Publication Date: September 27, 2016
Series or Standalone: Castles Ever After #4 & Spindle Cove #5
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
CW: Discussion of suicide; bullying
Do You Want To Scandal brings together two of my favorite Tessa Dare series: Spindle Cove and Castles Ever After. I originally read this book right when it was published and recently reread it as part of the But Do They Bang? Readalong. I somehow forgot a lot of the major plot points. Overall, I liked this one, but the ending stopped me from loving it.
Charlotte Highwood, dubbed the “Desperate Debutante,” thanks to her mother’s actions, plans to confront Piers Brandon, the Marquess of Granville, to protect him from being trapped in his mother’s traps at the Parkhurst Ball. As she talks to him in the library, the two of them are forced to hide as a pair of lovers decide to have a tryst in the same location. However, everyone thinks they are the lovers, and Piers and Charlotte will be forced to marry unless they can prove otherwise. As they work to uncover the identity of the library lovers, Charlotte begins to see behind Piers’ cold exterior and needs to fight the burgeoning sparks between them.
The plot is a lot of fun as I love a good mystery woven into my historical romance novels. The stakes are fairly high since Piers and Charlotte will be forced to marry if they don’t unveil the mysterious lovers. It felt fitting that Charlotte and Piers would be the couple with a mystery at the center of their book. We’ve seen hints of Charlotte’s mystery-solving skills in previous books in Spindle Cove (most notably in Beauty and the Blacksmith), and we know Piers served as a spy in the Home Office while he was away from Clio for all those years in Say Yes to the Marquess. If anyone can uncover the mysterious lovers, it would be these two.
The mystery fit well into the romantic plot of this book as it kept Piers and Charlotte in each other’s orbit. The more time they spend together, the more we get to see the attraction between them. While they fixate on why they’re both wrong for each other, they cannot stay away from each other. I loved that Piers and Charlotte could laugh at each other, even in the romantic scenes. Also, I appreciated that the first time they made love was not all sunshine and daisies. It wasn’t a perfect, wonderful moment, and that’s okay because it isn’t always perfect in real life. There was genuine passion and love between them when they were together. And then Piers had to be an idiot towards the end of the book. I won’t spoil what happens, but suffice to say, he did something incredibly dishonest that ends up hurting Charlotte emotionally. I wish Dare gave him more of a redemption arc as I felt like he was forgiven for his actions too quickly and then went off on their happily ever after.
Charlotte makes this book for me. I’ve always thought the youngest Highwood sister was so funny and interesting in previous books. She’s just such a genuinely likable person who sees the good in others even when they treat her horribly because of her mother’s persistence in finding her a good match. I love how much she cares for her friends and family, even when they’re not perfect. I think that’s why she’s a good match for Piers. She understands him deeper level than anyone else in his life and doesn’t judge him harshly for his flaws. She’s incredibly kind and empathic.
I enjoyed getting to know Piers more, especially as my perception of him is a bit skewed. If you’ve read Say Yes to the Marquess, you know a bit about Piers, but it’s biased as it came from Clio’s point of view. Dare managed to reshape readers’ perception of him and bring more depth to him as a character, which helped justify his actions towards Clio to an extent. I was shocked to find him funny after what we knew of him from Say Yes to the Marquess. He does have some secret pain in his past related to his mother, something his brother Rafe wouldn’t remember because it happened so young. Dare can do a hero with secret pain well, but I felt like it was thrown in a bit like an afterthought with Piers and would have liked a little more exploration of how it affected him. Building that out a bit more would also help justify his actions a bit at the end of the book.
In true Tessa Dare style, this book also brings the laughs. Little Edmund brings a lot of levity to certain scenes, with him constantly accusing Piers of murder because he doesn’t realize what he heard in the library was passion. I also LOVE the scene with Charlotte and her mother featuring a peach and an aubergine. I’m sure you can imagine where that is going.
I love how this book bridges two of my favorite series from Dare, but the ending left me wanting a bit more from the book. However, it’s still worth a read as Charlotte really makes this story for me, and it’s great to see cameos from some of my favorite characters in both series.