Book Review: The Stranger I Wed by Harper St. George + Excerpt

This was such a fun read with great characters. I adored Cora and Leo! It was my first time reading Harper St. George and it won't be my last. The Stranger I Wed is now available!

Book Review: The Stranger I Wed by Harper St. George
The Stranger I Wed (Doves of New York #1) by Harper St. George

New to wealth and to London high society, American heiress Cora Dove discovers that with the right man, marriage might not be such an inconvenience after all. . . .

Cora Dove and her sisters’ questionable legitimacy has been the lifelong subject of New York’s gossipmongers and a continual stain on their father’s reputation. So when the girls each receive a generous, guilt-induced dowry from their dying grandmother, the sly Mr. Hathaway vows to release their funds only if Cora and her sisters can procure suitable husbands—far from New York. For Cora, England is a fresh start. She has no delusions of love, but a husband who will respect her independence? That’s an earl worth fighting for.

Enter: Leopold Brendon, Earl of Devonworth, a no-nonsense member of Parliament whose plan to pass a Public Health bill that would provide clean water to the working class requires the backing of a wealthy wife.  He just never expected to crave Cora’s touch or yearn to hear her thoughts on his campaign—or to discover that his seemingly perfect bride protects so many secrets...

But secrets have a way of bubbling to the surface, and Devonworth has a few of his own. With their pasts laid bare and Cora’s budding passion for women’s rights taking a dangerous turn, they’ll learn the true cost of losing their heart to a stranger—and that love is worth any price.

4 out of 5 stars

The Stranger I Wed was an entertaining and intriguing story and I had a great time reading it. It had good humor and banter and I loved watching Leo and Cora fall in love. I really liked the time period, the build and pace, and watching it all unfold with fantastic wit and dialogue. It made for a wonderful series starter!

I immediately liked Cora and her tenacity. She was a strong woman who knew who she was and what she had to do for her family. I enjoyed learning about her and her family dynamics, her lineage, and what a mess it was. I liked Leo as well and learning about him. I loved what was set up between them with the marriage of convenience scenario. I liked them meeting and the chemistry between them. I loved watching their feelings grow and catch fire throughout the story.

I thought the story flowed well and appreciated that it was told from dual POVs. For the most part, it was exciting and fun with a lot of great moments and scenes that kept things moving along. There was a spot in the middle that felt slow but it picked back up just when I needed it too. There was a lot of political talk involved, which I thought worked well with the story and their beliefs, but it never felt like a lecture or a lesson. There are a lot of characters involved, some I really liked, and some were not my favorite. I liked learning about her sisters and what has been set up for future stories. I was not a fan of her father and her mother seemed a bit over the top. I thought this was pretty light in the drama department, nothing too taxing and all easily resolved.

Overall, I thought this was a delightful story with likable characters. I loved watching Cora and Leo grow and trust each other and fall in love. I enjoyed it from start to finish!

Complimentary copy received from Berkley Romance.

Oxfordshire, England

Spring 1878

Title-hunting was not for the faint of heart. The occupation required a great deal of analysis, focus, and attention to detail, three qualities Cora Dove had no choice but to perfect. One had to be strategic when choosing the ideal candidate for a husband. Everyone knew that the perfect groom for a title hunter was a fortune hunter. However, it simply wasn't that easy. Too impoverished and the wealth gained from the marriage would drain away like water through a sieve.

Cora was determined that the man she married not be a gambler, at least not to excess. The likelihood of finding an aristocrat who did not gamble at all would be akin to finding a fish that did not swim. There were other considerations, too. In fact, she had made a list. Too young and he'd likely be brash and unruly. Too old and he could hold outdated ideas about a wife's role. Too temperamental or too wicked in his pursuits and he would be difficult to manage. Too attractive and heartache would inevitably ensue-this one had been the last to go on the list. Cora quite liked good-looking men and wouldn't have minded marrying one. Her sister Jenny, however, who knew more than she about the qualities of handsome men, had been insistent, so the condition had gone on the list. Only a fool would aim for the highest title and leave it at that when there were so many other considerations.

Cora was no fool. Not anymore. She had stepped off the steamer ship from New York with her mother and Eliza last week with her mission at the forefront of her mind. Find a titled husband and marry him by summer. Thankfully, she would not face the task alone. Camille, Dowager Duchess of Hereford, had agreed to act as a sort of agent to help the sisters find titled husbands.

"Camille, pardon my disbelief, but there can't possibly be suitors here," Eliza, Cora's youngest sister, remarked, her brow furrowed in distinct displeasure.

The three of them descended the steps of the train depot, umbrellas in hand to combat the spring drizzle. The train stretched out behind them on the track, belching steam into the cool air. They were in a small village-Cora had already forgotten the name-not far from Camille's country estate in Oxfordshire. The town was little more than a stop along the railroad, but it was quaint and picturesque, as Cora was finding most English villages to be. They possessed a charm lent to them by virtue of age that many of the industrial mill towns that had sprung up back home didn't have. The buildings, made of either stone or wattle and daub, had been standing for centuries longer than their brownstone back in New York. There was a security in that permanence that she found comforting.

"I quite like it," Cora said.

"As do I," Camille voiced her agreement.

Cora and her sisters had met Camille many years ago when Mr. Hathaway and Fanny were still an item, though their relationship had been in its death throes. Camille's father and Mr. Hathaway had finished some sort of business deal together, and they had been invited to spend a week with the Bridwells at their summer home. It had been an awkward week, and Cora now realized it was because Mrs. Bridwell hadn't approved of their presence there, even though Mr. Bridwell hadn't been above putting his company's profits ahead of what was socially acceptable. Cora and Camille had spent most of the time together outdoors swimming and playing on the rope swings. Thankfully, Camille remembered her and had been a wonderful source of support when Cora had contacted her with the marriage plan.

The duchess wasn't a proponent of the cash-for-class marriages that were becoming so popular between American heiresses and impoverished noblemen. Her own parents had all but auctioned her off to the highest title, and the marriage had been deeply unhappy until the much older duke had died and set her free. Now she was with Jacob Thorne, a man she loved. It had taken several letters and a few telegrams before Cora had convinced Camille that this marriage was what she wanted and that she was not being coerced by her mother. It was her negligent sire who had made this sort of marriage necessary, but Cora preferred not to dwell on that.

Instead, she devoted every waking moment to finding the perfect husband. She had a journal specifically for the task that she had diligently filled with notes about each man Camille proposed to her. She knew their ages, their immediate family members, and how they spent their days. Perhaps more importantly, she knew how their family had lost their own fortunes. That crucial bit of information could be the difference between a comfortable future and one spent scraping pennies.

Unlike the other American heiresses who came from new money families with industrial interests that kept their pockets deep, Cora and her sisters were illegitimate. They weren't marrying for mere social status, though that would be a boon; they were marrying for the very survival of their small family.

"Then you can marry any gentleman who might reside here. I'll choose one who lives in London." Eliza nodded her head in finality and Cora hid her grin. If only it were that easy of a choice.

"I understand the conditions are not ideal," Camille said, leading them around the muck and mud of the road to the higher-packed earth along the edge. They didn't seem to be heading toward the center of town but in the other direction along a narrow lane that followed the tracks before turning away. "But being able to observe these men outside of normal social conditions will give you rare insight. Since they don't know you yet and don't know that you're watching, they'll be more inclined to be themselves. Once at the house party, they'll all be on their best behavior, and you'll only see what they allow you to see."

That was certainly true. Of the ten men Camille had invited to the upcoming house party at Stonebridge Cottage, they had been able to observe five without them being aware. First, they had gone to the Lakes, where they had discreetly assessed two of their suitors who were participating in an angler tournament. They were two of the most boring individuals Cora had ever encountered. Since boredom hadn't made it onto her list, they had passed the test. Then, they had gone to a lecture at the British Museum to locate a third who had been a bit argumentative with the lecturer. She had drawn a line through his name. She wouldn't countenance a rude husband. From there, they had quietly observed two others at Hyde Park. Both were a bit snobbish in their bearing, so Cora had put a question mark by their names. Today was their last jaunt before the house party began early next week. They were here to watch a football game.

Excerpted from The Stranger I Wed by Harper St. George Copyright © 2024 by Harper St. George. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Harper St. George was raised in the rural backwoods of Alabama and along the tranquil coast of northwest Florida. These were settings filled with stories of the old days that instilled in her a love of history, romance, and adventure. By high school, she had discovered the historical romance novel, which combined all of those elements into one perfect package. She has been hooked ever since. She lives in the Atlanta area with her family and loves to hear from readers.

Book Review: The Stranger I Wed by Harper St. George | About That Story
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Thank you Berkley Romance for the advanced copy of The Stranger I Wed.

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Harper St. George is a new-to-me author and I am so happy to have found her. Who is the last new-to-you author you've read? Let me know!⁠