ROMANCING THE DUKE – Tessa Dare
Castles Ever After , Book 1
A Perfect 10
The young and romantic readers of England were—and still are—avid fans of a continuing saga known as the Goodnight Tales, purported to be bedtime stories told by the author, Sir Henry Goodnight, to his daughter Lizzy (Isolde Ophelia). Alas, Sir Henry died a year ago, and with no more tales forthcoming, the hero and heroine are left in dire straights. And so is Lizzy. Sir Henry was negligent in providing for her, and her nasty cousin got all, and he was never one to share. So at twenty-six and thinking herself plain, Lizzy spends nearly the last of her coins to reach Castle Gostley in the far north where she is to learn of a bequest from her godfather, Lord Lynforth. She hopes to receive as much as a hundred pounds, but that is not to be.
After being on the road for days, Lizzy finds Castle Gostley a rundown medieval place centuries in the possession of the dukes of Rothbury. Not only that, it seems to be occupied by a shabby, but handsome recluse who is very unwelcoming. As she tries to tell him why she came, she faints from hunger—he believes she faints at the sight of his face. Something happened to the Duke of Rothbury years ago that left his face scarred and his sight nearly non-existent. He left behind his rakish life in Town and has been hiding away with his one servant ever since. Many think him dead. When Lord Lynforth's executor arrives, the man she was to meet here, he tells her Lynforth left a castle to each of his goddaughters and Castle Gostley is hers. Unfortunately no funds come with it. The executor leaves Lizzy; his job is done. Rothbury insists Lizzy leave, that the castle is his and he never sold it to anyone, and he wants her out now. Lizzy stiffens her spine and refuses; she has nowhere and nothing; she must fight for a home…and food!
If Lizzy is as plain as she thinks, she is lovely inside, and Rothbury's injuries are not as horrifying as he believes…but he's just as cantankerous. Somehow Ms. Dare takes the bare bones of these two—one fearful and lacking self-confidence, the other wounded in heart long before his external hurts—and makes them lovable. She somehow gives them great depth while using a light touch. ROMANCING THE DUKE has wonderful interaction and dialogue plus humor and passion. Other characters help along the way: Rothbury's faithful valet, the vicar's lovely daughter, and an army of avid fans of the Goodnight Tales . Oh, and a couple of four-legged creatures as well.
I urge everyone to get in on the beginning of this series. ROMANCING THE DUKE is a great read from an imaginative author, and we have more “lucky” ladies who inherit castles of their own waiting in the wings.
On a personal note: The better the book, the fewer notes I remember to take for a review. This one I had to write almost entirely from memory.