Duncan Burton sat back in his chair, heaving a heavy sigh. He stared at the mountain of missives and requests from his new tenants, feeling the crushing weight of responsibility as he never had before. How had his life managed to change so drastically in a month? Four weeks ago, he had been administering his father’s merchant company. All was well with the world. At least, as well as it could be without his father there to brighten the simple offices he had built.
With his father’s passing almost eight years before, Duncan still found it challenging to manage without him. He had played such an essential role in his life. With his father’s sudden passing, the management of all their family’s assets had passed to Duncan.
He shook his head, remembering how overwhelmed he had been as a twenty-one-year-old, taking over his father’s business. Now, at twenty-nine, he felt much in the same predicament. Only this time, he had a dukedom, wealth, and many people depending on him. He was grateful that his father had taught him the ins and outs of negotiating to get the best prices and thus the best profits for the company. One had to possess a bit of arrogance when sealing business deals. That was the trick. People were quick to take advantage of the slightest signs of weakness.
Duncan raked a hand through his dark brown hair, straightening as he exhaled. He would have to commit all he had learnt to Burshire Court as the next duke. His staff already eyed him warily, seemingly enthralled. And he certainly had bountiful opportunities for blundering. His second cousin, the former duke, had left things in a chaotic state.
He picked up one of the letters and scanned the contents. Mr Heraldson was complaining of a leaky roof on his tenant’s house. It would need to be replaced this summer before the heavy rains again plagued them. He let out a frustrated sigh, putting the message back on the top of the pile.
Everyone had congratulated him when they found out he had inherited the dukedom, quite by chance, from Clarence Burton, fifth Duke of Burshire. He had only met the man a handful of times during his adolescence. No one had ever dreamed Duncan would actually inherit. His cousin had been married to a pretty young thing, sure to produce a gaggle of sons. But when Clarence had succumbed to a heart attack not two months ago, the duchy had passed to Duncan, his only living male relative.
Sometimes Duncan wished he had not had this responsibility thrust upon him. Of course, the rise in station and wealth was welcome. However, the worries and obligation to constantly be at one’s best were suffocating. And, of course, he would have to hand over the running of his import company to someone else.
“No matter,” Duncan said under his breath. “It cannot be undone now.”
He reached over to the corner of the desk and retrieved the ledger from last year. As he started to scroll through, he saw that his cousin had made some poor business decisions over the last year of his life. The losses mounted as he went from January to February, growing worse and worse as the spring and summer months rolled through. By the autumn of last year, it looked like the duchy had been reduced to a pittance. No wonder the late duke had not been able to keep up with the repairs for the tenants, or Burshire Court, for that matter. The old house was in a state and would also need extensive repairs if he were to restore her to her former glory.
A knock sounded on the door, and Duncan’s head shot up. “Enter!” he called, striving to sound more confident than he felt.
His steward, James, stuck his head around the door and then straightened just inside the study, giving a slight bow. “Good morning, Your Grace. I received your note about going ’round to the tenants to inspect the state of things.”
“Oh, good, James. Thank you for coming. Shall we go?” Duncan asked. He grabbed his hat and a light coat, heading towards the door. Anything was better than sitting in the stuffy study, weeding through disappointing ledgers and missives. He was a man of action, preferring to be out and about rather than trapped inside. Perhaps that was another trait he had inherited from his father.
“I have the horses saddled and ready, Your Grace. They are just out front.” James fell into step beside him, and soon they were outside, the wind whipping around them. Duncan mounted, leading the way down the long drive and onto the dirt lane. He had to admit that the country was beautiful. He was used to the tight quarters of the port towns, the stench of fish mixed with the salt-sea air. He missed that part of his life, to be sure, for it reminded him of all the good memories with his father. However, the sweet, fresh country air was to his liking. He took deep breaths, relaxing as they rode down the lane amidst birdsong and rustling new leaves. The blossoms were just starting to fall, making way for the summer leaves. It was his favourite time of year when everything began bursting into bloom after the long dreary winter.
They were soon at the first farm and dismounted in front of a modest stone residence. It definitely looked as if it had seen better days. “And which farm is this again?” Duncan asked. There were so many tenant farmers under his direction that he was still trying to get them all straight.
James leaned over, whispering as an older gentleman came out of the house. “This is Mr Dalton. He and his wife have been tenants here since the early ’90s, taken over from his father. They have five children.”
Mr Dalton looked tired, bent with age. As well, he should. He had spent the better part of twenty years running this farm, and who knew how long before that under his father’s tutelage. Duncan extended his hand as they approached Mr Dalton, but the older gentleman bowed instead. Duncan let his hand fall back to his side. He was still getting used to the bowing and scraping.
“Good day to you, Mr Dalton. I assume you are well-acquainted with my steward, Mr Wells?”
Mr Dalton nodded. “I am, Your Grace. How glad we are that you’ve come, Your Grace. As you can see, the place is in a bit of a state.” He glanced over his shoulder at the house. “I’ve done what I can, but the old girl is just giving out.”
Duncan stepped forward, taking a closer look around the property. As they came around to the back of the house, they interrupted Mrs Dalton in the washing. She was quite a bit younger than her husband, with a baby strapped to her back and two more toddling around her legs as she bent over the wash basin. Her skirt hem was wet with the sudsy water that had splashed over the sides of the basin, and the children looked as if they could use a good scrubbing next.
The eldest child in sight soon locked eyes with Duncan and pointed, alerting his mother to their presence. Mrs Dalton turned around, wincing as she straightened her back and stood. Looking embarrassed, she wiped her hands on her apron and moved a straight wisp of dirty blonde hair from her eyes. “Your Grace,” she exclaimed. “What a pleasant surprise.” She approached the low rock wall separating the lane from the small courtyard. “I was taking advantage of the sunshine.”
“Of course. I am so sorry to interrupt, Mrs Dalton. We came to inspect the house and property and see what improvements need to be done over the summer.” Duncan felt a stab of guilt. Even as he said the words, he was unsure how he would pay for all that was needed. He cringed to think what the others were like if this farm was in such bad disrepair. Compounded twenty times, he was unsure how he would ever get all the necessary repairs done in the next few months, let alone his lifetime.
“Thankful, we are, Your Grace. The former duke was kind, but he let things get in a bad way before his death. Don’t want to speak harshly of the dead, but I think he spent more time at the gaming tables than was good for him.”
Duncan nodded, trying to find a way to steer the subject to safer waters. “Of course. Well, we want to do whatever we can to help. We will allow you to get back to your chores.”
Duncan was about to walk away when he felt a small hand tug his trousers. He looked down, seeing the eldest boy, who looked about four years of age, at his side. His grubby hands were still clasped around a handful of his pant leg, but Duncan did not mind. He knelt, and the boy beamed up at him.
“And who is this strapping young man?” Duncan asked, smiling at the boy’s boldness.
“Please, sir. Will there be more bread now that you’re here?”
Mrs Dalton came around the rock wall, scolding the boy for his question. Duncan stood, tussling the boy’s hair. “I certainly hope so, lad.”
“Charles. How many times have I told you! Not all thoughts are meant to be said aloud.” She frowned, waving the boy over to her side. “I beg your pardon, Your Grace. He just says whatever comes into his head sometimes.”
“No, I am glad he came over to say hello.” Duncan looked around the courtyard, frowning. “James here says that you have five children, but I only see three. Where are the others?”
Mrs Dalton hung her head. “Should be doing their schooling, they should. My eldest son is eleven, and our daughter is ten. They are out working the fields now, clearing them of rocks so we can plough for the spring planting.”
“I see,” Duncan replied, trying to keep the remorse from his voice. This poor mother. She should have been able to see to her children’s education. Instead, times were so difficult that the children had to work just so the family could make ends meet. He nodded again, said his goodbyes, and walked back to where James had tethered the horses.
“I do not like it, James. I’ve got this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’d like to think this is the worst of the farms, but I am willing to bet they are all in various stages of disrepair like the Dalton place. Am I correct?”
“I am sorry to say you are, Your Grace. As Mrs Dalton stated, the former duke was kind and compassionate–in lip service. But as he got on in years, he allowed a lot of the running of the estate to fall to me. There was only so much I could do. He would have needed to initiate a lot of things, such as funds for repairs and the like. I think he was just so tired at the end that he gave up.”
It made sense why things were so bad, but after seeing the children, and little Charles asking him if there would be more food–Duncan’s heart broke. Children should never have to be subjected to hunger and want like the Dalton children.
They rode down the lane towards the next farm, and again Duncan faced the poverty under which his tenants had been forced to live. Each farm was much the same, to varying degrees. Families that had fewer children were sometimes better off. However, they had less help to do all the work required around the farm.
When they had finished inspecting the last homestead, late in the afternoon, Duncan turned to James, a deep scowl marring his brow. “I was looking over the ledgers this morning and noticed that the late duke raised the rent several times for the tenants. Did he often raise the rents so much in the year?”
“No, Your Grace. Actually, I believe he thought it was the best way to pay his own debts. However, several tenants decided to leave, as they could not afford to stay on the land any longer.”
Duncan’s anger swelled at this news. “How many tenants had to leave their homes, James?”
“We had six just last year, Your Grace,” he replied. James shook his head. “I tried to tell him that it would drive people away, but there at the end, he seemed to be locked away. I was unable to reach him. And then the apoplexy that took him so suddenly–” James’ words trailed off. “It is a shame. He started out as a bright young man, full of vision and promise.”
Duncan let that sink in. He, too, was young and full of promise. Was James giving him a cautionary tale, hoping things would be different?
“Well, I can see there is a mammoth job to be done. The problem is how we are going to accomplish it all. You’ve overseen the ledgers for years. You must know there is not even close to enough funds to do it all.”
“Yes, I know the state the ledgers are in. Is there no way for you to scrape together some funds from the merchant company, Your Grace?”
“No. Not enough. It would only scrape the surface.” Duncan could not help feeling despondent.
“Well, Your Grace. There may be another way. The late duke was very good friends with Mr Matthews. He lives a few miles from here and has expressed interest in investing some funds into the farming community. Perhaps he would be able to front the money to make some of the repairs until other arrangements could be made.”
Duncan perked up at this. “Ahh, that is something. What is this Mr Matthews like?”
“Well, he is not a titled gentleman, but he made his fortune in the mining industry. He sold his coal mine a couple of years ago, and he and his family were able to retire to the country.” James halted for a moment, but Duncan could tell there was something else.
“What is it, James?”
“He has an only daughter. She is to receive a thirty-thousand-pound dowry upon her marriage.”
Duncan nearly fell off his horse at the astronomical sum. “Thirty-thousand pounds? My word, you cannot be serious.”
“Apparently, he loves his daughter very much. He wants to see her married and settled.” James kept his eyes trained straight ahead, but Duncan knew he was suggesting he marry her for her dowry.
Duncan looked away. Marrying an heiress with such an enormous dowry would undoubtedly solve all their financial struggles. However, he had always disliked the fact that the Ton used marriage to raise their status or cement their positions in society. He would have hated to admit it, but he wanted to believe in love. Displayed by his parents’ affection for each other, he had to believe that not all marriages were miserable. Should not marriage be about more than acquiring wealth or betting one’s position? Should it not be more about love and respect?
Duncan did not answer James’ suggestions but did acknowledge his hint about Mr Matthews. “I shall speak with this Mr Matthews about investing. Thank you, James.” They parted ways at the front door, and he went back into the house feeling the burden weighing him down more than ever. What if Mr Matthews would agree to give a helping hand only if his daughter was a part of the understanding.
Duncan entered the parlour, exhaling with relief. Already it had been a busy day, and it was far from over. He gave his hat and riding gloves to the butler and approached the sitting area where tea was already laid out.
“Oh, there you are, Duncan. Where did you go off to so early this morning?” his mother greeted him, and he leaned down to kiss her cheek before taking a seat across from her. A maid poured him a cup of tea, and he took it, grateful for the moment of respite.
“I went around to all the tenant farms with James. There is a lot of work to be done.” He blew out a breath, his cheeks puffing up with the effort.
“Oh, do sit up straight, Duncan. You are a duke now. It is time you start acting like one,” his mother chided. He sat up straighter in his chair. Even though he was nearly thirty years old, his mother still tried to dictate to him when it came to matters of etiquette. His father had not cared about such things, but now he was the duke, he was glad he had his mother to lean on.
“Have you thought any more about my idea to host a house party to celebrate your new reign?” his mother asked.
Duncan hated it when she worded it like that. “Mama, I am not the king. Would you please refrain from putting it like that? I am a servant of the people, first and foremost.”
“Then you are a different breed of duke if I ever saw one. Duncan, there is nothing wrong with enjoying your improvement in your station. Every nobleman needs to keep up appearances, and they do that by holding parties and balls. Holding a soirée would help you become acquainted with the very people you are going to serve.”
“Mama, the viscounts and earls hardly need my help. I am speaking of the farmers–the village people. It is my duty to see they are looked after. You should have seen the state these people are living in. I visited our tenants, and many of them are living in squalor. It simply should not be.”
His mother waved him off, giving a huff of frustration. “You take these things so personally, Duncan. It is not your fault that the late duke let things fall into such disrepair. They will have to be patient if they want to see their farms restored.”
“How can I ask them to wait for a new roof when I have so much? How can I ask them to go without food or proper shelter? No,” he said, his conviction clear. He had seen the struggles of his fellow man, working alongside the sailors on the docks when he was a boy. His father had never wanted him to take wealth or position for granted. “I must help them as best I can.”
His mother looked down her nose at him, pinning him with the fierce stare that had frightened him as a child but only made him chuckle now. “And how do you expect to pay for all the repairs, Duncan? I know very well that the former duke left the duchy nearly bankrupt.”
Duncan shifted nervously. “I did not think you knew the extent of our financial troubles.”
“Oh, I am not as obtuse as you might believe.” His mother stood, walking over to the hearth. “Of course, we could syphon out profits from the business, but it would take decades to do everything required for the tenant farms. Not to mention Burshire Court.”
She swung around on her heels, raising her hands in front of her. “If you want to save this estate and the farmers, you just marry well. It is the only chance you have.”
“You have been talking to James, haven’t you?” Duncan said, raising his brows.
“Do not think that we are plotting. We are trying to help you, son. Now listen.” She approached and sat in the chair beside him. “A house party would be the perfect place to meet some of the eligible young ladies of fortune.”
Duncan leaned back, rubbing his thumb and forefinger over his jawline as he turned the idea over in his mind. “It is not a bad idea.”
“It is a splendid idea, and you know it well. Leave all the invitations to me. I will make sure the best candidates are there.” His mother’s eyes lit up at the prospect of hosting such a party, the first since he had become the duke. It was a lot of responsibility, for they had only one chance to make a good impression. Some looked down on him for the shallow prejudice of from where he had come. This would be his chance to prove that he belonged as head of the duchy.
“Very well, Mama. You handle all the arrangements. I entrust everything to your capable hands. Please try to keep the cost down, however. We do not have the luxury of complete extravagance yet.”
His mother rolled her eyes, waving him off. “We will have quite enough to pay off a line of credit when you are married to an heiress.”
Duncan did not like the sound of that, but her comment brought to mind James’s suggestion of the heiress to the Matthews fortune.
“Speaking of heiresses, James mentioned that Marcel Matthews has a daughter—Isobel. She is set to inherit a large dowry upon her marriage—thirty thousand pounds, to be precise.”
His mother looked as if she might fall out of her chair. “Thirty thousand?!”
“I had much the same reaction when James told me. Apparently, Mr Matthews is interested in investing in the manor—and in seeing his daughter settled.”
“We’ll, perhaps you can help him on both counts. I do like a man who is willing to part with his money so easily.” His mother stood once more, heading towards the doorway.
“Where are you off to? You have not even finished your tea,” Duncan asked.
“I have a lot to do if we are to host a house party. I am a firm believer in the old saying, ‘no time like the present’, you know,” she replied. She turned and left the room, no doubt to start compiling a list of invitations.
Duncan chuckled, leaning his head back against the chair. What had he got himself into? Now that his mother knew about Isobel Matthews, she would do all in her power to see him married to the lady. After all, thirty thousand pounds was a king’s ransom. And he could certainly use one.
Marriage to a wealthy young woman might be the only thing keeping back the hand of Destruction. For what seemed like the hundredth time that month, he wondered what his life would have looked like if the dukedom had not been left to him. And despite his attempts to keep her from his mind, his thoughts turned to the only woman he had ever loved. Closing his eyes, he allowed his memories free reign.
Duncan remembered the first time he had ever seen her, an exquisite lily amongst a field of daisies. Lydia had been so young and vibrant and beautiful, dancing with the other girls from around the county. She had caught his eye and smiled from across the room, and he had been committed from that point on. His heart had never stood a chance.
Sadness overwhelmed him at the way she had broken his heart. He had thought he meant something to her when in reality, she had been playing a game with him the whole time. Her betrayal had taught him a valuable lesson: no woman was to be trusted. And while his mother had called it out in him several times, he found it difficult to let go of the hurt. The fact that Lydia had chosen a man twice her age–for his vast fortune–made the betrayal even worse. The wound had cut deep, the scars still marking his heart. Would he ever be able to love another as he had loved Lydia?
Shaking his head, he came back to the present, refusing to dwell on a past that he could do nothing to change. However, he could not help wondering what it would be like to have someone by his side to help him shoulder the burden–someone with whom to share his worries and victories. Despite his hard exterior, deep down, he wanted that. The question was, who could fulfil that dream and save the estate? He feared he would not be lucky enough to have both.
Isobel Matthews looked up from her notebook, staring at the cloud-strewn sky. She was stuck. As a writer who dabbled in plays and poetry, she found that writer’s block was an enemy that was not to be taken lightly. Sometimes, just taking a few minutes of respite helped clear her head and allowed the ideas to flow again.
However, she had to get this scene just right. She stuck her tongue out, as was her habit when deep in thought. Her hero and heroine had overcome unprecedented odds to find each other, fighting across continents and oceans to be together. She had to make sure the love scene and subsequent finale were perfect.
How to write a love scene when one has never been in love? It was a point her mother often brought up, coupled with suggestions for her own ‘happily ever after.’ And these little hints from her mother had grown more frequent in the last few months. Isobel knew her parents were eager to see her married and settled, but she was far from that.
Sighing heavily, she continued to look up at the clouds, making their way lazily across the sky. The rose garden was her favourite spot to come and write. Drawing inspiration from nature, she felt her ideas flowed more freely in the fresh air and sunshine–weather permitting.
An idea struck, and she dipped the quill in her inkpot, wanting to strike while the thought was still fresh. However, she had only got a few strokes in when her maid, Sophia, appeared at the edge of the rose garden and called her.
Isobel let out a frustrated sigh. “What is it, Sophia?”
“Begging your pardon, Miss, but breakfast is served.”
“Bring out a tray, would you? I do not want to lose my train of thought.”
“Mr Matthews expressly asked for you to join them this morning, Miss.” Sophia stood there, looking worried.
“I see.” She set the quill down, knowing it would be rude to refuse her father’s request that she join her parents for breakfast. “Very well, Sophia. I shall hold you accountable if I forget the genius of what I was writing.” She gave Sophia a look tinged with mock severity.
Sophia gave her a wry smile. “Of course.”
Isobel closed her notebook and waved at the inkwell and quill, silently communicating that Sophia should take the writing articles back up to the desk in her room.
Standing, she smoothed her skirts and headed into the house. When she arrived in the dining room, breakfast was already underway.
“There you are,” her mother said with a chiding glance. “We thought you had been whisked away by the gypsies or some such nonsense as you write about in your books.”
“Pirates, Mama–” Isobel corrected. But her mother was too absorbed in her criticism of Isobel’s pastime to listen.
“Really, Marcel. I do not know why you allow her to scribble away as she does. She should be focusing on more important things.” Her mother dug her spoon into the juicy flesh of a grapefruit, spritzing herself with the tangy citrus fruit. She dabbed her chin, where several drops had landed, while Isobel tried, without much luck, to hold back her smile.
Her mother shot her a warning glance and turned to her husband. “Have you nothing to say, Marcel?”
“Isobel,” he said, ignoring her mother’s pleas. “How is Count Denby coming along in his courtship with Marie St Jaques?” He winked at Isobel across the table, deliberately poking at her mother. And his teasing had the desired effect, for her mother let out a frustrated huff before stabbing at the unfortunate grapefruit once more. “In all seriousness, Isobel, we must talk about–” her father began, but they were interrupted by the butler entering with a small silver tray.
“A letter just arrived for you, sir.” He walked over to her father and bowed, presenting the tray and envelope.
Her father raised a brow as he read the front of the envelope. “It is from His Grace, the new Duke of Burshire.” He opened the seal carefully, scanning the contents. His face held a mixture of curiosity and focus, his brows drawn. However, as he continued, his face relaxed, and he even smiled.
“What is it, dearest?” her mother asked, unable to control herself any longer.
“The duke has invited us all to a house party, beginning Friday. How very civil.” Her father continued to read and then placed the letter next to his plate.
“Oh, heavens be praised!” her mother said.
Isobel laughed. “What is so miraculous about a house party, Mama?”
“Do you not see? This is the opportunity we have been waiting for. Can you imagine if you caught the duke’s eye? You could be the next Duchess of Burshire by summer’s end!” As she spoke, she waved her spoon, flinging grapefruit juice on a nearby footman.
The situation usually would have called for Isobel to burst out laughing, but she was too undone by her mother’s words to take advantage. Isobel looked between her mother and father, her light brown curls bouncing around her face. “You cannot be serious, Papa. I have never even seen the man, and you are already planning to sell me off as his bride?”
Her mother waved her off. “Do not say it like that, Isobel. You make it sound like slavery.”
“It might just as well be. I do not wish to marry. Not yet,” she said, her tone desperate. “What about my work? A husband would require that I give up my writing, and I am not inclined to do that anytime soon.”
“And with good reason. No man wants a wife whose head is perpetually in the clouds. It is time to come back to earth, Isobel. Would you rather end up a spinster?”
“Yes!” Isobel blurted. “I would rather be a spinster than give up my craft.”
Her mother rolled her eyes, placing her forearms on the table. “You do not mean that, Isobel. To be a spinster is to be the laughingstock of the community.”
“Only for poor spinsters, Mama. And I will not be one,” Isobel shot back.
Her father held up his hands for silence before either of the ladies could continue in their argument. They quieted, but Isobel had much more she could have said and planned to say once her father was finished.
“It is worth looking into, Isobel. At least meet the man before you write him off. And you need not have eyes only for the duke. Several eligible young men will be in attendance, I am sure.” Her father’s sweet attempt at convincing her was more effective than her mother’s frustrated chiding.
“I refuse to have eyes for anyone, as you put it.” Isobel put her silverware down, no longer hungry. She had barely touched her food, but the thought of having to parade around at the house party and try to attract men’s attention was nauseating. “I do not wish to marry. Not yet, Papa–if ever.”
Her mother threw up her hands, but her father shushed her gently. “Leave her be, Carol.” He gave Isobel a sad smile, making the guilt prick at her conscience. Isobel was aware that her father’s primary goal in seeing her married was to ensure she was well looked after. After all, who would care for her when her parents were gone if not a husband? However, Isobel had other ideas. A woman might depend on her ingenuity and creativity to provide for herself. And it was not as if her father’s very generous inheritance would not see her through, in lavish comfort, for the rest of her days.
“Excuse me,” Isobel said after a short pause. “I am not hungry,” she murmured. One of the footmen stepped up and helped her scoot her chair from the table.
“Isobel, sit down–” her mother said, but her father waved her off. Isobel hurried out into the hall, turning towards the library.
“Darling, wait,” her father said. Isobel turned around, trying to keep calm. Her father exited the dining room doorway and approached her, his face softening. “I know this is difficult for you, but I wish you would see my point of view.”
Isobel let out a soft sigh. She closed the distance between them, hanging her head. “I do see your view, Papa. I know you want me to be taken care of. However, I do not believe I need a husband to reach that end.”
Her father exhaled, shaking his head. “You are just as stubborn as I was in my youth, I’m afraid. I do not want you to feel forced, but I really must insist that you think about this logically, Isobel.”
“I am, Papa,” she shot back. “Any man I marry will want me only for the large dowry you offer. And he will never allow me to continue writing. If I do not have that outlet, I think I shall die.”
Her father chuckled softly. “You inherited your theatrics from your mother, I think.” He sighed, pinning her with his kind gaze. Isobel froze, realising her father was getting up in years for the first time. Always, she had seen him as a strong, young man who could take on the world. However, she now took a moment to inspect his face. Deep lines furrowed his brow and around his eyes. He had grown rounder over the years, although he was still in tolerably good health. He walked with a slight bend in his back, an injury from a fall in the mines when he had gone on an inspection a few years back.
Isobel took his hands, suddenly desperate to keep him close. The realisation of his mortality hit her heart like a ton of bricks. What would she do without her dear papa?
“Can I not stay with you and Mama? I will care for you. Why can things not stay as they are? Am I really that much of a burden to you?”
Isobel held back the tears with difficulty. Her father gently pulled one of his hands away, cupping her cheek with his palm. “My darling girl,” his voice broke. “I would keep you with me always, selfish as it is. But I know you–perhaps even better than you know yourself.”
Tears began to stream down her cheeks, and her father wiped them away, giving her an encouraging smile. “You have such a great capacity for love, Isobel. It would be a waste not to open your heart to someone with whom you could share your life. Your mother and I love you, of course, but there is something so beautiful about sharing the love of a spouse.”
Isobel let out a laugh, tears still fresh on her cheeks. “You are very persuasive, Papa.”
“I hope so.” Her father gently patted her cheek before letting it fall to his side. “Please, just be open to the possibility that you might find love?”
He had made it impossible to argue any further. She nodded, smoothing down her dark blue dress. “Very well,” she said with a determined nod. “I shall go to the house party and be civil. However, I make no promises as far as finding a husband.”
Her father smiled knowingly. “I would expect nothing less from you, daughter.” Laughing to himself, he returned to the dining room, leaving Isobel alone with her thoughts.
She sighed. “If nothing else, this soiree will provide me a sentimental education in the strange world of courtship.”
“Mismatched with an Arrogant Duke” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Miss Isobel Matthews is an independent young woman with strong dreams- none of which include a husband. Her parents have a different opinion though, as they want to see their daughter settled despite Isobel’s dream of dedicating her life to writing…To her dismay, her father forces her to marry a newly appointed and cold Duke, making her lose any hope of the life she has always wished for…
Will Isobel find the courage to defy her father and stand up for her dreams? Could there be a hidden good side to the arrogant Duke?
Thrust into the life of a nobleman, Duncan Burton, Duke of Burshire, tries to navigate the strict social rules of the ton. Caught in a desperate situation, he surmises that the quickest way to save the duchy is to marry a wealthy, young heiress. Little did he know that this heiress would be the most untamed spirit he has ever known, and he would soon desperately fall in love with her…
Two souls embarking on a common adventure that will irreversibly change the course of their lives…
It won’t take long for Isobel and Duncan to realise that they are meant to be together. There is just one problem; a woman from Duncan’s past will come back to his life determined to destroy their union. Will Duncan and Isobel overcome their inner fears and the obstacles between them and pave the way to the brighter future they both deserve? Or will the chance at a happy ending slip through their fingers?
“Mismatched with an Arrogant Duke” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.