Desert Isle Keeper
The Heiress Gets a Duke
The Heiress Gets a Duke is a wonderful, character-driven novel about the gray area between family responsibility and duty to self. It’s the first book I’ve read by Harper St. George (more known for Viking and Western romance) but it certainly will not be the last.
New Yorkers August Crenshaw and her sister Violet are attending the London season with their parents and also visiting their friend Camille, lately married to the older, unkind Duke of Hereford. New Yorker Camille was sacrificed at the altar of family ambition and is miserable in London. Hoping to cheer her, August agrees to accompany her on a late night outing – a boxing match. August is at first appalled but quickly finds herself mesmerized by one of the fighters – known only as the Hellion. When the crowd surges near the end of the fight, she is knocked off the platform only to be caught by the Hellion. He asks for a good luck kiss in return for the rescue and she, quite uncharacteristically, gives him one.
August and Violet assumed they were coming to London to see the sights and visit Camille, never imagining their parents (owners of the lucrative Crenshaw Iron Works) would consider sacrificing one of their daughters in the same way as happened to their friend. So when they are informed the following evening that the Duke of Rothschild is interested in marriage with a Crenshaw daughter, the girls are shocked. It turns out that their father wishes to expand his business in England and having a duke in the family is the perfect way to do this. Mr. and Mrs. Crenshaw decide that Violet will be the perfect wife for the Duke; with August’s mind for numbers and keen ability to analyze deals, she’s too crucial in running the family business (besides being considered “mannish” by the ton for her interest in business).
Evan Sterling, the Duke of Rothschild, never expected to inherit the dukedom – especially without any funds. He is trying his hardest to earn more and spend less but the creditors are at the door and he still has a mother to support and two sisters to launch next year. As distasteful as he finds it, Evan realizes he’s going to have to marry an heiress and soon. His mother thinks Violet is the best choice and they all meet for dinner. Violet and August are not interested – Violet has a beau in New York and August has ambitions within Crenshaw Iron Works. August pledges to Violet that she will stop the engagement. She confronts Evan (who looks suspiciously like the Hellion) at the party. He agrees to stop pursuing Violet – he is far more interested in August anyway!
“The debts are my father’s. The family honor rightfully belonged to my dutiful brother. My mother is the one who chose Violet.” He took the final step to reach her, closing the distance between them. The heat of her body warmed him as the fire could not. “I would have one things that is mine. I would choose my own wife. I choose you.”
Evan is a top-notch hero! He just wants to do the best by his family but can’t he have the wife of his choice? Is that too much to ask? St. George does a lovely job of making this duke/boxer achingly vulnerable and so honest with August. August is the perfect balance of smart, witty, and tender. She is beyond disappointed that her father thinks so little of her or Violet that he is willing to ‘sell’ one of them in exchange for a title. Her contributions to Crenshaw Iron Works are enormous and yet he brushes them off like a little hobby of hers. It’s heart-breaking to see how devastated August is by her discovery of her father’s true nature.
The attraction between August and Evan starts at the boxing match and just about sizzles on all of the pages after that; the author certainly knows how to write a love scene and create and build sexual tension. And romance! I loved that there were many scenes with August and Evan just sharing parts of their lives with each other. This romance was physical and intellectual. I was pulling for Evan to convince August that they could make it.
I have three minor quibbles. The first is that Camille seems to just disappear from the story. It’s clear that there is more going on there and I was disappointed to have her story left up in the air. My second is with August’s prolonged wish to stay single and work for Crenshaw Iron Works in spite of what her father did. This angle of the story goes on a tad too long. My third issue is the Rothschild name. The Rothschilds were one of the wealthiest families of that era (and remain so today) so it was probably not the best name choice for a pauper duke.
This is the first book in The Gilded Age Heiresses series and St. George does a lovely job setting up the next story for Violet and one of Evan’s business partners. I can already tell book two is going to be packed with tension and romance as well! The Heiress Gets a Duke is a terrific book and gets a solid recommendation.