Tuesday 20 January 2015

#CBR7 Book 2: "Say Yes to the Marquess" by Tessa Dare

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars

For eight long years, Miss Clio Whitmore has been waiting for her betrothed, Piers Brandon, now the Marquess of Granville to stop travelling the globe and avoiding her. They've barely seen each other since they got engaged, and Piers has never even kissed her. Then there's the fact that Clio's frighteningly ambitious mother did everything in her power to make sure Clio was the perfect Marchioness and diplomat's wife, making sure that her entire life was a training exercise, to the point of starving her as she had the misfortune of not being as tall and svelte as her two sisters. Now Clio has inherited a castle and its surrounding lands and she's not about to be "Miss Wait-more" any longer. She just needs her fiance's younger brother to sign off on the annulment papers, and then she intends to support herself by starting a brewery.

Rafe Brandon is the black sheep of the family, and made his own way as a prizefighter after his father disowned him. After their father died, though, Rafe has done his best to take care of his brother's estates, lands and holdings to the best of his ability, even though he hates accounts, paperwork and is pretty sure all the staff look down on him. He's already guilt-ridden about their father dying while Piers was away on the other side of the globe somewhere, he's not about to let his brother's promised bride run off either. He's determined to change Clio's mind, even if he has to plan and arrange the wedding himself. As a result, he shows up at her castle, his personal trainer and Piers' ancient bulldog in tow. His plan involves dazzling Clio with the perfect flowers, decorations, cakes, not to mention an exquisite dress. He refuses to listen when Clio tries to explain that even if she were willing to marry Piers, she doesn't actually want a big elaborate ceremony.

Clio tries to persuade Rafe to sign the annulment papers. Rafe keeps trying to come up with new heights of wedding luxury to change her mind. Not helping matters are Clio's bitchy younger sister Daphne, clueless and insulting brother-in-law (their nickname for Clio is "dumpling"), nor Clio's socially challenged youngest sister Phoebe (nickname "kitten") who would rather be working on advanced mathematical equations or studying than acting as bridesmaid. The chief complication to Clio and Rafe's negotiations, however, is the sizzling chemistry and palpable attraction between them. The only thing worse than Clio dissolving the betrothal would surely be if Rafe fell for his brother's intended?

I've said it before, and will say it again. Tessa Dare writes wonderfully frothy and diverting romance. That's not to say that her characters don't have "hidden pain", much as Rafe puts it, it's just normally not the main focus of the novels. It's obvious that Clio has been beyond patient, and had it not been for the unexpected legacy of a whole castle, she might have stayed content to be ignored by her aristocratic fiancee. It's clear that Piers Brandon is off doing important work for his country, but it seems as if he could possibly have tried to encourage Clio's affections through correspondence, at least. Now Clio, practical-minded and determined to forge her own happiness, wants to make sure her inheritance pays dividends by starting a brewery.

She's not at all impressed with Rafe's convictions that she's shallow and vapid enough that the right flowers, cake and wedding dress is it will take for her to forget the EIGHT long years of being ignored and throw herself into wedding planning. At the same time, she doesn't want to cause an awkward scene with her family and announce that the wedding is off before the annulment papers are actually signed. Rafe is adorably flustered by the whole situation and mainly wants to focus on training himself back into a shape where he can reclaim his Championship title. Bruiser, his trainer, is wonderful comic relief, posing as a wedding planner mainly by trying to speak like a gentleman and using a quizzing glass. I thought the bits involving the dog were possibly a bit too far, but they didn't take away from my enjoyment of the story as a whole. Plus, that bit with the cake tasting was pretty spectacular. I really wish I'd had that many cakes available to me when planning my wedding.

If you have enjoyed the previous novels of Tessa Dare, I'm sure you'll find this one amusing too. While there are some story elements that border on too silly, I don't think it has anything that might completely break your suspension of disbelief, like Romancing the Duke did for my good friend, Mrs. Julien. Tessa Dare is one of the lucky few to be on my pre-order list, and based on this book, she's not likely to move off it anytime soon.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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