Daring the Duke (Book 1)
Daring the Duke (Book 1)
Daring the Duke (Book 1)
Daring the Duke (Book 1)
Daring the Duke (Book 1)
Daring the Duke (Book 1)
Daring the Duke (Book 1)
Daring the Duke (Book 1)
Daring the Duke (Book 1)

Daring the Duke (Book 1)

The Debutante Dares Series
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"A beautifully written love story with utterly perfect imperfections." ~ Bree Wolf, USA Today bestselling author

To save her family, bluestocking Lady Tabitha must marry well. Can she convince the Duke of Collingford — her opposite in every way — that she will make the perfect duchess?
A fun Regency romance by a USA Today bestselling author!

🔥 Wallflower

❤️ Alpha duke

🔥Opposites attract

❤️ Strong, but flawed heroine

🔥 Marriage of convenience

❤️ Road trip gone wrong

A redheaded bluestocking in desperate need of a wealthy husband.
A handsome duke looking for his perfect duchess.
And a dare that shows that opposites may not only attract but can be so much more.

Lady Tabitha Hampton has the memory of an elephant. Her sharp brain locks everything away tight as a trunk in an attic. But this talent fails to help the twenty-seven-year-old bluestocking attract the attention of a single wealthy suitor. And she needs one. With three sisters of marriageable age, a sickly father, and a series of bad investments that left them impoverished, Tabitha’s marriage could save or ruin her entire family.

Arthur, the Duke of Collingford needs a wife but not just any lady will do. Arthur’s future duchess must be perfect in every way—fair of face, impeccable manners, with enough social influence to impact his parliamentary projects. When he joins the whirl of the London season, the duke finds an insufferable, redheaded wallflower instead.

Tabitha insists she can be the perfect duchess, if he’ll only give her the chance. Arthur agrees to test her abilities, but she tests his control. And one taste of her lips is enough to make him question everything.

Opposites may attract, but can they cooperate? Or will they lose everything, including their hearts?

In this Regency Romance by USA Today bestselling author Charlie Lane, a London season of scandalous dares forces a lady and her duke to see that perfect isn’t as perfect as it seems. Grab your copy now!

The ballroom was perfect, all dusky purple blooms and candlelight. Its corners brimmed with music, and its center, swirling with perfect dancing bodies, might as well have been the center of the known universe. And Tabitha and her friends were the discarded debris of some passing comet. Detritus no one noticed, no one looked for through the lenses of powerful telescopes or even more powerful quizzing glasses. Old, plain, penniless, unfashionable, and—stars above, no!—outspoken debutantes were ignored or acknowledged with disdain and then forgotten.

Why then did the Duke of Collingford’s gaze rake over Tabitha like she was some sort of errant servant, visible only because she’d done something wrong? He couldn’t possibly know. Could he? No. He could not.

Tabitha shook herself free of his searing consideration and returned her attention to her friends.

“What were you saying, Jane?” she asked.

“Gathering wool again, Tabby?” Jane said. “What about this time?”

“I know!” Lillian bounced up and down, her blond curls bobbing. “You’re counting things again. You always do at some point during a ball.”

Tabitha shook her head. “I can’t help it if there’s an unimaginable number of candles lighting ballrooms. One can’t help but wonder how many. And it’s always good to know how many doors there are.” And where they were located. “But no, that’s not it. I—”

“I don’t,” Lillian said, rearranging a curl that had fallen over her eye.

“Don’t what?”

“Wonder how many candles. Or doors. Ever. That’s only you, I think. I know. You were trying to remember what color Lady Jersey wore at Almack’s a month ago.” She leaned closer as if expecting something.

Tabitha knew exactly what she wanted. She unlocked a few trunks in the attic of her memory and peered inside. She had put it away. How unnecessary. Lady Jersey wore lavender a month ago. “Why would I do that?”

Lillian shrugged. “Because you can. If I had a memory like yours, I’d use it all the time.”

Jane shivered. “I think I’d try to forget all the things my mind wanted to remember. I wouldn’t want to get”—she waved her hands around her head—“cluttered. Oh, I know what you were thinking of, Tabitha. It’s the stars again.” She lifted a perfectly arched chocolate brow. “You’re always thinking of the stars.”

“No.” Tabitha raised her voice, using the tone she used with her younger sisters and, well, parents, too, to ensure no one interrupted her again. “Maybe a little. Think on it. If this ballroom were the universe, what would we be?”

Jane frowned. “I don’t understand.”

Tabitha waved toward the crowd of dancers shimmering in the candlelight. “They are the planets whirling on their certain paths toward their destinies. We are”—she shrugged—“dead stars. At best. Our time for shining has come and gone. Yet, somehow, we still remain. Not that anyone notices.”

Jane whistled. “My, you’re in a sad state tonight.”

She was in a sad state. She’d discovered her youngest sister Maggie hemming her own dresses before she’d left for the ball. And in the carriage this evening, her Papa had once again mentioned selling the paintings. They had been in the family forever, acquired by her ancestors from renowned painters of each generation. Was she to be the reason they’d lose them, too? Apparently so.

Unless she could find a husband.

Lillian frowned. “If we must apply your celestial metaphor, I’d rather think of us as…” She tilted her face toward the ceiling and pressed her lips thin. “As-of-yet-undiscovered stars.”

“No, planets!” Jane brightened.

Lillian bounced once more. “Suns!”

“If we speak too loudly,” Tabitha grumbled, “we’ll be stoned for knowing such things exist.”

Jane tapped Lillian on the shoulder. “Quick, we must raise Tabby up before she crashes completely.” She leaned in and dropped her voice. “What say you to a dare?”

Lillian clapped her hands. “Excellent! I’ve not had one in a while.”

“I’m in the middle of an ever ongoing one, as you may remember. I’ll pass.” Tabitha crossed her arms over her chest.

“Ooh, yes, Tabby,” Lillian said, “tell us how it went last time. At the garden party, wasn’t it?”

Tabitha slipped a glance across the room to where the duke still stood, his profile in hard-jawed relief to the softness of the room and the gaiety of the dancers.

“Yes, Lady Fitzsimmons did not know we’d been introduced before. Couldn’t even consider that it would be possible such a personage as the Duke of Collingford could have ever been introduced to an old maid with such an unfashionable appearance as…as… now what was her name again?” Tabitha patted the back of her coiffure.

It wasn’t her fault she’d been born with wild red hair. And it wasn’t her fault those sorts of locks happened to be considered the worst of the worst to the fashionable minded. And it certainly was not her fault no one remembered who she was despite the very fact that her extremely identifiable hair should make her unforgettable.

“So, for the fifth time in my life, I was formally introduced to the duke.”

Jane held out her index finger. “The first time you gave him your true name, yes?”

Tabitha nodded. “And the second time as well.”

Lillian held out her thumb and index finger, then popped out another finger. Three fingers for three introductions to the duke. “Then we dared you to seek a third introduction and give a different name,” Lillian said.

Tabitha sighed. She reached over to Lillian and lifted fourth and fifth fingers. “I can’t believe the man doesn’t realize what’s going on.” He must be dreadfully dumb. Or dreadfully full of himself. “I’ve been Imogen, Mary, Tabitha, of course, and yesterday I gave him the name of Miss Priscilla Pickles.”

“No!” Jane and Lillian exclaimed together.

Jane chuckled. “What’s equally unbelievable is that the women introducing you have no clue you’re lying.” She shook her head. “How?”

“I suppose either they know but don’t wish to make a scene, or they don’t know and are trying to hide the fact they do not have Debrett’s perfectly memorized.”

Lillian studied the duke. “The garden party was yesterday, yes?”

“Mm,” Tabitha answered. It hadn’t been too bad. She enjoyed being outside more than she enjoyed balls. She enjoyed looking at a pale blue sky and knowing that once the dark of night fell like a blanket across the country, everything hidden by daylight would appear—bright sparks far above, out of reach to all but the imagination.

Lillian’s voice cut through her thoughts. “Seek out a sixth introduction.”

Tabitha blinked and refocused on the conversation. “A sixth…”

“Introduction!” Jane exclaimed. “Perfect, Lillian! Tonight.”

Tabitha smoothed her skirts despite the complete lack of creases, avoiding her friends’ eyes. “So soon? Again? Surely, he’ll notice if I do that. Then the game is up.”

“But what will happen then is what I’d like to know,” Jane said.

“I don’t think I would.” She rather liked the game. She didn’t want it to be over. Their dares lent a levity to the tedious ton events, made them enjoyable. And what would happen when he found out? Those cutting eyes would slice her in two—or more—pieces. Or worse, he’d make sure she paid for proving him a fool. “I think Lillian had the right of it at first. It’s her turn.” She tapped her bottom lip. “What should you not like to do, Lillian?”

“I’m not afraid. Do your worst!”

Jane wiggled her eyebrows. “Dance barefoot.”

Lillian sucked in a breath, then let it out with a chuckle. “I would if anyone would ever ask me to dance.”

Jane elbowed her friend gently in the ribs. “They would if you weren’t always so quiet, if you didn’t always look at the floor, and if you had friends other than the plain spinsters standing before you.”

Lillian gasped. “You’re not plain!”

Jane looked across the ballroom. “I’m sure my stunning beauty has simply intimidated all the men. That must be the reason for my singularly unsuccessful first season.”

“That is a better explanation than many,” Lillian insisted.

Tabitha smiled warmly. “We love you, too, Lily. But Jane is right. You’re perfectly lovely. With that golden hair and slim figure, you look as if you stepped off a fashion plate.”

Lillian blushed. “My figure is too boyish to attract a husband. Or a dance partner.”

Jane took Lillian’s shoulders and turned her about, then she straightened her posture, pushed her chin up, and turned her back around. “There. Now.” She pushed her away from the wall that was their home and toward the edge of the dancers.

Lillian sank low and pushed back toward Tabitha.

Jane pushed her right back out into the light. “No. This is your dare. You stand there, chin high, shoulders back. Meet the gaze of every man who comes your way, and say yes to the first one to ask you to dance.”

Lillian’s gaze dropped to the floor, then bounced back up. “What about my shoes?”

“Keep them this time,” Tabitha hissed. “But next time.” She raised both eyebrows. “Barefoot.”

Lillian’s face beamed red, but she straightened her shoulders, lifted her chin, and turned toward the dancers.

“Think she’ll do it?” Jane asked.

“Yes.” Tabitha had no doubt. Lillian had everything Tabitha did not—looks, money, and the normal accomplishments of a woman. She could sing, play pianoforte, paint watercolors, and—though Tabitha had never seen it—in all likelihood, she could needlepoint pillows for every room in her future husband’s house. And she wanted a husband, a safe marriage, and a man to love. She wanted children. So did Jane.

Tabitha wanted everything else. She wanted to know everything simply for the sake of knowing it. If she could do some good with that knowledge, well, that would be nice, too.

Because she had much to atone for.

And she couldn’t do that if she remained unwed.

And she would likely remain unwed because she was who she was, and she wasn’t a Lillian. Ah, the ironies of life.

Tabitha glanced at Jane. “Has your brother come to town yet?”

“No. But do not worry. I will introduce you to him when he does. He needs a wife like you.” Her face scrunched up. “He only needs a wife, really, but he would be lucky to have a wife like you.”

“He’s a practical sort, yes? Willing to marry for practical reasons?” Tabitha knew this. She and Jane had discussed the issue more than once, but she seemed to need the reassurance this eve.

“Oh, yes! Practical is the only state of being Edmund knows.” She smirked. “Speaking of impractical—”

“We weren’t speaking of impractical. We were speaking of practical. They are antonyms.”

Jane waved her hand. “Yes, but the idea of one always brings about the idea of the other. So, as I was saying, speaking of impractical things… What about your sixth introduction to the duke?”

“I cannot. Not tonight. Perhaps in a week or so.”

“But you must!” Her face fell, and she placed a hand solemnly over her heart. “You’ve been dared.”

A smile twitched at Tabitha’s lips, but she suppressed it. If Jane knew she was tempted even a tiny bit, she’d poke until she got her way. “I can’t. If the duke realizes I’ve been playing a joke on him, he could ruin me. He is just the type who would do so.”

“Hm.” Jane nodded. “Likely.”

“And then I would never get a husband.” And though she didn’t like it, she needed a husband more than she needed the invigorating levity of a dare, more than she needed the knowledge she craved.

“I think even my brother would balk at the fact you’ve been tricking a duke. He is a good sort but not much on fun.”

Tabitha grimaced. “Sounds like it will be a joy to be married to him.”

“My apologies beforehand. At least we’ll be sisters.”

There was that. Tabitha took her friend’s hand and squeezed. “My greatest hope.” She meant it, too.

Jane pointed at the dancing couples. No, not the dancing couples. She pointed at a man and woman—Lillian—standing on the edge of the dance floor. “Someone’s asking Lillian to dance.”

“It appears so.”

The man bowed before Lillian. She curtsied and blushed, and then he led her out onto the dance floor.

Perhaps the man would fall in love with Lillian. And perhaps he had a brother with enough blunt to get her family out of their financial difficulties. Her father’s title was old enough and prestigious enough, after all. Only her stupid hubris had drained the family coffers. And she must refill them. She needed to marry and fast. The man did not matter as long as his pockets were deep enough to atone for her sins. She’d never had much chance of a marriage built on the heart anyway.

Her hands shook, and her chest constricted, so she inhaled slowly, then exhaled and turned her eyes to Lillian, who was dancing and laughing. It was enough to release the tension. A little bit. She grinned at her friend.

Then she met the duke’s eyes across the crowd. He did not look away, and his gaze burned with something she did not care to translate.

The hum of strings floating in the air stopped. The couples stopped dancing and gentlemen escorted their partners from the floor. Still the duke’s eyes focused on her alone. No. It could not be. She looked over her shoulder. Nothing there but wall. She looked over the other shoulder. Still wall. She swallowed and slowly turned to face him.

But he had moved. He was striding across the ballroom, cutting through the crowd, heading straight toward her. Her heart fell to her feet, and a small gurgling sound escaped her throat.

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In the glittering ballrooms of Regency London, a group of unconventional debutantes is turning heads and breaking hearts. The Debutante Dares series follows these audacious young ladies as they defy societal norms, challenging the ton's most eligible bachelors to fall madly in love.

Get ready for a whirlwind of passion, wit, and scandalous romance that will leave you breathless.



A beautifully written love story with utterly perfect imperfections.

Bree Wolf
USA Today bestselling author

Daring the Duke is a steamy, dreamy, all-consuming historical romance. Unforgettable characters and a captivating happily ever after that you don't want to miss!

Tracy Sumner
USA Today bestselling author

A fantastic love story full of passion, political issues, and unshakable loyalty!

InD'tale Magazine


USA Today bestselling author Charlie Lane traded in academic databases and scholarly journals for writing steamy Regency romcoms like the ones she’s always loved to read. Her favorite authors are Jane Austen (who else?), Toni Morrison, William Blake, Julia Quinn, and Maya Rodale.

Customer Reviews

Based on 6 reviews
Pat Robinson

This is a very original story of a red-headed, lively lady who will do anything to protect the family she thinks she put in harms way. Tabitha does her best to find a match, but in the process is dared to get introduced to a grumpy Duke by using several different names. Though hilarious at first, it turns quickly into a problem . What was once teasing turns into tests to prove herself. The life the Duke lived before meeting her is spent being told he must be perfect and find the perfect wife. I loved how the author worked both of them to grow and realize their lives could not be as others wished, that the “villain” got his and love found a way. The epilogue is especially adorable and very funny!

I really enjoyed this tale of love for Tabitha & Arthur.

Lady Tabitha Hampton, a Bluestocking who has destroyed her family’s finances must marry well to save them. Always on the sidelines at balls, she and her friends create their own fun with a series of dares. One dare will lead to her future and create the opportunity to discover all she is capable of.

I loved Tabithas spirit, and the journey of self-realization. Having to overcome everyone’s expectations to find that she is already perfect in her imperfections. A few of these revelations seemed a little rushed, like we missed some little piece. But overall, I really enjoyed this tale of love for Tabitha & Arthur.

The Marginatrix
In this series, it's best to read in order

I got this book for free from Amazon. Although I love this series, I do not advise reading in reverse order, as I have done. The problem is, they get better as they go. This one is a five-star read, without a doubt, but this is why I’d love a more nuanced rating system. Subsequent books would earn over five stars. That said, I still recommend this book, as it is the one that starts things off. And if you read the others without reading this one, you’ll never know how the series begins.

Tabitha is a 27-year-old debutante from an old, respected title, now on the verge of destitution. She is partially responsible for this. She hopes to find a husband rich enough to rescue her family and help her four younger sisters to find more successful matches. However, she has become more or less a wallflower—probably due to her intelligence—along with her closest friends Jane and Lillian. So, they decide to have some fun while they’re waiting to be noticed. They dare one another to do risky things. Tabitha is dared to give a different name each time she is introduced to Arthur, a Duke(!), and she does, to hilarious effect.

Arthur is on to Tabitha’s game and he’s furious, although there is a part of him that’s intrigued. The book opens at a ball where Arthur requests an invitation to the lady in question. This time she gives her name as Miss Jonathan Joggs. Previous names included Miss Imogen Ichabod, Miss Mary Poke, and Miss Priscilla Pickles, his favorite. After being introduced, she goes to turn away from him, but he insists on a dance. He must know why she has done this. The answer: no one seems to remember her anyway, and they were bored. And it’s true that, despite her bright red hair, no hostess ever seems to remember her name. And in the case of Arthur, in particular, she felt her first introduction to him had been disappointing. He barely acknowledged her, so she figured there was little chance he’d remember. She was angry with him, and once confronted, explains, “I’m worth more than being forgotten. I’m worth more than being dismissed and discarded.” But Arthur does remember her; she just doesn’t suit his purpose—finding his perfect future duchess.

After she has been challenged, they find themselves in close proximity again, and by now, Tabitha is afraid he will tell people what she has done and she will never find a match. It has gotten to the point where she is considering marrying one of her father’s widowed friends who needs an heir (there are several of them). When she appeals to his better angels to keep it to himself, he agrees. Then she suggests that if he needs to marry to obtain his favorite residence in his duchy, he might as well marry her. He is flabbergasted at the suggestion and immediately rejects it, but she explains that she has a perfect memory and can study what is needed and become the perfect duchess. Although he initially refuses, he ultimately decides to give her a chance to prove herself.

This book is about striving for perfection and never being able to reach it. Tabitha is so good at portraying the “perfect duchess,” he decides she will be the one. Arthur is deeply insecure about his imperfections, but each time he shares one with her, she assuages his guilt. There’s a strong physical attraction between them and he figures that will make up for any lack of love. The thing is, the more he gets to know her, the more he likes the parts of her that are genuine and non-duchess-like. We learn that it is primarily his uncle who has drilled into Arthur that he is imperfect and made him think he must be to be a successful duke. This same man is determined to “mold” Tabitha into something she is not—perfect. Because Arthur has been programmed to seek perfection, he must learn to overcome the need for something unattainable. Because Tabitha has promised she will be perfect for Arthur, she refuses to be anything less than that. Essentially, their views on perfection switch, and the key to their happiness is meeting somewhere in the middle—realizing perfection should never be a goal, and they are perfect for one another.

Kept Me Smiling

This was the first in the new Debutante Dares Book series by Charlie Lane. A truly different concept for the story, Tabitha, Jane and Lillian are wallflowers and to keep their evenings lively they play a game of dares.

Their latest dare begins together Lady Tabitha and Arthur, the Duke of Collingford. She is desperate to marry to save her family financially and he needs to marry to inherit Rose Hall.

Lady Tabitha and Arthur are complete opposites, she doesn’t follow the rules and he lives by them. What starts out as an arrangement to get them each what they want turns into so much more.

The steamy chemistry, witty banter, and humor had me smiling throughout and makes for a great read. I loved this book and anxiously await the next one in the series!

I voluntarily reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy of this book from Wolf publishing.

Gloria Pastorino
Wonderful start of a series!

Arthur, the Duke of Collingford, is looking for his perfect Duchess. He needs to marry a woman his family will approve of unconditionally or else... But I won’t spoiler it, of course. Suffice to say that the Season is coming to a close and his task is proving herculean. And a distracting redhead is not helping matters at all… Lady Tabitha is in her first season, even if she’s already seven and twenty. Her family is facing financial difficulties and she has three younger sisters and her father to provide for. With only her prodigious memory to help her and an unfashionable head of red hair to hinder her, her search for an husband seems hopeless. Until a dare pushes her in the path of a handsome duke and she has the greatest idea ever: thanks to her ability to remember and learn everything, she’ll become his perfect duchess. Of course nothing is as easy as it seems…
I loved this charming book by Charlie Lane. She was a new author to me, but I won’t stop following her now. She’s a very talented writer and I found myself captivated by Tabitha and Arthur and their perfect imperfections. I particularly appreciated the way their thoughts and feelings were laid out, a way that was amusing, refreshing and also poignant at times. I smiled quite a lot while reading and enjoyed the banter between the main characters and the side characters very much. The latter are quite interesting as well and I look forward to seeing them again in the following books of the series. All in all, I really enjoyable read worth five stars!

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