Sparks fly between an American woman and a charming British aristocrat when they’re thrown together by their parents’ plan for an advantageous marriage in Harper St. George’s The Heiress Gets a Duke.
August Crenshaw has seen the way marriages of convenience have run roughshod over her close friends, hurting them mentally, emotionally and even physically. She finds passion in numbers, risk assessment and her family’s iron works company. A husband would undoubtedly detail her career ambitions. She vows to never offer herself up as her family’s sacrifice, but worries that her parents’ restraint from using their daughters as pawns is coming to an end.
Evan Sterling, Duke of Rothschild, becomes the manager of the Rothschild estate after a series of devastating tragedies. His staid older brother dies suddenly, followed by his father, and the family’s financial situation is revealed to be truly dire. Evan and his mother realize that the quickest way to gain a fortune, especially as Evan’s twin sisters are set to debut the following year, is to marry. An American heiress will bring new money and steady income. Meanwhile, marrying a duke lends a sense of social capital to those who feel like longstanding institutions have been closed to them.
At first, it isn’t August on the chopping block, but her sweet younger sister, Violet, despite Violet having her own aspirations of becoming a writer and the interest of a man back in America. To protect her sister, August volunteers to take her place, much to the surprise and uncertainty of the meddling parents.
Wry, tenacious August isn’t exactly a friendly woman, but she is a memorable and well-crafted heroine. Prickly at best, she’s practical and often blunt with her words as she tries to get her family’s business taken more seriously. By contrast, Evan’s caring relationship with his mother is a cornerstone of his character (and provides some of the book’s best scenes). It’s lovely to see a mutually respectful and close relationship between a historical romance hero and his mother. And as a bonus, Evan moonlights as a prizefighter who fights shirtless and in tight breeches.
The Heiress Gets a Duke stands out from the crowded field of historical romance by combining old and new. St. George clearly has an appreciation for the genre, as the novel is reminiscent of historical classics that longtime romance readers have grown up with, but there are also meta moments of brilliance, as when August remarks on the amount of dukes available in England or the corniness of mysterious nicknames that just seem silly when said aloud.
Fun, tender and definitely sexy, The Heiress Gets a Duke is already at the top of my list for the best books of the year. Don’t sleep on this refreshing and feminist romance.