I 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.