Brooke: Wagers Gone Awry

Collette Cameron
Brooke: Wagers Gone Awry
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Publisher
Blue Rose Romance
Release Date
January 2016
ISBN
9781942368
Series
Book 1 of Conundrums of the Misses Culpepper
Genre
Historical Romance

SUMMARY
Would you sacrifice everything save your family? Even your virtue?

Brooke Culpepper resigned herself to spinsterhood when she turned down the only marriage proposal she'd likely ever receive to care for her sister and cousins. After her father dies, a distant cousin inherits the estate, becoming their guardian, but he permits Brooke to act in his stead.

Heath, Earl of Ravensdale detests the countryside and is none too pleased to discover five young women call the dairy farm he won, and intends to sell, their home.

Desperate, pauper poor, and with nowhere to go, Brooke proposes a wager. Heath's stakes? The farm. Hers? Her virtue. The land holds no interest for Heath, but Brooke definitely does, and he accepts her challenge. Will they both live to regret their impulsiveness?

Caution: This book contains one stern lord with a dark secret he wants kept at all cost, a beautiful spinster smarter than the average man, an endearing, portly Welsh Corgi known to pee on gentlemen's boots, and a passel of well-meaning sisters and cousins who find themselves in one conundrum after the other.

Buy the first installment of the Conundrums of the Misses Culpepper historical Regency romance series for a romping, emotional, and romantic adventure you won't want to put down.




Book Review by Victoria Lane (reviewer)
Jul 03, 2016   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
126 people found the following review helpful
WAGERS GONE AWRY (Culpeppers #1) by Collette Cameron is a novella masquerading as a novel. While the story had potential, the romance is a love at first sight type and totally unbelievable. I give it 2 stars.

In the novel, Brooke Culpepper is doing her best to care for her sister and her three cousins by operating a dairy farm. Her father's illness caused her to turn down a marriage proposal because her family needed her. Her father's death caused the estate to be passed to their cousin, Sheridan, whom they have never met. He was satisfied with taking half the profits from the dairy farm in exchange for allowing them to live on the property, despite the fact that he was the younger girls' guardian. Sheridan loses the unentailed property in a card game to the Earl of Ravensdale.

The Earl of Ravensdale has no interest in running a dairy farm, and plans to sell the dairy farm. But when he discovers that the "tenants who haven't paid their rent in months" are really Sheridan's cousins, he decides to rethink his plan and perhaps convince the stunning Brooke to be his mistress. Unfortunately, a loyal but addlepated retainer takes matters into his own hands to protect the girls and things go downhill even faster from that point. In a moment of desperation, Brooke makes a wager with the earl that her elderly dog can herd the cattle in a certain time period. She is confident that she can't lose, but outside forces come into play and the impossible happens. So now she must face becoming the earl's mistress.

Overall, I did not enjoy this novel. I thought this was an okay storyline in the sense that there is a real issue at hand – Brooke, her sister and cousins have worked hard to keep things afloat, which wouldn't be a problem if their cousin Sheridan weren't such a greedy absentee guardian/landlord. Brooke is put in a situation where she has to decide how far she's willing to go to ensure the future health and happiness of her family and loyal servants. While some people may find her wager distasteful, she actually was attracted to the earl and had thought she'd never have an opportunity to experience that kind of relationship.

So, sounds interesting, right? One wants to find out what happens, right? Well, I have just described what happens in the first half of the novel. Seriously, it took 100 pages for the Earl to travel from his friend's house a few hours away to the dairy farm, dry off from the storm and spend half an hour giving them notice of his intent to sell the farm. One. Hundred. Pages. In which the lines of dialogue could probably be counted on two hands. If there were ever an example of over narration, this would be it. There is so much space between lines of dialogue that I literally forgot what the last person had said long before the next person responded. This novel is only 275 pages long, including the title page, table of contents, etc., and there are only nine scenes. A scorched earth method of editing is necessary to set this novel to rights. So much more could have been done with this novel during those 275 pages, but as is, it is a novella that has been overly narrated into a novel.

Over narration aside, there are exactly 8 days between the time the earl rides up the drive to the declarations of love. Given the extreme amount of time spent apart during the earl's recovery, the declarations are completely unbelievable. The romance plot line was predictable. The sex scene is not too graphic, but still detailed enough to make this an adult only novel.

I was sorely disappointed with the novel. Given my issues with it, I can only really recommend it to those who have the patience of a saint and a lot of time to waste. It really should be edited and made into a novella.
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BOOK INTERVIEW on May 2015
Interview by Laura

Colette, welcome to The Romance Reviews. We're excited to hear more about your latest release, WAGERS GONE AWRY, the first book in the Conundrums of the Misses Culpepper series!

Q: Where did you get your inspiration for the Conundrums of the Misses Culpepper series? How are the books tied together?

I have three sisters and two first cousins I'm very close to. In fact, my cousin was my best friend from the time we were both babies until she died of brain cancer. I wanted to write a series that showed the unique bond between sisters and cousins, but also allowed me to have free rein with my quirky sense of humor.

So, I created these five women (two sisters and three cousins) who are as poor as they are beautiful. Each girl faces a conundrum of a different sort which is reflected in the books' titles.

Q: WAGERS GONE AWRY is such a descriptive title, and it would certainly differentiate your book from the rest of the Regency titles in the market. How did you come up with it?

As I was trying to decide what sort of conundrum I wanted Heath and Brooke involved with, my hubby shared that a family friend was struggling with a gambling addiction.

I knew that during the Regency era. Gambling was an acceptable form of entertainment and many a man (and woman) faced ruin from gambling losses.

I decided to take that social issue and give it a twist. Heath, Lord Ravensdale, my hero in the book, is a bit of stuffed-shirt. He finds himself in quite a fix when he wins a wager and goes to collect his winnings.

My initial thought was to create a title about a wager that went wrong, but I liked the ring of WAGERS GONE AWRY better.

I headed each chapter with a quotation from a fictional publication, Wisdom and Advice—The Genteel Lady's Guide to Practical Living.

Here's an example:

"Even when most prudently considered, and with the noblest of intentions, one who wagers with chance oft finds oneself empty-handed."

Q: What kind of wager is referred to in the title?

Heath wins a dairy farm, which to him is truly horrific. He hates the country. He's determined to sell the place straightaway and return to London's comforts. Once he arrives at Esherton Green, he discovers he only won the unentailed portion of the estate and the house is occupied by five women who think he bought the farm.

In an attempt to win the dairy farm's lands back, Brooke Culpepper makes a wager with Heath. I don't want to give too much away, but that wager is the one that really goes awry.

Q: Please tell us more about heroine Brooke Culpepper. From the blurb, she sounds delightful.

You know, I think Brooke might just be my favorite heroine so far.

She's strong, independent, a woman of characters, and above all, resilient. Life hasn't been kind to her, but she has still done her best to provide for her sister and cousin, even though as a woman during the Regency era, her options were severely limited.

Despite her resiliency and never begrudging her wards for forsaking her only opportunity for marriage, she is a woman who yearns for love, and at times, admits the load she carries is a heavy one.

Q: How about Heath, Earl of Ravensdale? How is he a swoonworthy hero?

Ah, Heath.

I wanted to depict him as a darker hero in the beginning of the story. A man used to comfort and privilege, unencumbered by love or attachment, he gets what he wants. Yet beneath his seemingly selfish and pompous exterior, there's a truly decent guy hiding in the shadows.

We see that at the end of the story when he surprises even himself with his gallantry.

Q: How is their first meeting like?

This scene has our hero arriving in the midst of the nastiest storm in a decade.

~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~

"Is someone at the door, Duffen? In this weather?"

The door swung open to reveal a striking blonde, wearing a dress as ugly and drab as the dismal day.

Heath's jaw sagged, and he stared mesmerized.

Despite the atrocious grayish gown, the woman's figure stole the air from him. Full breasts strained against the too-small dress, tapering to a waist his hands could span. And from her height, he'd lay odds she possessed long, graceful legs. Legs that could wrap around his waist and...

Though cold to his marrow, his manhood surged with sensual awareness. He shifted his stance, grateful his long overcoat covered him to his ankles. He snapped his mouth shut. Evict this shapely beauty? Surely a monumental mistake had been made. Gainsborough couldn't be so cold-hearted, could he?

Heath snapped his mouth closed and glared at the grinning buffoon peeking around the doorframe. Making a pretense of shaking the mud from his coat, Heath slid a sideways glance to the woman. Probably thought him a half-witted dolt.

She regarded Heath like a curious kitten, interest piqued yet unsure of what to make of him. Her dark blue, almost violet, eyes glowed with humor, and a smile hovered on her plump lips. The wind teased the flaxen curls framing her oval face.

A dog poked its snout from beneath her skirt and issued a muffled warning.

"Hush, Freddy. Go inside. Shoo."

The dog skulked into the house. Just barely. He plopped onto the entrance, his worried brown-eyed gaze fixed on Heath. She neatly stepped over the portly corgi, and the bodice of her gown pulled taught, exposing hardened nipples.

Another surge of desire jolted Heath.

Disturbing. Uncharacteristic, this immediate lust.

Rainwater dribbled from the hair plastered to his forehead and into his eyes. He swiped the strands away to see her better.

"Miss—"

A disturbance sounded behind her. She glanced over her shoulder as four more young women crowded into the entry.

Blister and damn. A bloody throng of goddesses.

Surely God's favor had touched them, for London couldn't claim a single damsel this exquisite, let alone five diamonds of the first water.

Gainsborough had some lengthy explaining to do.

The one attired in gray narrowed her eyes gone midnight blue, all hint of warmth whisked away on the wind buffeting them. She notched her pert chin upward and pointed at him.

"You're him, aren't you? The man who bought Esherton's lands? Are you truly so eager to take possession and ruin us, you ventured out in this weather and risked catching lung fever?"

Bought Esherton's lands? What the hell?

Q: What makes them perfect for each other?

Both Brooke and Heath are essentially unselfish people, though we see that characteristic in her far sooner than we do in him.

She needs a man who will respect her and treat her as an equal. She has every intention of continuing to run the dairy farm and provide for her wards as she has for five years. Heath recognizes her ability to do both every bit as well as a man, and though it goes against society's dictates, he supports her.

Q: What for you is a romantic moment between them?

Enjoy this excerpt!

Fragile as her tattered dignity, her facade of poise and self-control threatened to shatter with her next breath. She rested her head against the barn's splintery wood. In less than a week, her life had crumbled to dust. A fat tear crept down her cheek. Then another. And another.

They poured forth as wrenching sobs worked their way past her constricted throat. Awash in misery, Brooke pressed a length of the shawl to her mouth, shut her eyes, and tucked her chin to her chest, at last giving vent to her desolation.

"Here now, there's no cause for waterworks," Lord Ravensdale's baritone rasped as he enfolded her in his strong arms. He rested his chin upon her crown. "Hush, sweetheart. Things aren't entirely hopeless."

"Yes. They are. Completely and absolutely. You've ruined everything," she whispered against the wall of his chest. She should pull away. Curse him to Hades and hell. Plant him a facer or yank out his splendid hair by the roots.

Instead, she burrowed closer, wrapped her arms around his waist, and wept like an inconsolable infant. Strong and sensible had become wearisome, and she was exhausted from the burden she'd carried for years. So tired of worrying and scraping to make ends meet.

His scent wrapped around her senses, soothing and reassuring as he rubbed her spine and shoulders. Long moments passed, and calm enshrouded her at last. She released a shuddery sigh.

Lord Ravensdale placed a long finger beneath her chin and tilted her face upward. He kissed each tear-stained cheek then her nose, likely red as a pie cherry. Lowering his mouth until it hovered a mere inch above hers, he closed his eyes. He grazed her lips, his warm and firm, at first feather light then more insistent, demanding a response.

Her resistance fled. Moaning, she slanted her head and allowed him the entrance his probing tongue sought. Heaven surged through her, melting her bones, bathing her in a haze of sweet sensation. Humphrey's kisses hadn't been anything more than mildly pleasant, not this mind-wrenching, searing blast of desire.

A cow bawled, and Brooke tore her mouth from Heath's. Head lowered, she stepped from his embrace and dried her damp face on the wrap. She braved flashing him a glance.

Hatless, his black hair gleaming in the sunlight, he wore a sky blue jacket and white pantaloons. Brilliant colors to emphasize his olive skin. He lounged against the barn, ankles crossed and arms folded, looking the perfect picture of health. Perhaps a little wan about his wickedly dark eyes—definitely some foreign blood there somewhere—but otherwise, his handsome self. The scratch on his cheek had faded to a slender brownish ribbon. He observed her every move, those intense eyes of his missing nothing. Like his namesake, the raven.

Q: Which character is the hardest to write? Why?

Heath was definitely hardest for me to write, which isn't typical for me. Usually, my heroes are easier. In his case, however, I wanted to create a semi-dark, rather selfish, man who doesn't fully redeem himself until late in the story.

I worried my readers might take an instant and permanent dislike to him, or that his shortcomings were too great to overcome.

Q: What kind of research did you have to do to write this book? Please share an interesting fact or unique behind the scenes experience.

Much of what I included in WAGERS GONE AWRY I had learned from previous books.

However, in the case of the dairy farm, Esherton Green, I needed to know dairy farming inside and out. I'm really fortunate my husband has a long-time friend who owns a dairy farm in Oregon. We're huge fans of Tillamook cheese and ice cream.

Granted, dairy farming is much different today than it was in 1818, but some things are the same. For instance, a heifer (female who hasn't had a calf) is called a first time heifer when she has her first calf. I guess she doesn't get to be a cow until she's had two babies.
I mention the very real stink of a dairy farm in the book too. Ugh.

I also selected the location of Esherton Green based on where Cheshire Cheese was commonly made in England during that time. That meant pouring over maps and uncovering details about Cheshire.

Another thing I had to research was types of herding dogs. I wanted a small breed that could be a house pet. And so, Freddy, Brooke's Welsh corgi came to be.

Q: Please give us a sneak peek at book 2 in the series?

I haven't started writing SCHEMES GONE AMISS yet, but I will tell you, it's Blythe Culpepper and Tristan, the Marquis of Leventhorpe's tale. Blythe nearly drives Tristan batty!

Here's a short snippet from WAGERS GONE AWRY where Blythe is giving Tristin fits.

~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~

The women met Leventhorpe on his way up the hill, and he circled one hand above his head. "Oh, for God's sake, are we performing some heathen burial ritual designed to ruin my boots?"

"Yes, your lordship." Her face serious as a parson's, Blythe pointed to the cemetery. "March around each headstone two times, skip through the center of the graveyard, perform a somersault while reciting The Lord's Prayer, and kick your heels together before taking a hearty swig of pickle juice."

She winked. "That will assure Duffen turns over in his grave."

A chorus of giggles erupted, Blythe's the loudest.

Leventhorpe emitted a rude noise, somewhere between a snort and a growl.

Q: What's up next for you?

VIRTUE AND VALOR, book two in my Highland Heather Romancing a Scot series releases June 24, 2015, and I'm finishing up HEARTBREAK AND HONOR, the third book in the series.

I've got four multi-author ventures in the works for this year, too.

Wow! You certainly believe in keeping yourself busy. Thanks for taking the time for this interview!


Bio:


Bestselling, award-winning author, Collette Cameron, has a BS in Liberal Studies and a Master's in Teaching. Author of the Castle Brides Series. Highland Heather Romancing a Scot Series, and Conundrums of the Misses Culpepper Series, Collette writes Regency and Scottish historicals and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and five mini-dachshunds. Mother to three and a self-proclaimed Cadbury Chocolate chocoholic, Collette loves a good joke, inspirational quotes, flowers, trivia, and all things shabby chic and cobalt blue. You'll always find dogs, birds, quirky—sometimes naughty—humor, and a dash of inspiration in her novels.

Her motto for life? You can't have too much chocolate, too many hugs, too many flowers, or too many books. She's thinking about adding shoes to that list.

Website: http://collettecameron.com
Blog: http://collettecameron.com/blog
Facebook: http://facebook.com/collettecameronauthor
Twitter: http://twitter.com/Collette_Author



Backlist:

The Viscount's Vow

Highlander's Hope

The Earl's Enticement


Triumph and Treasure

A Kiss for Miss Kingsley



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