Reviewed: September 1, 2012
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Spindle Cove, Book 2
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Length: 372 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
Though Minerva Highwood loves her sisters and suffers her mother, she can't embrace the sort of life they lead. She is happy only when her nose is buried in a book, or when she's off by herself, studying the rocks and fossils that thrill the geologist in her. She's a brainy bluestocking who wants nothing more than to be respected for her intellect and acknowledged for her discoveries.
She cannot, however, abide the thought of her beloved sister marrying the town rogue. In exchange for leaving her sister alone, she offers Lord Payne a deal. It's brilliant, really, and mutually beneficial. Instead of wedding Diana, he can run away with her. They can make it look like an elopement. If he accompanies her to Edinburgh to help her present her recent findings at the upcoming symposium for the Royal Geological Society, she will give him the five hundred guineas that she's sure to win for best presentation. Any ensuing ruin to her reputation is a personal price she's willing to pay.
Payne wants nothing more than to get out of Spindle Cove, but even he has his limits, and Miss Highwood has definitely exceeded them with her outlandish scheme. That's even assuming he could do what she asked, which he can't. The symposium is less than two weeks away and travelling would be problematic given his restrictions - restrictions he's loathe to explain in detail.
He may be a rake, and his reputation may be suspect at best, but even he has honor, and he refuses to ruin an innocent lady in such a callous way. Still, Minerva is intent and leaves him with exactly two choices, indulge her harebrained scheme until she begs off the journey and scurries back home, or become the worst sort of cad, letting her traipse off into the wide world all alone. That is really no choice at all, and he resigns himself to do what he can to look after her.
But neither his tattered honor nor his best intentions may be enough to help him ignore the passionate nature he starts to see peeking out at him from behind Minerva's spectacles now that she's slipped beyond the shadows of propriety. Heaven help them both.
My first visit to Spindle Cove secured my appreciation for author Tessa Dare. The delightful blend of sardonic humor, romance, and story in that series debut helped it become my favorite historical romance of the year and one of my favorites of all time. I was anxiously looking forward to continuing the series with this book, but I was trepidatious, too, as it's so rare in a series to have the same level of spectacular fun for two books in a row.
I needn't have worried.
Though this book as a whole wasn't quite as totally thrilling and all-encompassing in it's pleasure to read (only by a slim margin), the main characters Minerva and Colin, their evolving relationship, and their adventurous journey far exceeded my expectations and provided several hours of sublime enjoyment.
I loved Minerva for all her intelligence and strength, her honesty and her unabashed curiosity. She's guileless and true, and even with her insecurities she's forthright. She is truly a sharp character, and I adored how she took Colin to task on all manner of things when necessary. She never backed down, often initiating volleys of verbal warfare, keeping him on his toes. I even liked the bit of intellectual elitism she displays once or twice, and appreciated how she uses her intellect to shield her most tender feelings.
Colin ended up being even more of a delight to me than I had anticipated. I was expecting a fairly pedestrian if well-written transformation from rogue to dedicated hero, but what I got was a remarkably complex personality with some startling issues and a slow journey towards self confidence. Charming, yes. The man is definitely a charming rogue, seeming one with all the personal depth of puddle at the beginning, and Colin uses that charm like Minerva uses her intellect, both as a shield and a bludgeon.
We know of Colin's issues with sleeping alone from the first book. In this one we find out exactly from whence those issues sprung, and it is tragic. He is also a man dangerously close to the edge, living life day to day to quiet the rumblings of self-loathing and jaded cynicism that have him in his clutches. He is someone who has mostly given up the idea of being a truly good man because though his heart is often in the right place, his actions tend to blow up on him and anyone else in his vicinity.
He's a bit of a chameleon, actually, and easily adapts to every situation in which he finds himself, often in the most outlandish ways. He's one of those people who can be a friend to all but truly known by very, very few. And he's a little touchy about feeling worthy of Minerva's affections. All these wonderful, juicy layers to his character are slowly peeled away and displayed throughout the arc of the story and it provided much more depth and sweeping emotion to their romance than I was expecting.
Together, Min and Colin are simply fabulous. The banter between them was superb. Then their journey started and the relationship they began cobbling together becomes something remarkable. It's almost a begrudging friendship at first, growing warmer and warmer through familiarity and helped along by a wealth of inside jokes and tender moments. Along the way we see both characters grow and mature, finding their joys in themselves as well as each other.
As far as romances go, the one between Minerva and Colin was one of the best I've read for the depth and dimension given to their relationship. These two people truly learn each other, then truly feel for each other, for who they are at their core. It startled me a little, actually. There was such complexity in their relationship, so much knowing and accepting of their core selves, that it hit me just how rare that is in romance fiction.
I wasn't as enamored with the scenes from Spindle Cove that are sporadically interspersed between the chapters of Minerva and Colin's road trip. As much as I love that town with all its quirky charm and unique characters, those scenes were more a distraction than a benefit. I appreciate that they set the foundation for the romance between Kate and Thorne for the next book, but they just seemed an unnecessary disruption in this one.
For ardent fans of absolute historical authenticity in regency romance, I would caution readers this may not be the book or the series for you. The dialogue is more conversational and relaxed, and the plot is a bit out there. On the other hand, if you prefer your historical romance heavily sprinkled with humor, don't mind a lack of stiff-upper-lipness, and are hit by waves of spontaneous lust when you hear mathematical terminology, then I would suggest booking a trip to Spindle Cove as soon as possible. Like me, you'll fit right in.
"My name is Minerva. I'm not your pet. And you're deranged if you think I'd ever marry you."
"But I thought you just said-"
"Run away with you, yes. Marry you?" She made an incredulous noise in her throat. "Please."
He blinked at her.
"I can see you're baffled.""Oh, good. I would have admitted as much, but I know what pleasure you take in pointing out my intellectual shortcomings."
"How could you be certain of winning the prize?"
"I'll win. I could explain my findings to you in detail, but a great many polysyllabic words would be involved. I'm not sure you're up to them just now."
"Oh no. Oh God. I couldn't possibly be so stupid."
"Don't limit yourself. You can be anything you wish."
"At least Sir Alisdair would remember my name."
"Perhaps." He closed the distance between them, standing so near his chest grazed her breasts. "But could he kiss you so hard, you forget it?"
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