Fact and fiction combine to create a compelling historical romance.
Miss Emily Wallis is a bluestocking whose parents have caused enough scandal for her to retreat from society.
Mrs Agnes Jones is living a lie which she is desperately trying to keep hidden.
Viscount Robert Wilding is suffering from his injuries gained at Salamanca and the loss of his brothers.
Three damaged individuals who are on life-changing journeys in ways they could never have foreseen.
None of them will ever be the same again.
Release date: April 24, 2017
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Print pages: 238
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The Foundling Lady
Emily Wallis was a blue-stocking. She knew it without doubt because her mother had flung the accusation at her enough times for Emily to believe it; she also was fully aware that she was a disappointment to her parent.
What her father thought of the matter Emily would never know. He had been a quieter character, dominated completely by the demanding force that was his wife. Emily could not really remember feeling fondness towards her mother although she longed for her approval. She was always on edge around her critical parent but, in the main, Emily had felt sympathy towards her father.
The small library in her home had been Emily’s refuge, the reading material being supplemented by volumes from the circulating library. It was a joy for Emily when she was considered old enough to read novels in addition to the learned tomes that filled the shelves. A lenient father resulted in being allowed to read a wide range of topics at a young age. If she had been allowed to visit the locality with her mother, she could have conversed about the latest gothic novel just as well as any adult. Unfortunately, Emily’s mother felt a deep sense of distaste whenever in the company of her daughter. Emily presumed it was displeasure that there was no resemblance between mother and child, either in looks or ways. This was always highlighted whenever Mrs Wallis was unfortunate enough to catch sight of her daughter, so there were no treats of visiting friends bestowed on Emily.
Although Emily was under no doubt about what her parent felt about her, she had hoped once she made her come out her mother would find her child more interesting when planning gowns and hairstyles. She may have been a confirmed blue-stocking, but she was not unpleasing on the eye. Deep chestnut hair, pretty features with intelligent hazel eyes that looked out confidently on the world, surprising for one who could have been so easily browbeaten by her severe upbringing. She was a young woman with promise and, although not an heiress, had a small dowry that she hoped one day would help to achieve a comfortable match.
The problem with hope was that it often had ideas of its own. In this case Emily could never have foreseen how her life was to change.
The gossips all said that it was only to be expected; with a wife so different from her husband, the marriage would always be strained at best. The fact that said wife had chased her husband as a single woman because he was handsome and a good catch was forgotten as these things often are. Once Mrs Wallis had secured her husband something had occurred early in the marriage that had caused a rift between the husband and wife. Emily only knew this because of mutterings by careless staff.
When Emily was about to leave the schoolroom, Mrs Wallis, Emily’s not-so-loving mother finally decided that married life was no longer for her and fled to the continent with Emily’s French dance master. Emily could not remember ever noticing any clues during her lessons, although whenever Monsieur Xavier was present, her parent seemed to appear. She would then sit and criticise Emily’s ability—hardly the basis for a romance to blossom Emily had thought with derision after the abandonment had occurred.
Emily had foolishly thought her mother had been interested in seeing how she was progressing. Emily cursed herself for her vanity. Of course, there had been no interest in herself. She could not remember her early childhood, but what she could remember of her past included a coldness always aimed in her direction from the parent who should have loved her most.
Emily had braced herself to face the gossip when her mother ran off, even though they lived on the edges of society, having neither a grand title nor fortune. There was much tittle-tattle, and she knew it would affect her chances of finding a husband. Few would want to associate themselves with a family whose women were inclined to be fickle, have affairs and potentially desert the family. These things were seen to run in families. She suggested to her father that she put off her come out until the following season, hoping by then there would be some other scandal that would take attention from the Wallis family or what was left of it.
She had predicted correctly; there was another scandal that took the focus from her mother’s flight to the continent. Unfortunately for Emily, it involved her once more. She had come downstairs late one evening, worried that her father had been distracted during the day. He often had low moods, and Emily was always at pains to try and lift his spirits.
As she opened the door and entered her father’s study, she had met the resigned gaze of her parent. He was pointing a pistol at his head. Emily had frozen to the spot, blood rushing in her ears.
“Papa?” she whispered, afraid to move.
“You’d have been better off without us, Emily. I’m so sorry,” Mr Wallis said just before he pulled the trigger, ending whatever torment he was suffering.
Apparently, her scream had continued long after the staff had been roused at the sound of the gunshot and the resulting noise. Only when the housekeeper took matters into her own hands and slapped Emily firmly across the face had the screaming stopped. She had been led gently back to bed and given a large dose of laudanum to help with the shock. Even after the drug had worn off, Emily had been unable to cope with the memory of seeing her father’s expression before he had pulled the trigger. His words haunted her nightmares. No mother came to help her daughter in her hour of need, but eventually Emily’s godmother returned from a short holiday, descending on the house and taking matters into hand.
Mrs Agnes Jones was the no-nonsense sister of Mrs Wallis. She had never fully got on with her younger sister. Both women had seemed to tolerate each other because of their family connection. There was little affection, but Agnes had taken her role as godparent very seriously; hence, once she had arrived at the Wallis household, it was not many days before the house was packed away, and Emily was on her way for a stay in Alton, Hampshire, leaving her Guildford home for good.
* * *
That was two years ago, three years since her mother had deserted them with the French dance master. Emily still had the occasional nightmare haunting her nights. Anyone new meeting the young woman was struck with how serious and steadfast she was in comparison to others of her age. She had been due to come out at eighteen, but now at one and twenty, it seemed that first sparkle of youth had gone. There had been no presentation at court, no balls and dancing for Emily. She had hidden from the world. What she thought had been an uneventful life now held the kinds of events one would wish to forget, but they guaranteed one thing: Her future was no longer secure. She had a family reputation that would now follow her, cooling the ardour of even the most besotted admirers. Although pretty, Emily was not beautiful enough to attract grand passions that would overcome such restricting factors.
She silently thanked whatever force had ensured she was a complete blue-stocking; the result being she had the skills to find employment, which was now the only way she could secure her future. She had a small amount of money initially meant for her dowry, which was hers on the death of her father. It was not enough to live on for the rest of her life. The main part of Mr Wallis’ estate was entailed away from the female line.
Mrs Jones had assured Emily that she was to inherit everything she had on her death, but for now she was in robust health, for which Emily was extremely grateful. A weekly visitor to the Wallis home in Guildford, she had offered support to Emily over the years. During the previous two years, Mrs Jones had been mother, father and confidante. She had also lied for Emily, creating a false reference in order for Emily to obtain a position; both accepted that Emily needed employment. Emily could not face an attempt at returning to society which would cause daily reminders of what had happened to her parents.
So, here she was, sitting in the study of the Viscount of Tyne, Robert Wilding, trying to impress on him that, although she was young, she was mature enough to be a suitable governess for his orphaned niece.
Robert was a bitter man. He had not always been so, but since 1812, his life had changed beyond recognition. He was a decorated soldier before Salamanca and had been a favourite of his men. They had always commented that he had been given a suitable name: Robert—bright and shining. It had pleased him to be seen in such a light, leading his men like a beacon of bravery. His brother, William, had been the quieter one, the chaplain of the regiment, determined in his own way to play his part in the battle.
Robert was in the cavalry. Where else would a son of a viscount be? William should not have been on the battlefield.
It emerged later that William had seen a group of soldiers blown from their horses and had acted on impulse; he had grabbed a horse that was now riderless and had charged towards the fallen men to try and help them.
The area was chaotic, horses, men and noise everywhere, yet Robert had known instinctively that his brother was on the battlefield and in danger. As identical twins, they had shared a sixth sense about each other since birth. When Robert cut his arm, William complained about pain; when William had fallen off his horse, Robert suffered from headaches, and so it had been throughout their childhood and into adulthood.
Robert had seen William’s dark clothing, flapping behind him as he charged on the horse. The concerned twin had steered his horse in the same direction; if William was in the fight, Robert was going to provide cover for the unarmed Chaplin.
The explosion hit them when Robert had almost reached William. He had shouted a curse out to his brother, and William had turned, smiling in the middle of the battle, when he spotted his twin. Pointing to the fallen men, William had turned away from Robert and, in that instant, they had both been knocked from their horses.
Robert hit the ground with force, the breath being knocked out of him and the ringing in his ears blocking out any other noise. It was a strange feeling to be in the middle of a battle whilst hearing none of the confusion. He had soon forced himself up from his prostrate position and looked towards his fallen brother.
A soldier who has seen death knows exactly the look of a man when he is dead, but Robert refused to believe what his eyes and his heart were telling him. He crawled over to William, shouting his name with every movement, but there would never be an answering response.
Robert had cradled his brother while the battle continued around him; he had never felt so lost and helpless in his life. It had seemed like an eternity but was in fact only minutes before the loss of blood that Robert had suffered since the explosion was enough to make the previously fearsome soldier faint dead away.
* * *
Robert sat opposite the young woman who had been shown in only thirty minutes before. He had brusquely asked questions, testing her knowledge of geography, history, mathematics and the classics. She had answered each question with confidence. Her reference was glowing, and she fitted the description of demure to perfection.
Constance needed a calming influence; she was showing signs of being too capricious in his opinion. If she was not taught some decorum, goodness knows what scrapes she would get involved with when she came out in five years’ time. She was more like her empty-headed mother in his opinion but was the image of her father, which was a mixed blessing for Robert. Always being reminded of his dead brother was truly a double-edged sword, hence he rarely looked into a looking glass. His niece, though, he could not avoid so easily.
Robert did not want Constance to be like either of her parents. William’s headstrong actions had caused his own death. Added to that tragedy, his wife, whilst intent on pleasure had not been concentrating on a drive out and overturned a carriage, killing herself. Both situations still rankled Robert, one because of the guilt he still carried, the other because he had never approved of William’s wife. He was determined that Constance would not turn out like her mother.
“You’re quite young, only nine years older than my niece,” Robert said, voicing the doubt that niggled him. His tone was clipped and unfriendly.
“If you would like to offer me a trial period?” Emily asked. She desperately needed a position and was drawn to the young girl who had been brought in briefly to see the applicant. Emily would always feel an affiliation to someone who had also lost her parents.
“You would be willing to agree to that? It would be a unique arrangement.”
“Yes.” Emily smiled, she was daunted by the interview, but her quietly confident nature was never far from the surface. “I’ve every faith in my abilities. The trial would be purely to convince you, My Lord.”
Robert raised an eyebrow, but there was a slight twitch of his mouth, enough to convince Emily that she had not erred completely in being so bold. “A trial of a month then,” Robert said, finally making a decision. Perhaps a blue-stocking would bore Constance into being good. It could not be any worse than the effect some of the other so-called governesses had had on the child.
“Thank you, My Lord,” Emily responded, trying to hide the relief from her voice.
She returned to Mrs Jones’ home to gather her belongings and say her goodbyes. Her godmother watched with amusement as Emily sorted through the books she was going to take with her with far more care than she had the dresses and gowns she was to take.
“If you don’t like the place, you can always return,” Mrs Jones said gruffly.
Emily smiled, pausing in her packing. “Thank you. It’s a comfort to know that I have a place to come back to if needed.”
“You have a home here and always shall have.”
“Over the last two years this has felt more like a home than Uppingham Park ever did,” Emily said honestly.
“Your parents should never have behaved in such a way. They were both selfish beings. I’ve always regretted them taking you on in the first place. I didn’t realise neither of them was capable of giving you the love and security you deserved,” Mrs Jones said with feeling.
“You make it sound as if they had a choice about having me!” Emily smiled.
“Yes, well, never mind my ramblings. I must be turning into a muffle-headed old woman,” Mrs Jones muttered, colouring a little.
“You’ll always be my perfect Aunt Agnes,” Emily said, moving to kiss the cheek of the old woman.
Mrs Jones closed her eyes when receiving the kiss, but waved her hand when Emily moved away slightly. “Ah, go on with you, you silly chit! No one is perfect, and don’t you go forgetting that, or you’ll always find disappointment in life. Now you be wary. There’s a lot of those titled folk out there who misuse servants. You be mindful that your new master doesn’t.”
“I expect he’ll be looking for a wife in London for most of the time while I’m in Hereford with his ward.”
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