As a reviewer for RRM I get books sometimes that are out of my period, and sometimes those that are within it. This happily was within it. Despite my criticisms below as to the historical nature, and certain other matters, as a romance, there are elements that many will find satisfying.
Yet as the historian in me looks at the work, set in the mid teens, I find little to place this in historical context. It is the Regency, George the Prince of Wales acting as Regent for his mad father. Though not till near the end do we have dates to put things in perspective and when we do have them, certain parts of history cut against the grain of time. The Opera cited was performed after the book’s time. Waltzes at balls prevalent instead of a novelty in the mid teens still something the historian in me and my research are at odds with. 1814 was the start of such at Almacks and before that, only the fast set of Devonshire practiced it privately.
I found less a couple items that took me out of the story aside from the historical mistakes, such as 'Time flies when you are having fun' an expression that seems very modern to my mind. And aside from spending a great deal of time thinking about the attitude of the ton or dropping the names of gentlemens clubs, I did not feel all that much that we were in the Regency.
This was billed to us as the first work of the author, and that I think is where we could have seen something stronger. The author also, when Hero and Heroine are within a scene, jumps POV paragraph to paragraph. That is confusing as well.
We had only fictitious characters sprinkled about, none of true historical nature. One inhabiting a house on Grosvenor Square. Certainly a very expensive property for any of the time to inhabit.
The plot device (I too have used the idea of a gambling as has Barbara Cartland so we are both in good company ;-) ) to bring our romance about. Here, the author started a little late in her tale I think. Especially as Ms Samuels wanted to use her title effectively. Would not baiting the hook of this Scandalous Wager be more appropriate to set us up with the men at the betting book at White’s actually perusing the book and placing the wager. In addition such a scene, perhaps with Brummell at hand to make some snide comment, would have given us more true Regency atmosphere. Often we lose track that the wager is a thing between our lovers except at that last moment when a device is needed to force them apart.
We also have a mystery that is to be solved, but as we search for clues, it seems that none are ever found because our sleuths are interrupted by their sexual desires. So our heroes just have a list of possible suspects. That it is not shared very much with the reader forces us to realize far too early that the criminal being sought is readily apparent. We as an audience do not have enough confusion to make it not evident. No clues are found, no red herrings are presented.
Put all that aside and we delve into the romance of the piece, for often in a bodice ripper, that is what the audience is looking for. The Plot, character development secondary.
Here, the heroine has had a few years to separate the abuse she had at her late husband’s hands aside so that when our Hero begins to make his own amorous advances, she is ready to respond. She has doubts, but the pace for her to succumb to those advances, fans of bodice rippers, and lovemaking scenes should not find themselves disappointed. The author provides titillation and an ebb and flow to this romance that should provide sustenance, though others might have seen dangling the reward of sexual congress till the resolution of the story, which is to be the vindication of our heroine.
The flaws I have noted, that detract for me, cause me to rate this as middle of the road. I think that Ms Samuels shows promise and with work on plot and regency scene setting further developed, her work could become very strong indeed.
Reviewed by David