Her Rebel Heart
“I guarantee that you will require some tissues close at hand… You feel like you're sliding into a nice hot bath. These characters become your friends by the time you finish reading the book. I truly didn’t want to put it down.”Goodreads Reviewer
Caroline sighed. She longed to be away from here, from the rain and barren hills and bitter winds, with nothing ever happening. It was as if she’d spent her whole life waiting for something truly exciting…
1832, Scotland: When Caroline Reid is offered the chance to travel to America to live with her estranged uncle, she has only two things on her mind: to become the belle of Boston society and to make an enviable—and financially advantageous—match.
But from the moment her journey begins, things do not go as she expects. From the seasickness on her Atlantic crossing, to the unexpected friendship she strikes up with a young widow named Eleanor, the Caroline who set sail for the New World isn’t quite the same person who arrives there…
Then she meets Eleanor’s brother, Ian Campbell, and her rebel heart cannot help but beat faster. Even though he doesn’t have a fortune, Caroline’s feelings overwhelm her earlier ambitions. However, her uncle—who had so gallantly invited her to live in his house—has other plans. And he will stop at absolutely nothing to get what he wants…
An unmissable story about friendship, courage and impossible choices for fans of Diana Gabaldon, Tamera Alexander and Poldark .
Previously published as Another Country.
Release date: August 17, 2020
Print pages: 350
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Her Rebel Heart
“It’s high time, Eleanor, that you made a decision about your future.”
Eleanor McCardell, formerly Campbell, turned wearily from her position by the window, where she’d been gazing out at the relentless rain that doused Glasgow in a deep, gray gloom. Her mother-in-law, Henrietta McCardell, stood by the fireplace, hands laced across her middle, her smile firmly in place, her eyes as hard as flint.
Eleanor sighed. “You’re right, of course, Mama-in-law.” Even now she stumbled slightly over the title, which was meant to be an endearment allowed her as a sign of honor. Even after over a year in the McCardell household living with her in-laws, Eleanor did not feel part of the family.
She was afraid she never would.
“It’s been only six months since we heard that our John died,” her mother-in-law continued, her voice trembling only slightly. “Of course we are all still grieving…”
“Yes,” Eleanor murmured, her gaze sliding away from Henrietta’s shrewd one. She knew the woman suspected she was not grieving enough.
In truth she didn’t know if it was grief or mere listlessness that kept her in this state of fatigued uncertainty. She’d married John McCardell in the autumn of 1830, after meeting that summer when he had been staying with his aunt and uncle on Mull. They’d only spent six weeks together when his regiment had been posted to India, leaving Eleanor alone, waiting for his summons. It had never come, for he’d died of a fever shortly after arriving—though it wasn’t until many months later that she had learned this unhappy news.
Not only had this loss been hard on Eleanor; for many years, hardship had beset her family, and she had struggled not to feel alone. Ten years ago her family had lost their home and livelihood, Achlic Farm, to a scheming nobleman, Sir James Riddell. Although the details of that sorry exchange were somewhat hazy to Eleanor, who had only been eleven at the time, the repercussions were not. After the loss of the farm, Eleanor’s older sister, Harriet, had left for Canada to find her betrothed, Allan MacDougall. Eleanor’s older brother, Ian, ashamed by what he considered to be his part in the loss of Achlic, had run away to sea.
Eleanor had been left alone with a father she barely knew, a man broken down by despair and hardship, by the loss of his beloved wife when Eleanor was born, and then of the farm—his entire life. His marriage to Jane McCready, a local spinster, had rejuvenated him somewhat; Eleanor had stayed with them, waiting for the day when her own life as a married woman would begin. But the alliance only made Eleanor feel like a stranger in that new household, that new house.
Never a home.
“A home.” Eleanor repeated the words to herself in a whisper, as she turned back to the window. It was hard to remember the time when she’d felt she’d had that, without fear or worry, loneliness or longing. She yearned for the comfort of her own board, her own hearth, and especially her own family. She hadn’t seen Harriet and Ian in over ten years; in truth she barely remembered their faces. Now she wondered if she ever would know such comforts.
When her father had passed away, with John still far away in India, John’s parents had extended her an invitation to stay with them in Glasgow. Eleanor had been relieved to go. Her stepmother Jane had sold her smallholding and planned to retire to Inverness with her sister, making it clear in briskly apologetic tones that the dwelling had no room for a young married woman.
Eleanor had looked forward to life in the city, away from the small, stifling community on Mull where she’d lived her entire life. If only she’d known then how much more stifling Glasgow would be.
The McCardells lived a modest, pinching kind of life. They did not endorse any amusements beyond a hymn sing on Sunday evenings; and their society comprised middle-aged matrons and merchants, with very few young people for Eleanor to meet or befriend. Eleanor spent her days helping her mother-in-law to manage the household, stitching sheets and shirts or checking that the cook scoured the copper pots to the proper shine. On other days, she accompanied her on her various charitable works in the city. While her mother-in-law lectured unfortunate women whose husbands were drunkards or layabouts, Eleanor stood dourly by her side, knowing the desperation in the eyes of those poor souls was mirrored in her own.
It had all been bearable when she’d believed that John was alive and well, for she could nurture her dreams of sailing to India, and being reunited with her husband—even if his countenance grew blurred and vague with time, the memory of his words, his smile, worryingly dim. She still could weave a dream of the life they might have together, the wonderfully exotic smells and sounds of India, a place so distant and unreal, brought to her imagination only in John’s few letters and a colored plate of Calcutta the McCardells kept on the dresser shelf, as well as the book set in that distant land that she’d had as a child.
Still, it had been enough of a foundation to build her dreams on, to hope that one day she would embark on an adventure she could call her own. A life she could aspire to.
Then she’d learned that John had died, and with him so had her frail hopes. Since she’d learned of her husband’s death, Eleanor had merely been waiting—and yet for what?
“You’re welcome to stay with us, of course,” Henrietta McCardell continued now, her lips curling into something halfway between a smile and a grimace, her tone suggesting the severe limits of such a welcome. “But as you know, our lives are quiet, and we are humble and modest.”
Eleanor knew this only too well, yet she still chafed at the implied rebuke. She resisted the impulse to ask her mother-in-law what she thought she was—a brazen woman? She’d spent the last year living as humbly and modestly as a church mouse, and before that her life on Mull had been that of a simple farm girl.
“No doubt you’d find it quite dull,” her mother-in-law continued in a rather accusatory tone. Eleanor did not bother to object. She had already found it dull, and she knew the older woman was trying to find a way to be rid of her. Eleanor had heard her hushed conversation with her husband, Edmund, last night in the front parlor.
Eleanor had gone up to bed, and then returned downstairs to fetch a fresh candle. She overheard her mother-in-law’s urgent whisper, and in shock, she’d remained rooted to the spot, listening to their awful conversation, burning with shame and grief.
“She can’t stay here, Edmund—really, the girl is too much! If there had been children, I’d feel differently, but John barely knew her, and they were wed only six weeks before he left. I’d always been expecting her to go to India with him, not to remain with us. I’m not without Christian charity, but I can hardly consider her family. I shouldn’t wonder if John would have regretted the match, had he lived to see it through. She’s hardly a suitable girl, is she? Raised on the farm and such a vacant look on her face…! She cannot stitch a shirt to save her life.”
Eleanor had clenched her fists, wanting to throw open the door and shout that she didn’t consider the McCardells family either—and that she didn’t want to stay there anyway. Besides, she had no interest in stitching her father-in-law’s shirts. As for her husband regretting their match, her mother-in-law certainly had no grounds to say such a cruel thing.
Eleanor had known that she and Henrietta had never got along well together; the dour matron had always cast a critical eye over her unwanted daughter-in-law. Either her dress was too worn, or her apron dirty, or her hair in disarray. Eleanor knew the woman didn’t think her, a poor farm girl from Mull without any dowry or family to speak of, a good enough bride for her son.
And perhaps she wasn’t, Eleanor thought now, since she was finding it hard to nurture her grief. She’d watched her mother-in-law weep into her handkerchief over her son’s death and had felt unable to dredge up a similar strength of emotion. Sometimes she thought she missed the idea of John—a loving husband—more than the man himself, whom she had really only come to know a little.
Sometimes, she found she could barely remember John’s face, beyond brown eyes and a shock of light hair. She had never regretted the match and never would, and she hoped John hadn’t either, despite how his mother might have felt about her. Their courtship had been short but sweet, and Eleanor had revelled in John’s simple affections, the attentions he was happy to give her that she’d never found from any other quarter. She’d married him; she’d loved him. For a very brief time, she’d been happy. But now that was over, and she felt adrift, in the shadows once more.
It seemed for most of her life she’d existed in the shadows—first under the spectre of terrible uncertainty when her childhood home, Achlic Farm, had been lost, and then later in her father’s new household with his second wife, feeling like a stranger. Her father had softened in his old age, and Jane McCready had been a good wife to him. Their home had been happy enough, and Eleanor still felt a flicker of uneasy guilt when she thought of how ungrateful she must be, to have wanted to flee such tolerable confines. Perhaps if Ian hadn’t run away to sea, or Harriet married and gone to Canada, she wouldn’t have felt so left behind, so very alone.
Yet she had. But when she had met John McCardell, everything had changed—finally, she felt as if she belonged, as if she had found her home, if only briefly. John had looked at her, and listened to her, in a way that felt like sunlight to her soul, nurturing the hopes and dreams in that neglected soil that she’d barely dared to begin to believe.
When he had asked her to marry him, promising a new life, the life of an army wife which would certainly bring with it adventure and change, Eleanor had accepted gladly. She’d said goodbye to him, resting in the assurance that they would be reunited soon, in their own home, and their life together would truly begin.
But none of it had happened, and now she was here, unwanted, if her mother-in-law’s sour expression was anything to go by.
Her mother-in-law made a tsk sound with her tongue, and Eleanor knew she’d let her thoughts wander away once more. She’s half daft, that one, she’d heard the woman say more than once. If only she didn’t feel this lassitude, this terrible weariness, all the time. It was as if John’s death had left her unable to imagine any kind of future at all, and yet she was certain of one thing. She could not stay here.
Eleanor forced herself to smile at her mother-in-law. “That’s very kind, Mama-in-law, to think of me so carefully. But I assure you I wouldn’t find your life dull in the least. The months I’ve passed here have been very pleasant.” It was a lie, but Eleanor felt indebted to say it, for the woman’s sake rather than her own.
“Indeed.” Henrietta spoke through her teeth. “Then, of course, my dear, you must stay as long as you wish. I thought perhaps your stepmother might want to visit with you…” Eleanor thought of Jane Campbell, now in Inverness. “Perhaps,” she replied, though in her heart she knew a visit with Jane and her sister was a remote possibility at best. While the older woman would welcome her, the small house in Inverness would be crowded, and the cost of Eleanor’s keep dear. She could not stay for more than a few weeks without wearing out her dubious welcome.
“You wish to write her?” her mother-in-law prompted, and Eleanor almost smiled. Goodness, the woman wanted her gone. She didn’t blame her, even though after hearing her words last night Eleanor had shed tears of bitterness and humiliation. She and the McCardells had been thrown together, virtual strangers, the ties of kin tenuous at best. If John had lived… but no, there was no use in thinking such things. It only stirred up the resentment she was trying to forget.
“As it happens,” Eleanor told her mother-in-law, “I’ve written to my brother, in America.” She felt a tingle of satisfaction at the look of Henrietta’s discomfited surprise. Eleanor had rarely spoken of Ian, who had run away to sea a decade ago and ended up in Boston, studying to be a doctor and living with the wealthy Moore family.
It had surely been the guiding hand of Providence that had landed Ian on The Allegiance, Captain Henry Moore’s merchant ship. While on land in Mull for a time, Henry Moore—unbeknownst to Eleanor or anyone in her family—had been tutoring Margaret MacDougall, Eleanor’s cousin who had been boarding with them at Achlic along with Margaret’s younger brother Rupert. This had been while their family, including Harriet’s betrothed Allan, sought their fortune in Upper Canada. Margaret and Rupert had been set to join them all when the MacDougalls were finally well settled and Rupert had finished his education.
Captain Moore was a good, honest man, and when he discovered Ian’s relation to Margaret while aboard The Allegiance, he’d made sure to watch out for the boy, appointing him surgeon’s mate and eventually leading him to the esteemed halls of Harvard’s Medical School. Providence had favored Ian, and Eleanor hoped it would favor her as well, although in truth she barely remembered her brother, and had no idea what his reception to her letter might be.
“Your brother?” Henrietta repeated now, as Eleanor had stopped speaking, lost in thought as she was over the possibilities Ian and his life abroad might present to her. “What are his circumstances?”
“He’s a doctor in Boston,” Eleanor answered, heartened once again by Henrietta’s surprised intake of breath. “I’m hoping to hear word from him shortly, when the next ship comes in.” Eleanor glanced out the window, as if she could see all the way to the docks. The Julia Rose was due soon from Boston, having gone on the first spring sailing, and Eleanor hoped fervently that it would carry with it a letter from Ian. If it didn’t, she knew she had no other options but to cast her lot with the McCardells, and be sentenced to a life of drudgery, barely tolerated in their household.
“You’ll stay with him?” Henrietta could not seem to get her head around the idea, novel and unexpected as it was. Eleanor had certainly never mentioned it before; she’d only thought of it herself a few months ago, when she’d realized how dreadful the prospect of living with the McCardells truly was. “Is he unmarried?”
“Yes, and will surely be glad of his sister to keep house for him.” Eleanor forced herself to give her mother-in-law a sweet smile. “I hope I am capable of such a task, even if my stitching is mediocre at best.” Her mother-in-law’s mouth dropped open and Eleanor continued, “When I hear from him, I will arrange my passage directly.” Although the truth was she had no idea if Ian would extend the invitation in the first place. She hadn’t seen her brother since he was fifteen, and back then he’d been angry and resentful. Eleanor hoped he had changed in the intervening years, and thought he most likely had, but traveling across half the world to live with him was both an alarming and exciting prospect… if it happened at all.
Still, if the opportunity presented itself, she was determined to take it. Although she didn’t particularly want to spend the rest of her days as her brother’s cook and housekeeper, at least she would be in a new place, with new opportunities. As for what aspirations she did have, Eleanor could not yet say.
She just wanted to do something. She wanted to live.
“Indeed,” Henrietta replied after a moment, seeming to gather her scattered wits. “This is all most unusual. I wonder… how would you travel there? Your brother surely isn’t going to fetch you, and a woman your age unchaperoned on a ship… I dread to think of it, Eleanor.”
No doubt you do, Eleanor thought. “I should think a widow may travel alone without too many questions raised,” she said as mildly as she could. “There will be other women on the ship, joining their husbands or brothers, just as there would have been had I been able to travel to India to join Captain McCardell.”
Henrietta’s lips trembled at the mention of her son. “Will there really be so many, traveling all that way?” she asked after a moment, her tone skeptical. Eleanor smiled blandly. She did not know what kind of vessel—much less with what sort of passengers—she could afford to travel to America in, but she did not wish to remind her mother-in-law of this fact, who knew as well as Eleanor did that her son had died a near-penniless soldier. Eleanor had very little money of her own, and her only real hope was that not only would her brother invite her to stay, but that he would pay for her passage, as well.
“Tell me,” Henrietta said after a moment, her eyes narrowed, her expression both shrewd and strangely satisfied, “will your brother welcome your visit? I have not heard mention of him in all the time you’ve been with us in Glasgow. In truth, I barely remembered you had a brother at all, and so I must wonder at him summoning you, from all that way.”
Eleanor swallowed and said nothing, hating that her mother-in-law had sensed her weakness—and probed it cruelly. She had not seen Ian once since he’d run away. It had been his fault Achlic Farm was lost, although Eleanor knew Sir James Riddell had had much to do with it. She couldn’t forget her sister’s white-faced rage upon hearing that Ian had somehow signed away the entire property, instead of the twenty acres of back pasture intended.
Eleanor had no idea what kind of man that feckless boy had turned into; Ian’s formal letters, short and all too infrequent, gave little clue as to what person he’d become. Still, Eleanor knew she’d cause to be proud of him, and she hoped after so many years he might want his family near him again.
Yet would he be glad to hear from her? Did he have the means to offer her an escape from this stifling, hopeless dreariness? Eleanor did not know the answers to those questions. Her only hope lay in the arrival of the Julia Rose… whenever it came.
Henrietta watched her shrewdly, and Eleanor’s own expression hardened.
“Of course he will be glad to hear from me,” she told Henrietta firmly, for the alternative was too grim to bear. “He’s my brother, after all.”
“Your uncle Sir James is expected for tea, Miss. A messenger just came from Tobermory, and the master will be here shortly. He asked particularly that you wear your rose silk, and put your hair up.”
“Did he, Simmons? Oh, how lovely!” Caroline Reid spun from the drawing room window of Lanymoor House in delighted anticipation of her uncle’s visit, infrequent as they had become. “And I was so afraid the afternoon was going to be deadly dull. I’ll go change right away. Is he bringing guests, do you think? Oh, I hope so!”
“He didn’t say, miss.” Simmons, the butler, did not change his stony expression as Caroline skipped gaily to the door.
“Well, he must be, mustn’t he,” she tossed over her shoulder. “Uncle James would hardly mind what gown I wore, or if my hair was up or down, if he were by himself.”
Humming under her breath, Caroline hurried from the room. Her uncle rarely came to Lanymoor House anymore, spending most of his time at his estate in Berwick, and more recently, in America.
He’d traveled across the Atlantic Ocean and back again four times by her last count, though he never stayed for very long on his business trips. Caroline had never asked what new enterprises were to be found on those distant shores. America held little interest for her; though it had gained its independence over fifty years earlier, it still struck her as a land full of colonials and savages, with little decent society to be had. It certainly wasn’t Edinburgh or London, the kind of places she longed to go. She’d spent her entire life here on Mull, waiting for something exciting to happen. Now that she was eighteen years old, it surely would. There could only be one reason Sir James was coming to visit her now… he was finally intent on giving her a season.
Still, she sometimes wondered why her uncle did not visit Lanymoor House more often, when he used to spend so much of his time here, as he said he preferred the peace and beauty of Mull to the busier shires in the south. Admittedly the weather was often wet and windswept, and Mull offered very little in terms of society, but Lanymoor House was Sir James’s favorite residence, or so he claimed, with its elegant proportions and sweeping gardens full of magnificent rhododendrons.
Over the years, Caroline had heard vague rumors that her uncle was disliked in these parts, due to the mass clearances that had been enforced, with crofters evicted from their cottages and land to make way for more profitable sheep, although such people could hardly matter to her… or her uncle. In any case, it hardly mattered now, for her uncle was coming to visit, and he often brought her a little present or treat. Perhaps this time he had something even better: news, or even guests. Anything that would make life at Lanymoor House more interesting or exciting. Or better yet, something that would let her finally travel somewhere else. Today’s visit had to be about her season.
Life at Lanymoor House was, for Caroline, nothing more than a time of waiting. There was little on Mull to amuse or interest her; the occasional country dance hardly counted, and there were few people of society here year-round. Besides, she could hardly go calling and visiting on her own, and her uncle was rarely here to escort her.
No, she was surely meant for better, and greater, things than a life on a small, rocky island far from anywhere interesting or important. She had been pleading with Uncle James for over a year to take her to London for her season. She should have had her coming out by now, but Uncle James had been away in America on business too much to pay any notice to the fact that she had grown up. Caroline had sulked for several weeks over the disappointment, much good that it did her.
Even she was honest enough to acknowledge that while her uncle might enjoy her company when he saw her on his infrequent visits, for the rest of the time he put her quite completely out of his mind. Perhaps this time, Caroline thought with a sudden burst of determined hope, it would be different. He would finally see her as a young woman in need not just of a season, but a husband. A life of her own.
“Mrs. Stimms, I need you upstairs,” she announced breathlessly from the kitchen doorway. It still put her out that she had to use the housekeeper as her lady’s maid, when only a few months ago she’d had her own maid, Millie, at her constant disposal.
Then a rather terse letter had arrived from Uncle James, dismissing Millie with the explanation that a household of one needed only the most basic of staff, of which Mrs. Stimms was included but Millie was not.
Now, Mrs. Stimms followed Caroline upstairs with a rather resigned expression. Caroline knew the taciturn housekeeper disliked being taken away from her usual domain, and what was far worse, her hairdressing skills were barely passable.
“I wonder what guests Uncle James is bringing,” Caroline said as she nearly flew up the stairs to her bedroom. “Have you made anything fresh for tea, Mrs. Stimms?”
Mrs. Stimms pursed her lips. “There’s some lemon custard from yesterday, I suppose. If I’d known he was to arrive today, but he never said a word…”
“Oh, you know how Uncle James is,” Caroline replied as she took out her rose silk and spread it on the counterpane, inspecting it for any rents or tears. “He’s always coming or going, it seems.” She paused to give a pretty pout, catching her reflection in the mirror as she did so, admiring the sparkle of her blue eyes, the curl and sheen of her hair that was not quite blonde, but almost. Yes, she really was quite alluring. “Although he hasn’t been to visit me since Hogmanay, to be sure,” she said, her gaze still on her own reflection as a smile curved her rosy lips. Satisfied with all she saw, she turned back to her gown. Unfortunately it was a bit worn along the shoulders, the material too shiny, but it couldn’t be helped. The dress allowance Uncle James provided her had never been exceedingly generous, and this year it’d been sparing indeed.
Mrs. Stimms stepped forward to help Caroline with her dress. “I’ll need to be making a fresh batch of scones, so you’d best get ready quick, miss. I haven’t got time to fuss much with hair,” she said in a warning tone.
With a sunny smile, Caroline sat down at her dressing table and handed her housekeeper the heavy silver brush. “Oh, I’ll be as quick as a wink, Mrs. Stimms,” she promised in a tone she’d practiced and believed to be quite charming.
Half an hour later, Caroline was seated in the drawing room, her gown spread out in decorous folds around her, awaiting her uncle’s imminent arrival, while Mrs. Stimms had returned to the kitchen to make hurried preparations for the afternoon tea.
Outside, the rain beat steadily on the gardens, the trees with their barely opening buds just visible in the thick gloom that had settled over the island a week ago and not shifted in the least. Spring on Mull meant rain, just as every other season did. Caroline sighed and turned her gaze away from the window. She longed to be away from here, from the rain and barren hills and bitter winds, with absolutely nothing ever happening. It seemed as if she’d spent her whole life waiting for something truly exciting to begin, for someone to finally take notice of her.
As a child, she’d enjoyed the run of Lanymoor House, with her brother Andrew as well as her uncle in attendance, providing her with some company. Then Andrew had left in disgrace, after his fiasco of a betrothal to Harriet Campbell, her pianoforte tutor. Caroline had been only eight years old at the time, but she still remembered the stolen letters Andrew had hidden in his room, and how she’d been the one to alert Harriet to them.
A flicker of regret passed over her like a shadow. If she hadn’t told Harriet about the letters from her first betrothed, Allan, which Andrew had hidden, Harriet would have stayed and married Andrew. Instead, she’d disappeared from their lives as quickly as a ghost, and both Andrew and Uncle James tried to act as if she’d never been.
How different life might’ve been then, Caroline thought now. With Andrew and Harriet in residence, Lanymoor House would’ve been alive and happy, with children and servants, and not just her alone among its moldering, empty rooms.
Caroline rose from her seat and ran her fingers lightly over the pianoforte keys, wincing as the notes she struck were badly out of tune. She couldn’t regret telling Harriet about the letters. She was a romantic at heart, and Caroline knew Harriet had not loved Andrew. If she’d stayed, Lanymoor House wouldn’t have been full of love and laughter, for its mistress would’ve been terribly unhappy. Caroline was glad she’d spared Harriet Campbell that fate, at least. She’d no idea what had happened to Harriet or any of the Campbells since then; they were farm folk, hardly in her circle, and the connection had been completely severed when the betrothal had been.
Her brother Andrew had as good as disappeared from her life, too; he’d left Lanymoor House as soon as Harriet had cast him aside, and besides the occasional letter posted from Edinburgh or London, she hardly heard from or saw him at all.
With an impatient sigh Caroline whirled away from the pianoforte. When would Uncle James arrive? She felt instinctively that this visit was going to be important; it had to be. He so rarely visited, and he never gave her instructions on what to wear. Who might be accompanying him? A gentleman, perhaps? Caroline smoothed the front of her gown as she considered the intriguing possibilities.
Perhaps he had a business associate or acquaintance to introduce her to. Perhaps he would suggest she accompany him to London—and if he didn’t, she hoped she could convince him to take her somewhere. Edinburgh would be almost as good as London. The season was due to start in just over a month, but if she found a suitable dressmaker, she could be ready in time.
She imagined the gowns she’d have fashioned, with the full Gigot sleeves and v-shaped bodice, à la Marie Stuart. She’d have a full skirt—the dresses she owned now could only be worn with four petticoats, and everyone knew you needed at least six to have any sense of fashion at all.
The sound of crunching gravel outside had Caroline rushing to the window. Her uncle’s carriage had arrived, and she watched, her heart seeming to flutter right up her throat, as he stepped out, followed by a tall gentleman. Uncle James had brought a guest! A male guest, and though she could not see his features, shaded by an impressively tall silk hat, she was sure he was dark and handsome. He simply had to be. It was just as she’d hoped, Uncle James had brought someone to meet her. Someone intriguing…
“Your uncle, miss.” Simmons closed the door behind Sir James Riddell and his visitor.
Caroline turned away from the window and curtseyed more deeply than usual to her uncle, gazing up at him from under her lashes in a way she
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