Tessa Dare

Books: Romance | Historical 

How to Catch a Wild Viscount (2009)

Spindle Cove: A Week to Be Wicked (2012)

Girl Meets Duke: The Duchess Deal (2017), The Governess Game (2018), The Wallflower Wager (2019)

How to Catch a Wild Viscount (2009)

How-to-Catch-a-Wild-ViscountThis story is currently free, and for that price it wasn't a bad story. But I can't say it was my thing, either.

Cecily Hale has been in love with Luke for years, but after Luke came back from war, he's a changed man who seemingly wants nothing to do with Cecily.


Spindle Cove

A Week to Be Wicked (2012)

Set in England in Scotland in the early 1800s.

Colin Sandhurst, Lord Payne is a dissolute rake. His cousin is trying to reform him, but it's not working particularly well, and in a few months, Colin will have access to his own funds when he comes of age.

Minerva Highwood loves geology. Specifically, she loves rocks and stones of all sorts. And right now she wants more than anything to go to Scotland, to participate in a symposium by the Royal Geological Society of Edinburgh.

Diana and Charlotte will do well for themselves, but Minerva? Plain, bookish, distracted, awkward with gentlemen. In a word, hopeless.

The words of her own mother, in a recent letter to their cousin. To make it worse, Minerva hadn't discovered this description by snooping through private correspondence. Oh, no. She'd transcribed the words herself, penning them at Mama's dictation.

She also doesn't want Lord Payne to marry her older sister, Diana. So she figures she can offer him 500 pounds that she'll win at the symposium, to take her to Scotland. What could go wrong?

I quite liked both characters.

"Jesus," he finally managed, pushing water off his face. "Jesus Christ and John the Baptist. For that matter, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John." Still not enough. He needed to reach back to the Old Testament for this. "Obadiah. Nebuchadnezzar. Methuselah and Job."

"I have eyes like . . . like diamonds?"

"Not real diamonds. Bristol diamonds."

"What are Bristol diamonds?"

"They're a kind of rock formation. On the outside, they look like ordinary pebbles. Round, brownish gray. But when you crack them open, inside they're filled with crystals in a hundred different shades."

I really liked Minerva. She was a scientist, through and through, and you easily believed it. She acted in ways that were sensible to her, but not to society, but she didn't care.

"Perhaps that's because sleeping on a bed of flowers and ribbons sounds delightful and romantic. Whereas sharing one's bed with a primeval sea snail sounds disgusting."

Her jaw firmed. "You're welcome to sleep on the floor."

"Did I say disgusting? I meant enchanting. I've always wanted to go to bed with a primeval sea snail."

"Yes, yes. I understand. It's a logarithm."

Her head whipped up. She adjusted her spectacles and stared at him.

"You know," he said, "this design begins to appeal to me after all. Sea slugs aren't the least bit arousing, but logarithms . . . I've always thought that word sounded splendidly naughty." He let it roll off his tongue with ribald inflection. "Logarithm." He gave an exaggerated shiver. "Ooh. Yes and thank you and may I have some more."

"Lots of mathematical terms sound that way. I think it's because they were all coined by men. 'Hypotenuse' is downright lewd."

" 'Quadrilateral' brings rather carnal images to mind."

She was silent for a long time. Then one of her dark eyebrows arched. "Not so many as 'rhombus.' "

The one issue I had was that I wasn't expecting it to be a silly and somewhat ridiculous book. It's not that I dislike silly and ridiculous, it's just that wasn't what I was expecting, so the ridiculousness caught me off guard and changed the story midway through. Once I realized everything was going to be over the top, I adjusted my expectations, but it was initially jarring.

That said, it was still very well done and quite fun.

Publisher: Avon

Rating: 7.5/10

Girl Meets Duke

The Duchess Deal (2017)

Set in England in the early 1800s

The Duke of Ashford is in need of an heir.

"If I died tomorrow, everything would go to my cousin. He is an irredeemable prat. I didn't go to the Continent, fight to preserve England from tyranny, and survive this"— he gestured at his face—" only to come home and watch my tenants' lives crumble to ruins. And that means those laws of primogeniture— since I don't intend to overturn them— require me to marry and sire a son."

That right there redeems most everything rude and awful the duke does and says.

"Only one act is required on your part. You must permit me to visit your bed. I'm well aware of my distasteful appearance. You need not fear any crude or lascivious attentions from my quarter. All encounters will be as dignified as possible. No lights, no kissing. And of course, once you are pregnant with my heir, we will be done."

Emma Gladstone is a vicar's daughter working as a seamstress after being thrown out by her father six years before. She needs money to survive, but has standards.

"I will not be your mistress. My body is not for let."

"That can't be entirely true. You're a seamstress, aren't you? Your fingers are for let."

"If you don't know the difference between a woman's fingers and her womb, I would definitely not share a bed with you."

I like a lot about this book. Ash is scarred from war. He's a good man who worries about his tennants. Emma is strong-willed and unwilling to be cowed. Both have been hurt by their pasts. Both are flawed. But each tries to listen to the other, and understand their past hurts and protect them from future harm.

But I especially liked the dialog.

"And now I must ask you to leave. I need to be getting home."

"We can accomplish both those things at once. I'll take you home. My carriage is just outside."

"Thank you, I prefer to walk."

"More convenient still. My feet are even closer than the carriage."

It's modern, but it's not completely over-the-top and feels like the author translating the dialog of the time into modern cant rather than pasting historical settings upon a modern story.

But mostly it's fun, and I'm a sucker for good dialog.

There is a lot of boinking in this story, much of which I could have done without, although some of the boinking related directly to Ash and Emma working out their difference and misunderstandings.

This is possibly the most generic cover, unrelated to the content, I've seen in awhile. I don't think the publisher was even trying. It's possible the man on the cover could be Ash, showing only his unscarred side. Except that the light shining through the window on his bad side is something he wouldn't allow. Especially while disrobed. I suppose this is supposed to be a scene from the end of the book, but… bleh.

All in all it was a fun story that I enjoyed because of the dialog and the situation the characters.

Publisher: Avon

Rating: 7/10

The Governess Game (2018)

Set in England in the early 1800s

Alexandra Mountbatten has been struggling to make a living tending clocks, but a mishap sees her taking a position as governess to the wards of Chase Reynaud, one of the most notorious rakes in London.

Her friends have opinions.

"It doesn't matter whether he recalled me or not. I'll be looking after his wards. I will scarcely see him."

"Oh, you will see him," Penny said. "Especially if you go wandering about the house at night. Try the library first."

"Lock yourself in your room," Nicola countered. "I'll make you a deadbolt."

Chase never meant to become heir, and has no interest in keeping his line going. But he inherited two young girls when he became the heir, and he needs someone to educate them.

The girls are the best part of the story, and how you quickly see that despite his reputation, Chase is truly a good guy.

"Almighty Father," he began in a dispirited tone, "we commit to your keeping the soul of Millicent. Ashes to ashes. Sawdust to sawdust. She was a doll of few words and yet fewer autonomous movements, yet she will be remembered for the ever-present— some might say permanently painted— smile on her face. By the grace of our Redeemer, we know she will be resurrected, perhaps as soon as luncheon." He added under his breath, "Unfortunately."

Even if the girls try his patience abominably.

Daisy gave him a sweet, innocent look. "But we don't have a governess at the moment."

He groaned. "Don't tell me the new one quit. I only hired her yesterday."

Rosamund said proudly, "We were rid of her in seventeen and a quarter hours. A new record."


Chase strode to the world map on the wall and plucked a tack from the border. "There." He stabbed an unsuspecting country at random, then pointed at it with authority.

"I am sending you to boarding school there. Enjoy"— he squinted at the map—" Malta."

The other thing that I LOVED was this bit that popped up out of nowhere.

Take the manananggal."


"Manananggal." Alex made her voice dark and mysterious. "She's a lady vampire who can cut herself in two. Her legs remain rooted in the ground like a tree stump, and the rest of her flies out into the night. Her intestines unwind like a string behind her, and she goes hunting for mothers and their children.

I love folklore.

I also appreciate the bits that are slipped in.

"What did he do?" He must have caught the tense note in her voice. "Tell me."

"It was mostly just leering," she whispered. "A pinch or two. You know, the usual."

"The usual?"

"The usual for him. Chase, it was years ago.

Some things never change.

As I said, the girls were the heart of the story. There was more boinking than I prefer, but I really liked that Alex wanted to be an astronomer and was the smarter of the two.

Publisher: Avon

Rating: 7/10

The Wallflower Wager (2019)

The Wallflower WagerLady Penelope Campion is all but a recluse, hiding in her family home and collecting abandoned animals.

As a person who wanted to like everyone, it hurt to know that not everyone liked her in return.

Her new neighbor is Gabriel Duke, the so-called Duke of Ruin, who has clawed his was from the gutters to wealth, by taking advantage of the foolishness of and ignorance of the titled and wealthy. He also has no time for foolishness–he just wants to make a profit on the house he bought, repaired, and is selling.

"If the sandwiches are so revolting, why are you eating more of them?"

"Because I'm hungry, and I don't waste food. Unlike you and your friends, I never had the luxury of being choosy."

He tore off half the sandwich with a resentful bite. As a boy on the streets, he would have begged for the scraps she threw her dog. In the workhouse, on the two days a week they were given meat, he'd sucked the gristle and marrow from every last bone.

This woman— no, this lady— could fill her dinner table until it creaked beneath the weight of roasts, joints of mutton, game fowl, lobster. Instead, she ate this. On purpose.

The thought made him viscerally, irrationally angry.

If you read the previous two books, you are familiar with Penny's sandwiches. Her vegetarian options to meat.

"Are you asking my honest opinion?"

"But of course."

"They're revolting." He swallowed with reluctance. "All of them."

"I like them. My friends like them."

"No, they don't. Your friends find your sandwiches revolting, too. They just don't want to tell you so, because they're afraid of hurting your feelings."

How did I feel about this story? It's complicated. There is sexual assault of a child in this story. There are discussions of abject poverty of the time and how that affected children. Both are a hard things to deal with, so it feels as if to offset the horribleness of that, the rest of the book is at times over-the-top silly and ridiculous.

"The housekeeper? Don't start in on that nonsense again."

"I tell you, she's unnatural. I don't know if she's a ghost, a witch, a demon, or something worse. But that woman is of the Devil."


Startled, both Gabe and Hammond wheeled around. There stood Mrs. Burns. Even Gabe had to admit, these sudden appearances were growing unsettling.

Hammond raised his fingers in the shape of a cross. "I rebuke thee."

It's not that humor is bad in a story, but following something serious and deep with a light-hearted quip feels as if it weakens the importance of the serious parts.

I also had minor issues with the Big Misunderstanding and its resolution. The Big Misunderstanding felt just tacked on, as if there had to be some blow-up, when there really didn't need to be–there was more than enough drama with The Revelations and then the arrival of her brother. Everything is Up and Down and Up and Down–it felt as if both characters needed more time to process their problems and everything that had happened.

All-in-all, it was a fun and enjoyable story, but I'm also glad I borrowed it from the library rather than paying for it, because I didn't love it.

Publisher: Avon

Rating: 6/10