Katie and Funmbi review When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare, Book #3 in the Castles Ever After series, now available in bookstores and retailers.
[Some Spoilers; For Mature Audiences]
Katie’s rating: 4 of 5 stars
I had been waiting for this book to come out for months! I adore this series, Castles Ever After, by Tessa Dare. They’re all separate stories, so you can read any of them, in any order. This one was fantastic!
I tend to skim through highlights sometimes to see what kind of book I’m getting into, and as soon as I saw this line:
“We’re just getting acquainted, mo chridhe. But believe me when I tell you that I’m nothing you ever wanted and worse than you could have dreamed.”
I knew I was going to be hooked.
At the beginning, you’re introduced to Miss Madeline Gracechurch. You see, along with being a wonderful artist, she’s also an expert in the field of imaginary suitors. At sixteen, she decided it would be much better to write letters to a generically named man in the Scottish Army and pretend he was her fiancé than actually allow herself to look for a future husband. Everyone seemed to buy her story right away and patiently waited for her Captain MacKenzie to come home from war and make good on his proposal. Of course, his letters back to her always proved his existence, and somehow Madeline saved herself from the horrors of a London debut season.
As time went on, the story got harder to maintain. Where was Captain MacKenzie, and why were his letters so sporadic? Her family was secure. She had nieces and nephews to dote on. She was well on the shelf. Finally, one day, after keeping her secret going for five years, she killed off her poor fiancé. Madeline doesn’t do anything halfway either. She went into mourning, wearing black then going to grey.
Publically, she was absolutely devastated. So much so, that she couldn’t attend any balls or go out into society at all. She gracefully slipped away to a castle in Scotland left to her by a relative that wanted her and her future husband to have a home in his place of birth. Inwardly, she had won! No marriage to a man she didn’t love, no one to stop her from pursuing her love of drawing and learning, no one to require her to be in social settings at all. Madeline was in heaven. She was selling her nature drawings, mostly bugs and animals, and being commissioned for more—maybe even an entire encyclopedia! Then the fiancé she lied about showed up on her doorstep ready to get married and make good on all those letters she had sent him over the years. What’s a woman to do when her imaginary fiancé rises from his imaginary grave after four years? Especially a man as sinfully handsome and cheeky as hers?
Captain Logan MacKenzie made his way back from war to the Highlands, dead set on finding the Englishwoman who had been tormenting him for years with her letters then abruptly stabbing him in the back when she had used him enough. He told himself repeatedly that he was back in the land of his youth to find Miss Gracechurch, force the marriage she had used as a ruse, and take the castle he knew all about from her letters. That was the thing that really made his stomach twist. She had written him so many letters over the years with so many details. He knew Madeline. He knew her family. Her wishes and desires. She had made him attached without even seeing her face. Then she threw it all away.
Logan tries repeatedly to make the marriage about creating a home for himself and his men—the ones that survived the war. Some with physical injuries, and one with his mind gone. Logan believes it’s his responsibility to make a home for them in a world that didn’t wait for them to return. It’s certain that Logan doesn’t expect to fall for Madeline’s wit and quirkiness, but the longer he’s around her, the more he sees what she’s been trying to hide from everyone else. She’s brilliant, and truly meant no harm with her lies. Then he must admit to himself that her letters weren’t a bother at all. That would all be too easy, though. And Captain MacKenzie has his eyes on the prize for his men and will not stop until it is theirs and they have homes again.
What I absolutely loved about this story is how fun it was. It was romantic, of course, but it was clever and made me smile so much. Logan and Madeline are two strong-willed individuals, but they learn to bend. He supports her work and wants to see her accomplish her dreams, even if that means parting ways with her. She looks at him and sees that there’s something much more below the surface. Logan is a man in need a home—something he’s never really had before.
Their banter drives the book, and all their interactions end with a back-and-forth that will leave a smile on your lips, too.
“You stare at me. You’re fascinated.”
“It’s just the kilt.”
“It might be partly the kilt. It’s mostly the swagger.”
“The swagger?” She tried to laugh. But he was right, he did have swagger.
The book realistically captures the complexities of both characters, and the supporting cast is very good. You learn to love Logan’s men, and your heart breaks for them as you find out their struggles and pasts.
Oh, and Madeline has a two pet lobsters. Pet lobsters that she’s been commissioned to draw while mating. It’s absurd and laughable, but it completely works. What more could you ask for in a quirky and sweet romance? Probably this…
“See? You had no need of any rouge.” He settled her skirts. “Now there’s plenty of color on your cheeks. On your throat and bosom, as well. Everyone at the ball will see it. And because I’ve no intention of leaving your side, they’ll know just who put it there.”
Yes, please and thank you, Captain MacKenzie.
Funmbi’s rating: 4 of 5 stars
I can safely say that Tessa Dare is one of the best historical romance writers in the game. Very few authors have the ability to intertwine romance, drama, and humor the way Ms. Dare does. You laugh, then you swoon, and there might even be some tears before ending in a wonderfully fulfilling HEA. When a Scot Ties the Knot (like the entire Castles Ever After series) totally embodies these elements, and I adore every moment of reading.
Madeline Eloise Gracechurch is painfully shy; she hates crowds and attention to the point of freezing shock and paralysis. Maddie loses her mother at young age, and at 16, when her father remarries, her new step mother was determined she will have her season. Maddie is sent to Brighton for a summer with hope that the fresh air would allow her to open up. Unfortunately it doesn’t. Maddie comes back and rather than endure balls and the resulting awkwardness, she makes up a beau—Captain Logan MacKenzie. She writes (fake) letters to him for over 10 years, to the point that the correspondence actually becomes more like diaries. Maddie shares her thoughts, feelings, love of her family, and art. Then she mails them off and fabricates responses.
Eventually, the lie gets to be too much, so Maddie fakes Captain MacKenzie’s death and goes into mourning. In an effort to “recuperate from her grief” she and her Aunt Thea leave London, move to Scotland, and take up residence in a Scottish castle, Maddie’s inheritance from her Godfather, Earl Lynforth. For a time, all is well. Maddie is living a life a freedom, drawing illustrations on commission, and happy.
Yet, guess who randomly shows up one day? CAPTAIN LOGAN MACKENZIE. This gorgeous Scottish soldier has Maddie’s letters in hand and has come to claim his bride and land. Logan doesn’t think too much of Maddie—she’s just another spoiled English chit. But he’s determined to wed her and take possession of this land so he and his men can start rebuilding their lives.
Maddie is shocked, but strikes a bargain. Logan will keep up the charade and keep the letters to himself in exchange for Maddie’s hand in marriage and the castle/lands. Maddie will be free to pursue her occupation as she sees fit and there’s the added bonus that the last 10 years haven’t *really* been a lie. Of course, love has nothing to with it, and Maddie can still try to get out of this marriage another way. However, as they get to know one another, what begins as a mutual, unemotional pact, takes on a life of it’s own.
I love Maddie so much…probably because I find her to be a kindred spirit. She’s kind, unassuming, shy, but VERY talented…a talented artist and bibliophile too.
Similarly, I come to have very strong feelings for Logan. He’s not necessarily the Scottish soldier she creates in her letters, the Logan of her dreams. He shows up and practically forces her into marriage. But Logan is LOYAL. He’s lost a lot and never had family, but Logan loves the small family he’s cobbled together and would give his very life for them. Eventually Maddie and Aunt Thea become part of that. Logan comforts Maddie, encourages her, gives her a safe space to finally open up and be herself.
As they settle into life together at the castle, we see that Maddie and Logan have a lot in common. This mutual respect is coupled with very passionate attraction. Even without consummation, there are incredibly sexy moments:
Maddie could scarcely believe she was doing this, but her arousal was so powerful that it pushed out any sense of shame. At his urging, she touched herself there. Just the way she knew it would please her most if she were alone. But she wasn’t alone. Logan was watching her, and that meant every sensation was heightened. There was danger here between them, but also trust. The most frightening sense of safety she’s ever known. He stroked himself faster, bracing his head against his propped arm. His breathing was rough. Her pleasure spiraled toward a steep, fast-approaching peak.
“I willna muss your curls.” A sly smile tugged at his mouth. “Not the ones on your head, at any rate.”
“Now you’re not making any sen—”
He dropped to his knees before her, tossing up her petticoats with both hands. She squeaked in response.
“Just a kiss, mo chride. Just a kiss.”
SO SEXY, but can this grow into more? Is Logan capable of love? He says no…but when it comes to Maddie, he won’t let her give up her dreams. However, Maddie realizes that a real life and love with Logan *would* be her dream come true. Can she convince him?
I really enjoy When a Scot Ties a Knot and recommend it to those who like historical romance/fiction, stories set in the Scottish highlands, and are in the mood for hilarity coupled with some heartfelt moments. This novel is right up your alley, and if you’re like me, you’ll love stepping into a world where a sexy ginger-haired, blue-eyed Scot shows up on your doorstep and demands to marry you 😉
When a Scot Ties a Knot is now available in bookstores and retailers, so add it to your Goodreads TBR list and grab your copy today!
Many thanks to the author and publisher for providing an advanced review copy.