When straight laced earl, Will Sutton, is challenged to turn the obstinate American ward of his friend into a biddable lady suitable for the Marriage Mart, he gladly takes the wager. Then has to decide whether the prize--a prime racing stud horse--is worth changing the impudent beauty's temperament he's come to enjoy. Greatly.
One headstrong miss. One stuffy lord. One friendly wager. What could go wrong?
Will Sutton, the Earl of Grandleigh, believes he can save the family's impoverished estate by investing in a racehorse, but the price is too steep. His brother-in-law offers him a deal: tutor his American ward in proper English customs, so she'll be marriage material, and Will can have one of his horses. Maybe Miss Georgia Duvall prefers being a jockey, is obstinate and high spirited, but once she's cleaned up and presentable, he'll have no trouble finding her a quality suitor. She might even be quite pretty beneath the racetrack dust.
The last thing Georgia Duvall wants is to be married off to an English peer. But she won't defy her father's wishes, and sets her cap for the oldest lord she can find-a man who'll die quickly and leave her alone to manage her inheritance. The Earl of Grandleigh might think he'll teach her manners and marry her off to someone younger than eighty, but there hasn't been an obstacle yet Georgia can't overcome. Including a stuffy, overbearing English lord.
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The Earl's Wager
A Reluctant Bride Novel
By Rebecca Thomas, Robin Haseltine
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Rebecca Thomas
All rights reserved.
After spending several months in Ireland getting his estates in order, Will Sutton, the Earl of Grandleigh, was glad to be back on English soil, and happier still to join his brother-in-law, Oliver Westwyck, the Earl of Marsdale, at the racetrack. The man knew his horseflesh, and Will was interested in gleaning any knowledge he could from him.
When Marsdale had need of a wife, Will had known the perfect candidate was his sister. The two of them shared a fascination with horses, and Autumn Ridge's stud farm and racing stables would only flourish under the influence of his sister, Arabella. Fortunately, he'd convinced his headstrong sister to trust his matchmaking skills, and they'd been happy ever since.
Gambling at the racetrack hadn't been a pastime of Will's until Oliver and Arabella took to racing. His brother-in-law had a keen interest in bloodlines and breeding, whereas his sister preferred to be out with the horses learning from their trainer and expressing her opinions. Together, they made an extraordinary team, and the Marsdale stable had been winning races.
The racetrack was nestled between rolling countryside and a row of houses on an adjacent hill. Jockeys carried saddles and bridles between stables, while journalists, townspeople, and spectators from all areas and generations crowded around the track. Will maneuvered through people milling in different directions before spotting the tall frame and broad shoulders of his brother-in-law, standing with his forearms propped against a fence. His gaze squinted in the direction of the starting line, where eight horses approached.
"Do you have a horse in this race?" Will asked as he came up beside him.
Oliver looked surprised before slapping Will on the back. "You made it here in time. A pleasure to see you. Arabella will be pleased to know you've returned home safely."
"I've been able to make the much-needed improvements to my estates, and I'll be profitable in Ireland soon. So profitable, I intend to buy myself a fine racing thoroughbred before the year is out."
"You know my thoroughbred bloodlines are the best in England." Marsdale glanced toward the starting line again.
"Yes, of course, and perhaps I can negotiate a family discount on a fine racing steed," Will chided.
Marsdale clasped his hands together. His brows turned inward in thought. "I've no need of your funds, but I do have need of your assistance. And as I recall, you've acted as a kind of matchmaker in the past."
"Yes, I suppose I have." Will smiled and gazed up at a two-story building across the track. Elegantly dressed women strolled across the upper deck. "Despite some resistance from my sister."
"Yes, well, while you've been gone visiting your Irish estates, I've being saddled with my American cousin."
"Saddled? Mmm ... sounds ominous." Two redheaded boys wearing muddy knickers with holes in the knees chased each other between the throngs of visitors. They dashed between bodies like mice running through a cornfield. They barely missed hitting an elderly man holding a cane.
"She's become an heiress since my uncle died, and the will named her as my ward." Marsdale remained contemplative. "I'm to see her properly married off."
Will turned his attention back to his brother-in-law instead of his surroundings. "If she's an heiress, as you say, I'm sure you won't have any problems finding any number of suitors. In fact, they'll be banging down your door."
"Precisely what I don't want. A bunch of hounds sniffing around her for a free meal doesn't interest me, even if the little minx deserves it." Marsdale stepped back from the railing.
Will's interest piqued. "Deserves it? And why would you say that?"
"She's a hellion of the first order. But that doesn't mean I want her shackled to a scoundrel or a rake."
"Well, no. Certainly not. She is your cousin, after all, hellion or not." Marsdale was obviously being a little harsh in his opinion — no woman could be that vexing.
"Indeed. That's why I haven't let it be known about her financial situation. Of course, she'll have a respectable dowry, more than respectable actually, but I want an advantageous match for her. One she'll be content with. I can't have a high-handed man as her husband. I'm not expecting a love match by any means, but one that's agreeable to her." Marsdale glanced at the spectators swarming around them, nearly jostling them with their anxiousness to get near the railing. Displeasure lined the creases around his eyes.
"That shouldn't be so difficult." Even as he said the words, Will wasn't sure he spoke the truth. Maybe he'd had the ability to make decisions on behalf of Arabella and what he deemed best for her because she was his sister, but an American cousin was an altogether different situation. "I've a few wealthy American merchants in my acquaintance. I could arrange an introduction for you."
"I want Georgia to marry a peer," Oliver said simply.
Will narrowed his eyes. He wasn't certain what to make of his brother-inlaw's declaration. Titled British peers with reasonable repute amongst the ton didn't marry American women. It just wasn't done. "She's American, you say? And a hellion? Most peers want to marry a biddable English bride, as you well know. But, regardless, I need to meet this cousin of yours."
"Yes, you shall." Did he detect a hint of annoyance in the man's voice? "In fact, she was supposed to meet me here, but I don't know where she's gone. Typical of her."
Finding a match for Oliver's cousin could prove difficult if the chit really was a hellion. But, truly, how much trouble could one woman be?
Spectators packed in around them, exchanging banter about who would win the race and who would certainly lose.
All eyes turned to the starting gate.
The gun blast sounded. Horses burst past the starting line, followed by the thunderous pounding of hooves. That rhythmic beat, along with the exuberant voices from the patrons, made for such great excitement, Will was more determined than ever to be part of this world.
Will asked, "Which horse is yours?"
"The black with the jockey in the yellow and blue silks."
The black horse was in the middle of the pack.
"Do you think the colt has a chance to win?"
"I'm not sure. According to Georgia, he only runs well for her. But she convinced me to try him anyway."
"Runs well for her? So she races this horse?" Will couldn't hide his cynicism.
"I've been allowing her to ride this particular horse on some training runs, but racing? No, of course not."
Although dumbfounded, Will understood the persuasive powers of a strong-willed woman. His sister managed to ride alone and astride, even though he had forbidden it. It sounded as if Marsdale's cousin might be cut from the same cloth.
"So your cousin claims this horse won't run well for this jockey?"
"She says he's an unproven jockey and that Perseus is particular about who's on his back."
As if the horse in question knew they were speaking about his abilities, he surged forward, putting distance between himself and the stragglers amongst the pack.
"Interesting. This new jockey seems to be doing a fine job, however."
"Yes, it appears so." Marsdale scowled. "Although, I will admit the man doesn't have the best seat."
Will noted his displeasure and asked, "Is the horse untried, then?"
"No, not completely. He's won a few short-distance races. I've been offered thirty pounds for him."
"Good God, you don't say." The amount was shocking — he'd had no idea the cost of good racing stock. If he was going to compete, he would need a substantial family discount.
"I told you my horses have the best racing bloodlines in —"
"Best bloodlines in all of England. Yes, yes, so you've said."
Marsdale glanced away from the track for a brief moment to make eye contact with Will. "And you said you'd like to try racing."
Will shook his head. "Not for that price, I won't."
"We might be able to cut a deal then." Marsdale absently rubbed his chin. "A wager of sorts."
"What kind of wager?" Unless the odds were clearly stacked in his favor, Will wasn't generally the gambling sort, but he'd listen to the proposal.
"If you put your matchmaking abilities to good use and find a suitable match for my cousin, I'll give you that horse."
"That horse!" Will gestured to the racetrack as the troupe of eight horses passed. The black edged into the lead. "The one that's pulling ahead? That's your horse?"
"Yes, that's the one." Oliver beamed.
"Is that horse expected to win?" The crowd made a crescendo of noise in what appeared to be awe over the black taking the lead.
"No, but Georgia kept insisting he was capable of winning." Oliver made a quick survey of the crowd behind Will. "Blast. Where is she, anyway?"
Will kept his eyes glued to the race. "Your black is keeping the lead."
Oliver leaned into the railing, gripping the edge of the fence. "It appears so."
"And if I can't make a match for your cousin?"
"You won't be in the racing business, or at least you won't be winning in the racing business." His brother-in-law sounded fairly certain of that fact.
The black stayed in the front of the pack, but another contender was close on his flank. "Your new jockey seems to be doing a fine job."
"So it seems," Oliver said skeptically.
"If I don't make a match for your cousin, my only loss is not getting that fine horse of yours?" A part of the wager must be missing. "There doesn't seem to be a negative side. I'm imagining that the girl must not be the prettiest thing?"
"Quite the contrary," Marsdale said without moving a muscle, his gaze locked on the horses nearing the finish line. "My horse is holding steady. Remarkable."
The black was barely in the lead when they crossed the finish line. In fact, the horses were so closely aligned, the winner was unclear.
"I think your horse has done it!" Will called out over the roar of the spectators.
"I think he has, but he might be your horse soon." Oliver grinned with gusto. "You have a winner on your hands!"
"I'd love nothing more than a stallion like that as the breeding foundation of my stables. But before we get into all that, I can't understand why you need my help. You said she has a decent-size dowry, but not overly large because you don't want every bachelor in England chasing after her. She's relatively attractive? Is she too old? Is that it?"
Oliver moved away from the fence and gestured for Will to follow him to the finish line. "She's four and twenty. A bit past the prime marriageable age, but certainly not on the shelf."
"Certainly not. Arabella is a year older, and you married her just last year."
"Yes. Quite." Oliver lead the way to the course's termination point.
"Then I don't understand. Why do you need my help?" He really shouldn't argue. The odds of the wager appeared to be in his favor, and soon he'd be the owner of a fine racing colt. They had to stop to let a curricle pass before they trekked on to the finish line.
"My cousin requires some tutelage in English customs and expectations. My aunt died when the girl was young, so she didn't have a woman's influence. And she's American. What do they know of good manners?"
"Yes, I suppose." Will nodded, wondering again what could be wrong with the chit. He admitted he enjoyed matching Arabella and Oliver, had received a modicum of satisfaction knowing their marital happiness was because he brought the two of them together. "Being an American doesn't make her barbaric by any means, and with a decent dowry, she'll have suitors regardless."
"You'll have to get her into a ballroom at some point." Marsdale strode ahead, darting between people so quickly, Will could barely keep up and avoid knocking someone over in the process.
"Where are we going?" he called out.
"To the weighing house. They must record the weight of each jockey again."
"I see," Will replied. "I've much to learn if I'm to become a racehorse owner."
"Yes, you do."
"So the girl is somewhat of a project. An undertaking, if you will." His interest in Marsdale's American cousin and her marriageable status, or lack thereof, started to take hold in his mind. He had a real opportunity here. He imagined a few dancing lessons and instruction in English customs — the proper way to curtsy, which utensils to use at each meal. He rubbed his chin. "I should like a challenge, and I should like to get into the racing business. But if I don't manage to arrange a good match, what shall I pay you in return?"
"We'll think of something. Maybe you'll have to muck out my stalls for a fortnight."
Will laughed as if agreeing with a good joke. Surely Marsdale couldn't be serious. After all, that's what grooms were for.
They approached the weighing room, where two large scales were fixed to the center of the ceiling. But the Autumn Ridge stable's colors of yellow and blue were nowhere to be seen.
"Congratulations, Marsdale!" a gentleman called out and slapped Oliver on the shoulder as he passed.
Another finely dressed gentleman approached them. "I lost money because of your horse today, Marsdale."
Oliver grinned. "I didn't think this jockey would do so well on Perseus."
"He certainly did." The gentleman continued past them.
Oliver turned to Will. "I suppose I let Georgia influence me, as she knows the horse better than I. She said he had it in him."
"You have other, faster horses, then?" Will asked.
"Yes, of course. Do you think I'd offer you my very best stud? Give me some credit. Come. They must have already weighed in and are at the stables now. Let's meet the horse I've offered up."
Will straightened the lapels of his coat and brushed at the dust collected from the racetrack. "Absolutely."
"But before we go ..." Oliver stopped short. "Do we indeed have a wager?"
Will didn't think getting into the thoroughbred racing business could be this easy. And he didn't even have to spend any blunt to do it. He felt like he'd just won the race and that horse was as good as his. "Yes, I think we do, unless you think I need to evaluate my project first?"
"That's entirely up to you." Marsdale gave him a serious stare.
Will would be insane to give up an opportunity like this. Earn a racehorse — a winning racehorse, no less. He stuck out his hand. "Shall we shake on it?"
"All right, then." Oliver shook his hand then turned to continue to the stable. The entire time he scanned the faces of the ladies in the crowd. "Speaking of my dear cousin, she was supposed to watch the race with me. I need to find her. No telling what kind of mischief she's up to."
Again, Will wondered why Marsdale wanted him to take on this matchmaking project. The woman was his cousin, after all. Wouldn't he want to oversee such matters? "I am curious why you aren't wanting to be more involved in securing your cousin a match. Why me?"
"You're a proven matchmaker. And I need to keep an eye on your sister. Besides, you know I have no interest in the marriage mart. Whereas you are unmarried — you have more interest than I."
"I suppose you're right." Will was grateful for his trust, and regardless, he owed the man a great deal. When he made the match between Marsdale and his sister, Oliver had paid off the debts Will's father had incurred after making poor business decisions. So no matter what, he owed Marsdale.
Besides, how much trouble could one American girl be?
"Follow me," Oliver said.
They walked amongst the throng of horses, women, and men, weaving around the people talking to their jockeys as they lead their horses to the stables. They approached the stall with an Autumn Ridge sign posted outside the gate, where a bearded older man conversed with the jockey on the opposite side of Will's soon-to-be racehorse.
"What on earth ... Georgie? What have you done?" Marsdale groaned. He opened the stall gate, and Will followed.
"I can explain everything, Oliver," said the jockey.
What kind of jockey addressed an earl by his given name? Will rounded Marsdale's shoulder and eyed the jockey in question. Long strands of walnut-colored hair sprang out from his cap. The jockey removed his goggles from a dirt-covered face.
"I'd like to introduce you to my cousin, Miss Georgia Duvall," Marsdale's voice rumbled, but Will was so stunned, he wondered if he'd heard the words correctly.
Excerpted from The Earl's Wager by Rebecca Thomas, Robin Haseltine. Copyright © 2016 Rebecca Thomas. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Earl's Wager by Rebecca Thomas is a charming Regency Romance. Book 2 of "A Reluctant Bride" series, but can be read as a stand alone. This is the story of Will Sutton, the Earl of Grandleigh, an impoverished Earl, who wishes to increase his coffers, honestly, not through marriage and Miss Georgia Duvall, an American Heiress. Will is a bit stuffy, straight -laced and wishes to invest in horse breeding. Georgia, wishes to be, yes, a horse jockey, is a heiress, not looking for marriage, but does wish to find a love match, if or when she does marry. And to find someone to love her and not her money. Will is enlisted, by his brother - in - law, Georgia is his ward, to teach Georgia the ways of English society and make her presentable on the Marriage Mart, but will passion and romance supersede, to help these two characters find a HEA? But the knowledge of this friendly wager, could just ruin everything for their blossoming romance. So much for eavesdropping. A charming Regency Romance with some twists and turns, a bit of dry humor, a few laugh out loud moments, a friendly wager, passion, misunderstandings and Romance. Fans of horse racing, horse breeding, Regency Romance and a splendid English -American romp, will definitely find "The Earl's Wager" an enjoyable and satisfying reading experience. Very entertaining, enticing and masterfully written Romance! A must read for fans of Regency Romance! An enjoyable and satisfying read! Received for an honest review from Net Galley. Rating: 4.5 Heat rating: Mild Reviewed by: AprilR
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. A young Earl still paying for the sins of his father. A spirited American Miss granting her father’s dying wish. Georgia and Will have nothing in common on paper, but Rebecca Thomas takes the most unlikely couple and makes them a perfect fit. Will was a bit too stuffy at first, but I completely understood why. He was desperate to be accepted by society after all the dishonor his late father brought to the family name. Will was elevated tremendously by the match between his sister, Arabella, and his friend, Oliver Westwyck, the Earl of Marsdale. Even with Oliver’s help, Will feels he needs to present himself perfectly to the ton. Enter Oliver’s hellion of a cousin, Georgia. Georgia is a genius when it comes to horseflesh and a better rider than most jockeys on the track. The catch to her father’s will is the marriage part. She only wants to marry an old, titled Englishman who will die soon to be able to control her own inheritance from her father and build her own racing stable. Oliver needs Will to help launch Georgia on society since he won’t leave Arabella in the end of her difficult pregnancy. Will agrees to tutor Georgia on English customs in exchange for a race horse from Oliver’s stable. I enjoyed immensely the bickering between our fated couple from the onset. Their words sprung forth with wit and determination while their minds and bodies became overwhelmed with lust. I believed Thomas would have Will breaking his calm exterior at many times throughout the novel and ravish Georgia, but I was delightfully surprised by how it actually happened. Sparks flew, words became actions, and the never-meant-to-be became inevitable. Though there were more than a few bumps on the journey to the happily ever after, I was thrilled with the ride! I can’t wait to read more from Rebecca Thomas and will put Oliver and Arabella’s story, The Earl’s Christmas Colt, at the top of my reading list.
The Earl's Wager was a light and very charming read. I enjoyed our heroine Georgia a lot-her spunk, her independence, and the merciless way she teased and bantered with Will as he taught her to be a 'proper' lady. Will himself was a very likable hero, very staid and proper and it was wonderful watching him lose his cool and unravel/fall in love for Georgia. They were well matched, the chemistry believable, and the pacing of the story was pretty good. The writing was charming, sprinkled with humor, and sensual intensity when needed which made the story a delightful one for me, and though I was so bloody tired I read through the night till the end. Overall this was a enjoyable read and I look forward to more in the Reluctant Bride series. 4.25 stars
A lovely read with amazing chemistry between the 2 characters. A quick read that had me engrossed from the 1st page. The 2 characters are very likable. Will starts off as the staid, proper, and to Georgia, extremely stuffy Englishman; “She loved ruffling his impeccably somber feathers”. Dismayed at finding her cousin is adamant that Will is to tutor her in all that is proper in how to behave in English society it was so amusing on what she did to try to horrify him & have him back down from the job. She definitely got under his skin! Will starts to realize that deliberately brash exterior is a façade that hides an determined young woman but one who is innocently charming yet unaware of her own charms. Both are torn when they start developing feelings; Georgia after a candid confession from Will on the scandal that was the legacy of his father & how much he yearns to rebuild his family reputation. Will who thinks he is being dishonorable after being entrusted with tutoring Georgia. 1st story I’ve read from this author & I really enjoyed it. I definitely look forward to reading more of her books. Copy gifted in exchange for an honest review.
The Earl's Wager by Rebecca Thomas....Historical Romance is a new genre for me, I have only read a handful or so, but I loved this story. This book was amazing, I loved and enjoyed the characters so much. Will and Georgia are perfect together, he is her teacher and boy due sparks fly. The book is fun with sexy times and love trying to peak it head through. If you are looking for a quick fun read to escape in, then this one is for you. I was given a complimentary book by publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.
Brilliant Regency Pygmalion romance! Just get yourself a copy of this to escape into is my advice! This is a highly entertaining historical romance with great characters, superb scenarios and plenty of humorous moments, too. In this case we have Will Sutton, Earl of Grandleigh being challenged by his brother-in-law to teach Miss Georgia Duvali how to refine her manners and behaviour to make her more suited to marrying a suitably titled gentleman. Somewhat reminiscent of Bernard Shaw’s ‘Pygmalion’, Will is, however, no Henry Higgins and Georgia no Eliza Doolittle! Will accepts the challenge in the hope of gaining a race horse but Georgia is unaware of the bet. Georgia has had considerably more freedom that her English contemporaries and is a determined young lady. She secretly plans to find an elderly, ailing noble to marry in the hope that he’ll soon die and leave her in charge of her own destiny and her own funds but her cousin has other plans. She’s more interested in horses and horse racing than marriage! Will, however, is used to dealing with a strong headed young woman – he had lots of time to do so whilst bringing up his younger sister. Get ready for fun times as the lessons start, especially as she tries a variety of antics to get Will to give up on tutoring her and discover what happens when they both admit their reluctant attraction to the other. I have thoroughly enjoyed every story I’ve read from this highly talented author. Her characters are always well developed and, regardless of genre, I usually feel like I’m there, witnessing events and interacting with characters as I read her novels – and this was certainly true in this case. Don’t expect things to go smoothly for the couple, knowledge of their backgrounds and expectations ensure that nothing will be easy for them. The angst and turmoil add to the action, making this a great read to escape into and one I have no hesitation in highly recommending. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Will Sutton, the Earl of Grandleigh, has just returned from Ireland to visit his friend and brother-in-law, Oliver Westwyck, the Earl of Marsdale. Oliver is married to Will’s sister, Arabella, and the couple runs Autumn Ridge stud farm and racing stables. Oliver tells Will that he now has a American ward who has recently become an heiress. Oliver adds that she is quite a hellion. He is responsible for seeing that she is properly married. Since Arabella is soon to have a baby, they will not have time to do this themselves, thus they need Will’s help. Georgia Duval is 24 years old. Her parents have passed away and her father’s wish was for her to marry and live in England, the country of her mother’s birth. Georgia is not happy about this because she loves America. When it turns out that Georgia filled in for a jokey who had taken ill and subsequently won a race, every one of the family is surprised. Will’s objection to her racing is quite obvious and Georgia decides that he is the most pompous peer she has ever met. But when she learns that Oliver has requested that Will oversee finding a match for her in London, she is furious. Will informs her than she will receive instruction in English manners and customs. In addition, she cannot access the fortune her father left her until she marries. Reluctantly, she agrees. Georgia does not make it easy for Will to do his job because she teases him too much. He soon learns that she is not the ignorant miss he initially thought her to be. Naturally, their constant togetherness sparks an attraction. Is Will going to be able to hold back his attraction? Is Georgia going to fall for him too? This was a cute plot with some humor thrown in. I found it difficult to believe that Will would be allowed to be alone with Georgia like he was if he was supposed to be teaching her the rules of propriety. Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I was given a free copy of this story in exchange for an honest review. Marsdale and his brother-in-law are at the races wondering if Marsdale's horse will win. As they watch the race, Marsdale's horse moves from the middle of the pack and wins the race. Marsdale is surprised but his American cousin knew the horse could win. He is trying to get his brother-in-law to find her a husband. Marsdale calls her a hellion, but Will doesn't think she could be that bad, until he meets Marsdale's jockey.
I know the story by heart. With references to one of my favorite cinema classics, The Earl's Wager by Rebecca Thomas was a clear draw for me. Hints of My Fair Lady permeated off of just about every page but blended with Ms. Thomas' twist of modern meets regency. Georgia was an American tomboy learning how to fit into English society. Will was an Earl seeking to save his family from impoverished circumstances. When the perfect opportunity falls into his lap, Will has to decide is it worth losing the one woman that makes him feel alive. Messages hidden between the lines is what I look for in the books I choose to read and Rebecca Thomas shouted her's at the top of her lungs in way a less subtle than most yet just as powerful. The message: " BE YOURSELF, FOLLOW YOUR HEART AND THE REST WILL FALL INTO PLACE.