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This is an original holiday short story, written for a 2012 Christmas blog event on the theme “A wallflower makeover on Christmas Eve.” In the past, I’ve written a Christmas wallflower novella (Once Upon a Winter’s Eve) and greatly enjoyed writing a quiet, reserved heroine who comes into her own. But with this story, I thought it would be fun to give that well-loved trope a few twists. Enjoy!


“Now, Hugh. Do promise me you’ll try tonight.”

“Try?” he echoed. His tone was willfully obtuse. “I don’t understand. Try at what?”

Juliet sighed. Visibly. The December air took her frustrated breath and made it into a tiny thundercloud.

She jammed her hands deep in her toasty, fox-fur muff. “You know what I mean. Every year my family hosts this Christmas party, and every year you travel from godforsaken Cornwall to attend it. And then you spend the entire evening skulking in the shadows.”

His laugh was low but warm. “I am sorry to disappoint you, but I do not make the yearly journey all the way from Cornwall to Hertfordshire for a neighbor’s party. I come to visit my aunt.”

Juliet tried to hide the twist of her lips. Didn’t Hugh come to visit her, as well? He surely wasn’t out trudging the woods with his aunt. Not that Lady Hortense could trudge the woods, frail old thing.

Perhaps that’s all Juliet was to him now. Not a friend worth the journey to visit, but merely a … Read More »

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season.

As I update the site toward the end of 2013, there is much to celebrate. I am so honored that Any Duchess Will Do has been named on several year-end “best of” lists, including:

And now I’m looking forward to 2014, and the late-January release of Romancing the Duke! This is the first in my all-new Castles Ever After series.  Each heroine in the series has inherited her very own castle–and trouble along with it. Miss Izzy Goodnight’s trouble comes in the form of a reclusive, wounded duke.  Izzy and Ransom’s story has already received starred reviews from both Publisher’s Weekly and Booklist.  You can read an excerpt and find pre-order links here on the site.

Much cheer to you, and all the best for 2014!… Read More »

I’m so honored that ADWD has been featured on the following “Best-of” lists:

Finalist, Historical Romance category, Romance Writers of America RITA awards

Winner, Romance category, American Library Association’s 2014 Reading List

Award nominee, “Best Historical Love and Laughter,” RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Awards… Read More »

#23 on All About Romance reader poll, “Top 100 Romances of All Time”

Featured in Publisher’s Weekly “Best Romance of 2012”

Featured in “Best Books of 2012: Romance,” by Library Journal

Winner, Best Historical Love and Laughter, RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice award… Read More »

Starred review, Publisher’s Weekly

“Dare’s first Castles Ever After historical provides a unique twist to a fairy tale, complete with an ancient castle, a damsel in distress, and a wounded hero. … Lyrical writing and expert, intense character development make this a romance to be savored.”

Starred review, Booklist magazine

“…Wickedly funny and soul-satisfyingly romantic.” ~John Charles

Starred review, Kirkus

“…An effervescent, heart-tugging romance.”

Top Pick!, RT Book Reviews

“Adorable,” “funny,” “charming” and “clever” are a few words used to describe Dare’s novels, and the first of her Castles Ever After series is no exception. There’s an intrepid heroine, a brooding hero, delightful secondary characters…and just enough angst and passion to turn this into a Dare fan’s delight. ~Kathe Robin

Starred reviewKirkus

“Dare continues her Castles Ever After series with another cleverly crafted love story that hits all the high notes. A sparkling, emotionally lush romance.”  Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews”

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Chapter One

The name Isolde Ophelia Goodnight did rather spell a life of tragedy. Izzy could look at her situation and see just that. Motherless at a young age. Fatherless now, as well. Penniless. Friendless.

But she’d never been hopeless.

Not yet.

Not quite.

Because the name Isolde Ophelia Goodnight also suggested romance. Swooning, star-crossed, legendary romance. 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.

Once she’d grown old enough to understand her mother’s death, Izzy had consoled herself with the idea that this was all part of her epic tale. The heroines in fairy stories were always motherless.

When Papa overspent their income, and the maid was dismissed, she told herself the drudgery would pay off someday. Everyone knew that Cinderella had to scrub the floors before she could win the handsome prince.

By time she turned fifteen, their finances had improved, thanks to Papa’s writing success. Still no prince, but there was time. Izzy told herself she’d grow into her largish nose and that her frizzled hair would eventually tame itself.

She hadn’t, and it didn’t. No ugly-duckling-turned-swan here, either.

Her seventeenth birthday passed without any pricking of fingers.

At twenty-one, life forced a difficult truth on her somewhere on the road between Maidstone and Rochester. Real highwayman were neither devilishly charming nor roguishly handsome. They wanted money, and they wanted it quickly, and Izzy ought to be very glad they weren’t … Read More »

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