How to Capture a Duke
Book III, Raven Club Series
Lady Olivia, the youngest sister of the Earl of Castleton, has no patience for the boring gentlemen of aristocratic society. She longs for a more adventurous life like the ladies who visit the Raven Club. But her plans are thwarted when her family drags her to a country house party to meet the elusive Duke of Keswick.
Tristan Cameron, the Duke of Keswick, finds Olivia in his stables. She believes him to be the stable master, and he doesn’t dissuade her of the notion. He has no interest in entertaining one of the spoiled, self-indulgent ladies who’ve invaded his home. Except, Olivia is neither of those things, and their shared kiss during a ride results in combustible passion.
And a potential scandal.
Olivia is relieved when the handsome stable master comes to her aid as her alibi, but that relief fades to anger when she suddenly finds herself betrothed to the harsh, foul-tempered duke.
Tristan believes he’s been trapped by a scheming, title-seeking lady. To make matters worse, she’s utterly captivating. He plans on leaving her behind in the country immediately after their vows, but Tristan soon finds himself battling temptation and Olivia’s stubborn determination to be the Duchess he doesn’t believe he deserves...
"You will totally love this amazing couple's love story!" -Suzette P., NetGalley
"Fabulous setting and a wonderful storyline make this one you wouldn't want to miss, loved it!" -Ann L., Goodreads
"I absolutely enjoyed this book and didn't want to put it down. Tristan and Olivia were wonderful characters. Tristan was a different sort of romance hero - he stuttered. Olivia, strong woman that she was, refused to be ignored and shuffled off to the country; she knew Tristan should not be hiding from life and could be helped. The chemistry between them was explosive, though Tristan tried to push her away. I enjoyed everything about this book!" -Kat H., Goodreads
"An excellent love story revolving around Tristan and Olivia. The characters are well written and entertaining. I would recommend this book as an excellent read." -Jill G., NetGalley
"I absolutely loved this beautiful, heartfelt historical romance from Tina Gabrielle. She is an auto buy author for me!" -Erika C., NetGalley
Lady Olivia Swift escaped down the gravel path toward the stables. She glanced back at the magnificent country home where currently a dozen guests were enjoying the Duke of Keswick’s hospitality at his house party.
She didn’t have much time before her mother and the duke’s grandmother would notice her absence.
The tittering young ladies in attendance would be preparing for daily afternoon tea on the terrace where they hoped the duke would make his first appearance.
Wishful thinking on their parts.
The duke so far hadn’t shown his noble face for ten days out of the fourteen-day house party. The debutantes and their mothers had all been disappointed.
Olivia had been secretly thrilled.
She made it to the stable doors. Inside, the warmth enveloped her, and the distinctive smell of leather, horse, and clean hay heightened her senses and quickened her pulse.
The duke’s stables were indeed stunning. Row after row of stalls housed beautiful horses—mares, stallions, and geldings. Each served a different purpose, whether it be for racing, hunting, or pulling the duke’s crested carriages, curricle, or high-perched phaeton. The value of the horseflesh would turn the dealers at Tattersall’s green with envy.
Olivia stepped up to the stall of a brown mare to stroke her velvet-soft muzzle. “Hello, pretty. Would you like a treat?” She held out one of the apples she’d pilfered from the kitchens that morning, and the mare’s big brown eyes blinked once as if to say, “Thank you,” then she ate the fruit from her hand.
The duke’s estate was over twenty thousand acres. The manor home looked like a small castle with its white carved stonework, elegant pillars, and window frames highlighted with gold leaf that caught the setting sun. Dozens of gardeners maintained the sculpted gardens, boxwood hedges, and flowering shrubs, which bloomed in every color and perfumed the air. Numerous ponds, fountains, and classical sculptures decorated the lovely gardens.
Olivia longed to ride through the vast lands and gallop across the fields. She’d sit astride the animal, not on a side saddle, release the pins from her hair, and let the wind cool her heated cheeks, just as she’d done years ago at her own family’s country estate.
Her eldest brother Matthew would have adored this stable, would have understood her need to escape the house and the lords and ladies within, to escape the pressure of her mother’s efforts to find her a suitable husband—hopefully the duke.
But Matthew was dead. He had been thrown while racing his own curricle. A pang of familiar sadness pierced her chest, and she stepped back from the brown mare.
That’s when she saw him.
A massive stallion in the last stall, hidden from sight. Over seventeen hands tall, he had a sleek, black coat that gleamed beneath a ray of afternoon sunlight shining through the open stable doors. He took away her breath.
She approached. The big beast watched her with intelligent black eyes, his nostrils slightly flaring, his head tossing once when she came close.
“My God. You are superb.”
What would it feel like to ride him? To feel the exhilarating rhythmic power of those muscles beneath her? She nearly swooned at the thought.
Pulling the remaining apple from her pocket, she held it out to him. “May I touch you?” She tentatively stretched out her hand, careful not to move too swiftly and startle the animal.
Olivia jumped back. The guttural masculine command was harsh and, Heaven help her, menacing.
She whirled to find a tall man storming toward her, his face a mask of annoyance. His chiseled features—strong jaw, hawkish nose, and dark eyes—spoke of strength and confidence. His dark hair, slightly longer than fashion dictated, brushed his collar. Their gazes clashed, and her gut tightened.
“What are you doing here?” he demanded.
He had to be the head groom. He spoke with such command. He must know she was a lady from the manor, a guest at Rosehill. Her muslin walking dress and silk slippers bespoke her station as well as if a majordomo had announced her at a ball.
“I wanted to see the horses,” she said, hoping her voice sounded steady beneath his hard stare.
He stalked closer with a predatory confidence that heightened her unease. “You should be back at the house.”
He kept walking until he was within an arm’s reach of her. Beneath that stormy stare, her heart pounded so fiercely in her chest she feared he could hear it. She noticed more about him now. His body was muscular, like the type of man who rode all day and worked hard. His broad shoulders rivaled the pugilists in her brother’s boxing ring in the back of the casino—the Raven Club. She wasn’t easily intimidated, but this man…
She forced aside her misgivings. He was a groom, and she was a guest. Raising her chin, she met his steely gaze. “I want to ride the stallion. I need a groom.”
He pierced her with a hard stare. “No one rides Atlas but the d…d-uke.”
“His stable. His rules.”
Her confidence returned along with a good dose of anger. “Fine. Would you kindly ask His Grace if I may ride the black then?”
He shook his head. “His Grace is not here.”
An obvious fact. “When is he expected to return?”
“He d…d-oes not confide in me.”
She noticed two things. He spoke properly for a head groom, but his speech was not perfect. He stammered over certain words, struggled to form them. She’d had a young maid with a similar speaking condition. Olivia had been pleased with the way Cynthia had dressed her hair, and the girl had been more than pleasant. But Olivia’s disciplinarian father, the old Earl of Castleton, had found the girl’s speech off-putting and had dismissed her without a reference.
She would have assumed a man as powerful and wealthy as the Duke of Keswick would demand a well-spoken head groom. There was only one explanation. He must be exceptional with the horses.
Olivia clutched her hands before her. “If I’m not permitted to ride Atlas, then I wish to ride another.”
“No?” she repeated, dumbfounded. How could he deny her? She was a guest, not a wandering country girl.
His eyes narrowed. “Where is your chaperone? I have the d…d-istinct impression the lady has no idea of the whereabouts of her charge.”
Her chaperone, her mother, indeed had no idea where she was and would have a conniption if she knew Olivia was having a heated argument with a groom rather than preparing for the unlikely appearance of His Grace at the house party.
“Fine,” she snapped. “But I shall return.”
She took one last longing look at Atlas. She hadn’t given up on the stallion.
Just the duke.
Tristan Cameron, the fourth Duke of Keswick, leaned against the stable doors and watched the lady head for the manor. Her presence had disturbed him. Why was one of the ladies from the house in his stables about to touch his horse? As soon as he’d spotted her near Atlas, he’d barked his command for her to cease. Startled, she’d turned.
Momentarily, he’d been just as surprised as she was. The lady was well-curved with golden hair and green eyes. There was both delicacy and strength in her face. She was pretty, but he had seen many beautiful women. It was the keen determination in her eyes, her excitement and anticipation as she gazed at Atlas, that set her apart from other debutantes. Of course, she had thought him a groom. She had no reason to flutter her eyelashes or curve her well-shaped lips in a calculated smile in order to lure a man into a feminine trap.
He wondered exactly who she was. The daughter of a marquess, an earl, or a viscount? One of the ladies who had traveled from London to Rosehill for the sole purpose of enticing a duke—him—into marriage.
She’d fail. They all would.
His grandmother had insisted on hosting the infernal house party. He couldn’t blame Antonia for her repeated efforts to see him married, but neither did he have to fall into his grandmother’s trap. Tristan hated social gatherings with a passion. He kept busy with his estates, his correspondence, his ledgers, his duties in the House of Lords, and the well-being of the many tenants of Rosehill—the hard-working men and women that depended upon him for their livelihood and whose labor added to the ducal coffers.
Those who never watched him warily as he spoke.
Unlike in his youthful years at Eton and even Oxford, he now was too powerful to be mocked. But he recognized the cruel sneers of dandies and the snickers behind ladies’ fluttering fans as he struggled to form certain words. Stress made his stuttering worse. For this reason, he avoided balls, garden parties, house parties, and whatever social gatherings the beau monde devised for their ceaseless and ridiculous need for frivolous entertainment. He was also highly aware of what certain men called him, had called him since his school days.
The Stuttering Duke.
He wouldn’t set foot in the manor, not until every young debutant had given up hope of capturing the elusive duke and headed back to London and the bosom of the ton.
He turned back to Atlas and reached for a saddle. He’d ride and dismiss the golden-haired lady from his thoughts. Despite his grandmother’s wishes, he had no intention to be burdened by a wife.