Rory Connor is a gambling man plain and simple. Born into a poor family, even his mum knows that someday he will make something of himself. He collects rents from the local habitants for the local gentry. The patriarch dies, leaving his plain, spinster daughter to carry on the family business.
Rory is pressed to find gambling games that will afford him more cash in order to buy a house for his upcoming marriage and a small business venture for his brother. Rory pilfers a small amount of cash to enter a fixed game with the Pitte brothers, a local gang. A mistake that cost him Rory his conscious as a close friend goes to jail for a year for thievery Rory committed. He manages to win a large amount of money but is badly beaten and left for dead.
While recuperating he is visited by his fiancé and also Charlotte Kean, the lady of the manor. It's easy to see that she is smitten with him and continues to engage him in his rent collector's role.
He marries his intended but is plagued with guilt over his misdeed and confesses during a nightmare. His new wife is furious at what he's done and leaves him to return to her family. She is then commissioned by the mistress she works for to accompany their family on sea voyage, where they are all lost at sea. While mourning is loss, a year goes by and Rory is promoted to bookkeeping by Charlotte.
Finally no longer able to contain her affections for Rory, Charlotte makes propositions him with an offer of marriage--in name only. He will not be required to fill his marital duties and will in fact reside in his own apartments.
Rory of course makes her his wife in every way, giving her a happiness that she could only dream of.
Charlotte has been busy collecting evidence against the Pitte brothers and a crew of malcontents that plague the docks, and in fact were responsible for beating Rory and other crimes against the local humanity.
Though everyone is whispering about Rory's marriage to Charlotte, he finds himself falling in love with his plain, gentle wife. She informs him that she is with child, and he is beyond happy--until he learns that his first wife has returned, a shell of her former beautiful self, and bitter when she finds out that he has remarried.
She threatens to expose him even as Rory declares to her that he loves his new wife and that she is expecting.
The Pitte brother's burn Rory's brother's business and redemption is satisfied when Rory enters the burning building to save him. With his body on fire, he manages to save his sibling, but incurs fatal burns and survives long enough to declare his love once more to charlotte.
Catherine Cooks tells stories the way we author's today are no longer allowed to. Always filled with passion, and redemption, Catherine always showed the cruelty as well as the beauty in the lives of those who weren't always rich and powerful. Her stories includes their downfall, as well as their redeeming qualities. As with most of her books, I highly recommend THE GAMBLING MAN.