Seven-year-old Emmaline Peltnam, daughter of the Duke of Newcastle, sat outside the door of her mother’s room, waiting while the doctor examined her yet again. She swung her feet back and forth since her feet did not reach the floor. Emmaline had been sitting at her mother’s bedside, listening as Papa read to Mama. When the doctor arrived, Papa took her by the hand and told her to wait outside.
She knew she should not get up, but the sunshine looked so delicious from the window seat as it played in the garden trees. It would be wicked to go outside and play, especially when Mama was in such pain. Hours seemed to pass as she stared at the ceiling, a knot forming in her stomach at what the doctor would find. Mama would be alright. “She has to,” Emmaline said aloud. One of the servants gave her a questioning look as she passed by. The woman said nothing, however, and went about her business.
Emmaline wished she had someone to sit with her, someone to talk to and tell her all would be well. She stood up and went to the door, laying her ear flat against the smooth wood. The polished surface was cool on her skin, sending shivers down her spine. She could faintly hear the doctor speaking with Papa on the other side.
“I’m sorry, Your Grace. There is nothing more I can do. Her Grace is gone”
Emmaline pushed herself away from the door as if it had burned her. Tears welled in her eyes at what she had heard. A moment later, she was startled when the door opened, and the doctor walked out. She thought for a moment that she would be in trouble, but instead, he knelt down and took her hands in his. “I’m so sorry, child. You should go in to see her now.”
Emmaline’s lip quivered, doing her best to hold back the tears. Papa knelt at the edge of the bed, his body draped over her mother as he sobbed. He did not hear her as she walked up to the bedside. After several minutes, Emmaline finally touched his shoulder. “Papa?”
He straightened and looked down at her, his face and eyes red from weeping. “Oh, my dear. I’m so sorry…”
Emmaline looked at the still, lifeless cocoon her mother had left behind. She looked peaceful now—the wracking coughs and shallow breaths that had echoed throughout the room for so many weeks now silenced. Emmaline took a tentative step towards her mother. She took her hand, the warmth already gone from Mama’s fingertips. Emmaline drew her hand back, afraid to touch her again. Her father placed his hands on her shoulders and continued to weep silently. Emmaline allowed her tears to fall then, grieving the loss of a mother she had barely had a chance to know. Her father hugged her close, kneeling and turning her into his chest as they cried together.
Emmaline skipped into her father’s study, the Autumn sunlight streaming into the room. Her bright red curls bounced around her face as she went. Her green eyes sparkled with the hope that her father might have a moment to spare for her. It had been several months since Mama had passed, and Papa had been working hard with the estate business. Emmaline knew how terribly he missed Mama, but she was starting to feel that he no longer wanted Emmaline around.
“Papa, may we take a walk in the garden before supper? It is a beautiful day and you missed tea…”
Papa did not look up from the letter he was writing. “Not now, Emmaline. Papa is very busy. Where is your governess?”
He did look up then and looked around as if he might see the governess appear before him. He looked annoyed that Emmaline had escaped her governess yet again. She took a step back and clasped her hands behind her back. “I have finished my lessons for the day, Papa. She said I could go outside and play.”
Papa waved his hand as if to shoo her away. “Very well, then go and do that. As I said, I am very busy right now, my angel. I will see you at supper. Wait…” he thought for a moment. “No, I will not. I have a dinner engagement with Lord and Lady Weston.” His words trailed off as he continued writing. Emmaline backed out of the room. Her father had seemed to forget she was even there.
She left the study feeling even more lonely than usual. The great house was so quiet now that mother had left it. Sometimes, Emmaline would go into the great hall and shout as loud as she could just to end the monotony of silence that plagued the house.
As she walked into the great hall, she spotted a servant open the door that led down to the kitchens. As the door opened, the most delicious aroma wafted out. Emmaline followed the maid through the door without thinking, peeking around the edge to be sure no one was watching. She walked down the uneven wooden steps, careful not to make a peep. The maid was long gone, but Emmaline could hear voices from somewhere down the thin, dimly lit corridor. She made her way down the hall, turning into a brightly lit room, sunlight pouring in through the narrow, long windows at the ceiling.
All activity halted as the cook and scullery maids turned around and stared at her. “Well, bless my soul. It’s Lady Emmaline.” All of them curtsied to her, making her cheeks burn. Emmaline stepped into the light, looking around at the homey space.
“I am sorry. I was only wondering where that delicious smell was coming from,” Emmaline said timidly.
The cook smiled at her and reached out a hand, which Emmaline took. Her chubby hands were warm as they enveloped her tiny hand. Emmaline smiled at the kitchen maids, who returned with their own good-natured ones. When they came around a large table in the center of the room, Emmaline came face to face with a little girl who looked to be about her age. “Lady Emmaline, this is my daughter, Sarah Stockwell. I believe you were born the same year.”
Sarah curtsied and smiled. “A pleasure to meet you, my lady.” Her stringy blonde curls bounced as she bowed her head.
“The pleasure is mine,” Emmaline said. She looked around the kitchen once more, sniffing the air. Her stomach growled as the sweet scent of apples and cinnamon greeted her. “What is that smell?” She rolled her eyes heavenward, and the cook laughed.
“Those are apple tartlets. And here is where we are making the cream to go on top. Would you like a taste?”
Emmaline’s mouth watered as one of the kitchen maids brought a stool, and she climbed up so she could see over the table. She scooted over on the stool and invited Sarah to stand with her. Sarah climbed up, their elbows brushing against each other as they watched Mrs. Stockwell beat the cream into a frenzy. When it was thick and fluffy, she added a bit of sugar, beating it for a few more moments. When it was ready, she took two spoons and dipped them in the cream. She handed one to each of the girls and beamed with pride as they both uttered expressions of delight.
Mrs. Stockwell turned to the oven and took out a tray of the tartlets with a tea towel, setting the tin in the center of the table to cool. “Now, you must try them hot. They’ll be served cold at your meal this evening, but I prefer them warm from the oven.”
Emmaline’s mouth watered as she watched Mrs. Stockwell retrieve two dishes from the cupboard and prepare their tartlets with a big dollop of cream on top. The cream started to ooze down the sides as she handed them to the girls and instructed them to sit at a small table. Sarah showed the way, setting her plate down at the table. “This is where Mama and I have all our meals with the kitchen maids.”
Emmaline set her plate down as well, sitting kitty-corner to Sarah. She inhaled the scent of the tartlets once more, relishing the aroma. She picked up her fork and sliced through the flakey crust of the pastry, and scooped up a bite of soft apples in a delectable caramel-like syrup. Opening her mouth, she savored the sour-sweet explosion when she bit into the apples, followed by the buttery crust. The whole dessert was brought together by the warm cream, with just a hint of sweetness. “This is heaven,” she breathed when she swallowed.
Sarah smiled, beaming with pride as her mother joined them. “She likes it, Mama.”
“Only a person with no soul does not enjoy an apple tartlet,” Mrs. Stockwell said briskly. “I am glad you are enjoying it, my lady.” She winked at Emmaline and then went back to the center table to continue preparing dinner for the evening. Emmaline wished she could stay down in the kitchens forever. Besides, Papa was gone most of the time anyway and would not miss her.
“Have you grown up in this kitchen?” Emmaline asked as she and Sarah devoured the tartlets.
“Yes. Mama says I was born here. Well, not here exactly. But in the village. I can’t remember a time when we were not here.” Sarah said, cream dotting the corners of her mouth. Emmaline liked her very much. With no siblings of her own, it was nice to talk to someone her own age.
“Mama said I was born in London under a full moon,” Emmaline blurted. Sadness filled her eyes, and she set her fork down. Sarah must have sensed her mood, for she reached her hand across the table and took her hand.
“I am sorry about your Mama. You must miss her so much.” Emmaline was touched by her small act of kindness. She had barely spoken of her mother ever since her death, and it felt to have someone understand her.
“I do miss her.” Emmaline stood, placing her fork on the now empty plate. “Papa does, too. I think that is why he has been working so much lately.”
Mrs. Stockwell joined them once more and let out a chuckle. “Well, looks like you two made short work of those. I am surprised you didn’t scrape the flowers off the porcelain along with the cream.” Mrs. Stockwell laughed again, and the girls joined in.
Emmaline looked around the kitchen again, steam rising from a great pot on the stove. “May I look around the kitchen? I have never been down here before.”
“Of course,” Mrs. Stockwell said. “Sarah, take Lady Emmaline on a tour. She knows the kitchen almost as well as I do.” She winked and sent the girls off to explore. Sarah showed her all the tools they used to make and decorate pastries, which Emmaline found fascinating. She then took her to her mother’s and her quarters, a small room with only one bed and a small writing desk. It was so unlike the room she had grown up in, with its four-poster bed, oriental carpets, and chandeliers. For the first time in her life, she had seen how the people who worked for them lived and felt a little guilty for the luxuries she enjoyed.
However, Sarah did not seem to be bothered or embarrassed by her humble quarters. Instead, they hurried back to the kitchens, where Mrs. Stockwell was pulling out a roasted guinea fowl from the oven. Emmaline’s mouth again watered. Suddenly, the dressing gong rang, and she jumped. She had not realized she had been in the kitchens for so long.
“Well, I suppose I should be going,” Emmaline said, even though she did not want to leave.
Sarah walked her to the stairs leading up to the great hall. “Come again tomorrow,” Sarah whispered with a conspiratorial sort of air. “Mama is making madeleines.”
10 years later
Silas Gooding woke in pitch-blackness, just as he did every morning. He sat up in bed and stretched, ready for another day doing what he loved. As a pastry chef, he got to spend his days creating delectable desserts for the eager mouths of London.
Since his father had handed ownership of the bakery over to him four years earlier, Silas had raised the status of the little bakery. While his grandfather and father had been content to simply provide bread and simple desserts for the lower strata, Silas had wanted more. After training abroad in France for three years with one of the most famous patisseries in the region, he had come back home to chase his fortune.
Silas’s pastries were at once delicious and beautiful to behold. Sometimes his customers said they looked too good to eat. Of course, in the end, his creations always disappeared, leaving his customers coming back again and again.
He dressed silently and headed down the stairs of the home he shared with his parents and his younger brother and sister situated atop the bakery. If all went as planned, he would soon afford a much better dwelling for the family and move the bakery to a savorier part of the city. Someday, he would cater to the rich and famous, raising himself from humble baker to renowned patisserie chef.
It was hard for him to believe how far he had come in the last seven years. His time in France had been like a dream, sitting at the feet of Monsieur Claude Debunisque, the most famous patisserie chef in France– perhaps in the world.
If he had his way, someday, he would surpass even Monsieur Debunisque. Silas had worked hard to gain the attention and favor of London’s upper-middle-class citizens. And his efforts were finally paying off.
He breathed deeply as he came into the large kitchen, the scent of flour, sugar, and butter perpetually floating in the air. Silas rubbed his hands together, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. Today he would make chocolate croissants to surprise his customers. It gave him great pleasure to bake a different delicacy each morning. He wanted to make something before getting started on the mountains of orders he had to fulfill every day.
Silas washed his hands at the basin and then began mixing dough for the croissant pastry. His father walked into the kitchen when he had finished putting the dough together. “Good morning, Father.”
For a moment, all Silas could see of George Gooding’s face was a great hole as he let out a yawn. “Morning,” he said sleepily. “Croissants? My goodness, son, is that not a bit excessive?”
Silas refrained from rolling his eyes. Instead, he flashed a white smile at him and chuckled. “These specials are what keep people coming back day after day, Father. Take Mr. Stokes, for instance. He will be waiting at the front door before anyone else so that he can be the first to try these croissants.”
His father raised an eyebrow at him, shrugging as he got to work on the rye bread. When Silas had come home from France and his father had seen his skill with pastries, his father had decided to hand the shop over to him. George had continued to cover the simple needs of the shop, like providing the sweet and savory breads and pies, thus leaving Silas free for the more complicated patisserie work.
“Well, you know that I am still not convinced over your scheme to raise the shop from her humble means. However, I will trust you.”
“That is all I ask, Father. I hope I will make you proud someday,” Silas said softly. He retrieved the butter and took it to the cooled marble tabletop. He would have to fold the butter into the dough as quickly as possible. This technique would allow for a fluffy, buttery pastry that he was sure his customers would love.
When he turned back to the workbench, his father was staring at him, an odd look in his eyes. “I am proud of you, Silas. I may not have the vision you do for our humble shop, indeed, that is why I handed the shop over to you. No matter what happens, I will always be proud of you.”
Silas was so taken aback by his father’s uncustomary show of emotion that he nearly dropped the butter all over the floor. He righted the bowl of fresh butter and set it on the marble, staring back at his father before turning it out on the cool surface. “Thank you, Father. You do not know how much that means to me.”
His father shrugged again and began kneading his rye loaf with gusto. He sniffed and kept his eyes trained on his task. “Just do not forget where you came from, my boy. No matter how high you climb on the social ladder, remember the people who helped make this shop great in the first place, like your Mr. Stokes. Loyalty like that cannot be bought.”
Silas nodded, taking in his father’s wise words. “I will not forget, Father. I promise.”
When the croissants were finished and ready to put into the ovens, he heard the back door open and a cheery ‘good morning’ echo throughout the kitchens.
Silas wiped his hands on a towel and stepped around the workbench. “That will be Hermione.”
“Why do you not marry the girl already, Silas? Any man with eyes can see she is in love with you.”
Silas halted, stricken by the idea. “Why would you say that? Hermione and I are old friends, that is all. Besides, I am not ready for marriage yet.”
“You are twenty-one years old, healthy, handsome, and have a bright future ahead. There is not a woman on this earth who would not want to build that future with you.” His father rolled his eyes heavenward. “You do not have to have everything lined out in your life before you get married. If you did, no one would ever get married and then where would we be?”
Silas laughed but did not answer, for Hermione entered the kitchen a moment later. Her long black hair was tied back with a ribbon, its silky tresses cascading down her back. She was slim and possessed a youthful bloom in her cheeks that was most becoming. Had his father not said anything, he would not have let his eyes linger on her handsome face. He shook his head and greeted her, trying to keep his voice void of any hint of embarrassment. “Good morning, Hermione. You are here early.” His voice cracked as he said it, and he knew his neck and cheeks would soon redden with a childish blush.
“I came to see what delectable treats you had created this morning, and beg one or two off of you before I head to the market. Mama so does love your pastries.”
Silas turned from her, trying to keep his mind on work and not on his father’s very unsettling remarks. “Of course. It will be a few minutes before they are done, but I think the chocolate croissants will please your mother.”
Hermione sighed. “They smell divine. Is there anything I can help with to get the shop ready to open? I could sweep while I am waiting,” she offered, flashing her charming smile at him.
“That would be most helpful, lass. Thank you,” his father said when Silas could not find his voice.
Hermione headed to the front of the shop. The only sound was the door swinging back and forth on its hinge. “Handsome girl, indeed.” His father slapped him on the back good-naturedly and went to put a few loaves of bread into another set of ovens. “She will not be single for much longer, my boy.”
His father nodded toward the front of the shop, no doubt urging him to see Hermione for the lovely young woman she had turned into. When he walked through the door, his heart was galloping. However, he soon found that Hermione was not alone. A young gentleman in an expensive-looking livery came forward and introduced himself. “How do you do, sir. My name is Elias Chandler, and I serve His Grace, the Duke of Newcastle as first footman.” He bowed slightly at the waist and smiled.
Silas bowed in return and glanced at Hermione. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Chandler. What can I do for you?”
“I must apologize for coercing the young woman to allow me entrance before you are officially open, sir. His Grace has entrusted me with a most important mission. You see, his daughter is being presented in a few days, and he has asked me to find the best pastry chef in London to cater the ball he is throwing in her honor. A friend of mine turned me onto you shop, and thus, my reason for being here so early.”
Silas was shocked but tried to make his face remain businesslike. “Indeed? I am honored that you would seek out our modest bakery.”
“My friend spoke very highly of you and your creations. May I look around?”
“Of course,” Silas waved his hand towards the display counter. “We have chocolate croissants in the oven, and I will be making madeleines, raspberry mille-feuilles later this morning for a special order. I could make a few extra and deliver them to you for His Grace as a sample.”
“That would be most appreciated, Mr…?”
“Gooding. Silas Gooding.” They shook hands, and Mr. Chandler continued to look at the display counter, which had a few desserts leftover from the following evening. They would be taken out before they opened and replaced with the fresh creations of the day.
“These are exquisite,” Mr. Chandler breathed, admiring the delicacy and innovation with which Silas had presented his desserts. “May I purchase a dozen of your croissants? I will have the cook serve them at breakfast and tell His Grace about you. Would you be able to deliver the other pastries later this morning?”
“Yes, of course. I will come around after I make my other deliveries.”
“Splendid.” Mr. Chandler handed him a card and went to stand by the window to wait for the croissants. Silas went back into the kitchen to check on them. They were perfectly golden brown, and he took them out, allowing them a few minutes to cool. He then packed them into a small box and went to give them to Mr. Chandler.
“Thank you, Mr. Gooding. I am sure the Duke will be most pleased. Good day to you,” he nodded to him and then to Hermione. When he had gone, she turned to him and smiled from ear to ear.
“The Duke of Newcastle! Do you know what this means, Silas?”
“We have to stay calm,” he replied but could not help the smile that played at his lips. Was this a fantasy? He had been longing for a chance like this to come his way for years, and now that it was happening, he was afraid it might all be a dream. “I have not gotten the job, yet.”
Hermione followed him into the kitchen, where both his parents and his siblings were waiting with bated breath. “Well? What happened, son?” His mother asked.
Silas made them wait for a second and then gave them the good news. An explosion of cheers and laughter erupted from the kitchen as they celebrated their good fortune. “Calm down, please. We have a lot of work to do to impress the Duke. Come along Elijah, you can help me with the mille-feuilles.” His younger brother followed him to the workbench while the ladies went to the front of the shop to open for the morning.
After delivering the sample pastries to His Grace’s home, Silas waited for word from Mr. Chandler, unable to relax. A note arrived just as they were getting ready to close the store. Silas took the note and went to the smaller kitchen of their home, where his family waited to hear their fate. Silas slowly smiled as he scanned the missive. “We got it. We are going to cater for the Duke of Newcastle.”
“A Baker for the Lonely Lady” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
The kind but shy Lady Emmaline Peltnam has always felt like an outcast, even inside her own house. Yet, her love for french pastry and baking helps her forget her loneliness and grief for her mother, especially now that her father insists on introducing her to high society. Emmaline sees herself unworthy of any man’s love and while cruel jokes from her fellow debutantes spread around the ton, a charming young pastry chef will appear to change her life once and for all…
Will Emmaline dare to defy high society’s necessities for a chance at true love?
Silas Gooding, an ambitious pastry chef, has worked hard to turn his family’s humble bakery into the talk of the town. When he meets Emmaline at her opening ball, their affection begins to blossom as they secretly start baking together, sharing their common passion. However, when their romance gets noticed by Emmaline’s father and Silas’s jealous friend, Silas knows he is in risk of losing the woman who helped him discover the secret recipe of true love…
If only Silas could fight for Emmaline’s heart before everything turns into ashes…
Emmaline’s and Silas’s enthusiasm for pastry will be the first magical ingredient for a journey filled with sweet romance. Still, how can their worlds become one in a society that forces them apart? Will the malicious gossip and the Duke’s restrictions be able to destroy their unique connection? Or will Silas and Emmaline take the reins and steer their lives towards the fulfilment of their sweeter than pastry love?
“A Baker for the Lonely Lady” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.