This book is the second in Candace Camp's Matchmaker Series and follows The Marriage Wager. My main complaint with the first book of the series still holds true here, but it wasn't as bothersome. I don't know if this is Camp's normal writing style, but in neither book does she show the hero's POV (except for once for a total of 4 lines in this one) and I find it very disconcerting. The story is told exclusively from the heroine's narrative, with small exception - the aforementioned 4 lines and we do see Francesca's (the matchmaker of the series) POV occasionally. In all of the other historical romances I've read, the story is told in third person from **both** of the main characters' - and sometimes secondary characters' - POV (for good reason!).
Camp doesn't do this; in The Marriage Wager it really bothered me because we didn't see enough of the hero in other ways so that at the end of the book I felt I still didn't really know him. She does a much better job of this in The Bridal Quest and I would happily have given the book 5 stars if it weren't for the fact that the hero's perspective is still needed. Other than that, this book is a charm and I will undoubtedly reread it.
Lady Irene Wyngate (25) is a sharp-tongued witty young woman (known by the ton as a shrew) who is very unusual for a lady of her class - she has absolutely no interest in *ever* getting married. Watching her drunk lout of a father wreak havoc in everyone's life with his whoring, gambling, and frightful rages and tempers convinced her long ago that she wanted to be under no man's rule and would remain as independent as possible for the rest of her life. She has never questioned her decision until she meets Gideon, Earl of Radbourne, for although she tries to cling to logic and remember what a boorish, arrogant, and rude man he is ... every interaction with Gideon excites her, her body comes alive when he's around, and she can't help but want to see more of his rare smiles and almost-never-heard laughs.
Gideon, Earl of Radbourne (31) was kidnapped at the age of four and grew up in the tough East End of London instead of living in comfort among the English aristocracy. He was recently restored to his family and they are anxious for him to get married; though Gideon is determined to decide on the lady himself, he is amenable to the idea and so agrees. His family asks for Lady Francesca Haughston's help, however, for they fear that it will be difficult to find a proper, young lady who is willing to marry Gideon, since despite his wealth, title, and handsome looks, he's rough around the edges, his hair is too long, he continues his involvement in his business affairs (a tradesman ::gasp::), he is far too direct, he doesn't dance well, and the list goes on. A country house party is organized and although Irene insists that she is attending in order to get her and her mother away from her horrible sister-in-law for awhile and NOT to be one of Gideon's prospective brides, Gideon is determined to change her mind ...
The relationship between Irene and Gideon is wonderful - a clash between two opinionated and strong-minded people. It's highly entertaining watching their attraction develop, despite both of their attempts to fight the undeniable chemistry between them (her caustic remarks are priceless and it's so funny when despite his anger he can't bring himself to write her off). There were several laugh-out-loud moments for me and I love the scenes when Irene finds herself defending Gideon against rude criticism despite herself and that she slaps him - not once, but twice!! This book was wonderful and the hero and heroine were perfect for each other - they're both strong, honest, intelligent, loyal, kind, and straight-forward and blunt to the point of rudeness.
Candace Camp combines a completely lovable hero and heroine (with wonderfully antagonistic - but humorous - interactions and great chemistry and dialogue), both friendly and horrible relatives, a family mystery (was Gideon really kidnapped? what happened all those years ago?), and the continually entertaining and curious relationship between Francesca and the Duke of Rochford (which will finally be resolved in the fourth and final book of the Matchmaker Series, The Courtship Dance, out February 1, 2009!!) to create a delightful historical romance.