mouth before she settled her soft lips against his.
At this, Ramsay made a silent vow to smile more.”
Sigh. There’s something about characters that treasure their significant others’ smiles that makes my heart swell.
ALL SCOT AND BOTHERED is book 2 of Byrne’s series of three rambunctious redheads who manage to defy society, I enjoyed book 1 (you can find my review here), although I think this book left more of an impression on me! I’d say it’s still a 3.5 stars, but rounded up because the heroine Cecilia was just so sweet. The common factor of these books is the sweet and pure friendship of the women, and their willingness to defend each other. I thought their relationship was wonderful and it ties the series together really well. You don’t have to read book 1 to understand this book, but there will be spoilers about the previous couple.
- I think Byrne did a phenomenal job with character development in this book. It follows the sweet and cheerful Cecilia and the stoic and grumpy Ramsay. There’s a lot of moving plots, but the book hones in on their developing romance. While there’s insta-attraction/lust going on, they find themselves drawn to the other through engaging and vulnerable dialogue. Ramsay learns how to shed his coldness and really FEEL despite his heavy pride and self-discipline. Cecilia was lost in the beginning despite having an amazing education, but begins to find her way and purpose through the course of this book. I think it’s lovely that she isn’t willing to back down on her beliefs and stays true to herself despite people’s taunts and judgement. She was a soft and endearing character despite hardships, and was the perfect foil to Ramsay’s grumpy ways.
- At first, I wasn’t a fan of Ramsay because of his coldness that made him say severe words to Cecelia, but his apology and remorse really penetrated through the pages. As the story progresses you can really see his devotion to Cecilia, which mollified me. His character growth helped a lot, as well, as he took down his walls to open up to Cecilia. I also appreciated other characters calling out his dislike/mistrust of women, making him realize and confront it. I thought this was important not only with dealing with his issues of the past, but also with moving forward in having a happy future.
- You can’t see it from the cover, but Cecilia has a voluptuous body and used to be taunted for it. She still has self-esteem issues, but I loved seeing this rep (and it would’ve been nice to see on the cover). I also enjoyed the progressive actions and sentiments of the friend group (although it did feel anachronistic at times).
- The romance in general was really heartwarming. Despite their different personalities, the characters have both experienced loneliness in the past. Now, they find themselves with open hearts and people to love and be loved with.
- Like I mentioned before, the book has a LOT of subplots going on at once. Byrne introduces new situations and dialogue that amount to nothing, yet had potential. I’m a firm believer that you should stick to one plotline and make it in-depth, rather than have numerous, superficial subplots and details. For example, Cecilia inherits a gambling hell that also operates as a school for unconventional women (widows, immigrants, etc) to succeed in society. Cecilia takes up this mission without really becoming involved with the women and business itself. Somehow she forms a connection without even spending much time in it, which diminishes its believability.
- Another missed potential point is a surprise about Phoebe, a young girl that Cecilia inherits along with the gambling hell when her aunt died. There was a big reveal about her that was never really followed-up on (although her interactions before the reveal were really sweet and cute). It was barely touched, and although her background was revealed, it didn’t quite fit in with the whole ‘secrets’ operation that Cecilia’s aunt had going on. I think her character definitely could have been utilized more in regards to certain characters’ growth.
- The rushed ending in general left many loose ends hanging, including the overarching theme of the main antagonist group. Looking back, the ending was REALLY rushed and we never got a satisfying resolution with the villains. Instead, it’s more like a pan-out of the romantic relationship. Also- too many homages to the color red. That got boring pretty soon.
Even though Byrne really tries to fit a LOT into the book (maybe to its detriment), I really enjoyed the character relationships and central romance. To me, the mystery plot was secondary to those relationships, which extend from friends and family to romantic. This series has been pretty enjoyable, although it deals with heavier topics than usually seen in HR. I’d say if you like a little mystery and action to your historical romances and heartfelt relationships, give this series a go!
child kidnappings, child abusive (emotional abuse and incarceration), mention of rape, mild violence, fat-shaming
Thank you Netgalley and St. Martin’s for the review copy!