Reviewed by Tori
The first in a series, Elizabeth Hayley’s The Bet focuses on a famous football player whose skills on and off the field are legendary, his two equally sports famous friends, and a friendly wager revolving around a popular sports event. Each man has to convince whomever the other two pick as their date, to go to the event with them. Jace “The Jet” Benning isn’t quite on board with the whole idea but goes along with it anyway, especially when they pick the sexy but socially inept doctor who isn’t impressed with him or his fame.
Dr. Alessandra Mastrazacoma is a pediatric cancer specialist whose awkwardness and linear way of thinking has cost her a fiance and countless dates. When she walks out on her latest blind date, her best friend is convinced Aly doesn’t give anyone a proper chance so she makes a friendly wager with her. She must go on three dates with the next man who asks her out. No exceptions.
Two bets turn into something deeper when hearts get involved. But when everything is revealed, will this couple beat the odds or take a huge loss?
The Bet starts off with a bang with a meet-cute between our hero and heroine. Our hero, Jace, visits the local hospital on a regular basis; giving away his time and lots of swag to the pediatric cancer patients. He is both amused and intrigued by the klutzy and uncomfortable acting Dr. who bumbles around her patient’s rooms and who seems to have no knowledge of who he is..nor seems to care. Afterward, Jace is even more intrigued when he is leaving the hospital and the same Dr. calls him her boyfriend and lays one hell of a kiss on him in front of her ex-fiance.
I find romances that are built upon the premise of a bet to be amusing because you know the minute the focus of the bet finds out about the bet…well…then all ‘bets’ are off. Add in an opposite attract and I’m all, “Yeahhhhh, BaBy.” *cue my Austin Powers voice* The problem I had is that the story didn’t follow through with the promises offered by the premise. Relatively angst-free, two opposites meet, go out, and see that despite their differences, they mesh really well. Nothing too dramatic or over the top occurs; Hayley kills any sexual tension that might have energized the story by indulging her characters in anal sex on the second date.
The strength of this story is in the characters. Well drawn out, each one held their place in the story effortlessly and offered plenty of laughs, depth, and some heartfelt scenes. Engaging narrative fuels the story to the best of its ability. I loved the easy camaraderie between Jace and his buddies. Alessandra (Aly) steals the show. Her awkwardness and literal way of interacting with the world is both amusing and cringe-worthy. Think Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. She is unapologetic in her behavior and I respected that. Her interactions and need to analyze everything made me giggle. Especially the hot dog incident.
I did feel Hayley added unnecessary conflict and filler to connect the dots while writing some scenes didn’t quite pan out for me. We have class issues, exes, estranged families, childhood illness, a men’s only club, an experimental hamster, and employment drama, all of which is either easily explained away or merely fades into the background. None of it truly adds to the story or this couple’s relationship. In the end, when it’s all said and done, the only thing the reader has to look forward to is the moment the bet is discovered. And even that was anti-climatic because the characters actions are so predictable. I was put out by Aly’s meltdown over the bet. She was guilty of the same crime but somehow it’s different in her mind.
The end is a series of emotional scenes with a very nicely done grovel scene that assures Aly that Jace truly loves her for herself and not the bet. Even with my many issues. I see a lot of potential for this series. Hayley’s voice is appealing, their writing is strong, and the plotline had all the tools to be a hit. If this book had been tightened up a bit more with some of the multiple threads and obviously filler eliminated, it would have been a winner across the board for me.