I do love Tessa Dare, first off. I need to say that right away. Also, that as usual, I’ve had a great time listening to a book of hers. They are always tongue in cheek, silly, and completely anachronistic, and sweet.
BUT. There’s this one thing she does that she’s done in her last three published books, and I’ve had enough of it.
This book is about Alexandre Mountbatten, who we met last book as Emma’s friend who sets rich people’s clocks to Greenwich Mean Time. But something happens, and she finds herself switching careers out of necessity, to be the governess to two little girls who are the ward of a future Duke, Chase Reynaud. Chase is an unrepentant rake, and he knows it. He has vowed never to form any attachments. They are immediately attracted to one another. He, of course, turns out to have a heart of gold.
The good parts of this book far overwhelm the bad. When things aren’t getting unnecessarily melodramatic (more later), they have such a fun, flirtatious relationship. Chase is very witty, and the audiobook narrator lends him such a good personality. I’m not sure how I would have responded to him in hard copy, but in audio he’s very lovable and roguish. Kids in romance novels can be tiresome and overly cute, but I really, really enjoyed the two little girls in this one. They feel like real kids, with real flaws and real feelings. They are also very smart and very morbid. There is a running gag with the youngest, where her doll Millicent repeatedly dies of horrid diseases, and she ropes the household into attending daily doll funerals.
My problem is that I am very, very, very tired of the ridiculous trope where the man doesn’t believe he deserves love, or whatever. It’s done, it’s over. And honestly, I don’t even think it was particularly well done here, for as much as I liked Chase. The reason I hate this trope is that it is VERY hard to pull off for exactly the reason it doesn’t work here. You have a character who is otherwise very self aware and thoughtful of other people’s emotions, yet who persists in having these literal, conscious fears and thoughts that some mistake they’ve made or thing that happened to them means they can’t be with anyone ever. It is so tiresome. It’s not that I don’t believe these fears exist, it’s just that I feel like they are usually much more subtle and unconscious. Like a person who had them would definitely let his behavior be affected by them, but his conscious mind would be telling him an entirely different story. That is definitely not the case here. Fears are irrational, and that’s how they should be played. Chase’s fears here are presented as rational ones. It does not work, and it makes him look stupid, and like an asshole. Especially since Alex has a fear that is played so well!
(It is possible to do this trope well. A good example is the classic, which I have only recently just read, Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase. It works there precisely because the hero there isn’t the best with emotions, and his reasons are rooted in his childhood.)
Anyway, I sound down on the book, but overall I liked it. I just want Dare to get a new story to play with her heroes. She did it with Ash in the first book of this series (where it worked much better, in my opinion), and she did it with Piers in Do You Want To Start a Scandal, where it also annoyed me. I can’t make any promises about my behavior if she does it again.
[3.5 stars, rounded up for overall fun and for the narrator, Mary Jane Wells, who is awesome]
CBR Bingo: Brain Candy (Review a book you read for its escapism value.)