Friday, June 12, 2009

Knaves' Wager - Loretta Chase


"I need no further proof that you are despicable!" Lilith Davenant's sensibilities were appropriately offended. How dare the brazen Lord Julian Brandon kiss her when he knew full well the man she was to marry was in the next room! It mattered not that the cad was handsome, charming and witty...unlike the staid, auburn-haired young widow's fiancé. Lilith's repute meant all. Never did she imagine the blackguard's amorous pursuit was the result of a wager to sully her flawless reputation. Nor did she dream that one day she would yearn for Julian's irresistible embrace-and that a reckless gamble would cause the notorious rake to lose his heart...just as Lilith discovered her own!

Knaves' Wager must be one of my favorite Trad Regency books, just after The Sandalwood Princess also by Loretta Chase. Since I was much in need of a comfort read this week, I immediately thought about rereading this story again. It’s always a pleasure to revisit Chase’s characters again and again.

I’m one of those readers who immediately shy away when I see a wager plot. Maybe it’s the abundance of this kind of story in the romance gender, but, for me, they all follow the same steps: virtuous heroine, rake hero, he wagers to compromise her, she tries to keep her distance but fails miserably after tasting the hero’s charms. At the end, after a big confrontation, everyone gets together and all problems are solved. I confess that what made me read this book for the first time was the author. Most of Loretta Chase books are hits for me and this one was no exception, even if some aspects of the story are not entirely to my taste. Chase still managed to pull it off!

Lilith is a young widow who is determined to marry her nieces well. When faced with some economical troubles, she knows the only solution is to get married. Her fianc√© is a member of the aristocracy, a pleasant and reliable man, very in agreement of what Lilith wanted for herself. While virtuous and sensible, she is also respectable without being a moralizing tight up kind of heroine who would constantly judge everything and everyone. She’s a charming woman who tries to give the best to her nieces and she actually surprised me since I was all ready to dislike her.

The charming scoundrel, Jillian was a bit of a disappointment. He starts as a delicious, even if sometimes scandalous womanizer and towards the end, he completely changes, as if a new man was born. A repentant rake can be believable sometimes but not to this point. He entered the wager to try to save his nephew from a tricky situation and actually drags himself in a complex relationship with a woman who turned out to be everything he didn’t believe anymore. While I had no hard time seeing these two together, I didn’t understand how he had to change so much to allow himself to be with Lilith.

Something I truly enjoy in this story is the fact that the characters aren’t all perfect; there’s no cardboard villains, just normal people with their flaws and qualities who sometimes don’t make the best decisions. This creates some very real situations and this along with the witty dialogues between Lilith and Jillian is what makes it a favorite. Certainly a must read for any Trad Regency fan.

Grade: 4/5

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