Lily and the Gambler by Linda McLaughlin @LyndiLamont is a Snuggle Up Readathon Pick #western #histo
Title: Lily and the Gambler
Author: Linda McLaughlin
Genre: Western Historical Romance
Respectability is in the eye of the beholder. Or so Lily Penhallow hopes when she assumes the guise of the widow Albright. She has learned the price of flaunting convention and is determined to obey society's rules from now on. After her lover, Nigel Albright, was killed in a duel over a card game, Lily dons widow’s weeds and travels to Grass Valley, California where she plans to marry the man her uncle works for, a respectable mine owner named Hugh Ogilvie. Then, on the riverboat from San Francisco, she meets Creighton 'King' Callaway, a professional gambler, just the kind of man she should avoid.
King believes that since life is a gamble, there's no point in planning for the future. You have to trust Lady Luck. After meeting Lily, King knows he has found his Queen of Hearts. But can he convince her to pass up a sober businessman for a foot-loose card sharp?
Only Lady Luck knows for sure...
Lily entered her private cabin, removed her hat, sat at the marble-topped dressing table, and studied her reflection in the mirror. She hoped this wasn’t a mistake. A proper widow would have refused Mr. Callaway’s suggestion outright, but Lily had rarely done anything proper in her life.
And, at this point, she was weary of her own company. On the long journey, she’d forced herself to remain aloof from the mostly male passengers. From the start, she’d seen the speculative glances cast her way and decided it best not to encourage any of them. Her image as a respectable widow was at stake. So she was left with only her maid, Molly, who had shared her Spartan cabin, for company. She would have dispensed with a maid to save a bit of money, but Uncle Arthur had insisted, even sending some money to help with her expenses.
Since Molly abandoned her for a fast-talking sailor, Lily had to be more cautious of her reputation than ever. She couldn’t let herself be taken in by a charming and handsome man. And Creighton Callaway qualified in both categories with his dark curly hair, hazel eyes and a ready smile. Though he dressed like a gentleman, in a black suit and frilled white shirt, she suspected he was a rogue at heart.
Outwardly, he appeared to be the complete opposite of Nigel. He was dark, the shadow of his beard giving him a manly aura, whereas Nigel had been fair and blue-eyed with a light beard. But like Nigel, Callaway had the devil dancing in his green-gold eyes. She should stay in her cabin, but she didn’t want to be alone, and a few minutes of flirting should cause no harm.
Leaving her hat behind, Lily slowly strolled from her small cabin on the texas deck on her way to meet Creighton Callaway. He was waiting for her at the bottom of the stairway to the main deck. He smiled and offered his arm.
Lily placed her hand in the crook of his arm, enjoying the feel of his strong muscles. As they began to stroll along the deck, she caught a whiff of bay rum, and felt a twinge of sadness. She had always identified that scent with Nigel. It had been a long time since she’d been this close to an attractive man, and she felt both giddy and guilty. After all, it had only been ten months since his death. Was it so wrong for her to enjoy some masculine company? He certainly would not have waited had she been the one to die.
What about the man I’m now supposed to marry? What would he think of my behavior? With that disconcerting thought, she slipped her hand from his arm.
“Now, Mr. Callaway, you promised to tell me about my new home.”
“What would you like to know?”
Lily thought for a moment. “What kind of place is it?”
“Grass Valley has a lot in common with the other mining towns in California, with one exception. The gold is down deep, so hard rock mining is required. That’s why so many Cornish miners have ended up in the area.”
“You’re not a miner, are you?”
He chuckled. “No, ma’am. I’m a businessman.”
“Oh, what kind of business?”
“I own and manage the Golden Triangle Saloon.”
“A tavern, do you mean?”
He grinned. “Not exactly. We sell drinks and provide gaming tables.”
Gaming. Lily stopped momentarily. No wonder she was attracted to him. He and Nigel were cut from the same cloth. The revelation shouldn’t matter, but she was disappointed nonetheless.
After a moment, Creighton Callaway spoke. “Have I shocked you?”
She forced herself to glance up at him. “No, not at all. Captain Albright enjoyed the occasional card game.” Until he was killed because of one.
“I am very sorry about your husband’s death,” he said softly.
“Thank you.” Lily felt a flush creeping up her face. She strode to the rail and stared out at the river, listening to the soft thunk, thunk of the paddle wheel and the hissing of the steam engine. A welcome breeze cooled her heated cheeks. Mr. Callaway stood back and gave her privacy.
“Your husband was a sea captain?”
“No, a cavalry officer,” Lily replied.
“Then he and I had something else in common.”
She turned to look at him. He was lounging against the wall of the main cabin, a few feet away, his arms crossed over his chest. The light from a hanging lamp illuminated his face. All traces of amusement were gone, replaced by a somber look greatly at odds with his earlier lighthearted manner. Perhaps he had his own ghosts to deal with.
“Are you saying you were in the army?” she asked.
“I fought for the North.”
“Ah. Nigel followed the news of your Civil War with great interest. When we met, he was thinking of offering his services to the Confederacy.”
Callaway straightened and dropped his arms to his side, but stayed by the wall. “You should be very glad he didn’t. A lot of good men died. Too many.”
“Yes,” she murmured. But Nigel had died anyway, and in a most dishonorable manner.
Perhaps she should have encouraged his plan to join the American rebels. But she hadn’t been able to bear the thought of being parted from him.
Callaway looked at her curiously. “Were you married long?”
“We were together for five years,” Lily said. Her words were true as far as they went. She hoped Mr. Callaway wouldn’t ask too many questions about her husband. It still astonished her that she had told more lies since she became respectable than in her entire unconventional life.
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
Amazon Kindle US: https://amazon.com/dp/B01MYMEKMD/
November is a time to be thankful. What are you most thankful for this year?
My health, my family, friends and my sweet little dog.
Why is your featured book worth snuggling up to?
Romance readers love to see a rake reformed, and my charming gambler, King. fits into this trope. And if the lady doing the reforming is a reformed bad girl herself… well, anything can happen. Throw in a dastardly villain, two delightful children and a unique California ghost town for a fun read.
My late husband and I visited Grass Valley, California, twice, so I have fond memories of the place. After visiting the town and the Empire Mine and learning about the Cornish connection, characters started forming in my mind. I hope readers enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed writing it.
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Linda McLaughlin grew up with a love of history fostered by her paternal grandmother and an incurable case of wanderlust inherited from her father. She has traveled extensively within the United States and has visited Mexico, Canada, Australia and Europe. She now lives near the ocean in Orange County, California.
Linda writes historical and Regency romance under her real name and spicier romance under the pseudonym Lyndi Lamont.
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