Reviewing: When A Scot Ties The Knot By Tessa Dare

Content Warnings: Blackmail, mentions of PTSD and loss of loved ones. 

My Rating: 5 books out of 5 

Highlights: 

  • Maddie and Logan are sarcastic assholes and I love them
  • GRANT ❤ 
  • Lobster pillow books
  • Aunt Thea. Just Aunt Thea. 
  • Inside they’re NOTHING BUT SQUISH.

My dear imaginary Captain MacKenzie, you are not real and never will be. I, however, am a true and eternal fool. Here, have a drawing of a snail.

Tessa Dare is rapidly becoming my go-to feel good author. I love historical romances, I love the swishing petticoats and propriety and literal bodice ripping. Dare’s books mix all of this with humour, wit and enthusiastic consent – some of my favourite things. Part of a series, but entirely readable as a standalone, When A Scot Ties The Knot follows Maddie Gracechurch as she creates a fictional fiance in order to avoid having to socialise with people in what is possibly the most relatable acts of all time. Maddie’s fear of crowds and fondness for solitude and drawing mean that as her first London Season looms, Maddie becomes desperate to avoid it at all costs. One day, in Brighton, she begins a passionate love affair Captain Logan MacKenzie, a dashing soldier who she falls desperately in love with and who unfortunately cannot marry her any time soon because he’s off fighting for the army. 

Well, and he doesn’t exist. Well, that’s what she thinks anyway. 

“Then what do you want?” 

“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 verra much alive.” He propped a finger under her chin, tilting her face to his. So she would be certain to hear and believe his words. “Madeline Eloise Gracechurch . . . I’ve come here to marry you.”

Yes my friends, a real man shows up. I can’t really review the book without telling you that, sorry. Maddie is exceptionally lucky, because the name she plucked out of her imagination belonged to an incredibly attractive scotsman who is more than happy to use her letters against her to get what he wants. Now, that sounds nefarious, it does. Technically yes, there’s blackmail involved, but if you’re worried about that all you need to know is that Logan is a good man, with good reasons (if one can have a good reason for blackmail), and it’s a romance novel so do you really think I’d recommend a romance without a happy ending? 

Do you think I’d be that cruel? 

As romantic leads, Maddie and Logan are possibly my favourite in Dare’s books so far, and you all know how much I LOVED the characters in The Duchess Deal. Dare is incredibly talented at giving her characters backstories with a good deal of depth and sympathy. Each character is unique and complex, from Maddie’s agoraphobic panic and its childhood origins to Logan’s troop of men, all recovering from war that cost many of them everything. Grant, in particular, is my favourite. I will leave you to figure out why. 

“Are they for dinner?” 

“No! They’re for observation. I’ve been commissioned to illustrate the full life cycle. The only problem is, I keep waiting on them to mate. According to the naturalist who hired me, the female—that’s Fluffy—first needs to molt. And then the male will impregnate her with his seed. The only question remaining is what, exactly, that will look like. I’ve drawn up several possibilities.” 

She moved to a wide, cluttered worktable and rifled through a stack of papers. On each page was a sketch of lobsters coupling in a different position. Logan had never seen anything like it. She’d created a lobster pillow book.

This is a book that alongside the growing romantic relationship between Maddie and Logan, deals with what it was like to be a young woman of a certain position in English society wanting a career. Maddie’s attachment to a distant lover allows her, instead of being courted and pursued for marriage, to pursue her own dreams. An illustrator of the natural world, Maddie is hoping to have her works included in scientific texts and provide herself with an income doing what she loves. The privilege of her position is examined throughout the book – she was gifted a Scottish castle that came into her family in a  time where the English were merrily taking Scottish land and property, and she’s very aware of the fact that many women would not have this chance, as well as how she will be perceived as an English landlady. This alongside Logan’s expectations of what she will truly be like allow for a discussion of privilege and colonial history that manages not to weigh the book down at all. After all, this is a historical romance novel and so any heavier discussion of the history of British colonialism is probably best saved for another genre in order to maintain the general tone of the book. 

“You’ll be fine. Most bogs are no more than waist deep.” 

“Most bogs,” she repeated. “So some bogs are deeper.” 

“Almost no one dies of miring.”

“Almost no one? If you’re trying to reassure me, you’re going about it all wrong.” 

“Relax,” he said. “The ones who do perish, they die of the exposure or thirst. Not because they’re sucked under.” 

“So you’re saying . . .” 

“You’ll be fine. We’ll build a little roof over your head and bring you bannocks twice a day. You can live here quite happily for years.” 

Maddie clenched her jaw to keep from smiling or laughing.

I loved this book so much. It just made me smile, and at the end of the day, that’s what I want out of romance. I’d highly recommend it to fans of historical fiction, because it’s just wonderful! I will absolutely be reading the rest of the series (I don’t think they’re directly linked to one another but for the sake of record keeping I might try to read the others in order!) so look forward to bodice ripping aplenty! 

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