Monday, February 27, 2017

Say Yes to the Marquess - Tessa Dare (Avon - Jan 2015)

Series: Castles Ever After (Book 2)

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.

Fun book. Clio became engaged to Piers when she was seventeen, and deemed too young to take up duties as a diplomat's wife. But she never expected her engagement to last eight years. She's tired of waiting for a man who obviously doesn't really want her. Having just inherited a castle, she's decided to break her engagement and make a life on her own terms. The only thing stopping her is her fiancé's brother.

Rafe has made a name for himself as a prizefighter, a life he prefers to the one he was born into. Since his father's death has been stuck overseeing the family's affairs, while his brother is off doing his thing. One of those charges has been to watch over Clio and provide what she needs. When he discovers that she wants out of the engagement, he is determined to change her mind.

I liked both Clio and Rafe. Both of them had definite ideas of what they wanted out of their lives. They had the confidence they needed to pursue those dreams. But they also had issues that prevented them from believing in their ability to be loved. Clio has had the misfortune (in her eyes) to be built on the curvier side. This feeling was exacerbated by her mother's attitude and determination to make Clio fit her ideals. Having her fiancé put off their wedding for so long doesn't help. Once Clio decides she has had enough, she goes full steam ahead with her plans to take up residence in her castle and start a brewery as a way to support herself. But she needs her dowry to fund it, and to get it she must end her engagement, which is why she contacts Rafe. She needs him, as his brother's representative, to sign the release papers.

Rafe has never felt like he fit in with his family. He never did well in school, and the frustration added to his temper problems, getting him kicked out of school. He had no support from his father, who after years of putting him down finally kicked him out. The only way Rafe had to survive was to become a fighter, so he became a great one. He was a champion until he was defeated in a brutal match up. Now he's determined to make a come-back, but the distraction of dealing with Clio isn't helping. He has spent so long feeling like a failure to his family, that he refuses to let Clio dump his brother. He's determined to show her that she really wants to marry Piers.

The attraction between Clio and Rafe is obvious from the minute she confronts him for his signature, but both try to resist it. Clio is determined to show Rafe that marrying Piers is a bad idea, and he is equally determined to convince her it's a good one. All the time that they are trying to prove their points, the feelings between them continue to grow. There are some really funny moments as Rafe goes over the top in his attempts, ending in a cake fight between them. There are also some really sweet moments, as the connection between the two of them becomes clear. I loved the way that Clio sees the vulnerable man under prizefighter's surface. There are still signs of the boy who just wanted the love and respect of his father. I loved seeing her bring out that softer side. For his part, Rafe saw Clio for the beautiful and intelligent woman that she was. I loved how his attraction to her helped her see herself through his eyes. I also loved his astonishment and respect when she finally got him to listen to her plans for the brewery. It was great to see them finally realize that they belonged together, no matter what others tried to tell them. There were still a couple obstacles to get over, but that was managed pretty quickly. I loved Rafe's big moment at the end.

I also enjoyed the underlying theme of family. Clio's relationships with her sisters were good, but definitely had their challenges. Daphne was so much like their mother that it affected Clio's ability to just come out and announce that she didn't want to marry Piers. Daphne can be quite the bulldozer, and never actually listened to what Clio was trying to say. Her husband was really annoying and I loved when Rafe punched him. I liked Phoebe. She is honest and quirky and obviously loves Clio. I would like to see her get her own story in the future, as I'm sure her abilities could create some interesting situations. Rafe's relationships with his father and brother were heartbreaking at times. I never did like his father from all the things that came out about him. Piers irritated me because of the way he kept Clio hanging for so long, and then expected her to fall in with his plans when he finally showed up. Rafe had been determined to protect Piers's engagement because of his own guilty feelings over the death of their father. But he also wants out of having to do Piers's job as marquess, because he feels so out of place doing it. He also feels guilty over the fact that he has wanted Clio as his own for years. I liked seeing them start to repair their relationship at the end.

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