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Monday, April 20, 2020

Duke Darcy’s Castle: A Dare to Defy Novel by Syrie James | review

Today I'll be sharing my thoughts on the final book in Syrie James' Dare to Defy series as part of the blog tour for Duke Darcy's Castle; all of these books are stand-alones and can be read individually and/or out of order.
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. All opinions are honest and my own. Affiliate links not used in this post.

Duke Darcy’s Castle: A Dare to Defy Novel (Book 3) by Syrie James
Historical Romance, Victorian Romance / 384 pages
Publisher: Avon Impulse
eBook ASIN: B07DCD1HYB, (February 25, 2020)
Mass market paperback ISBN: 978-0062849717 (March 24, 2020)

In Syrie James' newest Dare to Defy novel, a devastating duke goes head to head with a determined young woman.

Lance Granville, the Tenth Duke of Darcy, was none too happy to give up his career in the Royal Navy to inherit the family title, complete with an ancient crumbling castle he needs to renovate. When an architect arrives on his doorstep, Darcy is astonished to discover that she's a woman.

Kathryn Atherton has one goal: to become the first woman architect in Britain. Marriage doesn't figure in her plans. Despite the odds, her schooling is behind her. Now she needs experience. When she's sent to a small tidal island in Cornwall to remodel a castle, the last thing Kathryn wants is to be attracted to its roguishly handsome owner.

Kathryn is determined to keep things professional, but the sizzling attraction between her and the duke quickly blazes out of control. When Darcy learns that Kathryn is an heiress whose fortune would save St. Gabriel's Mount, he wages the most important battle of his life: to woo and win the woman who's captured his heart. But duchesses can't be architects. And Kathryn has worked too long and too hard to give up her dreams…

It's been a struggle for awhile now for me to finish books. I know a lot of us are having focus issues, and finding it difficult to enjoy things the way we normally would have in a pre-pandemic world. So I don't hold it against Duke Darcy's Castle that it took me multiple months to finish what is a fairly simple romance novel.

At least, I don't entirely hold it against the book.

Whenever I managed to pick up Duke Darcy's Castle, I found it engaging and easy to fall into; it's light and pleasant and gives the reader what they're probably expecting from a Victorian romance called Duke Darcy's Castle -- everything except the Darcy part, that is (if "Darcy" piqued your interest, know that this is not a Pride and Prejudice retelling, though it does have some nods). The book is steamy and pleasantly fluffy and surprisingly feminist*, and on the whole, I enjoyed it.


There was something holding me back from loving Duke Darcy's Castle, and it wasn't just Corona-focus. I've grown accustomed to cheesiness and a fair amount of cliche in romances, and tbh, as a general rule, I don't mind it. But there has to be balance there that makes the cheesiness work, or twists the cliche into something new, and I think Duke Darcy's Castle was lacking that something extra. The book occasionally felt a little too write-by-numbers; not phoned in, exactly, but missing a spark. In the way of erotica masquerading as romance, it was mostly just a string of near-miss sexual encounters with talking scenes peppered in. And while there's nothing wrong with erotica (and I'd be fine with more dukes and lady architects in erotica), the format doesn't really do much for building an understanding of who the characters are individually or as a pair, or why I should care if they get it together. That is crucial in a romance. It's the thing that makes a reader care.

It also doesn't help that their reactions and liaisons are so immediate and intense. Insta-love is endlessly debatable across fiction, and I contend that if done right, it can work (it's just very rarely done right). But I think insta-love/lust in this instance did these characters a disservice. It robbed the story of tension and anticipation. The reader isn't given a chance to know either character before being plunged** into the fog of their raging hormones.

The final thing that held me back from loving Duke Darcy's Castle was the overall voice. I think a lot it readers will see "Victorian romance" and expect something very buttoned up and probably more historical (as in, no modern amenities, because so many readers equate histrom with regency, and regency with some cultured, nebulous before-time). This lack of understanding on the reader's part alone may make parts of the story jarring. I understand that late Victorian is actually fairly modern, so I wasn't too thrown by talk of indoor plumbing. But at times, the voice is yesterday-modern. I can't entirely put my finger on it, other than to say it feels jarringly current at times, which took me out of the flow, and kept me from fully buying in.

That said, it's still a fun, steamy distraction from the world outside our isolation chambers homes, and if approached as a tease more than a building romance, I think most histrom readers will enjoy it. For myself, despite its flaws, I did find myself curious to read the other two books in the series.

* Surprising only in that it's set in the Victorian era, and not that I expect romances or Syrie James to be lacking in feminist rep.
** phrasing.


SYRIE JAMES is the USA TODAY and Amazon bestselling author of thirteen novels of historical, contemporary, and young adult fiction and romance. Her books have hit many Best of the Year lists, been designated as Library Journal Editor’s Picks, and won numerous accolades and awards, including Best New Fiction by Regency World Magazine (the international bestseller “The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen”), and the national Audiobook Audie for Romance (“The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte”, also named a Great Group Read by the Women’s National Book Association). Los Angeles Magazine dubbed Syrie the “queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings,” and her books have been published in twenty languages. A member of the Writer’s Guild of America, Syrie is also an established screenwriter and playwright who makes her home in Los Angeles. An admitted Anglophile, Syrie has addressed audiences across the U.S., Canada, and the British Isles.

International bestselling author Syrie James tours the blogosphere February 24 through April 24, 2020 to share her new historical romance, Duke Darcy’s Castle: A Dare to Defy Novel (Book 3). Twenty-three popular book bloggers specializing in historical romance and Austenesque fiction will feature, spotlights, exclusive excerpts and book reviews of this acclaimed Victorian romance novel featuring a strong, independent heroine and complex, swoon-worthy hero.

February 24 Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog (Review)
February 25 Laura Lu's Reviews (Review)
February 26 Scuffed Slippers Wormy Books (Review)
March 02 Unabridged Chick (Review)
March 04 Drunk Austen (Review)
March 06 Austenesque Reviews (Review)
March 09 From the TBR Pile (Review)
March 23 Half Agony, Half Hope (Review)
March 16 Romance Junkies (Excerpt and giveaway)
March 20 Courtney Reads Romance (Review)
March 23 My Jane Austen Book Club (Excerpt and giveaway)
March 26 Laura's Reviews (Review)
March 30 Chicks, Rogues and Scandals (Review)
April 01 Robin Loves Reading (Review)
April 06 Frost Magazine (Review)
April 07 Frolic Media (Review)
April 13 Let Them Read Books (Excerpt and giveaway)
April 15 Dena Garson (Spotlight)
April 20 Book Rat (Review)
April 23 Unwrapping Romance (Review)
April 23 Delighted Reader (Review)
April 24 The Lit Bitch (Review)


  1. Yes, Corona has definitely left me distracted so that reading comprehension is a real chore. Sounds like there were some niggles even with it being a light and engaging story.

  2. Thanks for your review, Misty. I am also finding myself distracted and drained and frazzled. I have switched to audiobooks, which I have found easier. Sending cyber hugs to you and your family!

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