What a Difference a Duke Makes
School for Dukes, Book 1
Now Available from HarperCollins Avon
Wanted: Governess for duke’s unruly children
Edgar Rochester, Duke of Banksford, is one of the wealthiest, most powerful men in England, but when it comes to raising twins alone, he knows he needs help. The only problem is the children have chased away half the governesses in London. Until the clever, bold, and far-too-enticing Miss Mari Perkins arrives.
Lost: One heart to an arrogant duke
Mari knows how to wrap even the most rebellious children around her finger. But their demanding, wickedly handsome father? He won’t be quite so easy to control. And there’s something else she can’t seem to command. Her heart. The foolish thing beats so wildly every time the duke is near.
Found: A forbidden passion neither can deny
As his employee, Mari is strictly off-limits. But what if she’s the one breaking all his rules? In the game of governess versus duke, how can Edgar maintain his defenses when the only thing he wants to do is let the tempting beauty win . . .?
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“Bell delivers a compulsively readable enchantment – no spoonfuls of sugar necessary for this to go down like the supercalifragilistic read it is.” (Entertainment Weekly, Grade “A”)
“Take some sparkling dialogue, an adorable heroine, a powerful duke, two mischievous children and humorous escapades, stir in plenty of sexual chemistry, plus a dab of mystery and you have everything readers crave in a deliciously well-crafted love story that kicks off Bell’s School for Dukes series perfectly.” (RT Book Reviews (4 1/2 stars Top Pick!))
“Bell (the Disgraceful Dukes series) makes this her own story, piling on plenty of witty dialogue, unconventional characters, and hints of mystery to leave readers both satisfied and eager for the next in the series.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“A supercalifragilisticexpialidocious start to a new Regency series.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“[BELL] launches her new School for Dukes series on a high note with a beguiling historical romance that brilliantly showcases her remarkable gift for marrying sexy passion with dry wit, confirming her standing as a rising star in the romance genre. As the icing on the cake of this scrumptious confection, fans of Mary Poppins will also appreciate the clever manner in which Bell gracefully tips her cap to that children’s classic.” (Booklist)
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Read an Excerpt
From Chapter One
Merely a man. Merely a man. Mari shook out her skirts, tucked a flyaway curl back into the braids atop her head, and marched purposefully into the room.
Banksford’s head was bent over his desk, chestnut hair falling over his brow and obscuring his face as his quill scratched across a large piece of parchment.
He was garbed in a sober black coat and haphazardly tied cravat, quite different from the silk and frills she’d imagined the nobility wore.
“Good afternoon, Your Grace,” she said in her most superior tones.
He raised his head.
Merely a larger-than- Life monstrosity of a duke, she amended. Though he’d clearly been assembled from all the best parts of mere mortal men.
Glittering gray eyes. Shadowy cheekbones. An angular jaw and a commanding slash of a nose. The powerful shoulders and lean frame of a tavern boxer.
He didn’t look pliable in the least.
Mari shivered, feeling slightly light-headed con-fronted by all of this blatant masculinity. She’d spent her whole life in a school for girls, after all.
“And you are … ?” he asked.
Name. She knew that one. “Miss Mari Perkins, Your Grace. Mari with an i—it rhymes with starry.”
Why had she told him that? What a silly thing to say to a duke. He didn’t care that she’d changed the spelling and pronunciation of Mary, the name the orphanage had assigned her, in a small, yet soul-sustaining, act of rebellion.
She gave a confident, businesslike nod. “I came from Mrs. Trilby’s Agency for Superior Governesses.” Which wasn’t entirely untruthful. She’d walked here directly from the agency. And she had been promised a position.
Just not this one.
“It’s lovely that you were able to come so swiftly, Miss Perkins,” said the lady sitting near the fire. “I’m India. Which doesn’t really rhyme with anything, I’m afraid.”
Mari curtsied. “Pleased to meet you, my lady.”
Lady India was the most beautiful creature Mari had ever seen, with hair the color of ripe blackberries, pale violet eyes, and high slanted cheekbones.
Though her attire was decidedly odd, almost rakish, even. A tailored gentleman’s cutaway coat over a draped gown that almost appeared to be split down the center.
Mari dismissed the preposterous idea. The lady couldn’t be wearing trousers.
“How old are you, Perkins?” asked the duke.
“Twenty, Your Grace. Though I’ve had the care and tutelage of young children for many years.”
His unsettling gaze pierced through her clothing, skin, and bones to see through to her wildly beating heart. She stood taller under his scrutiny, careful to maintain a half smile on her lips and a calm, efficient tilt to her head.
She could tell he found her lacking by the way the line between his brows deepened.
“Your shoulders—” said the duke, staring in the general direction of her bosom “—are insufficiently brawny.”
“Ah … I do apologize, Your Grace. I will begin performing strengthening exercises immediately.”
Another frown. “And your smile is suspiciously cheerful.”
He didn’t want cheerful. Mari instantly dropped the smile. “How impertinent of it. I specifically told it to be stern and capable.”
She matched the thunderous frown on the duke’s face.
His eyes narrowed and he tapped his pen against the blotter. “Flippancy is not a trait I’m looking for in a governess.”
“I meant no disrespect, Your Grace,” she replied, keeping her expression neutral and humorless.
Her future rested in his hands.
His extremely large, surprisingly rugged hands. The hands of a man who knew hard labor. Rough-padded and crisscrossed with burns and scars.
Where had he acquired those scars?
He watched her closely. She widened her stance and threw back her shoulders in an attempt to appear more substantial. She held her breath, sending a silent prayer heavenward.
“You’re too small, Perkins,” he said.
“Never judge things by their appearances, Your Grace. I’m stronger than I appear.”
Strong enough to survive the typhoid fever that had taken Helena, her only friend, and left a gaping hole in Mari’s heart.
Strong enough to withstand years of punishment, freezing damp, and deprivation.
“Spare me your proverbs, Perkins,” said the duke. “I’m not a child.”
“Of course you’re not, Your Grace. You’re definitely all man. That is to say, your shoulders are more than sufficiently brawny, er …”
What had come over her? She never dithered. He was just so very male. She hadn’t meant to let on that she’d noticed the breadth of his shoulders or the size of his hands, though what girl wouldn’t notice?
“You’re too small, Perkins.” He dipped his quill in his gold filigree inkwell, signaling the end of the interview. “You won’t do.”