C2’s review of Do You Want to Start a Scandal (Castles Ever After, Book 4 & Spindle Cove, Book 5) by Tessa Dare
Historical romance published by Avon 27 Sep 16
Who doesn’t like a good scandal?? Most people find them ever so enjoyable – when viewed from afar, at least. When you’re at the center of a scandal, I’m sure it is less entertaining. And Miss Charlotte Highwood agrees. Charlotte is the heroine of Do You Want to Start a Scandal, of course. Ah, Faithful Reader, you know I love me some Tessa Dare books, so I was ever so excited to read her latest.
It all starts in the library of the Parkhurst estate during a house party. Charlotte has tracked her prey there in hopes of preventing the scandal she knows her matchmaking mama is trying to set up. Mrs. Highwood wants all of her daughters well married and settled and Charlotte is the last unmarried daughter. The highest ranking nobleman attending the house party is Piers Brandon, Lord Granville – a marquess, don’t you know! Of course, Mrs. Highwood sets her sights on him as the best potential husband for Charlotte.
Since Charlotte knows exactly how her mother’s mind works, she sets out to catch Piers alone so she can fill him in on the situation and explain how she will prevent the trap from springing – she has plans, you see. She and her best friend want to do a Grand Tour and plan on using the house party to show the Parkhursts how responsible she can be so they won’t be afraid to let their daughter travel with her. Charlotte has already been embroiled in a small scandal in London, you see – and through no fault of her own – so her reputation could use some polishing.
Unfortunately, before she can explain her plan to Piers, an unknown couple choose the library for a trysting spot. Thanks to Piers’ quick reflexes, they manage to hide behind some curtains during the encounter (AWKWARD) and think they are going to manage to escape the situation scandal-free…until the youngest Parkhurst spots them together and starts yelling about murder (he also heard the trysting couple and didn’t understand the sounds for what they were. *ahem*). Ever the gentleman, Piers assures his host (who came running when his son started yelling) that he will do the right thing and marry Charlotte. His only condition is that they don’t immediately announce the engagement, since that will kick off a scandal and they are trying to avoid that.
Charlotte decides that they can avoid marrying if they figure out who the other couple was and get them to come forward. Piers is skeptical. Who’s gonna admit to something like that, right? Also, he has other things to take care of – like the real reason he’s attending the house party at all. Piers is a SPY! He’s been sent to check into Lord Parkhurst, who is under consideration for a post in Australia – if he checks out and isn’t blackmail-able, etc. Piers is distracted, though. He did not expect to find someone like Charlotte at a country house party.
Ah, Faithful Reader…this is a sweet story. Piers is determined that they will marry – even though he doesn’t think he is capable of loving anyone and isn’t sure he is lovable. And Charlotte is determined to find a way out of their situation so she can go on with her plans…but Piers is hard to resist. The story is enjoyable and flows very nicely.
A few quibbles…the little boy and his insistence on MURDERRRRR! was unnecessary. The plot would have flowed along without him (without a ripple, even). And the hostile Parkhurst daughter…why so hateful?? I don’t remember any explanation. I mean, certainly some people are just mean, but usually there is an attempt at explanation. Also, I wish Charlotte’s friend had been fleshed out a bit more. At first I thought she and Piers’ “valet” might have a secondary romance plot or spin-off novella, but nope (although, I suppose the novella might still be a possibility). Still, if my only complaints are about supporting characters, I’m really reaching.
I love the Spindle Cove books (apparently this crosses over with the Castles Ever After series, but someone needs to jar my horrible memory on the connection…I’m sure it’s very obvious and I’ll be all “OF COURSE!”) and this is a fine addition to an excellent series. Is it my favorite? No – A Week to be Wicked is my very favorite. But that doesn’t take anything away from this book. If you haven’t read anything by Tessa Dare, WHY NOT?? Consistently good books with fun characters!
So, does this book stand alone? You know, it actually does. Will you get more out of it if you read Charlotte’s sisters’ books? YES, absolutely (A Week to be Wicked and Beauty and the Blacksmith, FYI). And I recommend all of the Spindle Cove series, obviously. BUT, if you really aren’t sure you want to commit like that, this book is a good way to get your feet wet with Ms. Dare’s writing. Try it!
On the night of the Parkhurst ball, someone had a scandalous tryst in the library.
Was it Lord Canby, with the maid, on the divan? Or Miss Fairchild, with a rake, against the wall? Perhaps the butler did it.
All Charlotte Highwood knows is this: it wasn’t her. But rumors to the contrary are buzzing. Unless she can discover the lovers’ true identity, she’ll be forced to marry Piers Brandon, Lord Granville–the coldest, most arrogantly handsome gentleman she’s ever had the misfortune to embrace. When it comes to emotion, the man hasn’t got a clue.
But as they set about finding the mystery lovers, Piers reveals a few secrets of his own. The oh-so-proper marquess can pick locks, land punches, tease with sly wit . . . and melt a woman’s knees with a single kiss. The only thing he guards more fiercely than Charlotte’s safety is the truth about his dark past.
Their passion is intense. The danger is real. Soon Charlotte’s feeling torn. Will she risk all to prove her innocence? Or surrender it to a man who’s sworn to never love?
Other books in the series: