The Wedding Wager by Collette Cameron et. al. is a Fall Into These Great Reads pick #romance
Title: The Wedding Wager
Authors: Collette Cameron, Wendy Vella, Chasity Bowlin, Jane Charles, Tabetha Waite, Anna St. Claire, Nadine Millard, Elizabeth Ellen Carter, Sydney Jane Baily, Cerise DeLand, Christine Donovan, Elizabeth Keysian, Rachel Ann Smith, Jude Knight, and Emily Royal
Genre: Historical Romance
The Boast—pride goeth before the fall… After facilitating the match of the season, Lady Pandora "Pansy" Osbourne, has boasted that she is the best matchmaker The Ton has ever seen. Always willing to bring her cousin down a peg or two, her cousin, Lady Octavia Sewell insists that was no feat of matchmaking at all, as the couple involved were clearly destined for one another despite Pansy’s meddling. A bitter argument ensues and a dreadful challenge is issued. Pansy must do more than say it… she must prove it. The terms of the wager are set! Pansy must produce no less than one match per month between people who have been notoriously unmarriageable—spinsters, bluestockings, rakes and fortune hunters, oh my! But there’s more riding on this than simply her pride! If Pansy loses, she will have to give up her most prized possession—a tiara that belonged to their grandmother will be forfeited into Octavia’s grasping hands. The Ends Justify the Means… or do they? Desperate to make these matches, prove her claims of matchmaking prowess to be true and make Octavia eat crow in a very public fashion, Pansy resorts to the greatest weapon in any matchmaker’s arsenal—the house party. Not just one, but a series of them. For two weeks out of every month, she will open her home to an assortment of victims…er, guests. At the end of each party, one couple will emerge either betrothed or wed, by fair means or foul.
The ballroom glittered with the twinkling light of hundreds of candles. The crystal chandeliers sparkled in such a way that they rivaled even the most precious of jewels adorning the ladies present. As always, the Westfield Ball was the event of the Season. Everyone who was anyone amongst the Ton was present. And if one was not present, well, that omission spoke volumes.
Standing on the edge of the dance floor, an elaborate silver monocle pressed to one eye, Lady Pandora Osborne was dressed in unrelieved black, her silver hair swept into an elaborate confection of curls. It was her one vanity—even at her advanced age, her hair was still thick and glossy, shining like spun silver. But it wasn’t vanity that prompted the slight curve of her lips as she observed the dancers with the barest hint of amused disdain.
It would show remarkably poor breeding to simply grin like a fool, but she would be lying if she didn’t admit to a small amount of pride as one particular couple waltzed past her. He was handsome and wealthy, she was beautiful beyond words and charming. They were the couple of the season—brought together by her supreme skills as a matchmaker.
“There they are,” she said, her tone smug, as she nodded her head in their direction.
Taking the monocle from her cousin’s hand and holding it to her own eye, Lady Octavia Sewell surveyed the couple. Her expression remained curiously impassive. “I had thought she was a great beauty,” Octavia mused. “I’d hardly call that more than passably pretty.”
Pansy’s smile tightened almost imperceptibly. Indeed, it would take someone who knew her very well indeed to detect the degree of her displeasure. “She is beautiful… the standards have changed from your youth, Octavia. It is no longer necessary to cover one’s self in velvet beauty marks and paint one’s self like a tart in order to be deemed a diamond of the first water. The girl is exquisite. To say other wise smacks of nothing more than sour grapes—They are the match of the season. Everyone says so.”
Octavia looked down her rather sharp nose with a pinched expression. “Who is this everyone you speak of, Pansy? Really! I’m certain they’re quite a good match, though I hardly think it one for the ages.”
Pansy resisted the urge to stamp her foot in frustration. “And how many matches have you facilitated, Octavia? The last time I checked the only couple you’d managed to get married was your own daughter and her wastrel husband—I’d hardly boast about it.”
Octavia’s pinched expression hardened into one of complete and utter animosity. “Honestly, Pansy, you act as though no couple in all of England could manage to get themselves married without your interference! I daresay that passably pretty young woman and cow-eyed man with a generous income and a lack of intelligence might have gotten themselves to the parson’s doorstep without your aid. In fact, I’m certain of it.”
Pansy snatched her monocle from Octavia’s hand. “I am the most skilled, most sought after and most naturally gifted matchmaker in all of society. I daresay that I could find a match for anyone!”
Octavia’s artificially darkened brows shot skyward. “Anyone, you say? You’re quite certain of that.”
“Of course, I am. And in no time at all. Not only am I the most skilled matchmaker, I am the most efficient,” Pansy replied once more, a snap to her words as they came out curt and crisp.
Octavia leaned in, a gleam in her eyes that ought to have been a warning. “Then by all means, cousin, prove it… In fact, I dare you to prove it.”
Pansy’s stomach fluttered a bit—equal parts excitement and nerves. “What are you suggesting, Octavia?”
Her cousin smiled at her, the expression quite cunning. “A harmless wager, of course… Efficient and skilled as you are, I can’t imagine you would balk at such a thing.”
The waltz ended then, the couples wandering from the dance floor as others lined up to take their positions for a country dance. The gentle strains of the waltz gave way to a jaunty tune as the two women faced one another in a stalemate.
“I have no need to prove myself to you,” Pansy stated after the silence had stretched to the point of discomfort. “But, if I did, what exactly would that entail?”
“Twelve months and twelve matches,” Octavia said. “And if you win, I shall not only bow to your matchmaking expertise, I shall shout it far and wide, that you are indeed the absolute best.”
The very idea of her superior and snobbish cousin having to admit she was the best at anything was like a balm to Pansy’s soul. “And should I fail? Not that I will, but still—the risks must be known.”
“Grandmother’s tiara. It was rightfully mine anyway. The fact that I’ve been magnanimous enough to allow you to keep it all these years speaks volumes about the generosity of my nature… But this way it would be settled once and for all, wouldn’t it? The tiara would be with its rightful owner.”
Oh. If she weren’t a lady she would curse. She’d allowed Octavia to back her into a corner with nothing more than her own prideful boast. “Twelve matches in one year?”
“You did say you were efficient.”
“Here in London?”
Octavia smiled. “Not necessarily. Certainly the season will help, but once the season is done, it would prove difficult. House parties, your yearly sojourn to Bath for your aging bones… you may make your matches wherever you wish—with one caveat. They cannot be easy. No simpering beauties and eager young men without the sense of a rutting goat. No. The women must be those deemed unmarriageable by age, income or homeliness. And the gentlemen—-well, confirmed bachelors, I think. Men who have heretofore eschewed the institution of marriage.”
Pansy did not gape at her. Gaping was for gauche country folk. But if it took a moment or two to get her mouth to close fully, surely she was entitled to a bit of shock? “That is impossible. You are intentionally creating a wager that is impossible for me to win.”
Octavia spread her hands in a gesture of innocence. “I am simply utilizing the terms you set forth, cousin. But if you feel that you misspoke, and that you are not up to the task—”
“I most certainly did not say I wasn’t up to the task!” Pansy snapped. “Fine. Twelve months. Twelve matches. Shocking matches for women who have been deemed hopeless and men who have been deemed uncatchable. And when I complete this endeavor, you will never again attempt to lay claim to Grandmama’s tiara, and furthermore, you will tell everyone far and wide, that I am a matchmaker extraordinaire!”
Octavia smiled then, a true smile, lit with triumph. “My dear, if you succeed, I shall march up and the streets of Mayfair shouting it like a costermonger.”
“Have your husband put it in his book,” Pansy said.
“The deadline shall be the Westfield’s ball next year?”
“That will suffice,” Pansy stated. “And you will not be so smug next time we speak.”
Octavia laughed then, the tinkling, delicate sound at odds with her sharp nose and somewhat harsh features. “Oh, no, cousin. I daresay that smug will not even begin to describe my feelings the next time the subject is broached. You might as well be Hercules with a task this gargantuan and impossible for you.”
“Indeed, I might, cousin. Like myself, Hercules was successful!” Pansy snapped, before turning on her heel and marching away.
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What’s your favorite thing about autumn:
Rachel Smith - My favorite thing about Autumn is the cooler weather.
Anna St. Claire - My favorite thing about Autumn is the crisp weather, the change in the leaves, and the festival atmosphere that surfaces in the months— with fairs, Halloween, and other related celebrations.
Collette Cameron - Pumpkin spice lattes.
Elizabeth Keysian - When autumn arrives, I experience a visceral urge to pot and pickle things.
What inspired you to write this story:
Rachel Smith - My writing buddy, Charlie Lane's love for flying through the air and performing amazing arial feats.
Anna St. Claire - I researched the racing industry and horses of the era and thought it would be fun to work the topic into a story.
Collette Cameron - I had a fabulous secondary character from another story that I wanted to give her own happy ever after, Somewhat a society misfit, she was perfect for the theme of The Wedding Wager.
Elizabeth Keysian – My story was inspired by all the smuggling skulduggery that went on in Eighteenth Century and Regency Cornwall, as seen (or read about) in the Poldark series by Winston Graham.
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