23 December 2007

Guest Review: A Christmas Wedding Wager

A Christmas Wedding Wager by Michelle Styles
Hi! My name is Annie Burrows, and I was thrilled to be the winner in the prize draw for a copy of Michelle Styles's A Christmas Wedding Wager. Along with the announcement saying I had won, was an invitation to get back to you, and let you know what I thought of the book--so here goes!

I have been a fan of Michelle's writing since I bought a copy of The Gladiator's Honour, in May 2006. I picked it up initially because it was written about a time I find fascinating, but since reading it, I look out for anything by Michelle. So it was an especial bonus for me to find I was the winner of this particular prize draw.

It arrived within a day of me claiming my prize, and I promptly began to read. Now, I have to confess, I do not often read stories set in Victorian times. Knowing the hero is wearing a frock coat and top hat is nowhere near as appealing as picturing him in a toga and sandals. However, Jack Stanton does not disappoint. A self-made man who has had to battle his way to the peak of his chosen profession, he has a hard edge which makes him comparable to Gaius Gracchus Valens, the gladiator. I spent an indulgent couple of afternoons curled up on my sofa with Jack Stanton and a mug of tea.

And I found myself becoming fascinated by the Victorian England Michelle depicts. She has moved away from the more typically portrayed London society, to the industrial North. I am sure she must have done tons of research to make the background detail so convincing. But it is not just a pedantic recital of facts. Somehow Michelle manages to make her settings come alive. I could almost feel the mist writhing up off the Tyne and into my living room.

The heroine of this story, Emma, reminds me a bit of Lydia Veratia, from Sold and Seduced, in that she is struggling to cover up the deficiencies of her male relatives, and getting no gratitude whatsoever. I found myself getting quite indignant on her behalf when all her efforts to save her father's firm kept falling foul of the prevailing patronising male attitudes towards women. And then positively annoyed with Jack for totally misunderstanding her.

In short, I got totally hooked on the characters and plot!

Thanks Michelle, for creating another good read,