A Match of Wits
About This Book
After his departure from New York two years ago to meet up with his almost-fiancée, Zayne Beckett is the last person Agatha Watson wanted to stumble upon in her travels as a reporter with the New York Tribune. Quite pathetically bedraggled, he clearly needs to be taken in hand and sent back East to his family. Although she no longer has feelings for him, Agatha realizes, by hook or by crook, she’ll have to be the one to get the obstinate man home.
Zayne has no desire to be taken anywhere and is prepared to drag his heels all the way home . . . until he finds himself slipping back into the familiar banter of his former friendship with Agatha. Once they arrive in New York, Zayne realizes Agatha’s determined nose for news has earned her a few enemies, and he hopes to repay her help with some help of his own. When she rebuffs all his attempts to prove himself a knight in shining armor, the lengths to which they’ll go to win this battle of wills lead to some memorable antics.
Everyone else may think them a match, but nothing could be further from the truth–until Agatha finds herself in real trouble. Have these two stubborn, too-smart-for-their-own-good people been meant for each other all along?
Jen Turano has pretty much created a new genre over the past few years—Historical Romantic Screwball Comedy. While many other authors have humorous elements in their historical romances, no one takes it to the level Turano does. The Ladies of Distinction stories are loaded with farce and intentional implausibility, and when read in that comedy-of-errors context, A Match of Wits is a delightful conclusion to a very original and entertaining series.
This book is written in a very tongue-in-cheek style, and you can practically feel Turano winking and nudging you along as you read. Fans of the series have long been rooting for Agatha and Zayne, and this story did not disappoint. Agatha and Zayne are two of my favorite kind of heroes—the ones too stubborn to admit they need each other. There was plenty to keep them at odds throughout this story, plenty to celebrate when they finally admitted their feelings, and plenty of laughs all throughout. With a story as long-building as theirs, Agatha and Zayne were given a happily-ever-after not only worthy of their own relationship, but worthy of a grand series finale as well.
A Match of Wits will appeal to adult readers who enjoy romance and comedy, and with a proper understanding of the nature of farce, even younger readers may enjoy it. It is a very fast, lighthearted read which, if made into a movie, would have to star people like Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. I would have no problem recommending this book to my non-Christian family and friends; in fact, this is exactly the type of book I would gladly pass along to readers who think all Christian fiction involves bonnets and buggies and goody-goodies, because Turano is quite happy to shatter that stoic Christian fiction stereotype.
There are a good number of secondary characters that may confuse readers who haven’t read the previous books, but while the human characters were as humorously written as always, I do have a small bone to pick with this book’s non-human star, Matilda. While an animal can be an effective comedic tool, especially in this genre (think Bringing Up Baby), the pig really began to overpower this story for me. Toward the end, when it looked like Agatha and Zayne had finally gotten themselves into mischief without the pig’s help, I realized how much Matilda had pulled me out of the story by that point because I wasn’t worrying about the characters in mortal danger, but wondering when the pig would show up—and that turned out to be on the very next page. On the whole, I would have preferred a little more human-caused conflict and a little less pig-driven antics.
Some elements of this story may be deemed questionable by more conservative readers, but it is never graphically described and, in keeping with this genre, is always included for laughs. Zayne is in the act of getting drunk in his opening scene, and proceeds to pass out and suffer from a hangover the next day. Assassins repeatedly threaten Agatha’s and her companions’ lives, whether at gunpoint, in carriage accidents, or in kidnappings. Several scenes take place in or include discussions of brothels, and in some the characters end up suggestively positioned. On the other hand, the spiritual elements in this book are light and subdued, exactly as one would expect in such a comedic genre. Zayne is at first antagonistic toward God after his broken engagement to Helena, but it’s less of a conversion story and more of him renewing the faith he’s always had.
In the vein of classic screwball comedies like Bringing Up Baby and It Happened One Night, Jen Turano’s fourth installment of the Ladies of Distinction series packs plenty of laughs, mayhem and romance into a breezy, perfect summertime read. I had only one (ham)bone to pick with this story, but overall loved seeing these two characters finally come together, and was sad to bid them all farewell. I am thrilled that there is more historical romantic comedy to come from this hilarious and talented author, and I eagerly look forward to her next series.
Available July 1, 2014 from Bethany House Publishers