REVIEW: The Marriage Wager by Jane AshfordMonday, December 30, 2013 0:00
I wanted to like this book, and the set-up in the first chapter promises even more than the blurb and the title do (although I do find myself wondering who was looking after the hero’s properties while he was off fighting across mainland Europe). Emma is a penniless widow, disowned by her family after running away with a man who turned out to be a thoroughly bad lot. Colin, the Baron St. Mawr, has only recently returned to England and is thoroughly dissatisfied with all the vacuous young women his mother keeps trying to match him with. He knows he ought to marry and continue the line, but he’s seen too many of the horrors of war to settle for any woman who has no experience of life. So far, so good…
However, I never managed to warm to the two main characters. There are some promising secondary characters, but all turn out to either be antagonists (and mostly I couldn’t blame them since the hero and heroine have a bad habit of failing to notice when others are trying to help them), or they never fulfill their early potential and turn into weak objects of humour rather than proper helpmates to the hero and heroine. On top of that, none of the obstacles feel that perilous and a lot of the problems could have been solved by the hero and heroine talking to each other, even if it made them a few minutes late for an event (which is actually one of the delays thrown in their path).
Also, please could we now retire the trope of the widow who never enjoyed sex with her first husband? It sort of works in stories where the heroine was forced to marry a man not of her choice, but in this story I feel the angst would have been far more poignant had Emma been initially happy with her husband but then slowly lost him entirely to the gambling dens that were his eventual ruin.
All in all, this story has a reasonable skeleton of a plot and promising character outlines for the hero and heroine, as well as their family, friends, and enemies, but it ultimately fails to deliver for me.
When Emma Tarrant enters a gambling house to find her brother losing to a gamester, she follows the strange man home and attempts to settle the score. Colin Wareham is intrigued by Emma’s offer, and when he wins the first hand, he suggests another game. Should he prevail, Emma would be his prize. But as he’s collecting his winnings, Emma’s father storms in and demands a marriage. Though forced together, Emma and Colin’s passion begins to grow… until a sinister man from Emma’s past emerges to raise the stakes.
Read an excerpt.