Monday, November 28, 2011
Guest Emery Lee: Georgian Gambling
Linda Banche here. My guest today is Emery Lee and her lush, exciting Georgian historical romance, Fortune's Son. Prequel and sequel to her previous book, The Highest Stakes, Fortune's Son is set in the London world of high stakes gambling. Here she talks about the types of gambling popular in the Georgian era.
Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win the copy of Fortune's Son which Sourcebooks has generously provided. Emery will select the winner. Check the comments to see who won, and how to contact me to claim your book. If I cannot contact the winner within a week of selection, I will award the book to an alternate. Note, Sourcebooks can mail to USA and Canada addresses only.
And the winner Emery selected is christinebails! Congratulations, Christine, and thanks to all who came over.
Gambling in all its various forms, from horseraces to cockfights, to cards and dice, and spinning wheels, reached a zenith of popularity in the Georgian age; but wherever large sums of money are staked, there are always those who prey on the unwary. In FORTUNE’S SON, Lady Susannah Messingham secretly believes the green tables are the answer to her financial woes and uses all her feminine wiles to persuade Philip Drake to teach her. In the following excerpt her extremely reluctant pedagogue endeavors in vain to open her eyes to the dangers.
(Excerpt from FORTUNE’S SON Chapter Six)
Are you not a professional gamester?” Lady Messingham asked.
Philip looked uncomfortable. “The question is not so easily answered. I don’t deny taking my living from the green tables but I assure you that I endeavor to maintain… certain standards… in my play.”
“Do you indeed?” Her half-smile bespoke disbelief.
“First of all, I endeavor never to sit down with a lady, or even with a man who has already over-imbibed. I find no allure in taking from those so disadvantaged.”
“So you deny that you win by cheating?”
He flushed. “’Tis such an unpalatable word, cheating, associated with swindlers, cutthroats, and highwaymen. By my troth, my lady, I have never marked a card, or rolled weighted dice. These are the trademarks of a cheat. I would merely say that I play with enhanced skill. I do not seek out victims to dupe, nor do I play intentionally to ruin any man. If, however, one has not the sense to know when to leave the tables, he deserves what he gets.”
“Are you not still a sharp, Philip?”
He paused to consider, “No. I do not say so. Not in the truest sense of the word. Besides, the term hardly encompasses the entire world of professional gamesters.”
“You speak almost as if it were a society in itself.”
“It is precisely that. Simply put, there are many types of players; varying degrees of Athenians, Captain Sharps, Amazons, blacklegs, tricksters, bamboozlers, and outright swindlers, inhabiting both the upper and the lower classes of society.”
“I have heard of the Greeks, but I don’t understand why the brethren of our much-venerated Aristotle are so vilified.”
“Ah,” Philip answered, “’tis a story that goes back to the days of Louis XIV, when a certain chevalier, A Greek named Apoulos, was admitted into the court. He was astonishingly adept at play and won a veritable fortune from the princes of the blood before his true methods were revealed.”
“What happened to him?”
“The king was much displeased and sentenced him to twenty years in the galleys. A true Greek tragedy,” he quipped.
“Thus, all players of his stamp are called Greeks?”
“Nay, only the select few. It is the name reserved for only those who play with great mastery. The Greek of the ton is by far the subtlest, most adroit, and the cleverest of creatures. He is accustomed to the best of company, and his deportment and manners are all that can be desired. He is capable of the most challenging conjuring feats—the partial shuffle, the false cut, the shift-pass, mucking, palming, pegging, and culling. No one surpasses his skill in drawing the ace, or breaking the cut, concealing cards or placing them. He raises the practice to an art.”
By now, Lady Messingham hung in rapt attention upon his every word.
“He is a master who lives for naught but the game, playing each one with unparalleled skill and equal perfection, yet plays only for others’ ultimate destruction. Attempts to hide emotion from him are in vain. He discerns the least movement or contraction of the features, peering with uncanny ability into his adversary’s very soul…”
“Lackaday! It sounds as if you describe Beelzebub, himself!”
“He is not far removed!” Philip laughed. “True vice, my lady, would frighten us all, if it did not wear the mask of virtue.”
“If that is so how does one evade a fate as his victim?”
“One can easily do so by avoiding deep play,” Philip answered “Since he is a master who only delights in high stakes, steer clear of his table, and you’ll never fall victim.”
“Do you not count yourself among those who are ‘equal in his talents’?” she asked.
“Not I, madam!” Philip barked. “I’d never make such a boast.” He paused with a thoughtful frown. “Nay, I do not endeavor to make my fortune so. I do not live for the play as others do.” His voice grew pensive. “I still have hope of something better.”
He met her quizzical look without further elaboration, and abruptly shifted back to their prior topic. “You have yet to learn of the wandering Greek—” He flashed a grin, breaking the solemn mood.
“Not to be confused with the wandering Jew?” she quipped back.
He laughed. “Indeed not. Although this manner of sharper does travel from place to place. He frequents the taverns, public assemblies, and pleasure gardens, seeking out the young and unwary, but rarely working alone.”
“He has an accomplice?”
“Yes, he employs a decoy, often an Amazon.”
“An Amazon? A woman? So there are, after all you said, women who are successful gamesters?” she remarked thoughtfully.
“I have never encountered one who does not act in conspiracy with a man. Her role is more to play the shepherdess to lure the hapless sheep to the wolf. Yet this is not even the worst type of sharp.”
Philip’s voice now took on a harsh, gritty quality. “The lowest sort of creature is the varlet who frequents the public gaming hells, and the low drinking dens. They are naught but evil wretches, wrought out of idleness and debauchery. After plying a victim with strong drink, their ‘games,’ involving any manner of trick or treachery, begin.”
“You speak as if you have fallen victim.”
“I was very young… and a fool. I am lucky to have escaped with my life.
She stared at him, stunned even more by what his words had not said than by what he had revealed.
Have I now opened your eyes?” he asked softly. “Or are you still bent on this inane gaming scheme?”
“It is only harmless diversion,” she lied. “It’s not as if I intend to make my living at the tables.” (end excerpt)
FORTUNE'S SON BY EMERY LEE
Philip Drake, an impoverished but titled gentleman, is forced to liquidate his assets and go back to his past gaming habits in an effort to right himself. Lady Susannah Messingham is a woman with a past and nearly ten years Philip's senior. After watching him at the tables, she propositions him to teach her to win at gaming. This fascinating and original look at an uncharted aspect of English life explores a gentleman snared by gambling, the threat of debtor's prison, and the wayward lady who redeems him.
About the Author
Emery Lee is a life-long equestrienne, a history buff, and a born romantic. A member of Romance Writers of America, she lives with her husband, sons, and two horses in upstate South Carolina. She is a self-professed “Georgian Junkie,” and is also the moderator for Goodreads Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers. Her first book is The Highest Stakes, which is the prequel to Fortune's Son.