Review: Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare

Review: Romancing the Duke by Tessa DareRomancing the Duke by Tessa Dare
Series: Castles Ever After #1
Published by Avon on January 28, 2014
Genres: Historical, Humor, Romance
Pages: 370
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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four-half-stars

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.

When I was in high school, one of my secret—unless my mom actually knew, since I suspect I was not that subtle—joys was sneaking my mom’s romance novels out of the family library to read. They were a revelation and I loved them. I read my favorites over and over, especially the swooniest scenes. Then, as time passed, I found my love of romance novels waning, until it turned to loathing. I was sick of the predictable story lines and simultaneous orgasms. I was disgusted with the machismo and sexism. I was done. Except that I’m back now. In the last few years, YA has given me back my appreciation for fluff and for a good romance well-told. Now I’m ready to embark on a journey through romance to find the best ones.

I decided to start with Tessa Dare for two reasons: 1) Elizabeth May (author of The Falconer) recommended her books in particular to me last week and 2) my library’s OverDrive had a copy available. As Rafiki would say, IT WAS TIME. Conditions were right for reading romance. Romancing the Duke was such an excellent life choice. While the story was still predictable, because hello it’s a romance and to not be predictable they’d have to not end up together which just no, and the sex scenes admittedly aren’t particularly disparate from ones I remember in my teen years, the ship is boss and well worth the scant hours of reading I spent.

Romance is oft-disparaged as a genre. It’s fluffy, for one. There aren’t huge lessons to be learned, unless you consider learning to trust and love and value yourself huge lessons. Plus, romance novels are read predominantly by women, which clearly is a bad sign. And they center primarily on ships. They are KISSING books. The disdain of this genre is clearly deserved.

is this a kissing book princess bride

Um, yeah, obviously I’m joking. There are good romance novels and bad, just like any other genre of fiction in the world. Now that I’ve come back to the genre from being one of those somewhat unimpressed people, I am, I think, much wiser. I could point to spots where the writing in Romancing the Duke isn’t the strongest and there’s a moment where some part of the female anatomy is referred to as “her pearl.” Romancing the Duke is a romance novel in very classic style in a lot of ways. That’s going to be a bad or wonderful thing, depending on the reader.

However, that said, I pretty much instaloved on this book. The romance novels I read as a teen were either classified as something else (chick lit) or they were full of scandal and intrigue. I’m not going to get into chick lit versus romance here, because I’m not really informed enough on the distinctions. Romancing the Duke combines what I liked about both. It’s historical and one hundred percent romance-focused, but it’s also got the light-hearted humor and banter that I loved so much about chick lit novels in my teen years. Neither Dare, nor her characters, are taking themselves too seriously. It makes me think of Meg Cabot’s novels, in its shameless embrace of fun, laughter, and pleasure.

gif make em laugh singin in the rain

The names are ridiculous. Izzy Goodnight falls in love with Ransom. I mean, Ransom. What is that even? But who even cares, because this ship is gold. There’s a definite Beauty and the Beast feel to Romancing the Duke. Ransom’s been locked up in his medieval castle for seven months, wounded and brooding. He doesn’t want company and he no longer enjoys life. Even before that, he never felt worth loving. Izzy stumbles in, the supposed owner of his castle, sold, apparently, without his will by his solicitors. They begin to annoy and delight each other immediately.

gif she's so beautiful beauty and the beast

The biggest change from the romance novels I read in my ten years is how much more agency the women in the novel have. Yes, what happens is the same, and in the same order. They all sex before marriage, but Dare’s novel is entirely lacking the guilt. Izzy decides what she wants to do. She’s always a willing partner and Ransom actually obtains clear verbal consent before they have sex. Even better, Izzy’s not the only female character to proudly claim her sexuality. This might not be at all historically accurate, but, considering that historical romance novels are not about getting history accurate, I do not care. More of this, please.

gif my body is ready

On top of that, I love the way that Dare worked the story into Romancing the Duke. Initially, I didn’t know how to feel about the tales Izzy’s father wrote. They’re fanciful and a real trap to Izzy, their heroine. In the end, though, they work so well. It’s so charming to me that Ransom has to learn to love not just her, but her imagination and devotion to the stories. As a bonus, there’s a bit where they discuss what might have happened next and Dare throws shade on Star Wars for the Luke and Leia are siblings twist. It’s so beautiful and the perfect sign that I picked the right romance novel.

Romancing the Duke is the first non-Jennifer Crusie or Janet Evanovich romance I’ve read since high school, I think, and I’m glad this is where I chose to start. I want more lighthearted historical romances like this one.

Favorite Quote:

“It’s on to Plan E!” one of the knights called out. “Plan E, everyone! Who has the ermine?”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif i regret nothing singin' in the rain

4 responses to “Review: Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare”

  1. This definitely sounds worth the trip to the library! I loved the Avon True Romance series as a teen and this sounds like the adult version. Lighthearted sexy romantic banter, yay! 🙂

  2. Ahhh! I’m so, so, so glad you loved this, and your review was perfect. I sort of lots to say, so my comment is going to be on the long side. 🙂 – Plus I’m stuck at work on Christmas Eve, and it is incredibly slow here today.

    I discovered the romance novel during my freshman year of college, and oh yeah, I was sooo into them. I read them almost exclusively (besides Harry Potter releases and all the books I have to read for college, and Janet Evanovich). I read historicals and contemporaries, and I read them like crazy. But then, after undergrad, I sort of slowed down and then just stopped. I got sick of the conflicts a lot. So many times they felt just contrived, and I wanted them to feel realistic.

    But over the past year and a half, I’ve rediscovered the adult romance genre, and I have been loving it.

    This is the first Tessa Dare book I read, and I LOVED IT! I think it’s my favorite of her books (that I’ve read). Either this one or A Week to Be Wicked. I also loved the humor and that they didn’t take themselves too seriously. And I liked that the heroine was in more control of her life. I think you would really like A Night to Surrender by Dare. It’s the first in her Spindle Cover series and it’s great. The heroine in that makes some interesting comments that I think women would appreciate.

    But I also really love Romancing the Duke because it is still very much a historical romance. And granted, that means some funny terms for parts of the body (I think this book used the term “cockstand” and that was the first time I heard that term and maybe I rolled my eyes a bit) but still that doesn’t bother me that much. Like I said, it is a romance novel. 🙂

    Anyway, I’m really glad you liked this. I definitely recommend more Tessa Dare, especially her Spindle Cove books. Have you read Julia Quinn? Maybe you read those when you were in high school? I also HIGHLY recommend her books.
    Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook recently posted…Review: Holding Holly by Julie BrannaghMy Profile

  3. Brandy says:

    I took a long romance break too and only started reading it again last year. Well, except for Julia Quinn who I continued to read on my break. Her Bridgerton series is the BEST and sounds like what you’re looking for in romance.

    I tried Tessa Dare for the first time this last year reading her Spindle’s Cove series and found them enjoyable. I will get to this one soon. The authors I have discovered since my return to the genre in the past year are mostly contemporary: Laura Florand, Julie James, Virginia Kantra, and Emma Barry (but you have to like politics for her).

    I’m looking forward to seeing what new favorites you discover!
    Brandy recently posted…TTT: Books for ChristmasMy Profile

  4. Yesss. I’ve been wanting to read something by this author but hadn’t quite made up my mind which series to dive into first. This one. Definitely this one.
    Bonnie @ For the Love of Words recently posted…Book Review – The Perfect Present by Karen SwanMy Profile

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