Book Review: 'Once Upon a Wager' by Julie Lemense

by - June 06, 2014

Publishing 12th May 2014
Will be available to purchase at available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes


When Lord Alec Carstairs returns from war, hailed as a hero, only Annabelle Layton knows the sort of man he really is. They’d been friends before a passionate kiss changed everything, before a reckless wager left her broken and bloodied, and he abandoned her.

Hardly the actions of a hero.

But shocking lies have distorted the past. Can Alec uncover its painful truths, and still keep his distance? Can he deny his forbidden desire, even as it flares hotter than ever?


After reading the blurb for the book I was expecting to read this story and have a distinct disliking for Lord Alec Carstairs. The great thing is the blurb enticed me in, and then Julie Lemense strapped me in, spun me around, and sent me on a dizzying roller coaster of love, anger, honour, passion and everything in between.

Lemense's characters are incredibly well developed - as the reader you really feel you understand them and know how their minds work. Both Annabelle and Alec are really strong characters. I love the unspoken connection between the two characters which is shown to the reader right from the start of the book. I really love the way Lemense develops their relationship and how the two characters interact with one another. 

In the beginning of the novel Annabelle is a very feisty, independent woman; she knows her own mind and she doesn't always care for behaving how society expects her to. After "the wager" and it's horrifying consequences, Annabelle is left insecure and reserved. However, I love that as soon as Alec appears back in Annabelle's life, you start to see her true personality shine through. Despite what the blurb lead me to expect, Alec is a definite book boyfriend! He is a man of incredible honour, and you can't help but swoon at how protective he becomes when Annabelle is concerned. Not to mention how handsome he is! ;)

I love the chemistry between the two characters - whether they're lusting after each other, or fighting each other for past heartaches. Lemense definitely keeps the suspense gripping the reader through the novel, with all the unspoken truths on the edge of being revealed, leaving the Alec and Annabelle's relationship is disarray. 

All of Lemense's characters are really authentic and real to the time. I really loved Once Upon a Wager and would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good romance story with a period setting. 

"Julie Lemense strapped me in, spun me around, and sent me on a dizzying roller coaster of love, anger, honour, passion and everything in between."

About the Author:

© William Donlin of Studio D, Berwick PA 

A Georgetown University graduate with a degree in English Literature, I have been a Regency romance addict since I read my first deliciously bad Barbara Cartland novel. These days, I prefer the complex characterizations and plotting of Julie Anne Long, Sherry Thomas and Meredith Duran. A member of the Romance Writers Association of America, I am currently working on my next two novels, as the ghosts who live in my haunted, gilded age-era home try to sneak their way into my stories.

Author Links:


Just as evening fell, Alec walked up the crushed stone drive to Astley Castle. Despite its rather grandiose name, it was more accurately a fortified manor house, although it did have a moat. Briefly the home of Lady Jane Grey, England’s unfortunate Nine Days Queen, it had also served as a garrison for Cromwell’s forces during the Civil War before passing into the Layton family. Tonight, however, the house gave no hint of its troubled history. Japanese lanterns were strung, not only in the trees leading up the drive, but also in those surrounding the house, and the effect was magical. In the early dusk, a gentle light bathed the grounds, softening the lines of the old home, coloring it with pale pinks and darker purples. Alec heard strains of music and conversation. In fact, it appeared to be a remarkably conventional party, which was something of a surprise. Surely, circus animals were lurking somewhere.

The oversized front door was open to the evening air, and dozens of people were assembled in the Great Hall, which was brightly lit with wall lanterns. Chandeliers decked with wax candles flickered high above as Gareth’s parents received their guests. Sir Frederick, who often panicked in crowds, was hiding his misgivings well, and Lady Layton was radiant beside him. Gareth stood next to her, dressed in a colorful approximation of evening attire, but he seemed distracted. His eyes were darting the crowd and looking for someone. A footman with the champagne tray, no doubt. Alec did not see Annabelle.

But then familiar, melodious laughter washed over him, and he turned. A willowy, honey-tressed blonde stood at the center of a crowd of adoring men. Her face was hidden from view, but her gown—the color of moonlight—caressed her curves like a lover. Alec braced himself, every nerve taut. As if sensing his presence, she looked over her shoulder and smiled.

God in Heaven, he should never have come here tonight.

Annabelle had been only four years old the first time he saw her. He’d joined his mother on a neighborly visit to Astley Castle, and the little girl had utterly charmed him, struggling to sit still while Lady Layton served tea to her guests. Delicate, soft, and pink, like a rosy-cheeked doll, she’d roused all his protective instincts before kicking him in the shins to gain his attention.

If only he could see the girl she’d once been in the woman standing before him. Even two years ago, there had been hints of her, hiding in the body of a goddess. But there was nothing childlike about Annabelle now. She was spectacularly lovely, with arched brows, high cheekbones, and cornflower blue eyes that took his breath away.

Excusing herself from her admirers, she walked toward him with a slow smile. Then again, walking was not the right word. Swaying was the better choice, and all he could do was stand there, heart slamming in his chest as she approached, the gossamer silk gown caressing her curves. Were it dampened—as was the fashion with London’s faster set—it would be almost transparent. Just like that morning when she had gone swimming in the fountain, casting a spell over him like a sorceress.

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  1. Jess, fabulous review :)

    Thank you for reviewing on tour.



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