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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Wedding Wager - Regina Duke (Colorado Billionaires #1)

The Wedding Wager (Colorado Billionaires, #1)
As I mentioned recently, I don't read a lot of contemporary romances, because something about them rubs me the wrong way.  However, I was so delighted with Royally Screwed that, when a few more popped up in some of my newsletters, I went for them.  The Wedding Wager is the first of those, and while it wasn't bad, was left a little disappointed.

This is classified as a "clean romance," and it is that, which is fine, but it was something else, too--flat.  I didn't think it would be, because it had a strong start and really charming main characters, and a good central premise, but it lacked a strong conflict which made the whole thing feel a little bland.

So, here's the premise.  Kevin's mother's family has a very large trust that includes a ranch in Colorado, and Kevin can only inherit it if he marries before his 25th birthday.  If he doesn't inherit, his mother worries that Kevin's conniving father will manage to seize the trust and pretty much spend it all and sell the ranch.  So, Kevin needs to find someone to marry in less than a month.  Meanwhile, Megan has just gotten out of the hospital after a six month stay.  During a move to a new city, she was in a car accident that necessitated a surgery, and then got repeated infections so she couldn't leave.  Jobless, homeless, and pretty much money-less, Megan sees an ad in the newspaper for someone looking for a secretary.  She calls the number, and soon enough she's signing on to marry Kevin--in exchange for him paying her $20,000 medical bill.  (Clearly this book takes place in the US, for this premise to be believable.)  Kevin and Megan had great chemistry, and reasonable doubts about each other, but I thought they worked really well as a couple--until they suddenly went from liking each other to sharing one kiss and being crazy in love in literally two pages.  It felt like Duke got sick of writing, and decided to just rush through the rest of the plot--the romance, the big "will they or won't they" moment, the wedding, everything.

This story is also lacking a strong central conflict--something that might keep the hero and heroine from being together.  Nominally, this conflict is Kevin's a-hole father, who will supposedly do anything to keep Kevin from inheriting.  First, he will not actually do anything.  It's hinted at, more than once, that he'd be willing to resort to violence to keep Megan from marrying Kevin, but in reality all he does is say a few mean things.  Second, his big "threat," that he'll have Megan reported for her medical debts, is laughable at the very best.  Megan has $20,000 in medical bills for a six month stay--a paltry amount, considering one week in a local  hospital almost cost my boyfriend more than triple that amount.  And I graduated college with almost five times that amount in student debt, so I couldn't really feel any empathy for Megan.  There are payment plans for all of that sort of stuff, and with any decent job, she would have been completely fine.  It's made out like she couldn't handle being in debt, but any reasonable adult knows that debt happens and you have to be able to manage it, so I couldn't sympathize with her on that one.  Third, nothing ever happens with the doubts Kevin and Megan have about each other; Kevin worries that Megan might be trying to blackmail him, but he never really thinks that, and Megan worries that Kevin won't actually pay her medical bill, but she never really has reason to doubt that he will.  Even the big "crisis" moment lasts about five pages and is then over, all hunky-dory.  Fourth, Kevin's father clearly doesn't have a legal leg to stand on from page one (protesting that it's not a "real marriage" because they agreed to it for financial reasons; I don't see why this needed to be kept a secret, because clearly it's legal even if it was arranged) which makes that a moot point suspense-wise.

The characters in this book were great, and the general plot was, too, but it needed some serious re-working in the second half to make it a story that actually tugs at the heartstrings and makes me worry that something bad actually might happen, even though I logically know it won't.  As it was, I couldn't get that invested because the entire thing was so transparent from the very start.

2 stars out of 5.

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