Heat Factor: PG-13…mostly
Character Chemistry: good enough to scratch the friends to lovers itch
Plot: Navigating a marriage of convenience between friends who are also secretly in love
Overall: a fluffy, fun read
Friends to lovers and best friend’s sibling are two of my favorite tropes. They’re so satisfying. I have been looking for one of these for ages and ages, going so far as to read a listicle for suggestions. So far, the listicle has not met expectations–am I the only one who thinks friends to lovers does not also involve hate-to-love/second-chance-romance? I like a good story in which the protagonists have known each other for years and have been friends for years and then something happens and BAM! Romance. So when I saw Tessa Dare promoting the publication of a novella that had previously been published in a duet publication, I took the plunge.
His Bride for the Taking occurs over the course of a matter of days, which is good for a novella. Mary Clayton is abandoned at the altar, and if she’s abandoned after such a long engagement and at such a late age she’ll be ruined. Who would want a spinster who probably anticipated her vows (as one does?)? Eek! At least, this is the conclusion Sebastian Ives comes to as he stands outside the church with Mary on her not-wedding day. Mary might also be pushing him to come to this conclusion, but I confirm nothing.
Poor Sebastian! He’s been in love with Mary since he was a teenager, but he’s an honorable man and honorable men don’t romance their dead best friend’s sisters. They do swear to take care of said sisters, however, and if taking care involves a rescue marriage of not-quite-convenience, who is Sebastian to argue!? But Sebastian is so conflicted. He’s protecting Mary, and protecting her does not involve jumping her bones like a horny beast. But she’s making it so difficult for him! All her sleep clothes are practically see through and there’s only one bed in his tumbledown cottage!
Sebastian happens to be a nobleman, and he also happens to have oodles of money, so after an inauspicious beginning to their marriage and honeymoon, he vows to take her away to a fashionable resort where they can live fashionably separate lives and he won’t be tempted by her. For her part, Mary knows that if Sebastian has his way, she’ll lose the intimacy that will craft the marriage she’s looking for, and she might never get it back because Sebastian will continue to run away from her. For his part, Sebastian can’t stop thinking about the fact that everything about his interactions with Mary, from cake to clothing, were meant for another man, so he continues to remind himself that he is only protecting her and continues to pull away emotionally.
There’s not much in the way of surprises here, but Dare has crafted a story with her signature situational humor and witty dialogue, and it’s a pleasant, entertaining read. There’s even a moment when Mary and Sebastian play the part of a couple trying to put together Ikea furniture, which was absurd, yes, but also entertaining. Come for a little romance, stay for the fun.
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