I love a fun, feminist, anachronistic romance novel and that is something that Tessa Dare delivers regularly. Dare writes what I fondly refer to as Historical Fantasy Romance. There is *some* historically accurate details running through her narrative but they are very thin and often bent to suit her plot needs. In the second outing in the Girl Meets Duke series we’re following Alex Mountbatten, introduced in The Duchess Deal, who makes her living by setting clocks to Greenwich Mean Time. Following a terrible, and hysterically inappropriate interview for a governess position she doesn’t realize she’s being interviewed for, Alex loses the chronometer that is her livelihood. With literally no way to make her living she returns to the home of Chase Reynaud and takes the governess position after all. Chase Reynaud is heir presumptive to his uncle’s Dukedom as well as the guardian of two little girls, and a renowned rake who wants none of the responsibility of any of it.
With that starting point we’re off on a classic Dare story. Readers who don’t enjoy her works usually either don’t like the anachronisms or find her structure too repetitive. I don’t have problems with either of those things, and in reality read her books for exactly those things. I like knowing what to expect and Dare’s writing breaks down into a pretty clear set of standards. We’ve already covered the first, Alex Mountbatten is absolutely an independent lady making her own way in the world, in fact, Dare sets her up to have had no other option since the age of 10.
While Dare tends to specialize in a Marriage of Convenience plot, this book plays on the motif by having the characters living under the same roof as employer and governess. Chase is the Wounded Hero to Alex’s Independent Lady, emotionally stunted by events in his past who is nevertheless smitten with the heroine. The being smitten leads to smolder and steamy sexy times, and because Dare is writing in a more and more feminist way Chase focuses on consent in his interactions with Alex. Dare also delivers on sincere emotion and great emotional chemistry. While Chase’s emotional withholding worked less well for me than Alex’s very realistic fears there was never a false note in their emotional interactions.
The other two common aspects of a Dare novel are interesting, but not overtaking, side characters and an infusion of comedy or whimsy in some regard. Dare is not afraid of humor and in The Governess Game it is the two characters of the little girls where this strength is used. Children can devolve to plot moppets very easily in Romance, but Dare manages to write believable children who are never twee and rooted in the emotional landscape of their experiences. They are also the stage for the laugh out loud moments in the story: the morning burials of Millicent the doll who dies each day (sometimes more than once per day) from some terrible disease and is buried in the toy box following a eulogy from Chase.
I read the book in one afternoon/evening taking only a few breaks. I did not want to leave these characters even while a headache was developing. There was perhaps one too many will they/won’t they back and forths, but the characters we are introduced to, the characters we see again, and the direction we’re headed for book three next year all worked for me in just the way I hoped they would when I purchased the book.
This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read where we read what we want, review them how we see fit (within a few guidelines), and raise money in the name of a fallen friend for the American Cancer Society.