The Wedding Wager (Harlequin Historical) Mass Market Paperback – 1 Jun 2001
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The plot of this novel was an interesting idea although I have seen the reverse Pygmalion concept better done; Judith Ivory's The Proposition is better, in my view. Ivory's quality of prose is better than Hale's and her characters are better rounded. My main problem with this story was that the male protagonist was not well enough developed. The idea of using an enlisted man (rather than an officer/member of the nobility, etc, etc) was good but it just did not stand up to scrutiny as we do not know enough about his army experiences to understand the adult man. We know about his past as a footman and are given insight into how this effected him (eg he enlisted)and although we are given to understand Morse Archer was something of a hero in the Peninsula, we aren't given enough detail to sketch in his character.
Although Richard Sharpe (of the famous Bernard Cornwell series) was an enlisted man promoted from the ranks to officer, he never was accepted in the drawing room as Morse Archer is and Sharpe had more "elevated" tutoresses than Archer. So, this is a rather dangerous idea to write about without some better understanding of the social and military history of the times.
I don't think that Leonora was particularly sympathetic although eventually she does come to a good degree of personal insight and I was glad she woke up and went after her man! I don't think her behaviour was particularly beliveable within the contemporary context of her times. However, she matured and developed in a more believeable way than Sgt Archer.
I also question the plot device of having Algie fall in love with and expect to marry a servant - no matter how clever and sweet she might have been (and stupid but sweet he was), they both would have been ostracised from polite society and most certainly never accepted by her class either. A nice idea but ultimately completely unbelievable and therefore unsustainable.
I found the first half the the book somewhat boring and it was not until I was into the second half that the characters and the story began to satisfy. The pace was too slow; not enough happened and I kept waiting for some satisfying character development.
The author clearly has some talent but needs sharper editing to crisp up her writing and plotting. I shan't give up on her yet as I think she has potential and she was not afraid to take an unusual plot device and try it out.