Heiress For Hire by Madeline Hunter
First in a new series following three women who receive unexpected inheritances following the mysterious death of a wealthy duke, Heiress for Hire follows Minerva Hepplewhite, a young widow trying to build a new life for herself out of the ashes of a disastrous marriage. Chase Radnor, nephew of the old duke and cousin to the new one, has been assigned to find the women who were left a sizeable part of the duke’s fortune and investigate them. He meets his match in Minerva, who decides to investigate him in turn as she too tries to comprehend why a man she didn’t know would leave her a fortune.
There’s an overarching mystery which will obviously be addressed in the other books in the series, because the old duke’s death was no accident. Minerva’s first husband died under suspicious circumstances, and although she was cleared of involvement she knows she will always be viewed with suspicion, so she really has no option but to try and figure out who killed the duke before fingers are pointed at her. Her clashes with Chase are fantastic from the beginning; the book cold opens on Chase being knocked out by Minerva and her maidservant when he sneaks into her house to try and investigate her!
The book does need trigger warnings for past spousal abuse and physical abuse of a child. There’s a fair degree of financial manipulation as well, as the old duke’s descendants squabble over who gets what and why. I liked both the new duke, Nicholas (I’m guessing he’ll be the hero of the last book in the trilogy) and inventor cousin Kevin, who came under heavy suspicion but I’m assuming he’s innocent as apparently he’s the hero of the next book!
I thoroughly enjoyed everything about this. The mystery was intriguing, Minerva and Chase were both interesting, well fleshed-out characters and the romance between them was absolutely believable. Five stars for an excellent start to a new series.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.