Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Claimed in the Italian's Castle by Caitlin Crews


Bluebeard is one of my favorite fairytales, so obviously when I found out that one of my favorite Harlequin authors wrote a retelling of my favorite fairytale, I was all over that like white on rice. Set in Italy, this is the story of Angelina and Benedetto. Angelina comes from a rich line of hotel moguls that is now very much down on their luck, mostly thanks to her father. Benedetto, on the other hand, can trace his family back to the fall of the Roman Empire, and is known as the Butcher of Castello Nero because of his sinister appearance and six missing wives.

Angelina's dad is more interested in money than he is for his daughters' safety, so he basically accepts a huge dowry in exchange for one of his three daughters. Petronella and Dorotea are both flighty and flirty and self-absorbed with superficial things, but Angelina is convent-raised and just wants to play piano. I think we know who Benedetto is gonna pick.

Anyway, they have a pretty spicy courtship for a Harlequin novel, and an even spicier wedding night. But then he gives her a key and is like this is the key to the door you must not open. And we all know what's going to happen. She's absolutely going to open that door.

This reminded me a lot of the author's other book, UNDONE BY THE BILLIONAIRE DUKE. It is cheekily anachronistic. In UNDONE, the heroine's first encounter with the hero is while he's on horseback. In this book, he lives in a freaking castle and they dine by candlelight. Not because he doesn't have power, the heroine deliberately points out, but just for the mood. This hero is so extra that his bed sheets are blood-red and have actual rubies sewn on them. He is SO dramatic and over the top that you just know he's gotta be a theater kid. Do we stan? I think we do.

I was 50% there for the spicy scenes I knew were forthcoming and 50% there because I wanted to find out what happened when the heroine opened the door. The reveal was... a little silly. But I wasn't mad. By making the hero so EXTRA, she left herself a lot of wiggle-room. Every time he did something that I would find ridiculous in another hero, I could just nod and be like, "Yeah, that's just a Benedetto thing. He's so extra." If you like gothic romances, you'll love this. When I reached out to this author to rave about her work, and how much I enjoyed the gothic undertones, she said something like how this was the one where she went completely over-the-top. She was not wrong, and I enjoyed it. Gothic overtones, and all.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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