First off, Malin gave me this book as part of the 2014 CBR book exchange. This is the first of the multiple books I received in that book exchange, and the one the year before, that I’ve actually gotten to (although, I have at least three more planned to read for later this year–thanks, Malin!). For the past couple of years, my romance reading has pretty much been “Courtney Milan,” also thanks to Malin (and Mrs. Julien), but after reading A Week to be Wicked, I think I might have to add Tessa Dare on to that pretty exclusive list. This book was freaking delightful.
A caveat, though. Courtney Milan’s books probably appeal to non-romance readers as much as they do regular romance readers, but Tessa Dare might be on the cusp. This book was smart and well-written, but it also leans into a lot of romance cliches simply because that’s what will give the reader the most pleasure. This is something Courtney Milan doesn’t do. This book was also pretty silly. I’d heard sometimes you have to suspend disbelief when reading TD’s books, and now I see what they mean. This isn’t true historical fiction, people. It’s the fantasyland version.
Anyway, to the book. Which remains delightful.
Colin Sandhurst, Lord Payne, has two months to go until he comes of age and inherits possession of his estate and funds. Until then he’s stuck in Spindle Cove living off the allowance his trustee gives him. He’s also a first class rake (of course, with attending tragic backstory). Minerva Highwood is a ‘spinster’ who has a twofold mission: keep Lord Payne from marrying her sister, and get to Scotland to present her findings to the Royal Geological Society of Scotland. She comes up with a plan. If Lord Payne will leave her sister alone and run away with her to Scotland, she will give him the five hundred pounds she’s sure to win as a prize for presenting her findings. (She has discovered a cave with a fossilized footprint of “a large lizard”.) She knows this will ruin her, but as she hadn’t planned on marrying to begin with, instead wanting to devote her life to science, this seems an acceptable trade. In return, Colin will have five hundred pounds to work with so he can move back to London early and live the life he’s accustomed to living.
Some caveats, though: Colin tells her up front he will not seduce her, but he will need her in his bed every night because he can’t sleep alone because tragic backstory reasons. You can see where this is going . . .
And it’s super fun watching it get there. This is a story that could have collapsed under its own expectations, but instead it comes to life in the characters. Minerva and Colin are great alone and even better together. I spent a very, very pleasant morning on my couch with them, ignoring my need to shower and eat in the process. If you like romance novels and somehow haven’t tried this one yet, please do. If you aren’t a romance reader and are curious about what a good, typical book in the genre looks like, you could definitely do worse than this one. (For great books in the genre that buck conventions, see the aforementioned Courtney Milan.)
I have already informed Malin I blame her for ruining my TBR because as soon as I finished this I went to my library and ordered all the Tessa Dare books they have. Hopefully this won’t ruin my reading schedule too much. They are fast reads, after all.