So after reading Alexis Hall’s latest work I was back in a historical romance kick and thought I’d pick up some of the intervening novels in the series of Dare’s that I had perused–Spindle Cove, Castles Ever After, and Girl Meets Duke. Those might actually be her only series, I don’t actually know!
I am sorry to note that while this book has many of the tropes that I really adore–childhood friends/known each other for a while, have liked each other for a while as well, rake with heart of gold–the individual elements didn’t seem to land for me the way that I hoped they would. Whereas there are many books where I feel like each beat is exactly the right, logical one, for this book I almost felt the opposite. Each beat felt just a bit off–nothing like trying to shove a square peg into a round hole, more like when you’ve tightened the first IKEA bolt without aligning the rest of the holes, so each subsequent one gets a bit harder to force through and set in place.
In this book, Clio Whitmore has inherited a castle and has grand plans to turn it into a brewery…if she can just get the brother of her AWOL fiance to use his power of attorney to release her from the formal engagement she entered into eight years prior. If her fiance wanted to marry her, he would have done so already, and she’s tired of waiting.
Rafe, the rake younger brother, eschewed the military or the clergy to become a prizefighter. He cannot wait for his older brother Piers to come back from diplomacy abroad and take up the mantle of Marquess again so that he can go back to his quiet life of training to get beat up.
Clio, Rafe (and Piers) all grew up together, aware that Clio and Piers were one day to be betrothed. Naturally, Rafe has always held a little candle for Clio, and Clio has always found him attractive as well.
So far so good, right? But there’s just too many missed connections in the plot. I’m getting tired but one I’ll point out: in lieu of having Clio and Rafe build upon a childhood friendship and give their attraction for one another legs, Rafe has avoided Clio for most of the past eight years despite her attempts at inviting him over for any number of family events, giving him updates, and generally trying to include him. Rafe has kept every note, of course. It’s meant to show how much they cared for each other that they did this for so long. But it just feels sort of bizarre and doesn’t makes their relationship seem like a natural outgrowth of their past. Eight years of unanswered invites does not a relationship make.
I did finish this in one night in lieu of sleeping, but I feel like that’s more a reflection on a wonky sleep schedule than how much I liked this book. I’m still going to read The Governess Game but I think I might be nearing the end of Dare’s works.