Posted by: Jennifer | February 4, 2009

The Courtesan’s Wager – Claudia Dain

Dain, Claudia. The Courtesan’s Wager. (New York: Berkley, 2009). ISBN – 9780425225806.

Main Characters: Lady Sophia Dalby, Lady Amelia Caversham and Lord Cranleigh

Date: 1802

Related Works: This is part of Claudia Dain’s The Courtesan series. Other books in the series include the following:

  • The Courtesan’s Daughter – the story of Caroline Dalby & the Earl of Ashdon.
  • The Courtesan’s Secret – the story of Lady Louisa and Lord Henry Blakesley
  • A Night at the Theater – in an anthology entitled Private Places– story of Zoe Auvray and the Duke of Aldreth
  • The Courtesan’s Wager – story of Lady Amelia Caversham & Lord Cranleigh
  • How to Dazzle a Duke– story of Miss Penelope Prestwick & the Duke of Edenham (to be published September 2009)

Description from book:

If Lady Amelia Caversham is to marry before another Season passes, she’d better find help – namely, that of the infamous courtesan-turned matchmaker Sophia Dalby. But even Amelia is shocked when Lady Dalby informs her that they will hold interviews for the post of Amelia’s husband. And most shocking of all? Only dukes need apply . . .

The brazen plan may ruffle some feathers, but that doesn’t keep the men from lining up, especially once the hopeful bride-to-be starts rejecting one eligible duke after another. Soon every titled man in Town wants his name on Lady Amelia’s infamous list. Only Lord Cranleigh shuns the proceedings. In fact, to keep his shy brother off the scandalous list, he sets his own course of action. But his attempts to convince the lady to pursue altogether different interests lead to even more outrageous behavior. Lady Dalby is delighted. Lady Amelia is shocked. And the ton is abuzz: Will Lady Amelia become a duchess after all, or will other desires consume her?

My Thoughts:

Is it ok that when I read these books, I sometimes feel as clueless as the men that Lady Dalby manipulates? I absolutely adore this series by Claudia Dain. When I sit down with a new courtesan series book, I can’t wait to find out what grand plan Lady Dalby has in store for us this time. In The Courtesan’s Wager, Lady Amelia asks Sophia Dalby for help catching a duke for a husband. Unbeknownst to Lady Amelia, her father’s long-time mistress has also requested that Sophia help Amelia. After all, Sophia already helped Zoe Auvray find true love with Lady Amelia’s father, the Duke of Aldreth many years ago. And, Zoe wants Amelia to find a true love match.

Sophia’s plan is rather scandalous. She intends to interview possible candidates for the role of Amelia’s husband. There are only three candidates: the Duke of Cranbourne, the Duke of Edenham and the Marquis of Iveston (who is the heir to a dukedom). The first interview didn’t go particularly well – Cranbourne was definitely caught off guard when he arrived for a private dinner with  Sophia and was met with a panel of judges. However, once word got out that Amelia was interviewing dukes – and that she had rejected Cranbourne, the men in question couldn’t resist coming to her.

Meanwhile, Lord Cranleigh is horrified by the events surrounding Amelia’s hunt for a husband. As Iveston’s brother, he feels compelled to intervene and prevent his brother from becoming a pawn in the game. Of course, there is a great deal about Amelia’s husband hunt of which Cranleigh is unaware. He, in fact, is the matrimonial prize that Amelia wants. The two have been rather involved with each other for several years. Unfortunately, Cranleigh knew that he wasn’t a duke and thus, refused to make an offer for Amelia.

As always, Sophia manages every last detail of the courtship. I admit that I was a bit confused about the importance of the caricature that Sophia commissioned (either the one of Amelia or the earlier one). To me, this indicated that there was indeed more to Sophia’s willingness to help Lady Amelia than a desire to see her married. This was reinforced by the conversations between Sophia and Aldreth. All in all, there was so much going on in this book underneath the Amelia/Cranleigh plot. I shouldn’t have been surprised because this is something that Dain did in previous books in the series. However, this time I was left wondering if I had missed something important in previous books – or if the important facts had yet to be written. This is one danger to having to reading books as they are published. At some point, I am going to have to go back and re-read all of these stories.

Otherwise, I just want to note that although Cranleigh was a bit of blockhead regarding his feelings for Amelia, I adored him. There is something about all of the Blakesley men. I hope that the rest of his brothers (Henry Blakesley is one) get to play at some point in this series.

Read first February 2, 2009



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