Castles (A LLB favorite)
By Julie Garwood, 1993, European Historical
Pocket, $5.99, ISBN #0-671-74420-8
Fourth in the quartet of Lion's Lady, Guardian Angel, The Gift and Castles

Sensuality: Hot

Castles is Julie Garwood at her best. It is witty, sexy, romantic, and has enough danger to keep things moving quickly. In fact, the only thing I don't love about this book is that I finished it too quickly. But that's alright too, because I've read it over and over and over again since first reading it in 1993.

Castles was the first romance I read written by Julie Garwood, prompting me to glom all her other books and read them one after another, like delicious chocolates in a sumptuously gift-wrapped box. It remains my favorite Garwood to date. Is this a case of first as favorites? Who knows? It's still a first-rate read.

Castles is the story of beautiful Princess Alesandra and handsome hero Colin, the younger brother of the Marquess of Cainewood. As a second son, he has had to earn his way and so has begun a successful shipping business in addition to his work as a spy for the Regent.

He walks into his home one day and finds a beautiful young woman ensconced. His staff is in a tumult because a Princess is in the house! It seems Alesandra has been placed there by Colin's father because the rest of the family have come down with a mysterious ailment. And, oh yeah, his father has told Alesandra that Colin will marry her to protect her from a nasty General who wants her title, fortune, and castle. Before he can confront his father about his match-making, Colin too succumbs to the ailment and Alesandra nurses him back to health.

Much as he likes having her around, Colin is not about to be married off. Why, it wouldn't fit in with his 5-year plan! But when he accompanies her to the theater and she is nearly kidnapped, he agrees she should be married for her own protection. While he doesn't want to marry her himself, he finds something wrong with every single bachelor he, his father, his brother, and Alesandra discuss. One has bow-legs, another gambles, and still another has a case of "bad humours".

It becomes apparent to all those involved except our hero and heroine that they are made for one another. His brother Caine's bemusement at Colin's predicament is wry and humorous.

Alesandra's impact on everyone she comes in contact with is hysterical. Colin's butler turns into an utter ninny where she is concerned. The reader can just about see Caine walking around with a sly grin on his face, shaking his head in bemusement that Colin is in love but doesn't know it yet.

Colin is a vintage Garwood hero. He's strong, sexy, and just arrogant enough to know his wife loves him before she knows it herself. He's just loveable enough so that Alesandra actually thanks him for pointing this fact out to her! But he's never imagined being so much in love with a woman that he'd feel so vulnerable.

Alesandra herself is one of Garwood's best heroines; in fact, I think she is the best. She is beautiful, intelligent, clever, and, as are all of Garwood's heroines, just odd enough in some way to make her endearing. In Alesandra's case, it is list-making. She makes lists of everything. She even has a master list, which is a list of her lists, of course.

She loves Colin and doesn't know how to get him to love her before the end of his 5-year plan. They fit together wonderfully, both as people, mates, and lovers. Readers will be charmed when they read the consummation scene - Alesandra brings a pad and pen to bed to make notes! Luckily, this scene is not only funny, but it is one of the sexiest love scenes in any romance.

Although, that could be said in general about the love scenes Julie Garwood writes in all her books. Overall, her love scenes are incredibly well-written. Not overly euphemistic nor overly graphic, they take the reader on a sensuous ride that is filled with love, heat, ecstasy, and splendor.

As is always the case in a Julie Garwood romance, the conflict of the story is never between the hero and heroine. The conflict is what brings them together. In this case, there is that nasty general and a mad-man who wants to murder Alesandra, as well as other female members of Colin's family.

Castles is every bit as good as the best romantic comedy of the 1930's, although a good deal sexier. Alesandra charms her way into Colin's heart and leaves him burning with desire so much that the reader can easily imagine him naked on their bed, ripping up his 5-year-plan with a wicked grin on his face. And what's Alesandra doing through all of this? I can tell you one thing - she's not taking notes!

-- Laurie Likes Books

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