After several false starts, I have finally finished reading Tessa Dare’s Romancing the Duke from the Castles Ever After series for this month’s TBR Challenge. And to avoid even more false starts (particularly of the blogging kind), I’m going to do a quick blurb cut-and-paste:
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?
Spoiler alerts early on in this review:
I enjoyed this book. Isolde inherits a castle but it comes with a duke (Ransom) who was not aware that his castle had been bought as he has been in a self-imposed exile to recover from injuries he received in a duel. He is mostly blind and he is adapting to life without full sight. Izzy is the daughter of a famous (now deceased) English author who wrote stories of romance and adventure with Izzy as the central character. Though she has been left destitute, there is national goodwill toward her and she has a strong, though a tad overthetop fans who follow her to her castle. Ransom has never heard of her father or Izzy and treats Izzy like an adult unlike most people who she comes across in her life. Ransom wants Izzy to leave his castle immediately but homeless Izzy refuses to give up her inheritance even if it seems to be an illgotten gain. Izzy decides to help Ransom tackle his paperwork which has not been read in months due to his inability to read. She becomes his eyes and reads aloud all his correspondence in order to uncover how his castle was sold without his knowledge.
I liked the way that Isolde (Izzy) and Ransom (the duke) spoke to one another throughout the book. Izzy loves his lack of sentimentality and even seeks out his company for this quality:
Do come to dinner and be your ill-tempered, unromantic self. Please.
They had a connection both cerebral and physical. Descriptions of Izzy were like thick smears of Vaseline on the lens of a Doris Day movie, she is made of shadows and light streams. The sex scenes were interesting in that Ransom’s perspective was focused on taste and touch, but only in that they were not so different to Izzy’s perspective. What they could (or could not) see was secondary to what they could feel.
Tessa Dare goes all meta in this book in her representation of fandoms, child/adult celebrities and how fans can be both a hindrance as well as a support. Her fandom is instrumental to the outcome of the book but not before Ransom has insulted her most loyal fans and past undue judgement upon their abilities to function in broader society.
Though she does love that he doesn’t know who she is, and has not read her father’s stories, she also has to pull him up on his criticisms of the people who do love her father’s stories, of people who seek love and romance:
But his smugness made her so prickly all over. And he wasn’t merely insulting love and romance. He was insulting her friends and acquaintances. Her own hard work.
The innermost yearnings of her heart.
This wasn’t an academic argument. It was personal. If she didn’t defend the idea of lasting happiness, how could she hold out any hope for her own.
Yes. The innermost yearnings of her heart are the innermost yearnings of most people’s hearts. Love and connection to someone who connects with our cerebral and physical selves. A yearning that many scoff outwardly as though it makes them sophisticated and worldly. It is a yearning that some people also choose to not pursue for varied reasons but it does remain elemental to our being. I don’t mind authors going meta on readers and Tessa Dare manages to keep it on the good side of overt (though not at all subtle). In the end, everyone gets their HEA which though expected, I felt it was a bit abrupt and neat.
I liked this book. Though it didn’t immediately set my world on fire, I think it will slowly sneak into my subconscious. Small lines from the book have already started popping up into my daily movements. I “doubt not” that my problem was my many false starts and fractured reading of it. This is a book to, not read in fits and starts like I did, but one to savour and read over a long, quiet weekend.
I bought my copy of this book from a bricks and mortar bookshop in Sydney at full price.