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Review: A Scandalous Wager – Cassandra Samuels

on November 12, 2014

Scandalous WagerA Scandalous Wager
Cassandra Samuels
Harlequin Escape
2014, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Lisbeth Carslake, the Countess of Blackhurst is a notorious figure. She was acquitted of the murder of her husband, the Earl of Blackhurst, getting off on a technicality. There are many among the ton who do not believe that she was innocent and that it’s a travesty that she’s still a free woman. She is known as the Black Raven and is the subject of malicious rumour and gossip in all of the clubs. She is also the subject of many wagers.

Oliver Whitely has recently become the Earl of Bellamy after the untimely death of his older brother. The family seat is almost broke and Oliver desperately needs money in order to keep things going. Although he doesn’t want to be the Earl and is finding the idea that he is hard to reconcile with, he also knows that he must do his best to fix the mess that his brother unfortunately left behind – much of which is tied up with the Countess Blackhurst. Oliver’s brother invested with the Countess’s late husband and she has not refunded the investments after his death.

A little drunk, Oliver decides to take on the Black Raven wagers in order to get some money – he also wants to find out more about her and he unexpectedly finds himself agreeing to a business proposal that Lisbeth offers. He will accompany her in society so that she can seek out the real killer of her husband and in return she will confirm that he is the recipient of all of the wagers concerning her. But when the attraction begins to simmer between them, things start to get a little complicated. Add in the danger of someone who doesn’t want to be discovered and things get very complicated.

I’m reading so much historical romance at the moment, I’m almost automatically drawn to them now. There’s something about the formula that is really appealing to me at the moment. I’ve always read a lot of contemporary romance but the historical trend in my reading has only started in the last couple of years or so. This one has some good points and some not so good points.

Firstly, I liked Lisbeth quite a bit. She’s had a horrible time of it the past few years. She was married to a terrible man, an abusive man and in some ways the fact hasn’t always made her life easier. She’s been shunned by her own family and society in general. She was charged with the murder but acquitted somehow on a technicality and now she lives in relative seclusion some two years later. People have tried to visit her, mostly men who think they might be able to woo a lonely widow (and potential murderess) in order to collect on the vicious wagers that are pledged in clubs. Lisbeth has decided that the only way she can clear her name is to find out the identity of the real murderer, and to do that she must re-enter society and she needs an escort, someone to provide her with cover and support given most, if not all other people will shun her.

Although I understood Oliver’s motives for approaching her and agreeing to be a part of the plan, I have to admit I didn’t really warm to him as a character and I never particularly really felt their attraction much. He does have relatively good connections and he’s personally invested in finding the murderer as well, considering he may receive back some of the family fortune by working with Lisbeth if it can be proven how much that his brother invested. Most of the time though he felt a bit extraneous to the plot, like he wasn’t really necessary for anything to move forward. And although Lisbeth is supposedly shunned by all, it doesn’t really feel like people are that scandalised by their appearance at social events. Given Oliver is almost broke it’s unlikely he has enough social clout to smooth the way  that much.

The most disappointing aspect of the story and the weakest in my opinion, is who the murderer is. It’s glaringly obvious from the very first time they appear on the page and it seems to take an age before Lisbeth and Oliver realise who it is and even then they basically only realise because he tells them (Lisbeth) and someone else gives Oliver the information he needs to put it all together. The story never really attained the level of suspense I felt it should, particularly in the scenes of the final confrontation. Likewise some of the scenes between Lisbeth and her husband which are shown in flashback, lack the emotional impact that scenes of that nature should.

All in all, this was an okay read – I enjoyed certain aspects of it but there were others that didn’t really resonate with me.

5/10

Book #232 of 2014

AWWW2014

Book #84 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014

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