A dissolute rake, a virtuous lady, a ruthless society beauty, and a missing plantation owner with secrets – just another day in Georgian England…
Wealthy Jamaican plantation owner, Harry Carstairs has disappeared – and everyone wants to know where he is…
Celeste Rosington knows her place in society, and while she may not be overjoyed at her upcoming wedding to her detached cousin, Raphael, she nonetheless hopes the marriage will be successful. When Raphael asks her for her help to save Harry, she agrees. But her decision costs her more than she knows…
Celeste’s clandestine visit to Harry’s home is witnessed, and her connection to Harry misconstrued. Harry’s secrets put Celeste into more danger than even Raphael understands, and throws her into the path of the ruthless, cunning, beautiful Lady Busselton and the dissolute, dangerous Lord Peregrine.
Raphael is invested in keeping Harry alive. Lady Busselton is invested in keeping him quiet. Lord Peregrine is invested in anything that staves off boredom. And Celeste is becoming increasingly invested in Lord Peregrine.
After all, what resistance does an innocent young woman have against something so deliciously wicked?
Publisher and Release Date: Escape Publishing, October, 2015
Time and Setting: 1780, London, England
Genre: Historical mystery with a romance
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Maria Almaguer
Wicked Wager is the sixth historical romance by Beverley Eikli, a new-to-me author. She writes very well, with skill and elegance, and good pacing, but I really feel this is more of an historical mystery than a true romance. However, complex themes of revenge, the issue of slavery, and the illegality of homosexuality give the story rich substance.
There are hints of Choderlos de Laclos’ Dangerous Liaisons in this historical spiced with intrigue, but it’s not nearly as intense and serious as that masterful novel. In fact, at moments, it’s a little tongue in cheek and over the top.
Lord Peregrine (Perry) is your typical bored aristocrat. He has lusted after Xenia, Lady Busselton, a spiteful and wily widow, for ten long years and through two husbands. But before he can finally have her in his bed, she wants him to seduce the beautiful Lady Celeste Rosington, a young woman considered to be the cause of Perry’s sister Charlotte’s ruined engagement to one Harry Carstairs.
But when Perry meets Celeste, he falls head over heels in love with her – almost at first sight and a little too quickly – and his desire for Xenia cools drastically. He only wants Celeste and he doesn’t really think she is the cunning girl who destroyed his sister’s happiness. His transformation from supposed hardened rake to attentive lover is a bit abrupt but, in Ms Eikli’s skilled prose, it is handled smoothly.
Of course, this makes Xenia furious and this part of the story seems a bit much in its over-dramatization and histrionics. But it’s not badly written at all; in fact, it’s almost gothic in its portrayal. Rather like Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.
Celeste is engaged to her cousin, Raphael, a weak man with his own secrets. His friend and fellow Jamaican plantation owner, Harry Carstairs, has gone missing and he wants Celeste’s help in finding him. She tried before, without success, and she feels compelled to bow to his wishes, as was usual of women of the time.
But theirs will be a loveless marriage, as Raphael has found another. Celeste wants to know love for herself and wants out of the betrothal but he will not concede and so she feels helpless.
The love story between Perry and Celeste is more sweet than sexy. There are hints of sexual tension toward the beginning of the novel when Perry pursues her, but then it kind of gives way to the mystery of who exactly is trying to bring about Celeste’s downfall. There is no true love scene.
There is a lot of vivid detail and description that places this novel firmly in the Georgian era: powdered and queued hairstyles, ornate decor and gilt furniture, the use of a rabbit’s foot to apply makeup, and elaborate lace on men’s sleeves.
The prose is somewhat tinged with the purple, especially in the latter half of the book: “the poisonous sludge in her veins flowered”– by the way, this phrase is used twice in the same chapter – and there is a modern usage of an idiom; for example, Celeste uses the phrase “called the shots”,which is first noted in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1967.
For sweet romance readers who enjoy a good historical mystery.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
She became a journalist, occupied for many years with life’s newsworthy – but often, unhappy – events until romance finally trumped after she met a handsome Norwegian bush pilot around a camp fire in Botswana’s beautiful Okavango Delta where she was running a safari lodge for a couple of months.
Unhappily, Beverley was due to return home the following day to marry her Australian boyfriend.
Happily, though, that fell through and after a whirlwind eight-month courtship based on regular 18-page letters between Botswana and South Australia, Beverley returned to live with her handsome Norwegian bush pilot in a thatched cottage in the middle of a mopane forest beside a flood plain of lurking wild animals, marrying her handsome bush pilot in Norway shortly afterwards.
Twenty happy years—and 12 countries later—Beverley is now back in Australia living a more conventional life with her husband, two daughters and a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy the size of a pony in a pretty country town an hour north of Melbourne.
She writes traditional Regency romance as Beverley Eikli and sensual historical romance as Beverley Oakley.