Reviewed by JenThis is a hard book for me to categorize. It's not exactly a historical romance, though it is historical and it centers on a couple's efforts to get together. It's also a bit of a mystery. Maybe a little farce. The author calls it "A Regency Murder Mystery & Romance." A mouthful, but as good of a description as any. Ultimately, it's light and it's fun.
The story begins with Emma and Richard becoming engaged. Unfortunately, Emma's uncle wants them to have a long engagement. Her uncle is a Duke and it's expected that he will one day pass his title to her father, so Emma's family is inclined to give in to his wishes. Richard, however, doesn't want to wait, so he comes up with a convoluted scheme to marry Emma on his own timetable.
Emma has plans to go visit the Duke and Richard decides to pose as a gardener on the estate to stay close to her. He sets out to prove himself wilier than her uncle. He and Emma make a bet that if he succeeds in his ruse for one month, she'll allow him to compromise her so they can get married right away.
What ensues is one difficulty after another in Richard's plan... not the least of which is the Duke's invitation for him to come to the house, more than a week after he has insinuated himself into the household under disguise. That prompts him to call on a friend to impersonate him --a man who promptly falls for Emma's cousin. And then someone tries to blackmail him and it all culminates in an unexpected murder.
I know it sounds like a romance to some extent, but really it's not. Emma and Richard are sealed in the first chapter. It's less about them coming together than about their silly plan and its constant hiccups. But then about halfway through, the mystery part comes in with the blackmail and the death and it sort of feels a little like Clue, but without the slapstick. (OK, maybe there was one scene where someone's pants split in a very revealing way that was both unexpected and funny.)
It's not a deep character piece. I didn't really get invested in any particular character or their feelings, but the pacing is pretty fast and the story is pleasant, with interesting side characters. It wasn't terribly hard to figure out who the killer was, but I didn't get bored during the journey.
*ARC provided by author for review
Click to purchase: Amazon
The Wicked Wagerby Anya WyldeRelease Date: August 7, 2012