Review: The Lord’s Desperate Pledge by Kate Archer (2020)

Posted June 16, 2024 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

Another five star read, although it was a close run thing. The first few chapters were, frankly, a bit dull (the season again? Really?), but once the hero showed up to play piquet everything livened up nicely.

Here’s the premise: Hayes, Viscount Ashworth, is the heir to a dukedom, but it’s not a dukedom in very good heart. He’s managed to turn things around by his skill at cards, and he’s not about to be distracted from his purpose by anyone, least of all a bucolic chit like Lily Farnsworth. But when she tells him that she can beat him at piquet – his own speciality! – he sets out to take her down a peg or two. He’s astonished and mortified, not to say angry, when she proves her point. How can a female possibly play piquet so well?

Little does he know that Lily has grown up in even more dire financial straits than he has, and has had to use her quick wits and formidable memory to win at cards to keep her family afloat, just as he has. She’s slowly accumulated enough to fund a season in London for herself, with the object of securing a good match, that is, a husband rich enough to save the family from penury. She doesn’t aspire to a dukedom, thank you very much, and besides, Lord Ashworth and his friends are determined to thwart their conspiring fathers and avoid matrimony, so he’s out of the equation… isn’t he?

Well, we all know the answer to that. This is another in a splendid series wherein the heroes, heirs to dukedoms every one, slowly succumb to the charms of the most unlikely lady, despite their best endeavours. The books are completely free of hanky-panky, in fact, there’s no kiss in this one until the very end. The hero is not quite as appealing as Lord Lockwood from book 2, in fact he starts off unspeakably arrogant and only slowly comes to appreciate the heroine’s skill. Lily herself is the sort of heroine who is pleasant to read about – the usual resourceful, feisty type – but will probably be quickly forgotten. The aunt who says whatever comes into her mind is quite fun, however, there’s a spunky street urchin for Lily to rescue (shades of Heyer’s Arabella there), and the villain is suitably villainous, and comes to a very appropriate sticky end, after giving both hero and heroine a moment to shine and display their courage (and the hero’s strong arms, naturally).

My over-sensitive pedant-o-meter wasn’t tested quite as much as previously. I’m getting a little tired of the ubiquitous dance cards (a Victorian fixture) and of gentlemen riding to a ball (and thereby arriving in breeches and boots, smelling of horse, and having to change into full evening dress on arrival – not very practical). Also, ‘rube’ raised my eyebrows. I thoroughly disapproved of Lily’s aunt disappearing to the card room at a ball and leaving the poor girl to her own devices. A chaperon was supposed to watch over her charge at all times, and steer her towards suitable partners, and away from the unsuitable ones, not to mention protecting her from predatory men who might compromise her.

This wasn’t quite as much rip-roaring fun as book 2, and the here-we-are-in-the-season-again moments were a bit tedious, but once it got going it was very entertaining. The card games were terrific, and I particularly liked Lord Dalton acting sensibly for a change, and steering Lord Ashworth away from a scandalous confrontation with Lily. They had this charming conversation afterwards:

‘The Lords Ashworth and Dalton trotted through the dark streets after departing Lady Montague’s card party.
“As you mean to be silent,” Lord Dalton said, “I will carry on both sides of the conversation. You say to me, thank you for pulling me out of Lady Montague’s house before I said anything else outrageous. Then, I say to you, you’re very welcome friend, but you must watch your tongue. The girl has a father, and perhaps even brothers, it will not do well to accuse her of trickery, which is tantamount to an accusation of cheating.”
“You saw it for yourself!” Hayes muttered.
“I did not, actually,” Lord Dalton said. “I walked away after she trounced you on the first play. I occupied myself with a cold ham until it seemed the game was coming to an end.”
“Nobody is that good,” Hayes said. “Nobody.”
“It appears she is that good,” Lord Dalton said drily.’

It seems I’m going to be working my way through this entire series, but I’m particularly looking forward to Lord Dalton’s story. Five stars and on to book 4.


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