but I have read and thoroughly enjoyed her entire Spindle Cove series
Reviewed in the United States on 3 February 2015
I am a Tessa Dare fan, and I thought that this was one of my favorites of hers. I have not read the first book in this series, but I have read and thoroughly enjoyed her entire Spindle Cove series. There are plenty of summaries available in the reviews and description of the book, so I won't bother with that again. The gist of it is that a young woman, betrothed to an absentee marquess, falls in love with his brother instead. In the meantime, she has inherited a castle, and has finally come to realize that she wants a future without marriage to the marquess, which requires that she turn to the brother to sign papers dissolving the engagement and freeing up her dowry for her own use. Her dream is to open a brewery on the castle property. Now, whether the legalities of that hold up, I have no idea. Would a woman at that time get to just keep her dowry upon breaking a long-standing engagement? Whatever the case, I really enjoyed the heroine as she has taken a very long time to get to where she is emotionally - she has had to overcome a lot, including a mother who pushed her towards starvation out of a belief that she needed to be skinnier to be appealing to her husband, a sister who quickly picked up the mantle, another sister who it appears has a form of Asperger's, the gossip of the ton concerning her long engagement, and all of her own ensuing insecurities.
The hero was also very interesting and likeable, with plenty of his own issues to overcome, including a bad relationship with father, an overly competitive relationship with his brother, a love for fighting illegal fights, and what was probably a reading disorder and/or ADHD, undiagnosed and untreated. Despite being a "prizefighter", the hero had a real tender streak, that a series of meaningless affairs never allowed him to express. Finally, with the heroine, despite her engagement to the brother, he can be himself.
I enjoyed many aspects of the story, but like many romances, the ending came about all too quickly, in which numerous issues and challenges were all neatly tied up and resolved in just a few pages. Partly, this is an issue with the genre, but I thought that the conflict with the brother just seemed to get resolved a little too easily. It would have been more believable if the brother had come home and broke the engagement himself before she even got a chance to talk. Spoiler alert - that did not happen.
One aspect of this story I enjoyed was that the hero was actually very romantic. This is sometimes missing in romance novels, which seem to do well with the big, brooding hero, but rarely does he turn out to be an actual romantic.
I enjoyed many of the supporting characters, as well, and this is definitely perfectly fine to read as a stand alone book. I do, however, plan to read the first book in the series now.