Sunday, February 28, 2016

REVIEW | Romance | Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare

Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare
Publication Year: 2014
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Castles Ever After, #1
Awards: NA
Format: Audio (from Library)
Narrator: Carmen Rose

WHY?:  I love me the heck out of some Regency romances and Tessa Dare had been recommended to me many times.  This was my first foray into her books!

SYNOPSIS: Izzy (Isadora) Goodnight is the spinster daughter of a very famous and well-loved fiction author whose books have his daughter as one of the characters. Even though she and her father are both famous when he dies he leaves her nothing and even the proceeds of his book sales go to a male relative who despises her.

The "meet cute" is quite unique in this novel.  Izzy is at her wits end after losing her father, so her relief is immense when she finds out a distant acquaintance has left her a bequest in his Will.  She travels to the specified location, which turns out to be a big moldy castle to meet the executor and finds out that the castle is in fact her bequest.  The problem is there is already somebody living there and he, Ransom Vane the Duke of Rothbury, is under the impression that he owns the castle and that it wasn't Izzy's acquaintance's to bequest.  Izzy can not relinquish this only chance for her to have some security so she will not leave but Ransom has equally compelling reasons why he needs to stay.

Ransom and Izzy proceed to banter/flirt/argue up a storm all the while struggling with their overpowering attraction to one another.  Their love story is fine and there is plenty of chemistry between the characters but it was not my favorite part of the story.  They have the hots for each other pretty much immediately and despite the fact that they are in conflict, Izzy does not resist his bullying advances.  She is not concerned with protecting her virtue and it doesn't take too long for them to end up in bed together. The real conflict is breaking down the barriers they both have towards emotional intimacy and commitment.

In my humble opinion, where this book shines is the character of Izzy and her whole backstory.  She could be infuriating at times like when she keeps coming down and reading in the room where the Duke is sleeping which to me seemed pretty rude and invasive and just weird.  However, I loved the overall contradiction of her personae. She is extremely compassionate, non-judgmental and in her heart of hearts still very romantic which clashes with the constant examples of human folly that have been thrust upon her, her whole life.  Dare manages to carry off making Izzy both sweet and sentimental while also being quite practical and very grounded in reality.  She's the perfect foil/match for Ransom who is cold-hearted and was raised to be super self-sufficient and to not rely on anyone.  He needs Izzy's more compassionate sentimental side to break through the barriers he's erected but he also needs that practical, self-sufficient side of her to feel the kinship.  It's a nice thoughtful combo!

Another really nice element of the plot is the running comparison throughout the books of Ransom and Izzy's "real world" romance and the ideal romantic courtly love portrayed in Izzy's father's books. It adds some really nice texture to the books as well as a whole cast of wacky side characters including a band of roving Cosplayers.

Another need I have of my romance is that it must be funny and this definitely has a lot of great humor. The banter is pretty good and Ransom in particular is very funny.  It keeps the story light.
“He let his eyes flitter over her. “I don’t see anything ‘precisely.’ I can tell you’re slender. I can see you’re wearing white, or some light color. Your face is pale, your lips are reddish. And there appears to be a dark brown octopus attacking your head.”
“That’s my hair.”
Ransom shrugged. “You asked what I see. I see tentacles.”
To be honest I don't remember the narration very well but that generally means that it was perfectly acceptable and well done.

Final Verdict:  This was a relatively unique Regency Era romance with a really great heroine and an especially fun story.  Fun but not entirely fluffy. I liked it a lot!  4 out of 5 Stars.

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