Wager For A Wife by Karen Tuft
I started off this story not liking the ‘hero’ William very much as he uses a wager won by his father to force the heroine into a betrothal against her will. But if you’re looking at the title askance and debating whether you’re going to like a story with this kind of storyline, I’m going to tell you that you should give it a chance, because the author does an excellent job of fleshing out her protagonists from an unpromising start, until we really sympathize with William. Left in an utterly untenable situation by his wasteful excuse for a father, he has too many people relying on him to pass up any chance for redemption, even if the only opportunity he has is one he finds deeply distasteful.
Lady Louisa is the daughter of a marquess, and she’s pampered, adored and somehow not at all spoiled. Getting engaged at the start of the book to a duke’s heir because it’s expected of her, everything is suddenly disordered in her neat world when a penniless viscount appears with a note in her grandfather’s hand… wagering away her hand in marriage.
Louisa’s determination that women can have honour too was utterly endearing, and her parents’ obvious pride in her and support of her was such a contract to William’s troubled upbringing, it was obvious the pair of them would struggle to understand each other at first. Eventually, though, they do come to an understanding, though not without some hiccups along the way.
While I was charmed by the characters, there is one very serious flaw with the premise of the story, and it’s one I couldn’t see a way to resolve. You see, William’s problem was caused by his father, an inveterate gambler, leaving a heavily mortgaged estate. The only thing is that the estate was entailed (otherwise it would long since have been sold)... but you can’t take out a mortgage, and certainly not multiple mortgages, against entails. That’s the entire point of an entail; to guard against one wastrel in the family tree gambling, selling or otherwise losing a family’s ancestral estates.
From Wikipedia’s article on fee tails (entails): “Lending upon security of a mortgage on land in fee tail was risky, since at the death of the tenant-in-possession, his personal estate ceased to have any right to the estate or to the income it generated. The absolute right to the income generated by the estate passed by operation of law to parties who had no legal obligation to the lender, who therefore could not enforce payment of interest on the new tenants-in-possession. The largest estate a possessor in fee tail could convey to someone else was an estate for the term of the grantor's own life. If all went as planned, it was therefore impossible for the succession of patriarchs to lose the land, which was the idea.”
I’d suggest the author needs to familiarize herself with the legalities of entails before making the entire premise of her story so contingent on one. There were one or two other minor continuity issues, like William’s mother changing from being a coal heiress to a governess, which didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story and wouldn’t have affected my rating, but because of this major issue which completely wrecks the entire premise of the story, I’m afraid I can’t give it any more than three stars.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.