Liked but didn't love Tessa Dare's A Night to Surrender. Fantastic first chapters, and I really dig the setting for the series of which this is the beginning: Spindle Cove, a tiny seaside town that local gentlewoman Susanna Finch has turned into a haven for oddball ladies from all over England. Some are too smart for gentlemens' social comfort, some are sickly and made sicker by Regency medicine (bleeding and leeches and mercury, oh my!), some are fleeing bad relationships; all are thrilled to find this enclave, nearly all female, and dedicated to just letting them be themselves, whoever that should be.
Of course, this can't last--there wouldn't be a story otherwise! And so Lieutenant Colonel Victor Bramwell, still limping from a knee shattered by a French bullet, comes to town with his corporal and his ne'er-do-well cousin, Lord Payne, hoping Susanna's father, gunsmith Sir Lewis Finch, can use his influence to get him back commanding in the field--the only life he's ever known, and the only life he's ever loved. They meet with a literal explosion--Payne's novel idea for scaring a flock of sheep blocking their path--as Bram tackles Susanna out of harm's way, and then can't resist stealing a kiss.
Both main characters are strong and opinionated--so of course there's some good verbal sparring in between the smoochin'--and Susanna's unconventional and fiercely protective attitude towards her bevy of misfit maidens makes her immediately likeable. Oh, and Bram acquires a pet lamb named Dinner, which is obviously awesome. There were just a few things that kept me from being completely swept up: first [SLIGHT SPOILER], I didn't care for Susanna's father's feet of clay; second, I know there's no romantic way of describing coitus interruptus, but "[i]n some primitive way, it satisfied him to mark her"? EW. And I'm grumpy about the couple being set up for the next in the series, A Week to be Wicked (out in March!), because the lady is an impetuous, bespectacled geologist prone to carrying around a reticule full of interesting rocks, whereas the dude is . . . an incorrigible rake. HE DOES NOT DESERVE HER. MORE NERD HEROES PLZ!!!!