Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tuesday Review: A Week to Be Wicked

A Week to Be Wicked
(Spindle Cove Book #2)
By Tessa Dare
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: March 27, 2012

Although she is her opposite in almost every way, Minerva Highwood loves her sister Diana and is determined that her beautiful, gentle sister not be married to Colin Sandhurst, Viscount Payne, a wastrel and a rake sure to bring Diana unhappiness.  Minerva’s determination leads her to pay a midnight visit to Colin. It’s common knowledge that Colin is in Spindle Cove only because he can’t support his London life until his cousin Bram’s trusteeship ends upon Colin’s marriage or his birthday, still two months away. Minerva first tries bribing Colin to stay away from Diana. When he informs her that her twenty-two pounds wouldn’t support him in London for a week, she proposes that they fake an elopement and he escort her to a meeting of the Royal Geological Society of Scotland. Minerva is confident her discovery of the prehistoric footprint of an unidentified creature will win best presentation in Edinburg and the five hundred guineas that accompanies it, a munificent sum that she will then give to Colin.

Colin is amused by Minerva’s proposal, but despite his rakish reputation, he has rules. One is that he doesn’t ruin innocents. Nevertheless, a few days later he and Minerva are on their way to Edinburgh with a plaster cast of Minerva’s find, her trousseau in trunks, and a letter announcing their “elopement” left behind. The week that follows sees them escaping thieves and kidnappers, singing in a tavern, playing besotted lover and foreign mistress, and, as Minerva says later, with “Breathless passion and enough adventure to last a lifetime.” It also reveals the complex, challenging, ever changing person that each of them is. Minerva’s mother may see her as “plain, bookish, distracted, awkward with gentlemen. . . . hopeless,” but Colin sees her as beautiful, intelligent, and unique. The world may see Lord Payne as a light-hearted wastrel with a reputation as a womanizer, but Minerva sees his vulnerability, honor, and capacity for love.
Minerva considers a telling similarity between people and the extinct creatures she carefully embroidered on her trousseau bed linens:

Perhaps, she thought, people were more like ammonites than one would suppose. Perhaps they too built shells on a consistent, unchanging factor—some quality or circumstance established in their youth. Each chamber in the shell just an enlargement of the previous. Growing year after year until they spiraled around and locked themselves in place.

During their week together, Minerva and Colin discover the soft, vulnerable people inside the protective shell each has created. And it is the revealed, vulnerable people who fall in love passionately, tenderly, fearfully, totally.

I’ve been a Tessa Dare fan since I read and gave top scores to her entries in Avon’s Fan Lit competition. I’ve read and loved the eight novels and two novellas that preceded A Week to Be Wicked, but I think this is her best book yet. Minerva and Colin are both characters who fall within the conventions of romance fiction (the bluestocking and the rake) and yet manage to be fresh and original. They are funny and flawed and completely engaging—an unexpected pairing that, against all odds, feels perfect.

Their dialogue sparkles in the best Quinntessential fashion with some of the best one liners I’ve encountered. I loved an early comment from Colin: “I didn’t recognize your face without the book in front of it,” but my favorite is Minerva’s sentence directed to the gentlemen of the geological society. I won’t spoil it by quoting it. Dare also pens some luminously tender passages, the kind that echo after the reader puts the book away. One such passage offers a wise and apt definition of love.

She couldn’t “heal” him. No woman could. Events that far in the past just couldn’t be undone. But perhaps he didn’t need a cure, but . . . a lens. Someone who accepted him for the imperfect person he was, and then helped him to see the world clear.

My favorite romance novels are those that involve my brain, touch my heart, tickle my funny bone, and satisfy my love for lucid, textured prose. A Week to Be Wicked qualifies on all counts. It left me smiling and sighing, with a tear in my eye. Take advantage of the preorder discount, haunt your local bookstore on March 27, or have the book shipped to your door. This is one you definitely don’t want to miss.

What qualities set your top favorites apart from other books you enjoy reading?


Kathleen O said...

It has to be the passion and chemistry between the hero and herione.. I have to feel it from the instant they meet... And I love when they are complete opposites. It keeps things interestins...
This book is on my tbr list..

Nancy said...

Hi, Janga--great review!

What sets a book apart for me is whether I'm still thinking about it after I finish it. If I am, it's usually because I was so deeply drawn to the characters.

quantum said...

Thanks for the 'thumbs up' Janga. Is it best to read #1 first?

I notice that Tessa Dare is now becoming available in audio with 'One Dance with a Duke' now available at audible UK. Have you an opinion on 'The stud club trilogy'?

I wish I knew which qualities make a book a winner for me. I like a fast moving plot with excitement and danger. I like a strong heroine overcoming adversity. I like a lyrical prose style.

But there is also some intangible quality that bonds me to the writer. If I could analyse it I would try and patent it! LOL

Janga said...

Kathleen, I hope you enjoy A WEEK TO BE WICKED as much as I did. I'm a huge Tessa Dare fan.

Janga said...

Thanks, Nancy. The characters are most important to me as well. I can forgive a lot if I find the characters engaging, and the books that top my all-time favorites list have characters that I found complex and appealing.

Janga said...

Q, I think you could read A WEEK TO BE WICKED without having read the first Spindle Cove book, but your reading experience will be richer if you read them in order.

I agree about the quality that can't really be articulated. I find that particularly true when I try to explain why I love an author's voice.