For the past eight years, Miss Clio Whitmore has waited – first patiently, then not-so-patiently – for her fiancé, Piers Brandon the Marquess of Granville, to return to England and set a wedding date. Finally determined to live her own life, Clio sets out to end the engagement. Doing so, however, requires the signature of Piers’ brother, Rafe. Clio is adamant to end the engagement; Rafe is just as adamant that the engagement go forward, for his own (admittedly selfish) reasons. A former champion prizefighter, Rafe wants nothing more to go back to his life of winning fights and not caring about polite society. But with Clio threatening those plans, he’ll do whatever it takes to make her wedding happen, even if he has to plan it himself.
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. Rafe’s trainer, promoter and erstwhile valet, Bruiser (*ahem* sorry, Bruno Aberforth Montague….Esquire) gets some of the best lines while attempting to plan a society wedding with the help of Clio’s fashion-obsessed and status-conscious sister, Daphne. (Clio’s other sister, Phoebe, is much too busy being a mathematical savant to care much about the wedding one way or another.)
As usual, Dare has created wonderfully well-rounded, imperfect and flawed characters that capture a reader’s attention. Clio is, in my mind, the best part of Say Yes to the Marquess. As a young woman finally coming into her own and learning to stand up for herself and her own desires, Clio is easy to relate to and root for. She’s loyal, kind and goodhearted, but with a hidden backbone that keeps her focused on her own goals, instead of someone else’s. I especially loved how she took her less-than-ideal upbringing (all those lessons!) and turned into a real talent and skill that she could capitalize on as a young woman of means. She managed to turn unhappy memories into opportunity. For his part, Rafe is honest and honorable – in some cases to a fault – and he does protest a few too many times about his unworthiness. But Dare does an admirable job of showing his struggle to find his own way in the world. In this respect, Rafe and Clio are perfectly well matched, and poor Piers never had a chance.
Dare excels at setting a scene in her novels (I’m still convinced Spindle Cove is a real place I might visit one day) and Say Yes to the Marquess is no exception. From Clio’s old but well-kept castle – complete with portcullis, handy for keeping out aggravating sisters – to the chapter in which she lovely described a host of delicious perfect cakes, it’s easy to get lost in her world and imagine yourself in Kent during the spring. And, as mentioned throughout this post, the secondary characters are hardly secondary at all – from Bruiser and an old, unfortunate dog to Clio’s very different sisters, Dare brings every character to life. (Except, perhaps for Piers, but since he’s absent most of the novel, we’ll let him off the hook.)
Say Yes to the Marquess is another fabulous, romantic adventure from Tessa Dare. Even if, like Clio (and me!), you’d be perfectly happy with a “good enough” wedding in the middle of the field, you’ll still enjoy the amusing, heartwarming, ultimately foolish attempts at wedding planning as Rafe and Clio find their way to love. Plus, there’s cake! Things are always better with cake.
Disclosure: I received an advanced copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
[Photo Credit: Goodreads]