Series: Spindle Cove, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars
Length: 372 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle
Disclosure: I received an ARC of this book through the Amazon Vine program at Amazon.com. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.
As a singularly unique woman with definite ideas on a woman's place in society, Susanna Finch is ahead of her time. She's spent several years molding her corner of the world to suit her, and the small seaside town of Spindle Cove has fallen nicely in line with her ambitions and her goals. It's been transformed into a haven for women of unique thought and temperament. Gifted, special, or otherwise socially unfavorable women like Susanna, a highly intelligent bluestocking with a sharp mind and sharper tongue, are not only welcome there, they are celebrated. And Susanna will fight tooth and nail to make sure the sanctuary she's created remains undisturbed. And almost completely free of men.
Lieutenant Colonel Victor Bramwell has come to Spindle Cove for one reason and one reason alone. To get the famous inventor and respected military adviser Sir Lewis Finch to petition his contacts in London and request Bramwell be returned to his military command. A shot in the knee and months of recovery had knocked him out of the war against France, but being a warrior for the crown was all he knew, all his father knew, and no lingering limp and a bit of pain was going to take him from that world. Not if he has anything to say about it.
As it turns out, he doesn't. Sir Lewis has another position in mind for young Bramwell. Before he can begin to wrap his mind around what's happening, Bram has been given a ruined castle and bestowed the title of Earl of Rycliff. Sir Lewis tasks him with forming a militia in Spindle Cove on behalf of the crown, and to have it ready for display maneuvers in time for the visiting dignitaries and generals who will be visiting in a few months.
To say Bram is a little overwhelmed and a bit disgruntled would be an understatement...but that pales in comparison to the onslaught of one seriously annoyed and mightily offended Susanna Finch, Sir Lewis' daughter. Sir Lewis' delectable, beautiful, more-irritating-than-Bram-can-say daughter.
Feeling betrayed by her father in light of recent developments, she's even more put out by what the new Lord Rycliff intends to do. Spindle Cove is a female retreat, a sanctuary, a Utopian paradise! If she has to she will go toe-to-toe with Bram over each and every one of his plans to wrest control of the town out of the hands of the women who need it, curse the man. Curse the tall, fearsomely handsome, fabulously masculine man!
I loved this book! I had such a great time reading it. I adored the story, which had just enough weight and depth to be memorable and just enough sizzle to be sexy. Liberally laced with humor, something I always appreciate in a read, the narrative was highly engaging. I laughed out loud more than once while I was reading and I lost track of the number of times I broke out into giggles. I thought the main characters were fabulous - even when they were so frustrating I wanted to throttle them both - and the secondary characters were wonderfully quirky and peculiar. In fact, the entire cast of characters was so robust and vibrant that they shined on the pages.
Is it historically authentic? I'm not historically-aware enough to say whether it is or not. My guess would be no. It's certainly not stiff, starched, and upper-crusty, that's for sure. While it points out some of the inequities for women in that time (and don't even get me started on the medical practices - sheesh), it doesn't focus on them, and Spindle Cove is sort of geared towards thumbing a nose at those inequities. So no, it's probably not realistic in that regard. And I couldn't possibly care less. It's fun. It's funny. It's - at times - poignant and touching. It even, once or twice, takes a more serious turn with a more ominous tone. Overall, it was just a fabulously entertaining read that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Susanna and Bram were great. Both were a little...odd. Though I'm all about woman-power, some of Susanna's feminist ideology circa 1813 was, frankly, a little terrifying. Some of Bram's intentions and plans for the men of the town were fairly horrifying. Together they were a picture of gritty determination and unwavering resolution, as well as being full of life, pride, and purpose. The sparks they struck off each other were hot, sparkly, and delightful to watch explode. Dare struck the perfect chord with their interactions and the chemistry between them. Some of the best between two lead characters I've read recently.
It wasn't, however, all fun and games. I loved that each character had deep scars and several lingering nightmares from dark moments in their past that have molded them into who they are. I was enchanted by how completely out of his element Bram feels with Susanna and how hard he fights the attraction, and how flustered Susanna is by Bram and the disconcerting emotions and need she feels for him. I adored how vulnerable they both are together, and how, eventually, they each become the other's strength.
Dare impressed me with the fully developed backstory and personal histories that were thoroughly fleshed out and woven into the main character definitions, making both of them believable and realistic in what was happening. It's not often I read something so well balanced between such a myriad of conflicting emotions, intentions, dreams, and plans. Certainly not one that is crafted as well as this book is. Just about everything about it worked for me from cover to cover.
One of my favorite things is reading a book I love, then finding out it's the first in a series. For a reading addict like myself, that's like...coming into a personal supply of fictional crack. Such good news! I don't know that I've read anything by Tessa Dare, before. I know that at the very least, I haven't in the past couple of years. I've definitely been missing out. I have no intention of continuing to do so. I'm anxiously awaiting the return to Spindle Cove in the next book. No way I'm missing that.
"It cannot be thunder," Minerva said.
"No. No, it's not thunder. It's...an atmospheric phenomenon, brought on by intermittent gusts of..."
"Sheep!" Charlotte cried, pointing down the lane.
A flock of deranged, woolly beasts stormed through the ancient stone arch and poured into the village, funneling down the lane and bearing down on them.
"Oh, yes," Susanna muttered. "Precisely so. Intermittent gusts of sheep."
She lay in the shallows, tracing lazy circles with her arms while foamy waves lapped at her breasts.
Milk-white breasts, just the perfect size for his hands. Tipped with pert, rosy nipples.
Focus on something else, you addled fool.
How predictable. Just like a man. Here she'd been worried he was dead, and he had the nerve to be alive. Outrageously, manifestly virile and strong and alive. How dare he. How dare he?
"I have to offer for you. I have to offer for you, or I can't live with myself."
"You have offered." Tilting her head, she gestured loosely between them. "In some way that involves no declaration of sentiment or actual posing of questions, you've offered to wed me in haste, bed me with enthusiasm, and then leave me alone to deal with speculation and scandal, all so you can go throw yourself in front of another bullet with a clear conscience. Please accept my polite refusal. My lord."
"How is it you've never married?"
"It's an easy enough thing. Every morning I wake up, go about my day, and return to bed at night without having recited marriage vows. After several years, I have the trick of it down."
"Ah, so you're scared."
"I'm not scared."
"Of course you are. You're human. We're all scared, every last one of us. Afraid of life, of love, of dying. Maybe marching in neat rows all day distracts you from the truth of it. But when the sun goes down? We're all just stumbling through the darkness, trying to outlast another night."