(Disclaimer: Tessa Dare is a personal friend from my local writers group, however I bought the book and read it of my own volition.)
Tessa’s book has two of the most unique characters and plot I’ve read in a while, and it’s a variant of the Beauty and the Beast theme. The twist is that the heroine is not actually a beauty, but the “beast” is nearly blind and just assumes she’s a beauty. (He can see a mass of dark hair and a shapely body and that’s enough for him.)
Miss Isolde Ophelia Goodnight is an impoverished spinster of 26 whose father was a well-known author of a series of romantic stories set in the fictional world of Moranglia. Her fortunes appear to change when her godfather wills her a castle of her very own. She travels there with high hopes only to find the castle a ruin inhabited by a bad-tempered man who tells her he is the Duke of Rothbury and the castle belongs to him.
Ransom, the duke, is an embittered man who was left scarred and blind after a duel with the man who stole his fiancee. He has hidden himself in the decrepit Gostley Castle* with just his valet for company, not counting the pesky vicar’s daughter who insists on bringing him baskets of treats. The last thing he wants is a young woman in his castle unless she’s there to warm his bed. He also knows that he hasn’t sold the castle so it can’t possibly be hers.
* In one of my favorite lines, a secondary character asks if the name of the castle is pronounced Ghostly or Ghastly, as either one applies.
The duke hasn’t read any of the correspondence piled on a table, and Izzy agrees to be his private secretary and sort through the mail to find out what has happened. As she goes through it, both realize his solicitors, and possibly his heir, have been stealing from him.
The two have a prickly relationship, filled with equal parts squabbling and sexual tension. Ransom persists in mispronouncing Moranglia and making fun of Izzy’s belief in romance and true love. But she’s the one who stands by him when his solicitors turn up with a doctor, determined to declare him incompetent so his heir can seize his title and estate.
The book is both touching and humorous, and I heartily recommend it.
As always, click on the graphic below for more great reviews from the Barrie Summy Book Review Club.