Can the Ladies’ Wagering Whist Society turn back the clock to restore the reputation of a lady maligned?

The lovely, kind Elizabeth, the Countess St. Vincent, is determined to re-enter Regency society now that she is widowed. Despite the years that have passed since her fiasco of a debut, one man still remembers and resurrects old rumors. With her reputation destroyed, so are her hopes. Can a newfound friend be the key to burying the past before the season ends?

Charles Aldridge is a watchmaker and businessman fighting to protect a centuries-old industry threatened with extinction. But he is distracted from his quest when he is dragged into the troubles of the beguiling Lady St. Vincent. Every chivalrous bone in his body insists he do all he can to help her. Yet, following his heart may mean jeopardizing his life’s mission.

The Ladies’ Wagering Whist Society will have to play a clever hand to settle this Affair of Hearts… before time runs out.

Chapter One

~April 21, 1807~

Everything sparkled. The chandeliers with their crystal droplets reflected the candlelight, the gilt-edged mirrors surrounded by wall sconces echoed the light, even the guests dressed in their finest glittered, laughed, talked, and danced with brilliance. Elizabeth, Countess St. Vincent, sighed happily as she turned to her friend and hostess for this evening’s soirée. “You have done such a magnificent job this evening, Lydia,” she said. Even Lydia was looking quite sparkling this evening with her bright green eyes shining, the color picking up the pretty green embroidery edging her pale blue gown.

“Indeed, Lady Welles, you absolutely have outdone yourself.” Mrs. Aldridge, standing on Lydia’s other side, agreed.

“Thank you,” Lydia said, giving them both a bright smile. “Elizabeth, your dress this evening is lovely.”

“Oh, thank you. It is one I brought with me from the countryside, but I think it’s holding up quite well here in London,” Elizabeth said. She’d only been in town for a month, but already she had a good feeling about this season, her very first since her disastrous come-out six years ago.

She had, of course, also dressed to impress, just like everyone else. Despite the fact she was still in half-mourning for her departed husband, her gown of pale violet with deeper purple ribbons and lace was in the latest fashion, even if the décolletage was a little lower than what she normally wore. It was still quite conservative for a lady of her age and stature, but Elizabeth, with her full figure, had always gone for a more demure look. Her dark brown hair was carefully tamed into a complicated coiffure with purple ribbons woven through and a few curls allowed to rest gently over her shoulder.

“I beg your pardon, Lady St. Vincent?” a footman asked, approaching Elizabeth.

“Yes?”

“Lord St. Vincent has requested your presence in the library,” he said with a slight bow.

“Oh. Tell him I’ll be right there,” she said.

“Is everything all right, do you suppose?” Mrs. Aldridge asked with a look of concern marring her motherly countenance. She was a kind, well-respected older lady who was a member of a very exclusive club known as the Ladies’ Wagering Whist Society, along with Lydia and six other prominent ladies of the ton.

Elizabeth didn’t know exactly what the ladies of the Whist Society did—they claimed they merely played cards together every Wednesday afternoon, but so far their influence seemed to be quite significant and growing. From what Elizabeth understood, they were responsible for no fewer than six prominent matches among the ton, including that of Elizabeth’s own stepson, who had just requested her presence. They also held an annual party to raise funds for the people of the Rookeries that earned a significant amount as well as being one of The Events of the season.

The ladies of the Wagering Whist Society were, in short, what just about every woman of the ton desired to be—well-respected, well-known, influential. They made a positive impact, helping those who needed it without asking for anything in return. If they had been accepting additional members, Elizabeth would have been first in line. As it was, she was proud to call its members her friends.

“I can’t imagine what St. Vincent wants. I’ll just go and find out. If you’ll excuse me?” Elizabeth gave the two ladies a nod and then went off to find the library.

The 1807 Season