THE HEART'S WAGER
Juliette de Valme has been a dealer in her father's Paris casino for five years. Although forced to leave England due to scandal, her father has been running a spy network for the British. Because of this espionage and the possibility the French will believe she took part, Juliette must flee as Napoleon returns to power. She hides by dressing as a boy and wandering through the villages of France with a band of Gypsies. Her only hope, according to her father, is "The Limping Man" who will come from England to help his spies escape.
Months later, Colonel Devon Burke comes to France to find his missing brother-in-law, the duke known in code as the infamous Limping Man, head of the now broken spy ring. Badly wounded in battle before, Devon is wounded again when he attempts to rescue Juliette, as a boy, from capture by Napoleon's henchmen. She then takes him to the Gypsy camp to save his life. Later, when her money runs out, she tries to pay for his care by conducting a shell game supposedly being held for the Gypsy's profit. Devon spoils the game by gallantly interfering when a patron insults her honor. An angry Gypsy secretly sells Juliette to her enemies, then helps Devon find her because he discovers the connection between Devon and The Limping Man.
Gayle Wilson has achieved an uncommon, and uncommonly successful, hybrid of Regency, action-adventure and romance that makes for non-stop entertainment. This one has to be read straight through to the end. (Apr., 450 pp, $4.50)