With Gareth’s Gambit, Jean Hart Stewart creates a unique romance where history is overlaid by fantasy; set in post-World War I England with telephones and autos, but with mores and sensibilities of the Regency era where children are property of parents and women don’t work; and somehow it mostly works.
Gareth, Lord Hunter, unfortunately is stuck with the character flaw pinned to many male romance protagonists in that he thinks by showering Morgana with physical love, she will understand that his heart is invested in loving her emotionally as well. Morgana, too is encumbered with the typical misconception that Gareth is far above her station in life and that she doesn’t deserve his love, especially since it is (in her mind) merely a physical infatuation which he will get over.
The one plot point that really didn’t work for me is that despite the fact that both Gareth and Morgana have superior intelligence, he is a powerful mage who has seen visions of Katie and Morgana being abducted by evil forces, he has burly farm workers at his disposal on his estate, and at the very least, access to government counter-intelligence agents he can call upon, he nonetheless leaves Katie and Morgana home alone with nothing more than a warning not to leave the house while he goes off to the city on spy business. What did he think would happen?
And indeed, the acknowledgement and thanks at the beginning of the book kept me searching the entire story for a passage about wine and French wine caves which never materialized, leaving me quite disappointed. Nevertheless, Gareth’s Gambit was an enjoyable romance with plenty of intimate moments and enough other bits to make it all hang together.
It is 1919. Gareth Townsend, Viscount Hunter, admits two women and a child to his manor house, even though he senses they bring trouble with them. His mage’s power demands he helps others with his magical skills. Even as Morgana scorns his abilities Gareth tries to help her sister find her malicious husband Frank. But Gareth’s gifts plus those of his twin sister cannot turn Amy from her self-destructive path.
Morgana is left with the child Katie, whom she adores, and tries to protect her from her father. When Frank turns his lecherous eyes on Morgana, Gareth realizes he must stop him with any means possible, including all his magic.
In addition, he suspects Frank might turn out to be the spy Gareth has been seeking. His country, his beautiful Morgana, and the adorable child are all dependent on his skill as a descendant of Merlin.