Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-267212-4
Historical Romance, 2018
How do you hold a “tower of books” in one hand and read a book using the other hand? I tried this, with The Governess Game in one hand while balancing eight mass market paperbacks with my other hand, and I can’t turn the page without dropping the pile of books. I then tried squeezing those books under my armpits but no, I can’t turn the page without dropping those books too.
But this is what Alexandra Mountbatten was doing when she met Chase Reynaud, who will one day become a duke, and I can only imagine that maybe she has unusually large troll hands or she must know some secret circus juggling tricks that the author is not telling me about.
The fact that I remember Alex’s troll hand book-balancing and telekinetic reading trick the most out of everything else in this story should tell you just how much I enjoy this one. Okay, I have a pleasant time reading this one, but my goodness, Tessa Dare is just rehashing the same old tropes all over again in a manner that I find forgettable.
Alex bumped into the hero before this story takes place (the scene is recounted by her here), and since then, she’s already daydreaming about the hero, even marrying him in those daydreams. She meets him again when she drops by his place hoping to be hired to keep the books and such. Chase is the guardian of two unruly young girls, one of whom keeps throwing funerals for her doll which “dies” constantly from all kinds of plagues and ailments, so when he sees Alex, he basically waves future payments of lots of money at her face if she would be so kind as to take these girls under her wing and leave him be to live a life of debauchery. Our heroine is saving up for a cottage of her own, and the money he is offering her will put her on a faster track to being a cat lady for life, so it’s on.
And of course, this isn’t #metoo because he’s hot and he is wildly promiscuous – always desirable traits in a romance hero – and remember, she’s always wanted to be his wife even when she knows nothing about him. Indeed, the romance is prime eye-roller material because it sees her constantly finding excuses to be thrilled by and in awe of his sexual prowess. He kisses her, and oh my god, squee, it’s awesome and she now understands why all women in this world want to have sex with him. He paws her and squee, it’s so perfect and she now realizes why every woman in town wants to be pawed by him. He tells her that he will never seduce her, and she’s quite disappointed by that, but you know what, squee, she now understands why he is so charming that every woman wants to have sex with him again and again and again. Yes, really, he rejects her and she thinks he’s so charming and sexy for doing that. Perhaps it’s just me, but the romance has this “teenage girl and her teenybopper pop idol” feel to it, and I can’t take it seriously even if I want to.
Even when Alex grows up a bit, her dressing down of Chase amounts to how she’s okay with him treating her like crap, but she’d get mad if he treats the girls the same. My eyes roll at that “climactic” scene and I wonder whether it’d have been more fun to try balancing the tower of books while reading this book one more time. The romance is boring. It’s not a matter of if, but rather, when he’d climb her every mountain and pluck her edelweiss, and seeing her squee at everything the hero does to her gets old very fast.
Initially, I surprise myself by liking the kids – normally, I would wave a crucifix at such plot devices – especially that Wednesday Addams wannabe. But then the author resorts to the tried and true trick of making these girls bratty adults in stumpy forms and I tune out again.
Chase is the biggest reason why this one is an eye-rolling yawner. He’s another one of those big babies, going wah wah wah about how he has all kinds of issues that prevent him from not hurting the people around him, so get lost, prepubescent girls with nowhere else to go, bugger off because he needs space to party and drink and have sex non-stop. Responsibilities are terrible, as are commitments, so oh, he is the saddest man alive to be saddled with the terrible fate of inheriting a dukedom soon. Why can’t people leave him alone? His heart can’t take it if he feels even a little prick of hurt, so go away, foul children, distracting sexy governesses, and all! It’s actually impressive how the hero ends up the biggest baby of the lot, in a cast which includes two bratty actual children and a heroine who sees assholes as Prince Charmings because she clearly needs to go out more. I have no patience for this man, and I wish he gets what he wants – by losing the title and the stipends that come with it. Let’s see how he’d get to party all day and night then!
On the bright side, the author’s timing is better this time around, so the humor is better balanced with more emotional moments in this one. Also, I’m grateful that the author skips the “She will never marry the hero even after letting him bugger her everywhere, because he doesn’t say the L word so she is running away now for his own good!” nonsense here. Chase never really crosses the line to being an outright douchenozzle, which is nice – although he’s a big whiny crybaby enough that he may test the patience of readers who are less inclined to humor such nonsense. On the other hand, the whole story has a tired oh-my-god-this-is-like-the-five-thousandth-retread feel.
In the end, The Governess Game is alright, but still, does the author really need to write this story? Surely there are other more interesting ideas and story lines!