Tag Archives: Castles Ever After

Castles Ever After Series: Do You Want to Start a Scandal? by Tessa Dare

Tessa Dare’s latest Regency romance series is called The Duchess Deal and I would recommend its first book, Girl Meets Duke, over Do You Want to Start a Scandal? This crossover story between Dare’s Spindle Cove and Castles Ever After novels, features the youngest of the Highwood sisters and longtime troublemaker, Charlotte, who has both eldest sibling Diana’s desire for a loving home and intellectual Minerva‘s sense of adventure.

Piers Brandon, Lord Granville is an agent of the crown performing reconnaissance at a two-week house party in the English countryside. Devoted to his duty to King and country, he is caught off guard when Charlotte Highwood presents herself to him with a warning: Her mother will be trying to force a match between them and they must be careful to avoid it. Before you can say “in flagrante delicto”, Charlotte and Piers are caught alone together and giving the appearance of having crossed several lines. Their betrothal now imminent, they agree to the appearance of an understanding to get through the remainder of the estate. Kissing book plotting has other plans for them. After all,  it is a romance novel truth universally acknowledged that a peer must be in want of an heir.

Autocratic and closed off Piers is drawn to Charlotte’s intelligence and charm, while she soon learns that below the surface and behind his protective walls is a loving and passionate man. As they wend their way through plot machinations, they discover they are mad for each other and all that’s left is the genre’s forgone conclusion. I didn’t buy it for a second.

I tried reading Do You Want to Start a Scandal twice –  once in my original attempt and again for this review. It’s amazing how much of my time was taken up with wondering “How old is Piers exactly?” in the midst of skipping forward to find a more interesting part of the story. Charlotte is “not yet twenty-one” and while Piers’ age is never specifically stated, he must be at least 32. A twelve (or more) year age gap is not unheard of, but it didn’t work here. While I’d like an older heroine, the problem is not actually her age. I just don’t see what she has to offer Piers. What could they possibly find as common ground to build a relationship on? All of her youthful exuberance serves to remind me that he is a person of much greater experience in life and of the world and the writing failed to convince me that they were on the same page.

With the lack of well-matched characters overshadowing the story, I wasn’t especially worried about Dare’s usual requirement that I bludgeon and sequester my willing suspension of disbelief or that the revelation of the true goings on by the supporting characters was preposterous. I require somewhat more Regency and somewhat less modern farce in my historical romances.

Julie Anne Long’s classic historical romance What I Did for a Duke features a large age gap convincingly rendered. She’s twenty years old to his thirty-nine.

A complete summary of Tessa Dare’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here. Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful which includes the aforementioned observations.

Do-You-Want-to-Start-a-Scandal

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Castles Ever After Series: Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare

With a couple of days off work and my willing suspension of disbelief primed, I was ready to embark on the new Tessa Dare historicalish romance. “Historicalish”? It’s because of all the autobuy/truly enjoyable authors out there, Dare is the one who most pushes the credulity envelope* (much like that phrasing). Also, it sounds a little bit like ticklish and Say Yes to the Marquess is very funny, a truly entertaining read, and another romp to add to her catalogue.

I feel like I could lift excerpts of my reviews of several Dare books and plunk them down right here. That is not a criticism as, luckily, Say Yes to the Marquess has all of her most successful elements: Wit, fun, great smolder, a hero convinced of his unworthiness, an immensely capable heroine taking control of her own life, and whimsy. The main characters are well-rounded and the supporting characters interesting, including the heroine’s socially awkward sister who seems to be on what we would call “the spectrum” and they would call eccentric.

Clio has been waiting eight years for her fiance, Piers, to return from diplomatic service on the continent. Still a teenager when she was betrothed, she put up with her mother’s carefully grooming her to become a lovely automaton of a spouse. With her mother gone and left a castle in a will – the Castles Ever After series MacGuffin – Clio is done with waiting. In order to extricate herself from her engagement and get one with an independent life, she must first get Piers’ brother/representative Rafe to sign the papers ending her affianced state.

Shagging and punching his way to notoriety, Rafe Brandon is an aristocratic rake living outside society as a pugilist. He has known and wanted Clio his entire life. Despite this, he feels he owes it to his brother to keep Clio on her way down the aisle. To do so, he decides what she really needs is to get excited about the wedding. Moving in with her and the assorted other colourful supporting characters, Rafe goes out his way to offer flowers, dresses, and cakes to convince Clio marriage to Piers has been worth the wait. One can imagine how that turns out because Say Yes to the Marquess  is exactly the delightful kind of escapism Dare excels at.

You can find a complete summary of Tessa Dare’s catalogue, including recommendations, here.

*Tirade Irrelevant to My Review:

I honestly don’t know what the hell is wrong with me and my stunted, chattering, so-called willing suspension of disbelief. I read a delightful, deftly written book and the whole time my brain is voicing quibbles about realism and historical detail even though:

a. I am a pretentious twit to think I am so well-informed as to be the arbiter of such things.
b. It’s a freaking historical romance. Escapism is the point of the genre.
c. A white wedding dress? This is the Regency. Wasn’t that a Victorian convention?
d. Could Clio even own property outright as an unmarried woman?
e. Against the bedpost in the middle of the day? They are less uptight than hippies in a commune!
f. Would it be possible to get ready made items, be they cake or clothing, without lots of advance notice?
g. SEE?! I am insufferable. Who do I think I am? I’m not a history professor. I’m not an expert, I have a smidgen of period knowledge based on one semester of Jane Austen and whatever social history I have gleaned from episodes of Masterpiece Theatre. It’s ridiculous and my brain will not shut up!

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful which includes the aforementioned observations.

P.S. When I cross-posted this on the Cannonball Read site, I tweeted about the posting and then Tessa Dare and Courtney Milan responded on Twitter and the review! The summary of the Twitter conversation can be found here. [Insert excited flailing here.]

 

Tessa Dare’s Catalogue

EXCLUSIVELY HISTORICAL ROMANCES

The Stud Club Trilogy:
One Dance with a Duke – some structural issues, great characters and [fans self] smolder
Twice Tempted by a Rogue – a much too literally tortured hero for my tastes
Three Nights with a Scoundrel – Dare hitting her stride with a well-intentioned rake

Spindle Cove Series:
A Night to Surrender – Good, not great.
Once Upon a Winter’s Eve – Pleasant novella
A Week to Be Wicked delightful romp
A Lady by Midnight – Fantastic smolder, sincere love story, some heavy plotting
Beauty and the Blacksmith – very good, but not great, and worth reading
Any Duchess Will Do – Strained credulity overruled by a heartfelt love story, highly recommended

Castles Ever After Series:
Romancing the Duke – hellaciously twee
Say Yes to the Marquess – fun, light romp, recommended
When a Scot Ties the Knot – meh
Do You Want to Start a Scandal? – no romantic chemistry

Girl Meets Duke Series:
The Duchess Deal – very good, recommended
The Governess Game – not released yet

Also:
The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright an absolute gem of a novella
How to Catch a Wild Viscount – early novella, don’t bother, choose an option from above

Castles Ever After Series: Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare

[stunned silence followed by vociferous string of profanity-laden expostulations]

That was a change of pace. Well-written. It seems historical romance author Tessa Dare is going in a new direction, one more whimsiquirkilicious than I had anticipated. I have never given my Kindle the side-eye before. And I did, in fact, resist the temptation to throw it across the room. That counts as a victory. And that was certainly the most expletives I have ever let loose while reading a love story. A lot of new things today, it seems.

[cleansing breaths]
[re-reading most of the book]

“I believe there are two ways of writing novels. One is making a sort of musical comedy without music and ignoring real life altogether; the other is going deep down into life and not caring a damn,” said P.G. Wodehouse, giving a surprisingly apt posthumous description of Romancing the Duke.

Delightful historical romance author Tessa Dare has abandoned the ladies of Spindle Cove and embarked on a new series called “Castles Ever After”. As the name suggests, this new novel has a fairy tale undertone/overtone, not to mention many clever references to classics of the romance genre. Dare writes incredibly consistent and enjoyable stories, but of all the authors whose work I buy automatically, Dare is the one who most often requires a willing suspension of disbelief. Romancing the Duke broke mine, Dare BROKE IT, with this playful and quirky novel.

Doubt not that Tessa Dare’s tongue was firmly planted in her cheek: Isolde Ophelia Goodnight’s father not only saddled her with a tragedy-in-waiting name, he left her penniless and alone. Summoned to Gostley Castle in hopes of claiming a bequest from an anonymous benefactor, she instead encounters a derelict estate and its equally derelict ducal inhabitant, Ransom, Duke of Rothbury, who will serve as the tortured hero for the purposes of the story. He’s as big, brooding, and gorgeous as one looks for in such characters. Ransom is just sitting around waiting for the redemptive power of love to bring him back into the world. It’s a good start.

The ermine was a bad sign. Izzy has a pet ermine which, in her defense, was a gift from a fan of her father’s serialized medieval fairy tale. She brings it with her to the castle and they both stay when she discovers that the estate has been bequeathed to her. This comes as quite a shock to Ransom as he did not know the castle had been either a) up for sale or b) sold. His recent blindness has left him a little behind in his correspondence. Things should have proceeded apace from there, but the hijinks, DEAR LORD, the hijinks that ensued.

I had not anticipated costume play or live action role-playing in a Regency romance. I daresay few have. I daresay I’m not even sure it was a Regency romance. It was more of a historically-indeterminate homage to a Gothic novel: the truculent hero; the crumbling castle; the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed destitute heroine; things that go bump in the night; sexual tension; aggressive carnivorous pets; plot elements that are picked up and dropped; inexplicable character shifts; and the almost successful interplay of the love story and whimsy. It was all so cute, I cringed. I wanted a love story, not a Duke getting his LARP on.

I’m not sure who exactly this novel was written for. The short answer is, “Not me.” I get it. It’s not you, Romancing the Duke, it’s me. I was expecting a heartfelt love story with some of Dare’s trademark caprice and smolder, but instead the novel is a romp with an emphatic lack of connection to reality instead of the veneer-of-plausible-deniability connection to reality I look for in romances. It was not what I expected and it was not, like Ransom’s feelings for Izzy, everything I never knew I always wanted.

My partner-in-romance, Malin, loved the book. Check out her review for a different take on Romancing the Duke.

A complete summary of Tessa Dare’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.