Tessa Dare's Do You Want to Start a Scandal
I generally trust Tessa Dare to tell a smart, funny, and sexy story, and this was no different, even though it started off very abruptly. Like, build things up a little, girl! Let me get to know the characters before they're accidentally getting caught in a library (because the heroine is beyond-disbelief stupid) and everyone assumes they've been getting into trouble, so therefore they have to get engaged. Maybe since this book continues both Dare's Spindle Cove series and her new Castles Ever After series*, she assumes we remember this specific young woman and her Mrs Bennett-esque mother (at one point her mothers tells her to TALK LESS, SMILE MORE OMG hahaha), but like, that's every romance character (she's from this book, and from a novella I haven't read). At least the dude is both a wealthy marquess AND an undercover secret government agent with a DARK PAST (he's also the older brother from this book). I just kept wanting them to run away and solve crimes together. Instead, they have frequent floridly described makeout sessions. Hey, that works, too. The plot picks up eventually, but I did definitely want more from the female friendships. I liked the end a lot, though, This one is definitely on the sillier side, even for Dare. B+.
* Dare seems to have dropped the central conceit of this series, wherein a rich old man has left various castles to each of his goddaughters.