A Match of Wits
“Sometimes, no matter how independent and self-assured a young lady believes herself to be, certain situations demand a good dose of screaming.”
So begins A MATCH OF WITS, Jen Turano’s delightful historical romance set in 1880s America. Agatha Watson is a quick-witted and fearless young woman who has made her journalistic mark on the world unmasking unscrupulous businessmen for the New York Tribune. Under a pseudonym, of course; paid employment is not quite de rigueur, or fashionably proper, for a well-brought-up young woman of means --- even in Gilded Age New York City. Agatha, often in disguise and writing as Alfred Wallenstate, has investigated dangerous factories, brothels, opium dens and other enterprises of questionable integrity. She has then exposed them to the public eye via her work as a journalist. While many New Yorkers assume that Agatha’s writings are indeed penned by Alfred, her secret has somehow leaked out…and her life is at risk.
"If you enjoy witty, sparkling and amusing dialogue; if you appreciate a good adventure with a love story mixed in; and if you like lots of complications and surprises, then you will love A MATCH OF WITS."
As if that is not enough to keep a young woman busy, she has just discovered her former crush while on a journalistic trip to the wild west of Colorado. Part of a close circle of devoted friends who do know of her confidential persona (and who have assisted her in some of her investigations), Agatha’s heart has privately belonged to one of those dear friends, Zayne Beckett. However, Zayne has had, for years, a long-term engagement to another woman. To Agatha’s surprise, she encounters a quite-transformed Zayne during her trip. She unexpectedly discovers him in a Colorado Springs hotel --- drunk, bearded, smelly and with a limp that he didn’t have back in New York City.
Ditched by his fiancée after an accident that left him somewhat lame, Zayne has taken up the mountain man life in Colorado. He has even purchased a gold mine, which has suddenly begun producing. Not that this has brought him happiness, as Agatha observes. And because she has always been devoted to her friends, Agatha decides that she must help him regain his formerly happy life. Not that he is looking for any help, mind you! And so the two are thrown together, along with Agatha’s stern and opinionated bodyguard, her capable female traveling companion, and a pig named Matilda. (Yes, a pig…another of Agatha’s odd Colorado discoveries!)
The fivesome eventually heads back to New York City, following a quite unexpected run-in with female outlaws and dynamite. And then the fun really begins. For Agatha’s enemies have hired assassins; a pig has to somehow acclimate itself to the big city; and she discovers that her attraction to Zayne is hardly abating. For his part, he realizes that Agatha is very dear to him, but has a most ridiculous way of showing it. The twists and turns of the story and of their relationship will keep you captivated until you reach the end of the novel.
Agatha is strong, witty and charming. She pursues her goals wholeheartedly, although she is a bit too oblivious to peril. She ignores danger, always quite certain that she’ll survive regardless of the risk. Fortunately for her, she is remarkably capable. And when she is in over her head, she has faithful and equally capable friends who rush to her defense.
Zayne’s mind, personality and strength harmonize perfectly with Agatha’s, except for when they are arguing or sparring. Even then, they certainly appear to be perfect for one another. Now, if only they can both figure that out at the same moment! The emotional and spiritual journeys that carry them through the book are engaging, humorous and fascinating. Will they discover the perfect match that God has planned for them all along?
If you enjoy witty, sparkling and amusing dialogue; if you appreciate a good adventure with a love story mixed in; and if you like lots of complications and surprises, then you will love A MATCH OF WITS. When I discovered Jen Turano’s first book, A CHANGE OF FORTUNE, several years ago, I became an immediate and avid fan. Turano creates strong and delightful female characters for whom you can’t help but root, and with whom you rejoice when they finally win the objects of their affections.
Reviewed by Melanie Reynolds on August 13, 2014