Series Name: #1 The Gilded Age Heiresses
“Kiss me for luck,” he said as he met her gaze again.
Her eyes widened. How could he demand a kiss now, when his very large and very angry opponent was coming to his feet at this very moment? “He’s almost on his feet.” Fear for him made her voice rise.
“Then hurry.” He spoke the words very near her mouth. His breath – smelling of brandy and peppermint – warmed her skin, bringing nerve endings to live.
The Heiress Gets a Duke is a novel look into the Gilded Age world filled with new money, old ideas and a quickly changing world.
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 Iron Works, 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.
I love Gilded Age romances because I think this is such a fascinating time in western history: there’s an influx of new money from industry. The aristocrats are struggling to explain their continued rule. Women are fighting to be more independent and less only regarded as man’s chattel. Harper St. George dives right into this glamorous world with August’s story. The Crenshaw family is very rich in America, however their new money and rise from trade keeps them out of certain old money family’s parties. The Crenshaw’s are desperate for that approval and see marrying their daughters to old English money as a way to buy their way in. The only problem is that August and her sister Violet aren’t interested in following their parents’ demands. When August and her family land in England, it becomes very apparent to August that her parents will stop at nothing to get what they want. Enter Evan Sterling, the Duke of Rothschild. He’s handsome, well titled and also broke. He desperately needs to fill his bank account with money, and quickly, to keep creditors off his back thanks to some terrible decisions by his father. The Crenshaws decide that Evan should marry their youngest and most beautiful and proper daughter, Violet. August, the eldest daughter who is regarded to be a bluestocking and off the shelf because she’s smart and actually works for her family’s business is determined to stop the forced engagement. What she doesn’t expect though is that the Duke whom she forces to waltz with her is also the bare-knuckled fighter she kissed during an illegal midnight match her friend snuck her into. While she’s prepared to hate him on sight, she can’t deny the attraction that’s palpable between them.
August and Evan have one of the best meet cutes I’ve read in a while. They share their first kiss within the first chapter of the book. And their chemistry is off the charts. I adored Evan from the get go. He’s a second son who never expected to be the Duke. He also never expected to inherit a dukedom that is in such poor shape financially. He is determined to fulfill his noble obligation and take care of the hundreds of people who depend on him. Evan is honestly such a nice man: he cares for his family, he has a close group of friends, and is willing to fight for what he believes to be right. He actually despises that he has to create a quick engagement with a wealthy American family to do the right thing for his family. He quickly sees how hungry the Crenshaws are to marry off their daughters and he is repulsed by how little they seem to care for August unless she can bring them the success they crave. August, on the other hand, frustrated me. She’s super smart, very privileged in her life, and has more opportunities handed to her than most other women of that time could only dream of. Plus some serious sizzling chemistry with Evan. I wanted to yell at her sometimes to get out of her own way. I did love watching the two of them fall for each other. Evan really wanted to court her and have her fall for him as he was falling for her. The misunderstanding at the end seemed to be a little dramatic for August to react how she does, but I love how Evan wins her back. August really grows in this book, and the HEA at the end does justice to both Evan and her character development and is so satisfying.
Harper sets up the Crenshaw parents to be the true villains of this book, and boy are they easy to rage at. They are ruthless in their drive to be as successful as possible and neither really spare a moment to think beyond themselves. It’s heartbreaking when August, who has worked so hard to succeed at the business and believes herself to be an integral part of the business realizes her father has only been placating her. Thank goodness for her elder brother Max, who recognizes her genus, and Evan who reinforces her intelligence and capability through his time spent with her. Evan actually negotiates with her parents that she must continue on to work in their business, which was unheard of at the time. I think this book perfectly captures the friction between new money and old money and the new changing thoughts and ideals and what a tumultuous time this would have been to live through.
This is the first book in the series and I love how Harper has set the characters up for the next book. The Crenshaws sisters and their cast of friends are characters I’m so happy to get to spend more time with.