A Lady by Midnight

by Tessa Dare

4 Star Review

Oh Corporal, My Corporal

A Lady by Midnight by Tessa Dare

Reviewed:   September 3, 2012

Genre:   Historical Romance

Series:   Spindle Cove, Book 3

Rating:   4  Stars

Length:   384 Pages

Formats:   Print, eBook

Disclosures:   An ARC of this book was provided by Avon Books publisher HarperCollins Publishers via Edelweiss.

This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.

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What I Read...

Kate Taylor loves her life in Spindle Cove, a place that offers her a home and friendship and allows her to make a living doing something she loves, unhindered by the birthmark that mars her face. Still, she yearns to know who she is, where she came from, and has only brief, elusive memories of her past before her time at Margate School for Girls.

She thinks she was loved, once, and still has hope that she will be again.

Though not, quite obviously, by the brooding and severe Corporal Thorne, who has, in his time at Spindle Cove, done nothing but prove to her time and again that he holds her in no kind regard. Imagine her surprise, then, when it is the dour Corporal who not only saves her from a bad turn, but steps forward when strangers show up in Spindle Cove claiming to be her kin. And insists he is her fiancé.

Corporal Thorne hasn't lived an easy life, but he takes his responsibilities seriously. One of his most important responsibilities is protecting the women of Spindle Cove. Especially this one woman. That's the only reason he claims Miss Taylor has agreed to wed him.

Not that he doesn't personally care for the woman, as she believes. His feelings are quite the opposite, but Thorne knows Miss Taylor deserves far, far better than a thief, a convict, and a battle-scarred warrior such as himself. He would lay down his life for any of those under his protection. But for Miss Taylor, he's already traded his future. He did so a long, long time ago.

That she doesn't remember is a blessing. That she will never know is a necessity. Now he just has to keep reminding himself that every moment their pretend engagement keeps her by his side.

What I Thought...

This third installment of my favorite historical romance series came as a bit of a surprise. It's absolutely as well written and as full of rich, memorable characters as I've come to expect from the talented Tessa Dare, but it has a more serious tone than its predecessors and a more traditional (relative to the series) pair of main characters and storyline.

Dare set up this relationship between Kate and Thorne quite nicely in the second book of the series, and I was looking forward to seeing how the characters would develop once they were given their own story. I've liked both of them since their initial introduction in the series premiere, especially Kate, but this book quickly became all about Thorne for me. I adored him for all his taciturn self-sacrifice and quiet dedication.

I loved the backstory between them. It was as interesting and original as it was unexpected. And I couldn't help but hurt for everything Thorne has lived through since they were children. It certainly explained a lot about his personality. And my goodness, some of his revelations to Kate about their past together were horrifying and heartbreaking. How could I not love the man who was no more than a boy when he risked so much for so little?

Their relationship arc provided a solid read, but I have to admit, this wasn't my favorite book in the series. Not only did I miss the witty banter and sardonic humor that set apart the first two books and gave me lots of laugh-out-loud moments, but Thorne was such a somber character for so long, certain of his lack of worth, that there were a couple of scenes between him and Kate that got a little depressing.

I was also confused by the description of Kate's birthmark in this book. I thought I remembered it being described as almost fully covering one side of her face in the first book, but in this one it's described as a heart-shaped mark at her temple. It's entirely possible I mis-remembered, and I don't have the first book to go back and check, but the impression was there and it created a seeming lack of continuity that bothered me.

The sudden arrival of Kate's long-lost and alleged family seemed a little convenient, timing-wise, but I have to admit, I thoroughly enjoyed all of them as secondary characters. Harry, and the deft handling of her passionate proclivities, was particularly delightful. While perhaps there was a lack of historical authenticity in how her relationship with Ames was portrayed and accepted by her family, historical authenticity has never been a series bailiwick, and I appreciated it for its very existence.

I liked Kate and Thorne together very much. Their romance arc was full of emotion and the characters passionately appealing. I melted a little every time Thorne referred to her as Katie. Thorne's character seemed to have a greater depth and dimension with a more complex personal history than Kate's did, but each personal trait and every story element fit together just right to create the perfect tapestry of two people who were destined, really, to find joy with each other.

Though not my favorite book of the three, this is a solidly entertaining installment of an absolutely beloved series. I'm not sure what's to come next from Tessa Dare, but it's my sincerest hope that her readers (okay, namely me) get a chance to return to Spindle Cove soon.

Happy Reading! ~ Tracy

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