I MARRIED THE DUKE – Katharine Ashe
The Prince Catchers , Book 1 of 3
England and France, 1817
Three little girl were the sole survivors of a shipwreck twenty-two years ago. They spent four years in a foundling home, but about the time they were to be sent to the workhouse, they were adopted by Reverend Caulfield, a widowed clergyman. Before their mother put them on the ship to England with a nanny, she gave them a man's gold ring with a huge ruby that they were able to hang on to. A few years later, a fortuneteller told them the only way to find their father is for one of them to marry a prince.
The girls are grown up now. The scholarly Eleanor, the eldest, still lives with The Reverend and translates scripture for him. Ravenna, the youngest, has a magical way with animals and takes care of them for grateful owners. Both the girls get along well with their adopted papa, but Arabella's hard-headed independent ways irritate him, and he's been less than kind to her. Never mind; she has great plans. She worked to learn all she could until now she's much in demand as a finishing governess for daughters of the aristocracy who are soon to make their come-outs. Her ambitions paid off, for she recently contracted with a prince in France to groom his sister. All she needs to do is get to Saint-Nazair as soon as possible.
Luc Westfall is a complicated man. He served with gallantry in the Royal Navy during the late war, and at present he captains his own merchant ship. He has a French title, Compte de Rallis, and property from his maternal side. He's also in line to inherit a dukedom from his ailing paternal uncle if his wife miscarries again—or has a girl—after five previous failed pregnancies. Luc is not at all hoping for the title at the expense of a little cousin, but he does not wish for his aunt's evil brother to gain control.
Arabella arrives in Portsmouth to catch her ship for France. Through an act of charity, she misses the sailing, though her baggage doesn't. That leaves her with the clothes on her back, a little money, and the ruby ring. She asks around and is directed to Luc. Fate puts this beautiful maiden and this one-eyed but handsome none-the-less gentleman together in a portside tavern. Sparks fly immediately as Luc denies her request for passage to France. Both are proud, and both are less than forthcoming about themselves. This continues on for most of the rest of their story, which is a tangled tale indeed…tangled but interesting to a high degree.
Many minor characters grace the pages: Luc's ship's crew and several of his friends; the prince and his sister; members of Luc's family, for good or ill; and eventually, Bella's sisters. We won't mention a few scurrilous minions who pop in and out.
The title gives away the fact that Arabella doesn't marry a prince so, therefore, doesn't find her father. Otherwise be assured this romance has suspensefully contrived a happy ending. We can look forward to two more exciting and romantic tales when Eleanor's and Ravenna's books in The Prince Catchers series come out.