25 October 2016

Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare (Spindle Cove #5)

Summary from Goodreads:
On the night of the Parkhurst ball, someone had a scandalous tryst in the library. Was it Lord Canby, with the maid, on the divan? Or Miss Fairchild, with a rake, against the wall? Perhaps the butler did it.

All Charlotte Highwood knows is this: it wasn’t her. But rumors to the contrary are buzzing. Unless she can discover the lovers’ true identity, she’ll be forced to marry Piers Brandon, Lord Granville—the coldest, most arrogantly handsome gentleman she’s ever had the misfortune to embrace. When it comes to emotion, the man hasn’t got a clue.

But as they set about finding the mystery lovers, Piers reveals a few secrets of his own. The oh-so-proper marquess can pick locks, land punches, tease with sly wit . . . and melt a woman’s knees with a single kiss. The only thing he guards more fiercely than Charlotte’s safety is the truth about his dark past.

Their passion is intense. The danger is real. Soon Charlotte’s feeling torn. Will she risk all to prove her innocence? Or surrender it to a man who’s sworn to never love?

Thus far, Tessa Dare has given us a series about a Channel-side village dedicated to letting eccentric ladies be eccentric ladies (Spindle Cove) and a series about young women inheriting castles from an eccentric godparent (Castles Ever After).

Now she crosses the streams in Do You Want to Start a Scandal.  Although formally listed as Spindle Cove #5, the book brings together Charlotte Highwood (the little sister of Diana and Minerva in Spindle Cove) and Piers Brandon, Marquess of Granville (the long-absent fiance from Say Yes to the Marquess).  Charlotte's mother, having two happily married elder daughters, is now on the husband hunt for her funny, loyal, and sweet youngest daughter.  Charlotte has agreed to the Parkhurst house party so she can attempt to persuade her best friend's parents to let the two girls go to Italy.  Piers has dutifully arrived at the house party to investigate Lord Parkhurst's background for a diplomatic assignment (and determine what the large monetary sums are funding).

Charlotte and Piers end up trapped in the library alcove while a very enthusiastic couple (not them) has a love-making session on the library desk.  When the young son of the house, alerted by the noise, discovers Charlotte and Piers the two seem like they will be forced to marry.  Charlotte's mother is over the moon but Charlotte has her doubts.  Lord Granville is a rather forbidding, stern ex-diplomat, albeit one who seems to have strange skills in his repertoire including lock-picking and landing excellent punches.  Besides, what about her plan to go to Italy?  Piers is intrigued by Charlotte's quick wit and cheerful demeanor.  But she is quite young, compared to him, and he's already had one long-term broken engagement (which he helped break).  Despite their nagging objections to the match, Charlotte and Piers discover they work very well together as they try to discover who exactly was tupping in the library.

Do You Want to Start a Scandal is an adorable and fun Regency romance.  Charlotte and Piers are well-matched characters and the B-plot - the Parkhurst investigation - has a freshness to its reveal.  Even though the story brings two of Tessa's series together you can read it without needing to have read the previous 7 books (plus two novellas).  But...you'll get a bit more out of it if you have read A Week to Be Wicked, Beauty and the Blacksmith, and Say Yes to the Marquess because Minerva, Colin, Diana, Aaron, and Rafe (Clio is in "an interesting way" to use Regency parlance) all make appearances in this book.  Speaking of Colin, he appears twice and tells NO dirty math jokes (humph).  Tessa does make up for this by giving us a priceless scene with Charlotte, her mother, a basket of produce, and "the talk" (I have one word for you - aubergines).

I was wrong about the villain.
Dear FTC: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher.

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