Should she live in fear, or turn to the man she once rejected?
Lady Pamela Manning has happily made her home in Bath after several disastrous Seasons in London. Although she sings like an angel, Pamela cannot complete a full sentence without stuttering. The life of a social recluse with two friends whom she adores is fine with her, and she easily dismisses the attentions of Mr. Nicolas Smith, the owner of an exclusive gambling club in Bath.
However, something strange is happening in the boarding house where she lives, and she is afraid she has accidentally stumbled into a dangerous situation. Who else can she turn to, except a man who grew up on the streets and the most likely person to help and protect her?
The man she rejected, Mr. Nicolas Smith.
Pamela ran her sweaty hands down her dress and took a deep breath as she entered the Assembly Rooms in Bath. In the three years she lived in this lovely city, she’d never attended even one dance.
It was highly improper to attend the Assembly unescorted, and since her affliction was more pronounced around gentlemen, she did her best to avoid them. She had always been shy, both because of her stutter and her personality. After the sister-in-law’s tirade about how difficult it was for people to understand her, she had become practically a recluse.
Last year, however, she met Lottie Danvers and Addie Mallory—now Lady Berkshire—and they had formed a close-knit circle of friendship.
Lottie taught young girls how to be polished and graceful when they went about in Society, and Addie owned a bookstore. The three of them met each afternoon for tea and to share stories of their day.READ MORE
Pamela kept herself busy and earned a bit of money by teaching piano and voice to young girls. Her brother deposited money into her account each month which helped with her living expenses. It really wasn’t much, since she was certain her sister-in-law begrudged her whatever David was able to send.
But for the most part, since she’d been in Bath, she’d been very happy.
Mr. Carter Westbrooke, a friend of Lottie’s had invited the two of them to attend the Assembly with him. Pamela had been excited by the invitation because she always wanted to see what the dances were like.
From her place at the entrance, she was immediately taken with the lovely pale blue walls, with white trim and numerous chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.
They handed off their coats to a man stationed at the door, then Lottie took Mr. Westbrooke’s arm. He extended his other elbow to Pamela, and the three of them strolled into the space.
It was like a fairyland from a child’s book. The women were all dressed in lovely evening gowns of various colors. Deep blue, red, green, and gold gowns flashed by as the dancers swayed and dipped to a waltz. Every sort of fabric was represented, too. Satin, silk, fur-lined collars of light wool gowns, and even a few velvets.
The gentlemen were as well turned out as the ladies. Dark trousers, stark white shirts, colorful waistcoats and well-tied ascots, all covered with dark jackets.
“Oh, t-t-this is lovely.” She looked around, turning in a full circle to take it all in.
Mr. Westbrooke smiled at her. “It is quite a place, isn’t it?”
“Westbrooke. Why is it you always show up with the most beautiful ladies in the room?” A tall, slender man slapped Mr. Westbrooke on the back and stared at the two women. The gentleman seemed to take particular notice of her, which made her a bit uncomfortable.
“Do I get an introduction?” Despite his question to Mr. Westbrooke, his eyes were riveted on her.
Mr. Westbrooke turned to her and Lottie. “Ladies, may I make known to you Mr. Nicholas Smith.” He gestured toward the man. “Smith, this is Lady Pamela Manning, and Miss Lottie Danvers.”
They both gave a slight dip and Mr. Smith bowed. “I will certainly be happy to take one of these lovely ladies off your hands, Westbrooke.” He turned to Pamela. “May I request a dance, Lady Pamela?”
Startled at his swift request, she said, “Y-y-yes. That w-would be f-f-ine.” She felt her blush rise from the top of her bodice to her hairline. Yet, she was speaking to a stranger—a gentleman no less—and agreeing to a dance.
She certainly hadn’t expected to be asked to dance so quickly. However, while they waited for the music to start up again, the four of them chatted about the usual things, England’s weather, parliament’s latest blunder and the horrible condition of the roads.
She tried to keep her comments short, but it was obvious that she had a problem with speech. Lottie, being such a dear friend, maneuvered the conversation away from her so it wasn’t necessary for her to speak much.
While they conversed, she observed Mr. Smith who seemed to be in his late twenties and a pleasant man. His looks were average, but he had a way of carrying himself and smiling that transformed him into someone very attractive. And he seemed to be doing a great deal of smiling in her direction. His straight dark hair was slicked back, but kept inching forward toward his eyebrows, giving him a rakish look.
His hazel eyes were framed by long dark lashes that most women dreamed of. Although they all spoke together, he seemed to address most of his comments to her. She tried to answer, but the man’s presence unnerved her. She did a great deal of nodding, certain that he must’ve thought her a simpleton.
He was so confident, almost arrogant. There was no doubt in her mind that he was taken with her. But she did not want to encourage him. Since she’d been banned from her brother’s home because of her stutter, she decided that the single life was best for her. She certainly didn’t need a husband whom she would embarrass every time she opened her mouth. She had her two friends who accepted her the way she was and that was all she needed.
Just as the conversation came to a lull, the Master of Ceremonies announced the next dance, a quadrille.
“It appears you are anxious to join the others on the dance floor,” Mr. Westbrooke said to Lottie, who’s feet were already tapping. He took Lottie’s arm and moved them to the end of a line of dancers.
Mr. Smith took Pamela’s arm and followed Mr. Westbrooke and Lottie, ending up in the positions right next to them. It was a lively dance, and Pamela enjoyed it very much. What she didn’t enjoy was how Mr. Smith studied her, like she was a bug under a magnifying glass.
Because of the type of dance it was, they did not have the opportunity to speak, which was fine with her. She just allowed herself to enjoy the music, the fine atmosphere and dancing once again. How much she enjoyed the social life that she was not destined to delight in.
All too soon the number ended, and Mr. Smith took her by the arm. “I believe a beverage would be nice right about now.”
Pamela found herself being led away from her friends and toward the refreshment table. So far, she hadn’t said very much to Mr. Smith, so he probably had no idea that she would either annoy or embarrass him if he tried to have a normal conversation with her.
Mr. Smith handed her a glass of lemonade. She took a sip, hoping he wouldn’t try to begin a conversation.
“Do you live with your family here in Bath, Lady Pamela?”
“No. I l-live in a b-boarding house.” There that should dim any interest he had in her. She couldn’t even say a complete sentence without bumbling it up.
“Ah, the stalwart safety of young, single ladies.” He smiled at her and a strange tingling started in her stomach. Hadn’t he listened to her? Didn’t he sense her lack of poise?
“I assume you haven’t been to many events here. I know if I’d seen you before tonight, I would certainly have remembered you.”
She shook her head. “N-n-no. I don’t g-go out much.”
She was confused. Why was he continuing to talk to her? Didn’t he hear her?
He took the empty glass from her hand just as the master of ceremonies announced a waltz. “Lady Pamela, I would be pleased if you would honor me with a waltz.”
She would love to waltz—it had been so long—and since this was most likely her only time visiting the Assembly Rooms, she nodded. “Y-y-es.”
He took her by the hand, linking their fingers, and led her to the center of the dance floor. For some reason, holding his hand seemed more intimate than resting her hand on his arm. Before she could ponder that, he swung her into his arms, and they began the dance.
“May I call on you sometime?” His eyes bore into her, almost as if he was willing her to say yes. They passed another couple and he pulled her a bit closer.
Now it was time to end this. So far, she’d felt like Cinderella, but like that fairy tale, midnight was approaching for her and she would soon return to her real life. Where she didn’t have to talk too much but could teach her students and express herself through her playing and singing.
“I d-don’t think that is a good idea, Mr. Smith.”
“May I ask why not?” He looked genuinely confused, which confused her further. No gentleman she had ever spoken to or danced with had indicated an interest in courting her. What was wrong with this man?
“B-b-because I am b-b-busy.”
“So am I, but I would make time for you. I would like to take you to the theater, or to dinner.”
She almost wanted to cry. He sounded so sincere, but in a very short time he would grow frustrated and annoyed with her constant stumbling to express herself. She could not take another rejection because of her affliction.
The music ended and he took her arm once more. “Let’s take a stroll.”
Before they moved more than a few steps, two gentlemen approached them. “Say, Nick. What brings you here on a Saturday night? Who’s watching the club?” The man who spoke was a middle-aged man with scant white hair on his head and full muttonchops. His stomach preceded him, and he had the red-flushed face of a drinker.
“A man has to have a night off once in a while. I have plenty of employees who know the club as well as I do.” Mr. Smith didn’t seem to want to continue the conversation, but the second man nodded toward Pamela and raised his brows at Mr. Smith.
He was a shorter gentleman, about Pamela’s age. He had a way of looking at her that she found daunting. So much so, that she edged closer to Mr. Smith, who turned to Pamela. “Lady Pamela, may I introduce you to Mr. Fenmore and Mr. Davis. Gentlemen this is Lady Pamela Manning.”
Both men smiled in her direction, and she merely smiled back and said nothing.
“Smith, if this is the reason you’ve abandoned your post tonight, I can’t say as I blame you,” the unnerving Mr. Davis said. “Lady Pamela, may I request a dance?”
The muscles in Mr. Smith’s arm where Pamela rested her hand tightened. He didn’t exactly scowl, but it was obvious, at least to her, that he was not pleased by Mr. Davis’s request. Since Pamela was not comfortable with any of the men, deathly afraid she would have to converse with them, she said, “Th-thank you very m-m-uch, but I feel I must f-f-find the ladies retiring r-r-room now.”
Before any of the three could say anything, she turned and headed toward the entrance where she hoped the ladies retiring room was. It took her a few twists and turns but she finally found the room and stayed there for some time.
Nick watched Lady Pamela hurry away from him, all the time cursing Davis and Fenmore for scaring her off. And scaring her is precisely what they had done. She was not exactly comfortable with him, but the addition of the two men apparently pushed her over the edge. He’d noticed from first being introduced that the girl stuttered. She was also extremely shy which might have come from her stutter, or just her natural personality.
Whatever it was he had every intention of seeing her again. He’d spotted her across the room when she entered the building with the other woman and Westbrooke. He was quite pleased when it appeared Westbrooke’s interest was with the other woman. Miss Danvers, he believe he’d said.
But he found Lady Pamela beautiful, with curly blonde hair that made him want to remove all her hairpins and crush its glossy length in his fists and take her lush mouth in a possessive kiss. Her deep blue eyes were open and innocent, with no guile behind them. It was almost like an invisible force drew him to her. He’d never reacted that way to a woman before, and it bewildered him. As he’d walked across the floor, the word mine beat a cadence with each step.
Some would say with his background growing up on the streets of London as a cutter and mudlark made him unworthy of such a fine woman. But very little stopped Nicholas from getting what he wanted. And he wanted Lady Pamela Manning.
As a babe, he’d been found in a rubbish bin and then sent to the foundling home where he escaped almost as soon as he could walk. He was taken in by a lads-man and joined his group of young thieves.
Once he had realized he had an unusual head for numbers, Nick cleaned himself up and entered into an agreement with some of the London doffs. Nick would go with them to gambling clubs as the doff’s son and instead of just observing would offer tips to balance the odds in favor of the gamer.
That started his rise from the gutter to the owner of the most exclusive gaming hell in all of Bath. He left London behind and reinvented himself from the scrubby lad, Reece, with no last name, to Mr. Nicholas Smith.
At the mere age of eighteen, a young Mr. Smith bought a small building in Bath and began his club. His rules: no women allowed, no women sold. Plenty of the best liquor and games began to attract the upper classes, and he was on his way.
Now, as he watched the woman he wanted hurry away from him, he set himself a new goal.
Lady Pamela Manning, you are mine.
Isha Coleman, Goodreads wrote:
A well written book that flows effortlessly & strong characters made for a very entertaining read. I was drawn in from the start & engrossed until the end.
T.P. Warren, Goodreads wrote:
Hutton tells the stories that need to be heard with a graceful heart and a hopeful spirit. Lady Pamela and the Gambler will open hearts to the people we tend to forget. Nicolas and Pamela are beautiful souls caught in a less than ideal situation. Pamela is so much more than the words she struggles to say. Nicolas has his own demons to conquer, but something about Pamela refuses to let him walk away. Amidst danger and prejudice, two loners find the strength to take a risk on the healing power of love. Hutton proves the power of words with a journey of hope.
Lady Pamela And the Gambler is an engaging, fantastic Historical Romance. I loved the humor and the characters were very realistic and sympathetic. I was hooked from the beginning. The romance was endearing and there were a few nice twists thrown in.