>> Saturday, April 07, 2012
Lilith Davenant's sensibilities are appropriately offended. How dare Lord Julian Brandon kiss her when he knows full well the man she is to marry is in the very next room! She never imagines that his amorous pursuit is the result of a wager that will sully her flawless reputation—or that one day she will yearn for Julian's irresistible embrace...Knave's Wager has a plot I've read a hundred times before, but with Loretta Chase, it's all about the execution.
Julian, the Marquess of Brandon, is well-known in Society as a rake and a reprobate. But he does care about his family, however much he protests that he doesn't, and his newphew is in need of rescuing. The silly boy has let himself be caught by his mistress, Elise, and the woman now has a marriage proposal from him, and in writing, too. She wants marriage, or she'll sue for breach of promise.
Julian fails to bully Elise into taking a bit of money instead, but she proposes a bet. If he wins, she'll withdraw, and he'll do the same if she's the winner. What Julian needs to do to win is to seduce Lilith Davenant, a widow and one of the most proper, rigid matrons in Society.
Julian's actually quite pleased with the bet. He's met Lilith very recently, when she and her niece rescued him after an accident in his carriage. She intrigued him, so even before Elise's proposed bet, he already fully intended to seduce her.
And he really goes all out to do so. Julian pursues Lilith quite mercilessly, lying and cheating when he must, bribing her servants and making sure he spends as much time as possible with her. But with time, the tone of the whole thing shifts, and they become friends. Julian still pursues Lilith, but it's clear to both that the main motivation is spending time with her because they like each other, rather than stone-cold seduction.
Their courtship, such as it is, is conducted through some truly lovely dialogue and banter. Julian has judged Lilith perfectly, and knows that he's not going to get to her with poetic compliments and chivalry. He teases and challenges her and basically, treats her like no one dares to treat this supposed ice queen. As for Lilith, she gives as good as she gets, and their interactions are just delightful and charming.
But of course, the whole issue of the bet is hanging over Julian's head as he falls in love, and we know it's going to fall on him at the worst possible time. It does, and oh, the lovely angst! I loved it.
The only part of the book I was disappointed with was the secondary romance. I had some hopes at the beginning that Julian's nephew and his mistress would end up with an unconventional HEA, since Elise is a really interesting, strong character. Unfortunately, Chase was a lot more traditional than that, and went for the the young virgin for this guy. To be fair, though, the young virgin (Lilith's niece) is really cool and a lot cleverer than she seems at first, and at least Elise is not much demonised. Oh, well.
Still, a good one, I liked it.
MY GRADE: A B.