30 December 2014

Say Yes to the Marquess (Castles Ever After #2) by Tessa Dare

Summary from Goodreads:
Your presence is requested at romantic Twill Castle for the wedding of Miss Clio Whitmore and . . . and . . . ?

After eight years of waiting for Piers Brandon, the wandering Marquess of Granville, to set a wedding date, Clio Whitmore has had enough. She's inherited a castle, scraped together some pride, and made plans to break her engagement.

Not if Rafe Brandon can help it. A ruthless prizefighter and notorious rake, Rafe is determined that Clio will marry his brother—even if he has to plan the dratted wedding himself.

So how does a hardened fighter cure a reluctant bride's cold feet?

● He starts with flowers. A wedding can't have too many flowers. Or harps. Or cakes.

● He lets her know she'll make a beautiful, desirable bride—and tries not to picture her as his.

● He doesn't kiss her.

● If he kisses her, he definitely doesn't kiss her again.

● When all else fails, he puts her in a stunning gown. And vows not to be nearby when the gown comes off.

● And no matter what—he doesn't fall in disastrous, hopeless love with the one woman he can never call his own.

Clio Whitmore, fully in possession of Twill Castle (none of the that sketchy lawyer-selling-Ransom's-castle-from-under-him nonsense in this book), intends to escape from her very, very long engagement and set up her own household.  To do that, she needs control over her dowry and to do that, she needs her intended to sign the papers releasing her from obligation to their engagement without financial penalty.  Since her intended is not even in England (and hasn't been for years) she needs his younger brother - scandalous, sensual Rafe Brandon - to sign them as proxy.

Rafe, for his part, is intent on preserving Granville's respectability - the marquess is, after all, a respected diplomat.  Rafe is haunted by his father's disappointment in him, in that he wasn't his older brother and that he rejected his haute ton roots to support himself in the bare-knuckle boxing ring (polite gentlemen box at Gentleman Jackson's saloon).  He will not allow scandal through a broken engagement fall on his family again, not on his watch.  But Clio is undeterred.  She will not marry Granville so Rafe sets out to prove just how nice it would be to have a lovely wedding - by showing Clio how he thinks Granville would treat her if her were Granville which, let's just come out and say it, is exactly how Rafe would treasure Clio every day of her life.  And that is a very big problem for Rafe.

Say Yes to the Marquess is a lovely novel. The opening is a bit rocky.  I couldn't quite see where Dare was going with her hero and heroine - there was a lot of impasse having to do with the papers Clio wants Rafe to sign so she can break her engagement and Clio's mostly-horrible sister and brother-in-law getting in the way - until one very pivotal scene.  Now, I have a historical-accuracy quibble with this scene (the wedding preparations are on a modern preparation scale with food, and flowers, and cake, and dresses, and so on that just weren't a thing in the Regency period) but it is such a good scene.  I don't want to spoil it but we are given such a beautiful, heart-breaking backstory for Clio.  It had me in tears (in a good way!) and then I got all teary again at the end (of course) so a lovely romance to ring in the new year.  And Rafe is simply yummy - any time you give a hero the surname Brandon, he has some big shoes to fill (Colonel Brandon from Sense and Sensibility looms large in my mind).

Now I wonder who our other two heroines-who-inherit-castles-from-Uncle-Humphrey are and whether all four couples will meet up.  That was one thing I missed greatly in comparison to the previous Spindle Cove series - I didn't see any connection beyond the castle set-up to connect Rafe and Clio to Ransom and Izzy from Romancing the Duke (review).  I hope everyone will come together later - When A Scot Ties the Knot is due out August 2015.

Dear FTC: I received a DRC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss.

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