I enjoyed the first two books in Tessa Dare’s Castles Ever After series, but was somehow distracted into missing the next two instalments. No matter, I can catch up with those later, since there’s a new series just starting with the promise of the same gentle humour and fairy-tale-inspired plots. While I’ve seen the Beauty and the Beast trope crop up in this author’s stories before, the heroine here is very different from the ‘Beauty’ we met last time around and the hero is a different species of ‘Beast’ also.
Ash, the Duke of Ashbury, has been damaged physically by war and emotionally by his fiancée’s rejection of him the moment she became aware of the extent to which he had been left scarred. Convinced that no respectable woman could want him now, Ash is nevertheless determined to marry and produce a direct heir, rather than risk his estates and the lives of all those people who depend upon him passing to his ne’er-do-well cousin. Just as he’s writing to his solicitor, detailing the virtues he requires in a wife, his brooding is interrupted by an unexpected visitor.
Emma Gladstone was a respectable vicar’s daughter, until an indiscretion led to her overly strict father casting her out of her home. Now she makes a living as a seamstress and dreams of saving enough to open her own establishment; however, the Duke’s erstwhile fiancée has absconded without paying for her wedding dress and Emma is forced to confront Ash in order to demand payment. Ash, meanwhile, is very taken with Emma and offers to marry her, rather than simply paying for the dress. Emma is suspicious of the haste with which he attempts to court her and with the terms he proposes for their marriage of convenience, but then a client in distress inspires her to agree to the deal rather than allow another unfortunate gentlewoman suffer as she did. Of course, Emma has some terms of her own to add to Ash’s planned arrangement, and soon their hasty marriage is heading toward a grand romance.
The humour in this story more than compensated for the unlikelihood of some of the plot’s twists and turns, and I was heartened to see various supporting characters redeemed – or at least shown to have believable motivations for their antagonistic actions. Ash’s servants all have a vested interest in seeing the marriage work, and I loved the scenes in which they plan ways to make that happen. I also greatly enjoyed seeing Emma’s father get his comeuppance, and was entranced by the unmarried ladies who befriend Emma as she begins to make her way in Society. I very much hope to see them all again in subsequent books. A charming start to what looks like being another fun series.
Read CJ’s review here.
When girl meets Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules…
Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.
His terms are simple:
– They will be husband and wife by night only.
– No lights, no kissing.
– No questions about his battle scars.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.
But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
– They will have dinner together every evening.
– With conversation.
– And unlimited teasing.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…
Read an excerpt.