|Out on Kindle now|
This second series of books about dukes will all be 50,000 words – not as short as a novella or as long as the mainstream romance. This seems to be a very popular length in the UK and America and is also the length required for Linford Romance and DC Thomson.
The third in this series will be available in June.
Here is the opening of the book – I hope you enjoy it.
"Have you run mad, Bromley? You cannot agree to these terms – they are outrageous." Lord Peter Davenport thumped the table to emphasise his point.
"I have no choice, Davenport. The terms of the will are quite clear – unless I marry one of the old duke's daughters all I inherit is the title. Already the various estates, and his unfortunate family, are unable to meet their bills because the money is tied up."
"I can't understand it. If you were his heir, why in God's name did he not get in touch with you and give you the opportunity to learn how the estates are run?"
"He had a perfectly good heir until three years ago when the unfortunate marquis broke his neck in a riding accident. His legal team were unable to contact me as I was busy fighting Bonaparte. Then the duke contracted a wasting disease and kicked the bucket last year."
"Why have none of these girls had a season and been presented at court? Did you not say they are between sixteen years and twenty-two years of age? One would have thought they would sail off the marriage shelves at Almacks, being both aristocratic and heiresses. Surely they can't all be bracket faced?"
"No doubt the two oldest girls would now be spoken for if first their brother, and then their father hadn't died and plunged them into mourning. Something I didn't tell you, which makes it even more imperative I follow the dictates of this extraordinary will, the three sisters won't have a dowry until I have married the fourth." Elliott, once plain Elliott Edward Bromley, but now the eighth Duke of Hathersage, Lord Bromley, stared gloomily into his glass of claret.
"Good God! Are you to dance attendance on the other three whilst they preen and primp at soirées and balls? You'll never do it – Bromley, I see no option but to volunteer my services until you've got shot of the other three."
Elliott laughed. "I don't suppose you would like to take the Dowager Duchess under your wing as well? From what I've gathered she is a formidable lady with the shape of a plum pudding and the stare of a basilisk."
"You know nothing about running a vast estate, or indeed about being a top of the trees aristocrat – let alone doing the pretty with a parcel of young ladies. How in tarnation are you going to pull this off successfully?"
"I was a colonel in the rifles – have brought the scum of the earth into line and made them the best damn soldiers in Wellington's army. I intend to approach my new command in exactly the same way." He yawned and his jaw cracked loudly. "I'm away to my bed, if you wish to accompany me you'd best do the same. I've decided to ride to Hathersage, from my reckoning it's no more than twenty miles from London."
His friend and fellow comrade in arms pushed himself upright, upsetting both glasses of claret. The dark stain spreading across the damask cloth sent a shiver down his spine; he'd seen too much blood spilt over the past five years and didn't wish to be reminded of the unpleasantness.
"Good grief, Bromley, you can't turn up on horseback – you're a duke now and should arrive in style. You know how important first impressions are—"
"Enough of that nonsense, Davenport, I don't give a damn what they think of me. We none of us have any choice in the situation. I've spoken to the lawyers, have all the necessary paperwork, all that remains is to decide which one of the chits will make me the best wife."
"Presumably your carriage will take our luggage and valets?"
"Of course, but they'll make slower time, so be prepared to manage without a manservant when we arrive."
As they strolled from the private parlour of the coaching inn, Elliott slapped his friend on the back. "I'm relying on you to help me make my selection. I'm a rough soldier and know nothing about young ladies of quality. I don't care over much about the girl being beautiful – but I could not spend the rest of my life with a woman with no more sense than a pea goose and no interests apart from replacing her wardrobe and attending parties."
"All four are titled and will have been educated to run an establishment such as yours. The two youngest won't do for you as they are scarcely out of the school room and you're already past your prime."
"I'm nine and twenty, not in my dotage. However, your reasoning is sound." His laugh echoed around the empty vestibule. "Reducing the field to two possible brides makes my life so much easier. I'll make a devilishly poor husband for either of them – they must be dreading my arrival as much as I am."
"You are over two yards tall in your stockings, have all your teeth, a handsome face and a full head of dark hair. In addition you're now as rich as Croesus and the Duke of Hathersage. All four of the young ladies in question will be desperate to be your bride, even the youngest of them. You will be fighting them off with a stick."
"Good night, be ready to depart at dawn." He grinned at his friend's horrified expression. "Being a civilian has turned you into a milksop, Davenport. Four hours sleep should be enough for both of us. Be grateful it's June and the weather's perfect for our journey."
Fenella J Miller