I like Tessa Dare. I know her books are derisively considered by many to be HINO (Historical In Name Only) but that’s something that’s never bothered me, personally. I like that her characters have modern sensibilities, because I don’t want to read about a hero with traditional Regency-era attitudes toward women. I like that her books each tend to have a designated Element of Silliness (see: Romancing the Duke‘s cosplayers, Any Duchess Will Do‘s terrible knitting) and in this one it’s the recurring joke of a bratty kid confusing carnal noises for the sound of a woman being murdered. It’s ridiculous fun that her characters tend to get it on — sometimes for the first time! — in improbable places where they are likely to be discovered.
Tessa Dare has never been the picture of historical accuracy, but her romances are funny and entertaining, the couples genuine and well-matched. Piers Brandon, the dumped titular character of Say Yes to the Marquess, is — not a spoiler! (for this book, anyway) — a spy for the British government. It’s the duty that extended his prior engagement past its breaking point, and the main obstacle toward love and marriage now. Charlotte Highwood has wonderful sisters (best known from the Spindle Cove series) and a terrible mother. Her prospects aren’t the best due to her family’s middling circumstances, and her mother’s obvious and ungracious attempts at matchmaking are working against Charlotte’s own personal charms. A plan of Charlotte’s to save some face goes completely upside-down when to her own horror and her mother’s delight, she and Piers find themselves in a compromising situation: nothing had happened, but it sure seemed like something had.
I shouldn’t to tell you what happens next. Obviously, they fall in love. It’s both amusing and rather sweet how they get there. The only thing that I didn’t enjoy as much was the deployment of that trope of the hero who thinks he doesn’t deserve love. It was, in my opinion, an unnecessary dramatic flourish that increased the angst just for angst’s sake. It’s reasonable enough to understand why a secret agent who is away on missions all the time would have had a hard time settling down with someone. This character particularly has a known backstory via a preceding book of having lost one fiancee because of his absence, so it’s not lazy to just make him generally cautious about becoming involved with someone.
That aside, though, this all worked for me. As Dare’s books tend to do.