A Rogue Duke’s Redemption (Preview)

Chapter One

The carriage bumped along, and Ethan somehow managed to keep his balance, stopping himself from getting thrown against the side. Across from him, the loud snoring stopped abruptly as Harry Pritcher was tipped off the seat and landed on the floor. Groaning, he slowly sat up and clutched at his head.

“God, that hurt. What hit me?”

“How can you sleep right now?” Ethan asked. “I don’t understand how you can do that when it’s not exactly the comfiest place to rest.”

“I can cope. It’s something I’m good at.” Harry shifted himself back onto the seat with a wince. “Besides, we were up quite late last night, and I didn’t get much sleep.”

Ethan grunted.

“You mean you were up quite late. I was in bed at a reasonable time. You chose to carry on drinking.”

Harry shrugged.

“Well, I’m not the one who’s now become a duke. I can be a bit more…reckless.”

“And that includes getting really drunk and then snoring away on a several-hour ride?” Ethan shot back.

“I wasn’t snoring!”

“Oh, you were. It was loud enough that the driver was asking if everything was all right because he could hear a strange noise coming from in here.”

Harry sighed and settled back, rubbing a hand over his rugged face. His blond hair was sticking up in different directions, and his eyes were bloodshot. Even though it had been a week since they had taken their last exam, Harry was still drinking in celebration. Then it was because his closest friend had inherited a dukedom, and he wouldn’t have to worry about money again.

Ethan was more worried about Harry’s liver at this point.

“How long do you think we’ve got to go now?” Harry asked, shifting about on the seat. “I need to stop shortly. I’m going to need to relieve myself.”

“We stopped about an hour ago.”

“Really? How did I not know about that?”

Ethan rolled his eyes.

“I did try to wake you, but you were dead to the world. I couldn’t wake you no matter what I did.”

Harry pouted.

“It wasn’t that bad, was it?”

“Do you want to argue that point with me?”

Ethan didn’t want to have an argument with Harry right now. They had been travelling since just before dawn, and while they had stopped regularly to have something to eat or change the horses over, most of the day had been inside the four shaking walls of the duke’s carriage. Ethan was getting fed up with it.

Of all the places he had to inherit, why did it have to be in Northumberland? It felt so far away from London. And it was. According to the letter from his uncle’s solicitor, the Duke of Northbridge’s ancestral home was on the outskirts of Wooler, not far away from the Scottish border. It was a two-day carriage ride from the capital city, and Ethan wished that he had turned this journey down. He could have stayed in London and corresponded with Mr Tillbury by letter, surely?

Apparently, that couldn’t happen. He had to come up to the manor house and take charge of the dukedom.

This wasn’t how Ethan had thought his life would go. He had been orphaned at the age of ten, and his uncle, the late Duke of Northbridge, who wasn’t really an uncle but Ethan’s father’s cousin, had taken him in. Wooler had been somewhat isolating for Ethan, so he had been sent to Eton to be educated, with the duke funding the money. It was because of the old man that he was able to go to medical school and become a doctor. He was able to get the experience to go for the multiple exams to become a surgeon and take part in operations.

And Ethan had been just a couple of exams away from becoming a qualified surgeon, something he had wanted to be for some years now. Now he had to go to the ancestral home in the middle of nowhere and become a duke. It felt surreal, and Ethan wasn’t sure what to make of it. He knew that his uncle had been unwell, and his health had deteriorated after the death of his wife, Ethan’s aunt. However, he had refused to have any doctor look at him, and the last time Ethan saw him, the duke had said he didn’t want any advice on how to live his life. Now he had passed away, and Ethan had been on the other side of the country.

It made him feel guilty that he hadn’t been there to be at the bedside of the man who took him in when he didn’t need to. The man who had turned him into the person he was today. Then again, knowing the old duke, he wouldn’t have wanted that to happen. He would have wanted everyone to go about their day as normal, nobody to fuss over him. Uncle Francis had hated fuss.

Now he was gone. And Ethan felt a little hollow. Because he was the next male in the family, he was now the Duke of Northbridge. Instead of Doctor Colbert, a title Ethan had held with pride, he had become a duke.

This didn’t feel real. Ethan didn’t feel like he deserved this title. He had trained to be a regular person. Nobody had prepared Ethan to be Uncle Francis’ heir. It was like they thought he would be able to handle it without any type of preparation.

Ethan would rather retake his last exam several times over than become the Duke of Northbridge. But it wasn’t really something he could argue about for now. Certainly not when he was bumping around in the carriage.

“Do you think Simpson and Williams have gotten to the house by now?” Harry asked, stretching his legs before crossing them at the ankles.

“I should think so. They left a day before us, so they should have arrived already.”

“Good. I’m looking forward to a long, hot bath.”

Ethan smiled.

“You might want some hot water to steam the hangover you’re going to suffer from, certainly.”

“I don’t suffer like that after drinking. You know that.”

“And I know you’re the only one who thinks that,” Ethan chuckled. “You suffer worse than I do.”

Harry shrugged.

“At least I have some fun.”

“To the point you were sick for most of yesterday?”

“That was a temporary thing.”

Ethan sighed. His friend was certainly very stubborn. But he was supportive. He had offered to come along with Ethan to Wooler, even if he didn’t need to. Ethan was grateful for Harry’s presence; it would make him feel less lonely as he got used to things in his new home.

If he had a choice, he wouldn’t have made the journey in the first place.

“What are you going to do when you get there?” Harry asked. “Once we’re there, are you suddenly going to become the high and mighty duke?”

“You know it doesn’t work like that, Harry. And it’s not something you should jest about.”

“Well, you have to find it amusing, Doctor Colbert.” Harry chuckled, followed immediately by a loud belch. Ethan grimaced.

“Do you have to keep doing that?”

“Come on, Ethan. You know the gases get stuck when I’m drinking.”

“Maybe you should stop drinking so much.”

“And not have any fun? That would make life boring.”

Ethan loved Harry—they had been friends for twenty years—but he wished that he wouldn’t drink so much. It was like a tonic for him, and Harry got more and more belligerent when he’d had a few drinks. Granted, he didn’t drink at all when he was working, and he made sure that he was sober around his patients, but when there were a few days when he wasn’t doing anything and didn’t need to see anyone sick, so he drank until he passed out. Ethan had asked why he did it, and Harry had just said he liked the taste.

How anyone could like the foul taste of spirits and beer, Ethan had no idea. It didn’t make him want to drink until he couldn’t remember what he was doing.

“Well?”

Ethan frowned.

“Well, what?”

“What are you going to do when you get to the house?” Harry prompted. “I thought I was the one who was meant to have memory problems.”

Ethan had almost forgotten what the question was. He dusted down his breeches.

“I’m not sure, really. I’m probably just going to have a look around and weigh up my options then.”

“What are your options?”

Ethan held up one finger.

“I let an estate manager take over and run everything while I go back to London to pursue my dreams of becoming a surgeon, or,” he held up another finger, “I sell everything, including the house.”

Harry blinked.

“What? You would sell an ancestral home and put everyone out of a job?”

“I wouldn’t leave them without a job. I’d make sure everyone was settled with something before I left.”

“But that home? It belonged to your family.”

Ethan shook his head.

“It belonged to my uncle’s family. He was the eldest son, and both of his brothers had already passed away. He had no children, so that meant it passed to me, a second cousin and the eldest male heir. I don’t want it.”

Harry didn’t look too happy about this.

“You do realise that you’re disrespecting the man who took you in and paid for your schooling from Eton, all the way through medical school. He even funded you to go to Paris to study there.”

“I know that, and I will always be grateful for it. But Uncle Francis was aware that I would be reluctant to take the title. He knew that it wasn’t something I wanted.”

“If that’s the case, why didn’t he make a will to pass it on to someone else?”

Ethan sighed.

“That’s because there isn’t anyone else. There is only me.”

Well, there were Ethan’s two sisters, but they couldn’t inherit the title due to their sex. And they were both happily married—one lived in Edinburgh, and the other had settled just outside Manchester—so moving to the wilderness of Northumberland wouldn’t have appealed to either of them. With his job and what he loved doing in London, Ethan couldn’t really go back and forth so much. The only option would be to sell the northern estate because what was the point of having an ancestral home if he wasn’t around to live in it?

“It’s not just the servants you have to worry about, Ethan,” Harry said, bracing himself with a grimace as the carriage bounced. “I hear that your uncle had a ward. A young woman. What’s going to happen to her?”

Ethan had forgotten about that. On his last visit a year ago, Uncle Francis had expressed regret that he wouldn’t be able to meet his late wife’s ward, who had travelled to Alnwick during Ethan’s visit to meet some friends. He thought they would get along. Ethan didn’t know about that; he wasn’t keen on getting to know a little girl who was probably a pain in the neck.

“I have no idea. She’ll probably have to go to an orphanage or someone will take her in.”

“You’re not going to do it?” Harry frowned. “That’s a bit cruel, Ethan.”

“I don’t know how to look after a child, Harry. She would end up neglected if she came with me.”

Harry snorted.

“I’d like you to try and use that excuse with your wife once you start having children.”

Ethan didn’t respond. He hadn’t discussed it with Harry in some time—marriage—but he hadn’t really cared about finding a wife. Of course, he would like to be married and have a family, but Ethan knew that, realistically, it wouldn’t happen as he wanted. His work was his life, and that would always come first. Everyone needed a doctor, and he would end up neglecting his wife and children. It would have to take a very special woman for Ethan to take a step back and balance his life out.

Another reason he didn’t want the dukedom. It would just go to someone else within a few years—he was sure there was a distant relative in America who could take it—or, failing that, it would just stop with him. Ethan wasn’t exactly reliable in carrying on the dukedom for his family.

The old duke had to have known that. And yet he still did it.

Ethan wished that Uncle Francis was still alive. Then he would ask him why.

***

Sylvia moved aside the straw and found three eggs underneath. Picking them out, she put them carefully into her basket. Only to squeal when something hard pecked her hand. One of the hens had come into the chicken coop and wasn’t happy that she was taking the eggs.

“Naughty!” Sylvia scolded the bird before standing up. “You shouldn’t be so mean.”

She got an annoyed cluck in response, and the hen tried to peck at her legs through her skirts. Sylvia got out of the coop and made her way through the other chickens, who were happily eating the food she had scattered for them. She managed to get through the gate and shut it before the upset hen charged at her. That particular animal was like a grumpy old lady; it didn’t like that Sylvia or the servants took its eggs. The other hens didn’t care. It was just this one.

Sucking at the sore part of her hand, Sylvia waited until the disgruntled bird walked away, strutting with its head held high. She could imagine it being one of the high-society women in London, turning its nose up at everything while it strutted around like it ruled the roost. None of the other hens paid any attention, and the cockerel didn’t seem to care, doing its own thing in the corner of the enclosure where the hens were kept.

At least she had managed to get all of the eggs. Mrs Andrews would be delighted to have this many; she was looking forward to making a cake for tea later. Sylvia could feel her mouth watering at the thought; she did love the cook’s baking. In fact, any of her food was delicious.

Uncle Francis had always praised the middle-aged woman, saying she was worth her weight in gold.

Sylvia felt a pang of sadness as she thought about the man who had taken her in when she was a girl. Her parents had died within weeks of each other six years ago, and Sylvia didn’t have any family. None that were close in location or relation, anyway. So the duke and duchess, the people her parents rented land from, had agreed to take her in and look after her. Sylvia had been shocked about that; she never thought they would do anything like that. If they did, it was to put her to work as a maid to earn her keep. But they took her on as their own child. Sylvia didn’t think she would ever be able to repay them, even though both of them had sadly passed away.

Now they were gone, and Sylvia felt lonely and scared. She had spent six years being a ward of the Duke of Northbridge, and now she didn’t know what was going to happen. Did the guardianship pass onto the heir, or was she going to have to find something else? Mr Tillbury hadn’t told her anything.

Sylvia felt like she was hanging over a steep drop, and she didn’t know if she was going to be falling or be dragged back to safety.

“Lady Sylvia?”

Sylvia looked up. Cathy was coming across the yard, sidestepping the horse dung that hadn’t been cleaned up and turning her nose up at the mess. Sylvia checked her hand. No wound, just a red mark. At least there was no blood.

“Yes, Cathy?”

“Aren’t you going to get ready? The new duke is supposed to be here soon.” Cathy looked her up and down. “You can’t greet him looking like this.”

Sylvia looked down at her dress.

“What’s wrong with what I’ve got on? It’s perfectly reasonable.”

“It’s dirty. You look like you’ve had a fight with a straw bale.” Cathy picked out a piece of straw from Sylvia’s hair. “What have you been doing?”

“I was just getting the eggs, that’s all.”

“You could have fooled me.”

Sylvia swatted Cathy’s hand away.

“Don’t fuss so, Cathy. I’m just helping Mrs Andrews and the kitchen staff with a few things. I’ve got to do something with my time.” She bit her lip. “If I don’t…well….”

Cathy’s expression was sympathetic, and she squeezed Sylvia’s hand.

“I know you’re still grieving, Sylvia. But there’s nothing we can do about it now. We’re going to have to carry on and hope that the new duke isn’t going to do anything that upends our lifestyle.”

“Do you think he will?”

“I don’t know, but from what I overheard when those two valets turned up to prepare for our guests, that could be a possibility.”

Sylvia remembered the two gentlemen who had arrived the day before, laden with their masters’ belongings. According to them, the new duke and his friend were coming to stay, and it was a rush to get more rooms ready. Mrs Goodpepper was still grumbling about the lack of notice and the little preparation they were given.

“Well, let’s hope that’s not going to happen.” Sylvia held up the basket of eggs. “I’ll take these to Mrs Andrews, and then I’ll go and get myself ready.”

“I’ll go on ahead and prepare a bath for you. You’re going to need to freshen up before the new duke comes. Otherwise, he’s going to get the wrong idea about you.”

Sylvia didn’t really know how she felt about that. She was in danger of losing her home, along with everyone else, and it left her feeling low.

“I’m not a proper lady, Cathy. I don’t think it will matter either way.”

Cathy snorted.

“His Grace took you on and gave you the title of lady so you could be part of Society without any problems. You had your first Season because of him.”

“And look what happened there,” Sylvia muttered.

“He gave you the opportunity to become a lady, and you should make the most of it.”

Sylvia sighed. She didn’t want to get into it again. Cathy was her friend as well as her personal maid, and the lines between her roles had become blurred. It felt good to have a confidant who made sure that her feet were still firmly on the ground. But she wished that Cathy would stop reminding them that Sylvia had only been a lady for the last six years; she still wasn’t used to it.

“You go and run that bath, then, Cathy. I’ll take these eggs to the kitchen. We’ve got plenty of time.”

Cathy snorted as she turned away.

“Given how suddenly those two valets turned up and made us aware that there were two gentlemen coming, and not one, I wouldn’t be surprised if they arrived ahead of time. We have to be on our toes.”

And with that, she hurried back across the yard, giving the horse dung a wide berth before going back into the house. Sylvia couldn’t help but smile. Cathy was like an older sister, always fussing about. Then again, Sylvia did need someone who could keep her in line when she needed it. It was why the Duchess of Northbridge had assigned the thirty-year-old widow as Sylvia’s maid; she knew what was needed in Society. Sylvia would always be grateful for that.

She just wished Cathy would relax a little bit.

Feeling a gentle breeze on her face, Sylvia crossed the yard and made her way into the kitchen. Mrs Andrews was at the big table in the middle of the room, kneading something in a big bowl. She beamed when she saw Sylvia.

“Thank you, Lady Sylvia! How many eggs today?”

“I’ve got fourteen. Will that be enough?”

“That should be plenty for the cake, and then for something else later.” Mrs Andrews nodded towards a table by the wall. “Can you put them there? Jeffrey will sort them out for me. I’m sure you’ve got things to do.”

“Oh, you mean the new duke’s arrival?”

“You’ve got to get ready to meet him, yes?”

“I’ve got plenty of time.” Sylvia put the basket down and dusted her hands on her dress. “Cathy’s preparing a bath for me, so I have plenty of time. Is there anything else you want me to do, Mrs Andrews?”

The buxom woman chuckled.

“Honestly, you really are your mother’s daughter. Off you go. Get yourself looking pretty for the new duke. Let us servants do the work.”

Sylvia wanted to point out that she was actually a lady by birth, but she was sure she would be told that it was not the case anymore. For the last six years, she had been a lady after being taken under the Duke of Northbridge’s guardianship. Uncle Francis and Auntie Glynnis had been caring, and they made sure that she had her training to be a proper member of the ton.

But Sylvia couldn’t help it; she had grown up working and looking after everything else. While her parents were relatively wealthy landowners, they were still hard-working people, and they made sure that their only child had the same ethics. Even when they were sick and barely able to move, her parents did what they could to work.

Sylvia felt a pang of sadness as she thought about her family. She missed them. While she appreciated what the duke and duchess had done for her over the years, Sylvia would give anything to have her mother and father back. Then maybe she wouldn’t be here worrying if she was going to stay in her home or end up being sent elsewhere, either to the workhouse or somewhere to work.

As she made her way through the huge house, Sylvia wondered what the new duke was going to be like. According to Mr Tillbury, he was a distant relative of the duke’s. A cousin, did he say, or a nephew? Sylvia couldn’t remember. The family solicitor spoke in a tone that made people strain their ears to hear him. Sylvia had heard of being softly spoken, but Mr Tillbury took it to another level. Even his son complained about it.

Did this new duke look like Uncle Francis? Was he an old man as well? Or was he younger? Sylvia wondered if she would be able to get on the new duke’s good side if he was younger. Could she appeal to him to make sure she didn’t lose her place in the home? Or would he ignore it all and tell Sylvia that she had to leave as he wasn’t dealing with her?

Not knowing was really unnerving. Sylvia was getting a headache from it all.

Passing by the staircase, Sylvia opened the front door and stepped out onto the wide stone steps that stretched out both left and right. From the top, she could see across the landscape. The slope in front of the house gave way to the beautiful scenery. On a clear, blue-skied day, it looked as if she could see for miles. When it was winter, and there was snow, everything was white and looked like a Christmas painting.

Sylvia loved growing up in this part of the world. They were only fifteen miles from the coast, and not far away from Alnwick. Also, there was so much to do in terms of walking. Sylvia loved going out every day for a walk and exploring something new. Uncle Francis had told her to make the most of it and soak up everything, so she took him up on it.

Perhaps she would be able to go on a walk later before the new duke arrived. It would help her feel refreshed and prepared to meet someone who would end up turning her life upside-down. She needed her composure to face him.

As Sylvia went down the steps, she was aware of a carriage coming up the drive, the horses pulling hard to get to the top of the hill. She slowed and watched the arrival in confusion. Who was coming here now? It wasn’t Mr Tillbury; he didn’t have that crest on the door. And they weren’t having any visitors as far as she was aware.

Then the carriage got a little closer, and Sylvia realised that it was Uncle Francis’ crest. It was then that it hit her. Jenson, the carriage driver, had been sent down to London to fetch the new duke back to the ancestral home. And it looked like they had arrived far sooner than anyone expected.

Sylvia began to panic. As far as she was aware, things weren’t quite ready. The household staff were preparing for an afternoon arrival, not this early in the day.

She turned, but in her panic, she missed her foot on the step and got caught in her dress. She slipped, pain exploding in her leg as she hit her shin against the stone. Sylvia sprawled on the steps, unsure whether to scream or cry. Whoever was in the carriage had to have seen what happened.

Her heart sank as the carriage stopped right beside her, and the door opened.

Oh, no.


“A Rogue Duke’s Redemption” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

After her parents’ death, Sylvia has been raised by the Duke of Northbridge. When he suddenly dies, she is left adrift and unsure of her future. That is until a seductive Duke arrives to take over the estate and introduce her to high society in hopes of finding her a husband. However, despite society’s expectations of her as a well-bred lady, Sylvia finds herself unable to tame the passion that burns deep inside her for her new guardian…

Will Sylvia find the recipe to win the Duke’s heart?

The tempting Ethan Colbert never dreamed of being a Duke. As a doctor, he was content with healing the sick and injured. However, when his distant relative, the Duke of Northbridge, passes away, Ethan is forced to take on a new role. As he struggles to keep the estate afloat, he finds himself drawn to the alluring Sylvia in ways he never expected. He knows that if his lustful passion is discovered, it can unleash a scandal that could destroy them both.

Can he afford to risk everything, including his newfound title, for the woman who has set his heart on fire?

As their passion ignites into an inferno, Sylvia and Ethan become lost in a dizzying whirlwind of desire, where every stolen kiss threatens to scandalise the ton. With their reputations and social status at stake, they must find a way to overcome all obstacles and make their two worlds one. Will their lust burn them both to the ground, or will they turn their sinful affair into a happily ever after?

“A Rogue Duke’s Redemption” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!

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