Review: “When A Scot Ties the Knot” (Castles Ever After #3) by Tessa Dare

When A Scot Ties the Knot

Madeline Gracechurch has absolutely no desire to attend balls or find a husband. She would much rather stay home and spend time with her drawing pencils and letters while keeping her awkwardness around crowds under wraps. So in a moment of desperation, she invents a lovely romance with a charming, dedicated beau. To carry on with her deception, she sends letter after letter year after year to her beloved Captain MacKenzie. She writes to him about her life, her family, her thoughts, and fears. But all good things must come to an end, and after sending one last letter, she informs her family of his tragic death. Then she quietly retires to an inherited estate in the Scottish countryside to live a life of peace and quiet.

Little does she know, but her Captain Logan MacKenzie is a flesh and blood man, and he has received every single letter she’s ever written. Madeline is shocked when the handsome, virile, fictional man of her dreams suddenly shows up on her doorstep one afternoon. He’s not as honourable as she envisioned and is adamant that she owes him. He is also quite willing to use blackmail to get her to marry him so that he can gain the lands he needs to see his men settled and content.

By now, I’m sure my readers are aware that any book by Tessa Dare will get an adoring and mushy review from me. I love this author and every time I open one of her romances I find myself so entranced I just can not locate a place to stop. Which usually leads to all night reading binges where I end up bleary-eyed but content and in love with love the next morning.When a Scot Ties the Knot was no different. Swoon-worthy hero? Check. Intelligent, quirky heroine? Check. Well-developed secondary characters? Check. Sensual, steamy love scenes? Check, check, check.

I loved that there was both a sense of “history” and a getting to know you between this couple. Of course, Logan knows quite a bit about Madeline through her letters, but she has no idea how to reconcile the man before her with the hero of her fantasies. She gives him a hard time, and he gives it right back, although he never disrespects her. But they do slowly learn about each other. He figures out that she is an artist with a scientific mind and is interested in a career as an illustrator. She learns all about the hardships of the war and what led Logan to find her in the first place. He’s a reader with a need for companionship and family. She is shy and has extreme anxiety in crowds. He lends her strength, she gives him a home and together they worked beautifully.

I was sifting through my quotes trying to write this review and realised there were just so many beautiful moments in this romance I couldn’t possibly mention them all. So, this time, I’ll not put in any. But I’ll just talk about the one thing that had my heart all aflutter and left me sighing.  Logan and Madeline communicate with each other by setting up memories about things that they want to happen. While presented in the past tense, they are letting each other know their wants and desires in the present and for me, it was perfect.

My second favourite thing? That in the end, Logan urges Madeline to follow her dreams, even if that means that he must give her up.

I’m not sure that this is my absolute favourite Tessa Dare book, but it’s at the top of the list. A beautiful blend of humour, charm and sexiness that is sure to have fans of this author swooning with happiness.

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Review: “The One Plus One” by Jojo Moyes

The One Plus One

Rich is paying every single bill on time without thinking about it. Rich is being able to have a holiday or get through Christmas without having to borrow against January or February. Actually, rich would be just not thinking about money all the bloody time.

Jess is a single mother, struggling to make ends meet after her husband upped and left.  In a small English seaside town, she is trying to be both a role model and the best parent she can to her daughter and step-son, all the while working two low-end jobs only to, still, barely cover the bills. Her daughter, Tanzie, is a math prodigy, who solves complex equations all day with their huge dog, Norman, at her feet. Her teenage stepson, Nicky, is forever getting beaten up for expressing his individuality.

Then, a chance to turn their lives around presents itself when Tanzie’s math teacher mentions an upcoming Olympiad, all the way up in Aberdeen, with a generous prize for the winner, which will enable Tanzie to go to a good school. So Jess piles them all up in her husband’s barely-working Rolls Royce and starts driving to Scotland only to be stopped a few miles out of town for driving a car without insurance. Here, a relative stranger steps up and offers to drive them to their destination and thus starts a quite incredible and unexpected journey.

Why does Ed Nicholls, Jess’ boss, volunteer to drive an employee he doesn’t even know very well, plus her carsick daughter, moody stepson and flatulent dog, such a distance? Well, Ed has made a few bad decisions of late which has him facing a lot of trouble. Ed has just been done over by an unstable ex-lover. His family is expecting him for a very important lunch across the country. His ex-wife is plaguing him for more money. His lifelong friend and business partner won’t talk to him and Ed is about to be charged with insider trading.

Told from the shifting perspectives of Jess, Ed and the children, Moyes explores a number of issues facing modern western society today, such as the impact of bullying and antisocial behaviour, family breakdown, the slow erosion of community values and the increasing divide between the haves and the have-nots. In the given set up, it would have been easy and stereotypical to have a Mr. Rochester-Jane Eyre type relationship develop between Ed and Jess. Instead, Moyes paints her characters more like Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy–each equally sharp-witted and neither superior to the other, despite their finances.

Moyes has an unerring sense for the serious as well as for the ridiculous, and The One Plus One shimmers with both unyielding warmth and canny incisiveness. While it captures the desperation exposed by the chasm of income inequality and the horrific aspects of bullying, it also catches the more enchanting elements of life’s rich pageant, from “the magnificence of total strangers”   to that moment when someone first notices the relaxing effect they’re having on another person and experiences the joyful epiphany of realizing that they are exactly where they belong.

This was my first Jojo Moyes novel so I am not going to go on about how this was like (or better than) Me Before You. I will also not compare it to Little Miss Sunshine because that movie annoyed the hell out of me. But I will say that The One Plus One is one of those stories where everything that can go wrong does. But it makes the book all the more hilarious and heartbreaking. All in all, The One Plus One is a likable, not terribly memorable, but a far from simple-minded story.