Even a fortune forged in railroads and steel can’t buy entrance into the upper echelons of Victorian high society–for that you need a marriage of convenience.
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.
Disclaimer: Although I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, the opinions below are my own.
Let me begin by saying this: I am NOT a fan of book titles such as this. I am NOT a fan of books with these types of titles; that is to say, I am NOT a fan of mass market romance books. I still remember having to buy one of these books for a university class over twenty years ago. None of us were impressed with this part of the assignment, especially the guys as you can imagine. So why did I opt into this read and review assignment?
Two words: Gilded Age. This was a time when rich American mamas wanted the absolute best for their pampered daughters because it was a way for the older women to gain status. What could be better for status than being married into virtual royalty? In comparison, this was a time of increasing poverty for the landed gentry in Britain. Titled heirs were finding it difficult to keep their estates in good repair, never mind provide for the tenants of those estates. They were “cash poor, land rich.” In terms of business, the marriage of a cash rich heiress and a land rich heir was a good match. In reality? Not so much. Consider the case of Consuelo Vanderbilt, for example. To give her credit, writer Harper St. George looks at both good and bad arranged marriages in her novel.
August and Evan are interesting characters. She is an unusual woman for her time. She’s a forward-thinking woman, involved with her father’s business, and derogatorily called a “bluestocking.” He has been forced into a situation not of his making and doesn’t feel equipped to deal with it. What starts as a business arrangement she wants to derail soon becomes something else as they get to know each other better. And maybe it’s my sci-fi geekiness, but their bickering reminded me of a certain princess and smuggler in the Star Wars original trilogy. I expected Even to tell August that she, “Could use a good kiss!” at any moment. And I’m fairly certain she referred to him as a “scoundrel” as well.
This is not good, clean, wholesome, fiction in case you’re wondering. Once the romance starts, August is not prim and proper and there is more than one explicit scene between them. There’s also bad and explicit language, and violence (in the form of bare-knuckle boxing). So then, why am I able to write positively about this novel? Because it’s more than sex and romance, and more than two characters who reminded me of one of my all-time favorite fictional romantic couples. There’s plot, and the entire novel is a fascinating description of a woman’s life in the Gilded Age, which includes both the good and bad aspects of that. And yes, when the story ended, I wanted to see what happened to August and Evan as they began married life together. Thankfully, there will be another title in St. George’s The Gilded Age Heiresses series, and it involves August’s younger sister Violet.
Publisher: Berkley (an imprint of Penguin Random House)
Publication Date: 26 January 2021
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.
Harper St. George’s Website https://www.harperstgeorge.com/