Say Yes to the Marquess is a book that persistently kicked up on my radar over the past couple months, but as with Romancing the Duke, I didn't really look at it until another Unapologetic Romance Reader brought up the series. After devouring Romancing the Duke, I turned my attention to this one, which I think ended up being my least favorite of the three current Castles Ever After books.
Our heroine here is Clio, who has been engaged to the new Marquess of Granville, Piers Brandon, for the past eight years--ever since she was sixteen. She's done with waiting. She doesn't think Piers will ever actually marry her, and any sentiment that might have once been there has withered away from neglect. Besides, the marriage was always more for their families, anyway. But she can't just get out of the marriage, because this the Regency era, and engagements are like contracts. So she goes to the man who has Piers' power of attorney while he's gone: his brother, Rafe. Who, unbeknownst to Clio, has been in love with her for, well, forever. Clio asks Rafe to sign papers to dissolve the engagement, and when that doesn't work, tells him she'll be off at her newly-inherited castle if he changes his mind.
Rafe changes his mind, but not in the way that Clio wanted. Instead of staying in London to train for his next boxing match, Rafe heads to Clio's new home to press a full-out assault to get her to go through with the wedding. Yes, indeed, he wants her to say "yes" to the marquess, even though the marquess in question isn't him. With Rafe comes his trainer, Bruiser, who immediately makes up a flamboyant aristocratic persona to hide behind, and Piers' elderly bulldog, Ellingsworth (I think) who was, of course, awesome, as all bulldogs are. Also taking up residence with Clio are her two sisters, what's-her-face (the bitchy one) and Phoebe (the eccentric, sweet one) and what's-her-face's husband. All of them are very intent on getting this marriage off the ground. But of course, Clio discovers an attraction to Rafe as things go on...
Here's the thing with this. As others have mentioned, this book could have actually used a love triangle. Having Piers come back earlier and really try to win Clio's affections (and to be, at least to some degree, successful) would have been a nice, spicy element that could have perked this up. Either that, or Piers should have been killed off while abroad, leaving Rafe to sweep Clio up without consequences. While Rafe has this "bad boxer gone good" thing going on, with his lavish gifts of wedding dresses and entire halls of cake, the entire dynamic between he and Clio came off as a bit hypocritical and overall more than a little distasteful to me. I mean, come on, Clio: just man up and break up with Piers before carrying on with someone else. I don't really care if you don't have feelings for him, but you did say you'd marry him, and he deserved better than to come back home to find out you've been dallying with his brother while planning your wedding to him. Ugh. And the worst part is, I really liked Piers. I didn't feel like Clio was being "rescued" from him or anything, which might have helped. Instead, I kind of wish we'd been reading about him finding his own love interest after Clio had broken up with him, rather than reading the whole story that led up to that point.
Again, there were some colorful side characters here and a heroine with an interesting vocation (Clio wants to open a brewery) but I don't think those could really bulk up the "meh" story. Was there some nice kissing and such? Yes, of course. But this was a book that I did find myself able to put down, and I kept hoping to move past it to When a Scot Ties the Knot. This one was rather lackluster overall.
2.5 stars out of 5.