Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare
Castles Ever After #2
Yes, yes, I’m hopeless with this reading in order thing – I thought this was the first book in the series and then didn’t check when I was book shopping. But there you are.
Say Yes to the Marquess is slightly different from what the back cover might suggest – I understood the premise a little differently – but I’m more than delighted to let that go because Dare is just so damned good.
Let me start with the characters. Dare seriously writes some of my favourite heroes, be they somewhat implausible or not. This one, Rafe, is the second son of a marquess (yes, second son, so not the heir and not the marquess, see title) who has decided society is stupid and that prize fighting is more his thing. This gives him the excuse to be ripped and that nice underlying threat. An Alpha hero, essentially. And oh, how I like him. Because it has to be admitted that there really is great pleasure in seeing an Alpha male brought to his knees by Feelings for a woman. I’m always particularly delighted when the heroine is only moderately pretty and doesn’t really consider herself to be much, which is the case here – Clio Whitmore sells herself short, but of course finds her confidence in the course of the novel.
Once again, Dare is very funny. I have scribbled down “beer fountain”, which should tell you something. There is an actual cake fight. But while she is hilarious and makes me titter, there’s always also a serious and very heartfelt side to her novels, and in this particular book these sides are balanced to perfection. The themes I noted are those of affective individualism – wanting to be your own self within the relationship and striving to independence and freedom of choice – and feeling wanted, with an additional side of parental abuse. I’m sure these themes resonate with many readers, which is partly what makes this book so excellent.
In terms of plot, it is nothing too new: Clio has been engaged to Rafe’s older brother, the current marquess, for years and is starting to get fed up. She wants to terminate the engagement, but in steps Rafe, who persuades her to give him a week to convince her that she wants to get married (and none of this independence nonsense). You can all guess how that works out. However, as usual with romances, what matters is the development and the little events within the larger plot that reveal something about the characters, which in turns furthers the courtship.
So in a nutshell, what I find best in this book is the balance of humour and serious discussion, the characters who are both credible in their thought processes and emotions, and a thing I haven’t mentioned yet – the respect between partners. There is a particularly excellent scene about 250 pages in where mental defences are dropped while the physicals ones are built up. Possibly my favourite scene in the whole novel, and I promise you it’s so worth it when you get there!
I’m caving and giving this a full five stars. This might be because I’ve had a break from Dare and returning to her was such a breath of fresh air, and I’m sure she’s capable of still better, but this book is simply a delight, apart from two minor details (I’m not really buying that a son of a marquess could get away with prize fighting, or that the term ‘wedding planner’ was in use during the Regency). Highly recommended!