Last year, two of my favorite books were The Heiress Gets a Duke and The Devil and the Heiress, both part of Harper St. George‘s Gilded Age Heiresses series. These historical romances bring heat and charm as well as thoughtful examinations of women’s rights in the 1870s. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the next two books in the series, starting with The Lady Tempts an Heir, out on February 22nd. I just got a early copy, and let me tell you, it completely lived up to my expectations!
Special thanks to NetGalley and Berkley for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!
After the Crenshaw parents pushed daughters August and Violet towards marriage in the first two books of the series, it’s no surprise when they turn their sights on their eldest, 28-year-old Maxwell. Sensing his own mortality following some recent health issues, Griswold Crenshaw is determined that the family name be carried on through his son, and he’s not above manipulation and blackmail to get his way. Maxwell, for his part, is willing to play along… for a time.
Lady Helena March, widowed five years ago after a brief marriage, is struggling to get her new charity off the ground. Aiming to help single mothers and orphans, Helena faces harsh judgment and has few donors. One of the few things that would help is if she had a husband backing her.
Thus, a fake engagement is born. Maxwell and Helena met last spring when rescuing Violet, and the attraction was already evident and a tentative friendship began to form. Both can benefit from appearances in the short term, even if neither wants to marry. But what if their feelings change?
Crenshaws Being Crenshaws
First and foremost, let’s just talk about how one-track-minded Griswold and Millie Crenshaw are. Have you ever met a pair of social-climbing parents so intent on getting all three of their children married within a one-year span? It’s a little funny, but honestly, I love the continuity between these first three books of the series. Those Crenshaws are up to their same old tricks again, but I quite enjoy it. Their characterization is constant, and it makes it easy to get your mindset right back into the Gilded Age Heiresses world.
Likewise, it was fun to see Max and Helena’s relationship foreshadowed in The Devil and the Heiress. Really, we can probably thank Violet and Christian for their whole relationship. In The Lady Tempts an Heir, the story takes place six months after those events. Max and Helena are on good terms with one another, and neither has forgotten that jaunt north the previous spring, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready for the next step in their relationship. Pushes from Griswold and Violet (for completely different reasons) do prove helpful, though.
As with her previous two books, Harper St. George does an excellent job of writing characters the reader can like and empathize with. They are believable and feel real, like they could be in your own living room with you.
Helena was like an older sister to August and Violet in The Heiress Gets a Duke and The Devil and the Heiress. Here, she is self-assured and well aware of how the world works. She’s opinionated and determined, but also charitable and kindhearted. However, she secretly has her own fears and feelings of inadequacy, largely related to what happened in her first marriage. In The Lady Tempts an Heir, we get to know Helena as a woman who is both confident and fragile.
Max is also just like we knew him, yet also so much more. Readers have already seen how devoted he is to his family, particularly his two younger sisters. He’s fiercely protective of them and will do anything for their happiness… even playing along with his dad’s schemes. However, this loyalty and selflessness also shines through in his relationship with Helena. He’s a true friend to her and has the makings of a devoted partner.
Their chemistry is effortless and natural, offering a bit of arguing, a healthy dose of honesty and support, and, of course, mutual attraction. It never veers too far in one direction, though. Max and Helena argue and take offense at each other from time to time, but they’re not anywhere near enemies terrain. They respect one another and lift each other up… but sometimes they’re at odds and have to work out their opposition. It creates for realistic balance.
Perhaps what I love most about these two is how Max continually stands up for Helena, especially to others. When people speak badly about her behind her back, Max defends her honor and tells them all off. He publicly supports her charity and her ability to run it, and he always shows respect for her. Max isn’t exactly a hero figure for Helena; he’s something better: a man who stands beside her and shines a light on her.
Unlike other romances that create conflict out of misunderstandings or blatant lying, the conflict in The Lady Tempts an Heir is one that our protagonists have less control over. One is their geographical differences: Max lives in New York City and Helena lives in London. For a relationship to work, one of them will have to relocate. The other conflict is much more personal for Helena and something that would change the course of Max’s life. I won’t say more due to spoilers, but I found it to be authentic and touching.
I love how these two conflicts are represented here and, although it’s not addressed in the book, I can envision at least one natural resolution for the couple to consider.
Social & Political Ideals
One major element that stands out in The Lady Tempts an Heir – similarly to the previous two books – is the illuminating discussions around social and political issues relevant in 1870s England. Helena is setting up a charity to help single mothers, their children, and orphaned children. However, many of her class consider such charity not only useless (“the poor can’t be helped” and such sentiments), they also think it will reflect badly on Helena that she’s trying to help “fallen women.” Worse, they think that, by association, Helena will become a “fallen woman” herself.
Helena talks about the severe limitations women face and the serious double standards between men and women who have children out of wedlock. Women are ostracized over it; men can just brush it under the rug. Helena also talks about the double standards women face surrounding when they have children. Married but childless? A failure as a woman! Single mother? Dirty! Immoral! Helena isn’t labeled a bluestocking here, but I would count her as a feminist.
This leads to discussion of workers’ rights and, moreover, women being able to work in “men’s” jobs. Women are just as intelligent, strong, and trainable as men, so why can’t they do tougher work? We already saw a bit of this with August in the first book. Here, we also get perspective on women doing manual labor and being able to earn more to support themselves and their families.
Further, we also get to hear Max’s perspective on his father’s company expanding to India. It’s more subtle than the above, but I appreciate his anti-colonialist views in opposition to his father’s. I also love his support of his company’s workers, their rights to a living wage and benefits, and their right to unionize. It’s been a growing trend in recent historical romances (links to others at the bottom of this review!), and I continually love seeing such progressive ideals relevant to 1800s conditions.
More About the Other Characters
One final note is my continued love for the other characters in the Gilded Age Heiresses world. Max, August, and Violet are such close-knit siblings, and I love seeing their relationship. I also still love seeing our previous two couples being cute. Towards the end of this book, we get some insight into what comes next for Violet, Christian, August, and Evan. We also get a hint of what’s to come in book number four, so consider me prematurely excited for that now!
Just like the first two installments in the Gilded Age Heiresses series, The Lady Tempts an Heir has proven to be a delightful and powerful read. I love the chemistry between Helena and Max, as well as the discussions of sexism, workers’ rights, and poverty. Harper St. George offers excellent balance between steamy romance, historical detail, and progressive ideals.
There is one more book planned for this series, and after three 5-star reads, I’m more eager than ever! The Duchess Takes a Husband will follow Jacob Thorne (Christian’s half-brother) and Camille, Duchess of Hereford. Based on their preview at the end of this book, they’re sure to be another knockout pairing. That fourth novel should be out within the next year, so stay tuned for my review of it!
You can buy The Lady Tempts an Heir here.
Please note that the above link is an Amazon affiliate link and I may earn a commission on any purchases you make.
|The Lady Tempts an Heir by Harper St. George|
|Series||The Gilded Age Heiresses (#3)|
|Number of Pages||336|
|Format I Read||Paperback|
|Original Publication Date||February 22, 2022|
A fake engagement brings together a lady with bold and daring dreams, and the heir whose heart she captured—perfect for fans of Bridgerton!
Tall, dark, and brooding—to say that American Maxwell Crenshaw stood out in the glittering ballrooms of London is an understatement. He vowed never to set foot in England again, but when a summons from his father along with an ultimatum to secure his legacy has him crossing the Atlantic for the last time, reuniting him with the delectable Lady Helena March, he can’t deny the temptation she presents. Or the ideas she inspires…
Lady Helena March is flirting with scandal. Instead of spending her time at teas and balls in search of another husband, as is expected of a young widow, Helena pours her energy into The London Home for Young Women. But Society gives no quarter to unmarried radicals who associate with illegitimate children and fallen women, and Helena’s funding is almost run out. So when the sinfully seductive Crenshaw heir suggests a fake engagement to save them both—him from an unwanted marriage and her from scorn and financial ruin—Helena finds herself too fascinated to refuse the sexy American.
As their arrangement of convenience melts oh so deliciously into nights of passion, their deception starts to become real. But if Max knew the true reason Helena can never remarry, he wouldn’t look at her with such heat in his eyes. Or might the Crenshaw heir be willing to do whatever it takes to win the one woman he’s never been able to forget…
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 Atlanta area with her husband and two children. When not writing, she can be found devouring her husband’s amazing cooking and reading.