Review: Say Yes To The Marquess by Tessa Dare

Title Say Yes to the Marquess
Author Tessa Dare
Published December 30th, 2014 by Avon
Pages 384 Pages
Intended Target Audience Adult
Genre & Keywords Historical Romance,
Part of a Series? Yes (Book 2 in the Castles Ever After series)
Source & Format Received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher for review (Thanks, Harper Collins!), eBook
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChapters

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.

“A dream with one snag. Piers had a new but promising career in foreign diplomacy, and Clio was rather young to assume the duties of managing a household. They had all the time in the world, he pointed out. She didn’t mind a long engagement, did she?
“Of course not,” she’d said.
Looking back, perhaps she should have given a different answer. Such as “Define ‘long’.”

It all seemed like something out of a fairytale. Acting upon the wishes of their respective families, at the tender age of seventeen Miss Clio Whitmore became affianced to the heir to the Granville fortune, Lord Piers Brandon. After an eight year engagement with no foreseeable end in sight, however, Clio’s proposal is beginning to seem less like a dream and more like an interminable nightmare. In the ensuing years, Clio has become an object of public ridicule and dubbed ‘Miss Wait-More’ by her peers, who take delight in making wagers as to when, or more precisely if, her long-awaited nuptials will occur. Determined to salvage her good name and wait no longer, Clio seeks a dissolution of the engagement. There’s only one problem. While the death of her uncle and the castle that was bequeathed to her provide Clio with the sense of purpose and independence she has always sought, Clio will need the support of Piers’ younger brother, Rafe, to dissolve the marriage. Known more simply as ‘The Devil’s Own’, Lord Rafe Brandon’s talent in the boxing ring is rivalled only by that in the bedroom. Scheduled for a re-match against his greatest opponent, Jack Dubose. upon which both his reputation and England’s largest purse are at stake, Rafe will need the proper rest, nourishment and focus in order to succeed. What he doesn’t need, however, are distractions and, for Rafe, there is no greater distraction than Miss Clio Whitmore herself. The perfect embodiment of sweetness, decorum and gentility, Clio represents everything Rafe detests about the polite society he has always eschewed and has fought to dismantle since the age of twenty-one. So, when Clio arrives and informs Rafe that she intends to break off her engagement to his brother and requires his signature and permission to do so, Rafe is understandably shocked and upset. After all, without the marriage to entice him home, Piers will have no reason to return to England, and Rafe will be left to act as Marquess in his brother’s stead, a prospect he absolutely can’t abide. Rafe vows to salvage Clio and Piers’ relationship, even if it means planning the wedding himself, and will use everything at his disposal to do so, including exquisite displays of flowers, instrumentalists, cake, and even an elderly bulldog, to do so. As their week together draws to a close, however, which two will be the ones saying “I do”?

“Oh, she’d tried to laugh away the rumours and smile at the jokes, but inside…
Inside, she was hurting. And utterly alone.
Well, that all ended today. Starting this moment, she was Miss Wait-No-Longer.”

Pop! Goes The Reader is a blog that focuses predominantly on middle grade and young adult fiction and as such I rarely have the opportunity to touch upon another of my passions, historical romance. From the work of Sarah MacLean to Manda Collins, Courtney Milan to Zoe Archer, I have long adored this genre but was never sure what, if any, place it had on the blog. Quite fittingly, the last time I reviewed one such book on Pop! Goes The Reader was this time last year, when I reviewed the first in Tessa Dare’s new Castles Ever After series, Romancing The Duke. Today, much to my equal pleasure and delight, I will once again be revieiwng another work of Ms. Dare’s and the second novel in the aforementioned series, Say Yes To The Marquess. There’s something to be said for a book that simply make you feel good. A book that will make you smile until your cheeks ache. A book that will make you laugh aloud unashamedly, even in the most crowded of rooms. A book that you seek out after a long day at work or when curled up in bed, nursing a cold that just won’t go away. No-one – and I mean absolutely no-one – writes these sort of books better than Tessa Dare. While I didn’t adore the second instalment in this series quite as much as its predecessor, Dare remains one of my favourite authors in this or any genre, whose work I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to those familiar with the historical romance genre or those looking to dip their toes into its unfamiliar waters for the first time. With her now-trademark combination of wit, humour, sensuality and female empowerment, Tessa Dare proves that you can, in fact, have your cake and eat it too in this new, irresistible friends-to-lovers romance that readers won’t be able to resist devouring in a single sitting.

“As usual, his thoughts were three paces ahead of his judgement. The image erupted in his mind’s eye, as unbidden as it was vivid. Clio, breathless. Naked. Under him. Stripped of all her good manners and inhibitions. Begging him to learn her every secret shade of pink.
Rafe blinked hard. Then he took that mental image and filed it away under Pleasant-Sounding Impossibilities. Right between ‘flying carriage’ and ‘beer fountain’.”

The eldest of three daughters, Clio Whitmore was born to a good, solid, dependable family and was impeccably bred from birth to make an advantageous marriage, one prosperous enough to compensate for her two younger sisters’ assortment of shortcomings and oddities. All that changes, however, when her prolonged engagement and separation from Piers allow her the opportunity to reevaluate her life. Unbeknownst to anyone, Clio wishes to use her extensive education for far more than idle drawing room conversation. Her inheritance of Twill Castle, left to her by her uncle, allows Clio a measure of financial security and independence previously unknown to her. Most importantly of all, it provides her with a long sought-after sense of purpose. Prior to this inheritance, Clio was merely waiting for her life to begin, biding her time until Piers returned from his diplomatic duties overseas. In the present, however, Clio has devised a scheme to convert portions of the castle into a brewery, utilizing the local resources to establish a financially-stable future for herself. Lord Rafe Brandon is the son of a marquess who long ago turned his back on the pretensions and pomposity of the aristocracy and polite society. More interested in the intricacies of fisticuffs than finances, Rafe’s chosen occupation of prizefighting is a point of contention in his family and has had him labeled a disgrace and a disappointment by his father, whose approval he often sought, but never truly achieved. When Clio makes a sudden reappearance back in his life, Rafe is in the process of preparing for his return to prizefighting after a devastating and much-publicized loss. Suddenly, Rafe can feel everything that he has worked so hard for, and that has given his life meaning, slipping through his fingers. If Piers does not return to England to marry Clio, Rafe will be left in charge of the Granville estate in his stead and forced to continue to shoulder the mantle of Marquess. Despite outward appearances, the two have a great deal more in common than initially meets the eye. Both are plagued by insecurities and have their fair share of obstacles to overcome before either can achieve their happily ever after, as individuals or as a couple.

“Then there’s my secret weapon.” With a glance in either direction, he pulled out a small brass object from his pocket. “Picked up this little beauty in a pawnbroker’s.”
Rafe looked at it. “A quizzing glass. Really.”
“I’m telling you, these things scream upper crust. You should get one, Rafe. No, I mean it. Someone talks over your head? Quizzing glass. Someone asks a question you can’t answer? Quizzing glass.”
“You honestly think a stupid monocle is all you need to blend in with the aristocracy?”
Bruiser raised the quizzing glass and peered at Rafe through the lens. Solemnly.
The idiot might be onto something.

As was the case with the prior book in the series, Romancing The Duke, I was faced with an overwhelming abundance of choice when it came time to choose a few select quotations to include in my review. Dare’s prose positively sparkles and never fails to delight with a bewitching combination of humour and eroticism that is all the author’s own. The dialogue is sharp and clever and moves the pace along at such a fast clip as to almost ensure that you will devour this novel in a single sitting. The secondary characters are equally delightful. From Piers’ portly, aged bulldog, Ellingworth, to Rafe’s enterprising friend and prizefight organizer, ‘Bruno Aberforth Montague Esquire’, née Bruiser, Dare’s supporting cast are just as charming as ever and threaten to steal every scene they are in, no more so than Clio’s youngest sister, Phoebe. While it’s unclear whether or not the author intended for Phoebe’s behaviour to be indicative of her placement on the autism spectrum, Phoebe’s strict adherence to rationality, her genius, ingenuity and generosity of spirit made her a thoroughly loveable character and one whose own story I would love to delve more deeply into, given the opportunity. One can only hope that Tessa Dare intends to dedicate an entire novel to this character who is sure to steal the hearts and minds of many. Best of all, while Say Yes To The Marquess is the second installation in Dare’s Castles Ever After series, the two books can be read independently of each other and in whichever order you prefer. To the best of my recollection there is no cross-over between the two books or anything else which might otherwise dissuade a reader from reading Say Yes To The Marquess first, should they so desire.

“They kissed tenderly. They kissed deeply.
They kissed as though it were right.
As though it made perfect sense. As if all the talking and not-talking and arguing and ignoring they’d done over the past eight years – no, so much longer than that – had all been entries on one long list of “Things We Do To Avoid Kissing”. And now that they’d reached the end of it, they had a great deal of lost time to make up.”

There’s always a palpable, bittersweet ache when I close the final page on a Tessa Dare novel. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the hero and heroine achieve their hard-won happily ever after but it’s immensely difficult to bid goodbye to the enchanting worlds this author creates and the pure, unadulterated joy that she infuses into each and every word. With each new release, the author reminds me why her novels are consistently among my favourites in this or any genre. Her effervescent wit, her searing sensuality, and her charming, three-dimensional characters never fail to nestle themselves firmly inside my heart and Say Yes To The Marquess is no exception. An irresistible combination of heart, heat, and hilarity, Dare’s latest is a solid second instalment in the Castles Ever After series and a must-read for those familiar with or entirely new to this genre and/or this series.

Please Note: All quotations included in this review have been taken from an advance reader copy and therefore might be subject to change.

Still not sure this is the right book for you? Why not listen to what some other bloggers had to say about it?

● Alice @ Harlequin Junkie wrote Say Yes to the Marquess is definitely a recommended read. Engaging characters, witty dialogue, and an emotional “friends to lovers” storyline is sure to keep your attention.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● May @ Smexy Books wrote “Though not a personal favorite among this author’s many great works, I definitely still recommend this one.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

● Meredith @ The Librarian Next Door wrote “The second book in the Castles Ever After series, Say Yes to the Marquess is yet another clever, funny, and delightful novel by Tessa Dare. Thanks to Rafe’s madcap scheme to plan Clio’s wedding no matter her thoughts on the matter, the novel is filled with plenty of laugh-aloud moments with witty one-liners.” (Read the rest of the review Here!)

4 Responses

  1. I loved this book and your review of it. You’re right, Tessa Dare is definitely one of the best authors of this genre. But I also love Sarah MacLean! Have you read anything by Julia Quinn or Karen Hawkins? These four ladies are my favourites, they write funny, heartfelt novels and their heroines are always smart, never meek.
    Kaja recently posted…Why I Love FairytalesMy Profile

  2. I read this book a week or two ago, after reading Dare’s first book in the Castles Ever After series (because of your review from last year) and I loved it just as much as the first book. I loved the characters and dived head first. I understood Clio’s frustration about no-one taking her seriously when all she wanted to do is finally claim something for herself. And I loved Rafe and his sheer frustration with her not doing as he would expect and being so blind to so many things.

    It was such an enjoyable read and I’m so glad to see you’ve done a review on it because hopefully there will be some other blogger out there, like me, who is surprised to see a different review on your blog and will read it and have this book lingering around in their mind until they eventually buy it on a whim one day so someone new can fall in love with Dare’s writing.
    Becky @ A Fool’s Ingenuity recently posted…Fairytale Retellings 2015: Challenge 1My Profile

  3. I took the liberty of self-interpretation after reading your review, and decided that you were basically saying that I must purchase or borrow the books in this series. I hope I was correct in that? 😉 Seriously though, you make Say Yes to the Marquess sound utterly delightful. It’s been a while since I’ve read a historical romance and Tessa Dare’s new series sounds like just the ticket to draw me back into the fold.
    Alexa S. recently posted…“I have just met you, and I love you.”My Profile

  4. Oh my gosh, I’m so glad you enjoyed (and reviewed!) this book. I discovered Tessa Dare at the very end of 2013 when I read Romancing the Duke and I’ve been hooked ever since. I couldn’t agree more – there is something so wonderful about a book that just makes you feel good. And Dare’s books are that!

    I agree that this one wasn’t quite as wonderful as Romancing the Duke, but still just a joy to read. I’ve never read anything by Manda Collins, but I’m going to look into her right now.

    I’m assuming you’ve read Julia Quinn. If not, I highly recommend her books – particularly her Bridgerton series.
    Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook recently posted…Book Haul #85My Profile

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Hi! I’m Jen! I’m a thirty-something introvert who loves nothing more than the cozy comfort of home and snuggling my two rescue cats, Pepper and Pancakes. I also enjoy running, jigsaw puzzles, baking and everything Disney. Few things bring me more joy than helping a reader find the right book for them!