This year sees the start of a six books series about the Duke of Silchester and his five siblings. The first book – The Duke's Alliance, A Suitable Bride will be published on 15th January and the second follows in the summer.
Beaumont Edward Peregrine Sheldon, seventh Duke of Silchester, had known from his birth that he would one day take over the position of head of the family, so becoming a duke was not a shock to him. However, finding the family coffers almost empty was another matter entirely.
His father had been in his fifties and one might have expected him to live for another twenty years at least, but he’d taken a tumble down the stairs when in his cups and broken his neck. The drinking had become an issue since Mama had died from the influenza five years ago and it was a miracle the duke hadn’t met a similar end before this.
Beau shuffled the pile of papers in front of him and put them down with a sigh. His siblings would be horrified when he told them the parlous state of the Silchester finances. He couldn’t put it off any longer – they would be together in the butterfly drawing room, so-called because of the hand-painted wallpaper, and he had no option but to give them the bad news.
There was no need for him to take the documents with him, the miserable contents were etched on his brain. He strode from the study, down the long corridor that bisected the house, and headed for the chamber in which his family were waiting. Bennett, who had now become heir to the dukedom, would be sitting with the twins, Aubrey and Peregrine. His sisters, Madeline and Giselle would no doubt be perusing the latest fashion plates from London.
There were no footmen lurking about ready to open and close doors at Silchester as he preferred to stand on as little ceremony as possible when only the family was in residence. He stopped in the doorway and surveyed the room.
Bennett, at eight and twenty, was two years his junior. His brother was staring morosely out of the window no doubt regretting that he couldn’t return to his regiment. They looked around, but none of them smiled. Despite his decline into a drunk they had been fond of Papa and his loss was still deeply felt.
‘I’ve had time to go through the documents that arrived from London yesterday. I wish to tell you what I discovered.’
The girls put down their journals, the twins put down their cards and Bennett turned and strolled over to join the group in front of the fire. ‘Well, tell us the worst. From your expression I gather the news isn’t good.’
‘Bennett, your assessment is correct. The estates are returning sufficient to keep Silchester Court running smoothly, however, unless we get a large input of cash from somewhere I’ll not be able to open the London house for the Season next year.’
‘The anniversary of our father’s death is not until December – we can’t come out of mourning until then anyway,’ Madeline said. ‘I’m in no hurry to be paraded like a horse in front of suitable husbands. What about you Giselle?’
The younger girl smiled. ‘I prefer to be in the country as you know, so the longer it is to my debut the happier I shall be.’
Bennett laughed. ‘There you are, Beau, nobody wants to go to London. As for a large injection of cash, I can think of only one way that would be acceptable.’
His brother had their full attention now. ‘Well, enlighten us,’ Peregrine said whilst attempting to take a surreptitious look at his brother’s hand. Without looking in his direction Aubrey snatched his cards away.
‘I shall find myself an heiress – one of us must become leg-shackled and start filling their nursery. As I’ve been obliged to resign my commission, I’ll be the one to sacrifice himself. I’m sure there are plenty of debutantes who would be delighted to marry into such an illustrious family.’
‘A noble thought, brother, but not necessary. Mama was most insistent that we all married for love, that duty must come second.’
‘You’re practically in your dotage, Beau, and have still not met the girl of your dreams – neither have Perry, Aubrey or I. Devil take it, man, you’re one and thirty next anniversary and most men in your position would already have an heir or two to secure the succession.’ Bennett looked at each one of them in turn before continuing. ‘Therefore, I’ll bite the bullet for you. There’s no need to open Silchester House as I’ll take lodgings in Albemarle Street.’
There was nothing any of them could say to dissuade him from his course. Beau came up with an alternative solution to his brother attending the London season on his own.
‘I shall host a house party this summer. I’m sure between us we can come up with a dozen or so families with eligible daughters and we shall invite them all here. It will be perfectly acceptable to entertain at home so don’t raise your eyebrows at me, Madeline.’
‘I shall bow to your superior knowledge, sir, but whatever anyone else does, I shall not go into colours but wear lavender and lilac.’
Giselle giggled. ‘You only want to do that so you can order a new wardrobe, I’m quite happy to continue to wear whatever my maid puts out for me each day. I require no new clothes.’
He left them amiably bickering and drew Bennett to one side where they could speak without being overheard. ‘I’m not happy with your decision, but accept I cannot change your mind. However, you must give me your word you’ll not offer for a young lady who will bore you within a month. You are a military man, used to giving orders and making life and death decisions…’
‘You’re telling me something I already know – what is this to do with finding myself a suitable bride?’
‘If you must marry then you have to select an intelligent girl, someone who can be your companion, share your interests.’
‘If you can find me a young lady who loves to ride, prefers to be outside and has no wish to attend balls and parties and also has a magnificent dowry – then I’ll marry her immediately.’
‘She must also have an impeccable pedigree and not be bracket-faced.’
His brother smiled. ‘I shall go at once to the study and draw up my list of requirements. I’m sure your man of affairs will be able to root out all the girls on the market this season.’
Madeline strolled over to join them and overheard this last remark. ‘There’s one snag to your brilliant scheme, brothers, the most eligible debutantes will already be spoken for and those that are left will not be diamonds of the first water.’
Bennett shrugged. ‘Even better, those young ladies who have been overlooked will be all the more eager to accept an offer from me. My estate brings in more than sufficient revenue to provide for a wife and family. I don’t consider myself a wealthy man, but my income combined with my title should be enough to find me what I want.’