Emma, daughter of Lord Grey, and Richard, Lord Hamilton are kindred souls, with the same robust appreciation for life and wicked sense of humor. They fall in love and are engaged to marry, but they have to convince Emma's uncle, the powerful Duke of Arden that they shouldn't have to wait a year to marry. When the Duke orders Emma to spend time at his country estate, Richard hatches a plan to masquerade as the new head gardener for the Duke of Arden so he can be near Emma. He also intends to romance Emma as the gardener so that the Duke will look more favorably on him as Lord Hamilton and Emma's true suitor. His plan turns out to be more complicated than he thinks when he has to take on all the head gardener's work for real, deal with the teasing of the other servants, spend time with Emma, and avoid Lady Babbage, the Duke's controlling sister's machinations. He calls in his friend, Lord Raikes to pretend to be him when the Duke invites Lord Hamilton (his true identity) to visit. The plot thickens when Lord Raikes, who is pretending to be him, develops a reciprocated strong attraction to Lady Catherine, the Duke's daughter and Emma's cousin. Lady Babbage turns out to be a blackmailer with lots of enemies among the house party attendees, which will have its own consequences. Richard's little wager with Emma to see if he could get her uncle to agree to a quicker marriage within a month's time, and the ensuing complications, makes for a caper of a read.
The Wicked Wager is a light historical romance with a dash of mystery that makes for an entertaining read. I appreciated the humor, light and sly, with some hilarious, laugh-out-loud moments. While I liked Emma and Richard, I connected more with Lord Raikes and Catherine. They had great chemistry, and while they fought a lot, you could see the tension sizzle between them, as they realize that they weren't supposed to like each other that way. The mystery plays a bigger role towards the end, which made me feel that it should have been more evenly integrated into the story.
The Wicked Wager was a fast-paced, enjoyable novel with some funny comedy of errors moments and engaging characters. Its strength lies in the humorous interactions between the characters, and the romantic tension between Lord Raikes and Catherine. Unfortunately, I didn't feel quite as much chemistry between Emma and Richard, compared to the secondary couple. Additionally, the mystery aspect felt uneven in its execution. It could have been stronger and more consistently integrated throughout the entire novel. Overall, The Wicked Wager is a story that readers who enjoy the Regency period would probably appreciate.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
*Reviewed by guest reviewer, Danielle Hill.
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