Thursday 5 April 2012

CBR4 Book 34: "A Week to Be Wicked" by Tessa Dare

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 5 stars
Date begun: March 31st, 2012
Date finished: April 1st, 2012

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 Miranda having to share his bed every night), but Miranda 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.

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