Monday, February 17, 2014

REVIEW: "Romancing the Duke" by Tessa Dare

Romancing the Duke (Castles Ever After, #1)
Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare
(Castles Ever After #1)

Goodreads -- Amazon -- Book Depository
Author Website

For Ages 18+ (sex, language)
Historical Romance
Avon -- January 28, 2014
Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
Purchased from Amazon

Fairy Tale Retellings, Unconventional Hero

As the daughter of a famed author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight grew up on tales of brave knights and fair maidens. She never doubted romance would be in her future, too. The storybooks offered endless possibilities.

And as she grew older, Izzy crossed them off. One by one by one.

Ugly duckling turned swan?
Abducted by handsome highwayman?
Rescued from drudgery by charming prince?

No, no, and… Heh.

Now Izzy’s given up yearning for romance. She’ll settle for a roof over her head. What fairy tales are left over for an impoverished twenty-six year-old woman who’s never even been kissed?

This one.

"The name Isolde Ophelia Goodnight did rather spell a life of tragedy."

I have been a fan of Tessa Dare since her debut novel, Goddess of the Hunt, blew me away five years ago.  Since then, I have had the great pleasure of watching her grow as a writer and have just been extremely impressed with almost everything that she has put out.  So I was very excited to read Romancing the Duke, the first book in her new Castles Ever After series.  And what a treat this book was!  I loved almost everything about it from the characters to the romance to the setting.

The heroine of this book is Miss Isolde (Izzy) Goodnight, the daughter of a famous fiction writer, who has been left destitute by his untimely death.  She has very little money and, due to her age (26) and unconventional looks, virtually no marriage prospects.  Thankfully, her luck seems to change when she is told that she has inherited a castle from a mysterious godfather.  That is until she arrives at the castle and realizes that it is inhabited by a surly duke who has no desire to leave his home.

I absolutely adored everything about Izzy Goodnight.  She is a intelligent, but plain woman who understands how bleak her prospects are yet still has the audacity to dream of love and happiness.  Her loving, but realistic feelings towards her famous father were a breath of fresh air in a genre where parents are viewed as the epitome of evil or as saints.  I loved Izzy's confidence and determination to keep her hold on Gostley Castle by any means necessary.  It was also fun to read about her reputation among her father's fans (as sweet, innocent little Izzy Goodnight) and how it clashed against the passionate woman she really is.

The aforementioned duke of the story is Ransom Vane, a scarred and partially blind man who was injured in a duel almost a year earlier.  Ransom was used to the life of a wealthy, careless rake until he was injured and has slunk off to Gostley Castle to live a life of solitude.  He is exactly the type of hero that I love reading about in historical romances: grumpy, stubborn, and unwilling to go along with any of Izzy's ideas about learning the truth about who really owns the castle.  But, despite his flaws, Ransom also is an honorable man who hasn't had great luck with love (romantic and familial) so he reacts much like an injured animal.  Seeing him so flustered by Izzy's backbone was wonderful to read about and made for some of my favorite scenes.

Ransom and Izzy are a couple that was obviously made for each other.  Their first meeting shows off the splendid chemistry that they have with the constant arguing and attempts to throw the other off their pedestal.  Besides the banter, these two also have a ton of sexual tension.  Both are passionate people and their arguing just heightens their physical attraction to each other.  Things get pretty dirty between these two though there are, of course, plenty of scenes that will grab at the doe-eyed romantic in us all.

While Ransom and Izzy steal the show, there were other aspects of Romancing the Duke that made it stand out from all the other historical romances that I read.  The setting (Gostley Castle) is the quintessential haunted castle with its secret passages, rooms full of bats, and weird noises at all hours of the night.  Tessa Dare does an amazing job of making the reader feel like they are in the moment with Ransom and Izzy. 

There are also some amazing side characters that provide a nice balance with the romance.  My personal favorites were the West Yorkshire's Riding Knights of Morganglia and Cresside's Handmaidens which were an obvious, and respectful, homage to the fan groups that pepper pop culture nowadays.  I also loved Ransom's loyal valet (Duncan) and Miss Pelham (the vicar's daughter) who is a huge fan of The Goodnight Tales and became a good friend of Izzy's rather than the rival that I thought she might become.  And, of course, I have to mention Izzy's pet ermine, Snowdrop, who plays an important role later in the book.

All in all, I found Romancing the Duke to be a delightful romp that provided a nice twist to the typical fairy tale retelling format.  Tessa Dare does a wonderful job balancing the darker themes with light, humorous moments so that the reader is always on their toes.  I can't wait to learn more about the mysterious inheritance of castles that seem to be the overarching theme of the series and to see what Ms. Dare thinks of next. 


Flush -- Detailed descriptions of lovemaking though nothing overly graphic.

Release the ermine!

1. Romancing the Duke
2. Say Yes to the Marquess (Coming 2014)




  1. Oh my gosh, I loved this book so much! It was the first Tessa Dare book I ever read, and it was the perfect one to start with. It's still my favorite so far, although I have loved all the other ones I've read.

    I feared that Miss Pelham was going to be some kind of rival for Izzy, too, and I was SOOOO glad that she ended up being a nice friend to both Izzy and Ransom. I get very tired of the rival girl thing.

  2. This one sounds so good! I haven't read her yet but have her on my tbr list. I'm so gonna need this one. Izzy does sound wonderful.


Yeah comments!! Thanks for visiting my blog. I will try to reply to your comments as soon as possible.