It seems I always want to make these romance posts every three+ years because it’s been three years since the last one (five years from that one). I’m very much a mood reader—the romance has to hit a specific trope I’m looking to read, so these romances I am going to discuss has passed the favorite trope test. But what is XOXO: Fangirling about Romances?
XOXO: Fangirling about Romances is a feature where I discuss anything (and everything) about romance novels. I will discuss everything about these romances—from my favorite tropes to wanting to slap these characters for how dense or stupid they are. Everything is on the table!
Let’s kick this feature out from the dead (again) by talking about The Courtship Dance, the fourth book in the Matchmaker series by Candace Camp.
Lady Francesca Haughston has given up on romance for herself, finding passion instead in making desirable matches for others. So it seems only fair, when she learns she’d been deceived into breaking her own long-ago engagement to Sinclair, Duke of Rochford, that she now help him find the perfect wife.
Of course, Francesca is certain any spark of passion between them has long since died—her own treatment of him saw to that. The way Sinclair gazes at her…well, that’s merely practice for when a younger, more suitable woman catches his eye. But soon Francesca finds his lessons in love scandalously irresistible—and a temptation that could endanger them both.
Why did I decide to read this romance? I am on a ~Emma-esque mood where I want to see meddling matchmakers fall in love with the men they’re trying to marry off. (You can blame the Mr. Malcolm’s List movie. I know Julia Thistlewaite is insufferable, but Zawe Ashton is a goddess, so her character with Captain Henry Ossory aka Theo James was everything to me. The whole exasperated look Ossory gave Julia at the end when she was trying to meddle = yes, I want more of this.) I’m trying to find that fits that vibe I’m looking for, and The Courtship Dance hits it.
ANDDDDDDDD, it has what I love reading—second chance romance.
Let’s talk about the second chance romance! Francesca and Sinclair used to be engaged (secretly, that is) once upon a time, but after an incident where Francesca caught Sinclair in a tryst with another women (which turned out to be a lie), she broke it off. Now fifteen years later, Francesca learns the truth and is very remorseful about not trusting Sinclair, and takes it upon herself to find Sinclair a wife as an apology.
Francesca never fell out of love for Sinclair. It’s cute seeing her wanting to find Sinclair happiness while denying her own feelings for him. It’s like GIRL, YOU ARE WHO HE WANTS. WHY CAN’T YOU SEE?! WHY ELSE WOULD HE HAVE KISSED YOU?! Their chemistry was leaping out of the pages.
I wish we could see more of Sinclair’s point of view. He’s an enigma—though you know he’s a good and honorable man, annnnnd he’s still in love with Francesca (it’s not hard to see in his interactions with her). There was only a few instances where we got to see his point of view, but that was early on in the book and it wasn’t enough!!! He is the ultimate guy—definitely somebody you’d want in your life.
I tend to gravitate towards characters who try to pretend everything’s okay and try to save face. Francesca is exactly that type of person. She is financially unstable and is being threatened, and instead of asking for help, she keeps to herself (whether it be because she doesn’t want to burden others or trying to maintain her reputation). There’s something about characters pretending to be okay that pulls at my heartstring. I can’t resist them.
Francesca’s aware of her financial status, and she does what she can to stay afloat. If that means she has to create a business of matchmaking, so be it.
Francesca’s husband left her with a lot of debts when he died, so to pay those, she had to downsize her spending, had to sell silver, and decided to create a business of matchmaking in order to sustain her modest living.
I love seeing this awareness and anxiety about her financial status. It would be easier to return to her brother’s home to live out the rest of her life there or find somebody to marry (but not for Francesca considering how her husband treated her during their entire marriage). Her financial stress becomes even more when Galen Perkins returns back from the run to claim Haughston Hall for his own (after he claimed to win a bet from Francesca’s deceased husband seven years ago). Initially, I liked that there was something at stake—Francesca at risk of losing her home and reputation, BUT as the story continued, I liked it less because of the threats of assault. No thank you!
Holy fuck, trigger warning: sexual assault. If that’s something you absolutely do not want to read, look away from The Courtship Dance. It was difficult for me to even read these parts because I don’t like seeing men battering woman. It comes to a point where I ask—is it really necessary to have these scenes in the story? If you take these scenes away, is anything lost? Nope. It feels like they were included so Sinclair can swoop in and save his damsel in distress.