Monday 8 April 2024

She wants to be a duchess. Just not HIS duchess!

The Last Duke She’d Marry
(Scoundrels of Mayfair, Book 3)
By Anna Campbell

Publication Date: 29th February 2024
Page Length: 288 Pages
Genre: Regency Historical Romance

She wants to be a duchess. Just not HIS duchess!

Pure and proper Lady Juliet Frain was born to be a duchess. Everyone says so. Now society awaits the announcement of the elegant beauty’s engagement to the dignified and honorable Duke of Granville. However all Juliet’s plans go awry when she meets the scandalous but sinfully attractive Duke of Evesham. The wild libertine is the last man Juliet wants to find irresistible, yet somehow she can’t keep her hands off him. And suddenly to her chagrin, nobody is calling Juliet either pure or proper!

He’s no Romeo…

After ten riotous years on the Continent, Lucas Hebden, Duke of Evesham, has returned to London, trailing a well-earned reputation as a rake and a reprobate. But an unexpected loss in a card game finds him far from London’s fleshpots and playing at amateur dramatics in the country. Even worse, he’s starting to confuse the poetic passion in Romeo and Juliet with the real-life passion that has him pursuing his disapproving but breathtakingly lovely leading lady. It’s clear that Lady Juliet Frain has no time for bad boys, and any sensible man would give up – but then nobody ever called Evesham sensible!

When Juliet’s suitor Granville arrives to propose, it’s the battle of the dukes! Once the curtain falls, which duke will emerge victorious and take the starring role in Juliet’s heart?


Lady Juliet pointed halfway up the terraced slope. “Shall we, Your Grace?”

It wasn’t anything like the privacy Evesham craved, especially now that some rustics started hammering benches together from the lumber near the stage. But it was far enough away for him to manage a quiet conversation. 

He curled his hand around Juliet’s slender arm under its pale green sleeve. “Let me assist you, my lady.” 

She stiffened at the contact, even as heat rushed through his veins. He told himself to settle down.

This strong reaction to Juliet Frain surprised Evesham. He was familiar with lust – too familiar, his critics would say. But he’d never before felt like a ninepin hit by a wooden ball. And every time he thought that he was ready to get up, Lady Juliet knocked him down again. 

Through the pulse thundering in his head, he heard her catch her breath. 

Did the contact of skin on skin thrill her, too? Or was she just annoyed at his presumption? 

Before she could think to pull away, he drew her off the stage and up the hillside. “Are you happy to sit on the ground?” 

She snatched another shaky breath, although when she responded, her voice sounded as it usually did. “I’m not happy about any of this. What on earth prompted you to accept Papa’s offer? I’ve never heard that you were interested in artistic matters.”

He could imagine just what she’d heard. None of it to his credit, he knew. 

The scandal nine years ago had been bad enough, and retellings would only exaggerate it. Not to mention that he ran with a wild crowd on the Continent. 

“He challenged me to a game of cards at my club. If I won, he’d never mention Shakespeare to me again – which I now realize was unlikely, whoever came out ahead. If he won, I agreed to play Romeo.” His voice flattened. “He won.” 

Juliet frowned. “He never loses when he’s inveigling people into his schemes.” 

“Perhaps the Muses make sure he gets a good hand.” 

“That’s one theory,” Juliet said in a tone as dry as dust. 

“Whatever the truth behind it, he trounced me. No Venetian card sharp could have done it better.” Evesham released her arm and tugged off his dark blue coat to spread it on the ground for her to sit on. 

She cast him a cynical look. “Very gallant.” 

He pretended to take her comment at face value, although they were both aware that he was no true gentleman. “Your dress is too pretty to spoil with grass stains.” 

That was true. The apple green muslin frock was in the first stare of fashion and made her skin look like fresh cream. She seemed to emerge from the spring greenery around her like a nymph. 

The poetic atmosphere at Afton must be affecting his mind. He’d lost any urge to romanticize his lovers well before he left Eton. 

He liked women. He liked them a lot. But he never suffered the smallest impulse to idealize them.

“Thank you,” she said calmly. 

How disappointing. For a moment there, he’d wondered if Juliet found him as unsettling as he found her. And not just because he was a notorious rake. 

Now she was back to sounding like her collected self. He much preferred her on edge. It was clear that he needed to do something to shake her composure. “May I assist you?” 

Despite her wary sideways glance, she accepted his hand. Down on the stage area, Lord Portdown put Portia through her paces, despite a chorus of barking from the canine audience. 

“No, no, no, not like that,” he complained. “You’re meant to be ethereal.” 

Juliet smothered a laugh, as Evesham lowered himself to sit beside her. “Why on earth did Papa cast Portia in this particular part? She’s a wonderful sister with a generous heart, but nobody in their right mind would call her delicate. I’ve seen her face down half a dozen bully boys to save a puppy from harm.”

“Good for her. Although she ought to be careful. I suspect that so far, she’s escaped unscathed more through good luck than good management.” 

Juliet looked at him in surprise. “You approve?” 

“I approve of anyone willing to defend the weak against the strong. Robin Hood is my hero.” 

“Not Casanova?” 

He met her steady blue gaze and was pleased when after a moment, her eyelids flickered down and she looked away. Yes, he could rattle her. He doubted many people – men – could say the same. 

“You do like to lead with a challenge, don’t you?” he said in a thoughtful tone. “Perhaps Portia isn’t the only member of this family who lives dangerously.” 

Juliet had a lush mouth, created for kissing. A sharply defined upper lip and full pink lower lip perfect for a lover to nibble. 

That mouth firmed, as if she bit back a retort. “We should talk about the play.” 

If that kept her mind on him, he was happy to cooperate. “Very well.”
“Where’s your script?” 

“I know my lines already. That was part of the infamous deal. I was to arrive word perfect and willing to work.” 

She’d returned to studying him, as if he was some exotic beast who had wandered onto her path. A beast that she feared would gobble her up. “You did what you were told?” 

That had a deuced governessy ring, but he nodded. “A bet is sacred, don’t you know?”

“Commendable.” More of that sardonic tone. 

Evesham didn’t really blame her. He was renowned for flouting the codes of his class. 

He sighed. She didn’t trust him. Plenty of reasons why she shouldn’t. But he wanted to find out more about her, and right now a wall of thorns discouraged genuine intimacy. 

“You know, if we intend to make a half-decent fist of this performance, you’ll have to stop treating me as if I have a contagious disease. We have to convince our audience that we’re madly in love. You need to stop jumping every time I open my mouth.” 

“I don’t jump.” 

“Yes, you do. I know that I’m not your choice of Romeo. It’s not exactly my dearest wish either, to make an utter fool of myself in front of society.” 

“I don’t know why you’d care. You can just go back to the Continent. Running away from your difficulties is nothing new for you, after all.” 

He winced theatrically. “You’ve been listening to too much gossip.” 

“I know who you are. I know what you did, and the damage it caused.” She had a melodious voice. He imagined that she had a gift for speaking the Bard’s poetic language. But right now, her low contralto was as cold as ice, cold enough to make him shiver. “I can’t help fearing that you’ll end up doing damage here. I wish Papa hadn’t invited you, however picturesque you are. Henry Bell may not be the world’s greatest actor, but I’ve known him since we were children. He was my first dancing partner. He’s kind and steady, and I can already tell you’re neither.” 

“Your father is relying on me.” 

“If you leave, he’ll get over the disappointment. The reality is you’re far too old to play Romeo, just as I’m too old to play Juliet. Given all the rules that you’ve broken, Your Grace, what does it matter if you break one more by wriggling out of this bargain?” 

“I gave your father my word.” His answer emerged with uncharacteristic hauteur. “Whatever other sins I’ve committed, I’ve never broken an oath.” 

She didn’t credit him with an ounce of honor. Usually he didn’t give a rat’s arse for what people thought, but half an hour in this girl’s company and her opinion already mattered. 

“Who will care about that when you’re back chasing French courtesans or losing a fortune at some Italian casino?” 

“You’re mighty ready to exile me, my lady.” 

“You haven’t seen your home in nine years. I can’t imagine that you’re pining for it.”
There she was wrong. He’d been twenty-one when he left England, brimming with self-righteousness and a thirst for adventure. At thirty, he wasn’t nearly so immune to the pointlessness of his current existence. 

Over the last couple of years, memories of Lancers, his estate in Devon, had begun to nag. He wanted to come back to his country. To be an Englishman at home, rather than an Englishman abroad. When he discovered the unholy mess that his once-trusted bailiff had made of managing the estate, he found the perfect excuse to return. 

“Perhaps I’m ready to settle down with a good woman and father the next generation. As you pointed out, I’m not as young as I once was.” 

She failed to hide her disbelief. “I suppose you’d like an apology for that remark.” 

He shrugged. “Your candor is refreshing – if a little bracing. Like standing outside in a winter gale. Definitely clears the head.” 

“And threatens to freeze one to death.”
“All this honesty augurs well for our artistic enterprise. Now you just need to pretend that I’ve stolen your heart.”

“You’d need to find a better actress,” she said in a dark tone that made him burst out laughing once more. 

“Juliet, some consideration please,” Portdown shouted from the stage below. “Take His Grace to the summerhouse. The chatter is putting us off.” 

Juliet scrambled to her feet before Evesham could offer assistance. He caught an intriguing hint of snowy petticoats and two trim ankles in fine white stockings. 

She was a tall woman, built to match a big fellow like him. In his experience, tall, curvy women often had spectacular legs. And he had more experience than was good for him. 

“Papa, it’s not proper,” she protested. 

“You won’t be alone. The gardeners are doing the flower beds. If you don’t want to go to the summerhouse, take His Grace up to the house.” 

“Do you think he’s trying to engineer a romance?” Evesham asked in a lazy voice.

It was possible. Despite Evesham’s woeful reputation, he was a rich man and a duke. Every girl dreamed of marrying a duke, in England at least, where the princes were boorish and spoiled. 

Juliet’s faced betrayed her complete rejection of that idea. “Good heavens, I hope not.” 

“Don’t spare my feelings, my lady.” 

She blushed, suddenly looking as young as the fictional Juliet. “You must think I’m a complete hobbledehoy.” 

“Haven’t you worked it out yet, Lady Juliet?” He rose and bent to collect his coat. “I want you to be natural.” 

“I don’t know why.” 

He tilted one eyebrow at her. “Yes, you do.” 

Again, her usually direct gaze avoided his. Interesting. She was nervous, and nothing she said was complimentary. Nor was she acting like the doyenne of propriety that he’d been led to believe she was. 

But he was sure – almost – that dislike wasn’t at the root of her prickliness. Much as she might wish that was the case. 

No, Lady Juliet Frain found him of abiding interest. This immediate and powerful attraction was mutual. It was apparent in her barely controlled edginess and her attempts to keep him at a distance.

“Papa goes into a world of his own when he’s working. I doubt that he’s trying to maneuver you into proposing. Anyway, we both know that you’ve been caught in that trap before and you escaped, at the cost of the lady’s reputation. There’s no reason for things to be any different this time.” 

That dig went a little too deep. “You shouldn’t believe everything you hear,” he said sharply. 

Her face flushed as red as a ripe strawberry. “I just wanted to reassure you that Papa is too involved in the production to worry about making me your duchess.” 

“Count me as reassured,” he said dryly. “Anyway, the on-dit is that you’ve already got a duke dangling after you. By all reports, His Grace of Granville is smitten. You can’t marry both of us.” 

It was her turn to look annoyed. “Nothing has been finalized. An eligible man just has to dance with a single female for rumors of an engagement to fly. It doesn’t mean anything. You know how people love to talk.” 

“I do indeed.” She wasn’t being entirely straight. Several reliable sources had told him that a betrothal was in the offing. His confidants had all pointed out that Granville and Lady Juliet were the ideal match. Both mature, well-intentioned, capable, principled. “I’m just letting you know that I’ve heard plenty about you since I returned to London.”

Most of what he’d garnered about Lady Juliet had been positive. What hadn’t been was grounded in jealousy, he’d soon realized. She was beautiful and rich and had a clear understanding of her duty. 

She also had a knack for attracting dukes. She’d been engaged to Bolton, another dry stick, before his unfortunate death. Now she’d captivated Granville. Why wouldn’t people envy her? 

“I’m sure most of it was twaddle.” 

“Perhaps if I give you the benefit of the doubt, you could return the favor.” 

That luscious mouth flattened again, as did her voice. “Perhaps we should concentrate on the play.”

Pick up your copy of
The Last Duke She’d Marry

Anna Campbell
ANNA CAMPBELL has written 11 multi award-winning historical romances for Hachette Grand Central Publishing and Avon HarperCollins. As an independently published author, she’s released more than 35 bestselling stories, including her 3 popular series The Dashing Widows (7 books), The Lairds Most Likely (10 books), and A Scandal in Mayfair (4 books). 

Anna has won numerous awards for her Regency-set stories including RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice, the Booksellers Best, the Golden Quill (three times), the Heart of Excellence (twice), the Write Touch, the Aspen Gold (twice) and the Australian Romance Readers Association’s favorite historical romance (five times). 

She's currently engaged in writing a new series set in Regency London called Scoundrels of Mayfair. The first 3 books, The Worst Lord in London, The Trouble with Earls, and The Last Duke She'd Marry, are now on sale. Look out for The Duke Says I Do later in 2024.

When Anna isn't traveling the world in search of inspiration for her books, she has a great time living in inner-city Brisbane in Australia. 

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  1. I haven't read a romance in ages. The Last Duke She’d Marry sounds like it is a lot of fun.

    1. It really does. Anna's books are brilliant. Well worth checking out.

    2. Thanks, TBBL! It was fun to write too.

    3. Thanks, TBBL! It was a fun book to write too.

    4. Thank you, Mary Anne. And thank you, as ever, for doing such a brilliant job on the spotlight!

    5. You are more than welcome, Anna. It is always a pleasure working with you and promoting your books.

  2. Your book sounds really good Anna. What made you decide to write historical romance?

    1. Thanks, Jamie. It's a genre I've always enjoyed - even if we go back to my very young self watching Errol Flynn as Robin Hood! And the genre gives me plenty of opportunity to indulge my nerdy historical interests.

  3. I love romances. I have not read a Regency one in ages. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks, bookmagician. There's something magic about a Regency, isn't there?

  4. Replies
    1. Maddie, I know just what you mean. I read a lot of genres but there are days when only a great romance novel will do the trick for me.

  5. I love you tag line! ROFL, not HIS duchess!

    Your book sounds amazing, Anna. Congratulations.

    1. Thank you, Shield Maiden. That came fairly early in the gestation of the book. In the previous book, everybody kept telling Juliet she'd make the perfect duchess and I kept thinking that implies she's going to find the perfect duke. And of course, Evesham is anything but perfect!

  6. Thank your for your recommendation. I was wondering what I was going to read next!

    1. You are more than welcome. I hope you enjoy The Last Duke She’d Marry.

    2. Well, that's lovely to hear. Thank you!

  7. Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Reading All Night (ha, I've done that lots!).


See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx