Review: The Marquess’ Daring Wager by Kate Archer (2020)

Posted June 4, 2024 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

Oh, this was so much fun! I enjoyed the first book in the series, but this was actually a lot better, funnier on several levels, with some gloriously eccentric characters and a very determined and not at all risk averse hero.

Here’s the premise: following the pact made by six dukes to force their heirs to marry, and the determination of said heirs to avoid matrimony at all costs, one of their number has already fallen into parson’s mousetrap. Now Richard, the Marquess of Lockwood, is veering dangerously close to falling for Lady Sybil Hayworth. He’s been paying her pointed attention during the season, and although she views him with icy disfavour, he arranges to follow her to Yorkshire to continue his campaign. And since he’ll need her father’s permission, too, and his approbation will weigh with Sybil, he sets out to ingratiate himself with him, too. But Lord Blanding and his daughter are made of sterner stuff, and Richard finds it harder than he expected to win over the father, never mind the daughter.

Richard is a great character, a war hero with a reputation as a man willing to take any risk, who yet always manages to come out on top. He’s cheerfully undeterred by any setback, always ready with a new idea and willingly taking on (and usually losing) increasingly outrageous wagers with Lord Blanding in the hope of softening his attitude.

Sybil comes out of this less well. For one thing, she’s as resolutely never-forget-an-insult as her father, which is a fairly stupidly dogmatic approach to life, frankly. And then she determinedly ignores the glaringly obvious idea that Lord Lockwood has inveigled his way into a house party hosted by people he’s never met before purely on her account. Yes, we get the whole I’m-not-worthy thing and the low self-esteem, but really, it was staring her in the face.

Of the other characters, honourable mentions to Charlie the street urchin and Kingston the valet, who really should have a show of their own, since Charlie had all the best lines, and drove the plot in interesting ways, too. The plot flowed a lot better in this book than the first. Partly that’s the setting – a country house party has far more creative scope than the season (loved the regatta!). Partly, though, it’s that there was no need for the sort of oh-my-goodness-look-what-just-happened-out-of-the-blue shenanigans that were necessary in book 1. This time the final crisis arose with an air of character-driven inevitability about it (I knew the instant someone yelled ‘Fire!’ what had happened), and beautifully gave the hero his moment to shine. A very well-written finale.

Fewer Americanisms for me to grumble about this time. The baron called Sir John tripped me up (a baronet, surely?). Pence are plural – one penny, two or more pence. A duke and duchess are never Lord or Lady anything, it’s always Duke or Duchess, or their graces, or full titles. One other oddity: the author repeatedly used the construct ‘The lord did so-and-so’, which probably isn’t wrong (you’d say the duke did or the marquess did, so why not the lord did?), but somehow it just sounded odd to my ears.

An excellent read, overall, both well written and funny, with some great characters. If book 1 just scraped five stars, this one earns it in spades and then some. Highly recommended. I’ll probably go on to read the rest of the series – I’m particularly interested to find out more about Lord Dalton.


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