Title: Heiress For Hire
Series: Duke's Heiress #1
Author: Madeline Hunter
Format: Paperback/eBook, 289 pages
Publication: Apr. 28, 2020 by Zebra
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Source: First Reads GoodReads
Rating: 3 out of 5 Wine Glasses
Minerva Hepplewhite has learned the hard way how to take care of herself. When an intruder breaks into her home, she doesn't swoon or simper. Instead, she wallops the rogue over the head and ties him up—only to realize he is Chase Radnor, the man who nearly got her convicted of her late husband's murder. Now, he's insisting that Minerva has inherited a fortune from his uncle, a wealthy Duke. Only one thing could surprise her more: her sudden attraction to this exasperating man...
Chase can't decide whether Minerva is a wronged woman or a femme fatale. Either way, he's intrigued. Since the scandal surrounding her husband's death, she has set up a discreet detective business to rival Chase's own. She may be the perfect person to help him uncover the truth about his uncle's demise. But as proximity gives way to mutual seduction, Chase realizes he craves a much deeper alliance...
When the Duke of Hollingburgh dies suddenly, his will reveals that he has left the bulk of his money and business interests to three women, women the family has never heard of. One of the duke's nephews, Chase, is tasked with finding these three women and with investigating the duke's death. A former soldier who was cashed out under a cloud of suspicion, Chase will only go by the facts in a case and not let his emotions affect him ever again but dealing with family and one of the mysterious heiress, it's harder said than done.
He opened his eyes to see the end of a pistol mere inches from his head. His gaze traveled up the arm that held it, until he looked into the furious dark eyes of a very handsome dark-haired woman. She held the pistol like she knew how to use it.
Heiress For Hire was a leisurely mystery with a mature, tranquil romance and engaging characters. As a first in the series, the set-up for the storyline, that will obviously continue throughout at least what I can discern for three books, takes up a lot of the page time. The former duke's death that our hero Chase is investigating for probable murder is not resolved in this book and will obviously be the thread that ties the series together. While the introduction to the family members and how they are all set-up as red-herrings to keep you guessing was well thought out, it did steal too much time from our main characters and their romance.
It had been stupid to allow herself to taste that which she dare not enjoy in full.
Our heroine, Minerva, is one of the three mysterious women the duke left money to. I found her character and background more flushed out than Chase's and therefore she became the stronger character. Minerva is a widow who has changed her name to distance herself from any possible negativity to do with a trial that tried to convict her of murdering her husband. This is what sparks some of the conflict in keeping Chase and Minerva wary of each other. Chase believes his uncle was murdered and Minerva doesn't want her past dredged up and understands that she would be a prime suspect in the duke's possible murder. Minerva's husband was also abusive and this leads her to being slightly fearful of intimacy with Chase but the agency and control Chase gives to her during their moments of closeness have her healing and moving forward in this regard.
He hated how being disillusioned once had him guarding information now.
Chase's background and cloud over his leaving the army is kept secret for the majority of the book and while his friendship with his cousins, the new duke Nicholas and Kevin and his calm deliberate care towards Minerva, give insight to his personality, I still felt he wasn't colored in enough. I think I was around one-hundred pages in and I realized because of Chase and Minerva's background still kept secret and the focus more on the murder mystery set-up, I felt like I still didn't know these characters. Towards the end when Minerva and Chase get more time together, I enjoyed their by-play and interactions, which were smooth and calm. There really is no angst or dramatic flares to the story or characters, if you're looking for a more mature and comfortable romance, this would be the couple to read.
Secondary characters filled this story out wonderfully but the romance was overtaken by the series set-up too much for me. Minerva and Chase were a couple where the gradual friendship definitely built the trust to make acting on their mutual attraction believable. I just wish I had felt closer to them and the pace of the story was picked up a bit. I am curious to see who the other two mystery heiresses will be and if Chase's cousins Nicholas and Kevin will be paired with them.