Do You Want to Start a Scandal? by Tessa Dare

This review contains minor spoilers and plot details from the second half of the book.

First Impressions
I read this book in about two hours in a doctor’s waiting room, and I was charmed by the romance and the characters. But there were a few niggling details that kept me from giving it a five star rating when I added it to Goodreads, and I wanted some time and space to really think about it.  But I liked this book a lot–Tessa Dare is one of my favorite authors and the fact that this book isn’t perfect doesn’t change that.

Characters & Romance
Piers and Charlotte are both characters we’ve seen before if you’ve read the earlier Spindle Cove novels, and Book #2 in Castles Ever After, Say Yes to the Marquess. Charlotte was much more familiar, having been in most of the Spindle Cove books, while Piers felt a bit more distant. He only shows up about halfway to two-thirds of the way through Say Yes, and is the older brother to the hero, Rafe.

Charlotte is impulsive and clever to a point, but she’s selfish. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but in a way that any twenty-year-old might be. She’s slightly self-absorbed as well.  In this story, she has a best friend and a mother on hand the entire book but there’s no point in which she confides in either of them. In fact, Delia Parkhurst is a one note cipher. Towards the end, when she and Charlotte argue, it doesn’t bother me. I’ve seen no evidence that their friendship is more than superficial. Charlotte wants to go on the Grand Tour with Delia, and Delia’s sister Frances is a major bitch. That’s it.

Piers also suffers from the lack of supporting characters. There’s no one for him to play against other than his valet and Charlotte.  There’s a brief (too brief) scene with Rafe, and some exploration of his past, but Piers doesn’t get as much of the backstory exploration as his brother got in his book, so that’s a shame. There’s some of that usual hero can’t love, can’t trust love trope you see in romances, which comes close to insufferable, but doesn’t quite go over the edge.

That being said, because of the self-contained nature of the plot, these two sparkle when they’re together. They’re charming, they’re clever together and apart. I like them as people together, which is helpful.

There are two reasons why I can’t say this book is a five-star amazing read. One is the lack of supporting cast. The story is self-contained in a house party, but only Piers and Charlotte are three-dimensional. It’s not until much later, when Charlotte’s sisters show up that we get some more character development.

The second is the way the plot and the romance are resolved. Charlotte and Piers are basically framed and forced into a betrothal because someone had a tryst in the same room where they had been conversing. They hide, but a child overhears the amorous sounds and it spirals out of control. Piers is there to investigate Delia’s father for the government because Sir Vernon is being vetted for a government post. He’s happy to divert attention to their supposed scandal.

And then towards the end, he does something that actively destroys Charlotte’s reputation in the eyes of the other guests and damages her friendship with Delia (though this bothers me less). He sets fire to her room when she’s with him, so it will be clear that she was not in her room. He does this, in part, to prove a point to her that he’s not capable of love.

And Charlotte gets angry. And walks away. Because she absolutely should.

And then she goes back because…it was wrong to walk away? To prove him right? I’m not sure I get it or like it, and it hurts the end.

Also, there’s a nonsensical resolution to the identity of the couple who actually trysted in the library, and after Charlotte gets poisoned, that’s an accident. I’m don’t know. The entire last twenty percent of the book just doesn’t work for me. The more I think about it, the less I think enjoyed it.

That being said, the majority of the book is amazing and I love Piers and Charlotte right up until the end. And that’s worth a lot to me. It’s probably more like a 3.5 rating rather than a full four, but I’m rounding up because it was a good way to spend two annoying hours in a waiting room.

Series Connections
I would have loved to spend more time with Rafe, but COLIN was here. You guys, COLIN! From A Week to be Wicked, my favorite Tessa Dare novel. I would have loved to have him in the book more, maybe to interact more with Piers, but you guys, COLIN.

Genre: Regency England
Series: Castles Ever After, Spindle Cove |

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