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.
Clio Whitmore was a patient woman. Engaged at the tender age of 17 to Lord Piers Brandon, the future Marquess of Granville, she agreed a long engagement would be for the best since she had no knowledge of how to run a diplomat’s household. She was content to be the dutiful bride-to-be. But as the years passed, she went from belle of the ball to a running joke, having bets placed on potential wedding dates and being referred to as Ms. “Waitmore”. When she inherits a castle of her very own from her Uncle Humphrey, Clio decides she’s done waiting. Only one thing stands in the way of her moving on with her life– her engagement. With Piers out of the country, she has to convince his younger brother, Rafe, to sign the dissolution papers.
Rafe Brandon turned his back on polite society at the age of twenty-one to become a champion prizefighter. Years later, he lost his title and his father. With his brother still out of the country, the management of the Granville properties falls on his massive shoulders. Rafe wants nothing more than to make a comeback and reclaim the prizefighting title he lost, but he can’t do that until Piers returns to England. When Clio arrives in his warehouse wanting him to sign dissolution papers on his brother’s behalf, Rafe refuses and takes it upon himself to plan her wedding in the hopes she will change her mind.
When Rafe arrives at her castle, they come to an agreement: Clio must participate in the wedding plans, selecting flowers, dresses, cakes and music. In return, if at the end of the week she still does not want to marry Piers, he will sign the dissolution papers. But the more time Rafe spends with Clio, the more he is reminded of the girl he once knew.
The girl needs finishing.
That had been the common wisdom, back when the engagement was first announced. While Piers sailed for India to launch his diplomatic career, Clio was meant to remain in London for “finishing.” Rafe didn’t know what the devil “finishing” meant, but he knew he didn’t like it. Within a few years, she’d been finished indeed. Everything remotely unique or spirited about her had been scrubbed off, pinned back, or drill straight out of her demeanor.
So he’d thought.
But apparently, the old Clio was still in there somewhere—the Clio he’d rather liked, before the dragons had taken her in their clutches and stifled her with ten coats of lacquer.
The Clio he had no right to be admiring now.
Without a doubt, Rafe is perhaps one of the most swoon-worthy heroes I’ve read in quite some time. The man takes romantic gestures to a whole new level. Of course, it’s under the guise of wedding planning, but at the end of the day, he wants Clio to be happy. And if his brother is the man to make her happy, then so be it. Clio is just as fantastic. Knowing the castle will be expensive to maintain and her money will last only so long, she plans to turn her castle into a brewery. She’s a proper Englishwoman who knows her beer! Throw in a bulldog who likes wedding cake, a socially awkward, yet brilliant younger sister and a fight promoter with a quizzing glass, you have in my opinion the greatest cast of supporting characters that I’ve read in any of Tessa Dare’s novels. Add to that a lot of laughs, a few tears and some steamy love scenes with our dirty talking hero, and you end up with what I consider to be my absolute favorite of all of Tessa Dare’s books.