The Wagered Bride
As you can probably guess from the title, this is one of those fathers-who-gamble-away-their-daughter-in-a-card-game kind of books. And while there are a couple of twists, in the end it remains true to its clichéd premise.
Lord Stephen Clearbrook spent most of the past three years gambling and drinking in an effort to forget his role in the death of his father, the Duke of Elbourne. While out riding, they argued over the duke’s treatment of his wife, which sent him galloping off from whence he fell and subsequently died from injuries. During these three years of self-pitying wallowing, Stephen somehow managed to take time out to save Wellington’s life during Waterloo. Now he has lost his estate, which was his mother’s childhood home, and a good deal of money besides, in a card game. The holder of the deed is William Shelby, England’s richest self-made man, who will forgive the debt and return the property if Stephen marries his elder daughter, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth, tall and plain, wants nothing to do with a man who would marry her for her father’s money. She wishes to marry for love, as does Stephen and both fancy themselves to be in love with another. However, they don’t seem to be very good judges of potential spouses, as Elizabeth’s is a desperate fortune hunter and Stephen’s a cold-hearted witch. While attending the same house party, Stephen will finally see through his intended’s façade, foil Elizabeth’s elopement and decide that maybe marrying her won’t be so bad after all, if only she would fall in love with him!
For the most part, I liked Elizabeth; she stands up to her father, and has no compunction about letting Stephen know that he has no moral high ground on which to stand when he accuses her intended of being a fortune hunter, when he is so obviously marrying her for money.
Stephen is a bit more problematical. We are told that Mr. Shelby chose him after much investigation, finding that Stephen was a nice, honorable and handsome man who would treat his daughter well. This conclusion seems based entirely on the fact that he saved Wellington’s life. But what about the three years of drunken, gambling excess? This kind of behavior does not strike me as that of a potentially good husband.
While the writing was competent and comfortable – I read through the book in a day – the plethora of misunderstandings, big and small, and cliché-ridden plot did not make for an enjoyable read.