Review: Reclaiming Ryda

Reclaiming Ryda by Rachel Rossano is a book I've had on my backburner for a while after I saw a recommendation for it in an author newsletter. Now that I've finally gotten around to reading it, I just wish I had done so sooner. This is the second book in the Once Upon a Duchy series that worked just fine for me as a standalone. It is an original romance story even though the cover claims that it is based on the fairy tales "Rapunzel" and "East of the Sun, West of the Moon." My only complaint is that it is a little longer than it needs to be, but that is a small price to pay for such a beautifully crafted love story. The book doesn't have any magic in it, which allows the plot to devote itself entirely to its characters and their relationships. Any lover of romance would be sure to devour this book.

Reclaiming Ryda by Rachel Rossano

Reclaiming Ryda is a "lost princess" story that doesn't follow the traditional modern-day narrative. Ryda has no need or desire to reclaim a throne or rescue a kingdom. She simply wishes to escape the library where she has been imprisoned for most of her life and find a new place to call home. Her skills are more intellectual than physical, so she realizes that she would be unable to escape without assistance. This book isn't afraid to give its female protagonist traditional feminine traits, something that is frowned upon in most contemporary princess stories. Ryda is a skilled writer, singer, and researcher, but none of these talents can help her stand up to the wicked duke's son who holds her captive in the library. If not for her awful captor, her prison might not be so bad. She spends her days reading and organizing the duke's library, occasionally receiving company from traveling scholars. Until she receives an audience from a nobleman named Crispin, none of her visitors show much interest in helping her with her tragic circumstances.

Crispin is unique for a fairy tale love interest. He is not a dashing rogue who slays dragons nor does he enter Ryda's library with the intention of rescuing her. Instead, he is a scholar who visits the library to do genealogy research to help his family find a lost heir. Once he meets Ryda and learns of her situation, he feels he has no choice but to help her escape because it is the right thing to do. The two have a slow and realistic romance that develops over the course of the time he spends working on his research. Ryda is intimidated at first by Crispin's unusually large stature for a scholar until she realizes that he is a big softie with a heart gold. Something else that makes Crispin unique is his sidekick, Pip, a young orphan boy who aids him with everything from serving food to delivering messages to assisting with Ryda's rescue mission. Pip reminds me a little of Batman's Robin and gives Crispin more of a superhero feel to make up for his lack of physical prowess.

The book slows down a lot after the rescue mission and shifts gears to Ryda trying to earn the approval of Crispin's strict father. I thought the second half of the book could have been trimmed down since it takes a long time for anything important to happen and makes up for the bulk of its length. Still, it was written so beautifully that I didn't mind spending time with Ryda as she got to know Crispin's brothers and worked hard to impress his family. As much as I would have loved to see a thrilling climax in which Ryda and Crispin get revenge on the duke's son who held her captive, Crispin's disapproving father turned out to be a unique sort of intellectual villain, albeit a much less dangerous one. It was cute to see how hard Ryda was willing to work to become part of his family, and it added an extra layer of realism to the already strong romance in the book.

If you are looking for non-stop action and adventure, Reclaiming Ryda is not the book for you. However, if you enjoy old-fashioned love stories, damsels in distress, and realistic character development, this book is an excellent choice. It is one of the best love stories I have ever read with unique and believable characters, a daring rescue, and timeless themes about what it means to be part of a family. I would strongly recommend it to any fan of romance or fairy tales.


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