An unhappy childhood left Magnus, Lord d'Arenville, with no real desire to marry, until he paid a visit to his best friend. A sweet encounter with his friend's little daughter makes Magnus realize just how much he would like to have a child of his own, but to accomplish that he'll need a wife. Having a deep dislike for attending social functions and no desire to go through the rituals of courtship, he enlists the help of his cousin, Laetitia. Magnus arranges for her to host a house party at her country estate, where she will invite several eligible young ladies from whom Magnus will choose. Unfortunately, he finds that none of the vapid chits Laetitia picked are at all to his taste, but when he witnesses another bedraggled young woman showing kindness to one of Laetitia's sons, he believes he's found the perfect mother for his own children.
Thalia Robinson is an orphaned cousin from Laetitia's other side of the family. Laetitia begrudgingly took Tallie in when her parents died, but treats her little better than a servant, leaving Tallie feeling like nothing but the poor relation. She has daydreams of being carried away by a white knight or a handsome prince. Although Magnus is certainly attractive, the way he goes about "proposing" is anything but romantic, and his reputation as "The Icicle" leaves Tallie less than impressed. When unexpected circumstances make marrying Magnus Tallie's only alternative to being homeless, the choice is easy, but she walks down the aisle carrying a great deal of trepidation about the seemingly cold, unfeeling man she's about to wed. It doesn't take long though before Tallie begins to see another side to Magnus she didn't anticipate, and which gives her hope that perhaps she can melt her "Icicle" and remold him into her perfect knight.
Tallie's Knight kicked off my 2013 romance reading with a bang. I read a lot of great books last year, but it's been a while since I've read one as deeply romantic and utterly perfect at this one. It is a sweet Cinderella story that had a little bit of everything. Magnus and Tallie begin with a marriage of convenience which quickly develops into a loving relationship. Once married, they embark on what becomes an adventurous bridal trip, first to Paris, and then on through the treacherous mountains into Italy. They encounter a number of missteps and misunderstandings along the way, a trope which can often become annoying and tiresome, but here, I felt like I always understood their motivations. Some even led to hilarious moments that left me chuckling and grinning from ear to ear. There were many touching moments, particularly as we learn more about both character's backgrounds. And last, but certainly not least, there were many heart-stopping and swoon-worthy romantic moments that left me finishing the book with a sigh of pure contentment.
This may be a Cinderella story, but Magnus is not the perfect Prince Charming, at least not at first. He had definitely earned his nickname of "The Icicle." He behaves in a rather cold and aloof manner toward practically everyone, but then a tiny tot, and a girl at that (his best friend's daughter), unwittingly finds the chink in his armor and begins the process of melting his cold, cold heart. I thought this scene was utterly charming, and a very appropriate way to begin the book. It was quite interesting that his first "human" connection was with a child, when his own childhood had been such an unhappy one. Perhaps it had something to do with subconsciously wanting to right the wrongs of the past with a family of his own. In any case, once he decides he wants children, he knows he needs a wife too, but the way he goes about trying to choose one is so ridiculously logical, it had me in stitches. Romance heroes like Magnus almost always hide a deeply passionate heart underneath the icy facade, and watching Tallie unleash it was so much fun. There are some very good reasons for Magnus's moodiness though, which made me want to wrap him up in my arms and give him lots of love just like Tallie did. He grew up with no real love or affection from his parents, which led to him believing himself to be an unlovable child, and therefore, an unlovable man as well. Unfortunately, due to his cousin, Laetitia's interference and some misunderstandings, this belief is only exacerbated when Tallie finally does accept his offer of marriage. It doesn't take long though for Magnus to develop all the earmarks of a man who protests too much. It becomes quite obvious that he's falling head-over-heels for Tallie, but he's just too logical and obstinate to realize it for a while. Magnus's jealously coupled with a stubborn refusal to acknowledge his feelings for Tallie leads to some pretty funny moments, while his reasons for it are very touching and understandable. Magnus may not be able to bring himself to say the words until the end, but he shows his love for Tallie through his every action.
Tallie is a very sweet heroine and a hopeless romantic. I loved all her little daydreams and fantasies of a handsome "prince" or "pirate" or "gentleman" carrying her off into the sunset to live happily ever after. She has quite an imagination, and it doesn't take long before the handsome prince of her dreams begins to morph into Magnus. She starts the story showing how amazing she is with kids and what a great mother she'll make, which is the main reason Magnus chose her in the first place. Tallie is definitely a woman who likes to be wooed, so she was understandably upset about the manner in which Magnus offered marriage. Although she initially has misgivings about marrying "The Icicle," she comes around pretty quickly as she begins to see Magnus for the man he is inside. Tallie is an innocent in the extreme, which may bother some readers, but I found it utterly endearing. Not only does she have no idea what happens in the marriage bed, she has no idea how pregnancy occurs either. Some of the ideas she came up with due to lack of information or misinformation and the way she behaved the first few times Magnus made love to her had me cracking up. Once he finally sets her straight on some things, she turns into a very receptive lover who deeply desires her husband's attentions. What I loved most about Tallie is how patient she is with Magnus. If she does take something the wrong way, it doesn't last for long, before she finally realizes the truth. Tallie is just an extremely open-minded, giving and loving person, and even when Magnus missteps, she's very quick to forgive too.
I went into reading Tallie's Knight with the impression that it was written in the Traditional Regency style, and therefore, probably had little in the way of sensuality, but in some ways, I couldn't have been more mistaken. The very first love scene is the only one that had any details, and even it was relatively mild. All the rest ended in cut scenes. I was just a tad disappointed that the author didn't offer another slightly more detailed love scene after Tallie figured out that it was OK to enjoy it, but it wasn't a huge deal. Ms. Gracie more than made up for it by maintaining a high level of sexual tension and a beautiful air of romance throughout, both of which lent themselves perfectly to creating what I would call the most exquisitely sensual, "mostly clean" romance novel I've ever read. Tallie's Knight was one of those hidden gems of romance that I don't often hear much about, but which was so flawless, I wouldn't change a thing about it. I loved the hero, I loved the heroine, and I loved everything about the story. It's exactly the kind of book I would have written myself if I'd thought of it first.:-)
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