A GENTLEMAN`S WAGER
by Madelynne Ellis

March 2003
ISBN: 0-352-33800-8
Reviewer Graphic Button Black Lace Books
Mass Market Paperback
Rating:



Set in the late 1700’s, this book tells the story of Bella Rushdale, a sexually precocious young woman who develops a severe case of lust for a neighbor, Lucerne Marlinscar. The “wrinkle” in her plans is Vaughn, Marquis Pennerly.


Yes folks, it’s a ménage à trois scenario with the addition of carriages, hooped skirts, and country houses full of decadent goings-on. I went into this story prepared to be entertained, and on some levels, it didn’t disappoint. It was erotic, the characters were interesting, and the plot showed a lot of potential.


But sadly, overall this book didn’t quite live up to its initial promise. Perhaps the choice of Bella as heroine was a poor one. At this time in history, it would have been extraordinarily unlikely for a young unmarried woman to experience such rampant sexual activity without relegating herself to the scorned class of “fallen women”. Had she been widowed, perhaps, or older, the plot would have worked better for me.


Lucerne and Vaughn were fascinating characters, however, each betraying their conflicted emotions and desires, and presented in such a way as to make their sexual interactions believable and – yes – erotic. Again, Bella was the weak link. I wanted her to grab them both by the ear and drag them off somewhere. Anyone with a modicum of commonsense would have been able to put two and two together and come up with three. And even after it finally happened, Bella seemed overly antagonistic to Vaughn, even though sexually attracted to him.


It’s an appealing book, don’t mistake my criticisms. It just could have been so much more. I will say that I found the ending to be both bold and enormously satisfying, and would recommend it to a fan of historical erotica. If you’re considering trying a book from this genre, however, there are others I would suggest you read first.


Reviewed in September 2003 by Celia.

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