Do You Want to Start a Scandal
By Tessa Dare
Release Date: September 27, 2016
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?
How much do I love this book? Let me count the ways. The many, many, many, many, many ways! First, there's the beginning - one of the funniest I can ever remember reading. Charlotte Highwood, youngest and only unmarried daughter of a mama determined to see her daughters all settled in the best possible circumstances, hasn't the slightest interest in marriage. Charlotte has other plans. Plans with her best friend that don't include a man. Plans that have brought them all to her friend's family estate for a house party where Charlotte's mother has her sights set on Piers Brandon, the Marquess of Granville as a husband for her daughter and Charlotte is determined to block her mother at every turn.
Block number one occurs soon after their arrival when Charlotte runs Piers - a man she's never met - to ground in the library to inform him that she's not the least bit interested in marrying him. You can imagine his reaction. Only you might be surprised. Unfortunately, before she can leave, they're interrupted by an amorous couple seeking to use the library for a sexual tryst. Fortunately, Charlotte and Piers manage to hide from view until the unknown couple leaves the room. Unfortunately, someone overhears the tryst, misunderstands the noises, and, thinking Charlotte and Piers are the guilty couple, repeats the sounds heard (in front of everyone) in one of the funniest scenes I've read in a long time. No spoilers but a fair warning to all readers: don't have anything in your mouth when you reach page 38. In fact, you probably don't want to drink anything during the entire first chapter. It's laugh-out-loud funny - as is much of the book. But don't be misled into thinking this is all humor and no substance. Dare expertly balances humor with emotion to give the reader an all-encompassing journey that will elicit tears, laughter, heartwarming joy, and, if you're like me, probably a hot flash or two.
The end result of the hilarious first chapter is a "compromised" and betrothed couple, a hero who is more than he seems, a heroine who, unlike her mother, has zero interest in landing a marquess, and a mystery Charlotte is determined to solve. Add in a reluctant attraction that grows with each encounter throughout the book, our adorably charming heroine, a sigh-worthy hero with a wonderfully dry wit who isn't afraid of fighting for the woman he wants, a hilarious "witness" keeping an eye on our couple's activities, a birds and bees lecture that has forever changed the way I view certain fruits, and a deeply sensual, heart-tugging journey to love and you have not only one of Tessa Dare's best books but one of the most enjoyable stories I've read in a very long time. The first time through, I grinned from cover to cover while devouring the book in one sitting. The next two times, I went slower, savoring each word while fully absorbing - and appreciating -Dare's humor, passion, heart-felt romance, and superb storytelling. I adored this couple and their story. Even though I've read the book three times, every time I think of certain scenes or dialog (and I think of them often) all I want to do is open the front cover and start all over again. That, my friends, is the sign of an exceptional book.
This book ties together two of Dare's series: Spindle Cove and Castles Ever After. If you've read those series, you'll have fun catching up with favorite characters from previous books. However, this book stands quite well on its own without the backstory provided in the earlier books. If you haven't read Tessa Dare yet, Do You Want to Start a Scandal would be an excellent place to begin.