The third book in the Castles Ever After series, When a Scot Ties the Knot (oof, the titles on these) hit all of my particular romance novel loves:
- Independent lady making her way in the world
- Marriage of Convenience plot
- Steamy sexy times
- Wounded Hero
- Historical setting
- Interesting, but not overtaking, side characters
- Comedy/quirkiness/whimsy in some regard.
Those eight things in some order will almost guarantee a four star review from me if executed well, and the truly wonderful ones will get the full five stars. For me, this was a truly delightful read and earned itself the full five stars (on rounding up).
Dare, for those not in the know, does not stay even remotely historically accurate. Sometimes I love a book that sticks to its time period, and sometimes I love a fun, feminist, anachronistic romance novel which takes the barest bones of history and adds what it likes, too. In this case we have Captain Logan MacKenzie, recently returned home from war on the continent in the Napoleonic Wars, arrives on the doorstep of Madeline Gracechurch, prepared to marry her. After all, he has a half dozen wounded men needing a place to settle, and what better place than the castle of the woman who caused him so much hope and anguish for so many years?
The only problem… Maddie thought she’d made him up, and had also killed him off.
In her sixteenth year Maddie had lied about meeting a Scottish officer in order to avoid having a London season, due to her crippling social anxiety (which Dare explains in place of letting her have a lesser, more realistic aversion to people and crowds). Unfortunately for her, the name Maddie pulled out of air belonged to a real man, and he’s not above blackmail.
Enter the marriage of convenience plot, which gets a bit of a twist as they go with a handfasting which doesn’t bear the full weight of law until the marriage is consummated, and Maddie manages to put off the full act while she tries to find the letters she wrote Logan, so she can burn them. Then she’ll be free and can follow her dream of being an illustrator while figuring out how to give Logan his dream of safety for his men. Nevertheless, we are treated to some satisfying funky bass, as sexy times are very sexy when men respect their lady’s ideas, mind and person – which Logan does. The other part of Logan’s personality which made me swoon? He has a tragic origin story, which puts him on par with Griffin from Any Duchess Will Do. (Bonus part three? Dare doesn’t really hide that Logan is verra similar to Sam Heughan’s Jamie from Outlander.)
This is a Tessa Dare book, and she writes good, charming, whimsical stories with characters that have great emotional chemistry. She also writes great side characters. Seriously, all of Logan’s men and Maddie’s aunt were amusing on the page and added to, but did not hijack, the story. Yes, there is a quirky subplot around mating lobsters, but it’s nowhere near as distracting as the traveling cosplayers of Romancing the Duke, or the terrible ermine. I rounded that one down to four stars, I round this one up to five, and they are both better than Say Yes to the Marquess.
I have a feeling I’ll be revisiting these eventually, they work for me.