How far will a man go
Talented but troubled, the Chandler family seems cursed by bad luck-and so Nathaniel Chandler has learned to trade on his charm. He can broker a deal with anyone from a turf-mad English noble to an Irish horse breeder. But Nathaniel’s skills are tested when his stable of trained Thoroughbreds become suspiciously ill just before the Epsom Derby, and he begins to suspect his father’s new secretary is not as innocent as she seems.
To win a woman’s secretive heart?
Nathaniel would be very surprised if he knew why Rosalind Agate was really helping his family in their quest for a Derby victory. But for the sake of both their livelihoods, Rosalind and Nathaniel must set aside their suspicions. As Derby Day draws near, her wit and his charm make for a successful investigative team…and light the fires of growing desire. But Rosalind’s life is built on secrets and Nathaniel’s on charisma, and neither defense will serve them once they lose their hearts…(Goodreads)
A historical romance set within the world of horse racing, A Gentleman’s Game by Theresa Romain kicks off a brand new, horsey-themed series. Rosalind Agate has recently gained the position of secretary to William Chandler, a nobleman who owns his own horse racing stable. He is about to send his best horse to Epsom to enter the Derby, and against his better judgement is willing to send his son, Nathaniel, to lead the journey south. His son has a rather flighty reputation, getting by using his charm and notorious for meeting ‘milkmaids’ along the way.
However, with their horses becoming suspiciously ill before the trip, William relents and decides to let Nathaniel lead the trip on one condition – he takes Miss Agate with him to report back. They are to protect the horses together and ensure that no other suspicious injuries befall their prime racehorse. Nathaniel resents having to bring Rosalind along, wishing that his father would trust in his abilities, but he soon takes a shine to the secretary and realises that she is not as uptight as she tries to appear.
Rosalind finds that she grows to like Nathaniel more and more as their journey progresses, but insists that secretaries do not have suitors and that her purposes are for business only. She is also harbouring her own secret, that she has been sent to the Chandler residence to hunt for clues and paperwork relating to something that happened in Spain in 1805. She doesn’t know what significance the information has, all she knows is that her own debt will be paid if she finds it.
I think that I enjoyed this book a lot more once it had got going and the characters were actually on the road to Epsom. The opening of the book is quite drawn out in establishing the characters of Nathaniel and Rosalind, as well as introducing the first instance of sabotage against the horses. Once the plot started to flow I found that I liked the characters a lot more, as they do seem quite clichéd to begin with, both fulfilling historical romance stereotypes of protagonists. However, I found that I enjoyed the detail given to the horse racing and thought that this was a new angle from which to attack the saturated historical romance genre.
In terms of the characters, I liked that Rosalind had her flaws and that she was trying to clear her own debts so she could live her life as a free woman. Her loyalty was understandable, especially given the threat to her family, but I also liked seeing her soften towards the Chandler family as the book progressed. As she starts to fall in love with Nathaniel she begins to question her orders, going out of her way to suppress the information she relays and carefully choose her words to never tell an outright lie.
Likewise, Nathaniel became more likeable as the novel progressed, as we got to see beyond the charming and handsome façade to what lies beneath. He is desperate to prove himself away from his family’s shadow and is hopeful that this journey will make his father see his willingness to work hard and not the playboy image he seems to project. He realises early on that he could easily fall in love with Rosalind, and does little to fight his feelings, instead trying to get her to see that she could be happy if she will only allow herself to be.
I think the pair were good for each other in bringing out their characters, with some strong chemistry emerging as the plot developed. However, I did think that the pace could have been improved, as I did find that the story dragged in places and that I wasn’t overly hooked on what happened next. Regardless, this makes for a great start to a historical romance series and I look forward to finding out what happens next.
I thought this book introduced the series well and gets it off to a great start, with some intriguing characters that both have their secrets and agendas. The chemistry is developed well and I thought that the relationship was strong enough to hold the plot together. Horse racing is explored in detail and I look forward to finding out more during the next of these horsey-related romances.