Between Last Night’s Pages: Tessa Dare’s Say Yes to the Marquess



In Dare’s latest historical romance, the heroine has been engaged to the hero’s absentee older brother, a marquess, for eight years, but she wants to end the engagement and found a brewery in a castle she inherited. The hero, meanwhile, has renounced polite society after being disinherited for his wild ways and is the recently dethroned heavyweight boxing champ of England. If you’re sensing that this is more of a wallpaper historical than a historically authentic novel you’d be correct. In fact, this reads so much like a contemporary, occasional patchy references to breeches, the ton, and cobblestone alleys notwithstanding, I think it should be called a wall sticker historical.

I’m really enjoying it. It’s totally ridiculous as a historical, but as a romance it’s funny, sensual, and uplifting in that way a good romance can be.

In the spirit of blogging short, I wanted to mention one interesting thing Dare does. Early on, Clio and Rafe have the following conversation:

“Why do you fight?”

His answer was matter-of-fact. “I was cut off with no funds or inheritance. I needed a career.”

“I know that. But surely there are other ways to earn a living. Less violent ways.”

“Ah.” He paused. “I see where this is going. You want to know my secret pain.”

“Secret pain?”

“Oh, yes. My inner demons. The dark current of torment washing away little grains of my soul. That’s what you’re after. You think that if you keep me here in your pretty castle and cosset me with sixteen pillows, I’ll learn to love myself and cease submitting my body to such horrific abuse.”

I found this theme to be an interesting — er — meta-trope. It’s like both of these characters know the role Rafe’s boxing is supposed to play in a typical historical romance, and it’s that role, not the boxing itself, that is the issue. To make it even more obvious, later in the book, Clio refers to it as “Secret Pain”, with capital letters.

I’m only 80% finished with the book, so I can’t say how it all resolves, and I don’t want to spoil anyone who plans to read it. I’ll just say I don’t think the book ends up playing with or subverting the trope as much as it relies on it, but that early promise was fascinating.



3 responses

  1. I always enjoy these meta-moments. I wondered what was with all the boxing aristocrats lately (I guess it’s the historical version of the MMA fighter, and whatever button these heroes push for people is one I don’t have). The idea that it’s a metaphor for Secret Pain makes a lot of sense!


    • I thought there was another boxing one — is it Miranda Neville’s latest? I’m reading that one tomorrow. Dare does end up complicating it … he admits part of it is secret pain, but makes a decent case that there are goods that come from fighting that are distinct from erasing a bad past.



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