Princess Alesandra lost both her parents by the time she was twelve and was raised by nuns in a convent where she thinks she might like to stay. However, when the nuns become aware that one of her countrymen is about to kidnap her and force her to marry him, they decide to send her to the Englishman her father chose as her guardian years ago. Feeling that a hasty marriage is the best way to fend off the ne'er-do-well, her guardian and his wife have plans to help Alesandra get settled in England then bring her out to society to find a good match quickly. When they both fall ill, though, they send her to their youngest son, Colin, for safekeeping with the hope that he might choose to take on the role of her husband himself. Colin grudgingly accepts her into his household, but makes it quite clear that marriage doesn't fit into his five-year business plan. But after rejecting every potential suitor she suggests, he finally relents and takes her as his wife. After seeing how happy and in love her parents were, Alesandra always wanted the same for herself, but when Colin rejects her inheritance and seemingly everything else she has to offer, she despairs that her husband will ever truly love her the way she's fallen for him.
The second son of an aristocrat. Colin Hallbrook is a mere knight. As such, he's applied himself to earning his living in partnership with his best friend. Their shipping business is doing well, but Colin has a plan for how he hopes the next five years will go and he doesn't think he'll be ready for a wife and family until then. When Alesandra shows up at his townhouse unannounced, Colin instantly suspects his parents of matchmaking. Although he finds her very pleasing to the eye, he's not interested in marriage, but then he can't seem to stop finding the most ridiculous excuses for why everyone on her list of suitors would be wrong for her, until he realizes he's actually falling for her. Even though it changes his plans, Colin is happy to marry Alesandra, but he's determined not to accept her money, something that inexplicably seems to make her feel rejected. Colin will have his work cut out for him convincing his lovely new wife of how much he truly cares for her. There's also the not small matter of a serial killer on the lose who's been murdering titled ladies and Alesandra just might be the next name on his list.
Castles is the fourth and final book in Julie Garwood's Crown's Spies Regency historical series. This one features Colin, younger brother of Caine (Guardian Angel) and business partner of Nathan (The Gift) paired with Alesandra, the orphaned princess of a fictional nation. By the age of twelve, Alesandra had lost both her parents and was raised in a convent by nuns. Now that she's of age, the nuns have discovered a scheme by the general of Alesandra's country to kidnap her and force her to marry him, so they send her to the Englishman who was designated by her father as her guardian. He and his wife were supposed to look after her and help with her entree into society, but when they, as well as Caine and his wife, come down with a rather debilitating illness, they send her to their younger son, Colin, for safekeeping. At first, Colin isn't particularly thrilled to be babysitting a princess, no matter how alluring she might be, and when she lets it slip that his father was hoping he might marry her to keep her safe from the general, Colin unequivocally says no. However, the longer she stays with him, the harder he finds it to resist her. Knowing she needs to marry quickly to quell the threat against her, Alesandra has been making a list of eligible gentleman, so Colin agrees to help her vet the candidates, only to discover that he can't stomach the idea of her with anyone else but him. He finally agrees to a marriage of convenience, never intending to fall for his lovely wife, but along the way, he does just that. Convincing her of his love, though, could prove difficult when she can't help feeling that he's rejected everything she has to offer him. And then there's also the matter of a serial killer on the loose who appears to be targeting all the women in Colin's family, including Alesandra.
Alesandra had a good childhood until losing her parents and being raised by nuns. Given that she's spent the last six years of her life in a convent, she's very innocent and sweet, but with a touch of mischief in her. Although her heart is usually in the right place, she tends to get on the Mother Superior's nerves at times, so the good Mother is happy to send Alesandra to her guardian in England when danger begins to lurk. The only way her guardian knows to fully keep Alesandra out of the evil general's clutches is to marry her off quickly, so when the rest of the family falls ill, he sends her to Colin hoping that he'll accept responsibility for her. Although she finds him to be stubborn, Alesandra likes Colin almost immediately and tries to make herself useful in his household. However, when Colin resists the idea of marrying her, she must return to her list of potential suitors, of whom he humorously finds fault with each and every one before finally relenting. Once they're married, Alesandra has no illusions about him loving her, but knowing how much her parents loved each other, she hopes that in time, he'll come to care for her in a deeper way. But at every turn, Colin seems to reject the only things Alesandra believes she can offer, namely her inheritance money and her help with certain business matters, leaving her feeling bereft of a connection to her new husband and resorting to a bit of trickery to get around his arrogant dictates. Like most Julie Garwood heroines, Alesandra is sweet and quirky, but one impressive thing she possesses is a good head for numbers. She makes her own investments,, although as a woman, she must invent a fictional "uncle" to do so, and she deftly takes over Colin's bookkeeping when he's ill. She also figures out a way to ease the pain Colin experiences from an old injury. Alesandra is simply an all-around kindhearted heroine who cares for others, especially Colin, even when she has to find inventive ways to do things for his own good, which I appreciated.
Colin is the second son of a nobleman and a mere knight, so he and his business partner, Nathan, have been working hard to build their shipping company. It's doing well, but he has a five-year plan that doesn't include marriage or kids until he reaches his business goals. When Alesandra shows up unannounced at his townhouse, Colin immediately starts to suspect his father is matchmaking, and in her sweet honesty, Alesandra admits as much. Although he finds her extremely attractive, he immediately says no to marriage, because it doesn't fit his plan. But Alesandra slowly starts to get to him, until he finds himself coming up with the most ridiculous arguments to reject every other potential suitor, because deep down he can't bear the thought of her with someone else. At that point, he realizes that he's going to have to marry her himself after all, but he still plans for it to only be a marriage of convenience until he figures out that Alesandra has fallen for him and he can no longer withhold his heart from her either. If I'm being honest, I'd have to say that Colin was a little underdeveloped. He's very much the usual Julie Garwood hero, an alpha with a heart of gold. Love kind of sneaks up on him, but when it does, he doesn't fight it. The most interesting thing about him is that sometime in the past, a shark took a bite out of his leg, so it's badly scarred and causes him pain. Like the stereotypical alpha, he doesn't like to talk about it, but when he discovers that Alesandra has been secretly helping him, he almost immediately opens up. He's basically the steadfast foil to Alesandra's flightiness, a good guy with a kind heart, but his characterization didn't move much beyond that.
Although I'm not entirely certain, I think I might have read Castles in my time before joining GoodReads and meticulously keeping track of my reading. Parts of it seemed vaguely familiar to me, but I wasn't sure if that's because I'd previously read it or if it just bore similarities with other Julie Garwood books. In any case, it was a good wrap-up to this series. The story was cute and sweet with plenty of Julie Garwood's trademark humor that keeps things pretty light. I like that Alesandra was intelligent, even though otherwise, she's kind of the quirky heroine we usually see from this author. Colin is a good match for her, handling her oddness with grace. Having Alesandra be the wealthier one was a nice change of pace, too, even though Colin, stubborn, independent alpha that he is, refuses to use her money, even when Nathan decides to go against their plans and offer stock shares of the company to keep it solvent. Lucky for them Alesandra is smart enough to elude Colin's scrutiny temporarily to keep it all in the family like they'd originally intended. And eventually Colin comes around with relative ease. I enjoyed the visits with Caine and Jade (Guardian Angel) and Nathan and Sara (The Gift) and getting to see their growing families. There's a touch of mystery in the form of occasional brief scenes from the POV of the serial killer as he goes after victims, and while the author set up a few possibilities, it wasn't difficult to discern who the villain was. His motives were a little on the weak side, too, but this part of the story provided a small bit of excitement at the end. Mostly, though, Castles is lighthearted fare that I'd recommend to lovers of historical romance with a rom-com vibe.
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