The Baby Bonus

Dad in Demand

Switched at the Altar

 
The Wager by Metsy Hingle
(Mira, $5.99, PG) ISBN 1-55166-826-2
***
Itís a bit of a joke in our family how much my husband enjoys the afternoon soap operas. Everything comes to an abrupt halt the moment One Life to Live begins. Personally, Iím not a fan of the soaps. This wouldnít be such a big deal, except for the fact that my husband and I work together. Everyday when the show starts and the volume escalates, Iím tempted to jump out the office window.

The reason I mention this is as I read The Wager, I couldnít escape the feeling I was reading a soap opera. The dialogue, plot and even the tone of the book reminded me of the type of story told on the afternoon soaps. Now thatís not to say thereís anything wrong with the soaps, in fact, if youíre a fan, youíll likely enjoy this book. Itís merely to illustrate why this book didnít really work for me.

Octogenarian Olivia Jardine is the grande dame of the Jardine hotel empire. The jewel in the Jardine empireís crown is the venerable New Orleans Royal Princess Hotel - a hotel that Olivia won in a single high-card draw from Simon Logan. A hotel that Simonís grandson, Josh Logan desperately wants back in the Logan hotel fold.

Josh promised his late grandfather that he would do whatever was necessary to return the Princess to the Logan luxury hotel chain and it appears he finally has the chance. Olivia has asked Josh to convince her granddaughter Laura, a granddaughter Olivia didnít even know existed until recently, to come to New Orleans to take over management of the Princess.

Although Laura has hotel experience in her own right, Josh is also enlisted to help run the Princess for six months. If the pair is able to turn things around and make the hotel profitable within the six months allotted, then the wager will once again be repeated and the hotel will go to either Laura or Josh after a single high-card draw. Josh finds the opportunity too good to resist and he immediately travels to San Francisco to persuade Laura to come to New Orleans. Unfortunately, he hadnít counted on the fact that Laura has absolutely no interest in running the Princess.

Until the recent death of her mother, Laura Harte had no idea she was even related to the illustrious Jardine hotel empire. She had always been told her late father was killed in Vietnam. She never knew that, until his death five years ago, her real father was living in New Orleans, married and raising three children. Documentation of her true parentage found after her motherís death has left Laura reeling, as everything sheíd based her life upon was a lie.

The pain of her fatherís refusal to acknowledge her existence makes Laura reluctant to help the Jardines, but she also knows the answer to why her father abandoned Laura and her mother could only be found in New Orleans, so she agrees to meet with Olivia Jardine.

As Josh spends more time with the reluctant heiress he soon discovers she is much more than a pretty face and itís not long before heís totally smitten. But he knows he stands little chance in winning Laura, since heís not been totally honest with her about his interest in the Princess. He knows sheíll interpret his attentions only as a way to get his hands on the hotel.

As I read The Wager, I couldnít help wondering why Josh, as owner of the Logan hotel chain and the Jardineís primary competitor, was allowed into so many private aspects of the Jardineís lives. More than simply the business decisions, heís privy to potentially embarrassing family discussions that, to me, would never be held in front of a non-family member. Often, his presence as Lauraís shoulder to lean on in some scenes simply didnít make sense.

The author does an excellent job of showing the reasons for Lauraís growing appeal to Josh beyond her striking looks. By the end of the book, itís clear Josh would care for Laura no matter what she looked like. I wasnít as comfortable with Lauraís motivation for loving Josh - except, perhaps, for his physical appeal. The confusion that descends upon Laura like a shroud when she learns her life up until her motherís death has been a lie, seems to permeate her relationship with Josh. I never felt she really tried to know the real Josh at all.

As I said at the start, The Wager reminded me just a little too much of a melodramatic soap opera to draw me in completely. But, thatís all right. I know another member of this household who will just love it.

--Karen Lynch


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