Title: The Wicked Wager
Author: Anya Wylde
Publication Date: August, 2012
Genre: Historical Romance / Cozy Mystery
Description: The infamous rake, Lord Richard Hamilton, has finally chosen his bride—the very appropriate Miss Emma Grey.
The ton approves, Lord Grey is pleased, Lady Grey delighted, and Emma is over the moon, but her uncle, (the blasted) Duke of Arden opposes the match, and Emma is ordered to move to the duke’s estate to think things over.
Richard Hamilton refuses to take things lying down and concocts a plan. A plan that should have brought the lovers together and had them married within a month. It was a simple matter of masquerading as the duke’s gardener, compromising the lady, and then having the duke rush them off to Gretna Green.
Alas, he underestimates the duke’s intelligence and the tangled situation on the estate—never had he imagined that compromising a lady could be so difficult.
His endeavours lead to a comedy of errors, charades, and knotty love affairs. Yet he forges ahead in spite of pesky house guests, a flea bitten mattress, his lovesick best friend, and a blackmailer.
Just when things seem to be going well, someone is murdered (very inconvenient), and he happens to be one of the suspects (extremely inconvenient).
His simple plan for winning the wager suddenly becomes … a tad complicated.
My Thoughts: Unfortunately, it took several starts and stops before this book and I connected. Even then, I found myself continuously wondering where this was all leading to. The majority of the story focuses on Emma and her fiancé, Lord Richard Hamilton and their concocted scheme to fool her Uncle, the Duke of Arden. I thought their plan was full of holes and it surprised me that they weren’t called out on it immediately. The interesting thing about this story is the more I read, the more curious I became. This story has an Oscar Wilde feel to it. The more Emma and Richard tried to take the situation in hand and control it, the more it got away from them. At every turn, their plan seemed to unravel faster and faster so that it became quite entertaining to see what they would do next.
I mistakenly thought the murder would dominate the story but it was more of an afterthought and an event that exposes Emma and Richard’s scheme to the rest of the household. I found myself amused at the shenanigans of various characters running around the house in the middle of the night, sneaking in and out of bedrooms, searching for clues. I half expected Tim Curry to make an appearance as the butler from “Clue” to solve the mystery in the most elaborate of performances.
Fortunately for Emma and Richard, they end up together, though their plan did not work. I just couldn’t understand why an Earl would go to such lengths instead of just sitting down with the Duke, man to man, and have an intelligent and open conversation. Thankfully, the Duke is not an unreasonable man and all ends well. I thought the murder took too long to occur, initially, but came to realize that the murder was a plot device to wrap up the plot. It also gave me a better understanding of the Duke and an appreciation of how perceptive he really was. The identity of the murderer came as a great surprise, however as well as some other surprises the author throws in about secondary characters.
My Final Verdict: What started out as just an OK book by a new to me author, ended up being a good book that gives the reader a witty story of romance, murder, mayhem and a little comedy to make things interesting. I am intrigued by and enjoyed this author’s writing style enough to look for her next book. The Wicked Wager ends without loose ends, but I wouldn’t mind revisiting the characters later.
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