Monday, 23 March 2020


Duke Darcy's Castle is the third book in the series Dare to Defy by Syrie James, but it is a story you can read and enjoy independently from the previous instalments.

It's been my happy place for a few days, a pleasant reading reminding me of a splendid tour in Cornwall a few years ago. The action takes place, in fact,  in a remote, enchanting tidal island inspired to real Mount St. Michael, St. Gabriel's Mount.   

The novel is set in the late Victorian Age and it has all the elements an engaging historical romance can offer:  a captivating hero, a brilliant heroine, a steaming love story.

Kathryn Atherton arrives at St Gabriel's Mount unexpected  - well, they weren't expecting a lady - and with one purpose in mind: to be appreciated as an architect by the Tenth Duke of Darcy, Lance Granville, whose ancient castle needs renovation and refurbishment. Her professional success, in a world exclusively inhabited by male architects,  is very difficult to achieve, but that is just what Kathryn wants to pursue and she will not let  any distraction or obstacle to lead her astray.  

Lance Granville has just left his own career in the Royal Navy to inherit the family title and become the Tenth Duke of  Darcy, something he has never wished for himself. When a very attractive woman architect appears in his residence, he just can't believe his eyes.

Kathryn and Lance will hit it off immediately  and the attraction between them will not make things easy for either of them. 

This is the premise to a delightful love story that will keep you intrigued and excited till the last page. 

Mount St. Michael, Cornwall, UK


The moment Kathryn entered the drawing room, her eyes were drawn to the duke like a magnet. He was standing by a window, sipping sherry from a crystal goblet. He had changed into formal wear—a gorgeous black dinner jacket with waistcoat and bow tie—and, if possible, looked even more handsome than he had at their earlier meeting.

At the sight of him, the now-familiar sparks started zinging again through Kathryn’s body. Her heart raced while her mind warned: Ignore. Ignore. Ignore.

“Ah, Miss Atherton. We were just speaking about you.” The duke gestured to the tiny, elegantly dressed woman who sat on a wingback chair nearby, her snowy hair swept up in a becoming, old-fashioned style.
“Grandmother, may I present Miss Kathryn Atherton? Miss Atherton, this is my grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Darcy, Honora Granville.”
The dowager duchess turned in her seat, her pale blue eyes gleaming with interest as she studied Kathryn. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Atherton.”
“The pleasure is mine, Duchess,” Kathryn replied with a curtsy. It occurred to her that the duke’s grandmother might be his only close living relative—he’d said his parents had died years ago, and now his only sibling was gone. How sad, she thought, that both of these people were so alone in the world.

The dowager duchess’s brow furrowed as she looked up at her. “Atherton,” she murmured, letting go of Kathryn’s hand. “I feel as though I have heard that name before.”
Kathryn froze. If the duchess realized that Kathryn was an Atherton heiress, it could change everything. The duke might only see her as a woman with a fortune, instead of an architect. He’d think it nonsensical that she was bothering with a career. Every conversation would come back to that; it almost always did. He might even end their association.

Desperate to redirect the conversation, Kathryn glanced around the room. It was a good-sized chamber with elegant architectural details, but the blue silk wallpaper was faded and the furnishings were in need of refurbishing. “The ceiling and crown moldings in this room are lovely,” she commented abruptly. “They are Wedgwood, I believe?”
“Indeed they are,” the dowager duchess replied with a proud smile. “One of Wedgwood’s earlier commissions. The fifth duke had them installed in 1774. The room itself dates back to the time that St. Gabriel’s was a monastery in the tenth century.”
“The tenth century!” Relieved to have successfully changed the subject, Kathryn accepted a glass of sherry from the footman and took a sip. It was of fine quality and truly delicious. “In America, we think a place ancient if it’s a hundred years old.”
The duke laughed. It was a deep, hearty, gloriously masculine sound, and it seemed to resonate through Kathryn’s entire being. Their gazes caught and held for a moment. The interest in his sent another shiver up her spine. Look away. Look away.
“I understand you are here from London to make alterations to St. Gabriel’s Mount, Miss Atherton?” the dowager duchess commented. “Something my grandson Hayward set in motion?”
“Yes,” Kathryn replied, grateful for the distraction. “That is my hope.”
Her eyes suddenly grew misty. “He was such a lovely man, our Hayward. I miss him dearly.”
“I am very sorry for your loss, Duchess,” Kathryn replied with sympathy.
“Thank you.” Composing her features, the dowager duchess went on, “How marvelous that your firm sent you, my dear. It is high time women were given a chance to show what they are capable of in the professions.”
“Thank you, Your Grace.” It was unusual, Kathryn had discovered, for anyone, man or woman, to be so open-minded about such things—most people still clung to the old ways of thinking. She found it refreshing and pleasant to have an ally.
“I admit, I had no idea Hayward was contemplating anything of this nature,” the duchess added.
“Perhaps he intended to surprise you,” Kathryn ventured.
The duke’s features hardened at her statement, and he downed a long swig of sherry. Kathryn wondered what was behind his reaction, but had no time to contemplate it, for his grandmother went on:
“Lord knows, something needs to be done with this place. The last time any alterations were made was in 1832, not long after I married the seventh duke and came to live here.” Turning to her grandson, she added, “I do hope, Lancelot, that I will finally get new carpets in my room.”
Lancelot? That’s his first name?
The duke’s face reddened at the appellation—but Kathryn smiled to herself. In some ways, he did resemble a knight in shining armor. He had hired her, after all, seemingly against his better judgment—and she had a sneaking suspicion he’d done so not just because he’d liked her drawing of the study, but because he liked her.

(From Chapter Three, pg 49 - on)


Ethel Charles (left)
In real life, the first woman to be admitted to Britain’s Royal Institute of British Architects was Ethel Charles in 1898. After training as an architect at a private firm, in 1893 she applied to the Architectural Association School of Architecture, but as a woman, was refused entry. 

Ethel completed part of the course at another school, receiving distinctions. After passing the RIBA examination, despite Duke Darcy’s Castle 341 opposition from many members, Ethel was finally granted membership. She faced discrimination in the workplace, and was forced to concentrate on modest housing projects. Louise Blanchard Bethune, as noted in this novel, was the first American woman known to have worked as a professional architect. 

Mary Gannon and Alice Hands graduated from the New York School of Applied Design for Women in 1892, and later opened an architectural firm focusing on lowcost residential housing. Several other American women, including Fay Kellogg and Mary Rockwell Hook, traveled to Paris hoping to study at the École des Beaux-Arts, but suffered from discrimination after sitting for examinations, and were refused admission. In spite of this, Kellogg went on to design hundreds of buildings in the New York area, and Hook designed a school in Kentucky and a number of buildings in Kansas City, employing innovative architectural techniques. 

Julia Morgan was the first woman to receive a degree in architecture from the École des Beaux-Arts (1901), and the first woman architect licensed in California. Morgan completed over 700 projects, including Hearst Castle in San Simeon.

(From the Author's Note to the novel)


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 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 (in an homage to Austen), the Duke’s first proposal is so Darcyesque, he is refused. In any case, duchesses can’t be architects. And Kathryn has worked too long and too hard to give up her career for anyone ….



Three American heiresses defy their family’s wishes, and social conventions, to strike out and find their own happiness in late Victorian Cornwall.

Runaway Heiress: A Dare to Defy Novel (Book 1)

Brainy and college-educated, American heiress Alexandra Atherton will do anything to avoid marriage to the English peer her mother has chosen for her—even abandon the life of privilege she’s always known. But as her escape goes horribly wrong, Alexandra must invent a new identity to gain the help of a handsome stranger.


Summer of Scandal: A Dare to Defy Novel (Book 2)

An American heiress and an English earl fight against the conventions of society -- and their attraction to each other -- in the second book in the Dare to Defy series by USA Today bestselling author Syrie James.



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.


Syrie James is glad to give away 1 printed copy of Runaway Heiress (Book 1 in the Dare to Defy series) + 1 printed copy of Summer of Scandal (Book 2 in the series) to one reader in the US. Take as many options as you can in the rafflecopter widget below and ... good luck!


darcybennett said...

Sounds interesting.

NovElla said...

I love the idea of a castle – sounds fun!

dstoutholcomb said...

sounds like a book I'd love!

Nancy P said...

Great excerpt. Lovely covers.

Syrie James said...

Hi Nancy! Congratulations, you are the winner of my novels Runaway Heiress and Summer of Scandal, the first 2 books in my Dare to Defy series. I put the books in the mail today. Due to the global pandemic it may take longer than usual for them to arrive, but please let me know when they do. My email is I hope you and your loved one are well and safe. I'd love to friend you on Facebook but am not sure which Nancy Payette you are, so please friend me at: Take care!