Skeptic scale: ♥♥♥♥
I take back anything bad I ever said about the novella format. Beauty and the Blacksmith totally overturned all my negative feelings towards the format because the amount of pizzazz Tessa Dare manages to create in 36,000 words, some other people don't manage in three times that length. I always did say that blacksmithing is a totally underrated profession.
This book is part of the Spindle Cove series including Any Duchess Will Do, Once Upon a Winter's Eve, A Lady by Midnight, A Night to Surrender and A Week to be Wicked.
She: Diana Highwood is gently bred miss residing with her mother and sister in a seaside town called Spindle Cove (or more unflatteringly, "Spinster Cove") to improve her delicate health (asthma). She has always known that her beautiful face will be her family's salvation allowing her to marry a rich man and lifting her family from their genteel but reduced circumstanced. This scenario is a familiar one to the readership of Pride and Prejudice - remember when Elizabeth and Jane Bennet's mouthy mater says to Jane "I knew you could not be so beautiful for nothing!"? It's a bit like that.
Luckily for Diana, her sister Minerva (A Week to be Wicked) has married a Lord and Diana is off the hook. Unluckily for Diana, she's still a proper lady and will never be entirely off the hook for finding at least a suitable match in a proper gentleman.
He: Aaron Dawes (nice name!) is the village blacksmith. He's big and brawny (with wrists as big as her ankles, she notes) and an all-round decent chap. He's a good man who tends the very hearth of the village - doing everything from setting broken bones to mending the delicate jewelry for the village ladies.
1) Diana's been mooning for him for ages and the scene where she comes clean and confesses her feelings to him was one of the most adorable things I have ever read.
2) My mind is reeling at how Ms. Dare managed to sneak in a super duper sex scene into a mere 36K words. Think Lady Chatterley's lover without the F bombs and a little more actual affection. My hat off to you, madam!
3) This is going to seem small-minded and pedantic but I am always very concerned about the overall hygiene of blacksmith/pirates/heroes of similarly physical professions. I just CANNOT wrap my head (and nose) around the intimate scenes when all I am besieged with speculations about how odorific those events must be. This is the reason I cannot find the romance in those scenes where H&h are locked in a roiling embrace in a hayloft. Horses, while magnificent, regal creatures, are not known to smell enchanting. ANYWAY. Ms. Dare handles this with aplomb by explicitly mentioning how he takes a bath before all the nookie. Phew. My nostrils thank you kindly.
3) Also amazing to me was how the characters manage to get to know one another, spend time with each other in non-sexual ways and fall in love in an entirely believable way in such a short space of time. HOW did she do it? Oh right, when people are honest about their feelings for one another we don't have to waste a lot of time dealing with crises of misunderstanding the whole time. Wait! Just because everything happens in a short time doesn't mean Ms. Dare doesn't show us how their longing had built up. 2 years is a LONG time to be pining for someone. Some would say, long enough to drive someone BATTY. Talking to you Colin Firth.
If you've not previously been a fan of the novella, try Beauty and the Blacksmith. It's a great format when done amazingly like Tessa Dare has done here!