Some days ago, I’ve received an early 21º birthday present from one of my favorite authors ever: Ava March. Her new book, Viscount’s Wager, will be out on August 10th (two days before my birthday), but Ava sent me a copy practically a month earlier ❤ Thank you again, Ava! Best gift ever ❤ As a loyal fan, I cheated on my book jar-box and already read it, haha!
Warning: this book is about a male homosexual romance in the 19th century. If you don’t like this gender, you should stop here 🙂
Viscount’s Wager is the third and last volume on Gambling on Love series and is set on Regency London, in 1822. Anthony Hawkins, Viscount Rawling, was already introduced in the first book, All In With The Duke (by the way, you can check its review here! :D) and Gabriel Tilden, his pair, was introduced in the second book of the series, Sharp Love.
Anthony is a noble who doesn’t pay much attention to his duties as a viscount, as he has a huge secret to keep – something way bigger than his social status. Since he inherited the title, at the age of twenty-one, Anthony tries very hard to be a good son to his mother, as his father’s loss was very hard for her. The couple was a love-match, something very rare in London Society at the time, and this marriage so full of happiness and love inspired Anthony since he was a little boy; his dream was to find true love and be able to share the small things of life with this person until the end of their days.
Gabriel is the middle child of a good family, but not a noble one. Being two years older than Anthony, he ended up marring a woman when he was only 18 and lost her six months before the real start of the book – just clarifying, his marriage was not a love-match, so he feels very guilty for being a free man again.
Anthony and Gabriel had a small and brief affair when they were teens, at a house party held by Gabriel’s family, but they lost contact shortly after Gabriel’s engagement. After his wife’s death, Gabriel comes to London and sees Anthony again in a soirée. Their desire was immediate and mutual, so Anthony didn’t let the chance of offering to be Gabriel’s city guide pass.
Soon enough, their passion burns and they start a sort of relationship, but Gabriel insisted in something more casual and distant, as he didn’t thought himself worthy of Anthony’s heart after everything he had put his lover through. The first thing that Gabriel thought when he saw Anthony again was “I’m so sorry I hurt you”. And I think I waited more than Anthony to actually hear Gabriel saying those words, as Anthony didn’t know of Gabriel’s capacity to store guilty in his heart and mind, nor how many times Gabriel thought this single sentence during the book, haha!
All those repressed feelings end up driving Gabriel to a strong vice in gambling. In a determinate point of the book, he simply won’t leave the hells anymore and Anthony finds out about his problem through a favor from Max, the protagonist of AIWTD. Anthony tries to wait, to give a chance for Gabriel to tell him the truth by himself, but this never happens and they have a big fight as a result.
What Anthony didn’t know was that Gabriel had to leave town when he left his lover, as he had got loaned a very large sum with a moneylender to keep gambling and now he hadn’t any means to pay the man back before putting his propriety at Derbyshire in perfect order. Gabriel explains all of this to Anthony in a letter that he sends in the same day that he arrives home, but the viscount wouldn’t see it until three weeks had passed after their argument.
After resorting to Max’s help once again, Anthony finally was able to go to Derbyshire to set things right with Gabriel, but the two still have a long way before their “happily ever after”.
As I commented on the beginning of this review, I’m a great fan of Ava and her works, so I won’t promise an impartial review, haha! Now let’s go to the analysis 😉
Something that is very characteristic of March and that I like very much in her books is that her stories always end up connecting to one another. If she’s writing a series, the probability of meeting previous characters again is very high. I love this, because when a book ends, all that we know about that little world also ends. Even when it’s a book series, as soon as it is finished, it’s hard to learn something new about those characters, as it is a cycle with a beginning, a middle and an end. This may sounds a bit obvious, but I’m that kind of person that, sometimes, gets depresses to know that everything that I know about a story is all that I will ever know.
Anyway, March entwines her stories in such a way that we learn new things about past characters, those who already had their moment to shine and had their story on first frame. It’s also amazing how she illustrates the social circles of the ton – deep down, everybody is connected in some sort of way. It’s a highly interesting social phenomenon, proven by several historians, but that I have never seen put into light by any other romance author so far.
In Viscount’s Wager, we can see how are Alexander Norton and Thomas Bennet, from the opening book of Brook Street series (My True Love Gave To Me); Linus Radcliffe and Robert Anderson, from the third book of the same series (Rogues); Jack Morgan and William Drake, main characters of the second book in the Gambling on Love trilogy (Sharp Love); and, obviously, Max Arrington and Tristan Walsh, from AIWTD. It was very good to see them all again. I missed you, boys! Hahaha!
To be honest, I didn’t really like Gabriel until the book was close to its end. As I already was found of Anthony since the first book, I thought that Gabriel didn’t deserve him until writing that letter. After that, everything changed, haha! I still don’t consider him as one of my favorite characters, but we are in good terms now, haha! I have a serious issue with characters that are in “eternal” denial of themselves or of their tastes. Everybody has some sort of insecurity; this is natural of being human. But Gabriel didn’t know when to stop I guess that him and Julian Parker, from the second book in Brook Street series (Fortune Hunter), were the main characters who frustrated me the most in March’s books to this day. I try to be very understanding when I’m familiar with both sides of the story, but these two are a lost cause, haha!
As we just met Anthony for good in this book, I was very surprised to see how he can be a very optimistic person in the hardest times. I don’t agree with several of his attitudes during the story, but he is that kind of character that we simply love no matter what, haha!
Besides, if you look into each one’s personality, you will find that Anthony and Gabriel have a natural balance, an harmony in their qualities and defects. Also a trace of March’s couples: they always complete each other, in a way that both men will be better people after the coupling.
In narrative terms, the book is great. March manages to balance in a brilliant way her characters consciousness with the events around them and the time passages. It’s a fluid and quick read, as March’s language is not tiresome or the type that asks for a pause. She involves and makes her characters become best friends with her reader. It’s just like when someone is telling you a story over audios at Whatsapp and the person never finishes: this is the longing and the craving that March incites. You need to know how everything will end and the only way to do so is keep reading like crazy.
Another strong point of March’s is the love. She doesn’t describe that water sugared love that makes you bored. The love between her characters is that real kind of love, of the simple things on life, that is hard, disappoints without abandoning, that lasts even after many probations and still can awake luxury in the end of the day. Anthony and Gabriel’s romance wasn’t any different: the feeling was involving, strong and vigorous until the last page, in each touch, each look. It’s that kind of love that touches my heart and makes me believe that the world can be a better place. However, aren’t they fictional characters? Yes, they are. Nevertheless, the feeling is real and that’s all that matters 🙂
I also need to bow to Anthony and Gabriel’s sex scenes. March is a very explicit author and she can leave anyone burning up after reading her couple’s plays. What really impresses me about her is how she manages to be explicit without being vulgar. Even when her characters do it without a strong affective bond, you feel on your skin that that’s what the couple wants to do, no matter the reasons why. The act has sentiment. The reader feels the desire, the willingness. This is an element very hard to find in explicit romances. It’s not the sex for the sex; it’s the sex for the company.
Something more personal of my reading was that was nice to be able to foresee some things in the story. I already read all March’s books at least twice (AIWTD I must have read at least a dozen times since its release in 2013), so I can recognize some patterns and know which will be the biggest problem of the couple in the book. The great thing is that, even guessing more or less where the story was going, I was still surprised with the turn of events. Honestly? This is priceless ❤ I cried in some parts, desperate for a way to see Anthony and Gabriel together and in piece and my tears weren’t in vain. As my mom would say, everything in life can be arranged, haha!
I confess I have a little negative critique to do, haha! If Anthony and Max are that close as the series makes us believe they are, how can they still have difficulties to discuss their relationships behind closed doors?! In the beginning, Max didn’t even want to say Tristan’s name to Anthony! I thought all this caution a bit too much, considering their friendship level. I mean, you both know a secret from the other that could have both hanged and you’re still reticent? Oh, please. Is Max the reserved type? A lot, but he also already made clear as crystal that he is comfortable enough to discuss serious things with Anthony and Anthony did the same.
That’s it! Thank you for reading, it was a long post, haha! But I’m not sorry ❤ Are you already familiar with Ava March’s work?