He’s everything she’s trying to avoid…But somehow precisely what she needs…
Caleb Crawford doesn’t want to be a duke. He’d much rather build houses for a living. So when fate disrupts his peaceful life and burdens him with the responsibilities of a newly inherited title, he does what any sensible man would do by fleeing London, disguising himself as a laborer, and seeking refuge with three young spinsters who need his help with a leaky roof.
Ruined by a marquess who promised her the world, Mary Clemens has sworn to avoid marriage forever. Instead, she intends to live out her days with her friends and the orphaned children they’ve taken into their care. But when Mr. Crawford comes knocking, Mary finds herself in real danger of risking heartbreak all over again. Especially when she discovers that he’s not at all what he seems.
About the Author:
Born in Denmark, Sophie has spent her youth traveling with her parents to wonderful places all around the world. She’s lived in five different countries, on three different continents, and speaks Danish, English, French, Spanish and Romanian.
She has studied design in Paris and New York and has a bachelor’s degree from Parson’s School of design, but most impressive of all – she’s been married to the same man three times, in three different countries and in three different dresses.
While living in Africa, Sophie turned to her lifelong passion – writing.
When she’s not busy, dreaming up her next romance novel, Sophie enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, cooking, gardening, watching romantic comedies and, of course, reading. She currently lives on the East Coast.
Read an Excerpt:
Rain gushed down the curved slope of the roof and pelted against the ground. Pulling his hat down over his forehead, Caleb drew the collar of his greatcoat up to protect the back of his neck and climbed the slick stone steps.
He still owned a key and withdrew it now from his pocket to unlock the door. It swung open and gave way to a dim interior. Entering the foyer, Caleb paused to listen. All was silent. Not even the longcase clock ticked away the progression of time.
Shivering, Caleb nudged the door shut behind him. It closed with a resounding thud. Where the devil was everyone?
He sighed and muttered another oath. He didn’t like the idea of having to hunt down his family at one of the country estates. But even if they’d left town, there ought to be servants about. His parents had never left a house completely empty.
A soft snick caught his ears, and then the sharp click of approaching footsteps filled the air. The sound accompanied a man whom Caleb instantly recognized, even though his features were far more drawn now than when he’d last seen him.
“Murdoch,” he said, addressing the butler. “It has been a while.”
The old man drew a sharp breath. The candelabra he carried displaced the darkness. “I thought I heard something, so I came to investigate.” Moving closer, he peered up at Caleb. Light from four guttering candles flickered across his face, accentuating the creases there. “Is it really you, my lord?”
Caleb drew his hat from his head and swiped back the wet strands of hair that clung to his forehead. “Yes. I have returned.” He set his valise and satchel on the floor and proceeded to take off his gloves. “Where are my parents?”
Murdoch stared at him as if he could still not believe he was actually there. “Your mother is upstairs in her rooms.” Breaking eye contact, he proceeded to help Caleb off with his coat.
“And my father, the duke?” When Murdoch failed to reply, Caleb knit his brow. “Is he not at home?”
“No, he is not.” The butler busied himself with hanging the coat and setting Caleb’s hat and gloves aside. “But your mother will be pleased to see you, I’m sure. Please, follow me.” He led the way up the stairs while Caleb followed behind, his curiosity piqued by the servant’s unwillingness to supply him with details. Perhaps his parents had quarreled during his absence and were now living apart?
They reached the top of the landing and turned left toward the duchess’s apartment. Caleb knew the way well enough, but was glad the butler would be there to announce his arrival. After all, he doubted his mother would be as pleased to see him as Murdoch believed, considering he’d left without saying farewell. But he’d been too angry to do so at the time, and his decision to leave had been made in haste without consideration for anything besides getting away.
Arriving in front of the door leading into his mother’s sitting room, Murdoch paused to knock. A maid answered seconds later, her eyes widening when she noticed Caleb.
“Please inform Her Grace that her son, Lord Caleb, is here to see her,” Murdoch said.
The maid nodded and the door closed, only to be opened again moments later by the duchess herself. “Thank God you are here!” She stared up at him with shimmering eyes, and then, in the next second, her arms were around him, and she was holding him to her as if he offered necessary support.
Unaccustomed to such a display of affection from his mother, Caleb hesitated briefly before wrapping his arms around her as well. He hadn’t expected such a warm welcome and was slightly thrown by the effect it was having on the resentment he’d harbored for the past ten years.
Placing a kiss on his mother’s cheek, he listened to her uneasy breaths until she was ready for him to release her.
“Shall I have some tea sent up?” Murdoch asked, reminding Caleb of his presence.
“Please do,” his mother said. She opened the door to her sitting room wider and invited Caleb in. Unlike his mother, whose youth had departed during his absence, the space looked unchanged. “Come sit with me, Caleb. There is much for us to discuss.”
He wasn’t even sure where to begin. This reunion wasn’t going at all the way he’d imagined it would. Since leaving Paris five days earlier, he’d pictured himself storming into his father’s study and shoving the evidence of his success under the man’s haughty nose. Now, inhaling deeply, he approached the sofa and lowered himself to the vacant spot beside his mother. There was so much to say. Too much, in a way.
Perhaps the best place to start was with an apology. “I am sorry,” he told her and reached for her hand. “I should have written to you, but the more time passed, the more difficult it became.”
He looked at her and was swiftly accosted by guilt at the sight of her watery eyes. Christ, he’d been awful to her. She hadn’t deserved it, but his pride had been wounded, and he’d only been able to think of himself and of getting away from the life he’d come to despise.
“At least I am not your only son,” he murmured. She had three besides his older brother, George, the heir who’d received all their father’s affection.
“You haven’t been in touch with Griffin or Devlin?” she asked in reference to the brothers who’d been born only minutes after himself. He shook his head. “They left shortly after you, for similar reasons, I suspect. Now, after everything that has happened, I am hoping they will return as well. I’ve sent out letters, but it will take time for them to reach your brothers.” She met his gaze. Her brow puckered ever so slightly. “I’m surprised you are already here since I had no idea of your actual location. I suppose the agent I hired to find you was good at doing his job.”
Unease traversed Caleb’s spine. He tightened his hold on his mother’s hand. “No one came to find me, Mama. I returned of my own accord.”
“But then…” She swallowed and closed her eyes. Her lips trembled and it became suddenly clear to Caleb that she was making a stoic effort to maintain her composure. “You do not know.” The words were only a whisper.
“Know what?” he asked even though he sensed he had no wish to hear whatever it was she would say in response.
“Your father is dead, Caleb. A fire broke out at the Everly stables last week,” she said, referring to one of the dukedom’s larger properties. “He and George went to inspect some repairs. They were supposed to be gone only for a few short days but now…” A sob cut off her words, and her free hand rose to smother the sound.
Caleb’s heart thudded against his chest. “And George?” he asked, already dreading her answer.
“When your father didn’t come out, George went in after him.” Tears streamed down her cheeks. “They’re both gone, Caleb. I buried them at St. George’s this morning.”
It was as if time slowed to a halt. A distinct feeling of disappointment and deep regret trickled through him, numbing his veins. Slumping back, he tried to make sense of it, to accept what his mother told him as fact, only to find that he couldn’t.
The door opened after a quick knock, and Murdoch returned carrying a tray. He placed it on the table, exchanged a few words with the duchess, and departed once more. Caleb’s mother withdrew her hand from Caleb’s and dabbed at her eyes. She then busied herself with pouring tea while he watched with a strange sense of detachment.
He shook his head. “No. It cannot be true.”
She sniffed and took a sip of her tea. “You know what this means,” she said, as if he’d not spoken. She waited for him to meet her gaze before saying, “You are the Duke of Camberly now.”
Caleb stared at her in dismay. “I don’t want to be.” It was the first thing that came to mind. He liked his uncomplicated life, free from all the responsibilities his father and older brother had faced. He’d never envied either of them. But he had cursed the way his father’s sense of duty and obligation had affected his life.
“Unfortunately, that hardly matters. With your father and brother gone, the title falls to you.”
He instinctively shuddered and bit back the comment that threatened. To say that he ought to have stayed away would only cause his mother pain. She was happy to have him home and probably quite relieved with the prospect of him taking over the day-to-day running of things. And for her he would do it, or at least he would try.
He drew a deep breath and felt his chest tighten. “Very well. But if I am going to do this, I will need something stronger than tea. Please tell me you still keep a bottle of sherry in that cabinet over there.”
Her wobbly smile tilted as if trying to find its balance. “Yes. I dare say I could do with a glass myself.”
Raising her hand to his lips, Caleb pressed a tender kiss to her knuckles before going in search of their fortification. He was conscious of his heart beating a dull tattoo, like a drummer marching him off to the gallows. Recalling the satchel he’d left downstairs, he closed his eyes briefly and muttered a curse. Everything he’d worked for these past ten years had been for nothing. His father would never know of his success. How ironic that the son he’d named his greatest disappointment would now be continuing his legacy.
Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link: No Ordinary Duke (The Crawfords Book 1)
Caleb Crawford, the second son of a duke, has no desire to follow his father’s orders that he study to become a clergyman. His passion is architecture, and when his father learned that he changed his course of study, he pulled him out of school. Rather than become mired in a vocation that was not his calling, Caleb decides to leave his family and travel to the continent to continue his dream. As he left, he heard his father’s words telling him that he was nothing. Now, ten long years later, Caleb has returned home to show his father that he has become a successful architect. All those years of hard work and apprenticeship paid off, but it’s a hollow victory. Caleb learns that his father, and his older brother, the heir, have died. Though he doesn’t want it, Caleb is the new Duke of Camberly.
After weeks of trying his best to fulfill his ducal duties, Caleb is going a bit stir crazy, and needs a break. His friend, Aldridge, suggests he visit one of his properties, where his sister resides, and take care of some of the repairs needed. Caleb is eager to work with his hands again, and even more, looks forward to being an ordinary man, not a duke. Adridge’s sister was ruined years ago, and lives on the remote estate with her two friends, and the children they care for. One of those friends is Mary Clemens, a wealthy man’s daughter who was falsely accused of being a seductress, and left society so her sisters wouldn’t be tainted by her scandal.
Mary’s experience with society has made her determined to never let a man close again. In particular, she’s resentful of aristocrats, as is was a nobleman who started the rumor that ruined her. When Mary sees the handsome “handyman,” Caleb, she is smitten at first sight. Likewise, Caleb feels an instantaneous attraction to Mary. As they get to know each other, their feelings grow from superficial to friendship to genuine caring. Caleb learns of Mary’s scorn for aristocrats, and has never found the right moment to confess the truth.
Though Caleb also had no interest in marriage, he realizes that his feelings for Mary are the real deal. He knows that she also is seriously interested in him, and decides that he has to confess the truth, and hope that she will overcome her dislike of the nobility. Before he has the chance to plead his case, someone intrudes from his “other” life, and reveals Caleb’s true identity. What’s even worse, is that his family has a connection to Mary’s ruin. At this point, Mary wants nothing to do with Caleb and his world, so he returns to town, to plan his strategy.
Caleb truly is NO ORDINARY DUKE. He’s not interested in the trappings of society, and he knows his perfect match will be an unorthodox woman. He is such an honorable man, that he tried his best to resist Mary, trying to respect her feelings about nobles, while not truly ruining her. He accepts the duties he never wanted, yet plans to live his life so that it allows him to enjoy some of the things he loves. Mary is a strong woman, who voluntarily left town so that her sisters would have better opportunities in the marriage mart. Though she was devastated to learn the truth about Caleb, she was also wise enough to understand his reasoning. There is a sweet fairy-tale like ending, and a wonderful epilogue, giving us a glimpse far into the future. NO ORDINARY DUKE is a warm and romantic story with stellar characters who find a way to have it all. ~Rose
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It was such a pleasure to read, Sophie.