ROMANCING THE DUKE
by Tessa Dare
Castles Ever After 1
Avon /Harper Collins
Formats E-book, Large Print, Audio, Mass Market PB Pages: 384
Book provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
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?
I have loved everything I’ve read by Tessa Dare but I had a hard time getting into this at the very beginning of the story; the “damaged duke” trope is so often used (Injured Earl, Marred Marquis, Broken Baron), I find myself sighing when it comes up. However, Tessa quickly individualizes her characters and makes the trope more appealing. Then the story heats up until we know that there is a very naughty girl hiding under that skirts of England’s favorite fictional character based upon, well, another fictional character (although within the world of the book she is real). Those thoughts aren’t the only thing she’s hiding either.
A theme here, and a recurring theme in Tessa’s books, is the inequity women experienced (and continue to experience to some degree depending on location). And, she has a way of combining humor, love, lust and the foibles of the upper crust of 19th century British society (AKA the Ton) into a charming, hot, poignant and humorous story. Her prose is often lovely and it is always accessible.
And when I say heats up I mean it is rather hot under those skirts. I thought it was a little more erotic and regarded sex with more modern sensibilities than Tessa’s Spindle Cove series.
The Duke is hiding something as well, although not under a skirt; something that has caused his damage. Here, the story is complex because while the duke, Ransom, is damaged physically, the more important damage is emotional damage from his childhood, as well as the imperious attitude granted by his ducal title, and a host of other titles.
Another theme is the “white knight charging to the rescue;” only in ROMANCING THE DUKE the female love interest. Izzy, has finally rejected all the themes young women were, and often still are, brought up believing. In the end, I wasn’t sure if she really had a large nose and ugly hair or if she just thought she did because other girls were cruel. Even in that time there was an ideal English beauty and with dark hair, light blue eyes and Izzy with her abundant and dark, frizzy hair would not have met the standards. As the owner of a rather largish nose myself, I can say we don’t grow into them physically – but we have to own them!
Tessa’s characters are always a bit to type, but with enough characteristics to make them individual. They are often somehow atypically employed for that character’s position. But, the hero is the hero and occasionally an ass. The heroine is usually physically innocent, often the one left on the shelf. But there is enough difference in them to make them worth reading and they always win my affection.
There is a certain fairy tale feeling to this story as well: Weird pets, unsympathetic solicitors, and fans engaging in the world’s first readers’ con. It’s a spiders web of fictional fantasy such as a young woman whose life was very difficult could imagine. I seem to be having a hard time distinguishing between Izzy’s fantasy and Tessa’s.
I think what ended up making this story interesting was the way the two love interests not only get together physically but how they help each other emotionally, how strong and resolute Izzy actually is, and how the stalwart duke learns he is open to emotional growth. So, yeah, I liked all those things and that it is hot — very, very hot. I highly recommend this or any of the books in the Spindle Cove series. This one is the first in a new series though and a great chance to be in at the beginning!