The entire household was buzzing with the upcoming party. It was to be held in honor of the homecoming of the Marquess of Sarandale’s three sons.
Josephine was as excited as everyone else, but her feet ached at all the extra work the celebration had brought about. In her weariness, her thoughts wandered as she went about her chores in the corridors of Sarandale Manor. She recalled her younger days when she and the Marquess’ boys were all equal. Their young age knew of no class distinctions, and they played together on the grounds of the estate.
“Ah, I am so glad I have found you, at last, Josephine,” a voice said, interrupting her reminiscing.
Josephine looked up to see Lady Cynthia, the boys’ sister, smiling down at her as she had gone to pick up a breakfast tray.
“Lady Cynthia, what can I do for you?” Josephine asked as she stood up from her task. She always gave the lady a sympathetic tone. Lady Cynthia had undergone such a tragedy when her husband had passed away unexpectedly.
“As I am sure you are aware, Father and I wish to host a party to welcome my brother’s home after their long tour,” Cynthia began. “I was thinking, would it not be perfect if the rooms were decorated with a variety of colorful floral arrangements? It would brighten the house so much more.”
“I will speak with the gardener immediately, m’lady.” Josephine nodded her strawberry blonde head. A curl fell loose from the tight knot that she bound her hair into every day. “I will request freshly cut flowers tomorrow. Then, I will do the arrangements myself.”
“I knew I could rely on you, Josephine, thank you.” Cynthia beamed. With her petition complete, she walked away. Her long skirts swished around as she made her way down the grand staircase.
Josephine also needed to go downstairs, though she turned in the opposite direction. She trod along the plush carpeted hallways until she reached an almost hidden stairway at the end of the corridor. This would lead her down to the servants’ quarters, where she could leave His Lordship’s empty breakfast tray that she had picked up. Normally, that was not part of her role, but she had happened upon it and wanted to save the kitchen maids from being chastised.
Going down the wooden stairway, an image of Ethan, the oldest of the brothers, popped into her mind. He was the one she had been closest to in her childhood. After her father had passed, Ethan had promised her that he would always care for her.
Josephine’s father had been one of the Marques’s long-term tenants. First, she had lost her mother, so when her father died it had left her alone at the tender age of six. Then, thanks to the generosity of the marquess, he had told the boys’ governess to treat her as she did his own children. She attended the same private lessons and was given a bedroom close to the nursery.
“And what might you be doing carrying that, might I ask?” Cook’s voice echoed in her head.
“Oh, it was given to me directly by the marquess himself,” she fibbed. “I could hardly say no, could I?”
Not that Martha, the head cook, was one for reprimanding anyone. Nonetheless, she tutted at seeing an upper servant doing a lower servant’s work.
“I will be having words with Sally,” she said sternly, taking the tray from Josephine’s hands. “She knows her job, and I am sure you do not have the time to clean up after her.”
Martha’s bark was always worse than her bite. By the time she found Sally, she would likely have forgotten all about it. Martha tended to mother her staff rather than rule them with a rod of iron. That was one of the good things about working on the Sarandale Estate, it was full of people who cared for each other—a reflection from the marquess himself.
Making her way to the gardens to find the head gardener, Bill, Josephine smiled to herself. Once again, the image of Ethan filled her thoughts. She could not wait to see him again. Would he remember her, though? After all, the boys had been on their Grand Tour for three years. They had been living overseas for such a long time. She had been only fifteen when they set off, and her heart had ached at seeing Ethan leave. Their separation had soon led to a change in her role in the household.
The marquess had allowed her, as an orphan, to learn to read and write alongside his own children. But when the boys left to live abroad, she had started her training in the company of the housekeeper.
To begin with, she had hated it. It had been bad enough being forced to move to a bedroom on the top floor with the servants, but, even more, she hated the days of laborious work. But it did not take her long to start enjoying her new role in life. She already knew all the people she was to work with, and in turn, they treated her with respect.
As head of the upstairs housemaids for the last year, the housekeeper now entrusted her with many more responsibilities. She oversaw the work of all the maids, which kept her busy. They had offered her the role of lady’s maid to Lady Cynthia when the lady had returned to the household after her husband died. But Josephine preferred having varied duties as opposed to serving only one person.
Josephine had a naturally busy and inquisitive mind. Being a personal maid would allow her no freedom. Her ultimate goal was to become a governess. The trouble with that plan, though, was that the Missus, as they referred to Doreen the housekeeper, had different plans for her. Doreen always reminded her that she would never be accepted as a governess. Instead, she would one day feel pride and joy in taking her place the as head housekeeper.
A warm breeze ruffled Josephine’s hair as she stepped outdoors. Walking through the gardens, she could see the rippling of the lake. It reminded her of the time Ethan had taught her to skim pebbles across the surface of the water. Smiling to herself, she also recalled how, whenever she had felt unhappy, he would present her with a flower in bloom.
She listened out for the clipping sounds of the gardeners as they trimmed the hedges and followed the noise. As she searched for Bill, her thoughts turned to Ethan’s younger brother, Cedric. He had always been a serious boy who took it the hardest when their mother died. Although she had tried to help him with his sadness, it seemed all she ever managed to do was annoy him all the more.
And then there was Anthony, who always made her laugh. When they were all younger, he was the one to chase her, and then tickle her when she was captured. Yes, she was looking forward to seeing her childhood friends again.
“What are you woolgathering over?” a voice called out behind her.
It was Lettie, her best friend, and someone she enjoyed being with.
“Oh, I was wondering if the brothers will remember me, is all,” Josephine admitted.
“Hmm, of course they will remember you! You were all pretty close when you were growing up from what my ma tells me. I am going in the meadow to gather herbs for drying, you want to join me?”
“Yes. But first, help me find Bill. I need to organize lots of freshly cut flowers for the displays Lady Cynthia has requested. Then I will come with you,” Josephine offered.
“I can do that, but Cook will complain if I dally too long,” Lettie replied.
“Oh no, she will not,” Josephine chided. “Your mother lets you get away with everything.”
The two young women chuckled at this as they headed off together towards the gardeners to locate Bill.
“I still have my sea legs!” Anthony called out, not admitting it was more from the ale than their crossing on the English Channel.
“Nay, you spent most of your time skulking away in your cabin,” Ethan jested. “You should have been on the deck with me. I was observing the work of the sailors with great interest. Plus, there was a fine view of the rough ocean waves crashing over the decks.”
“Oh, do not remind me of the rolling waves,” Anthony remarked, for he hated sea travel and was not embarrassed to admit it. “It ails me to even thinking of those breaking waves.”
“Nonsense.” Cedric smirked at both his brothers. “The winds were in our favour and the crossing was fair and fast.”
“Forget it, Anthony, it is over and done with,” Ethan intervened. He often tired of all the bickering between his two younger brothers.
“My stomach cramped, and I had green spots before my eyes,” Anthony wailed, determined to get it all out in the open. “With every huge crash of a wave, I felt my room rise and fall and my stomach churn. That is when I felt the sickness. Never again do I wish to travel overseas.”
“You will, brother. Trust me, you will soon forget the inconvenience and want more of the adventure,” Cedric sneered. Ethan knew that Cedric was always impatient with Anthony, never understanding Anthony’s weaknesses, such as with sea travel. “The more you travel, the sooner you will conquer it. Then you can take control of your stomach contents.”
“Those very words make me ill, Cedric.” Anthony was having none it. “I have had my share of travel to last a lifetime. Now I am home, that is where I shall remain. What say you, Ethan?”
“I say we put aside the bad memories and savour the good ones,” Ethan replied. As he did, he raised his ale tankard and Anthony followed suit. Though not Cedric, for he rarely drank ales. He argued that it could not compare to the quality wines the French and Italians had mastered. Instead, he raised a glass of brandy to join the toast.
The brothers had made their way from the Dover port by coach. Then, they had headed straight into the heart of London to visit the gentleman’s club that their father always favoured, Brooks on St James’ Street. It was only because of their father’s standing that they were admitted. None were members before they had gone overseas for three years.
They now sat comfortably in the large subscription room. it was good to be surrounded by the buzz of English-speaking male voices. Many stood around chatting, others were seated around large, mahogany, circular tables. Some gambled and every one of them drank—all without the distraction of women.
“Shall we make our way to the card room and play whist?” Ethan asked his brothers. Not that he enjoyed gambling, but they were here to celebrate their homecoming.
“I find gambling is the Devil making work for idle hands,” Cedric remarked.
“Quite so, brother,” a cheerier Anthony agreed. “Which is why we are here for amusement only. We can play for smaller stakes whilst we catch up on English politics. I am with Ethan on this one. That is, once I have a brandy to line my stomach.”
As they moved through the smoke-filled rooms, they could hear the low murmur of men talking.
“Personally, I would prefer the company of females,” Cedric offered. “But needs must, so I will join you, if not only to introduce myself to some of the more prominent leaders.”
“Ah!” Ethan smiled, knowing it always took Cedric a whilst to settle in new places. “Our brother wants to reintroduce himself back into British society.”
Anthony, once over his seasickness, would throw himself in at the deep end. Being of a cheerful nature, he was the most popular of the brothers. Most found his personality charming. Ethan, on the other hand, showed restraint when it came to socialising. It was his responsibility, as the eldest brother, to uphold the family’s reputation.
“We should have gone to White’s,” Cedric mumbled under his breath. “I hear it is more elite.”
“Why?” Anthony chaffed. “Are you afraid someone will throw a black ball at your membership application?”
“I will not be applying here,” Cedric said with seriousness to his tone. “Too much gambling for my liking. A sign of weakness, if you ask me. I will see you both back at the hotel.”
“Oh, do not leave, Cedric,” Anthony pleaded. “This is our first night back on English soil. We have cause for celebration. Particularly, as you never wanted to leave England in the first place.”
“Anthony’s right, Cedric,” Ethan agreed. “We do have cause to celebrate,” he added.
“It is more that I am not particularly looking forward to seeing Father,” Cedric brought up the dread that was making him feel down.
“Look here,” Anthony began, knowing his brother’s troubles. “I know you and Father had a falling out, but he has changed over the years we have been away. When last we corresponded, he agreed that I can study at Cambridge. If you still wish to study law, I do not see why you cannot pick it back up now that we are back. That is what you wanted all along and now it is on the table again, so cheer up, old fellow.”
“I am no longer of the right age to study at Cambridge,” Cedric bemoaned. “Father will expect me to be useful in his business dealings. I fear that my opportunity to study law at Cambridge had passed me by.
“What makes you think that?” Ethan asked.
“I had a letter from Father asking me to think about going north to look at a textile factory investment,” Cedric replied.
“Hard luck on that one then, Cedric,” Anthony said, though he was not concentrating, as his attention was turned on the crowd as he searched for Ethan.
“Come on, you two,” Ethan called out. “I have arranged for us to join in a game of whist. Put aside all your despondency for tonight at least, Cedric. Let us go drink some fine brandy, smoke cigars, and enjoy good company.”
Cedric followed, though reluctantly. In truth, he was not looking forward to seeing his father again. He had argued with him before they left. Cedric had more of a passion for the law than for travel, though he had managed to educate himself on the topic whilst living on the continent.
It had all been their father’s doing, sending the brothers abroad for the Grand Tour. He had only been nineteen at the time. The youngest of the brothers, Anthony, had been sixteen and had no idea that he would hate sea travel.
Introductions were made to three other fellows who were seated around a card table. In the end, even Cedric enjoyed the company of his peers. It turned out that one of them was from the north. His father was a merchant of textiles, so it was an opportunity for Cedric to learn as much as he could from his new acquaintance.
The brothers finally turned in at the early hours of the morning, fully relaxed after a pleasant evening. Ethan, for one, was looking forward to the journey home on the morrow.
“Get some sleep,” Ethan instructed his younger brothers. “I want us up and ready for that carriage in the morning. If anyone is not about for breakfast, then you will have to make your own way home. Father awaits me, so I am not dallying.”
“A Maid’s Fateful Courtship” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Orphaned at a very young age, Josephine Chappie was taken under the kind Marquess, Lord Ellsworth’s, care. Raised by the side of his children, she created a special bond with the family’s older son, Ethan. Yet, as time separated them, Josephine became an upper housemaid at the Estate, accepting her new role as a servant. However, when Lord Ethan returns from abroad, her heart starts to beat only for him as her childhood sweetheart slowly changes the course of her life.
If only a friendship between a Lord and a maid could turn into something more…
After Lord Ethan Ellsworth returns with his brothers from their Grand Tour, he is shocked by how everything he knew has radically changed. Apart from his sister’s misfortune due to her husband’s passing, he cannot accept that his childhood friend is now a maid. Unable to deal with Josephine’s new role in his life, he struggles to put his duty and position over the realisation of his deeper feelings for her.
Can he ever admit his affection and risk losing more than a precious friend?
As Ethan’s and Josephine’s fates intertwine in time, their love grows stronger every day. Yet, they will soon have to face their fears and fight against the terrible schemes that desperately want them apart. When they declare their true love, a terrible betrayal will force them in different directions. Will they defeat the hatred and machinations? Or will their pure love sink into chaos before fulfilling its everlasting destiny?
“A Maid’s Fateful Courtship” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.