Isolde Ophelia Goodnight has a problem. Her godfather left her a castle, but not only is it falling into ruin, it’s inhabited by an ogre. Well, maybe not an ogre. He’s actually a handsome duke, but he acts like an ogre, and he believes the castle is his. Thus begins Romancing the Duke, a delightful fairytale that follows the adventures of Izzy, England’s sweetheart due to her father’s wildly popular stories that feature her, and Ransom William Dacre Vane, the eleventh Duke of Rothbury, a scarred and isolated misanthrope who wants nothing to do with Izzy or the fans of her father’s writing who follow her around.
Ransom and Izzy are charming characters, and it’s easy to become caught up in their stories. Each of them has seen hardship and each has much to overcome before finding the happily ever after that should be waiting at the end of every fairytale. But even though the the troubles the hero and heroine face are often quite sad, the author manages to inject a great deal of humor in the story, making this a fun read. I especially enjoyed how Izzy is a constant surprise to the duke. He does his best to scare her away, both from the castle and from himself, but she never reacts the way he expects her to, and always challenges his perception of himself and the world. I also liked the secondary characters—Duncan, Ransom’s faithful valet and Abigail, the vicar’s daughter who befriends Izzy—and the richness their presence adds to the story.
My one knock on Romancing the Duke would be how modern it feels, both in situations and in language. I don’t mean there are glaring anachronisms in the book, rather that the tone of it is essentially modern. That is not my preference in historical novels, but the story is involving enough and the writing competent enough that it didn’t materially affect my enjoyment of the story. There were also a few too many sex scenes—both complete and interrupted—for my taste. At certain points in the story, it felt like the plot got lost in all the sexual activity, but the author eventually brings everything back into focus for a satisfying resolution.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with Ransom and Izzy and would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a romance novel with a little fairytale in it.
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