Reviewed by May
“Don’t play innocent, Miss Highwood. You’ve been wanting this. A hard, sweaty pounding from the village smith. These strong, dirty hands all over your body. You’ve been wanting it, haven’t you?”
He withdrew halfway, then slid deep. “Haven’t you?”
As he moved in and out, her head bobbed in a subtle nod.
“Say it.” He thrust hard.
She gasped. “Yes.”
Miss Diana Highwood, sister to Minerva is finally recovered from her childhood asthma that brought her to Spindle Cove in the first place. While she is now healthy, her childhood was one where she was not to venture out too far or get too excited or be too active. It was very sheltered, and now as a young woman her mother is determined to make her a grand match (she is a great beauty, after all), but Diana isn’t so sure that is what she wants.
In fact, Diana has had her eye on Aaron the village smith who is rugged and handsome and heartbreakingly kind to all those in Spindle Cove. She purposely breaks clasps on her jewelry just so she will have a reason to go see him and have him fix them. She developed an infatuation with him long ago, and has been dreaming of him ever since. But does she want to make a life with him? Is he the love of her life?
“Do I want to have a season in London and marry a lord? Do I want to stay here in the village and become a permanent spinster? Do I want to join a circus? I don’t know, Mr. Dawes. I don’t know, and it terrifies me. All those years of setting aside my emotions. My lungs are healed, but at what cost? I am a stranger to my own heart.”
This story opens as Aaron Dawes realizes Diana’s game in coming to the smithy to have her jewelry repaired, and he calls her out on it. Rather than admit her attraction, Diana runs off. And yet, everything has changed because now they both realize that the other is attracted, yet what is there to do about it? It really is up to Diana, as she has prospects that are much higher than a village smith. He doesn’t feel he has a right to aggressively pursue her, and yet he cares for her and wants her so very much.
Can they make it work? Well this is a Tessa Dare romance novella, so you know they will! We really don’t see past Spindle Cove heroines – and that disappointed me. I had really hoped to see Diana’s sister Minerva and perhaps have a sisterly scene between that pair. Other than wishing for appearances from Minerva and other favorite residents, I also just wished for more from this novel. More space, more time to enjoy, and more development towards the end when everything comes together rather abruptly.
Overall though, this is another terrific installment in the Spindle Cove world. You could enjoy it as a stand-alone if you’re not reading the series, or it could be read at any point in between the other novels. Tessa Dare has a real gift for telling stories that are funny and heartwarming, tender and steamy hot all at the same time. These two characters are such a great match, and their chemistry was hotter than the forge that dirty boy Aaron is always using. He’s a hot one alright.
She caught a moment’s glimpse of pure, superheated virility. Sculpted chest muscles, bronzed skin, dark hair…
“Behave yourself,” he said.
The words startled her breathless…
She felt ridiculous. Ashamed. Exposed.
And then – suddenly – relieved.
He wasn’t speaking to her. He was speaking to his work.
“That’s it.” Perspiration glistened on his brow. With a steady hand and a low, rich baritone, he finessed the broken clasp. “Be good for me now.”
I loved how down to earth Aaron is, how kind and genuinely good he is as a neighbor and friend to those in his village. I think this made him an awesome match for the gentle and kind Diana. He not only shoes horses and does larger scale work, but he also makes beautiful pieces of jewelry. I loved this detail, and that he has an artistic side as well as a practical one.
Diana could have benefitted from a longer novel format, to give her more space for personal growth, distance from her mother, and figuring out what she wants from life but she is also a great character. It’s clear that she still struggles with knowing that she is healthy and not prone to asthma attacks at any moment. You can see that despite being so frail her whole life, she really wants to stand up and do her own thing now. She really is a great leading lady, and like all Dare’s heroines she is the kind of a person you want to root for and befriend.
If you’re looking for a delightful (quick) romp through ye olde England a town where women are strong, independent, and have a regular day for shooting pistols and muskets, then you really must check out the Spindle Cove series. My one caution is that you will always find yourself wishing for more – this series is just that good.