I like romance novels, specifically historical ones, but I wouldn’t say I am well-versed in what authors are worth reading, aside from a handful. So the way I usually discover a new romance novel is by going to my local library for a different book, noticing the hot pink sticker on the label indicative of the romance genre and the fact that there is a buxom woman either lounging in a gown on a chaise or similar pose. If I have even the vaguest memory of the writer’s name and the description sounds good enough, I’m in. Such is the way that I came to read Tessa Dare’s Say Yes to the Marquess. Which also makes me want to watch a marathon of “Say Yes to the Dress;” did Dare get any kickbacks from TLC?
Say Yes to the Marquess is apparently one of a series of books about castles, but I have no idea about any of that. I just thought the story of a man trying to convince his childhood friend to marry the brother who has been abroad for nearly a decade would probably serve up some exciting forbidden lust and will they/won’t they fun. It certainly did deliver on all that. Clio Whitmore was engaged to Piers Brandon, now Marquess of Granville, eight years prior to the story’s events. She was 17 at the time and though she thought Piers was a nice enough gentleman, she didn’t have any particular feelings about him. She just wanted to be a good daughter and live up to the standards her mother was hellbent on teaching her and her sisters were required of any good wife. Rafe Brandon, Piers’ younger brother, is a notorious rake, incredibly good looking, and famous for not adhering to social customs and beating other men to a pulp in illegal prizefights. When Clio walks into his training warehouse to ask him to sign papers allowing her to dissolve the engagement in Piers’ absence, he is taken aback but quickly refuses. Rafe’s feelings of inadequacy stemming from a life of emotional abuse at the hands of his father, and what I assume is a learning disability, lead him determined to make sure that everything runs smoothly until his brother returns. Obviously this includes making sure he has a bride to come home to. Even if it’s the woman who has been on Rafe’s mind since he was a teenager.
Rafe heads to Clio’s newly inherited castle (the one giving her the strength to try and be an independent woman, naysayers and gossipmongers be damned) and makes a deal with her that if by the end of the week he hasn’t convinced her a wedding to Piers is truly what she wants, then he will sign the papers. Naturally, Clio is a modern woman who really understands Rafe and cares for him. Also, Rafe sees Clio for who she is and not for her faults. Cut to romance and hot sexy time. Lots of it. I will credit Dare this – she wrote this one well in the “build up anticipation” front. Once the two lovers do come together you’re thinking “it’s about time!” The side characters range from endearing (her essentially autistic sister Phoebe especially) to irritating (her other sister Daphne and husband Teddy). There’s a cute dog. I enjoyed Clio and Rafe but by the end their continued inability to trust in each other’s love gets a little irritating. Having been in that spot where one wonders if one is good enough, I get it, but still. After the first or second time they misunderstand and jump to conclusions, you’d think they would establish the need to communicate better. Anyhoo, they’re damaged and together they’re super damaged and hopefully they work that out and don’t inflict it on their kids.