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REVIEW: An Indecent Proposition by Emma Wildes

Dear Ms. Wildes:

book review The setup for your book stymied my initial efforts to read the story. I’ve never been a fan of the “bet” romance wherein one person (usually the man) makes a public wager to do some sordid sexual encounter. The reason for this is because a man who makes a public wager about his sexuality smacks of someone who is insecure or indiscreet or both. The problem with the “bet” premise is that it is used to show that the man is sexy or has sexual prowess. Instead, I think it shows the opposite for a man who is secure in his sexuality does not need to boast of it. The fact that I ended up liking the book despite the bet premise says something about your writing. It obviously appeals to me.

Nicholas Manning, the sixth Duke of Rothay, and his best friend, Derek Drake, the Earl of Manderville, make a bet as to who is the best lover. It’s a drunken, friendly bet and they both come to regret it but strangely, they don’t withdraw the bet nor the outrageous funds they both put down as backing for the wager. (The reason for this is never addressed, much to my disappointment). Nicholas blames the wager on his ennui and Derek on the fact that the woman that he loves has announced her marriage to someone else.

Caroline Wynn, a widow known for her virtue and icy demeanor, contacts the two combatants and offers herself as the judge of the contest. She had been married to a cruel man who mocked her sexuality and now, after mourning is over she wants to find out if she is indeed the frigid, sexless woman her husband accused her of being. Caroline thinks that if the two best rakes of the ton–famed lovers–cannot bring her to enjoy sex then perhaps her husband’s complaints were accurate.

Nicholas is intrigued by Caroline and suggests that they embark on a two week venture. One week for himself and one week for Derek. Interestingly, Nicholas had met Caroline before but easily forgot her given her well known reputation for being disinterested in any licentiousness. He takes her off to his country estate and begins a week of pleasure with her. It was easy to segue into the more sensual part of the book because Nicholas confronts Caroline with the fact that she is with him to learn about her own sensuality and he is there to exert himself to provide her the most pleasure she’s ever experienced or will experience.

Over the week time, Nicholas puts himself forth to seduce, almost woo, Caroline and falls in love himself. He doesn’t realize it, of course. He knows he feels regret and jealousy at the idea of Caroline being with Derek, but he doesn’t understand his emotional reaction to Caroline.

While Nicholas and Caroline are away in the country, Derek is facing his own demons. His uncle’s ward, Annabel Reid, had loved Derek since she was a child. A year ago, it seemed all her wishes were coming true when Derek kissed her at a ball one night. Except he left her and she later found him with his head between another woman’s bosoms. This was not mistaken situation. Derek was confused by his feelings and ran away to a relationship that he understood better. Now, however, he has come to the realization that he loves Annabel but she is in love with someone else.

I think it was the secondary romance between Derek and Annabel that made the book for me. While Nicholas and Caroline grappled with the idea that they might be in love, Derek knew he was in love and that he had made a horrible mistake. He is encouraged by family to pursue Annabel, even though she is engaged, and Derek’s imperfect attempts at doing this were both funny and poignant. I appreciated that his past misdeeds haunted him at every turn. Every rumour of licentous behavior further cemented Annabel’s anger at him. Derek had to overcome his past in her eyes as well as be forgiven for his specific act of treachery toward her.

I think if one can get past the initial setup, a reader would enjoy the characters, the plot, and the sensuality of the book. The setup, though, was a barrier for me. I picked the book up and put it down several times. Truly the best parts of the story do not begin until after Nicholas and Caroline return to town and Derek puts the press on for Annabel’s hand. Your voice is appealing, though, and I interested in future (and past) books. C+

Best regards


This book can be purchased in mass market from an independent bookstore or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. carolyn jean
    Apr 18, 2009 @ 14:01:07

    Why am I attracted to this setup? I totally see what you mean about insecurities leading to a bet like this. It’s an excellent point. What kind of guys do this? yet…yet…oh, I’m just a sucker for the bet storyline.

    So I appreciate your clarity on how this book might play differently with somebody like me. This bad boy’s going on my TBB list.

  2. Jill Sorenson
    Apr 18, 2009 @ 15:05:07

    I agree with carolyn jean. Love the set up. Especially because the heroine knows about the bet! I’m intrigued.

    Bumbling secondary hero sounds good too.

  3. JulieLeto
    Apr 18, 2009 @ 18:55:48

    I agree…this set up works if the heroine knows about it. Totally. If she doesn’t, not so much. And boy, does this book have a fabulous cover!

  4. Renee
    Apr 18, 2009 @ 19:09:42

    This one is sitting on my tbr pile, and will be getting to it very soon! The ones I find annoying are where the heroine is ignorant, and once the main characters fall in love, she finds out, which leads to much drama. This plot line is tired for me. This book’s premise works for me as well, because the heroine knows about the wager. I like that this puts the heroine in the position of power, rather than the unwitting dupe.

  5. B Cole
    Apr 18, 2009 @ 21:47:38

    Oooh! I love the bet thing, too! Can’t wait to dive in!

  6. Jennie
    Apr 19, 2009 @ 00:35:09

    I tried to read this, but it really did not grab me. It just felt pretty paint-by-numbers. I’ve been a pretty hardcore finish-the-book-once-I’ve-started type for ages, but somehow I’ve finally relaxed my rigidity on this with the Sony E-book reader. Maybe it’s just not having a physical book that makes it easier for me to give up on a book. I did skim to the end, but I don’t regret dumping it. It’s an interesting set-up, but the execution felt very blah to me.

  7. Kaetrin
    Apr 19, 2009 @ 03:01:46

    I read this book earlier this weekend. The premise intrigued me and like some other commenters above, I didn’t mind the bet set up – mainly because the heroine knew about it. I was initially wondering whether it was going to end up some kind of menage type arrangement but as soon as I knew Derek was in love with Annabel, I knew what was going to happen.

    I didn’t love this book. I would probably have given it a C-. I did think that the writing improved as the book went on and I did finish it and I was glad to do so.
    However there were many times in the book where I thought I’d just put it down. I’m glad I persisted but I don’t know that I’d be rushing out to buy the next one either.

  8. Jennie
    Apr 19, 2009 @ 22:19:05

    I know I was thinking as I read that I would’ve been much more interested in continuing if it had ended up being a menage. Not for the smut factor, but simply because that at least would’ve been complex and different.

  9. Mary M.
    Apr 20, 2009 @ 14:30:57

    I’m usually not fond of the bet setup either, but mostly because the woman is usually unaware of such a bet having been made so she always feel betrayed when she learns the truth. The fact it was used in a different way in the story is what made me put it on my wish list. I still think I would enjoy this book, so I’ll keep it in mind, but I have many other books I want to read before I get to this one.

  10. REVIEW: A Most Improper Rumor by Emma Wildes
    Mar 16, 2013 @ 11:02:05

    […] whose prose I’ve enjoyed in the past. Your 2009 novel, An Indecent Proposition¬†(reviewed here by Jane), was a sexy fun read and I found the first book in the Whispers of Scandal series, Ruined […]

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