A Duke Worth Fighting For


By Christina Britton

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Daniel Hayle, Duke of Carlisle, returned from Waterloo a hero, and he has the wounds to prove it. But he dreads the coming London season as he never did the battlefield, where his lack of social skills is certain to make it difficult to find a wife. What he needs is someone to help him practice socializing with the ton. Someone who isn’t frightened away by his scars . . .

Margery Kitteridge is still mourning the loss of her husband. So when she receives a blackmail letter accusing him of desertion, she’s desperate to protect his reputation. The answer to her troubles appears in the form of a damaged, reclusive—and much-too-desirable—duke in need of a wife. She proposes an alliance: she’ll help him find a bride, in return for the money to pay off the blackmailer. But working so closely together awakens passions they never imagined possible, and reveals secrets that might tear them apart.


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Author’s Note

A DUKE WORTH FIGHTING FOR is a story of overcoming the tragedies of the past to find happiness and love. However, it also contains content that may distress some readers. For content warnings, please visit my website:


Affectionately Yours,

Christina Britton

Chapter 1

Mrs. Aaron Kitteridge,

Your husband was not the hero you believe him to be. I was witness to his cowardice at Waterloo, how he ran just before his death, leaving his fellow men to die, turning traitor to his country. If you wish to keep this fact silent—as I’m sure you must, related as you are to a viscount and not one, but two dukes—you will pay to do so. I require the sum of one hundred pounds to make certain I don’t send off letters to every major paper in the country detailing your husband’s cowardly retreat. I shall give you a full month, until the first of October, to secure the amount; I shall write to you when the date approaches to instruct you where to leave the funds.

Don’t fail me in this.

Where in God’s name was she going to get one hundred pounds?

The question had been burning through Mrs. Margery Kitteridge’s mind ever since the arrival of the blackmail letter two days ago. It had devastated her, that letter. Not that she had believed for a moment that her Aaron had been capable of turning his back on his fellow soldiers. He had been the most honorable, the most courageous man she had ever known. It was one of the reasons she had loved him so.

But who could possibly wish to cast such a dark cloud on him? Who could possibly hate him enough to commit such a heinous act?

Had the person known him? Had he served in the same regiment as Aaron, sat at meals with him, perhaps talked and laughed with him? Her mind drifted to the veterans who had come to settle on the Isle of Synne after the war, to make a new home here. She thought of their kindness, their friendship and support. And, not for the first time in the past two days, she considered the possibility of one of those men committing such a horrible crime.

Her mind recoiled from the very idea. No, it could not have been anyone who had known him. To have known Aaron was to see how innately good he had been.

Regardless of who the blackmailer was, however, she could not let this villain lie and besmirch her husband’s good name. No, she would fight to preserve his memory until her dying day.

But, though she tried to focus on the gaiety surrounding her—with so much of her family back on the Isle, this should be a time of celebration and joy, after all—there was no escaping the fact that she did not have the funds needed to pay off the blackmailer.

She could go to a number of family members for the money, of course. They would be only too happy to help her financially. But an image of her father rose up in her mind, his fury a palpable thing as he’d attempted to dissuade her from marrying Aaron.

“He will ruin you,” he’d railed, his face red, his steps growing more agitated by the second as he’d paced the floor of his study. “He’s nothing but a poor blacksmith’s son, a simple soldier. You are the daughter of a viscount, the great-granddaughter of a duke. You would sink so low as to marry some nobody?”

Margery had grasped tight to Aaron’s hand and smiled firmly up at him. His beloved face had been drawn with worry, pain etched in his gentle eyes. “He’s not a nobody to me, Father,” she’d replied with quiet pride. “Aaron is a good man, an honorable man. And I love him, with my whole heart. I’m going to marry him, even if I have to elope to do it.”

“Then you are cut off,” her father had snarled. “I disown you.”

The words had cut Margery to the quick. Instead of crying and begging her father’s forgiveness, as he no doubt expected, however, Margery had raised her chin, and with a shaky voice, said, “Very well. Goodbye, Father.”

As she’d left with Aaron, however, her father had called after her, “You’ll be back. If not to me for funds, then your grandmother, or your cousin the duke. This soldier of yours will break your heart and ruin you, mark my words.”

Despite her father’s proclamations, however, and despite the heartache the split from him had caused, Margery had never regretted her decision to marry Aaron. And they’d been happy, for what little time they’d had together. When he’d died at Waterloo, she’d nearly been destroyed from the grief of it. It was as if half her soul had died along with him. In the four years since that devastating day, she’d healed. For the most part. She’d found meaning and purpose with the rest of her family, those that had given her support and love through all the joys and sorrows that had followed her elopement. And though she missed her dear Aaron every day, she’d found happiness in her place in the world.

Until the letter had arrived…

She shook her head sharply. No, she would not think of that now. There would be plenty of time, after all, to find a way to secure the funds. The portion she’d received from her mother upon her death some years ago, while enough to live modestly on, could never cover the amount needed, but surely there was something she could do, mayhap something she could sell.

Again her father’s cruel words flashed through her mind. Whatever solution she found, however, she would do it on her own. She would not give her father the satisfaction of seeing her crawl to any of her family for funds.

Her grandmother’s strident voice broke into her thoughts then, blessedly distracting her from her miserable musings.

“And when will I be able to visit Swallowhill and see the changes you’ve made, I ask you?”

Margery’s cousin Clara, now Duchess of Reigate, gave her husband an amused glance, her hand drifting over her swollen belly. “Soon, Aunt Olivia. Lenora is finishing up the mural in the nursery and we want it just so before we unveil it to you.”

“Poppycock,” Gran grumbled. “I’ve waited long enough. It’s been over a year since you had the work started on the house, after all. And all that time while it was being done, with you traipsing about the globe and refusing to allow me near the place until your return, I’ve been patient.”

“And we appreciate your impressive patience, dear aunt,” Clara’s husband, Quincy, Duke of Reigate, drawled with his easy grin.

“Flirt,” Gran muttered, though her heavily lined cheeks pinkened. “Don’t think to charm me, m’boy.”

“I would never,” Quincy declared with impressive solemnity, before ruining the effect with a wink.

Margery, her troubles forgotten for the time being, smiled fondly at the exchange and glanced about her grandmother’s sitting room. Clara and Quincy, who had returned to Synne some weeks ago for the birth of their first child, were not the only ones present. Clara’s sister, Phoebe, had just arrived that afternoon with her husband, Lord Oswin, as support for the soon-to-be parents. Margery’s cousin Peter, Duke of Dane, and his wife, Lenora—who also happened to be Margery’s closest friend—were there as well, their infant daughter, Charlotte, slumbering peacefully in her father’s massive arms. And, of course, Margery’s grandmother, the dowager Lady Tesh, was seated amid them all, her darling pup, Freya, resting on a cushion beside her. Miss Katrina Denby, Lady Tesh’s new companion, was ever attentive at her side, as was Miss Denby’s dog, somehow named Mouse, though the creature was nearly as large as a horse. Gran looked as pleased as any one person should. No wonder, for there was no doubt in Margery’s mind that Gran had something to do with each happy union present.

Margery was thrilled for them. She adored them all, and knowing they were all so happily matched gave her the greatest joy. Yet for a haunting moment, as she glanced about the room and took in these couples who were so very much in love, Margery felt her loneliness like a suffocating cloak about her. Not that she was alone, of course. Not with so many of her loved ones surrounding her. Yet she was lonely just the same. She missed her dear Aaron every single day. At times like these, however, his loss was felt all the more, their stolen future almost too painful to bear. And now with the added grief of someone trying to soil his name? She clenched her teeth tight, her fingers finding the thin gold band that cradled her fourth finger. She would do anything to prevent that from happening, to keep these people who had supported her in her marriage in open defiance of her father from thinking even one unkind thought about Aaron.

“I do hope you’re not planning on leaving again right after that baby of yours is born,” her grandmother said, shooting Quincy and Clara a disgruntled look. “I vow, a year is too long to be off running wild while we’re stuck here on Synne.”

“Stuck?” Peter queried with a raised golden brow, looking up from his daughter’s peaceful features. “I thought you loved it here, Aunt.”

“I do, I do,” she grumbled, waving a heavily beringed hand in dismissal. “But that does not mean I don’t like to travel now and again. Not that any of you care a bit what I like.” She sniffed, her offense palpable.

Peter, as expected, rolled his eyes. The two were ever at one another’s throats—a pastime that seemed dear to them if the wicked joy they each took in taunting one another was any indication. He kept his voice low and pleasing when he spoke, however, the better to keep his daughter slumbering. A far cry from the gruff grumbling he usually adopted with the dowager. “We have only just returned from London.”

Gran rolled her eyes right back at him. “That was well over a year ago, and you know it. And at my advanced years, goodness knows how much time I might have left…”

Phoebe exchanged amused glances with her sister before turning to the older woman. “Oswin and I will be heading to London for the return to Parliament in November, Aunt Olivia. We would be happy to take you with us.”

“As if I would want to return to that dirty, smelly place,” she scoffed. “And in winter, of all times.”

That sharp pronouncement was met with faint amusement by most of them. The only one seemingly affected at all by it was Miss Denby, who bit her lip in worry while simultaneously shooing her beast of a dog away from Freya. Mouse had been enamored of the smaller pup from the moment he’d stepped foot—er, paw—in Seacliff, and that adoration had not ceased, but instead it only grew stronger. It was a comical thing, indeed, as Freya was approximately the size of Mouse’s head, and seemed to view him as nothing more than an annoying gnat buzzing about her.

But while most in society thought of Miss Denby as a stunning if flighty thing with nothing of any substance between her ears, she had shown over the past weeks since taking her position that she was not stupid. Having learned to take her cues from the rest of the family regarding her irascible employer, she took stock of the room and settled back in her seat with a relieved sigh, her hand firmly on Mouse’s collar, once it became apparent that there was no danger.

“Besides,” the older woman continued, her expression turning suddenly sly, “I’m expecting a guest and won’t have time for traveling willy-nilly all over England.”

There was a moment of stunned silence. And then Peter’s voice, overloud in the sudden quiet of the room: “Who would be visiting you?” Wee Charlotte opened pale blue eyes the same hue as her father’s and scrunched up her face in preparation of a squall, seemingly more than happy to jump in at the dowager’s defense.

“Peter,” Lenora scolded gently, taking up her daughter with a smile. “Don’t tease your aunt so.”

“Now, now, Lenora,” Quincy said, leaving off whispering with his blushing wife to jump into the fray, “the man has every right to be surprised. I know I am.” He grunted, grinning, as Clara elbowed him in the side. “That is,” he amended, trying and failing spectacularly at looking contrite, “Lady Tesh doesn’t seem like the type to entertain.” Doing a poor job of holding in his laughter as his wife attempted to place a silencing hand over his mouth, he continued louder, “Besides housing Peter and me that fateful summer two years ago, I’ve not known her to have any guests for a lengthy stay.”

Gran glared at him. “I shall not miss your impertinence one bit when you go sailing off again, young man.”

“Yes you will,” he quipped, giving the older woman another broad wink.

Clara spoke up then. “Quincy, darling, do stop antagonizing her. Of course Aunt Olivia has entertained guests besides you.”

“Oh, really? Name one.” He looked down at his wife with smug expectance.

“Well, there’s…” She paused, blinking in befuddlement. “That is, there was that one time…” Clara frowned, looking to her sister. “Goodness, I can’t recall a one, can you?”

Gran let loose a low growl that had her pup raising her head in confusion. “Oh, you all vex me so. Well, you may as well go right ahead and continue to make me the brunt of your jokes, but I know you’ll all miss me when I’m gone.”

It had been a common enough refrain in the past that it roused only the weakest responses from those around her. In an effort to redirect the quickly spiraling conversation, Margery spoke up. “But you were telling us of your guest, Gran? I vow, I’m waiting on tenterhooks to learn who might be visiting.”

The others took the hint, thank goodness, and added their rousing curiosity. Mollified by what she must deem as appropriate interest, Gran’s outrage melted away. That did not mean, however, that she had forgotten the effrontery of the past minutes. “Well, now,” she said, raising her nose high in the air, “I’m not sure I want to tell you all after that display.”

Margery knew her grandmother well enough to recognize that her ire had passed, and she now only held on to the remnants of it because of an excess of pride. “Of course, it’s your right not to say a thing,” she said in a seemingly offhand manner.

Gran glared at her. “Oh no you don’t. You won’t get out of it that easy.” She took stock of the room, no doubt verifying she had everyone’s undivided attention. “You all, of course, know of my very great friendship with the Duchess of Carlisle.”

Margery, of course, did not. She recalled vaguely that the viscountess and the duchess had exchanged letters sporadically over the years. The relationship between the two, however, never seemed particularly close. But she nodded and smiled all the same, as did everyone else.

Gran ran her fingers through the white mop of fur that topped Freya’s head. “She wrote not long ago telling me of her poor health and a need for sea air. I, being the caring woman I am, insisted she visit for a time.”

How Margery did not snort at that, she would never know. Peter and Quincy, of course, were not so circumspect. Blessedly their wives knew them well, and soon the two men were coughing to cover up their less-than-complimentary reactions.

“How wonderful to have your friend for a stay,” Clara said.

“Yes,” the older woman mused, eyeing the two men with a stern glare but blessedly refraining from commenting on their rudeness. “It will be a refreshing change. I do grow lonely at times.”

Margery kept her expression serene, though she wanted nothing more than to sigh in exasperation. “You’re hardly alone, Gran,” she said. “I’m staying here with you, after all. And now you have dear Miss Denby and Mouse to keep you company. And with Phoebe and Clara and their spouses on the Isle, and dear little Charlotte beginning to visit as well, I’d say you’re kept quite busy with company.”

“That’s all well and good,” Gran said, “except everyone has their own concerns and responsibilities to keep them busy, and I’m merely an afterthought. Except with Katrina, of course,” she grumbled, giving the young woman an arch look. “But I pay her to be here.”

“Oh, Lady Tesh,” Miss Denby exclaimed in her exuberant way, her pixie face alight with emotion. “I assure you, I would not want to be anywhere else. And neither would Mouse.” She finished with a fond smile for her dog, who had wormed his way free of Miss Denby’s grip and was prostrate once more before Freya, his eyes glazed with adoration. Freya, for her part, merely sniffed imperiously and turned away.

As Miss Denby continued to fuss over Gran—and Mouse continued to sigh in raptures over Freya—Margery tried and failed to stem her hurt from her grandmother’s speech. The irascible Lady Tesh was deemed “irascible” for a reason, after all. She was outspoken on anything that vexed her. And there was plenty that vexed her.

Yet Margery could not seem to let it go. Though she had vehemently refused any monetary help—her pride would not allow her to do any less—Gran had given her unfailing emotional support. And not only during the falling-out with her father and throughout her short marriage, but also when she’d been left heartbroken and in reduced circumstances, as Lord Tesh had predicted. Margery had always tried to make certain Gran knew how much she was loved and appreciated. But mayhap, in the chaos of the past months with Charlotte’s birth and Clara and Quincy’s arrival—and, more recently, with the arrival of the blackmail letter—the dowager viscountess had become something of an afterthought for her.

As Miss Denby hurried away on some errand, pulling Mouse along with her to prevent the beast from smothering Freya, Margery leaned toward her grandmother and laid a hand over hers. “I’m sorry for deserting you, Gran,” she said quietly.

The older woman sighed and patted Margery’s hand. “I know you’ve been kept busy. And I would not have you any other way than the kind, generous person you are.”

A sudden sting of tears had Margery blinking. Gran was brusque and blunt, and quite the most opinionated person Margery knew, speaking her thoughts often without regard for the feelings of others. Though she loved her family fiercely, affectionate words were not often offered up. Which made that little speech all the more dear.

She gave her grandmother a watery smile. “Thank you, Gran.”

For a shining moment the viscountess appeared completely overcome, her brown eyes, so like Margery’s in color if not in temperament, shining bright with tears. But she was not one for the softer emotions. She straightened, clearing her throat, and the moment was gone, the stern lady back in place.

“That does not mean I am not vexed with you.”

“Of course,” Margery murmured contritely, fighting a fond smile. “And I shall endeavor to make myself indispensable to you now that Phoebe is here for Clara.”

A sudden crafty expression came over the older woman’s lined features. “Is that a promise, my girl?”

Why, Margery thought in sudden panic, did she feel like a chicken being stalked by a fox? She cast a desperate, confused glance Lenora’s way. Her friend stared back in a kind of surprised dread but could only shrug, seeming as bewildered and taken aback as Margery.

“Well?” her grandmother demanded.

“Er, very well, Gran,” Margery said. “I promise.”

The older woman grinned and thumped her cane on the ground. “Splendid.”

As Margery managed a sickly smile, wondering just what she had inadvertently entangled herself in, Phoebe asked, “When is Her Grace expected to arrive, Aunt Olivia?”

Gran opened her mouth to answer. Just then, however, the front bell rang, echoing its sonorous tones through the house. Her face broke into a smug smile that seemed to hold a wealth of knowledge. “They’re set to arrive now.”

They all turned their attention to the sitting room door like a flock of…sheep? Truly, she was getting tired of feeling like a barnyard animal. Not one of them made a sound, their curiosity over this unknown friend of the viscountess a potent thing. Even wee Charlotte, who had continued to fuss despite her mother’s rocking, fell silent. A low murmur of voices sounded, followed by several sets of footsteps coming closer, one with—an uneven gait?

Curiosity was palpable in the air. But for Margery it was more, a strange anticipation sizzling along her nerves. She clenched her hands tightly in her lap, trying to understand her baffling reaction. It could only be because of her grandmother’s peculiar demand for a promise that Margery make herself indispensable to her. It had thrown her off completely. Though it must surely be innocent, merely the older woman wanting to make certain she was not abandoned. As if Margery could ever abandon her, as dear as she was to her.

That did not lessen the sudden unease in Margery’s gut, however. It increased as the footsteps grew closer and she felt a churning in her belly. And then the butler was entering the room, a painfully thin, pale woman at his heels.

But Margery hardly saw her. Her entire attention had been snagged by the behemoth of a man that followed.

Tall and stocky, with harsh features that appeared chiseled from stone, his eyes swept over them all as if taking stock of a battlefield before a charge. He stood ramrod straight, his broad shoulders a tense line under the snug fit of his stark black jacket. There was nothing remotely soft or welcoming about him.

Yet, for the life of her, she could not tear her eyes from him.

Just then his gaze shifted to her. If Margery had looked up to see the ceiling opened to the sky and storm clouds raining electric jolts of lightning down on her she would not have been the least surprised.

“Goodness,” she whispered, quite without meaning to.

Blessedly Gran didn’t hear her. She was too busy rising to her feet. Flustered, Margery sprang up and assisted her.

“My dear Helen,” Gran said with a broad smile. “I vow, you look just as you did all those years ago when you took London by storm and snagged yourself a duke.”

“Olivia,” the duchess said with a trembling smile, rushing forward to embrace the dowager viscountess. “I’ve missed you these past years. How is it that time flies so swiftly?”

“I wish I knew.” Gran’s eyes shifted to the large man who had accompanied the duchess, still standing in the doorway. “And this must be your son. I vow, Helen, I did not expect such a giant. Well, then, my boy, come here so I might have a better look at you.”

Margery, trying her best not to look at the man in question, gaped at her grandmother. She was just about to quietly berate her for her rudeness—truly, the woman had no boundaries when it came to speaking her mind—when she heard it again, an uneven thumping. Quite against her will her gaze shifted back to the man, only now noticing his limping gait and the heavy way he leaned on his cane as he walked.

How in the world had she missed the cane?

Now that she had noticed it, however, she began to see other things as well. Such as the deep scar that ran from his left ear, across his cheek, and curved down to his chin, just missing the corner of his mouth. There were other paler scars across the left side of his face as well. One dissected his eyebrow, another reached into his hairline, yet another along the line of his jaw. The man was a walking battlefield.

He cleared his throat, and she realized that he had been silently watching her reaction to him. He redirected his attention to the dowager, but not before Margery saw the wry acceptance in his eyes—eyes the very color of a stormy sky.

“So, you are the Duke of Carlisle,” her grandmother said, craning her neck to better see the man.

“I am,” he intoned. “And you are the dowager Viscountess Tesh.” His voice was dark, and deep, with a delicious timbre that was as rich and mouthwatering as the chocolate Margery drank in the morning.

“I am at that.” Gran looked the man up and down, finally coming to rest on his cane. “Though we have something in common, don’t we?” she said, tapping it with her own.

The entire room froze. Margery, stunned to her very bones, didn’t have the ability to do more than gasp. Surely the man would not take such effrontery.


  • "First-rate Regency fun!"—Grace Burrowes, New York Times bestselling author
  • "This is a knockout."—Publishers Weekly
  • "Moving and heartfelt."—Kirkus Reviews on Someday My Duke Will Come
  • "Swoonworthy romance."—Publishers Weekly on Someday My Duke Will Come
  • "Christina Britton proves she has mastered the craft of engaging Regency romance."—Shelf Awareness on Someday My Duke Will Come
  • "Britton imbues her irresistible couple with impressive psychological depth, and the charming supporter characters of cunning Lady Olivia and rascally Quincy, Peter's best friend, steal every scene they're in. Readers will be hooked."—Publishers Weekly on A Good Duke Is Hard to Find
  • "Irresistible... Britton's historical romance is deeply gratifying."—Publishers Weekly on The Viscount's Promise
  • "I'd read another Britton book in a heartbeat."—Minerva Spencer, author of Dangerous, on With Love in Sight
  • "With Love in Sight is a delightful Regency romance."—RandeeGreen.com
  • "I was enchanted by this delightful story and highly recommend it."—With Love for Books on With Love in Sight

On Sale
Aug 24, 2021
Page Count
400 pages

Christina Britton

About the Author

Christina Britton developed a passion for writing romance novels shortly after buying her first at the tender age of thirteen. Though for several years she put brush instead of pen to paper, she has returned to her first love and is now writing full time. She spends her days dreaming of corsets and cravats and noblemen with tortured souls.
She lives with her husband and two children in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Learn more about this author