In the last couple of years, I’ve discovered that I actually really enjoy romance novels, including historical romance. One of my favorite authors in the genre is Evie Dunmore, who’s writing the League of Extraordinary Women series. Since I love her books so much, I also respect her opinion and recommendations. One new book she recently praised is The Heiress Gets a Duke by Harper St. George. I hadn’t heard of it until Book of the Month included it as a January pick, but with Evie Dunmore’s featured recommendation, I was instantly sold.
The Heiress Gets a Duke is the first in a new series, the Gilded Age Heiresses, so there will also be more stories to enjoy after this one. In fact, I’m already excited for the upcoming second novel!
It’s 1875, but August Crenshaw is a woman ahead of her time. Though she’s a wealthy heiress and of marrying age, August is career-focused, intent on continuing to work in her family’s railroad business. When she and her family travel from their home in America to England, visiting her recently married friend, August and her younger sister Violet get caught up in a courtship with a duke. A duke in need of a wife with money.
Evan Sterling, the Duke of Rothschild, has been struggling to keep his family afloat after his father passed away a year prior. The father left the family severely in debt, and the only way out seems to be for Evan to marry into fortune, and quickly. Though his mother thinks Violet Crenshaw would make a perfect duchess, Evan has eyes only for August. Unfortunately for him, August has no intention of marrying anytime soon… even if she does feel a strong attraction to Evan.
What follows is a volley between the two as Evan tries to convince her to marry him and August does everything she can to stay single for a few years longer.
I mentioned before that I’m a fan of Evie Dunmore’s historical romances, and lately, I’ve been craving something similar to read. I wasn’t sure where to look, but I’m so glad I found The Heiress Gets a Duke. It’s exactly the kind of steamy historical romance I needed.
From the beginning, I love how strong of a character August is. She’s ahead of her time, not just in her career ambitions, but also in that her dad has employed her at the family company for years. She’s intelligent and quick, but also daring and unafraid of confrontation. It’s unfortunate to see others in her life ignore those attributes and instead place all her value on her looks and the kind of marriage match she’ll eventually make. However, this makes Evan’s reaction to her all the sweeter: He admires August for her mind and her business ideas, and he respects her for it. I love that he encourages this side of her and doesn’t feel emasculated by it.
Indeed, Evan is a great character in his own right. He’s inherited a mess from his late father, but he does his best to protect his remaining family, as well as everyone who depends on their family, like the tenants on their land. He works hard, and though he’s not ready for marriage, he’ll selflessly marry if it means saving his family. But just as he aims for their happiness, he also wants his future bride to be happy. In the case of August, he wants her to be a willing bride, not someone forced into marriage against her wishes. It may be an uphill battle, but I commend him for wanting to earn her love and a desire for marriage.
The battle between financial need, family obligations, and true desire and willingness are paramount to The Heiress Gets a Duke. Though it wasn’t often done at the time among the upper classes, I appreciate the emphasis on wanting to marry versus being obligated to do so. Marrying for love is so much better than marrying for duty. In this novel, these themes play out very well, and I like seeing how both Evan and August evolve in their thinking.
Another theme I loved here was the value of family. When it seems that Violet will become Evan’s unwilling bride, August does everything she can to protect her sister. There is a strong bond between them, and it’s wonderful to see two sisters steadfastly supporting each other. It reminds me of my own relationship with my younger sister… though we’ve never been in a situation like this! Similarly, Evan shows genuine devotion to his sisters and his mother, as well as his late older brother. Extending beyond his family, Evan demonstrates his commitment to the farmers on his land, too; I like seeing how he truly cares about them and their welfare.
Things move in the right direction between Evan and August as time goes on, but one bit of drama near the end rears its head. In all honesty, both parties could have handled it better by just communicating more thoroughly and fearlessly. The scene where things fell apart annoyed me, just because it could have been so easily avoided, but I’ll let it slide.
However, that said, I do wish the ending was a bit longer. It felt that the final drama and resolution were rushed through, and the story would have benefited with an extra chapter or two. In particular, the final scene of the book was far too short, and I wish it had been drawn out a few more pages. The ending felt sudden, leaving me wanting more. Why can’t romances let us enjoy more time with the couple once they’re finally together? Please, romance writers, at least give us a few more pages of happiness at the end!
Luckily, we will get to see more of Evan and August, at least as side characters, in the upcoming second Gilded Age Heiresses book. The Devil and the Heiress comes out in just five months, and will follow August’s sister Violet and Christian Halston, Earl of Leigh. I can hardly wait.
Despite wanting more from the ending, I loved The Heiress Gets a Duke, and I flew through it. It’s a light and joyous read, paired with charming, progressive characters and thought-provoking themes. It was my first read from Harper St. George, and I’ll certainly be reading more, starting with The Devil and the Heiress. It’s due out on June 29th, so look for my review of it right around then!
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