The Wager
by Metsy Hingle, contemporary (2001)
MIRA, $5.99, ISBN 1-55166-826-2

The Wager is like a bad daytime soap opera. You know, how this virtuous, long-suffering heroine doesn't just speak, she gasps and overemotes only a lousy actress with too much make-up can. The dialogs are loopy, the romance is loopier, and this story is filled with Family Secrets of the loopy, melodramatic sort.

Unfortunately, the story is told in a slow, circular/repetitious manner that prevents it from being campy like an episode of, say, Passions.

The story revolves this fabulous hotel called most unimaginatively the Royal Princess in New Orleans. The old martriarch Olivia Jardine wants her estranged granddaughter Laura to take over the business, and to do so, she wants Josh Logan to ask Laura to come back and take over the biz.

Logan runs a rival hotel chain, and he wants the Royal Princess. His grandfather lost the hotel to Olivia in a card game, and now he is given a chance to get it back. See, if he works with Laura and turns in a profit after six months, they will play the card game again. Winner takes hotel.

If you ask me, this is one bloody stupid way to pass down a hotel. We're not in Monaco or Macau, for goodness sake, we are talking business here! I am a bit bewildered as to why someone would ask the rival to help her find the heir to a business empire in the first place. But I'm really lost as to why the Jardines let Josh know all their dirty family secrets and business secrets. This is not only a romance novel, it's a manual to bankrupt yourself out of business.

Laura may have some hotel-management experience, but in this novel, she displays all corporate ability of a pretty porcelain soap opera princess. Josh runs the show most of the time, but I guess this is the author's agenda: heroines are pretty, wounded inside because Her Daddy Never Loved Her or such cheap pap psychology of that sort, and oh, she is happy and content when she has a litter of china doll babies in her arms.

The whole story is slow, loaded with cumbersome dialogs, and of all the shallow stock characters, only Josh show some semblance of character development. All in all, a totally forgettable story that tries to be cool and elegant, but honey, I'd recognize cheap make-up and cheaper perfume anywhere.

Rating: 53

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