Series: Winner Takes All #1
Published by Pocket Books on July 22, 2014
Genres: Historical Romance
Three friends. One Wager. Winner takes all.
The Earl—‘Lucky Ned’ Ashby. Pompous, preening, certain that he is beloved by everyone.
The Miller—John Turner. Proud, forced to work as the Earl’s secretary, their relationship growing ever more strained.
The Doctor—Rhys Gray. Practical, peace-loving, but caught in the middle of two warring friends.
Their wager is simple: By trading places with John Turner and convincing someone to fall in love with him, Ned plans to prove it’s him the world adores, not his money. Turner plans to prove him wrong.
But no one planned on Phoebe Baker, the unassuming governess who would fall into their trap, and turn everything on its head…
This was an entertaining, if sometimes off-putting, read. On the whole, I enjoyed this very much. The author has a witty turn of phrase and subtle sense of humor. But it did take a while to warm up to the hero, Ned. Initially, I found myself comparing him to a small puppy – loud, boastful, and selfish with a “look at me!” attitude. NOT attractive characteristics for someone meant to play the hero’s role. But this initial impression paved the way for a subtle shifting and transformation into a character worthy of the title “hero.” Ned’s character arc was a satisfying change from the obnoxious puppy seen in the beginning of the story. All thanks to one woman – the heroine, Phoebe Baker.
Phoebe is a woman of sharp intelligence and quiet dignity. After her father’s death, she was forced to accept a position as a governess – not quite family, not quite servant – and it is this very change in circumstances that molds her into the strong, steadfast woman we get to see in this story.
The wager between Ned and his secretary, Turner, is entertaining, if slightly distasteful in practical execution. Get a woman to fall in love with you in two weeks without using the benefit of your title or wealth. There were many times I sat shocked at the thoughts and words coming from Ned and Turner about each other. These men are supposed to be friends and yet this wager turned them into monsters when it came to their “friendly” interactions. Yet by the end, both men learned something from the wager and grew into better characters.
The romance does take a while to get started, but I think had it begun any sooner, it would have felt rushed or disingenuous. Given the circumstances, I think the romance was more realistic and well-paced, but did rush towards the end.