Dear Ms. Camp:
I don’t recall reading you before although your name sounds familiar. I may be getting you mixed up with another author whose initials are CC (kind of like how I get Connie Mason and Cathy Maxwell mixed up in my head. I know, it is completely wrong but what can I say?). The The Marriage Wager is a standard regency historical that is adequate but not thrilling.
Constance Woodley iis not quite a poor relation but she doesn’t have enough funds to live on her own and thus she lives with her spiteful aunt and neglectful uncle. She is forced into acting as the de facto chaperone to her cousins.
Lady Francesca Haughston is the one of the leading lights of society whose marriage to Lord Andrew Haughston left her with a pile of debts. She dabbles in matchmaking and in return for helping couples find the right life companion is often rewarded with a costly gift that she pawns. A friend of hers, the Duke of Rochford, challenges Francesca’s boastful claim that she could make a match with anyone. Rochford chooses Miss Woodley as Francesca’s next victim.
Francesca sets about reworking Constance’s wardrobe, getting her the right invitations, and throwing any number of eligible men in her way. This is very Cinderella-like given the cousins/stepsisters and evil aunt/stepmother. The role of the handsome prince is played by Lord Dominic Leighton who has very close ties to Francesca. He’s not one that Francesca chose for Constance but Constance’s feelings keep getting in the way of making a decent match.
There were alot of problems with the storyline that required contrivances to move the plot along. Francesca’s poverty was a closely held secret. “No one, she was certain, would have guessed that she hadn’t a feather to fly with.” Yet, within a day of knowing Constance, Francesca teaches Constance how to economize, bargain, and generally get something for less. Constance immediately begins wondering about Francesca’s true circumstances. Of course, we the reader knows that Constance would never spread such gossip but it is hard to know how Francesca could have figured that out after only a few hours of acquaintance.
Constance, too, was a bit contrived. Despite being treated poorly by her aunt, Constance rejects Francesca’s help, refusing to marry without love. While this is a romantic notion, it isn’t very authentic for the time period. Constance’s obstinance to this issue made little sense. She would rather, it appeared, be under the miserable thumb of her aunt than paired with a man she could respect and run her own household. I also wondered what exactly Dominic saw in Constance. He kisses her upon seeing her for the first time. I suppose this might be a continuation of the fairytale, i.e., love at first sight, but I wasn’t convinced.
The best part of The Marriage Wager was Lady Francesca. She was the star in every scene in which she appeared and her mysterious relationship with the Duke of Rochford that hints at some previous alliance is intriguing. It is for this story that I would continue to read the “Matchmaker Series”. C.