Clio Whitmore is sick of waiting. Her intended decamped for the continent and a career with the foreign office as soon as the ink was dry on their engagement agreements. For the last eight years, Clio has has to endure the strictures placed on her by her family and the whispers of the ton. With her fiancee Piers finally headed home, Clio turns to his disgraced brother and temporary estate manager Rafe for a way out of her engagement.
Rafe is looking for redemption. Cast out of his father's house as teenager, he has made his living as bare-knuckle boxer, living on the fringes of polite society. When he is entrusted with the management of Marquisate upon his father's death and his brother's absence, he is terrified of wrecking it and is determined to hand everything over to his brother is the condition he received it. Despite his life-long attraction to Clio he refuses to sign the dissolution papers and instead begins a campaign to convince Clio to marry Piers by offering her the wedding of her dreams.
"Say Yes to to the Marquess" was romantic, funny and clever. All Dare's characters speak with a modern voice but I didn't find that at all jarring, but instead immersive and refreshing. "Say Yes to Marquess" has a small cast and I liked all of them, even the antagonists. For all its lightheartedness Dare still tackles issues of emotional depth well. Both Rafe's and Clio's family have hurt each other terribly with good intentions. It is the empathy Rafe feels for Clio that breaks through his determination to see her married to Piers. Rafe's own "Secret Pain" is believable motivation for his actions and source for his feelings of insecurity and inadequacy.
Although I have read all of Tessa Dare's Spindle Cove series, this was still an impulse buy for me, because I was on a Tessa Dare break. However I bought it when it was on sale in April, even though I had skipped the first in this new series. My recent preference for darker weightier historicals was overcome through a combination of the premise and the enthusiastic recommendation of a few twitter friends whose recs I trust. I immediately bought "Romancing the Duke" after finishing "Say Yes to the Marquess" and read the first half in one sitting.