Beginner’s Bet by Fiona RileyBeginner’s Bet by Fiona Riley is an age gap romance that checks off every box on my What I Want in a Romance list.

High stakes realtor, Ellison Gamble has everything money can buy. Her success has afforded her expensive cars, gorgeous homes, and designer clothing. The one thing she can’t buy is motherhood. Ellison has exhausted every medical procedure available to conceive, but as she turns 43, her doctor informs her it’s time to find a surrogate for her remaining eggs.

Katie Crawford’s under incredible stress keeping her mother in a top-notch care facility after she experienced a traumatic brain injury followed by a stroke. She’s put her academic objectives on hold to support her mother. Working as a masseuse sounds glamorous, but it barely pays the bills.

Ellison and Katie establish a rapport after Katie gives Ellison a massage at the fancy spa where she works. Ellison presents Katie with a way to get out of debt and support her mother. Katie’s family home is in disrepair and it’s more than she can handle. In Ellison’s capable hands, she can remodel the house, sell it for a profit, and provide for her mother.

After a fire makes Katie’s house uninhabitable, Ellison moves her into her elegant beach house, and before long they are head over heels for each other. Ellison has found a surrogate to carry her baby and that’s the priority in her life. But she’s fallen in love with Katie.

Can Ellison have it all or will Katie’s insecurities keep them from a life together?

Pros And My Favourite Parts

Beginner’s Bet is all about the characters. The plot is original and went in directions I didn’t expect, but the character work is divine. Ellison is poised and generous, powerful yet grounded, and a very appealing main character. Riley uses the perfect combination of sultry dialogue and unusual interactions to show Ellison at her best at work and in a relationship. Katie is endearing. She’s completely without artifice and her wonder at the luxury of Ellison’s life makes her the perfect character to draw the reader into Ellison’s attractive world. More than her wealth, Ellison provides Katie with the safety and emotional security she’s never had. Despite their 15-year age difference, their attraction is completely believable. They exhibit a chemistry that’s palpable.

Riley is known as “The Queen of Steam” for a reason. The sexual tension she builds between Ellison and Katie is supercharged. There was no way I was putting Beginner’s Bet aside, so I read it in one sitting. Often, their banter is a molten kind of flirtatious. When Ellison and Katie finally take their relationship into the bedroom, the spice is a scorching. Riley does not disappoint.      

The plot follows the traditional romance norms. I was surprised with how Ellison’s journey to motherhood was resolved. I thought I knew what was coming, but Riley took a more nuanced approach which made for a believable and less clichéd story.

Cons And Heads Up

The main conflict in the story is late in the book. By the time it happens, the resolution follows close on its heels. Call me a sadist, but I like to see my main characters suffer a bit more.

The Conclusion

victorias favourite booksBeginner’s Bet is my favorite of the three books in Riley’s High Stakes Romance series. Overall, this book provided me with everything I like in a romance. Ellison and Katie are so perfectly suited for each other. I was 100% invested in their happily ever after. Ellison’s road to becoming a mother is something I rarely see in a romance, and it’s beyond moving. Riley continues to write quality sapphic romances, and I’m already looking forward to her next offering.

Excerpt from Beginner’s Bet by Fiona Riley

“At no point when you told me about Bertha did you mention that Ellison Gamble drove you home.”

“Really?” That didn’t seem possible.

“Really. Now, spill.”

“There’s not much to tell. She was there when Rick took Bertha—”

“Who’s Rick?”

“The tow-truck guy,” Katie replied. “Ellison went with me into the parking lot to protect me in case Rick was some cretin. But he wasn’t. He was super nice. And I meant to ask him for a ride to the bus, but then I forgot. So, Ellison drove me home.”

“You were going to take a bus home?” Shaina looked confused. “Why didn’t you just call me? I would have circled back for you.”

“I know, but my phone died. And you were meeting Raul. And I didn’t want to bother you.” Shaina and her boyfriend had been on the rocks lately, and the last thing Katie wanted to do was be a burden. Well, be more of a burden than she already was since her life was mostly in shambles.

“So that’s it? She just saw you in need and drove you home?”

“I mean, yeah.” Katie thought for a moment. “That’s not entirely true. She also broke me into my house because I forgot to take my key off the ring before I gave it to Rick.”

“She broke into your house?” The look on Shaina’s face was almost comical.

“Well, that was after she helped me up the front walk with a flashlight because of course I forgot to put the light on before I went to work, and you know how dangerous that top step is.”

Shaina just blinked at her.

“What?” Katie thanked the waiter for dropping off her new frozen margarita and sipped it. “These are so good.”

Shaina shook her head. “You’re telling me that that beautifully dressed, Maserati driving boss bitch that Pietro is terrified of drove you home in her fancy car, chivalrously walked you to your front door with a flashlight, and then helped you unlock your front door? This is the same woman who came in because you totally—one hundred percent—put her on every reminder call list, and Pietro nearly fired your ass over it. That woman?”

“She didn’t help me unlock the front door,” Katie corrected. “She broke in with my debit card. It was kind of amazing, actually.”

“Well, damn.” Shaina leaned back, cradling her margarita. “I don’t even know you.”

“Why?” Katie laughed.

“You had a total meet-cute with this woman and never even breathed a word about it.”

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A High Stakes Romance

Bet Against Me

Bet the Farm

Beginner’s Bet

Bits and Bobs

ISBN number: 9781635557336

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Fiona Riley Online 

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