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(Castles Ever After #1)

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Cover Blurb

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.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

I didn’t think anything could possibly match Tessa Dare’s fabulous Spindle Cove series but her new series, Castles Ever After, promises to be just as wonderful. The first book, ROMANCING THE DUKE is enchanting, romantic, sexy and funny and I was totally captivated from the first page to the last!

I love Tessa Dare’s writing… so rich in warmth, emotion, and humour. She brings each scene to life with such vivid imagery. This is one of my favourite descriptions:

It started to rain. Fat, heavy drops of summer rain— the kind that always struck her as vaguely lewd and debauched. Little potbellied drunkards, those summer raindrops, chortling on their way to earth and crashing open with glee.Image

“I’m no one’s hero, Miss Goodnight. You’d do well to remember that.”

Ransom is certainly my hero but then I do have a soft spot for scarred, emotionally wounded heroes. I just knew that under that gruff exterior beats a vulnerable heart and it just needs the right woman to break down his defences. Izzy is just perfect for him with her warmth, passion and gentle heart.

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I adore Izzy. Tired of being treated like the wide-eyed girl of her father’s stories, she longs to be seen as a grown woman with her own dreams and desires. It is Ransom who is able to see the real Izzy – ‘a beautiful temptress of a woman, with interesting ideas and sensual wit.

I enjoyed the initial sparks and tension between Izzy and Ransome. They were such a delightful couple and watching their romance unfold was a joy. I loved sharing their…

Charmingly wicked banter:

He leaned one shoulder against the archway. “Aren’t we going to continue?”
“Continue what?”
“This game.” His voice was so low it seemed to crawl to her over the flagstones, then shiver up through the soles of her feet. “Am I a Russian prince? No. Is my favorite color yellow? No. Would I object if you were to come inside and remove every stitch of your damp clothing?” His voice did the impossible. It sank lower. “No.”

Tender moments:

Izzy didn’t know if these gentle sweeps of her fingertips could erase his pain— but they were dismantling the safeguards around her heart.
She soothed her touch over his brow and scalp, making shushing noises and whispering what she hoped were comforting words.

Sigh-worthy moments:

It was oneness, and it was glorious, and it was perfect, and it was her. All her.
God, he loved her.

Poignant moments:

…since she was there . .  . he couldn’t deny that a scarred, neglected part of him craved that softness.
 Hell, he ached for it, straight to his bones.

Hot sexy moments:

“Oh, I mean to do this everywhere. I plan to have you in every room of this castle. And why stop there? On the ramparts, beneath the stars. In the park, on a blanket spread amid waving grasses.” He pushed her skirts to her waist. “But we start right here, right now. I’ve been dreaming of taking you on this table for weeks.”

There are some rather delightful but unusual secondary characters…

The Knights and ladies of Moranglia who offer their loyal support when it is most needed (all will become clear when you read the book).

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Snowdrop, Izzy’s pet ermine, who seems to have got to grips with a certain duke!
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I loved Ransom’s devoted valet, Duncan, especially in the scene where he douses Ransom with freezing cold water!

Tessa Dare continues to wow me with her beautiful writing, heart-warming stories and loveable characters and  ROMANCING THE DUKE will definitely be one of my favourite books of 2014.  Now I just have to wait for book 2, SAY YES TO THE MARQUESS!

REVIEW  RATING: 5/5  STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read January 2014

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

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Gabriel Fairchild’s valor during battle earns him the reputation of hero, but costs him both his sight and his hope for the future. Abandoned by the fiancée he adored, the man who once walked like a prince among London’s elite secludes himself in his family’s mansion, cursing his way through dark days and darker nights.

Prim nurse Samantha Wickersham arrives at Fairchild Park to find her new charge behaving more like a beast than a man. Determined to do her duty, she engages the arrogant earl in a battle of both wit and wills. Although he claims she doesn’t possess an ounce of womanly softness, she can feel his heart racing at her slightest touch. As Samantha begins to let the light back into Gabriel’s life and his heart, they both discover that some secrets — and some pleasures — are best explored in the dark …

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I first read YOURS UNTIL DAWN several years ago and it has remained one of my all time favourite historical romances. Warm, funny, heartrending, tender and sensual, re-reading it’s one of my guilty pleasures.

Gabriel definitely fulfills my penchant for tormented, brooding heroes. He is a man without hope living in a dark and lonely world where the trappings of civilized behaviour no longer matter. He hides his vulnerability behind a show of arrogance and biting retorts such as his reply when Samantha tells him she’s there to help him adjust to his new circumstances:

“What if I don’t want to adjust? What if I just want to be left the bloody hell alone so I can rot in peace.”

Ms Medeiros provides a real insight into the problems of being blind, things which I had never appreciated before. When Gabriel suddenly wakes up, he has no way of knowing whether it is day or night and when Samantha takes him to task for not using a knife and fork, he explains that they are difficult to manage because if he can’t feel the food, he can’t find it. All things a sighted person takes for granted.

The battle of wills between Samantha and Gabriel provides for some sharp and really funny dialogue. Here are a couple of my favorites:

“Good morning, my lord,” Samantha said smoothly, sliding into a chair well out of his reach. “You’ll have to forgive Mr. Beckwith. He obviously had some pressing duties.”
Scowling, Gabriel settled back in his chair, “Let’s hope they include forging some letters of reference and packing his bags. Then the two of you can return to London together.”

“So tell me Miss Wickersham, as my new nurse, which duty would you like to assume first? Would you like to feed me?”
Eyeing the wolfish white flash of teeth as they tore another hunk of meat off the chop, Samantha said, “Given your…um…unbridled enthusiasm for your victuals, I’d be a little worried about getting my fingers that close to your mouth.”

I love Samantha because she is just what Gabriel needs to jolt him out of his apathy. At first, Beckwith, Mrs Philpot and the other servants refuse to disobey their master’s orders but Samantha has no such qualms. She re-arranges the furniture to make it easier for Gabriel to navigate through the house and throws open the windows. She only falters once when Gabriel comes up with another scheme to rid himself of her by constantly ringing a bell day and night and having her do all sorts of mundane things such as fluffing his pillow. I love Gabriel’s reaction when she finally says she’s had enough of his ridiculous demands and is resigning:

“Miss Wickersham, get back here this instant! That’s an order!”
” I quit,” she tossed back over her shoulder, savage glee coursing through her veins. “I’m not obliged to take your orders anymore!” Ignoring his spluttering, Samantha marched out the door slamming it behind her with grim satisfaction.

I like the way Ms Medeiros slowly develops the relationship between Samantha and Gabriel which makes it more realistic. My favourite scene is the one in the ballroom because it is both romantic and sensual. I could really feel the passion between them:

Suddenly she was the beggar at the feast – a feast of the senses her body had been denied for so long. She wanted to gorge herself on him, sate her every craving with the fulsome delight of his kiss.

Ms Medeiros paints such memorable and vivid pictures but it is the little details which seem to linger in my mind: Beckwith and Mrs Philpot trying to push Samantha out of the French windows before the approaching Gabriel enters the room; Gabriel’s indelicate table manners; Samantha running a fingertip along the scar on Gabriel’s face; Gabriel lounging in bed wearing only a rumpled cravat; the game of blind man’s bluff; the ultimate in romantic epilogues.

The secondary characters all add depth to the story and I have to mention Sam, the little terrier, who captured my heart with his antics. This book has a really surprise twist which I certainly didn’t see coming when I first read it. On subsequent readings, I found clues were there but I had simply been too engrossed in the story to interpret them correctly.

A wonderful love story with unforgettable characters, YOURS UNTIL DAWN is pure magic; a treat that no lover of historical romance should miss!

VERDICT: THIS BOOK IS A DEFINITE KEEPER

RATING: STELLAR ★★★★★

 

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