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370 pages, Mass Market Paperback
First published January 28, 2014
And for as long as she could remember, Izzy had been waiting—with dwindling faith and increasing impatience—for that part of her life to begin.Instead of a charmed life, Izzy is now a spinster. Her father is dead. She is broke; completely destitute. She has no home. She hasn't eaten in days. Izzy is no longer a girl with stars in her eyes. Her present is cold, harsh reality.
Her cravings for romance were gone. Now she’d settle for bread. What fairy tales were left over for a plain, impoverished, twenty-six-year-old woman who’d never even been kissed?Right now, Izzy's entire existence hinges on a letter, a letter that arrived, promising her survival. Her late godfather has left her a bequest.
This castle didn’t welcome or enchant.And that castle comes with its own beast. A crippled, blind, scarred duke. A monstrous, terrifying masterpiece.
She almost worried it might pounce.
There were things in nature that took their beauty from delicate structure and intricate symmetry. Flowers. Seashells. Butterfly wings. And then there were things that were beautiful for their wild power and their refusal to be tamed. Snowcapped mountains. Churning thunderclouds. Shaggy, sharp-toothed lions.Well, shit. The castle in question is his, and Ransom, half-monster and 100% man---is naturally, not that eager to hand it over to her. The castle has been in his family for generations, and due to a misunderstanding, it has been sold. Now, his ancestral home has been handed over to a chit of a girl, and damned if Ransom's going to hand it over on a silver platter.
This man silhouetted before her? He belonged, quite solidly, in the latter category.
“That’s it,” he said, at length. “You’re leaving this place the same way you came in.”Unfortunately for him, Izzy is not the frail, shrinking violet sort he expected.
He ducked, caught her by the legs, and threw her over his shoulder—with the ease of a man who’d tossed many a woman over his shoulder. This was definitely not his first go at lady-tossing.
He bounced her weight, plumping her backside with his forearm. “There’s so little to you.”Ransom and Izzy comes to an uneasy agreement. She will stay and be his secretary and sort out his long-neglected correspondances (blind men can't really answer letters), as well as figure out the legal fiasco that led to his castle being sold in the first place.
“You’re wrong,” she said. “There’s a great deal to me, Your Grace. More than you know. More than anyone supposes. You can carry me outside, if you like. I’ll come back in. Again, and again. As many times as it takes. Because this is my castle now. And I’m not leaving.”
She poked around, making busy clanging noises. “I don’t suppose there are eggs? If I do say it myself, I make a very good pancake.”All alarms are sounding inside Ransom's head. This woman is dangerous. I MEAN, PANCAKES. His instincts are screaming at him. GET. OUT. NOW.
Oh, no. This just grew worse and worse.
I make a very good pancake.
What was even more appalling was that Ransom found himself suddenly hungry for a very good pancake. Starving. Ravenous. Damn it, he was faint with yearning for a very good pancake.
Get out now. The threat is coming from inside the castle.Naturally, they find themselves gradually growing fond of each other. But there are, naturally, obstacles to their love. Someone is trying to get rid of Ransom, steal his inheritance. There are secrets in Ransom's past that threatens to overwhelm their trust of one another.
The armored riders dismounted in unison, and the carriage doors opened, spilling forth about a dozen young ladies in medieval dress. Banners waved briskly in the morning breeze.Heaven help us!
Once again, she woke to darkness, her heart pounding with terror and her throat scraped raw.As well as bats. Lots and lots of bats. Bats that turn a potentially romantic interlude...
Strange noises assailed her from all sides.
“There’s a rule about sunsets in this castle, Miss Goodnight.”INTO AN OH MY GOD SWEET MOTHER OF JESUS GOD IN HEAVEN OH FUCK A DUCK SAVE US NOW...moment.
“Yes.” He turned her to face him. “And a man and a woman standing in this very place are compelled to heed it. No choice. There’s only one thing to be done.”
Her pulse stumbled. Surely he couldn’t mean to...
He lowered his head and made his voice a seductive whisper. “Duck.”
“Oh, no.” She stiffened. “Those can’t be...”Clearly, the castle, like its master, needs a whooooooole lot of maintenance to get shipshape.
An entire colony of them had been roosting in the highest reaches of the canopy. Now they took wing one by one, then ten by ten...and then hundreds all at once.
The Lord Archers of the world didn’t want Izzy to be a grown woman with her own set of likes and dislikes, dreams and desires. They wanted her to be the wide-eyed young girl of the stories. That way, they could continue to read and reread their beloved tales, imagining themselves in her place.Reality is harsher than that. Izzy is not that little girl. She is a strong, determined woman. Izzy is not a faint-hearted girl, but she is not a timid little thing. She may be strong, but she is never, ever a bitch. That is what I love about her.
He might be wealthy, powerful, angry, and big. But on at least one score, Izzy had him outmatched. Buoyancy. She knew how to handle prickly creatures, and she knew how to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation.Ransom: You rusual dark, brooding duke, but he is just so loveable. He is never a brute. He growls, he snarls, but he never, ever crosses the boundaries. Ransom is all bark, no bite.
When thrown in the pond, she learned how to swim.
But was this truly all that was left of him? A cruel, unfeeling brute who would cast a defenseless young woman out into the night?Ransom, like most Beastly Dukes, have a scarred past. He doesn't allow himself to be loved.
He didn’t want to believe that. Not yet. He didn’t surrender anything lightly, and that included what few shards remained of his broken soul.
It was so foreign to him, this unsolicited tenderness. Incomprehensible. And much as he craved it, it scared him like hell. With every caress he permitted, he was piling up debts he could never repay.But insidiously, without him realizing it, Izzy, with her wild mane and her good heart and gentle nature, finds her way into his home and his heart. And they're pretty much the same thing.
You don’t deserve it, came that dark, unforgiving echo. He’d heard the words so many times, they were part of him now. They lived in his blood, resounding with each hollow beat of his heart. You don’t deserve this. You never could.
If not for her, this room would still be filled with rats and bats. If not for her, he’d be sitting unshaven and drunk in the great hall, morosely counting his steps to nowhere. And if not for her, he would have no reason to fight this battle at all.The Romance: LOVED IT. This book has plenty of steam, of the sweet, sensual sort. There is no extreme OH LET'S FUCK WITHIN THE FIRST 50 PAGES sort of shit. This is a grown woman who has to slowly understand her own lust.
She growled in frustration. “I know I’m not. It makes no sense at all. I’m not a silly little girl who dreams of knights. I’m a woman. A woman who’s inconveniently, completely, and for the first time in her life, in lust. Just burning with desire for the worst possible man. A profane, bitter, wounded duke who refuses to leave her house. Oh, you are dreadful.”Who demands that her first kiss be fucking PERFECT, dammit. And if it's not, well, you better make fucking sure you do it right the second time around. And it still counts.
Her grip tightened on his shirtfront. “You’re not going to ruin my first kiss. I won’t let you. You’re going to kiss me again, right now. And make it better.”There's my girl!
He shook his head, incredulous. “It’s over. It’s already done. Even if I did kiss you again, it wouldn’t be your first kiss anymore.”
“It counts,” she said. “So long as it’s part of the same embrace, it all counts as one.”
Somehow, he’d wound a lock of her hair about his finger. There it was. Right This Moment. And he had no recollection of doing it, either.You will fall in love with this book.
What was he coming to, when a woman sat in his lap, he gave her a stern what-for...and then ten seconds later, oopsy-daisy and la-di-dah, he went and twirled a finger in her hair?
That was not ducal behavior.
“For God’s sake. Don’t do that.”
“Don’t do what?”
“How do you know I’m smiling?”
“I can hear it. Hell, I can feel it. It’s all warm and sweet and . . .” He scowled. “Bah.”
“Why must this be so mortifying? Oh, that's right. Because it's my life. ”
"How did one get rid of these girls? They were like fanned-away horseflies. They just kept coming back."
"Certainly you can. It's bad enough that they pester you with letters and questions. Draw a line, Goodnight. Go out there and tell them you're a grown woman who can sling about the word 'cock' with the ease of a courtesan, and you don't appreciate unannounced visits. Then invite them to sod off, the bunch of clanking idiots. If you won't, I'll do it."
"What was he coming to, when a woman sat in his lap, he gave her a stern what-for... and then ten seconds later, oopsy-daisy and la-di-dah, he went and twirled a finger in her hair?
That was not ducal behavior. It certainly wasn't normal behavior for him."
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?
“Listen to me. When a man wakes, he wakes wanting. He wakes hard and rude and aching with need.” He shifted, pressing his massive erection against her hip. “Do you feel that?”
She gasped. “Yes.”
“It wants in you,” he said.
“In . . . in me.”
“Yes. In you. Hard, deep, fast, and completely. Now don’t wake me at this hour again unless you’ve found the perfect retort to that.”
“These kisses... they were confessions. Tastes of everything she had stored inside her. Everything she could give a man if he was brave enough to accept. Kiss by kiss, she was baring herself to the soul.”
“He was beginning to understand how those ridiculous tales had made her a prisoner of others’ expectations.”