Excerpt & Giveaway: Designing His Duchess by Gabrielle Carr

Designing his Duchess by Gabrielle Carr

Publication Date: January 21, 2022
Brown Lady Publishing, LLC

Series: Regency in Color, #3
Genre: Historical Romance

Marry or find herself penniless and ousted from her aunt and uncle's home. Those are Miss Juliana Drake's current options. Having never felt the need to know how long she could survive without basic provisions, she chooses the latter. Only she knows as much about charming a suitor as she does about charming a snake.


The solution? Colin Lewis Francis Latham, Duke of Herstshire. The man who offered her marriage years ago, then vanished without as much as a by your leave. When he returns to London and offers to instruct her in the art of husband hunting, Juliana is both insulted and desperate enough to accept his offer.

She's no longer the gullible young woman of her youth. She can handle being near him without losing her head. Although, it would be much easier if she could finally expel him from her heart.

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June 1817

To take Lord Emsbury’s money, or not to take Lord Emsbury’s money? That was the question Colin Francis Latham, Duke of Herstshire, contemplated as he glanced across the card table at the young earl, through eyes half-cast from too much drink and a fair bit of indifference.

At some point during the game of faro they’d been playing with the three other gentlemen whose names now escaped Colin, the conversation had turned to who would win in a bare-knuckle fight between Tom Molineaux and Tom Belcher. From there, it had spiraled into a boasting match between each gentleman about their sporting prowess, and finally into Lord Emsbury wagering ten pounds that he could withstand the hardest blow to the chin Colin had to offer.

The scrawny man’s skeletal face begged to differ.

Pearls of sweat glistened on Lord Emsbury’s forehead, subverting his weak performance of confidence. He discreetly dabbed at the offending moisture with the cuff of his dress coat, no doubt hoping Colin’s inebriated brain would keep him from noticing the slight act of apprehension.

Colin did notice.

Which was why he currently deliberated whether or not to hold the young man to his foolhardy wager. Plus, he rather enjoyed his membership to Brooks. He could very well imagine having it revoked after boxing the future Duke of Willfolk. Then again, Colin was no longer a second son. He was the bearer of a title many generations older than Lord Emsbury’s and possessed a fortune many times larger. For that reason alone, his membership would remain secure.

That settled it.

Colin emptied the remainder of his fourth—or was it his fifth—glass of brandy in one gulp. If the young man wanted to squander his inheritance on frivolous gambling, who was he to deny him the privilege?

He removed his coat and draped it over the back of his chair. “This won’t be pleasant, but you look like a weeper, so I’ll give you half strength,” he said, his voice slightly slurred. His bleary gaze took in Lord Emsbury once more. “Maybe half of half strength,” he amended.

Lord Emsbury stood. A cherry hue crept from beneath his cravat up over his pale face. “You wound me, sir.” He held his head high. “I have more strength of character than to sob after taking a measly wallop to the face.”

The corner of Colin’s mouth curled in a wicked grin. He hadn’t missed Lord Emsbury’s emphasis on the word measly, and for it, his respect for the young earl grew. A man who maintained such a haughty bearing even as he quaked in his boots was either brave or a fool. Although one could argue those were two ways of describing the same attribute.

Colin unbuttoned the cuffs of his shirt and rolled up his sleeves. He inclined his head to Lord Emsbury. “Apologies. Then let us prove your rugged constitution so that we can return to our card game.”

“Yes, let’s.”

Lord Emsbury marched around the table. He drew to attention in front of Colin, arms stiff at his side, back fire-iron straight. He angled his head to the right, presenting the left side of his face for its impending punishment.

Men left their tables, and others poured into the gaming room, gathering around to watch the spectacle. They pushed close until Colin barely had room to cock back his arm.

“I have two that Lord Emsbury goes down,” someone in the crowd shouted.

“Three for me,” another added.

“Four that he loses consciousness.”

A stifled collective laugh rolled through the gathered men. More bets poured in, shouted from every direction. If he weren’t so far in his cups, Colin might have felt a twinge of sympathy on Lord Emsbury’s behalf.

Unfortunately, the brandy did what it was supposed to do—numb his soul and shut off his humanity.

Colin rolled his shoulders then lifted his fists, ready to get on with it. He squinted, attempting to turn the three blurry Lord Emsburys into a single, more solid one. His target a little more in focus, he drew back his right fist and swung, using what his drunken brain gaged to be much-reduced force—although whether his perception mirrored reality was debatable.

“How odd,” Colin mumbled to himself.

Instead of pain emanating from his knuckles, there was a constricting, dull ache in his forearm. Colin looked at the pained area. A brawny hand latched onto his arm in a grip so tight its fine, black hairs stood out against the contrasting milky-white knuckles. Colin followed the line of the arm up to the face of its owner.

His lips spread into a wide, lopsided grin. “Ah, Hamon, my old friend.”

Richard Clarke, the Earl of Hamon, had been one of Colin’s closest friends since their time at Eaton.

Hamon returned the greeting with a scowl that usually made most delicate young ladies wilt, and most men shrivel into mousy versions of their formerly lionhearted selves. But Colin had known Hamon since the time the imposing earl’s adolescent bladder couldn’t hold its contents through the night, thus nullifying his fear. Even the portion of it he’d be wise to maintain during moments such as this.

Colin used his free hand to pat Hamon on the shoulder. “I was in the middle of winning a few pounds. How rude of you to interrupt.”

Hamon shook his head at Colin, disappointment hewn into each crease in his brow. He released Colin’s arm but kept his hands poised at his side, ready to intervene again if necessary. “More like saving you from your idiocy. Come along. It’s time to go.”

The gathered men grumbled amongst themselves, not appreciating the thwarting of their entertainment. They dispersed, many complaining about all the ways they could have spent the assured winnings they would have received from Lord Emsbury’s defeat.

Lord Emsbury’s shoulders slackened, his entire body nearly convulsing as he sighed in relief. He quickly scurried back to his seat, collected his chips, and relocated to another card table.

“Go?” Colin pulled a peevish face, sloppily shaking his head. “Nonsense. I still have several more hours of gambling left before retiring for the evening. It is still evening, is it not?”

Colin stepped around Hamon, heading back to his table. The large quantities of alcohol he’d consumed slowed his movements, giving his friend the advantage. Hamon quickly blocked his escape. He retrieved Colin’s discarded coat, hat, and gloves then held them out to him.

“Your grandmother awaits you at Torridune House. After returning from Lady Alborn’s ball and finding you not in residence, she sent a footman to my townhouse asking me to retrieve you. Needless to say, we both knew there were only two places you would be at this hour.”

Colin stepped back, pinching the bridge of his nose to ward off the impending headache that, as of late, always followed the mention of his grandmother. “If Lady Herstshire awaits me, I have many, many, many more hours of gambling left before I return home. And why do you still lack the ability to tell her no?” He shot Hamon a bleary-eyed, withering glare. “We’ve been friends for far too long for you not to have learned how to do so from me. It must be nearly midnight by now. Your excuse was built into the inappropriate hour for calling on a person to ask for favors.”

Hamon lifted a nonchalant shoulder. “Because unlike her ungrateful grandson—that would be you—I know the value of a caring maternal figure, seeing as how I grew up without one. Furthermore, I respect her and have no qualms assisting her plots to mold you into something resembling an upstanding gentleman, when and where I can.”

Colin made a noise somewhere between a grunt and a snort. Some friend he had. Hamon abandoned him in favor of becoming his grandmother’s champion. The treacherous lout. He should have never invited him to Torridune House over the holidays of their youth.

“Look at you. Using guilt to try to sway me. You grow more like her by the day. I forbid you from visiting my grandmother for at least a fortnight. Maybe two.”

“And I chose to ignore you. Now let’s go.” Hamon thrust Colin’s garments out with more force, his stony expression leaving no room for further argument.

Colin snatched the offered items and clumsily put them on. “I am coming with you only because you’ve ruined my mood. Now I must seek the company of a more agreeable, and preferably more buxom, companion to revive my spirits.”

Hamon didn’t reply. He stepped to the side, prompting Colin to precede him. Colin eyed his friend suspiciously as he passed. If his grandmother awaited him, there was no way Hamon would allow him to do anything other than go straight to her. Silence generally preceded a diabolical maneuver that forced him to do as Hamon bade.

It was no surprise to Colin that his carriage awaited him right behind Hamon’s when they stepped out onto the street. No doubt, his driver had been given strict instructions to bring Colin straight home. He didn’t economize when it came to paying his staff for this very reason. It had the marvelous effect of making them very loyal and swift to carry out his requests. Including swallowing their timidity and ignoring the threats against their lives that Hamon had a habit of issuing to deter disobedience.

Stepping up to the coach, Colin paused in front of the door held open by a footman and looked at Albert, his devoted and trustworthy driver. Albert inclined his head, a conspiratorial glint in his eyes. A devilish grin pulled at the corner of Colin’s mouth—he’d meet no opposition to overruling Hamon’s instructions. He’d be burying his face in the exquisite Miss Catherine Griffith’s Cupid’s kettle drums soon enough. Colin turned to Hamon, working to keep the glee of winning this clash of wills from his expression. “I believe this is where we part ways, old friend. Enjoy the remainder of your evening.” A hint of gloating entered his voice. “I know I shall.”

Hamon crossed his arms over his chest, his expression neutral. “You’ll go straight home then?”

“Not a chance,” Colin scoffed.

Hamon’s lips curled into a humorless smile, his visage turning fiendish. “I hoped you’d say that. This is for your own good.”

Before Colin could work past his inebriated confusion to form a coherent response, Hamon cocked back his fist and punched him in the face. Clearly, he’d learned a thing or two from his lessons at Gentleman Jackson’s boxing academy. Colin crumpled onto the floor of the coach. Hamon’s command to Albert to take him home followed him into the darkness.

About the Author

Gabrielle Carr is the author of Regency Romances featuring casts of diverse characters, that are full of heart, hope, and happily ever after. She has always enjoyed indulging in her imagination. At a very young age she had a thirst for reading and the many possibilities it helped bring to life in her mind’s eye. Ms. Carr can normally be found locked away with a good book in her home in Charlotte, NC or traveling the globe to places like India, Bali, Tokyo, or London.

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Monday, February 28
Feature at Books & Benches
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Tuesday, March 1
Excerpt at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, March 2
Review at Novels Alive
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Guest Post at Novels Alive

Saturday, March 5
Review at Book Reviews and More

Monday, March 7
Review at Bookworlder

Tuesday, March 8
Review at Tammy Reads

Wednesday, March 9
Review at Booking With Janelle

Thursday, March 10
Review at A Girl Reads Bookss


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Designing His Duchess

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