There was passion, stockpiled inside her. He’d called her a powder keg, but that would be understating. She saw it all now, stretching in her mind’s eye. Vast storehouses, whole magazines.  Here were crates of kisses, never shared. Casks of sweet caresses kept sealed from the rain. Row upon row of breathy moans and sighs, all carefully bottled and tightly corked. 

Redonk Nutshell: Recovering soldier vows to return to his post but gets sidetracked in a quiet coastal town and the woman who keeps it running

It’s near impossible to go wrong with Tessa Dare.  She’s a master at telling stories that are funny, heartfelt, and romantic.  It’s safe to say that the romance blogging community sighed with rapture when Dare’s latest release, A Night to Remember became available at the end of August.  I know I was anxious to get my hands on it.

Lt. Colonel Victor Bramwell travels to Spindle Cove to enlist the help of renowned firearms specialist Sir Lewis Finch to help him get his post back after recovering from being shot in the knee.  What Bram doesn’t count on is this: sheep.  Oh, and a woman.  Particularly the daughter of Lewis Finch, Miss Susanna Finch.  Lewis bargains with Bram, challenging him to whip the residents of Spindle Cove into a militia.  Upon completing, Lewis will write his letter of recommendation.  Bram accepts and is shocked when Lewis bestows the extinct title of Earl of Rycliff to him, fully passing the responsibility of the militia.

Irritated with the setback, Bram sets out to enlist local men only to realize that the men available to him are…well…cowed.  Spindle Cove has served as a sanctuary to women who never found welcome in the ton, thus earning it’s nickname”Spinster’s Cove.” Susanna has run Spindle Cove for years, helping women like her who never fit in with society’s standards.  With the arrival of Bram and his ragtag cousin, Colin, and his friend and corporal, Thorne, the quiet town is shaken from its slumber.

Quite literally.

The three men make a grand entrance on the coattails of a grand explosion of gun powder used to startle a herd of sheep from blocking their path.  The beastly, teasing, handsome sheep-bomber.  Who was the man, and what did he want with her father? Hopefully just a polite social call. Though she had to admit, Bramwell didn’t seem the tyupe for polite social calls. 

What really makes this story a gem is the humor and the blossoming attraction between two very hard-headed characters.  In one instance, when Bram and Susanna are debating the usefulness of a local militia, Susanna stuns Bram into brief shock when she states her knowledge on current political standings of the British empire:

“…but everyone knows the threat of French invasion has passed. They’ve had no real naval clout since Trafalgar, and Bonaparte’s forces are so depleted after that drubbing in Russia, he hasn’t the str4ength to invade anyone.  As matters stand, it’s all he can do to hold SPain. With Wellington’s forces on the march, even that grasp in tenuous.” The room went silent. Yet another instance of Mrs. Worthington’s Wisdom proved wrong. If a woman’s intellect was in any way analogous to her undergarments, men should thrill to see it revealed. Strangely enough, Susanna had never known it to work that way. 

These two enjoy sparring, constantly challenging the other to think or act in a manner that they had not done so before. It’s riveting, especially because these two are both comfortable in their skin and recognize their own imperfections. Bram immediately recognizes Susanna’s intelligence and comes to rely on it, while Susanna sees the softer, compassionate interior beneath his strict and hardened military shell.  What we get are some pretty intense exchanges, laced with wit and passion:

“That’s absurd,” he scoffed, “You’re just begging to be taught a hard, fast lesson in what it means to please a man.” “You’re just longing to put your head in my lap and feel my fingers in your hair.” He backed her up against a rock. “You need a good ravaging.” “You,” she breathed, “need a hug.” They started at each other for long, tense moments. At first, looking each other in the eye. Then looking each other in the lips. “You know what I think?” he said coming closer. So close she could feel his breath wash warm against her cheek. “I think we’re having one of those vexing arguments again.” “The kind where both sides are right?” “Hell, yes.”

A Night to Surrender is a wonderfully wicked read.  I laughed, I squeed.  Yes.  Squeed.  Because the romance between Bram and Susanna is so lovely it’s hard for me to find a proper word.  Swoon doesn’t really cut it.  Their story is fluffy but substantial, a tale you wouldn’t mind revisiting several times just to relive the laughs and the love.  It is, simply, explosive.

A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare, 384 pgs, 8/30/11

Rating: A

Romance: 4/5              Raunch: 4/5

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