Once Upon a Wager
Crimson Romance / May 12, 2014 / $4.99 digital
When Lord Alec Carstairs returns from the Peninsular Wars, hailed as a hero in the midst of the London Season, only Annabelle Layton knows the sort of man that he really is, that the honor everyone praises is illusory.
They’d been close friends once, before a passionate kiss changed everything. But if she’d secretly loved him, those feelings had died one bright summer morning, when a reckless wager left Annabelle with terrifying injuries. Alec had abandoned her without a backwards glance.
Hardly the actions of a hero.
But Alec has never forgotten her, despite his vow to stay away. There is more to that long-ago day than Annabelle knows, and shocking lies have distorted the past. Can he uncover its painful truths, and still keep his distance from the stunning beauty? Can he deny his forbidden desire, even as it flares again between them, hotter than ever?
Annabelle Layton used to have it good. Really good. She was young, gorgeous, and carefree—and if she felt like taking off her dress to splash in the water fountain outside, by golly she’d do it! Her brother, Gareth Layton, was the same way. Until he made a dangerous wager.
From the very start, Julie LeMense’s debut romance novel, Once Upon a Wager, pulls no punches. This wager involves a botched carriage race, compound fractures, and instant death. Fools get what they deserve in this fast-paced Regency romance.
Although Alec Carstairs is a long-time family friend to the Laytons and only tried to help Annabelle, this accident leaves him feeling partially guilty and 100% betrayed. Annabelle’s mother makes him swear to stay away from her family. He feels no choice but to leave Annabelle’s side and do what every proper Regency hero would do—fight Napoleon! After joining the British military, becoming a war hero, and successfully suppressing four years of hurt, guilty, and confusion, he can focus on his career in parliament and becoming the Earl of Dorset. Until he meets Annabelle again.
Even though Annabelle’s bones have healed, her heart is still in pain. Our heroine is too strong to fake meekness and pretend everything is okay. She was never overly concerned with manners before the wager, and her attitude doesn’t change. Annabelle wants answers. Why hasn’t Alec written her? Why hasn’t he responded to her? Alec has those same concerns. Why hasn’t she written back to him? Why is she freezing him out now that he’s trying to make amends? The angst and sexual tension blows off through the roof when they confront each other.
She pushed at him with such force that he fell back a step. Quickly bracing himself, he grasped her upper arms and held them tight against her sides. He’d hardly give her the chance to push him again. She struggled briefly, but as they stood there and she stared up at him, eyes mutinous, he realized several things. First, that she had goaded him deliberately, and in the most unladylike way. Second, that she was hardly a cold woman; she was practically breathing fire. And third—that holding her was a very bad idea.
Because he wanted all of that forbidden passion. He always had. He wanted to lean down, trap her mouth beneath his own, and run his hands over her exquisite body. He’d never forgotten the feel of her.
Annabelle’s passionate aunt, Lady Marchmain, gives Cupid a run for his money, after manipulating Alec to mentor Annabelle for her debut season in London. And of course, Annabelle catches every gentleman’s eye. Much to Alec’s frustration, she literally receives roomfuls of flowers, with vases of roses, covering every free surface space, except for the floor and sofa cushions. They are forced to reconcile their feelings for each other, open up their hearts, and uncover the fateful mystery behind that wager.
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Jena Briars is a California girl living in D.C., feeding her brain one romance novel at a time...When she’s not busy at work, or being distracted (sometimes ambushed) by her cat, she reviews romances on her website Throughout the Pages.