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The Wedding Bargain

 
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Three  moon gifAvon (Paperback), ISBN 0380806290
Rake, rogue and scoundrel, Maximillian Wells, Earl of Trent, chooses independent and wealthy Pandora Effington as his wife. After all, Pandora meets his criteria -- an interesting woman "with a spark of fire in her eyes and spirit in her soul." Max also prefers a pretty face, fine figure, and of course, she must be fertile -- the same qualities he'd look for in a brood mare.  

Book: Victoria Alexander, The Wedding BargainUnfortunately for Max, Pandora Effington doesn't want a husband, startling as that concept may be to London Society. But, if she did want a husband, she wants one pleasant to look upon, intelligent, courageous, honorable. In short, she wants a hero, certainly not a rake, rogue or scoundrel. 

With eyes flashing, the duo stand toe to toe, chin to chin and bind themselves to the wedding bargain -- a test of heroic proportions for Pandora's husband-to-be. The idea springs from Pandora's unusual upbringing at the hands of her eccentric anthropologist parents, their lifelong interest in mythology and ancient history, as well as her romantic illusions about the ultimate hero, Hercules.  

Max boldly accepts the challenge to complete the twelve labors of Hercules. After all, how hard could it be to defeat the nine-headed Hydra or capture the wild bull of Crete or obtain the girdle of the Queen of the Amazons? According to the bargain, if Max wins, Pandora becomes his bride. But, if Max loses, Pandora chooses a bride for him. 

Book: Victoria Alexander, BelieveThe Herculean test, like a horse race, attracts supporters who lay their bets and sit back to watch the competition. Ironically, many of Max's most avid supporters perch on the branches of Pandora's family tree. More ironic, Pandora finds herself cheering for Max, after their "stolen kisses ignite their sexual attraction into flames of passion." 

Alexander keeps the sexual tension simmering in the background as she attempts to whip up complications for the young lovers in the form of society's expectations, checkered pasts, and well-meaning friends and family. Pandora's extensive and colorful relatives supply tongue-in-cheek humor. That humor coupled with snappy dialogue keeps the story moving. The cast of secondary characters spice up a rather thin and one-dimensional storyline. But sadly, the author misses the opportunity to fully flesh out these secondary personalities, and she drops an interesting story thread involving the romance of Pandora's parents. 

The bargain offers interesting complications and provides enough material to keep readers turning pages. Dedicated historic romance fans will enjoy the originality of the test and overlook the flaws to find this an entertaining read.  

Dawn Goldsmith

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