The Wedding Wager

The Wedding Wager

3.6 9
by Cathy Maxwell

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From New York Times bestselling author Cathy Maxwell comes a romance about a headstrong young lady determined to marry . . .

Mary Gates longs to restore the family stables to their former glory . . . so she bids on the famous Spender Stud. The only way she can pay for the beast is to marry, but her only prospect is her neighbor and chief rival, Tye

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From New York Times bestselling author Cathy Maxwell comes a romance about a headstrong young lady determined to marry . . .

Mary Gates longs to restore the family stables to their former glory . . . so she bids on the famous Spender Stud. The only way she can pay for the beast is to marry, but her only prospect is her neighbor and chief rival, Tye Barlow. She has been tempted by his charms in the past—but she's determined not to give in to him now.

So Mary boldly goes to where the husbands are—London. She takes the town by storm, but the marital prospects are uninspiring when compared to Tye. He's followed her, determined to thwart her plans. Still she can't help but forget his protective embrace or tantalizing kisses.

And soon Mary realizes she may have to take the greatest gamble of all . . .

Editorial Reviews
Two things consume beautiful, unconventional Mary Gates: her passion for turning her late father's rundown estate into the best stud farm in England and her rivalry with Tye Barlow -- the third generation of a bitter feud between their families. As a confirmed eccentric who dresses like a man, swears like a sailor, and knows as much about horseflesh as anyone, it galls Mary to the core to admit that only Tye is her equal when it comes to running a breeding program. When she has the chance to outbid him for a famous stallion, she rashly offers much more than she can truly afford. Refusing Tye's insulting offer that they pool their resources and own the horse jointly, Mary sets off for London, planning to find herself a rich husband within the two months before her debt comes due. While it seems her beauty will be enough to bring her suitable offers, she's astonished to discover that the only man who really engages her interest is Tye, who has come to town with his own agenda. Mary is a great character, prickly on the outside, passionate and loving on the inside. And her hero, Tye, is a true diamond in the rough. Their funny, heartwarming love story, set in the horse world of Regency England, is a delightful revel in this couple's astonishment as they discover that they are made for each other.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Chapter One: Spring 1814

Every English village had to have at least one eccentric -- and Mary Gates, the old squire's daughter, was Lyford Meadows's. She dressed in mens clothing, was capable of outswearing a stable hand, and claimed to be as good as any man alive, if not better...especially when the subject was horses.

Tye Barlow stifled the urge to swear aloud himself as he spied her winding her way through the crowded yard. He'd not wanted her here. Had hoped she'd stay away. Why didn't Mary know her place like other women?

Instead, she moved among the completely male crowd of buyers assembled at Lord Spender's stables for the horse auction with an easy, loose-limbed grace, seemingly oblivious to the surprised but appreciative silence trailing in her wake. Conversations stopped. Eyebrows raised. Speculation appeared in men's eyes.

Tye understood their response. Mary was a beauty, the loveliest woman in the shire, a fragrant red rose among the smell of muck and horses. Aristocratic breeding might mark her high cheekbones and straight, elegant, patrician nose, but in the depths of her sea-green eyes was a hint of fire, a trait passed to her from some Viking ancestor who had raided these parts...and she had a sensual, full lower lip that begged to be kissed.

Nor did her unconventional dress disguise womanly curves. Her buff breeches were baggy in the seat, her brown wool jacket overlong, and yet from the scuffed toes of her worn boots to the rakish tilt of her beaverskin hat, her mannish dress enhanced feminine attributes in a way that excited masculine imagination. Her sole concession to her sex was the trim of lace edging her snowy white neckcloth, a cool, silent thumbing of her nose at the world.

Mary did what she liked and didn't give a damn what anyone thought.

She stopped to greet Lord Spender and removed her hat. Sunlight caught and held on the gold-silver splendor of her pale blonde hair. Pulled back in a simple queue, it reached her waist and swung with the movement of her body like a bright and dazzling lure.

Men gaped in stunned admiration. Several of them, the outsiders, moved closer, their predatory instincts aroused. Tye frowned. If she were smart she'd move her tail nearer to where he stood -- alongside her brother-in-law.

Of course, Mary always bragged she knew how to handle unwelcome attention. And as much as she vowed she didn't need or want a man in her life, he suspected she knew exactly how attractive she was. In fact, right now, she appeared to flaunt it -- and there didn't seem to be a man in the area who could resist her.

Save himself.

Because he knew her. Too well.

Behind her vibrant beauty was the stubbornness of a high-strung broodmare in foal. And when Mary kicked out in anger, she always hit her target.

Her estate bordered his. Her grandfather had given his grandfather a precious stake of land in gratitude for years of devoted service, and her family had rued the day since. In retaliation, her father had feuded with Tye's, a feud Mary gleefully carried forward and he resignedly upheld in self-defense.

Over the years, she had misdirected his water to her use (convincing the magistrate she was completely within her rights), attempted to move the property line no less than seven times (Tye had won those skirmishes), and beat him out of two sales of his foals by swaying the buyers to purchase hers instead -- for a better price!

Ah, yes, Mary Gates was a major pain in his arse.

As if she sensed she was being watched, she slowly turned and looked through the milling crowd directly at him. She placed her hat on her head at a jaunty angle and gave him a small salute. Instantly, Tye was on guard. She was up to something. His frown deepened and she laughed.

He turned to David Atkinson, the local horse doctor and her brother-in-law. "What is Mary doing here?"

Atkinson pulled his pipe from his mouth. "You couldn't have expected her to stay away from the biggest horse event of the season? Not Mary."

Tye had expected it. In fact, he'd gone to great pains to keep the news of Spender's sale from her. It had not been easy. He'd personally waylaid any handbills that could have gone in her direction and sworn his friends to secrecy.

"You didn't tell her?" Tye accused.

"No, but I would have." David shrugged. "She's my sister-in-law."

"I pity you."

David grinned. "There are times," he admitted.

Brewster, the local pub owner, confessed, "I told her."

Tye confronted him. "You knew I didn't want her here. You promised."

"Come, man, Mary's one of us. She has to be here. It's the sale of the Stud," Brewster said in his defense.

"I told her, too," Blacky said. He was a barrelchested man who ran the village smithy. "She has admired the Stud as much as any of us. He's been a part of our lives and now he will be gone. I remember when he won his first race. I made a handsome profit and have always backed him since. I can't believe Spender is selling him. 'Tis a pity this day, I tell you. The sky should be black."

"Aye," Brewster said. "What will Lyford Meadows be without the Stud?"

Tye understood their sentiments. He'd watched Tanners Darby Boy grow since the horse was a green colt, had even had a hand in his training. To date, Tanner was the winningest horse in all Britain. Spender was a fool to sell him just because the horse had gone lame. The foals thrown from Tanner would be worth a fortune -- a fortune Tye intended to make.

He'd come to...

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Wedding Wager 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1814 the residents of Lyford Meadow, England, believe Mary Gates, daughter of a squire, is an eccentric person as she competes with men rather than doing traditional female activities. When she outbids Tye Barlow for a horse, he knows he will never forget her smile or the humiliation of saying ¿I pass¿. However, Mary does not have the cash to pay for the steed that she feels will begin rebuilding her family estate. She cuts a deal with the horse¿s owner buying time to go to London to find and marry a wealthy aristocrat to pay for the horse.

Tye follows Mary to London, planning to insure she fails to land a husband because he still covets the horse. However, neither one expected the glamour of the London balls would lead to a dance between them that makes both of them reconsider what they want for her. Tye and Mary agree that he is the right one.

THE WEDDING WAGER is an adorable Regency romance that never takes it self too seriously. The amusing story line is fun, as Tye is a frustrated hero who loses whenever he competes with his beloved. Mary quite contrary owns the novel, as she seems more like a modern woman displaced in time whose antics leave the audience smiling. Cathy Maxwell provides her fans with a precious story that is a sure bet for historical romance readers.

Harriet Klausner

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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cathy Maxwell always gives the reader an entertaining and fun read. The main characters in this one have just enough chemistry to keep you reading and the plot is a bit of a mystery too. She is a good enough author that she doesn't have to go over the top with the whole 'sex' thing, just enough so any adult understands what is happening. Very Well Done.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the things I hate about good books is that they end as soon as the 'happy ever after' bit arrives. This one went one after that bit came, and it was so great getting there! Definitely a book that keeps you turning the pages.