Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Series or Standalone: Castles Ever After #1
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
It’s been ages since I last read Romancing the Duke and I forgot how much I love this one! Tessa Dare kicks off her Castles Ever After with a spin on Beauty and the Beast with the delightful tale of Ransom and Izzy Goodnight.
Izzy grew up in the world of fairytales thanks to the success of her father’s series of stories, The Goodnight Tales. However, Izzy’s prince never came. Faced with being destitute after her father’s death, Izzy inherits a castle from her (fairy) godfather. When Izzy goes to claim her inheritance, little does she know the castle is already occupied by a tall, dark and brooding Duke. After suffering an injury that left him disfigured and blind, Ransom Vane, the Duke of Rothbury, retreated to his castle. Little did he know it had been sold and now belongs to Izzy. He’ll do everything to drive her out of his sanctuary while she’s willing to fight him at every turn to fight for what is hers.
I forgot how fun and cute this story was. Yes, there are some serious topics covered in it, but Dare really leans into the fairytale and fantasy of the story. I truly had a blast while rereading this and am kicking myself for not rereading it sooner. It has all the elements of a classic Dare tale, but with a fun fairytale twist. I think this book might also be one of Dare’s funniest books, which I think the fairytale element helped play up the humor.
The romance in this book is perfection. Izzy and Ransom are perfectly matched, in my opinion. Ransom has closed himself off from others after his injury. He’s isolated and hurting, and he’s fine with staying that way until Izzy walks into his life with her octopus hair and her sense of optimism. Izzy is the perfect foil to Ransom. Thousands love her as she was included in her father’s stories which have legions of fans who dress up as the characters. She truly cares for the emotions and well-being of others, which makes her the perfect person to coax Ransom out of his shell. I loved that Izzy wasn’t going to be pushed around by Ransom, no matter how terrible he tried to make himself or how much he tried to push her around. She had a tremendous inner strength to fight for what is hers and stand up for herself. Ransom also ended up being so far gone for this woman who was irritating him to no end with her actions, and I’m always a sucker for a hero who denies how far head of heels he is. This book might also have the funniest line in a sex scene ever with a “howdoyoudo?”
In less capable hands, I feel like Izzy and Ransom could easily be hard characters to like, but Dare does such a great job fleshing out these characters. Despite Izzy’s belief in fairytales and ability to see the good in others, she doesn’t come across as naive or childish. She’s a strong, fierce and intelligent woman trying to make her way in the world on her own when she’s been handed a poor hand by life. Ransom could easily fall into the too broody, bit of an ass category, but because of Dare’s skill, he’s this brooding softie who you just want to give a hug. I love him so much – especially as he keeps trying to be all “Look how bad I am!” and Izzy just ignores him or turns it into an opportunity to help him, or it backfires terribly. Ransom reminds me a bit of Colin from Spindle Cove with some of the angst of Thorne from Spindle Cove and Rhys from Stud Club.
I love the incorporation of the Goodnight Tales into the story, and Star Wars clearly inspired Dare with the Moranglians. We have historical fantasy cosplay! And I love that the tales and cosplaying end up playing such an essential part of the plot in the end. The M names Ransom would call the Moranglians also gave me serious flashbacks to A Week to Be Wicked. Outside of that, I feel like the big secret about the Goodnight Tales wasn’t abundantly apparent until I looked back at some incredibly lyrical passages that hint at the reveal.
My one complaint with this book is the ending felt a bit abrupt. I wish we had an extra chapter or two before the epilogue to wrap up everything. It felt like we get this big declaration of love in a scene with high stakes, and then it just jumps ahead to the wedding and the happily ever after. I would have liked to have a little more time to tie up loose ends before jumping into the happily ever after.
I honestly forgot how delightful this book is and how much I love the Castle Ever After series. This is always another go-to Dare series I love to recommend to newbies to the historical romance genre as every book in it is so dang fun. It’s hard for me to pick a personal favorite in this series, but Romancing the Duke might be up there. If you haven’t read this one yet, definitely add it to your TBR.