Tessa Dare’s Castles Ever After series perches on the premise that each heroine inherits a castle. As one does. Her latest book, When a Scot Ties the Knot, offers an introverted (seriously, she makes me look outgoing) heroine who’s received a castle under false pretenses–that she’ll soon be marrying a Scottish captain, which is why she simply cannot make her debut in London society. But the heroine made the hero up, confronted with the reality of having to be in public, in a group, and not panic. Armed with that subterfuge, she embarks on doing what she really wants to — illustrating wildlife, living in her cozy Scottish castle. So naturally she’s somewhat surprised when the captain from her letters shows up at her castle, wearing a kilt and with a posse of ex-soldiers who served under his command. Here’s the blurb:
On the cusp of her first London season, Miss Madeline Gracechurch was shy, pretty, and talented with a drawing pencil, but hopelessly awkward with gentlemen. She was certain to be a dismal failure on the London marriage mart. So Maddie did what generations of shy, awkward young ladies have done: she invented a sweetheart.
A Scottish sweetheart. One who was handsome and honorable and devoted to her, but conveniently never around. Maddie poured her heart into writing the imaginary Captain MacKenzie letter after letter . . . and by pretending to be devastated when he was (not really) killed in battle, she managed to avoid the pressures of London society entirely.
Until years later, when this kilted Highland lover of her imaginings shows up in the flesh. The real Captain Logan MacKenzie arrives on her doorstep—handsome as anything, but not entirely honorable. He’s wounded, jaded, in possession of her letters . . . and ready to make good on every promise Maddie never expected to keep.
This book toys with so many romance conventions, and it is delightful to watch Tessa take those tropes and toss them in the air like confetti. First off is that there are no ‘does he/she know or not?’ moments. As soon as Madeline and Logan are alone, they acknowledge that 1) she made him up 2) he received the letters and 3) he is here to take advantage of the situation she created.
Then there is the courtship. Logan wants to have sex with Madeline, because he’s a man attracted to a lovely young woman (who doesn’t know she’s lovely), but he doesn’t muddle it up with romantic feelings until he actually has — and the reader believes he has — fallen in love with her. THANK YOU, Tessa! Madeline understands she is prone to romantic feelings, but she doesn’t just hide them; she tells Logan that she might accidentally become fond of him because she is that way, and he isn’t doing anything to disabuse her of the notion.
This is the ultimate slap in the face to the Big Misunderstanding book. There are no misunderstandings here (well, there IS one, but it’s not BIG).
It’s easy to see this as Jamie from Outlander fanfic (tall gorgeous Scottish hero wearing a kilt? Sending her off to where he thinks she wants to be? A verra verra smooth tongue?), and those elements exist in the book, but to read it solely as that is to do it a disservice (a sexy disservice, but a disservice nonetheless). This is so much more. It’s got everything delicious you want from a historical romance. It’s one of those books you want to go buttonhole complete strangers and advise them to read. It’s one of those books you can’t WAIT to dive back into, but you don’t want to ever end.