Lord Stamford, needed a female desperate enough to pretend to be engaged to him, and in Rosalyn, he found that woman. They could both pretend - until he kissed her.'--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
As their pretence takes form he quickly learns to admire her loveliness and forthrightness and grows to desire her. She has no idea of this, finding his increasing possessiveness difficult to understand even as her own feelings change towards him. The ensuing courtship is played out amongst a cast of family and a couple of villains. There is warmth, anger, passion and a growing understanding of each other's wants and needs. I liked the way they were both willing to apologise so the relationship moved forward without silly misunderstandings. I preferred this book to the author's "Lord Rotham's wager" which I found lacked credibility and was too involved in issues surrounding gambling.
Lady Rosalyn Jeffreys's younger brother, James, has gambled away the family estate to the notorious Lord Michael Stamford. Eager to try and gain back the estate before their grandmother can learn of James's folly, Rosalyn goes to Lord Stamford to ask him to allow her to buy back the estate. Stamford however has another idea: he will give the estate back to James only if Rosalyn agrees to a 'pretend' betrothal. Stamford's father, the Duke of Eversleigh, has decided that it is about time his son and heir is married, and has all but arranged a marriage for him with a suitable young debutante. Stamford however has no desire to be shackled to a wife right now, and his plan is to present his father with a sham fiancee, satisfy his father for the time being and then break off the engagement once it is safe to do so. In order for his plan to work, he needs the right kind of 'pretend' fiancee. And the pretty Lady Jeffreys with her sweet smiles would fit the ticket nicely. And while Rosalyn is appalled at the idea of such a scheme, she reluctantly agrees to Stamford's proposal. The pretend engagement however has a rather strange effect on the couple: Rosalyn finds that the roguishly handsome Stamford to be unexpectedly charming and intelligent, almost too much so for her peace of mind, while Stamford finds himself falling under the spell of Rosalyn's sweet beauty and reserved manners. It doesn't take too long before he realises that he has fallen in love with his 'pretend' fiancee. For the first time in his life, Stamford isn't quite sure of his effect on the woman he desires, and he isn't too sure if he can he persuade her to make this sham betrothal real either! Will Stamford win Rosalyn's affections and approval? And what of the poisonous attempts of his ex-mistress to tear them apart?
The plot is rather run-of-the-mill -- I think that this plot device is quite a popular one. However what makes this romance novel unique is the faintly sensual manner in which Ann Elizabeth Creel made Stamford and Rosalyn interact with each other. This was accomplished in an incredibly tasteful manner, but it was (at times) lightly steamy! I also enjoyed the manner in which Stamford teased Rosalyn, and the way in which he kept trying to break through her reserved manner. And I liked that he discovered he was in love with Rosalyn first. The norm seems for the heroine to realise that she is in love with the hero, so that was quite refreshing to have it go the other way around for a change.
"A Bargain with Fate" is an engaging and captivating read, that boasts of a memorable and likable hero and heroine, and an entertaining and enchanting writing style. A truly wonderful romance novel.