Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Tessa Dare”

Malin’s #CBR Reviews #78-80: Historical romance edition

So I’m finally NEARLY up to date with this summer’s reading, and decided that these three historical romances I read in August could easily lumped together into one post.

Book 78: When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James. What if Dr Gregory House was an Earl in on an estate in Wales and a really gorgeous woman wanted to marry him, mainly because most of polite society thinks she’s carrying a prince’s bastard? 3 stars

Book 79: A Lady by Midnight by Tessa Dare. I absolutely ADORED the previous two Spindle Cove novels by Tessa Dare, and it was frankly unrealistic that this novel live up to my sky-high expectations. It was very enjoyable, if not as awesomely enjoyable as the first books in the series. 4 stars.

Book 80: The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James. When the plain young heiress discovers that her best friend, the handsome heir to a duchy, mainly married her to cover up the fact that his father embezzled a bunch of her money, she kicks him out and he’s forced to resort to piracy (sorry, privateering) to stay alive. The most enjoyable Fairy tale retelling by James yet, certainly a LOT more fun than the original story by Hans Christian “I really hate children and am determined to scar as many as possible with my dreadfully depressing stories” Andersen. 4 stars.

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #47: Three Nights with a Scoundrel by Tessa Dare

This is the third book in Dare’s Stud Club trilogy, where the underlying mystery of the trilogy of who killed Lord Leo Chatwick is finally solved, so while it works on its own, it’s probably more satisfying as a whole when read in sequence with the other two.

Julian Bellamy is the bastard son of a nobleman (he doesn’t even know which). Determined to get revenge on as many noblemen as possible, he did everything to be rich, admired and adored, working tirelessly to ruin lords by winning their fortunes at the card table, or seducing their wives and female relatives. He was doing splendidly, until he met Leo Chatwick, and struck up a genuine friendship with the man. He also, shortly after meeting her, fell head over heels in love with Leo’s twin sister, Lily . When Leo is killed in an alley, on a night when Julian should have been with him (because he was off seducing yet another nobleman’s wife), Julian is determined to do everything in his power to hunt down his killer.

Julian also wants to make sure Lily is taken care of, and safe, and his solution to this is that she marry. While it’s obvious to anyone who sees them together, that Julian is crazy about Lily, and she’s really not averse to the idea of marrying him, he refuses to saddle her with a husband who’s not only an infamous rake and scoundrel, but also an illegitimate by blow of uncertain parentage. Lily, however, is deeply concerned at the toll hunting for Leo’s killer is taking on Julian (especially after he ends up unconscious and bleeding at her doorstep after a brawl) and makes him promise to take her to three society events, in the hopes that she can convince him that they should be together. But there are secrets about Julian’s past that he hasn’t shared with her. Do they have a chance if she discovers where he really came from?

Of all the novels in this trilogy, I think I liked this one the most. Julian literally lives a double life, which he’s very determined no one finds out about. He got the money that allowed him to start building a fortune through shady means, but it’s through careful management (and skill at the gambling tables) that he’s been able to increase it. He does love Lily dearly, but in his quest for revenge against the nobility in general, he’s lived a pretty reckless and promiscuous life, and he feels she deserves much better than him. I rarely read romances where the hero is the inferior one in rank, so this was an interesting change for me.

Lily’s a great heroine. Bereft after the death of her beloved twin, she now has to watch her dearest friend endanger himself trying to track down Leo’s murderers. Having turned deaf after a long illness, Lily’s very uncomfortable about appearing in public (she and Leo had a system worked out to allow her to manage), and while she’s rich and beautiful, she’s pretty sure her disability will put most suitors off. When she discovers Julian’s true feelings for her, she understands both why he’s so hell-bent on insisting she marry to be protected, and does everything in her power to convince him that the only man she’d ever marry, no matter his arguments against their union, is him. Their relationship is lovely, and the way they communicate is great.

The mystery of who killed Leo, which has been running through the entire trilogy, is also solved at the end, and the reason for his death, and the resolution to the mystery, turned out to be genuinely surprising. A nice conclusion to the series, but still not as wonderful as either of Dare’s Spindle Cove books so far.

Crossposted with my blog and Goodreads.

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #46: Twice Tempted by a Rogue by Tessa Dare

This is the second book in Tessa Dare’s Stud Club trilogy, and although it works fine on its own, the tertiary plot of the book runs through the entire trilogy, and as a result, you may want to read the books in sequence.

Rhys St. Maur, recently Lord Ashworth, has a death wish, but fate has yet to see fit to grant it. He survived his abusive father, and the fire that burned down his childhood home. He survived countless beatings and fights that he picked over the years, and he’s now a decorated war hero, having survived on the battlefields of Europe during the Napoleonic wars. He returns to his estate in Devonshire, but quickly realises that not only doesn’t the people on the estate want him there, they’re openly hostile towards him and his family, having been left to fend for themselves since the old Earl died.

Meredith “Merry” Maddox is the widow of the local innkeeper, and she dreams of running the most successful coaching inn in Devonshire. Daughter of the stable master, she watched Rhys’ abuse as a teenager, and always loved him from afar. So when he shows up on her doorstep, and quickly declares that he’s going to marry her, because she needs someone to take care of her, she’s shocked, to say the least. While he’s bitter and battle-scarred, Meredith finds Rhys as attractive, if not more so, than ever, but she’s as unconvinced of him staying put in the village as everyone else. She’d be willing to commit to a love affair, but can’t stand the thought of having her heart-broken when he inevitably leaves again.

Rhys and Merry begin a battle of wills, where she’s intent on seducing him, and he’s determined to resist until he gets her to agree to marriage. Rhys also has to prove himself the villagers, and figure out who wants him gone badly enough to try to kill him.

There aren’t as many story lines cluttering up the narrative as there was in One Dance with a Duke, but the central romance also didn’t grab me as much. Still, a quick and frothy read.

Crossposted on my blog, Malin’s Blog of Books, and Goodreads.

Malin’s #CBR Review #44: One Dance with a Duke by Tessa Dare

Spenser Dumarque, the fourth Duke of Morland, has the entire ton gossipping about his custom to show up at society balls at the strike of midnight, dance one set with a lucky young woman, escort her to dinner, and then leave. Every eligible young debutante wants to be the next lucky lady he selects, but so far none seems to have caught his eye.

Lady Amelia D’Orsay is old enough to be considered pretty much on the shelf by polite society, so she tries to stay away from gossip, and is certainly not interested in fighting the other young ladies for the “Duke of Midnight”‘s attention. When she finds out from her scapegrace younger brother Jack that he now owes the Duke 400 pounds, and that this debt means that the family cottage (where Amelia spends every summer) will have to be let, she decides to confront the Duke, and persuade him to forgive Jack’s debt. Spenser is flummoxed at being directly approached by the opinionated lady, and has no choice but to dance his customary midnight dance with her, to avoid losing face in public.

What no one in society knows, is that his midnight ritual has nothing to do with finding a suitable bride, but to control his massive fear of crowds, and to stave off anxiety attacks. By arriving precisely at midnight and making a brief public appearance, Spenser fulfils his social obligations, but can leave before the crowds become to overwhelming, and no one’s the wiser. Dancing with the pushy Amelia, he’s suddenly overcome with a panic attack, and as she refuses to be abandoned on the dance floor, he has to drag her with him out onto the balcony. She realises that something is not quite right, but before she can enquire further, Spenser is approached by two acquaintances, Rhys St. Maur (the Earl of Ashworth and a war hero – also the hero of the second book in the trilogy) and Julian Bellamy (rake, dandy, scoundrel and hero of the third book), announcing that Leo Chatwick, the founder of the exclusive gentleman’s club in which all three are members has been murdered, and they need to break the bad news to his twin sister. Amelia insists on coming along, as Lily is an old friend of hers.

At the end of the night, having had a rather bad time of it, Amelia is shocked when Spenser proposes marriage to her in order to save her from any ton gossip (he did after all, drag her from a crowded ball room and disappear with her for most of the night). Even though the thought of becoming a wealthy Duchess is appealing to her, it’s only after Spenser convinces her with some pretty head-turning kisses that he’s genuinely attracted to her, that she accepts.

A few days after their first dance, Amelia is married to a man who is mostly a stranger to her. It doesn’t make it easier that Julian Bellamy crashes their wedding to accuse Spenser of having murdered Leo Chatwick. While drawn to her husband, she makes him promise to prove his innocence before they consummate the marriage. Spenser promises reluctantly, and as he’s more and more sure that his decision to marry Amelia impulsively was a good one, sets out to seduce his wife good and proper.

The romance in One Dance with a Duke is delightful, and while Spenser can seem domineering and aloof and frequently seems to say exactly the wrong and insulting thing in any situation, there are good explanations as to why he’s like that. The gradual way in which Spenser and Amelia get to know each other and fall in love with each other is great. Unfortunately, however, there are two other subplots running throughout the book, both of which get seemingly forgotten about for huge stretches at a time, only to be reintroduced just as the main romance plot is getting really good.

First there is the murder investigation, where Spenser, St. Maur and Bellamy try to figure out who killed their friend (this plot is not resolved until Three Nights with a Scoundrel),and then there is the subplot of Amelia’s wastrel brother Jack, who keeps getting himself further into debt and expecting Amelia to bail him out. Every time he showed up, I just wanted to scream and put the book away, and Amelia’s refusal to see what a complete leech he was made me want to slap her. Apart from that, Amelia’s a really nice character. I suspect the Jack subplot was supposed to show how kind and loving and all about family Amelia was, loyal to a fault to her brother, even when he kept disappointing her. Instead, it just made her look like an idiotic sap, and I absolutely sided with Spenser in all their arguments. The subplots also make the structure of the book a lot more loose and meandering, and detracted from my enjoyment of it. So in conclusion, a good book, but less focused on the main romance than I would have liked.

Cross posted to my blog, Malin’s Blog of Books and Goodreads.

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #34: A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare

Colin Sandhurst, Lord Payne, desperately wants to be anywhere but Spindle Cove, overseeing the militia after his cousin, the Earl of Rycliff, got married. One rainy night a surprising opportunity presents itself in the form of bookish spinster Miss Minerva Highwood, knocking on his door with an unusual proposition. Minerva needs to get to Edinburgh to attend a geologists’ symposium, and she’s willing to pay Colin to pretend that they’ve eloped together. Colin tries to dissuade her by naming a number of conditions to secure his agreement (such as Minerva having to share his bed every night), but Minerva is determined to go, with or without him.

Having paid her membership dues and corresponded with a number of members of the Geological Society (none of the other members know she’s female, of course), Minerva wants to go to the symposium to present a large fossilised footprint she’s found in a cave in Spindle Cove. She’s sure that with her findings, she can win the 500 guinea prize, and she’s willing to give Colin the entire sum, if he will just escort her to Edinburgh. She has two ulterior motives to asking Colin – she wants him away from Spindle Cove to prevent him from proposing to her sister, and she (although she’s loathe to admit this, even to herself) has been infatuated with him for months (even though he doesn’t even seem able to remember her name).

Colin’s parents were killed in a horrible carriage accident when he was a boy, and he was trapped in the carriage with their dead bodies for hours, and nearly savaged by wild dogs as well. He’s still plagued with nightmares, only kept at bay with huge amounts of alcohol, or if he shares his bed with someone. Hence Colin has quite the reputation as a dissolute rake, and will not have access to his inheritance until he turns 25, or marries. Since Mrs. Highwood (Minerva’s mother) would love to have a viscount as a son-in-law, she’s been throwing her eldest daughter Diana at him at every available opportunity. No one thinks the intellectual, bespectacled Minerva will ever make a suitable match. Normally Minerva is completely tongue-tied around Colin, yet when she presents her findings and explains her plan to him, he’s stunned by her passionate interest – and rather than let her go off alone, being exposed to God knows what dangers, he reluctantly accompanies her.

The journey from the south coast of England to Edinburgh is long, and the couple are beset by a number of difficulties. Over the course of the week they pretend to be missionaries, siblings, long-lost royalty, Colin gets kidnapped by highwaymen, Minerva has to pretend to be Colin’s mistress (and possibly an assassin spy). Over the course of their adventures, they share a lot of confidences, and naturally grow more and more attracted to each other. Colin is determined that Minerva reach Edinburgh with her virtue intact, but that proves more and more difficult as the journey progresses.

While I liked A Night to Surrender a lot, I absolutely adored A Week to Be Wicked. Of course the dedication page didn’t hurt: “For all the girls who walk and read at the same time.“. I would absolutely be one of those. Minerva is a heroine who can’t help but strike a chord with geeky, nerdy romance readers. Overlooked because she’s interested in intellectual pursuits, wears glasses and is less conventionally pretty, the reader cheers her on when she finally stands up for herself. That she’s fiercely loyal to her loved ones, and while generally insecure and gawky, yet supremely confident in her findings as a geologist doesn’t make her any less awesome.

Colin is absolutely a dissolute rake, but as the reader discovers, there are reasons he drinks and gambles and prefers to share his bed with a woman every single night. As he confesses to Minerva, most of the time he’d prefer to just sleep, but with his reputation, he feels certain things are expected of him. He has a strict moral code, and tends to stick with unhappily married women or widows. He’s determined not to seduce Minerva, but is hard pressed to resist her when she pretty much throws herself at him, wanting to explore the sensual arts with scientific curiosity.

Minerva and Colin are great as individuals, and an absolute hoot as a couple. Their “road trip” to Edinburgh is full of amazing banter, laugh out loud moments, some very sizzling chemistry and a lot of genuinely touching moments. The only bits that I felt dragged a little bit were the ones where Dare took us back to Spindle Cove to show the reactions of Minerva’s family and friends to her “elopement” and the scenes obviously meant to set up the couple for the third book in the series. While I appreciate that they needed to be included, I wanted as little time as possible away from one of the cutest couples I’ve come across in romance in a long time.

Originally posted on my blog:

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #33: A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare

Spindle Cove is a quiet seaside town populated almost entirely by women. A holiday village which offers refuge to the sickly, shy, scandalous or unusual young women of the ton, amply entertained and taken in hand by Miss Susanna Finch, daughter of the local baron, a pioneer within weapons development. There’s no tavern, only a tea room, and the only available men are either children, fishermen or farmers. Hence Victor Bramwell, wounded in the Napoleonic wars in Portugal, faces a challenge when he, as newly minted Earl of Rycliff, is tasked with creating a local militia. Shot in the knee, he’s been deemed unfit to return to service. He’s determined to prove his worth to the War Office, but discovering the dearth of fit and able bodied men in Spindle Cove, he realises that the task can prove nearly impossible.

Things are certainly not made easier by Miss Susanna Finch, who wants the handsome war hero, his dissolute nobleman cousin and their stone faced, rugged corporal out of her safe little town as quickly as possible. Having discovered first hand how difficult it can be for women who don’t fit into society, she’s worked hard to create a safe haven for well-bred young ladies, where their confidence can be boosted, their skills and intellect can be encouraged, and those who need it can get enough rest and relaxation to regain their strength, without invasive procedures like blood letting, leaches, excessive medication and such.

Susanna and Bram are obviously attracted to each other from the start. Susanna, while pretty, is taller than your average Regency woman, and obviously a bluestocking. She’s never met a man she couldn’t manage with ease. Bram, very tall himself, finds her intelligence and  outspokenness refreshing, but realises that seducing the daughter of his father’s close friend is a huge mistake. Bram is frustrated by the lack of suitable recruits for his militia, and everywhere he turns, he is told to defer to Miss Finch’s judgement or advice. Every time the two meet they argue, and then usually fall into each other’s arms.

Can Susanna keep Bram and his militia from ruining the idyll of her little town? Can she keep her heart safe from the dashing war hero? Can Bram actually train the ragtag bunch of males available to him into a credible militia? Can he keep his mind on the mission and off Susanna Finch?

This is the first Tessa Dare novel I’ve read, and it was utterly delightful. For the most part cheerful, funny and frothy, it’s got everything I really want from light-hearted romance, and in many ways reminded me of Julia Quinn’s better novels. Yet interspersed with the wonderful banter is great characterisation, and both Susanna and Bram have issues in their pasts that they need to work through. Their romance faces challenges as their hopes and dreams seem so different, yet their romance resolves beautifully in the end, without anything feeling oversimplified or like cheating. The supporting cast is also very well depicted (several characters are clearly going to have their romances in later books), and it’s like a wonderful gift to discover a new author whose style I enjoy. I can’t wait to read both her past and future books.

Originally posted on my blog:

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