Saturday, August 15, 2015

ARC Review: When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare, release date: August 25, 2015

Clickhere to pre-order the book from Amazon, release date: August 25, 2015
Click here to pre-order the paperback at The Book Depository

Fellow readers, has this happened to you? You receive an advance reader copy of one of your most anticipated books of the year, and it's like winning the lottery. Then you drop everything and read it -- and finish reading it in one sitting, because ... it's that good. Then, when it's time to sit down and write down a review on it, you can't figure out what to say, because your brain (and heart) are still recovering from the experience of reading one of the best things you've read for the year?

I read this about two weeks ago -- and I'm still trying to find the words to express just how amazing I thought this book was.

To say that Madeline Gracechurch is painfully shy is an understatement, because she actually suffers from panic attacks whenever she is in a crowded place, but it is time for Madeline to marry, and she doesn't want to, so she cleverly comes up with a plan (and a pretend boyfriend along with the plan) -- it's a clever plan for Madeline, who is allowed to sit out dances and generally stay at home to pine for her Scottish love, who is away at war. It's a set-up that works well for Madeline, except that the war has ended and everyone expects her to bring home her mysterious Scottish beau.

I love how Tessa Dare plays on the theme of wish fulfilment in this story: Madeline invented and started writing to Logan MacKenzie as a lark -- even her early letters show just how lightly she was taking the matter. But, as the years passed, Madeline started to take the letters seriously -- like a diary or a message in a bottle, she poured out all her hopes, dreams, and happiness into these letters to an imagined person.

Call it coincidence or call it destiny, but Logan Mackenzie actually happened to be actual person, and the real Logan MacKenzie is everything Madeline Gracechurch imagined him to be: he's Scottish, and a captain -- except he isn't dead, which Madeline said he was. Now he has returned home from war, and has sought out the mysterious young lady who had sent him all those letters.

"That's simple. I want what your letters said. What you've been telling your family for years. I'm Captain Logan MacKenzie. I received every last one of your missives, and despite your best attempts to kill me, I am versa much alive."
- loc 486

Logan also has a wish he needs to fulfill, and he needs Madeline in order to achieve it. It isn't his dream, though -- it's his dream for his men, who have returned home from war only to find themselves disenfranchised, landless, homeless, and without family. It's quite heartbreaking to see how these soldiers, who have done an amazing service to their King and country, be betrayed by it. Logan wants to make their dreams come true, and he's willing to sacrifice himself at the altar of marriage for the sake of his men.

..."What burden do you have?"

"The burden of duty." His voice lowered to an intense whisper. "I led those men into battle. When they were weary and chilled and sick with fear, I pushed them on. I promised they'd see the day when they'd come home to their wives, their sweethearts, their bairns, their lands. Instead, they came home to nothing."
- loc 899 - 917

Tessa Dare often writes about quirky heroines -- those who don't quite fit the mold, those who don't quite fit in -- and she often celebrates the uniqueness and idiosyncrasies of these characters. Madeline is a dreamer, and a very talented artist. Logan is a pragmatist and realist. There's a wonderful opposites-attract chemistry in the encounters of these two people, but there's also an element of sadness that informs their current state of being when their backstories are revealed.

"Once you marry me, none of it is a lie," he pointed out. "It will be exactly as though you've told the truth all these years."

"Except for the part where we love each other."

He shrugged. "That's a minor detail. Love is just a lie people tell themselves."
- loc 715 to 732

One of Tessa Dare's gifts is how she is able to create characters that are charming and endearing -- and it isn't in a cute or contrived way -- there's a depth and dimension to them. I could not help by fall in love with Logan's men -- and I understand why Logan would do anything to give everything back to his men. As with the other instalments in the series, the castle that Madeline inherited represents a fairy tale -- and the promise of a happily-ever-after for Logan and his men. The castle solves Logan's problems, but it's actually part of Madeline's obstacle, which is more complicated. She inherited the castle from her godfather who felt sorry for her when she reported the "death" of Logan. Madeline is burdened with the guilt of the lies she has told -- and she has a difficult choice to make: she either rebuffs Logan, confess the grand lie she made to her family, and return home -- but that would mean giving up her castle, and her independence.

Or she could stay with Logan and face the uncertain future with him.

I liked how Tessa Dare plays on the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy -- but, at the same time, she leaves enough mystery in the story to give it that magical, once-in-a-lifetime appeal. There is a bit of romance and fantasy involved in imagining the likelihood of:
a. Discovering that the person you imagined/created turned out to be real
b. Meeting that person face-to-face
c. Falling in love with that person

The odds are outstanding -- but, not impossible -- and I think this is Tessa Dare's point: there are some moments of despair in this book, but there are even more moments of unwavering, unshakeable hopefulness.

When a Scot Ties the Knot is book 3 in Tessa Dare's Castles Ever After series. It will be released on August 25, 2015. To find out more about Tessa Dare and her books, click below:

Disclosure: I received this ARC via Edelweiss. Thank you to Avon and Tessa Dare for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.



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