Author: Tessa Dare
Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction
Series: Castles Ever After #2
Published: December 30th, 2014
Source: Borrowed Library
Rating: 4 out of 5
Your presence is requested at romantic Twill Castle for the wedding of Miss Clio Whitmore and . . . and . . . ?
After eight years of waiting for Piers Brandon, the wandering Marquess of Granville, to set a wedding date, Clio Whitmore has had enough. She's inherited a castle, scraped together some pride, and made plans to break her engagement.
Not if Rafe Brandon can help it. A ruthless prizefighter and notorious rake, Rafe is determined that Clio will marry his brother—even if he has to plan the dratted wedding himself.
So how does a hardened fighter cure a reluctant bride's cold feet?
● He starts with flowers. A wedding can't have too many flowers. Or harps. Or cakes.
● He lets her know she'll make a beautiful, desirable bride—and tries not to picture her as his.
● He doesn't kiss her.
● If he kisses her, he definitely doesn't kiss her again.
● When all else fails, he puts her in a stunning gown. And vows not to be nearby when the gown comes off.
● And no matter what—he doesn't fall in disastrous, hopeless love with the one woman he can never call his own.
Trigger warning: this is an ED book.
Ms. Dare's Castles Ever After series, as I said in my minireview of Romancing the Duke, has a phenomenal premise. Rich, well-meaning old man dies and leaves several of his goddaughters honest-to-god CASTLES in his will. Because little girls all want to be princesses, right? And in fact, the main characters are all the kind of women who could really do with fairy tale.
Clio Whitmore has been dubbed Miss Waitmore, as her fiance of eight years is nowhere in sight. Now with her lovely castle in Kent to fix up, Clio decides to break off the engagement to be an independent woman. Problem - the marquess' brother Rafe is determined the marriage must go on. Even if the brutal prizefighter needs to plan the thing himself.
This premise is hilarious. Rafe doesn't know the first thing of planning weddings so he brings along Bruiser, his fight promoter, as a sort of dumber David Tutera. He buys up a whole greenhouse of flowers, every cake in London, and dozens of dresses to throw at Clio until she feels the whole "perfect bride" thing. Except Clio's had that little taste of freedom and she's not throwing it away, even for chocolate.
I loved Clio so much, even though her tragic back story up there in the trigger warning was difficult for me. She is so smart and driven. Not only does she decide to become independent and run the castle on her own, she's turned her lessons on how to be a marchioness into plans to run a brewery - complete with growing hops in the village and aging casks in the dungeon. When Rafe asks if she's breaking off the engagement for someone else, she tell him yes. Herself. Brava, Clio. Also she locks annoying relatives on the other side of a portcullis, so basically I'm planning a spring wedding for the two of us.
Rafe's very alpha and tropey and it worked for me because I thought Clio played off him well, but I understand he won't for others. He's a big mean boxer who doesn't need no woman giving him a hard time; even in the big HEA he's presumptuous of Clio's wants and needs. But there's a deep softness to his character, too. I liked him.
Tessa's doing something for the almost non-existent diversity in the genre. I wish it was more, but I can see and appreciate the effort. The ton are lily white, of course, but there is a minor side character of color, a former boxer/pub owner from Jamaica. He needed more than a handful of lines. Clio's sister is autistic and treated very sensitively by the story. As an allistic person, I can't say how good the representation is, but I did really appreciate the touch.
In all, I found this to be a strong romance with characters who had depths. The plot got a little messy once the marquess returned from the continent and I could have done with a few less pushy monologues from Rafe, but any book which features a good food fight? Pretty darn tasty.