Today we are sharing a chapter reveal from DUCHESS BY DECEPTION by Marie Force. This is Marie’s first historical romance title and is part of the Gilded series. It releases January 29th. Read chapter one from the book below.
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Duchess by Deception (Gilded #1)
Coming January 29!
In New York Times bestselling author Marie Forceâs dazzling historical romance debut, the clock is ticking for a wealthy Duke who must marry by his thirtieth birthdayâor lose his title….
Derek Eagan, the dashing Duke of Westwood, is well aware of his looming deadline. But weary of tiresome debutantes, he seeks a respite at his country home in Essexâand encounters a man digging on his property. Except heâs not a man. Heâs a very lovely woman. Who suddenly faints at his feet.
Catherine McCabeâs disdain for the aristocracy has already led her to flee an arranged marriage with a boorish Viscount. The last thing she wants is to be waylaid in a Dukeâs home. Yet, she is compelled to stay by the handsome, thoughtful man who introduces himself as the Dukeâs estate manager.
Derek realizes two things immediately: he is captivated by her delicate beauty, and to figure out what she was up to, Catherine must not know he is the Duke. But as they fall passionately in love, Derekâs lie spins out of control. Will their bond survive his deception, not to mention the scorned Viscountâs pursuit? Most important, can Catherine fall in love all over againâthis time with the Duke?
“…Force has crafted a masterpiece with the perfect amount of romance.” âStarred Review from Publisher’s Weekly
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London, May 5, 1902
âI cannot bear another minute of this charade,â Derek Eagan, the seventh Duke of Westwood, declared to his cohorts as they watched a simpering group of debutantes work the gilded ballroom. He tugged impatiently at his starched attachable collar and wished he could remove it and the tie that choked him without sending yet another tedious scandal rippling through the ton.
âWhat charade?â asked Lord Justin Enderly, his smile dripping with the charm that had endeared him to many a mother. âWatching nubile young things flit about with love and marriage on their minds?â As the second son of an earl, Enderly was much less desirable to the simpering debs than Derek, once again considered the Seasonâs top prizeâand Enderly knew it, of course.
âAll of it.â Derek gestured to the glittering scene before them in the Earl of Chadwickâs enormous ballroom. Surely half the aristocracy was in attendance at one of the Seasonâs most anticipated balls. Women in frothy gowns made of the finest silks and satins, dripping in exquisite gems. Men in their most dashing evening wear. âThe balls, the gowns, the dance cards, the ludicrous conversations, the desperate mothers. Iâve grown so weary of it, I could spit.â
Aubrey Nelson, the American-born industrialist whoâd humored his English-born mother with a second Season, nodded in agreement. âThe pomp, the ceremony, the rules.â He shook his head. âIâll be back in New Yorkâor banished from polite societyâlong before I master them all.â
Unlike Nelson, Derek had been raised for the charade, but many of the rules escaped him, as well. âUtter drivel,â Derek murmured. âIâve half a mind to compromise a willing young maiden and be done with the whole nightmare.â
âWhatâs stopping you?â Enderly asked, crooking a wicked eyebrow.
âIâd have to attempt to converse with her for the rest of my days,â Derek grumbled. His friends and the hangers-on surrounding them howled with laughter. âIâve talked to every one of them and havenât found one who interests me enough to pursue anything further.â
âSame as last year,â Enderly said.
âAnd the year before, and the year before that,â Derek said, the despair creeping in once again. It wasnât that he didnât want to find a wife. He would love nothing more than to have one person in the world who belonged only to him and vice versa. Not to mention he needed a wife, albeit for altogether different reasons. Yet he wasnât willing to settle.
Each year he approached the Season with a new sense of hope, and each year, as the young women got younger and he got older, the disappointment afterward became more intense and longer lasting. This year, however, the bloody deadline loomed large, coloring his view of the Seasonâs limited options.
âThis yearâs group seems particularly young,â Enderly noted.
âOr perhaps weâre just getting particularly old,â Derek said morosely.
âNo doubt,â Enderly said. As a second son he was under much less pressure to marry than Derek and enjoyed his bachelor life far too much to give it up before he absolutely had to. For that matter, everyone was under less pressure to marry than Derek, thanks to the damned deadline.
âIs there one among them who cares about something other than her hair or her gown or her slippers?â Derek asked. Was there one among them, he wanted to ask, who looked at him and saw anything other than his title, his rank, his wealth or the looming deadline that had filled the betting books all over town?
âThey all care about their dance cards,â Nelson said dryly.
âToo true,â Derek concurred. âSpeaking only for myself, Iâve had enough. Iâm returning to Westwood Hall in the morning.â
âBut the Season still has weeks left to go,â Enderly said in obvious distress. âYou canât go yet, Your Grace. What of your deadline? What will Lord Anthony say?â
âHe would hardly care. Heâs practically salivating, hoping I fail to marry in time.â
âWhatever could your ancestor have been thinking, with such an utterly daft provision?â Nelson asked. âEnter into a âsuitable state of matrimonyââ whatever that isâby thirty or abdicate your title? Iâve never heard of such a thing.â
Of course, he hadnât, Derek mused. The colonists had left such barbaric practices behind in England. âI suppose he was out to ensure the bloodline. Instead, he placed a matrimonial pox upon each succeeding generation.â
âIs it even legal?â Justin asked.
âProbably not, but the previous dukes married young so it was never an issue for them, and I chose not to contest it with Anthony waiting in the wings drooling all over the duchy.â
âWhat happens if you donât marry in time?â Nelson asked.
âThe title and all accompanying holdings transfer to my uncle and then later to Simon, who, as the heir, would also be required to marry post haste. That would truly be a travesty.â If anyone was less suited to a life of marriage, responsibility and duty, it was Derekâs happy-go-lucky first cousin and dear friend.
âHave any of your ancestors missed the deadline?â Nelson asked, seeming genuinely intrigued by the drama of it all whereas Derek was just wearyâfrom thinking about it, dreading it and from imagining being married to a nameless, faceless woman just to preserve his title. He shuddered at the thought of shackles and chains.
âNot so far, and I have no desire to be the first. However, I refuse to pick just anyone in order to keep my title.â His ancestorâs efforts to ensure the dukedom had put Derek in a serious quandary. His thirtieth birthday was now mere days away without a female prospect in sight who sparked anything in him other than utter apathy, not to mention despair at the idea of having to actually talk to her for the rest of his life.
Naturally, the entire haute ton was captivated by Derekâs plight, but not a one of them gave a fig about his happiness or well-being. He would almost prefer to surrender the title than be shackled for life to a âsuitableâ woman who did nothing else for him but ensure his place in the aristocracy.
With his deadline the talk of the Season, every available young maiden had been marched before himâmore than once. Judging his prospects by what heâd seen of the Seasonâs available crop, he was in no danger of imminent betrothal. âWhatâs the point of hanging around when I already know that none of them suit me?â
âThey donât have to suit you, your Grace,â Enderly reminded him. âYou only need one with the proper equipment to provide an heirâand a spare if youâre feeling particularly randy.â
âAnd you need her to say, âI do,â by the sixteenth of May,â Nelson added with a wry grin.
âDonât remind me,â Derek grumbled. Was it just him, or was it exceedingly warm tonight? Or was it the reminder of his coming birthday that had him sweating? Perhaps it was the rampant wagering that had him on edge. Heâd lost track of whom among his so-called peers and âfriendsâ was betting for or against the likelihood of his securing a suitable marriage before his birthday.
Derek never wouldâve chosen the title heâd inherited at the tender age of six when his parents were killed in a carriage accident. Over the years since his majority, however, heâd grown into his role as one of the most powerful and influential men in England. He didnât relish the idea of turning over his title and holdings to an arrogant, greedy, overly ambitious uncle who would care far more about how he was judged in polite society than he ever would about ensuring that their tenants had adequate roofs over their heads. Nor did Derek wish to see his cousin constrained by a life he had no interest in. Too many people depended on the dukedom to see it end up in the hands of someone who couldnât care less about it.
A vexing debate for sure, especially since Derek often dreamed of shedding his responsibilities and taking off to see the world as heâd always wanted to do. But then he thought, as he often did, of his late parents. Since their deaths, heâd aimed to live his life in a manner and fashion that wouldâve made them proud. Losing his title, especially to an uncle his father had despised, would not make them proud, so Derek would do what was expected of him because that was what heâd always doneâno matter what it mightâve cost him.
âWhat of all your meetings?â Enderly asked.
âI had the last of them today with the Newcastle upon Tyne Electric Supply Company to pump some capital into their Neptune Bank Power Station. Theyâre doing some intriguing work with three-phase electrical power distribution.â The blank looks on the faces of his friends tampered his enthusiasm. Where he would absorb such information with obsessive attention to detail, heâd come to realize that others were less interested in the how of electrical lighting and other innovations. They were far more than content to fully luxuriate in modern conveniences without bothering themselves with the details. Electricity was making its way into wealthy homes and public buildings in town, but it would be a while yet before it made its way to the country.
âWasnât there another one?â Justin asked. âSomething with brothers?â
Derek nodded. âIâll be providing emergency financing to the brothers from America who believe theyâve found the secret to manned flight.â
âYou canât be serious,â Nelson said. âThe Wright brothers?â
Derek nodded, used to his peers finding his investment decisions questionable at best. They couldnât, however, argue with his results.
âHas everyone in America finally said no to them?â Nelson asked.
âI didnât ask that. I simply wish to be a part of what theyâre doing. I believe they will attain success, perhaps before the end of the decade.â
Nelson rolled his eyes. âItâs your money to throw away.â
âWhatâs next?â Enderly asked, his tone tinged with sarcasm. âMotorcars?â
âAs a matter of fact, due to my involvement in Wolseley Tool and Motor Car Company, I was asked to back a venture with Lord Austin and his brother that will bring production of motorcars to England in the foreseeable future.â
âWhy am I not surprised?â Enderly asked with a smile.
One of the most annoying of that yearâs debutantes, Lady Charlotte something or other, flashed Derek a suggestive smile full of invitation. As heâd learned early in his first Season, he didnât make eye contact unless he wished to encourage attention, which he most assuredly did not.
âAll youâd have to do is snap your fingers, and Lady Charlotte would say âI do,ââ Enderly said.
Derek could have been mistaken, but it seemed as if his friend was enjoying baiting him. âIf Iâm going to shackle myself to a woman for life, sheâs got to have more than the proper plumbing.â Derek tugged again on the collar that poked at his neck and the strangling tie. His valet Gregory had been rather rigid in his knot tying that night, as if he too were out to constrain Derek to his husbandly fate.
âWhat is it exactly that you seek, Your Grace?â Nelson asked with a kind smile.
âDamned if I know. I just hope Iâll recognize it when I see it, and I hope Iâll see it soon.â She was out there somewhere. He had no doubt of that. If only he knew where to look.
âYouâre holding out for a love match then?â Enderly asked.
âI donât necessarily yearn for the mess that accompanies a love match, but is it too much to hope for some intelligent conversation with my after-dinner port?â The utter despair of his situation came crashing down as he viewed the gay scene before him. âWhat in the world would I talk about to any of them?â
Apparently, neither of his friends could supply a satisfactory answer.
Enderly shifted with discomfort from one foot to the other. âWhat are your plans, Westy?â he asked softly, reverting to Derekâs nickname from their years together at Eton.
âI need to spend some time riding Hercules and thinking. I canât think here. Just a few days, and then Iâll come back and bite the proverbial bullet.â Heâd have no other option but to choose one of the young women flitting before him unless he wanted everything he had to slip through his fingers to an uncle who didnât deserve it. But the thought of being stuck with a wife who didnât suit him made him ill.
âYouâll be the talk of the ton,â Enderly declared, scandalized.
âLet them talk. I wonât hear it in Essex.â
âBut it wonât be any fun without you, Your Grace,â Nelson said mournfully.
Enderly nodded in agreement. âNor will the ladies flock about us with quite the same . . . â
âDesperation?â Derek asked with a grin. His friends laughed. As usual, they had kept this dreadful experience from being a total loss.
âLady Patience will wish to visit,â Enderly said with an evil grin. âSheâs apt to follow you to the country.â
âShe wonât gain an audience with me even if she does give chase,â Derek said of the Duke of Devonshireâs daughter, who had pursued him with relentless determination. âShe holds even less appeal than the others.â
âWhy is that?â Nelson asked.
âShe brays like a donkey when she laughs.â
âOuch,â Enderly said, chuckling.
âI quite fear that no woman will meet the discriminating requirements of our dear, distinguished friend,â Nelson said to Enderly.
âThatâs just fine with me,â Derek said, happier than heâd been in weeks now that a decision had been made. âIâd rather be a lonely commoner than be shackled for life to a âsuitableâ braying donkey.â
Lord Anthony Eagan, son of a duke, brother of a duke and uncle to the current duke, reclined on a red velvet chaise and took a sip from his glass of port. Always on the outside looking in, just barely on the fringes of tremendous wealth and power. Thankfully, all three dukes had provided handsomely for him, allowing him the freedom to pursue his own interests.
But what interested Anthony, what seduced him more than anything else ever could, was the power of the title. When the Duke of Westwood entered a room, people noticed. Society noticed. No one paid much heed, on the other hand, to the dukeâs second son, his brother, or his uncle. In the fifteen years heâd served as his nephewâs guardian, he had sampled a generous helping of power. Having to cede it to a boy just barely out of leading strings had been demoralizing, to say the least. The subsequent years had reduced Anthony once again to the fringes. He didnât much care for the fringes, and he never had.
While Derek had stepped nobly and with infuriating independence into the position heâd been born to, Anthony had been relegated to watching and seething and planning. Now, on the eve of Derekâs thirtieth birthday, came opportunity. If Derek failed to marry by the sixteenth of May, the title would revert to Anthony, and he would finally be the Duke of Westwood. The way it always should have been.
And while he had come to grudgingly respect his nephewâs acumen with finance and his bearing among the haute ton, he disdained the boyâs inner softness. That softness, Anthony mused, would be his downfall, just as it had been his fatherâs. Perhaps it was because Derek had lost his parents at such a tender age or maybe it was the guilt that came from being the twin whoâd survived the journey into this world. Regardless of the cause, Derek lacked the inner fortitude that Anthony possessed in spades.
Anthony wasnât afraid to use that fortitude to gain what shouldâve been his all along. Derek was supposed to have been in that carriage the night his parents had been killed. They had planned to dine as a family at a neighboring estate. No one had bothered to tell Anthony that the boy had been left behind in the nursery when he showed signs of fever.
No one had told him until it was far too late, until heâd been saddled with an orphaned young nephew and vast holdings to âoverseeâ until that nephew gained his majority.
The holdings were supposed to have been his. Instead, he became the steward rather than the duke. Instead, it was left to him to nurse his grief-stricken nephew through those dreadful months after âthe accident.â Since another âaccidentâ so soon after the first wouldâve raised suspicions, he had nursed when heâd wanted to strangle. Heâd mentored when he wanted to stab. If only the boy had been where he was supposed to be, Anthony wouldâve had what was rightfully his for all this time.
Soon, Anthony mused. That softness within Derek wouldnât permit him to marry for the sake of his title. Like the fool he was, Derek wanted more. The softness would be his downfall. Anthony was betting on it and breathing a bit easier after realizing that none of the Seasonâs debutantes had caught his discerning nephewâs eye.
Lucy Dexter, one of Londonâs most accomplished courtesans, crawled from the foot of the chaise to envelop him in soft curves and sweet scent. Silky dark hair cascaded invitingly over his chest.
âWhat troubles you tonight, my lord?â
âNothing of any consequence.â
âYou ponder the fate of your nephew and the duchy you covet.â
Anthony raised an imperious brow. âIt is rather impertinent for you to speak so boldly of things that are none of your concern.â
Lucyâs husky laugh caught the attention of his recently satisfied libido. âHow can you say such things are none of my concern when youâve made them my concern by unburdening yourself to me quite regularly?â
The double entendre wasnât lost on Anthony. Through the silk dressing gown he had given her, he cupped a bountiful breast and pinched the nipple roughly between his fingers, drawing a surprised gasp from her bow-shaped mouth. âIf you speak of my concerns with anyone else, madam, you will quickly discover my less-than-amiable side, which I usually prefer to keep hidden from the fairer sex.â
Her blue eyes hardened with displeasure. âI believe I have proven my allegiance time and again over these many years, my lord. There is no need for threats nor less-than- subtle attempts at intimidation.â
She could quite ruin him. She knew it. He knew it. Power. He had given her far too much, he realized, and that was something he might, at some point, need to contend with. But certainly not right now, not when she was pushing his dressing gown aside to drop soft, open-mouthed kisses on his chest.
Anthony sighed with satisfaction, placed the empty glass on a table and buried his fingers in silky tresses. When she took his cock into the velvety warmth of her mouth, he closed his eyes and let his head fall back in surrender.
Powerâthe only commodity that truly counted. As she sucked and licked him to explosive fulfillment, it hardly mattered that he had ceded some of his to her for the time being. Before long, heâd have more than he knew what to do with. It was only a matter of time.
Marie Force is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 50 contemporary romances, including the Gansett Island Series, which has sold more than 3 million books, and the Fatal Series from Harlequin Books, which has sold 1.5 million books. In addition, she is the author of the Butler, Vermont Series, the Green Mountain Series and the erotic romance Quantum Series, written under the slightly modified name of M.S. Force. All together, her books have sold more than 5.5 million copies worldwide!
Her goals in life are simpleâto finish raising two happy, healthy, productive young adults, to keep writing books for as long as she possibly can and to never be on a flight that makes the news.
Join Marie’s mailing list for news about new books and upcoming appearances in your area. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter @marieforce and on Instagram. Join one of Marie’s many reader groups. Contact Marie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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