My ridiculous love for Tessa Dare’s writing is no secret. I’ve rambled semi-coherently about her novellas on this blog and managed to extend my fanaticism into other awesome book blogs. That said, I still feel obligated to add a disclaimer to this review: I’m a fangirl, plain and simple, and this review of Say Yes to the Marquess isn’t so much a review as it is just me talking about why I enjoy reading Tessa Dare.
I’d been in a bit of a historical romance slump lately–one that started with a couple of Bridgerton novels and just kind of persisted through a few other books that I don’t think I’ll ever get around to reviewing. I was starting to feel sort of jaded and more than a little bored with historical romance. Some of it may have been the letdown after finishing up some amazing series (see MacLean; see also Milan) mixed in with more than a little Outlander withdrawal. Some of it I blame on my disastrous attempt to read 50 Shades of Grey (not historical romance, but it overshadowed a lot of what I read; more on that hot mess later). Some of it was maybe just my fickle reader mood. After getting my book-sister Heather’s permission to put down a few books that just weren’t doing it for me, I decided to pick up Say Yes to the Marquess and was immediately rewarded with exactly the kind of book that I needed at that moment. Call it a coincidence, but I like to think there’s something magical about a reader finding just the right book at just the right time.
Say Yes to the Marquess is the second installment in Dare’s Castles Ever After Series–a loosely tied together collection of novels with heroines who inherit castles, but have very little else in common. This novel is a substantial shift in focus from Romancing the Duke, but still carries with it Dare’s characteristic flair for romantic comedy, witty dialogue, and heartfelt romance.
Clio Whitmore is done waiting. After an eight-year engagement with a globe-trotting groom-to-be and no wedding date sight, she decides takes her future into her own hands. Her unshakeable dream to open a brewery with a recently inherited castle and end her commitment to Piers Brandon, the Marquess of Granville, puts her squarely in the path of Rafe Brandon, Piers’ younger brother. As the designated black sheep of the family, Rafe is appropriately dark, brooding, and hulking. He’s a prizefighter determined to win back his title, and the only thing standing in his way is one very determined Clio.
Yes, the plot is a little bit of a stretch: Rafe wants to make sure Clio marries Piers because he’s afraid if she doesn’t, Piers will flee the country again and leave Rafe with the responsibilities of the Marquessate…which he already has…kind of…that part was sort of unclear. BUT AT ANY RATE…Rafe is determined to make this marriage happen, which you can already tell is a recipe for romance and romantic strife. I use the word strife lightly, though. Dare’s writing is never heavy, and Say Yes is no exception. Although Clio and Rafe have a history, it’s not one dripping with angst; there’s just enough sexual tension and longing to keep things interesting and push the love story along. The hero and heroine are as likable as all of Dare’s protagonists, and like those men and women in her previous novels they’re just a little different. They’re so charming that I was even able to suspend my epic dislike of the fiance’s sibling romantic trope, mostly because the sibling in question was a) absent for almost the entire novel and b) left poor Clio on the line for 8 years (not cool, Piers).
I’ve read a handful of reviews on Goodreads for Say Yes that claim the novel is anachronistic and so outside of the historical norm as to be really a contemporary romance novel with corsets and petticoats. I take issue with those critiques, because one thing I’ve always loved about Dare’s writing is her ability to give us something beyond the steady streams of blushing ladies and man-about-town lords who frequent ballrooms and gentleman’s clubs.
Her Spindle Cove heroines were a riot of feminists, scientists, and oddballs, and her Castles Ever After ladies are no exception. I relish the change in setting from London to the countryside and find her quirky plotlines and characters to be a total breath of fresh air. What other novelist could take a pugilist, a budding brewer, an aging bulldog, awful relatives, and a bisexual fight promoter and throw them together into a story that just WORKS? Whenever I want to be completely immersed in regency manners and history I pick up an Austen novel. When I want a regency romance with humor, sex, and warmth, I pick up a Dare novel.
You should pick this one up, too (preferably with a lovely craft beer in your other hand).