The Wedding Wager
by Cathy Maxwell, historical (2001)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-380-81832-9

Cathy Maxwell must be tired of feminism. That is the only explanation I can think of as to why she writes The Wedding Wager, where the moral of the story is (a) a woman without a man is an unnatural aberration, (b) independence to a woman is like a loaded revolver in a chimpanzee's hands, and (c) female stupidity gets you what you want in life. Damn if the author doesn't make the whole thing subversive too, because The Wedding Wager is an enjoyable read. I am insulted ten thousand ways to Timbuktu while grinning like an idiot.

Gloria S, forgive me. I am so sorry, I really am.

Mary Gates, surely one of the dumbest broads in 1814 England, once had a thing going with her enemy and rival horse breeder Tye Barlow. The culmination of their love-hate relationship is Mary bidding a thousand pounds on a race horse stud with money she never have in the first place. In the name of pride, she has to deed her ranch and everything she loves to the owner of the stud, but it is still not enough. Instead of bitchslapping Mary until she needs dentures, Mary's sister Jane invites her to go to London and live with an aunt, so that Mary will find a husband wealthy enough to pay off the stud. Mary obligingly goes, but sabotages all efforts to make her presentable.

Tye follows too, because he wants Mary to never get the money, and never marry, and naked just for him, and... drool. The game is in set, and the contestants - Arrogant Daddy and the Dumb Wench - are set to neck, snog, and shag. Let the games begin.

Mary is dumb, and she will do more dumb things in the name of independence and intelligence. I will send two burly ex-mud wrestles to pay Ms Maxwell a visit and for a long, nice chat if I know where to find female Mafiosi in the first place.

But oh, how likable the whole story is! Mary can probably host an expo of Big Foots in her vacant skull, but she is cute as a button. Even if her love scenes with Tye smack of quasi-pedophilia. Tye is an arrogant boor, but ooh, he is strictly literary beefcake. Perfect for hot shags, provided he keeps his mouth shut. Everything he says seem to revolve around how Mary need a man in her life to make her happy and content. In fact, everything in this story is set up just to show how Independent, Spunky Women like Mary are actually miserable, stupid gnats who do stupid things because they aren't stuffed with male macaroni at night.

I should be insulted. I should be taking a chainsaw to this book, historical accuracy be damned, and using what's left as toilet paper. Darn it, however, the story's so funny, cute, and likable. Maybe I'm a closet masochist.

Anyway, I'm so sorry. I really am. But unless someone comes over and brainwashes me or something, I'm so sorry to say that I like this chauvinist, disgusting celebration of female stupidity. A lot. Heaven help me.

Rating: 82

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