Blurb: 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…
Review: Every so often I go on a historical romance binge. It's like a switch flips inside me and I toss every contemporary, paranormal, sci-fi, and dark romance aside and read my way through my entire stack of historical romances where they words like flower and member and the men are sexist until their Modern Woman comes onto the scene and flips their world upside down.
Syrie James' Dare to Defy series features a runaway heiress desperate to escape her mother's clutches, an heiress desperate to fulfill her dream of becoming an published author, and an heiress ready to toss away her fortune if it means she can become an female architect in a man's world. Duke Darcy's Castle is Kathryn's, the architect's story, and it is a fascinating tale of the length's in which a woman has to go in order to make a name for herself in a world where no one believes a woman is capable of more than running a household.
I absolutely loved learned about the world of architecture during the 1800s. James did a great job of slipping fun facts in among the romance and drama to really bring Kathryn's career to life. I could have read a book entirely based on her experience as a female architect because the skill and knowledge required for a job like that in that time period is quite exceptional, and judging from the novel there were actually a few female architect's in the day. Kathryn refused to let societal expectations lay out her future for her and wanted more out of her life than being a kept woman, Duchess or not.
Lance wasn't the forward-thinking man a romance heroine would dream of at the start of this romance novel--except for the whole Duke thing, of course--but over the course of the novel he truly evolved from clueless to thoughtful, from calculating to lovesick, until he was the sort of man worthy of such a strong woman as Kathryn. Watching him slowly change his point of view, and scramble to keep up with his ever-changing opinion of Kathryn and her dreams, was exceptionally entertaining. In the end, he was the sort of man you'd want on your side against the patriarchy.
This is a really wonderful series for those romance readers who want their historical heroines to be bold feminists who aren't afraid to be themselves in a time where breaking outside the mold was the worst thing a woman could do. James' writing is spectacular, her imagery is beautiful, and characters leap off the page in a way that makes you wish they were real so you could ask them all the questions their stories generated. And this cover is just so freaking amazing, how can you resist?!
The book is out now, so head to bookshop.org and buy it while supporting your local independent bookstore.