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There are hints of Choderlos de Laclos’ Dangerous Liaisons in this historical spiced with intrigue, but it’s not nearly as intense and serious as that masterful novel. In fact, at moments, it’s a little tongue in cheek and over the top.
Lord Peregrine (Perry) is your typical bored aristocrat. He has lusted after Xenia, Lady Busselton, a spiteful and wily widow, for ten long years and through two husbands. But before he can finally have her in his bed, she wants him to seduce the beautiful Lady Celeste Rosington, a young woman considered to be the cause of Perry’s sister Charlotte’s ruined engagement to one Harry Carstairs.
But when Perry meets Celeste, he falls head over heels in love with her–almost at first sight and a little too quickly–and his desire for Xenia cools drastically. He only wants Celeste and he doesn’t really think she is the cunning girl who destroyed his sister’s happiness. His transformation from supposed hardened rake to attentive lover is a bit abrupt but, in Eikli’s skilled prose, it is handled smoothly.
Of course, this makes Xenia furious and this part of the story seems a bit much in its over-dramatization and histrionics. But it’s not badly written at all; in fact, it’s almost gothic in its portrayal. Rather like Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.
Celeste is engaged to her cousin, Raphael, a weak man with his own secrets. His friend and fellow Jamaican plantation owner, Harry Carstairs, has gone missing and he wants Celeste’s help in finding him. She tried before, without success, and she feels compelled to bow to his wishes, as was usual of women of the time.
But theirs will be a loveless marriage, as Raphael has found another. Celeste wants to know love for herself and wants out of the betrothal but he will not concede and so she feels helpless.
The love story between Perry and Celeste is more sweet than sexy. There are hints of sexual tension toward the beginning of the novel when Perry pursues her, but then it kind of gives way to the mystery of who exactly is trying to bring about Celeste’s downfall. There is no true love scene.
There is a lot of vivid detail and description that places this novel firmly in the Georgian era: powdered and queued hairstyles, ornate decor and gilt furniture, the use of a rabbit’s foot to apply makeup, and elaborate lace on men’s sleeves.
The prose is somewhat tinged with the purple, especially in the latter half of the book: “the poisonous sludge in her veins flowered”–by the way, this phrase is used twice in the same chapter–and there is a modern usage of an idiom; for example, Celeste uses the phrase “called the shots, “ which is first noted in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1967.
For sweet romance readers who enjoy a good historical mystery.
This review first appeared on Romantic Historical Reviews.
Lord Peregrine agrees to take on a wager that might make things difficult for Celeste. His sister was supposed to marry Harry, so he wants to take revenge for her sake. Celeste is easy on the eye and he doesn't mind getting involved with her at all. Only when he gets to know her a little he thinks she's far too kind and innocent to have done something so terrible. Celeste is interested in him and he plays a dangerous game with her. Only when things are becoming serious he doesn't know if he can really trust her or not and that while she wasn't supposed to be able to trust him. What really happened to Harry and which part did Celeste play in his disappearance?
Wicked Wager is a great novel about a lord who is bored and likes playing games, especially when there are women involved. Celeste is sweet and a little bit naïve. She's in the middle of a situation that she doesn't understand at all, but she stands up for herself and tries to change her destiny. Lord Peregrine doesn't have any good intentions at first. I liked him from the start though as he isn't all evil. He has a heart, only he's hiding it, that made him an interesting character. The game playing is fun and the romantic aspect is great, it's a combination that works really well.
I enjoyed reading Wicked Wager very much. The story is unusual, there's an element of mystery that I loved and there are plenty of fascinating characters. I think Beverley Eikli knows how to tell a romantic story with a great twist. I loved how not everything is as it seems. It was also nice to read about society life in 1780. I liked this story a lot and if you love the genre this is definitely a book you should read.
Lord Peregrine is attracted to Xena, wants only her. When she asked him to woo the girl who was the ruin of his sister accepts just because she asked him and to avenge his sister. But soon the angelic face of the girl will win his heart. Celeste Rosington is a sweet, naive girl that found herself involved in an unfortunate misunderstanding without any guilt. She was found half-dressed with Harry Carstairs, boyfriend of Charlotte, sister of Lord Peregrine. Harry has disappeared and can not defend the girl. Celeste has always been promisedto her cousin, but discovers that he is in love with another woman and does not want to marry him. She thinks to have the right to marry a man who loves her. But unfortunately she is forced to stay with him, especially after the scandal, no one would want her more. But when she meets Lord Peregrine, she sees in him the right person to save her and to take away her heart.
It 's written really well, with a pace, fast, smooth and even, the plot is exciting with so many intrigues and twists.
It's the second book I read of this author and I like so much her historical novels full of romance but also mystery and adventure. I can not wait to read something else
I definitely recommend this one especially for those who love historical novels veiled in mystery and set in Georgian era.
I received an advance reader edition of this book from Publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of providing an honest review.