Even a fortune forged in railroads and steel can’t buy entrance into the upper echelons of Victorian high society—for that you need a marriage of convenience.
American heiress August Crenshaw has aspirations. But unlike her peers, it isn’t some stuffy British Lord she wants wrapped around her finger—it’s Crenshaw Steel, the family business. When it’s clear that August’s outrageously progressive ways render her unsuitable for a respectable match, her parents offer up her younger sister to the highest entitled bidder instead. This simply will not do. August refuses to leave her sister to the mercy of a loveless marriage.
Evan Sterling, the Duke of Rothschild, has no intention of walking away from the marriage. He’s recently inherited the title only to find his coffers empty, and with countless lives depending on him, he can’t walk away from the fortune a Crenshaw heiress would bring him. But after meeting her fiery sister, he realizes Violet isn’t the heiress he wants. He wants August, and he always gets what he wants.
But August won’t go peacefully to her fate. She decides to show Rothschild that she’s no typical London wallflower. Little does she realize that every stunt she pulls to make him call off the wedding only makes him like her even more.
About the Author:
Harper St. George was raised in the rural backwoods of Alabama and along the tranquil coast of northwest Florida. It was a setting filled with stories of the old days that instilled in her a love of history, romance, and adventure. By high school, she had discovered the historical romance novel which combined all of those elements into one perfect package. She has been hooked ever since. She lives in the Atlanta area with her family and loves to hear from readers.
Read an Excerpt:
The very air in the room altered when August entered. She was simply stunning wrapped in her Worth gown and her confidence. She pulled the door closed behind her, her chin parallel with the floor and her shoulders squared to face him. It was almost as if she had been born to be a duchess.
“You are angry with me.” Noting the way her small hand kept a secure hold of the doorknob as if she intended to leave at the first sign of trouble, he stayed where he was so that he would not frighten her. He wanted many things from the woman before him, but her fear was not one of them.
Eyes bright with her fury, she said, “Of course I am. Do you have any idea what you have done?”
Even though he knew that it would only goad her, he could not stop the smile from twisting his lips. “I presume you mean the waltz?”
“You know precisely what I mean. Everyone thinks that you intend to propose to me now instead of Violet.”
It was terrible of him, but he could not resist himself when it came to her. Smiling widely now, he leaned a shoulder against a shelf and said, “You did ask me to not dance with her tonight, if I recall.”
She violently let go of the doorknob, if such a thing was possible, and crossed her arms over her chest to pace the short distance to the low-burning fireplace. The library was a small but comfortable room with dark oak paneling and a seating area with several overstuffed chairs and low tables set before the fire. Aside from the bookcases framing the mantel, and the row of them at his back, they were the only furniture in the room. Had she kept the chairs between them because she feared being alone with him? A twinge of guilt made itself known that she was probably right.
“I should have realized you would make this into another sparring match. Whatever your reasoning, you have made everyone believe that you intend to propose to me. Why would you do that?”
She could not look directly at him when she asked that. Her gaze had settled somewhere along his ear. Interesting. Also of note, the color on her cheeks was higher than when she had walked into the room. Partially due to her anger but, he would be willing to bet, also because she was as attracted to him as he was to her. Watching the myriad of expressions on her lovely face during their waltz had made him suspect as much. Now he knew for certain.
Tipping his head slightly to attempt to force her to meet his gaze, he explained, “Perhaps because I do mean to propose to you. Have you considered that?” He was surprised to find that his heart was pounding with those words.
Breath lodged in her chest as she jerked to meet his gaze. “What? No.” Her lips parted as she appeared to struggle to form her next words. “I . . . I do not accept.”
Not yet, but she would. “I have not proposed to you, yet.”
Having overcome her apparent shock, she drew herself up. “That hardly matters. I won’t accept when you do, so you shouldn’t bother.”
“Thank you for the fair warning, but I rather hope to change your mind.”
She laughed at that. Laughed as if he were a lowly servant asking for her hand rather than a duke. “Impossible.”
For the first time that night, a glimmer of anger burned in his chest. “I am a respected peer with four estates and—since I lack the requisite excessive weight and want of hair of others in my position—more than a passing attractiveness.”
She took in a breath and closed her eyes briefly before catching him with that directness he found both enticing and unsettling. “The fact that you believe those are the only things that recommend you as a spouse is both troubling and sad.”
He could only stare at her, taken aback by her opinion. “As troubling and sad as they may be to you, they are very sound reasons for marriage. Why would you not want to marry me?”
Crossing her arms over her chest again, she asked, “Why on earth would I ever marry you? You truly cannot fathom a woman turning down your offer of marriage, can you? I do not intend to marry you, because I like my life as it is now. You have absolutely nothing to offer me.”
“Nothing is such a strong position.” He heard himself saying the words and moving forward without ever consciously thinking of what he was saying. “You like kissing me. The marriage bed will be no hardship for either of us.”
As he wove around the chairs separating them, she took a step back until she came up against the bookcase. The soft flames of the fire lit up the rose of her cheeks and the interest in her eyes. They had fallen to rest on his mouth, much as his own gaze was eating up the sight of her soft lips. It was amazing how the simple reminder of their kiss had changed them both so fast.
Dear God, to have her in bed beneath him would be one of the greatest accomplishments of his life.
“That is hardly . . . That is no reason . . .” Her gaze moved back and forth between his eyes and his mouth as he came to a stop in front of her. Near enough to touch, but he did not dare take that path yet. “Are we like horses to you, then? Choose the mare you would prefer to breed and we all simply go along with your choice?”
He managed to swallow down his laugh, even as her words made heat pulse in his veins. “That is not at all how I see this, and it is hardly fair to assume as much when I am willing to negotiate.”
“Not fair?” The softness that had crept into her eyes was burned away by a new wave of anger. “You have some nerve speaking to me about fair play. None of this is fair. You decide you need money and then decide to marry to get it. Now you’ve decided that I will be your convenient bride, no matter how I feel about it.”
This time he could not hide his laughter. “I assure you that you are anything but a convenient bride. You are the most stubborn and infuriating woman I have ever met.”
August Crenshaw is an American heiress, who is named after her grandfather who started Crenshaw Iron Works and made the family’s fortune. Though the Crenshaws’ wealth can compete with any other family’s in 1870’s New York, they are still considered upstarts by the highest social sticklers, and aren’t truly welcome by the cream of society. This fact grates on August’s parents, particularly her mother. When a friend of August’s is forced into marrying a much older English duke, Mrs. Crenshaw practically salivates at the thought of one of her daughters making such a socially advantageous match. August mistakenly believes that her own parents would never force such a horrible thing on her, and is content with using her intelligence at being an integral part of the family business. Of course, she wants to marry someday, but at twenty three, she has plenty of time. August has no qualms about traveling to England with her family to visit her newly wed friend, while her father pursues business connections.
Evan Sterling was never meant to be the duke, but that all changed when his older brother, William, died and he became the heir. Upon his father’s death, he became Duke Rothschild, and learned the full extent of his family’s financial woes. With multiple estates, and hundreds of families depending upon him for their living, not to mention two sisters about to come out, Evan sells everything he can to try to keep his dukedom afloat. He even turned his enjoyment of boxing to a money making enterprise by becoming a bare knuckle brawler in disguise, known as the Hellion. Still, his creditors are tightening their nooses around him, and his mother stresses that he needs to marry an heiress.
Evan first spots August at the theatre, and is attracted immediately to her looks, though they’re not introduced. Surprisingly, he sees her at one of his bouts, where he saves her from a fall and then shares a brief kiss. August is surprised at her own reaction to this stranger, and how she feels drawn to him. When they eventually officially meet, August soon realizes that the duke is the same man she saw at the boxing match. Though she can’t deny that she finds him appealing and attractive, she has no place in her life for a fortune hunting duke. Her parents, however, think differently.
August is a strong woman, one who can be opinionated and stubborn. Though she finds herself weakening to Evan’s charm, she soon builds her walls back up, determined not to change her life plan. Though Evan needs an heiress, he soon finds that any heiress will not do – it has to be August. He is smitten with her beauty, but he admires her intelligence, her blunt speaking, and her lack of game playing. He loves the fact that she has no interest in his title and position, and speaks her true feelings to him. Their attraction can’t be denied, and despite August’s reluctance, they find they can’t stay away from each other. They begin to share delicious kisses and some very heated embraces.
I fell in love with Evan, and truly felt bad for his plight. His determination to win August on his own, rather than forcing her hand was like a breath of fresh air. Many times he had the opportunity to allow them to be caught in a compromising position, but chose the high road. Every time I began to hope that August was coming around, something would happen, and it was two steps back for every step forward. I became so disappointed with August’s parents, and some of the actions they took, but I adore her brother, who traveled across the ocean to stand up for his sister. The situation looks bleak, indeed, when August has had enough, and boards a ship, headed back to America.
THE HEIRESS GETS A DUKE is the first book I’ve read by Harper St. George, and I found it to be encompassing, well written, and entertaining. I love the characters of Evan and August, and their passionate battle. August is a woman ahead of her time, I think, and Evan is secure enough to allow her to be herself and utilize her intelligence and talents in the business world. I think they both ended up being surprised, August by her passionate nature, and Evan by his own tender feelings and commitment to acting honorably. THE HEIRESS GETS A DUKE is a fabulous romance with plenty of heart, and I can’t wait for the next in the series. ~Rose