Mini-Audio-Book Review: Kate Bateman’s A WICKED GAME (Ruthless Rivals #3)

Wicked_GameMay I say how much I enjoy listening to romance over reading it? Or at least that’s what I’ve preferred lately. If a romance doesn’t tax me intellectually, or emotionally, then listening to an engaging narrator read to me about a funny, lovable hero and heroine, while I cook, bake, or walk, is a great way to fill my head while engaging hands and feet! Bateman’s Wicked Game did exactly this: it amused and gave me the romance fuzzies. To start, the publisher’s description: 

Shipwrecked and imprisoned thanks to an inaccurate map, Captain Morgan Davies has returned to London to exact sweet revenge on the cartographer responsible for his suffering. He’s also vowed to claim the winner’s prize—three kisses—in the bet he made with his long-time nemesis, the prickly, smart-mouthed Harriet Montgomery. His time in prison has made him realize his feelings for her, but convincing the infuriating woman he wants to marry her is going to be his greatest challenge yet. When Harriet’s revealed to be the very mapmaker he seeks, Morgan decides revenge and seduction can be combined into one delightful package…

Harriet’s always wanted witty scoundrel Morgan, and now he’s back; as sinfully handsome as ever, and apparently determined to make her life a living hell. She has enough on her plate dealing with her father’s failing eyesight and a rival mapmaker copying her work to play wicked games with a Davies—however tempting he might be.

But when a threat from Morgan’s past puts them both in danger, Harry discovers that she and Morgan might not be enemies at all…

 

If you’re looking for high-concept angst-filled romance, Bateman’s isn’t it. But it sure is a lot of fun to listen to Harriet and Morgan verbally spar. Their banter is antagonistically loving because it’s obvious, from the opening scene, they love each other and, more importantly, they’ve loved each since they were children and are friends. I adored the prologue: as Morgan prepares to leave for the Napoleonic Wars, Harriet schemes to make sure he returns alive by proposing that dare-bet described in the blurb. She knows he won’t be able to resist a dare. There’s nothing original in this concept (Crusie did it better and with greater emotional stakes), but what makes this good is Harriet’s considered motivation: how she schemes and plots not to foil Morgan, but to ensure he returns safe and sound. We know from the moment Morgan returns he’s in love with Harriet and wants to marry her: I liked this no surprises, no resistance-to-my-feelings ‘tude. 

We also know that Harriet reciprocates Morgan’s feelings: now what? I looked at my audio-book time “left” and I’d only listened to about 20%-worth. How will Bateman retain tension and interest? She does and she doesn’t: Harriet and Morgan are so lovable and funny and the narrator distinguishes their voices when she reads the dialogue, with a touch of Wales in Morgan especially, that made this quite enjoyable. Bateman adds a suspense plot, which did make for a great danger-and-confrontation scene. Some other stuff she added to sustain plot, not as successful: witness the sexy times, especially a “naughty” book Morgan gives Harriet, not fun, kinda crude; the love scenes, better, especially on consent. What always worked was Morgan and Harriet caring for and about each other and still managing to be funny; what worked even better was how well they knew each and gave the other what he/she needed, or would respond to. This made their HEA believable and worthy of celebration.

There were a few chapters near the end when Harriet does this stupid “how can he love me?” thing that was annoying for a character who, until this point, had been intelligent. I would have been way more annoyed were I eyeball reading this, but I could glaze over and still follow the good stuff while I made dinner: narrative forgiveness was easier to grant. The suspense plot and Morgan’s charming “grand gesture” saved the day. A romance with low stakes to give you the warm and fuzzies and keep you amused and entertained: absolutely. Bateman’s A Wicked Game offers “real comfort,” Emma.

I am grateful to RB Media, Recorded Books, for the opportunity to listen to and review Bateman’s romance. 

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