I can always trust Tessa Dare to bust a slump, and as exhaustion is one of my last remaining COVID symptoms, I’m not so much slumped as I am distractible. A Lady by Midnight took care of it either way, and I enjoyed my evening with it so much that I’m rating it five stars, and I know that I am one of the few around Cannonball Read to do so. I get it, but I’m also keeping my rating as is.
I am currently working my way through a large non-fiction tome where the author seems to be taking themselves a bit too seriously (Clement Knox’s Seduction review forthcoming eventually) and yesterday I just could not focus on it at all, and as it was a section on Casanova, I thought it best to just put it down and pick something else up. Lucky for present me, past me had ordered A Lady by Midnight before American Thanksgiving but the crush of books that needed reading in December in order to fulfill my reading challenges pushed it right off my to read pile for the month. But there it was calling to me from atop my bookcase.
It had been almost four years since my last time to Spindle Cove with A Week to be Wicked, but it mostly came back to me – certainly the town and its residents broadly if not the particulars of the books I had already read in the series (including A Night to Surrender and Any Duchess Will Do). I did remember though the two leads, who were introduced in the first novel and have been floating around in the periphery of the stories since. Kate Taylor is the town’s music instructor, she’s also an orphan who has been making her own way in the world since she was brought to a foundling school around age five. She’s managed to maintain an inner spark, and Spindle Cove as provided her with safety and friends, but she is still in search of family, and love. She’s certainly not expecting to find either of those things in Corporal Thorne, the militia commander in charge at Spindle Cove who arrived the year before and has seemingly made it his mission to ignore her at every turn. Thorne however has his own reasons for acting as he has, and with a family of aristocrats arriving claiming that Kate is their long-lost cousin he finds himself announcing that he is her fiancé, in order to keep her safe. It however complicates things tremendously.
Dare sticks with the things in her writing that I appreciate the most, this book has most of her standard features: in Kate we have an independent lady making her way in the world, the plot pretty closely aligns to a Marriage of Convenience, focusing on an engagement of convenience, the smolder and steamy sexy times are present (even if we’re about 2/3rds of the way through the book before Kate and Thorne get past kissing, there’s a lot happening in this story), sincere emotions are on display – specifically in actions, and Thorne might be her most wounded hero. There is a lot of heaviness to the plot of this one, but as its Tessa Dare it was also silly at times, funny, and sexy, which is what I am looking for when I pick up one of her books. Once all the pieces are on the board the narrative takes off and never really slows down, right through to the epilogue (and I really would have loved another chapter between the end and the epilogue). This one is all about love, the shapes it takes, the ways we express it (or don’t), where we look for it… and it worked for me even when it shouldn’t.