All Or Nothing
Ms. Lerner’s romances are set far from the glittering ton, her main characters are often working class men and women, not every character is wealthy, explicit depictions and conversations about sex are common, and sexuality isn’t limited to m/f. I like her books for those reasons, but mostly because she’s a terrific writer. In All or Nothing, she takes a gamble and amps up all the qualities that make her novels unique. The resulting story is titillating and sexy.
Our hero and heroine are Simon Radcliffe-Gould, an architect barely making ends meet, and Maggie da Silva, hostess at the gaming club he frequents. It’s a habit he can ill afford, but he can’t resist his attraction to Maggie. She’s similarly enamored with him. Frustrated by his failure to seek her out for a liaison, she encourages her partner (in both business and pleasure) to encourage Simon to gamble for her favors. The game is rigged and Simon wins. But neither Maggie nor Simon reacts as expected.
As a gentleman, Simon offers to release Maggie from the bet. Offended, she tells him to forget it. To placate her, he asks if she will accompany him to a less than respectable house party he’s attending, and she Maggie agrees to go. Simon hopes having her around will enable him to work on designing a folly for the owner (a former lover) and provide him with an excuse to stay out of the mischievous games sure to be played.
At the house party, Simon is revealed to be a more complicated and interesting character than I originally assumed. The complicated relationship with his ex and his insecurities initially prevent him from pursuing a sexual relationship with Maggie. Maggie, a sexually liberated Jewish heroine with a pathological fear of being alone, struggles to define who she is. They become close friends and when they finally become lovers, it’s hot, dirty and mutually satisfying. At the end of the house party, they gamble on love and agree to stay together. Their happy ending is distinctly different from most traditional regencies – but fits with their evolved and evolving relationship.
All or Nothing was all and nothing like I expected from this author. Explicit sex, flexible sexuality and a non-traditional HEA shocked me – in a good way. I expect many other readers will feel similarly. I hope they also enjoy this surprising (and sexy) story as much as I did.