Book Review: The Governess Game by Tessa Dare

Screen Shot 2018-08-29 at 9.20.52 AM.pngI tend to really enjoy Tessa Dare’s book: they make me giggle and her heroes tend to not get on my nerves. Moreover, I find that even when she follows a cliché predictable plot, she manages to almost always find a fresh take—normally by writing very memorable characters. However, for me, I found that this book missed the mark. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was fine, but it just wasn’t great.

This book (in case you couldn’t guess by the name) is your stereotypical governess-meets-rake romance. It stars Alexandra Mountbatten—who used to adjust the time on clocks but after her fixing instrument breaks takes the governess job out of desperation—and Chase Reynaud—a future duke with two young and rambunctious wards who has currently taken over the house’s housekeeping quarters to install a sexy time cave.

The book is absurdly predictable. Seriously, I don’t think there was even one creative plot twist or some attempt to distinguish it from the plethora of other governess romances. Thus, Dare relies heavily on a reader falling in love with both Alexandra and Chase. Which is easy to do: Alexandra is an amazing character with a spine of steel and an interesting background and Chase (while he takes some warming up to) is kind and funny. However, the real stars of the show are the secondary characters: Rosamund and Daisy (the two wards) with their doll funerals and kleptomaniac tendencies. And Alexandra’s friends—particularly Lady Penelope with her obsession with helping wounded animals and disgusting vegetarian sandwiches—are wonderful. However, despite the characters are lovely (not to mention many scenes that made me laugh out loud), I just couldn’t get over how almost lazy and uncreative the plot was. When I can guess essentially chapter-by-chapter what will happen a book just isn’t very interesting.

Of course, I’ve read hundreds of historical romances so one could argue I’m pretty jaded when it comes to plots. And this summer I’ve super-duper binged on them. Henceforth, this review is definitely harsher than it would have been if this was the very first governess-meets-rake romance I’d read. Or even the 10th. Therefore, despite my grips, I do recommend this book: it features wonderful characters and Tessa Dare’s trademark humor in spades. Moreover, it is definitely on the stronger end of governess and rake romances. I just can’t bring myself to characterize this book as a must read.

Rating: 3/5.

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Book Review: A Week to be Wicked

Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 9.10.03 PM.pngI absolutely love this book. It has everything: likable characters, a great plot, hilarious scenes, and visible chemistry. Tessa Dare is one of my favorite authors and she outdid herself with this book.

This book was actually one of the very first Regency romance novels I read—I just re-re-re-read it this past week.  I like to think of this book as a gateway drug to the addicting world of Dukes, ladies, and bastards that define the Regency genre.

The hero of this book is Lord Payne, a Viscount stuck in Spindle Cove at the mercy of his cousin who refuses to give him any money to return to London (where Payne can drink and sleep-a-round a lot). Lord Payne just has a few months left until he comes into his inheritance he can stop relying on his cousin (who by the way is a very decent fellow trying to get Payne on the straight and narrow). He is bored, restless, and absolutely desperate to leave.

Meanwhile, Minerva Highwood is also desperate to escape Spindle Cove—but just for a week so she can attend a geology symposium. After all, if she can just make it to the symposium, she can reveal the fossil of a great lizard footprint (in modern-day-we-know-science lingo a dinosaur) she found in a cave to the world! Oh, and win the sick 500 guinea prize for best research.

Minerva presents Lord Payne with a deal: If he can get her to the conference (in Scotland), she will give him the 500 guineas. The deal is set, and off Minerva and Lord Payne go!

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I want to applaud Dare on Lord Payne’s backstory. So often, authors use a bad childhood experience backstory to excuse and justify the terrible and selfish actions of heroes. Lord Payne wasn’t like that: he was very self-aware of his own flaws and strove to fix them even before he met Minerva. Dare does an amazing job of not falling into the typical “girl fixes bad boy” romance trope. Furthermore, other than their first interaction, Lord Payne always treats Minerva with the utmost respect.

Also… Lord Payne is just a really entertaining dude. He is super funny, considerate, and gets him and Minerva in the craziest situations. 10/10 would date.

But Minerva is the real gem of this book. Writing a good romance heroine is hard work and Dare executes Minerva’s character amazingly. Minerva is smart, stubborn, and dedicated—not to mention wildly courageous. Her dedication to her research is admirable, but her dedication to the people she loves is even more so.

With two amazing characters, and a plotline set up for success, Dare delivers on witty banter, scenes that leave you giggling out loud, and actual investment in the story.

Also, this quote exists:

“Surely it can’t be,” he said, his hand stealing over her thigh, “that this intrepid explorer of underwater caverns hasn’t explored her own little cove?” 

That quote, no joke, make me laugh for a solid five minutes. I don’t know how Minerva continued hooking up with him after that. That would have killed the mood so hard.

Rating: 4.8/5