Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare
Series: Castles Ever After #1
Rating: ★★★★☆

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?

This one.

Now this, this, was exactly what I was looking for. Sweet, without being treacly. Sexy, with actual emotion behind it. Just perfect for today. I’ve been on the outs, a bit, with romance books and this broke that streak nicely.

Tessa Dare has penned a beautiful fairy-tale that straddles the line between reality and fantasy beautifully. There were many of the standard tropes present and accounted for. Duke that’s disfigured in some way, gruff, angry at the world, reclusive and unlikeable…that is until our determindley cheerful heroine shows up. Not that he drops at her feet immediately, but I knew it was coming. And I loved that.

I loved Izzy, and her relentless belief that she could make her own fairy-tale. Despite what life had already thrown at her. I loved her willingness to work for it, and her bone-deep desire not to trod on anyone else’s dreams and fantasies along the way.

I grew to love Ransom along the way, as he grew to love Izzy. I loved that he was caught in her web – not that she wove one intentionally – before he even realized what was going on. I loved that he went to such lengths, to be kind – even when he didn’t realize that’s exactly what he was being. And I loved that he screwed up along the way and made efforts to overcome it, beyond just sex, of course.

Sometimes I read historical romance and I want all the historical facts and details completely accurate. Sometimes I read it and I just want to be transported to this perfect version of the past. Sometimes I just pick it up and let the book decide. I couldn’t, honestly, tell you how much was historically accurate here – not much, I’m guessing – but I can tell you that I was absolutely charmed the entire time I was reading it

This is the romantic, beauty-and-the-beast-esque, fairy-tale you’re looking for. Doubt not.