Romancing the Duke
by Tessa Dare
Original Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Length: 370 pages
Obtained Via: Borrowed from the library
#1 in Castles Ever After
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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 kissed?
I am not quite sure what possessed me to pick up Romancing the Duke at the library. I don’t even like romance that much in real life, so I have long stayed away from the entire genre of books and movies dedicated solely to the adventures of people falling in love. I’ll confess that I also had some stereotypes about the genre, mostly due to the fact that once in high school I picked up a romance novel of my mother’s and was appalled at the quality of writing and put the book down after one chapter. Of course, it’s not fair to judge an entire genre on one book, but 14-year-old me was more of a snob.
Still, I found myself wanting a fun book, a palette cleanser, and I had seen a few good reviews for Tessa Dare’s historical romance novels. I picked Romancing the Duke off the library shelf at a whim and decided to give it a try. After all, it wasn’t like I was buying the book. So, I spent an evening reading Romancing the Duke. . . and I was enchanted. This book was just fun.
I had not expected to enjoy Romancing the Duke in the slightest, but much like heroine Izzy managed to find the cracks in Ransom’s defense mechanisms, so did Tessa Dare’s fun and engaging writing find the cracks in my confessed snobbery. I found myself ensnared by the story of Izzy, a strong-headed woman after my own heart, Ransom, the duke who was still nursing old wounds, and the castle that certainly felt magical they found themselves in.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was how Dare manage to casually subvert many of my expectations. I expected a predictable romance, and while the courtship between Izzy and Ransom was hardly new, it certainly felt fresh. I also expected a strong-willed woman, which Izzy was, but there was more depth to her than I had thought there would be. Perhaps the biggest surprise for me, though, was the character of Ransom. While so many of his characteristics are classic of not only romance heroes but also male characters over all types of literature, there was something about him that felt new. Yes, he had the cold exterior hiding the kindness that could lurk beneath and a tragic incident in his past, but there was more than just simple brooding. There were some unique insights to his character.
Of course, as this is a romance novel I have to highlight the romance between Izzy and Ransom. I was surprised to find myself rooting for them so quickly, and I think a major reason was because both characters were exceptionally witty. Nothing makes me love a couple more than engaging conversations and banter, and Romancing the Duke had both in spades.
The book was also exceedingly funny. While there were serious and sweet moments, I loved that the story didn’t take itself too seriously. I laughed out loud more than once, which is quite a feat for a book to accomplish. I finished Romancing the Duke with a smile on my face, and I’ve seldom been so happy to be pleasantly surprised.
My first real foray into the historical romance genre was a success! I don’t think it will ever be a favorite genre of mine, but Romancing the Duke has convinced me that I want to try more of Tessa Dare’s books from time to time. This book was a fun ride. 4/5 cupcakes.