Rogues Rush In, a new Regency Romance Duet from Tessa Dare and Christi Caldwell, is MUSTREAD for fans of historical romance and friends-to-more!
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
[Some Spoilers; For Mature Audiences]
My love for historical romance knows no bounds, and since I’m still basking in all the lovely Harry/Meghan Royal Wedding feels, I’m in the mood for all the English aristocracy things. Thank goodness that our fave Tessa Dare has a new book out! Rogues Rush In is actually a Regency Romance Duet featuring two novellas: His Bride for the Taking by Tessa and His Duchess for a Day by Christi Caldwell. As soon as this went live on May 22, I downloaded my copy and got to reading. Let me tell you, it was glorious! I swooned, laughed, had my heart broken and then put back together in a truly sweet way. Check out my reviews below!
His Bride for the Taking by Tessa Dare
My rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Sebastian Ives, Duke of Byrne, has been in love with his best friend’s (Henry Clayton) older sister, Mary, for as long as he can remember. However, Sebastian has always thought it important to abide by “bro-code” and keep his hands off Mary. Since Henry died in battle, Sebastian feels that promise even more acutely. He will do his best to protect Mary, but do it from afar. This becomes very difficult when it seems that Mary has been jilted at the altar on her wedding day. While Mary seems ready to accept the life of spinsterhood, Sebastian refuses to allow her to experience that type of vulnerability. He will marry her himself.
As for Mary, at first she’s shocked at Sebastian’s offer. Shouldn’t he want to marry a young debutante, not a commoner almost three years his senior. With that said, Mary has always had a soft spot for Sebastian. Watching him close off himself after Henry’s death has been difficult… Mary wants to take care of Sebastian, too. So, if this marriage is happening, she intends for it to be a full and complete marriage in every sense of the word. This is easier said than done when Sebastian seems determined to protect Mary from his physical desire, even on their honeymoon. But Mary has a plan for that…
I’ve read a lot of stories about a hero and his best friend’s younger sister, but this story is a really nice twist on that trope.
I can always count on Tessa Dare to give us a fierce and keenly intelligent heroine. This is Mary! She loves her independence and won’t give that up without sincere consideration:
“Mary Elizabeth Clayton, wilt thou have this man to thy wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony?” She nodded. Thus far, everything sounded acceptable.
“Wilt thou obey him…” Oh, dear.
“…and serve him…” She cringed.
“…love, honor, and keep him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live? If so, answer, ‘I will.’” Mary hesitated…
…She addressed Sebastian directly. “I don’t have to do this, you know. I do have a choice… I’m making a choice, Sebastian. That’s all I meant to say. When I make these vows, I’m choosing to do so freely. I’m choosing this.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “I’m choosing you.”
When it comes to Sebastian, I just want to give him a hug. He’s so distrustful of people, especially given the abuse and neglect he endured as a child. But he could always count on Henry and Mary. And though he cares deeply about Mary, Sebastian has a lot to learn about relationships and having fair arguments. When the two arrive at Sebastian’s seaside cottage to find highly unsavory living quarters, it adds more stress to a tenuous the situation:
“Sebastian. You can’t think I’m ashamed of having married you.”
“Of course not,” he said mockingly. “You prefer to spend the week squirreled away with me in some ramshackle cottage, scrubbing floors and assembling furniture, when you could be staying in the finest seaside resort.”
“I do prefer it.”
“To be sure.” He rolled his eyes to the ceiling.
…“Well, pardon me for attempting to make our honeymoon cottage just the tiniest bit romantic.”
“It’s not supposed to be romantic. You were jilted by your groom. I stepped in to marry you out of loyalty to your brother. It’s not as though we clasped hands and ran away into the sunset, Mary.” He swept her with a cold look. “We’re not in love.” His words struck her in the chest with such force, she couldn’t breathe. And she hadn’t any logical reason to feel hurt. He was only speaking the truth. She simply hadn’t realized, until this moment, how much she wished the truth were different…”
YIKES. However, you know Tessa Dare will always guide her characters to reconciliation and, soon, romance:
He bent his head and kissed his way down her neck. Her little gasp of pleasure made him swell with triumph. More. He wanted more. He stroked her breast through the thin muslin of her frock, palming and kneading her softness. Her nipple tightened. He strummed the sensitive peak, brushing his thumb back and forth in a teasing caress. She moaned faintly, and he covered her mouth with his own, drinking in the sound of her pleasure. When the kiss ended, he readied an insincere apology. I was carried away, didn’t mean to press you too far, we’ll go as slowly as you please, et cetera…But she spoke first.
“Sebastian.” She wet her lips. “Make love to me tonight.”
…“Sebastian, even though I wasn’t expecting to wed you, I’ve always found you attractive.” In fact, she’d never grasped the strength of that attraction until she realized how her feelings toward Giles paled in comparison. Giles didn’t make her hot all over with just a simple glance. He didn’t even make her lukewarm. She hesitated. “Of course, I don’t expect you to say you feel similarly about me.”
He caught her chin and tilted her gaze to his. “You,” he said darkly, “make me ache with wanting.”
Tessa Dare inserts a twist at the end that I totally wasn’t expecting, and it weighs on the newly acknowledged romance between Mary and Sebastian. However, there is a really beautiful HEA where we see that these two are meant to be and can build the lives and family together that they’ve always wanted. Plus, there’s quite a bit of humor courtesy of Sebastian’s slacker servants and a botched French dinner with pain, poison, and mouse 😉
His Duchess for a Day by Christi Caldwell.
My rating: 4 of 5 Stars
For the last nine years, Elizabeth Terry has been an instructor at a finishing school for young ladies. This isn’t necessarily what she would have wanted from herself, or the subject matter of deportment, home decor, and preparing ladies for marriage her primary interest. But at least her life is her own… However, things take a huge turn when her husband (YES HUSBAND!), Crispin Ferguson, Duke of Huntington, shows up at the school.
Elizabeth and Crispin grow up together in Oxfordshire, sharing their love of academics and nature. Despite Crispin’s parents’ concerns about Elizabeth being a commoner and a bluestocking, the two become best friends. When Elizabeth’s parents die, rather than letting her become an orphan, Crispin decides to marry her and offer his protection. Sure, his parents aren’t happy, but as long as Crispin and Elizabeth are in this together, it’ll be alright. So when Elizabeth disappears days after their elopement, Crispin is confused and hurt.
But the thing is, for these last nine years, Elizabeth has been hurt, too, especially as she’s read gossip in the papers about Crispin’s roguish exploits with different women. Crispin shows up at the finishing school to ask that Elizabeth come to London for a ball and convince Polite Society that he is married (and then the matchmaking mamas will leave him alone). She agrees, with the promise that she can return to life as a teacher. But Elizabeth will soon realize that Crispin has no intention of letting her go again.
This is the first story I’m reading from Christi Caldwell, but it won’t be the last! I really enjoy the worldbuilding in His Duchess for a Day as it relates to Elizabeth’s and Crispin’s relationship. Even though this is a novella, we get the breadth and depth of the evolution of their relationship–from childhood friends going adventures around Oxfordshire, to their young adulthood and development of a mutual crush. Elizabeth and Crispin love one another so much and it’s heartbreaking that misunderstanding and manipulation have kept them apart for so long.
But even still, Elizabeth and Crispin have a lot in common, including their mutual love of science and humor:
She uttered something that sounded very much like infuriating spider brain.
“It’s really an unfair charge, you know,” he said, and she paused, a forkful of pie halfway to her mouth.
“It’s all a matter of proportion, really.”
“What?” she ventured, lowering her utensil.
“The spider,” he elucidated. “Given their size, they are, in fact, mostly brain.”
She blinked wildly, and the contents of her fork tumbled onto the table.
He sat back, encouraged by her interest. “Albrecht von Haller—”
“The Swiss naturalist,” she interjected with such excitement glittering in her eyes that it lit her face and bathed her cheeks in a delicate flush. All the breath lodged in his chest. She is magnificent…
…How he’d missed these exchanges. Crispin nodded and set down his drink.
“Haller believed that as body size goes down”—he held his hands apart and shrank them together until the palms nearly touched—“the proportion of the body taken up by the brain increases.”
Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “Which would not mean greater brain function,” she pointed out.
“No.” His grin widened. “It does, however, go to the relativity of size.”
“Hmm.” She chewed at the tip of her index finger, her gaze contemplative. She abruptly stopped. “Have there been studies performed?”
“On whether or not I’m spider-brained?” he asked, pulling a laugh from her, the bell-like expression of mirth earning stares from nearby tables. He joined in, his chest rumbling from amusement he’d not felt in so long.
“On the spider,” she needlessly clarified, wiping the mirth from the corners of her eyes.
Crispin shook his head. “Not that I’ve been able to discover.” He winked again. “I just took the liberty of applying the principle to your insult.”
Her lips twitched. “Fair turn.”
And all these years later, Crispin and Elizabeth finally explore the physical side of their relationship and find that slipping into romance would be a natural next step of their relationship:
Their eyes locked, their chests rose and fell in a like rhythm, and then, with a groan, Crispin claimed her lips. Heat—sizzling, electric, and as dangerous as the lightning currents she’d studied as a girl—burned her from within. Elizabeth moaned, and then gripping the lapels of his cloak, she angled her head to receive his kiss, this union of their mouths unlike the hasty one they’d shared as children. Now, only a raw, unadulterated passion blazed between them.
“Elizabeth,” he groaned. Her name, a plea, a hungry, desperate rumble, only stoked the flames of yearning that now spread through her. He licked her lips, tracing the seam, silently pleading for entry, and she let him in. His tongue brushed hers like a brand, marking her, and she moaned, matching his movements. Never breaking contact with her lips, Crispin guided her back until she lay prone upon the smooth surface of the weather-beaten boulder, laying her under him like a primitive offering to the gods. His mouth left hers, and she keened at the loss, that incoherent plea giving way to a groan as he trailed his lips everywhere, from the corner of her mouth and lower to the lobe of her right ear. He caught that delicate flesh and lightly suckled, drawing another earthy moan from deep within her throat.
“So beautiful,” he breathed against her neck, and with a long, wanton moan, she tipped her head sideways, allowing him better access to that place where her pulse beat wildly. He placed his lips gently to the spot, nipping at it lightly with his teeth, like a stallion marking a mare. So primal, so raw that the ache at her center grew sharp. As he worshiped that flesh, Elizabeth tangled her fingers in the lush strands of his neatly clipped chestnut waves, holding him close. All the while, Crispin worked his hands over her, exploring her. Through the fabric of her skirts, he found her hips, sinking his fingertips into the flesh.
“Crispin,” she moaned. Of their own volition, her legs fell open in an invitation as old as Eve. His shaft, thick and hard with his desire, prodded her through her skirts, and the ache at her center grew. Panting like he’d run a great race, he dropped his elbows on either side of her head and reclaimed her mouth, thrusting his tongue deep and mating with hers in a primitive dance. He wants me. It was a heady, unlikely truth, and yet, every stroke of his tongue against hers and every rasp of his breath bespoke of a like hungering.
Still, Crispin and Elizabeth need to hash out the reasons why she believed she needed to leave nine years ago. Even when they do, those who drove them apart might still be attempting to do so now. But no worries–there is an HEA, one where Crispin and Elizabeth literally ride off into sunset together.
Rogues Rush In is MUSTREAD for fans of historical romance, especially friends-to-more stories! Make sure to download your copy today!