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WHAT WOULD YOU WAGER FOR LOVE?
In the high stakes gentleman's world of 18th century horseracing, when the blood of the "desert kings" ruled the English turf, a...
WHAT WOULD YOU WAGER FOR LOVE?
In the high stakes gentleman's world of 18th century horseracing, when the blood of the "desert kings" ruled the English turf, a hero returns from war to claim the girl he has loved since he first spied her riding hell-for-leather over the Doncaster heath. Determined to have her at any cost, he will risk everything.
A story of star-crossed lovers and horseracing, THE HIGHEST STAKES transports the reader to 18th century England, an era infamous for corruption, arranged marriages, and high stakes gambling; when racing and breeding became the obsession of the uppermost elite, and a match race might replace a duel in settling a point of honor.
Through the fictional love story of Robert Devington and Charlottte Wallace, a tale of drama, danger, thwarted love, and retribution unfurls...
About the Author
Emery LeeEmery Lee is a life-long equestrienne, a history buff, and a born romantic. Combine the three and you have the essence of her debut novel: a tale of love, war, politics, and horseracing. A member of Romance Writers of America, she lives with her husband, sons, and two horses in upstate South Carolina.
Table of Contents
Part I 1
1 Of Victory and Defeat 3
2 Of Sedition and Horseracing 17
3 An Orphan’s Tale 33
4 Trial by Fire 57
5 Corporal of the Horse 69
6 A Bitter Rivalry 83
7 Letters from War 93
8 The Challenge 97
9 Report from the Field 107
10 Brothers-in-Arms 117
11 A Hero’s Welcome 133
12 A Rogue’s Heart 149
13 A Wager for Love 161
14 An Officer and a Gentleman 175
15 The Rematch 197
16 Broken Promises 213
Part II 223
17 A Tale of Two Secrets 225
18 The Business of Marriage 233
19 Of Treachery and Extortion 239
20 Return of the Prodigal 245
21 The Devil Meets His Match 263
22 Race to Gretna Green 275
23 The Betrayal 287
24 The Price of Integrity 309
25 King of the Turf 323
26 Salt in the Wound 339
27 The Reluctant Bride 351
28 An Unlikely Confidante 367
29 Love’s Sacrifice 381
30 Military Justice 387
31 A Serendipitous Meeting 393
Part III 405
32 A Woman of Independence 407
33 The Turning Point 419
34 Heir to an Earldom 427
35 An Act of Vengeance 433
36 A Matter of Honor 441
37 An Old Flame Rekindled 453
38 Countess of the Turf 469
39 A Colonial Crown 473
40 A Revelation 489
41 An Irresistible Challenge 503
42 Retribution 511
43 Resurrection 521
44 Redemption 531
About the Author 545
Robert Devington was growing more anxious by the moment. Once more he scanned the crowded and bustling paddocks. The call had already sounded for the first race in which Charles Wallace was to ri...
Robert Devington was growing more anxious by the moment. Once more he scanned the crowded and bustling paddocks. The call had already sounded for the first race in which Charles Wallace was to ride the gray mare, White Rose. The filly was entered in this particular race, a one-hundred-guinea challenge for maiden five-year-olds, young horses that had yet to win a race. It was a single four-and-a-half-mile heat, ten-stone weight, and about to start with her rider yet nowhere in sight. With barely a quarter hour remaining to present the horse and weigh in, Robert was in an agitated quandary. Audibly cursing, he pulled the blankets from the mare’s back, just to put them back on again. He considered the only alternatives before him: to deceive the racing judges by presenting the horse in Charles’s stead and committing an act of fraud; or do nothing and risk both the forfeiture of Sir Garfield’s entry fee—no paltry sum by any standard—as well as this fine young mare’s best chance to win a race, a circumstance that would do nothing to improve his standing with his beloved’s uncle. His future with Charlotte was nearly a hopeless cause to begin with. He could scarce afford to fall afoul of her guardian’s temper. Robert searched the milling crowd for the last time, desperately seeking a glimpse of Charles Wallace. Still none, blast it all! His last hope now dashed, he cursed with greater vehemence and led the horse out of her paddock to commit an act of fraud for the sake of love.
The Lichfield races, held annually in September, transformed the Whittington Heath, a three-hundred-acre sheep pasture, into the premiere event for all of Staffordshire. This hybrid of a horse race, garden party, and county fair attracted all classes of people from as far away as Derbyshire, the county’s closest equine rival, but this year it drew an extraordinary number of persons of consequence. Lords and gentlemen had arrived from the North of England, Wales, and even the Scottish highlands, but as unusual as this was, never since its inception had this innocuous little village ever attracted a foreign dignitary. By far, the most distinguished patron of the races this year was the elegant and illustrious Grand Ecuyer de France, comte d’Armagnac, Master of the Horse in the court of King Louis XV. Rumored to have travelled all the way from Versailles to procure a number of English running-bloods for the Royal stud, Monsieur Le Grand’s visit to Baron John Leveson-Gower had propitiously coincided with the Lichfield races, over which Lord Gower would preside. With the final preparations for the race in progress, Lord Gower and his eminent guest promenaded the grounds, surveying the field and assessing prospective stock to complement the Royal stud of France.
“I have heard for a number of years, Lord Gower, that the finest racing flesh resides across the Channel in England. I was of course loath to believe such a thing, but most curiously, after seeing so many specimens of excellence, I must confess that this might be so.” He paused in his perambulations to admire a particularly sleek black stallion in one of the myriad paddocks.
“Do you know, what is the breeding of this horse, Lord Gower?”
“Hastings’s Hawke? He is indeed a fine specimen! I believe he is by Francis Lord Godolphin’s barb stallion, but I shall inquire further, if you so desire.”
“The Godolphin again! He shall forever plague me, this horse!” Lord Gower gave an inquisitive look, and the count bowed to him slightly.
“It is said that one of the finest producers of racing champions in England was first cast off by Versailles. A very foolish move by the Grand Ecuyer, was it not?”
“Am I to assume that you refer to Lord Godolphin’s stallion?”
“Indeed! One and the same, but the name was not so. In France, the stallion was called by El Sham. You do not know the history of this horse, Lord Gower?
“Only these past years while he stands in Cambridgeshire, Monsieur Le Grand.”
“Then I shall recount to you this story, bien sur?”
“Indeed, I am most intrigued.”
“The stallion, El Sham, was presented to His Majesty as one of eight horses—chevales pur sang arabes—from the Sultan Muley Abdulah of Moroc. The grand riding master at Versailles, Monsieur de La Gueriniere, the man whom I appoint, finds this stallion wanting, you see. As he is small in stature and not of the form preferred for the dressage, he is cast out from the stud Royale. This same horse was then procured by your Englishman, Monsieur Coke, who brings him to England, where he soon becomes the sire of champions! So you see that I, en effet, am responsible indirectly for this horse leaving France, and now I come to England to find such a one to take back! C’est l’ironie magnifique, n’est-ce pas?” He recounted his tale with surprising good humor.
“Indeed, it is an amazing irony! But in all truth, this stallion’s value was little realized at the first. When he left our poor departed Coke’s hands Though most were well known to one another through their positions in Parliament, there was little speech outside the mundane, until the liveried footmen, garbed also to honor the French dignitary, served platters of delicacies, poured the imported French wine, and were dismissed by Lord Gower. The host took no chances in protecting the security of this meeting.
Noting the white cockades adorning each guest’s lapel or tricorn, said host raised his glass to the company. “As each of us today has both literally and figuratively committed a horse to the race”—his eyes scanned those of the group for reaction to this fitting analogy—“I solemnly propose a toast to the king across the water.”
“Lee does her homework. She set up the historical context really well... I love seeing someone who can research and apply that research well.” - SmartBtichesTrashyBo...
“Lee does her homework. She set up the historical context really well... I love seeing someone who can research and apply that research well.” - SmartBtichesTrashyBooks.com
“A sweeping tale of romance, betrayal, intrigue and the power of true love. Readers will love the well-rounded, engaging characters, the fast pace and the attention to detail. ” - RT Book Reviews
“A horse racing fanatic's dream come true and a darned good introduction to world of the majestic thoroughbred.” - Reader’s Respite
“A wonderfully engaging and rich debut novel. The history of thoroughbred horse racing is woven into a star-crossed romance with a truly authentic feel.” - Martha’s Bookshelf
“A lively read... Undying love, deceit, greed and retribution fuel Emery Lee's debut novel.” - Musings of a Bibliophile
“If you enjoy history,intrique, romance, some suspense you will definitely enjoy this one. This is an author to be watching for. ” - My Book Addiction and More
“A lively page-turner!... The horse and racing scenes are described excellently! ” - Horse Book Reviews
“Emery Lee takes the reader on a journey of twists and turns, of highs and lows, and love and betrayal... a blue-blood winner. ” - Thoughts in Progress
“Lovers of historical fiction will find The Highest Stakes to be an engrossing and satisfying read” - Starting Fresh
“A riveting, unpredictable, historical read.” - Mrs. Q Book Addict
“This novel has everything it needs to be considered epic – love, greed, hatred, and history.” - Luxury Reading
“A grand tale with many venues and enriching characters.” - The Calico Critic
“Brava to Ms. Lee on a brilliant first novel. Well rounded characters, excellent research, realistic dialogue, and a unique plot. ” - Romance Reviews Today
“A tale of abiding, romantic love, the novel is also an extremely well-researched book that stands among the distinguished rakes of historical novels.” - The Racing Journal
“Lee writes beautifully and passionately... the plot moves at a rapid clip with extraordinary twists and turns, leaving the reader wanting to know more.” - Rundpinne
“A vastly researched novel about horse racing and love... An exquisitely drawn out plot.” - Readin’ and Dreamin’
“Enriching and heartwarming... If you love horses, historical romance, and a dash of witty characters, then this book is for you.” - I Heart Book Gossip
“Romance and history at it's best. ” - Celtic Lady’s Reviews
“Emery Lee's debut novel has succeeded in producing the kind of story that will make readers take notice and look forward to seeing what she writes next” - Deb’s Book Bag
“Lee is an outstanding debut novelist, recreating a time I knew little about.” - Mrs. Q Book Addict
“I would suggest this book to anyone with even the slightest interest in horse racing and a love of romances with star-crossed lovers. ” - Books Like Breathing
Length: 8 in
Width: 5.25 in
Weight: 0.00 oz
Page Count: 560 pages