Wagered Weekend, by Jayne Castle (aka Jayne Ann Krentz)

>> Tuesday, January 18, 2005

After reading Shield's Lady for my group read, I think I might have started on another Jayne Ann Krentz glom.... ;-)

Wagered Weekend was published in 1981, under JAK's Jayne Castle pseudonym. I'm always a bit wary about reading those early books, because early JAK heroes are often way too arrogant and overbearing for me. So why do I keep reading? Well, simply because for every wall-banger from that time, she has a winner, like Fabulous Beast, from 1984, or the 1985 Wizard.

Lucky at cards, unlucky at love? That's what Savannah Emery had always been--and she knew she should have stopped while she was ahead. That night at the party the wine and her winning streak had gone to her head. She had bid too high and lost... and the stakes were a weekend with Cord Harding.
Unfortunately, this wasn't one of those gems. The hero was truly unbearable, and I'd give this one a C-.

The book starts during an engagement party, as Savannah Emery does her best to pretend she doesn't care that the groom was the man she had thought she would marry. She's playing cards and beating everyone. When their boss, Cord Harding, comes in and high-handedly corners her for a one-on-one game of twenty-one, she is glad to be able to beat him, too, and take her anger at the situation out on someone who deserves it.

However, it turns out her winning streak is suddenly at an end, and having drunk a bit too much, Savannah ends up wagering (and losing) first a dinner, then a kiss and, finally, an entire weekend with Cord.

Savannah definitely doesn't intend to pay this bet, beyond the dinner and (possibly) the kiss, and she does run out on Cord that night, but Cord soon turns out at the little inn in Carmel where Savannah has gone to spend her vacation, and he insists she give him the weekend he has coming.

I must say, the book had potential. The whole set-up was intriguing and I started out liking the heroine. She was an almost 6-feet-tall amazon who was perfectly comfortable in her feminity. She was good at her job, self-assured and perfectly willing to stand up to Cord.

However, Cord really tried my patience. He doesn't really do anything to Savannah beyond pestering her to give in. He doesn't force her or manhandle her and makes it clear that when she says "no", he'll stop, but he's so horribly arrogant and overbearing, that I kept wanting to slap him! He has lots of irritating lines about how Savannah "has been allowed to run wild for too long", or how it's only "her foolish femenine pride" that doesn't allow her to surrender to him, and stuff like that. Maybe it doesn't sound so bad here, but believe me, after pages and pages of this, I was ready to scream.

Maybe if we had seen at least a few scenes from Cord's point of view (maybe his real feelings for Savannah, or why he was doing this) he would have come across a bit more sympathetic, but books back then just didn't "do" the hero's POV... one of the reasons why I prefer to read later books. As it is, the impression I got of Cord wasn't "romantic hero" but "scary psycho".

By the time the veeery clichéd evil other woman appeared, ready to snag our hero, I was already out of patience, so that was really the last push needed for me to shake my head at the lost opportunity for a good story.


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