THE WEDDING WAGER

Cathy Maxwell, Author . Avon $6.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-380-81832-7

Redundant repartee and flat characters do little to enliven this formulaic, Regency-era romance. Mary Gates, the eccentric spinster of Lyford Meadows, will do anything to save Edmunson, her faltering horse farm, especially if it means beating neighboring breeder Tye Barlow at his own game. When Lord Spender's horse, known around the parish as The Stud for his impeccable racing history, comes up for auction, Mary bids well beyond her means to keep Tye from owning the horse. In a desperate attempt to seal the deal, she creates a fictitious fiancé and convinces Lord Spender that her betrothed is wealthy and well connected. Despite her long-held resolution to remain independent, Mary hastens to London to secure herself a rich husband. Predictably, Tye, who has a complicated history with the infuriating beauty, follows her. London is very removed from their simple life at Lyford Meadows, however, and the two sworn enemies cannot help but see each other in a new light. With the exception of Mary and Tye, who share a few poignant moments, Maxwell's (The Marriage Contract) characters are as personable as puppets, and her story is only marginally less mechanical. This familiar tale will leave readers hungering for something more original. (Oct.)

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