A Week to Be Wicked (#23 on our Top 100 list)
An AAR Top 100 Romance
originally published on March 19, 2012
Tessa Dare had me at hello. Or rather, at A Week to Be Wicked’s dedication, which reads: “For all the girls who walk and read at the same time.” Like the book’s heroine, Minerva…or me. For the record, I only walked into a utility pole that one time. And there might have been a few street signs. Anyway, it’s a terrific start to a terrific book. The characters and the dialogue are smart and funny, and it’s a joy to read from start to finish.
Minerva Highwood is determined to stop Lord Colin Payne from proposing to her sister Diana. Diana is beautiful, and Colin is rich and handsome, but there’s no love between them, and Minerva wants something more for her sister. She knocks on Payne’s door late at night with a daring proposition in mind, and discovers him distractingly half-naked. Nonetheless, she makes her offer: If Colin will pretend to elope with her and journey to the Royal Geological Society Meeting in Scotland, she will give him her prize money when she (inevitably, she believes) wins the prize for best presentation. She doesn’t intend to actually marry him, and she doesn’t care if she’s ruined; all she wants is a chance to present her research to an audience of her peers.
Payne has been holed up in tiny Spindle Cove, awaiting an inheritance that will keep him in style in London. A childhood carriage accident that killed both his parents has left Colin unable to sleep through the night unless someone else is with him, and he finds company a little easier to come by in town. But though he hates the country, he has no intention of accepting Minerva’s outrageous scheme. A dance and a kiss – and some verbal sparring – change his mind. Minerva shows him her research – a dinosaur fossil in a cave. He opens up to her about his past and his sleeping issues. When he meets her at dawn the next day, he still intends to talk her out of the journey, but one thing leads to another, and they are on their way.
What follows is an absolutely delightful road romance. Colin and Minerva set off for Scotland with a plaster cast of the fossil (which Colin promptly christens “Francine”). Colin won’t ride in carriages because of the accident, so he accompanies the coach on horseback. They know they are in for a long journey, and that time is of the essence. But as one might guess, their journey becomes complicated.
We all know this is a romance novel and that Colin and Minerva will fall in love along the way. Of course, they do. But it isn’t something either of them expects or is aiming for; it takes them both by surprise. Minerva is passionate about geology and her sisters. Colin isn’t sure what he’s passionate about – until he discovers that it’s Minerva.
Both main characters are wonderful. Minerva is slightly more arch-typical; she’s a bluestocking, has glasses, and bumps into tree branches because she walks and reads at the same time. She has, of course, noticed that Colin is handsome, and she thinks he’d never go for a girl like her. But she also has few qualms about exploring her feelings when she discovers that Colin can, indeed go for a girl like her. And though I loved Minerva, I have to admit to a soft spot for heroes like Colin – men who are underestimated and assumed to be screw-ups. I’m not sure why I love them, but I do. Colin gives the appearance of excelling at nothing, but he’s funny, charming, and determined to get Minerva to Scotland – even when it appears that the journey will exact a personal cost he wasn’t expecting.
When Min first opened her mouth and voiced her proposition, it sounded not only far-fetched, but like other far-fetched premises that I’d read before. Which just goes to show that a talented author can make you suspend your disbelief and thoroughly enjoy the ride. A Week to Be Wicked is the second book in the Spindle Cove series, and while I’d read the first, I don’t think it’s strictly necessary to do so beforehand. And while I enjoyed both books, I think A Week to Be Wicked is the better read.
If you haven’t read Dare’s books at all, this is an excellent place to start. Colin and Min are endearing, funny, and irresistible – just like their story. You won’t be disappointed.