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Book CoverStevie‘s review of Romancing the Duke (Castles Ever After Book 1) by Tessa Dare
Historical Romance published by Avon 28 Jan 14

Isolde Goodnight was brought up on fairy stories, both being read them by her author father and living off the income from his sales. When he dies, leaving her with next to nothing – and certainly no roof over her head – she becomes cynical and stops believing in Happy Ever Afters. Just as she’s running out of options, a letter informs her of a mysterious bequest, and so she spends the last of her money to travel to a mysterious, remote castle in Northumberland to find out more. She’s catapulted into yet another fairy story in the process – less Cinderella and more Beauty and the Beast – with a fellow cynic as the hero of this new tale.

Izzy’s inheritance turns out to be a castle, although the existing inhabitant – Ransom, the Duke of Rothbury – seems unaware that his home has been sold from under him, or even to expect a visitor. Blinded in a duel after being jilted, Ransom wants nothing to do with the world and has largely ignored the correspondence from his solicitors over the past months. The fact that his valet can barely read, and that few others are admitted to the castle, surely hasn’t helped. Unable to afford accommodation in the nearest village, much less a solicitor to prove her claim to the castle, Izzy hires her services to Ransom as a secretary and sets about unravelling the mystery, as well as cleaning up the castle with the help of Ransom’s valet and the daughter of the local vicar.

This is a lovely story with some wonderful humour. A few plot aspects are a little over the top – almost everyone other than Ransom seems to be a fan of Izzy’s father’s stories – but I was prepared to accept that in a reworked fairy tale. Izzy herself admits that people are helping an idealised version of the child her father wrote about to frame his stories, rather than the real her; she appreciates the fact that Ransom alone seems to accept her as a grown woman with adult ideas and desires. And really, the idea of a Regency-era fandom doesn’t jar quite so much when you consider all the games the Brontës got up to in their youth or the fancies of some other authors and artists of that time and a little later. Plus, I can definitely sympathise with Izzy being sent all manner of unsuitable gifts by her father’s readers while wishing for more practical help from whatever source.

The next book is due out towards the end of the year and I’m looking forward to finding out about the next recipient of an inheritance from Izzy’s mysterious benefactor. Something tells me that none of these bequests are going to be straightforward in their execution.

Stevies CatGrade: B

Read Veena’s review here.


In the first in Tessa Dare’s captivating Castles Ever After series, a mysterious fortress is the setting for an unlikely love . . .

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

This one.

Read an excerpt.