The Black Widow of Whitehall
A Dragonblade Publishing Connected World series
Rich women with either bad reputations themselves or daughters with bad reputations pay The Black Widow of Whitehall to find them wealthy husbands from her gambling den near Westminster.
The Black Widow of Whitehall is Mrs. Bessie Dove-Lyon and her gambling establishment is called the Lyon’s Den, a front for the rather ruthless matchmaking service. She takes an ‘order’ from a wealthy woman and then targets the men who come into her establishment, rating them on their viability. If they meet her standards, she will trap them into the marriage contracts by rigging the games they are playing.
The Lyon’s Den isn’t a usual gambling establishment – they bet on odd things, like drinking liquor that’s been mildly poisoned to see who passes out first, or feeding gluttons too much to see who will vomit first. There are traditional games, but it’s more known for it’s odd and sometimes ruthless games.
Because there are high stakes to be paid out, it lures some of London’s finest men. Mrs. Dove-Lyon serves the finest wines and alcohol, plus she always has the best food in London. Lots to attract high stakes gamblers and she knows it.
The women who pay her for her services pay through the nose – Mrs. Dove-Lyon owns country estates, more fine carriages than she can use, etc, etc, because she delivers the best husbands to the most disreputable brides. It’s not a secret, but men go willingly to the establishment, some of them actually looking for a wealthy bride as much as the disreputable women are looking for husbands.
Mrs. Dove-Lyon comes from a very old family, but it was her husband’s family who built the house that is home to the Lyon’s Den. Located on the west end of London on Cleveland Row, the home was once known as Lyon’s Gate Manor and is distinctively painted blue. Mrs. Dove herself was a woman of questionable repute, rumored to be a courtesan, but she married Colonel Sandstrom T. Lyons, a much older man from a highly respected family. When Colonel Lyons died only a few years into their marriage, Bessie came to see that there was no real money left, only a mountain of debt hidden behind a good family name. Since the house belonged to her, she decided to do what she knew best – and turned it into the most lucrative gambling dens in London. By the time our stories are set, The Lyon’s Den has been in existence for about twenty-five years.