Publication Date: December 30, 2014
Series or Standalone: Castles Ever After #2
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
CW: fatphobia, eating disorders, body shaming
Of all the books in the Castle Ever After series, this is the one I’ve reread the most. Upon rereading the entire series, I think Romancing the Duke might be my favorite of the bunch, but this one remains one that I adore.
Clio Whitmore is done with waiting on her fiancé of 8 years, Piers Brandon, the Marquess of Granville, to set a wedding date. After inheriting a castle, she finally has a chance at independence…if only she could get Piers’ brother, Rafe Brandon, to sign the dissolution papers. Rafe, a prizefighter, is determined to see Clio marry his brother – even if he has to plan the wedding himself.
I genuinely adore this story. For me, it’s truly a story of Clio finding her voice and taking her future into her own hands. I really love the romance in it – Rafe and Clio are so cute together. I’m also a sucker for romances where one of the leads has been pining for a family member’s significant other. It’s a trope that doesn’t work for everyone, but I love it.
As I mentioned, this truly is Clio’s story. I’m always amazed at how strong a character Clio is considering how many people have tried to put her down throughout her life. No one thinks Clio is enough – not even Clio initially – but throughout the book, we see her realize she is enough. She finds her own voice, her power and her independence. Inheriting the castle truly opens up her options, and I love how the castles play this role in all the books in the series. I also love that Clio finds power by embracing her sexuality and going after what she wants.
Rafe is one of the few people who see Clio for who she truly is, but he’s dealing with his own issues, making him view himself as unworthy of her. Rafe’s not a perfect hero, but I love him nonetheless. I wish he would trust Clio’s mind a bit more when it comes to her wanting to dissolve the marriage, as that did grate on me a tad on this reread. Outside of that, I love that he doesn’t know how much he cares for Clio – he’s so far gone for her early on but in denial. Outside of that, I love that Rafe is a bit more of an unconventional hero. He’s the second son who is a prizefighter. He also seems like he has dyslexia, and we love to see a hero who isn’t perfect!
When it comes to the romance, I love how Dare builds the tension between Rafe and Clio. While Rafe tries to push Clio to see herself as a bride, it also opens his eyes to his own attraction to her. The banter between the two of them is amazing. The cake fighting scene is iconic! There are also just so many wonderful, beautiful romantic passages in this book. I swear I was highlighting half of what I was reading. The drama between Clio and Rafe, especially towards the end, works well as Clio understands why Rafe acted how he did! Rafe tends to push people away when things get hard, but Clio understands that about him and gives him the space he needs.
Outside of Clio and Rafe, we also get some amazing side characters – both good characters who I loved and some genuinely terrible characters who I hated. Rafe’s coach Bruiser is one of my favorite secondary characters. I love him and his quizzing glass – he brings some great levity to scenes. And in true Tessa Dare fashion, we also get an amazing animal side character with Piers’ dog, Ellingsworth. I also truly loved Clio’s youngest sister Phoebe. She’s got a way with numbers and seemed like she was a neurodivergent character. I would love to see her get a happily ever after at some point! Meanwhile, Clio’s other sister, Phoebe and her husband Teddy are THE WORST. I hated them so much as they thought they were perfect and looked down on Clio for everything. When Clio locked them out of the castle, I cheered.
I know I have some content warnings at the top of this review, and I would be remiss if I didn’t state that this book could definitely be triggering for some people as there are some troubling depictions of fat-shaming and eating disorders.
I truly enjoy this book. It’s got a great set of characters, fun humor sprinkled throughout and a fantastic romance. Also, there is no baby in the epilogue which I love. I’ve reread this one a few times at this point, and it is still such an enjoyable read. It’s just so stinking cute! This whole series is a treat, and I’d highly recommend it.