Three friends. One Wager. Winner takes all.
The Earl—‘Lucky Ned’ Ashby. Pompous, preening, certain that he is beloved by everyone.
The Miller—John Turner. Proud, forced to work as the Earl’s secretary, their relationship growing ever more strained.
The Doctor—Rhys Gray. Practical, peace-loving, but caught in the middle of two warring friends.
Their wager is simple: By trading places with John Turner and convincing someone to fall in love with him, Ned plans to prove it’s him the world adores, not his money. Turner plans to prove him wrong.
But no one planned on Phoebe Baker, the unassuming governess who would fall into their trap, and turn everything on its head…
The Game and the Governess by Kate Noble
I haven’t read any historical books by Kate Noble before, and I admit I wasn’t sure about this one because of a view I’d formed before even trying it. However, a few issues aside, I really enjoyed it, and I think one of the main reasons was that the author took the time to develop the characters and the attraction before throwing them together.
I realised about halfway through The Game and the Governess why I was enjoying it so much, and why it was different to so many other historical romances I’d read. Often I start to get bored at the halfway mark, but I wasn’t with this book because the relationship was still developing. It wasn’t rushed. They hadn’t been sharing a bed for a hundred pages already, so there was still somewhere for the connection between them to go.
There was an actual story happening, and it was good.
Something I have a feeling some readers struggled with was the hero’s attitudes early on. However, I really appreciated that the author was able to portray the attitudes of the aristocracy correctly. There’s no point getting upset that an earl was ignorant about the effect his behaviour would have on others. Of course he was clueless about the maid needing help. I know we all like to romanticise the earls and dukes of 19th century England, but there’s a lot about who they were that isn’t quite so pretty. Plus, he woke up to himself in the end.
I know some readers don’t like books where a relationship is based on a deception, but I think that the way it evolved here was believable. At the beginning, neither hero nor heroine knew who the other was. They didn’t know they’d end up together, so indifference was more than justified. I think because readers are so used to characters who jump into bed together on page two, this was a big change. I liked it.
Something else I really appreciated was the lack of mental lusting. I didn’t realise until it wasn’t there how much historical romances depend on endless descriptions of physical beauty to show attraction. I don’t remember one instance where the hero was described that way, and only a few passing mentions were made of the heroine’s appearance. These people fell in love because of who they were, and that meant they actually had to do things like have conversations before deciding they were destined to be together.
The book has its “wallpaper” moments, where there characters don’t act at all like someone in 1822 would have. There are a few silly characters. As it was balanced out with lots of positives, I found I didn’t mind. The only thing I missed was some sort of epilogue. I’m not an epilogue fan generally, but this book ends rather suddenly.
In the past I’ve read comments about this author’s books and how they are careless with the language. There were definitely some moments where wrong words were used. Americanisms were pretty rampant, and having the characters more than once use the modern American word tarp grated very badly.
This wasn’t a perfect book, and there was the odd thing here or there that I didn’t love about it. However, I also really liked it, and it showed me a thing or two about what’s missing from many of my recent reads. I’d recommend it.
Review copy provided by NetGalley.