Duke Most Wanted (Heiress Brides Series #3)

Duke Most Wanted (Heiress Brides Series #3)

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by Celeste Bradley
     
 

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From the USA Today bestselling author of Desperately Seeking a Duke and The Duke Next Door comes an enchanting tale of inheritance at first sight.

IN THE GAME OF LOVE

Sophie Blake’s grandfather willed his fortune to the first of his granddaughters to marry a duke. Since her cousin, Deirdre,

Overview

From the USA Today bestselling author of Desperately Seeking a Duke and The Duke Next Door comes an enchanting tale of inheritance at first sight.

IN THE GAME OF LOVE

Sophie Blake’s grandfather willed his fortune to the first of his granddaughters to marry a duke. Since her cousin, Deirdre, will seal the deal any day now, the quiet, bookish Sophie can sit back and enjoy her time with the only man she truly adores: Graham. No matter that the part charmer, part scoundrel has absolutely no designs on her! Sophie is content to engage Graham in lively conversation, beat him at cards. . .and probe at the darkness hiding behind his rakish smile.

YOU’VE GOT TO PLAY BY HEART…

Then Graham unexpectedly gains a title, an estate in near ruins and a mountain of debt. If there is any chance of survival he must find a rich wife—quickly. As his hunt for a bride begins, Sophie realizes that she isn’t even in the running. Suddenly no longer content to be a wallflower, Sophie gets a stunning make-over and becomes the belle of the ball. Lots of heads are turning…including Graham’s. But this beauty has secrets of her own. Will she be his salvation or seal his fate?

“Everything her readers crave: wit, deliciously sensual romance...laced with intrigue and danger.”—Booklist (on the Bradley’s Liar’s Club series)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Let yourself be seduced!"—Romantic Times BOOKreviews

"Everything her readers crave: wit, deliciously sensual romance...laced with intrigue and danger."—Booklist (on the Bradley’s Liar’s Club series)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312939700
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
04/29/2008
Series:
Heiress Brides Series, #3
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 6.70(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Prologue

Once upon a time, on a lovely spring day in the English countryside, three tiny girls played side by side by side— cousins and future competitors.

The eldest, Sophie, watched an insect crawling across the path, squatting awkwardly so that her hem dragged in the dirt. The middle, Phoebe, sweet and unrestrained, chased a butterfly. The youngest, Deirdre, even then a stunningly beautiful infant, grabbed Sophie’s bug and ate it, ignoring Sophie’s howl of protest.

Their mothers, Sophie’s a frustrated and resentful widow, Phoebe’s a kindly but overworked vicar’s wife and Deirdre’s, an ethereal and unwell beauty, sat watching them from the shady blanket left over from their picnic.

Sophie’s mother, who was cousin to the other two, not sisters as they were, slapped irritably at something with too many legs that encroached upon her skirts. "Disgusting idea," she muttered. "I abhor eating outside."

Phoebe’s mother, the only woman whose hands showed the wear of actual toil, gently removed the offending creature and set it free in the grass. She smiled to see her daughter playing so joyously. "Insects or no, I think it’s delightful to sit at all."

Deirdre’s mother fanned her pale cheeks and smiled as well. "I don’t get out enough these days. And it’s lovely to see the girls play together."

Sophie’s mother eyed her own daughter for a long moment, then let her eyes rest on the very pretty daughters of her cousins. No one had said a word so far, but it was obvious that Sophie wasn’t going to be the beauty of the three.

No one had mentioned the Pickering trust, either. Yet how could they not be thinking, even now, that their daughters had a chance where they themselves had failed so miserably?

Oh, one sister had found a wealthy enough man, though not a duke by any means. The other had settled for a vicar! She herself had not done much better, for though her late husband had left her settled fairly if she pinched her coppers, she was no higher in life than she’d started!

No, it was up to the next generation. Sophie’s mother frowned, gazing at her child’s knobby knees and awkward movements. She’d even inherited the Pickering nose!

Was that the sort of girl a duke most wanted?

I, Sir Hamish Pickering, being of sound mind but ailing body, do make my last will and testament.

I’ve climbed as high as a man can, despite having twice the brains, wisdom and fortitude of the layabout aristocracy. Yet, a woman can wed as high as her looks will let her, up to a duchess if she may.

There, my own daughters failed me miserably. Morag and Finella, I spent money on you so that you could marry higher but you weren’t up to snuff. You expected the world to be handed it to you. If any female of this family wants another farthing of my money she’d best set herself to earn it.

Therefore, I declare that the entirety of my fortune be kept back from my useless daughters and be held in trust for the granddaughter or great-granddaughter who weds a duke of England or weds a man who then becomes a duke through inheritance, at which time the trust will be released to her and only her.

If she has any sisters or female cousins who fail, they may each have a lifetime income of fifteen

pounds a year. If she has any brothers or male cousins, though the family does tend to run to daughters, more’s the pity, they will receive five pounds apiece, for that’s all I had in my pocket when I came to London. Any Scotsman worth his haggis can turn five pounds into five hundred in a few years’ time.

A set amount will be given each girl as she makes her debut in Society, for gowns and whatnot.

Should three generations of Pickering girls fail, I wash me hands of the lot of you. The entire fifteen thousand pounds will go to pay the fines and hardships of those who defy the excise man to export that fine Scots whisky which has been my only solace in this family of dolts. If your poor sainted mother could only see you now.

Signed,

Sir Hamish Pickering

Witnesses,

B. R. Stickley, A. M. Wolfe

Solicitors’ of Stickley & Wolfe

Nearly twenty years passed before three young ladies, chaperoned by Deirdre’s stepmother, took up residence in London for their debut season.

At first, it seemed that pretty, openhearted Phoebe would be the one to land an almost-duke. When she ran away with his rakish half-brother instead, beautiful, willful Deirdre snatched him up, wedding him within weeks.

Deirdre may have loved her new husband desperately, but he wasn’t nearly so pleased with her. Luckily, when she refused to mother his wildly out-of-control child, Meggie, sparks flew—and grew to white-hot flames.

With Deirdre’s handsome lord about to inherit the title of Duke of Brookmoor, everyone assumed it was only a matter of time until Deirdre was handed an enormous amount of money she didn’t especially need.

Sophie, tall, plain and socially awkward, had never nurtured any hope of winning the inheritance herself. After all, scholarly, reserved Sophie had never even met a duke!

Excerpted from Duke Most Wanted by Celeste Bradley

Copyright 2008 by Celeste Bradley

Published in 2008 by St. Martin's Paperbacks

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

Meet the Author

Celeste Bradley is the New York Times bestselling author of Scoundrel in My DreamsDesperately Seeking a Duke, and the Royal Four and Liars Club series, among many others. Prior to giving writing a try, Celeste was a professional artist. Believing that storytelling is as much of an art form, she applies those skills to writing. She is a two-time RITA Nominee and winner of the prestigious Historical Storyteller of the Year from Romantic Times Book Reviews. Mother of two teen divas, Southern-born Celeste lives in the Southwest. Her hobbies include gardening, jewelry making and collage. She feels very strongly that literacy can change lives.

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Duke Most Wanted (Heiress Brides Series) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
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I love celeste bradley a lot and her novels are really wonderful. The plots and twists are really exciting and one cannot put the book down once started. All nighters all welcome but this one just falls short. Sophie's sudden transformation is not that much to look forward to, and the twist about her true identity just killed it for me. It went awry and not as appealing as it was on the first couple of chapters. It's just really not a good read for me, compared to her other books.
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