(Wicked Wagers, #1)
Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)
Let the Wicked Wagers Begin…
Lady Caitlin Southall’s temper has finally got the better of her. She’s challenged Harlow Telford, the Duke of Dangerfield, the most notorious rake in all of England, to a wager. She wants her house back. The one her destitute father lost to Dangerfield in a card game. But if she doesn’t win their bet, she not only loses her home, she loses her dignity and pride and damn it all, maybe her heart… For the handsome Duke has decreed, when he wins, she must spend the night in his bed.
Harlow Telford is amused by his hellion neighbor, Caitlin, or Cate to her friends, who seem to encompass everyone on earth except him. When she bursts into one of his private gatherings, he mistakes her for the entertainment. Her slap across his face sets him straight and raises the absurd desire to seduce the unconventional beauty into his bed. When she issues her daft challenge to win back her father’s pile of rubble, the terms are set. And he’ll do anything to win—except fall in love…
This was my first book by Bronwen Evans and I really enjoyed it. It was longer than the average novella and I felt this allowed for effective characterisation and a well-paced story.
Harlow turned out to be quite a surprise. He appears to be a typical rake, only concerned for his own pleasures but, deep down, he is a man who really cares about his mother and half-brother, Jeremy. I could understand his desire for revenge against the man who brought ruination to his mother and his desire to secure Jeremy’s birth right. His honourable actions towards Caitlin were not at all what I expected. It was clear that he would not have gambled with her father had he known that Mansfield Manor was in trust for Caitlin but it created a real dilemma for him. He felt obligated to keep his promise to Jeremy but he also needed to secure Caitlin’s future by marrying her.
I enjoyed seeing the growth in Harlow’s character. Getting to know Caitlin makes him take a good look at his life…a meaningless life in which he has achieved very little. He is afraid that by opening up to Caitlin and sharing his life with her, she will find him sadly lacking and, for the first time, he wants more.
Tonight had been a revelation. Caitlin stirred more than his lust. He wanted her respect. He wanted to be… more. More for her. He suddenly found himself in the unenviable position of wanting a woman to be proud of him. He wanted her to look at him with pride, rather than simply seeing him as a title and a means to a life of wealth and ease.
Looks can be deceptive. Outwardly Caitlin may look delicate but she has a will of iron, shown in her determination not to lose Mansfield Manor. It takes boldness and daring to put the mighty Duke of Dangerfield firmly in his place.
“I’m Lady Caitlin Southall,” she called over her shoulder and, filled with satisfaction at seeing his mouth drop open, she kicked Ace of Spades and tore off at a gallop— spraying His Grace with clods of earth.
The string of curses behind her made her laugh out loud. Bumping into the duke or, rather, leaving Dangerfield in a shower of dirt, made her day.
I like how she refuses to compromise over what she truly wants from life… a partner in marriage, a man who truly loves her and understands the meaning of commitment. Despite the fact that Harlow represents everything that she despises, arrogant and overbearing, she can’t help but be attracted to him. He challenges her and treats her as an equal and, for the first time in her life, she no longer feels lonely. Her life is full of fun and happiness.
The romance…the battle of wills, the witty banter, the wagers (particularly the cake baking one), the heated, passionate encounters…is immensely enjoyable.
I was intrigued by Harlow’s friends and fellow rakehells, the arrogant Lord Marcus Danvers, Marquis of Wolverstone and the rather more honourable Lord Henry St. Giles, Earl of Cravenswood and look forward to reading their stories.
My only criticism is about the ending. While I understand the necessity for Jeremy to feel genuine remorse for his actions, the events do seem overly dramatic and somewhat contrived. However, this was a relatively small point and didn’t really spoil my overall enjoyment of the story.
Favourite Romantic Quote:
“I need a woman who completes me. Who fills my soul with song, and who can bring me to my knees in adoration with one simple smile.”
Overall, romantic, witty and entertaining.
REVIEW RATING: 4.5/5 Stars
SENSUALITY RATING: HOT
Read March 2015
Wicked Wagers series (click on the book cover for more details):