To Marry a Duke

Unsuitable Brides #4

by Anna Aysgarth

To Marry a Duke by Anna Aysgarth

Lady Verity Grainger is distraught when she learns that not only has her abusive and violent father sold her beloved home out from under her just before his death, but she is also included in the sale.

As part of the deal, she is to be married to Elliott Thorne, Duke of Rydale, the man who broke her heart seven years earlier.

For his part, Elliott is equally furious at being tricked into a betrothal by the dead earl and his treacherous daughter, with the threat of court if he refuses.

Elliott proposes a marriage of convenience, he loved her once, but he will be damned if he will allow her into his heart again. Verity will be provided with a comfortable home and she will provide him with an heir. Verity has little choice, life is not kind to single women without money.

Elliot makes it clear that all he wants from her is a healthy heir, beyond that he will have little more to do with her. When she meets Audra Kingsley, Elliott’s lover, she knows her life is going to be unhappy, but she has no idea of the danger she is in, both from someone who wants her dead and losing her heart once again to Elliott.

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Release Date: July 25, 2023
Genre: Historical Romance

~ A White Satin Romance ~


Chapter One

Verity watched as her sister slowly put down her pen, blotted her work, and looked up from the ledger. “Well?” she prompted. Ella did nothing without due consideration, and this morning was no exception.

“I have checked the ledger a thousand times, Verity. Father sold much of the land as well as, well, anything of value, really, while he was alive and there have been many debts since his death, though the fact that he sold Swallowfield out from under us just before he died was something none of us could have foreseen. I had thought that the estate was entailed and that Father could not sell any of it, but it appears that it was not, or Father found some loophole.” Ella looked at her sister and took a deep breath. “There is only one solution, which is that one of us must marry, definitely a man with money, and preferably Elliott Thorne.”

Verity’s eyebrows shot up, she hardly knew which part of the sentence to respond to, that Swallowfield, their home, was no longer their own; that the estate was, quite unusually, not entailed; and that one of the two sisters must marry—and for money!—or the fact that Ella had suggested the notorious Elliott Thorne, the man she had almost been betrothed to seven years before. The man who had nearly ruined her. The man who had broken her heart. “Elliott Thorne?” was all she could manage.

“Who is now Duke of Rydale,” Ella continued smoothly.

“I know exactly who he is and what he is,” Verity replied.

“And you must be the one to marry him.”

“I beg your pardon?” Once again, Verity could scarcely believe her ears.

“You must marry Elliott Thorne. He is the only wealthy man we are actually acquainted with. There is no time to go through introductions, courtship, betrothal and so on.” Ella’s tone was business-like.

“Absolutely not. Never. No.”

“Verity Grainger,” Ella began, her voice a little sharper. “You now know how precarious our finances are, there being three sisters and no male heir. However, even if some distant relative is found to inherit Father’s title, who is to say that he will want whatever is left of the estate, and he certainly won’t want us. You remember Charity Longthorn from school? When her father died and her cousin inherited, she and her mother were tossed out of their home almost before her poor father was cold in his grave, they now live in a little cottage in Portsmouth, Charity teaches at a little school and her mother is reduced to taking in sewing. Charity, you may remember, was to have married Lord Worsely; they had been betrothed since childhood, but when he heard that the cousin had cut them off with barely enough to live on, he cried off. As to our situation, it may be that what is left, if anything of the estate must be sold anyway, if we are lucky there might be a cottage we might just be able to rent, though how we shall manage that I cannot yet imagine, so I repeat, one of us must marry well and quickly. I, of course, have no history of suitors of whom to turn, and of course Caroline is too young, so the duty must fall to you.”

Verity looked around her, the once-opulent silk wallpaper was faded and peeling and there were patches of damp around the windows where the rain had penetrated the stone walls. There were paler spaces where paintings had once hung, and the oak sideboard had long been denuded of silverware. Not for the first time she noticed that the Persian rug had threadbare patches and there was a space where her mother’s beloved pianoforte had once stood. They clearly had to do something in order to survive, but what Ella was asking was surely too much. She had not forgotten what happened between her and Elliott Thorne, and she doubted that he had. She would never forget standing at the window of her chamber, tears running down her face, seeing him ride down the drive without a backward glance after his meeting with her father when he told her father that he would not marry her without a sizeable dowry. That had obviously been all she was to him, a chance to gain her fortune. He had professed love and it had just been a sham. Now there was not even a fortune to attract a suitable husband, or any husband, let alone Elliott. She shook her head. What was done was done and there was no point in dwelling on things she could not change.

“What about you? You are the eldest. Should not you be the first to marry?”

Ella smiled at her sister, walked round the desk and wordlessly held out her hand, together they walked to the looking glass above the marble fireplace. As they looked at their reflections, Ella pulled back her dark hair which had been carefully dressed to hide most of the scar down the side of her face and neck, where she had been burned as an infant when the candle next to her bed had set the curtains alight. The careless nursery-maid had been dismissed, but the scar would remain forever. “I think you are wrong to hide yourself away Ella,” Verity said softly. “Any man who loved you would see beyond the scar to the real person.”

“The trouble is,” Ella replied without emotion, “that few people see anything other than the scar. It is just human nature,” she added. “Why would a man marry a woman with a disfigurement when he could marry one without?” She looked at Verity whose skin was clear and creamy, her green eyes fringed with thick, dark lashes and her heart-shaped face framed by unruly auburn curls some of which had already escaped their chignon. “Don’t you see, Verity? You are our only hope if we three are to have any chance of staying together.”

“But why Elliott? Why not some other man? You know what Elliott did to me.” Even now, seven years on, Verity still felt the pain when she remembered how Elliott Thorne had used her and left her. She had been prepared to lose everything for him, and almost had.

“Elliott is now one of the richest men in the country and, as far as I know, all down to his own efforts. It seems that he has a talent for investments, discovered after he left the army. His business interests expanded beyond all expectations. I imagine Father would have been kicking himself had he known how rich Elliott would become,” Ella commented, “and from poor Charity’s experience you know life is not kind to single women without a husband, father or brother to protect them.

We have no discernible skills, though you and I could perhaps earn modest livings as governesses, Father, or more to the point my mother, at least made sure that we were educated, but that would mean us being separated and then what would become of Caroline? With no money for school fees, I doubt she would even be able to gain work as a governess, or even a lady’s maid. She would probably end up as a nursemaid or a companion to a cantankerous elderly lady whose family cannot be bothered to take care of her. Either way, she would be at the beck and call of people to whom she was once equal and you know how the ton enjoys nothing more than to gloat over the fall of one of its own.” As ever, when faced with a problem, Ella chewed her lip. “The fact is, like it or not, and I appreciate that you do not, we need someone who will take care of us. Rydale has to marry and produce an heir, why not to you? At least you know Elliott.”

Verity could not fault her sister’s logic.

“I have racked my brains for another solution, any solution, but there is nothing else. We must face the fact that we have no money, no prospects and few discernible skills. If you do not marry well, we shall end up in the poor house,” Ella went on. “You are our only hope.”

“But Elliott of all people? We have nothing to recommend us, apart from the fact that we are the daughters of an earl, a disgraced earl at that. We have no dowries, and there is nothing to attract any man, especially Elliott to marry me.”

“Elliott fell in love with you once, you can make him do it again.”

Verity smiled sadly. “You’re forgetting one very important thing Ella.”


“Elliott Thorne, Duke of Rydale, hates me.”


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