May I please tell you about The Heiress Gets A Duke by Harper St. George? Well, if you’re still reading this – you’re not going to have a choice. You’re definitely going to hear about this book because I just cant stop raving about it! I just really, really love this book. In fact, since reading this the first time, I think I’ve gone back and reread it at least 4 times. I think I might have a new obsession!
To start it off – that cover. WOOHOO! What a dress! What a statement! I can’t even tell you how much I love it. (And yes, there is a gold dress at a pivotal moment of the book. I’ll get to my fashion obsession with this book in just a few minutes.)
But, down to business. This book has has everything you could possibly want. A smart heroine. A slow burn. An arranged marriage (sort of). Boxing matches. Steel blue eyes. Gorgeous fashions. Walking in on him in the bath. Not one, but TWO (maybe even three depending on how you count) sexy library scenes. I mean, what else could you want? And believe me, you want this book bad!
August Crenshaw is the titular heiress, a progressive American woman who works for her father’s iron company. On a trip to England, she becomes the interest of a fortune-hunting Duke. The Duke in question, Evan Sterling – the Duke of Rothschild – inherited a huge debt after his father’s death necessitating the need for him to marry an heiress. He loathes the idea but in accepting his financial reality, he reluctantly agrees to an arranged marriage with Miss Crenshaw.
After a chance meeting of August and Evan, in which his interest is certainly piqued and he thinks that his arranged marriage might not be so bad, he is disappointed to be introduced to August’s younger sister as his intended bride. He makes clear that August is the Crenshaw sister that he is willing to woo (and marry), but determined to dissuade him, August engages in subterfuge to persuade him to seek out his wealthy bride somewhere else. She’s happy as she is – employed in the family business with work and wealth of her own, which she knows she will lose the second she says “I do.” She’s managed to carve out a little autonomy for herself in a patriarchal world and she really, really doesn’t want to lose that. However, it’s all for naught since everything she does to convince Evan that he’s better off without her makes him like her all the more. Who will win in the battle of wits? August with her freedom intact or Evan with the money he needs to ensure the future of his duchy.
So, where to start? Hmmm…..
First, August is such an interesting heroine. She is unashamed of her interest and expertise in business. She loves her work and doesn’t want anything to inhibit her ability to work at a time when women were expected to stay at home and raise a family. I love that she wasn’t opposed to marriage but knew that since it would mean the end of her career, she thought long and hard about her choices. Even when her parents have taken all other options away from her, she still works to ensure her future. And it’s especially telling since historical romance have taught me that everyone wants to be a Duchess. (OK, not really. Maybe I’m thinking of Downton Abbey again? Sorry y’all.)
<Side note #1: Does anyone else wonder how Duchesses are so busy all the time? Is it comparable to today when women work full-time jobs and raise kids? But even if it was, wouldn’t a Duchess have, like, full time servants for the housekeeping and nannies (and then governesses/school) for the children? So, what does she do all day? Can she not carve out time in her day for work as she would do for social engagements? And do men think that sewing circles and teas are like exceptionally difficult to organize and attend? Are they? I mean, Evan is progressive and supportive and all so I’m just wondering why the other men around her are all like “But you can’t work AND do your housewife/Duchess responsibilities! For shame!” I mean, really. We women can do it all and have had to deal with pigheadedness for far too long.>
Evan is also a really interesting character. He’s willing to pretty much do anything to fix his family’s financial problems. But, he won’t compromise August’s virtue. I mean, he’ll do anything for love, but he won’t do that (Hah, cue the Meatloaf, amirite?) He has the opportunity (several times) to force her hand by being caught in compromising positions. And he chooses to wait August out. And every time her parents turn out to be a-holes, he shakes his head in disgust – seeing what they can’t, the way to August’s heart.
<Side note #2: Every time I read “Rothschild,” I kept thinking “Is he Jewish? Rothschild is like the most Jewish-associated name ever. Could he be a Jewish Duke? Please be true! Even if it isn’t, I’m going to assume it is and I’m down for that!>
I also love Evan’s unabashed pursuit of the woman whom everyone calls “mannish.” The author makes sure that the reader (and everyone in London) knows that it’s August’s sister, Violet, who is the beautiful, demure duchess-type. Violet is offered up to Evan on a silver platter but he’s is all like, “Nah, I like the one who’s smart, feisty, and speaks her mind. No one else will do.” He could have had his choice of the sisters and he wanted the smart one. From the beginning. It’s especially wonderful because he’s not deterred by August’s antics either. He has got it bad and that is a very good thing.
The use of the dramatic backdrop of the Gilded Age in the book showed how much the author did her research because it was incredibly well drawn. Both the insane wealth of the United States and the crumbling of the aristocracy in the UK. August’s fashions were so vivid that I felt myself designing the dresses in my head and longing to see what they would look like in person. I enjoyed reading about the issues facing landowners in Britain during this time too – the decay and deterioration that necessitates many a marriage to an American heiress. Especially as a fan of Downton Abbey – this is the generation that produced the marriage of Robert and Cora (for the exact same reasons).
I think I will go start rereading again. Anything to sink into the world of August and Evan, even just for a little while.
The Heiress Gets A Duke, published 2021
P.S. It seems like Book #2, The Devil and the Heiress, will be published in 2021 too! I cannot contain my excitement!