Fri
Sep 8 2017 11:00am

K.M. Jackson’s The Betting Vow Offers a Modern Marriage of Convenience and Comedy

The Betting Vow by KM Jackson

After loving K.M. Jackson’s Insert Groom Here, I came in to The Betting Vow expecting to enjoy my reading time yet again. Jackson’s trilogy featuring brides and weddings is just the thing to read as summer is winding down; it’s detailed, rich, but ultimately the kind of story you want to enjoy with a bowl of ice cream and an evening summer breeze blowing by. The Betting Vow takes that breezy romantic-comedy style and places it in a modern marriage-of-convenience trope, complete with television execs, models and a lot of sexual tension. Jackson’s ability to create three-dimensional confident heroines and sexual tension that relies on emotional complexity is what makes her stand out in contemporary romance. The Betting Vow delivers on all of those fronts, and it’s a romance that contemporary fans can’t afford to miss.

One thing Leila Darling cannot stand is being someone’s prop. As a highly successful model, Leila’s career has been built on her ability to pretend, to be a photographer or a designer’s canvas for products and clothes. She’s also been a canvas for controversy. With several horrible relationships – and several broken engagements – behind her, Leila has been through a lot. A recent guest role in a small film has given her a new love of acting, and that may just be the kind of change Leila needs to shake off her diva reputation and find the joy in her career again.

Carter Bain is a television producer on a mission to make his own legacy. Launching a new television network is just the ticket. With Carter’s business-savvy and creative vision, it’s sure to be a success and will provide opportunities for people of color to be seen in a variety of television projects. One look at Leila has Carter reeling; she’d be perfect for the sitcom he has in development. But, Leila has her eyes on a role in a darker drama, and she’s not giving in to Carter Bain – even if he is devilishly handsome.

Leila’s manager, who’s one of Carter’s good friends, proposes a bet on a game of cards. Leila wins, she gets to read for the role she wants. Carter wins, Leila reads for the sitcom. And if they both lose? They get married in an attempt to clean up both of their images.

Needless to say, Carter and Leila find themselves holding an impromptu wedding, setting off a media firestorm. Carter and Leila may be attracted to each other, but going through with a marriage is a whole other ball game. Can they foster their chemistry and create something that will last and give them the chance to achieve their dreams?

K.M. Jackson presents one hell of a scenario here. The Betting Vow starts off with some strong tension and conflict; not only do we have the natural attractions between Carter and Leila, but we know they’re players. Leila’s several failed engagements have valid reasons behind them (men are pigs—what else is new?) and Carter’s playboy history isn’t excessive, but it’s enough to make any seasoned reader think that they’ll struggle.

Jackson shines in taking their desires for a relationship and their unease in executing them and twists them into the perfect conflict to couple with sexual tension. Because Leila and Carter want to go to bed with each other, they try to avoid physical intimacy right away until they actually get to know each other. It makes for a romance that’s more of a slow burn than you’d expect, but the results are phenomenal. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for them to finally see the light and bed each other (spoiler: it does happen, and it’s pretty great.)

She then clapped her hands together as they made it to the guest bedroom. Like the rest of the apartment, it was perfect, and though he wanted to kick himself, Carter couldn’t stop his mind from wandering to all sorts of carnal thoughts when he got a look at the large, masculine double bed.

“I hope you’ll find sleeping here a pleasure,” Leila remarked.

Well that comment didn’t help. Carter fought not to let out a groan. Sleeping? As if he’d be getting any sleep in this apartment, and the word pleasure should never again be uttered by that woman in his company if she didn’t want to risk being kissed senseless.

Most importantly, these conflicts allow Leila and Carter to be pleasantly surprised at their ability to work with each other. Because neither of them is used to a super functional relationship, they revel in their victories of chemistry, in their desires to learn more about each other. The reader sees those as victories, too, making you really believe in their compatibility.

My other favorite element of The Betting Vow is Leila. The heroine is always my favorite part of the romance, and Jackson does a wonderful job of creating a three-dimensional heroine. Leila is not afraid to be vocal when she dislikes someone, but she’s also highly competent at her job. As the reader, we see Leila go from sensitive to emboldened from scene to scene. I loved watching her emotional development, and I loved how Jackson showed the joys and perils of being a successful black woman in entertainment. Leila directly addresses and shuns the sexist and racist tropes thrust upon her by the media and lives the way that she wants to, the way that is most authentic to her. The opening scene where she refuses to have a surprise rain sequence alone is all kinds of wonderful.

It was then that another on set blond assistant came over and took the burger missing two bites from her hands and scurried off into the background. Then another young blond came toward her with a large hose and a dubious look in her eyes. Instantly, Leila stiffened.

“No way, honey,” Leila said with a sharp look at the young woman. “You come at me with that hose, you’d better be prepared to eat it.”

I think readers will fall for Leila hard and fast. Carter becomes a great foil to her as well. What I loved best about their relationship was that Carter quickly learned to worship Leila’s competency. Her talent in acting becomes more and more apparent throughout the text, and her ability to have a full and empathetic heart does as well. The romance feels so strong because Leila is, and it becomes very clear that Carter would be all kinds of an idiot to let her go.

K.M. Jackson’s The Betting Vow is a fulfilling, humorous romance that strikes a balance between light joy and emotional weight. Her series as a whole is the perfect read for someone who needs a bit of an escape. Leila and Carter are a couple whose chemistry flares off of the page; their journey to an HEA is so fun and full of complications that Jackson makes feel plausible and complex. The Betting Vow is full of laughter and heart; in our troubled political times, readers of all stripes will come for the joy and stay for the rich diversity and complexity of Jackson’s characters. If you’re a contemporary reader, pick up this book and the rest of the trilogy ASAP. You won’t be disappointed, and you (like me) will anxiously wait on a new series and devour her backlist in the process.

***

Learn more about or order a copy of The Betting Vow by K.M. Jackson, available now:

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John is a student, reviewer, and editor with a taste for social justice. He's queer/LGBTQ and has always loved a good romance novel. A current student at Ithaca College, he is majoring in Integrated Marketing Communications and trying to pick up a creative writing minor on the side. If you observe him in the wild, you may see him reading—or find him watching reruns of The Golden Girls while sipping his first/second/third cup of coffee for the day. You can find his reviews on his blog, Dreaming in Books, and listen to his random musings on Twitter @DreamingReviews.

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