Miss Sarah Armstrong entered the tiny rooms that were to be her home for the next few months and cringed. She held a handkerchief to her nose to try and block the stench that hit her like an odoriferous mist. She coughed and blinked several times, the odours making her eyes water.
“What is that awful smell?” she lamented. Her aunt, Miss Charlotte Bradley, came into the room behind her and immediately assumed the same position – hanky over her nose and mouth.
“Oh, my dear, I am sorry,” she said, fluttering around the room to close the windows.
“What are we to do? We cannot mean to live here for three months? And how can I be presented when my clothes are sure to smell of fish and sewage?” Sarah said. She had been so excited to come to London for the season. She was being debuted into society that year, something she had been looking forward to for many years.
Her aunt looked around the room in despair. Suddenly, she exclaimed, “Oh, my goodness!” and clambered atop the sofa cushions, lifting her skirts to above her ankles.
“What is it?” Sarah looked around, alarmed.
“A rat! Oh, my dear, come here quickly!” her aunt said. Sarah let out a squeal of her own and climbed up to the safety of the cushions, clinging to her aunt. The creature was actually a tiny mouse and soon scurried into a hole near the door to escape the ladies’ frightening squeals. Sarah swallowed and stepped down from the sofa when the mouse showed no signs of coming out again.
“Come down, Aunt. He is gone,” she said.
“I will do no such thing! Call a maid, at once,” she ordered.
Sarah went to the door and called for assistance. A maid soon appeared, dressed in a simple black dress and once-white apron.
“Good day, Miss. Wha’ can I do for ya?” she asked in a Cockney accent.
“We seem to have a mouse problem,” Sarah said.
The maid looked around the room in confusion. “I don’t see no mouse.”
“Well, it ran into its hole, right there, by the door,” Sarah pointed.
The maid bent down to look and then straightened. “I ain’t no cat, Mistress. Guess you’ll jus’ ‘ave to live wiv’ ‘im,” she said as she turned to leave.
“Wait! You cannot be serious. Isn’t there something you can do?” Sarah asked, glancing back at her aunt, who was still atop the unfortunate piece of furniture. She was not a light woman, and Sarah was afraid the sofa might fall apart at any second.
“I can go find a cat, I s’pose. Would that satisfy you, Mistress?” she asked, a smile playing at her lips.
“No, thank you. But if we could speak to the proprietor, that would be most appreciated,” Sarah replied.
The maid nodded and went about her duties.
“Do come down, Aunt Charlotte. I’m sure he is as afraid of us as we are of him. If he comes out again, we shall just stamp our feet and scare him again,” Sarah reasoned.
Aunt Charlotte looked around to make sure that there were no more intruders, and then slowly came down from the sofa. She placed first one foot on the floor and then the other, as if the mice were planning to attack her as soon as her feet hit the ground. Of course, no attack came, and she relaxed slightly.
“My most profound apologies, my dear. It seems I have made a most wretched mistake. I have never been to London on my own, and Whitechapel sounded so beautiful. I have always stayed with friends on my visits here,” she lamented. She went to the window and moved the curtains with her forefinger outstretched, as if touching anything in the room would give her a disease. Sarah joined her at the dirty window and tried to look out as best she could.
The streets were a cesspool of filth and mud, with seedy characters prowling about. This seemed to be the only decent row of houses in the whole of Whitechapel. A grey fog hung over the buildings, and it was then that Sarah regretted leaving her country home in Surrey.
“Let us go out, my dear,” Aunt Charlotte suggested. Their trunks were being brought in as she spoke.
“Leave, now?” Sarah asked. “Where shall we go?”
“Somewhere to escape this awful smell while I formulate a plan. It is abundantly clear that we cannot stay here. I know! We shall go for a walk in Hyde Park. I have been there several times, and it is beautiful this time of year,” she replied.
Sarah looked back at the room, wondering if it was safe to leave their belongings behind.
“Come, Sarah. Let us be off,” Aunt Charlotte said through her hanky.
Sarah reluctantly followed her out of the room. She locked the door and stowed the key in her reticule. She hurried after her aunt and out to the carriage that was still parked outside. She spoke to their driver, and then the coachman helped her up the step. Sarah got into the carriage, feeling safe again.
It took some time for them to travel to Hyde Park, as her aunt had had no idea it lay nearly six miles away. The coach became unbearably hot in the afternoon sun as they made their way through the maze of streets. Sarah had not realised how loud the city was going to be. But everywhere around them were coaches and hackney carriages and sedan chairs, with a bustle of people pushing all around them. Shouts and horses clopping hooves created a din like she could never have imagined. And to a country girl, it was all new and exciting, even if a bit frightening.
They finally arrived at Hyde Park late in the afternoon. The carriage stopped, and the coachman handed them out.
“Please follow behind us as we walk,” Aunt Charlotte instructed. Her prime concern was for her niece’s safety. And after her ‘blunder of all blunders’ with the housing arrangements, she was not about to take any chances.
They strolled on the gravelled pathway for some time in silence, relishing the somewhat fresher air of West London. The birds chirped away happily in the trees, and they passed many other park-goers on their way. Sarah noticed that this part of London was not half as dirty or noisy as Whitechapel. If only they could find a place on this side of the city.
“I should like to find a place close to this park. Don’t you think it would be wonderful to be able to take an afternoon stroll every day?” Sarah sighed.
“It would, indeed. I wish I knew where to begin…” her aunt lamented. Aunt Charlotte had never married, and after the death of her parents, Sarah’s grandparents, many years before, she had come to live with Sarah’s family. They had a lovely mansion in Surrey, as her father was now a wealthy merchant. They had been snubbed when they had first come to Surrey, but over time, the upper-class citizens of the area had come to respect them. They were now fully fledged members of the community.
Aunt Charlotte had lived with Sarah and her father for some time and had never had to navigate a trip to London on her own. Sarah’s father had always made the travel arrangements for them. And Sarah could tell Aunt Charlotte was still quite frazzled by the whole ordeal.
“Perhaps I should write to Father and get his advice on the subject?” Sarah suggested.
“You know your father will not be back from the continent for another three weeks. No. We shall have to find a place on our own. I shall write to some of my friends here and ask for recommendations.”
Sarah almost asked why she had not done that in the first place. Surely, they would have steered her in the right direction, and they could have foregone this whole ordeal. But she kept quiet. Her aunt was a sensitive soul, and she knew she was silently berating herself for her mistake. Instead, she linked arms with her and smiled.
“No matter. We shall have an adventure, and an amusing story to tell Father when he arrives,” Sarah replied jovially. She chose to focus on the bright side of things.
Charlotte turned white. “Oh, no, my dear. If you have any feelings of love towards your spinster aunt, you will never mention a word of this to your father. He shall turn me out of the house if he ever finds out I put you in such jeopardy.”
“Nonsense. Anyone can make a mistake,” Sarah argued.
She looked up and saw a beautiful young woman sitting in an open carriage parked a hundred yards away from them. She thought the woman looked familiar and studied her profile as they got closer.
“Is that Lady Audrey Lucas? I do believe it is!” she said to her aunt.
Aunt Charlotte followed her niece’s gaze. “I do believe you are correct,” she replied.
“Let us go and say hello,” Sarah suggested. Lady Audrey was a distant cousin of theirs and also a resident of Surrey. They had grown up together, but in recent years, Audrey had been much away from Surrey, having come out two years prior.
Aunt Charlotte furrowed her brow. “Are you sure we should? It has been some time since we have seen her. I would not want to bother or offend her.”
“Really, Aunt, you care too much sometimes of what others will think. She is family, after all. Perhaps she can help us.”
Sarah pulled her aunt towards Lady Audrey’s carriage. As they neared, they saw a young gentleman standing on the other side of the carriage. They seemed to be deep in conversation, and Sarah slowed so as not to interrupt them. When the gentleman saw them, he ducked his head to Lady Audrey and quickly walked away.
Lady Audrey saw them approach, a look of profound disdain painted on her features. Sarah cleared her throat. “Good day, Lady Audrey. I apologise. We did not mean to scare away your friend.”
Lady Audrey lifted her brows at them and looked them up and down, a scowl pasted on her face.
“Have we been introduced?” she asked.
Sarah was caught off-guard. “Surely you recognise me? Sarah Armstrong?” she asked.
Recognition sparked in her eyes, and her scowl was immediately replaced by a smile. “Sarah? My goodness, you have changed. You are quite grown up. I do apologise. I assume you are being presented this year?”
“Yes. You remember my aunt Charlotte Bradley?”
Aunt Charlotte curtsied, and Lady Audrey nodded. “Yes, of course. How are you, Miss Bradley?”
“Very well, thank you.”
Aunt Charlotte eyed her with suspicion, and Sarah could not understand why. She turned her attention back to her cousin. “I’m afraid we have come into a bit of trouble with our rooms. We were wondering if you might suggest a place for us to enquire about accommodation?”
“Where are you staying now?’ she asked.
“In a small boarding house in Whitechapel,” Sarah explained.
Lady Audrey’s face dissolved from that of serenity to terror. “Whitechapel? My goodness, you cannot be serious, Cousin. That is a most unsavoury, not to mention dangerous, part of the city. And you cannot have young gentlemen coming to call on you there. It will not do for your reputation. Come and stay with me, I insist,” she offered.
Sarah looked to her aunt for approval.
“Thank you, Lady Audrey. But we do not want to impose. If you would be kind enough to steer us in the right direction, we are perfectly capable of finding our own lodgings,” her aunt replied.
“Nonsense. It would be my pleasure to have you come and stay with me. It is only Father and me, and we have far too many rooms lying vacant. You will be most welcome to stay with us for the entire season if you wish. Please,” she said kindly.
Sarah pulled her aunt aside. “This is very kind of her, Aunt. I think we should go with her. Besides, she is family. What better situation will we find than to stay with family?”
“I do not feel comfortable, my dear. How is it that she did not even recognise her own cousin? I do not think her motives are correct…”
“It was your mix-up that landed us in the wrong part of London, Aunt. You heard Lady Audrey. We cannot receive visitors in Whitechapel. It will destroy my reputation to be seen there. Please, Aunt?” Sarah asked.
Charlotte nodded. “Very well.” She sighed, and they went back to Lady Audrey’s carriage.
“We would be happy to accept your most kind invitation,” she announced.
“Wonderful!” she said and handed them her card. “Collect your things and come to the house as soon as you can,” she instructed.
“Thank you, Cousin. We shall,” Sarah replied.
Lady Audrey ordered the driver to move on, and she was soon out of sight.
“Let us hurry and collect our things from the boarding house,” Sarah said. She pulled her aunt towards the carriage and they were soon away, winding through London’s busy streets towards Whitechapel.
Sarah smiled at her aunt, who was pouting on the opposite side of the coach. “It’s going to be fine, Aunt. You’ll see.”
“I hope you are right.”
Sir Miles Farrington looked out at the warm, spring rain drizzling outside his family’s London home. He and his father, Lord Edwin Farrington, and his younger brother, Joel, had travelled into the city the previous day. The city was a hub of activity, but more so now that the social elite were getting ready for the debutante ball.
Miles enjoyed the season. He looked forward to being with his friends and dancing. But he was especially excited for this year’s season, as his neighbour, Miss Sarah Armstrong, would be presented. His heart raced at the thought of her. They had grown up together, living on neighbouring estates in Surrey. He had always been one to tease her. She had been awkward as a child. He was three years older than her and had teased her relentlessly, treating her like a younger sister.
Sarah had grown lovelier as she had grown, putting the awkwardness behind her. He did not know when his feelings towards her had changed, exactly. It had been a slow fade, from seeing her as only a silly little girl to esteeming her as a beautiful young woman.
“I think I know what has my brother so occupied,” Joel said.
Miles turned to see his brother and father watching him. He returned to the table laid with tea and took another biscuit. “And what is that, Brother?” he asked.
“Sarah Armstrong. Everyone knows you’ve been in love with her for years. Why not marry the girl and get on with it?” Joel said, teasing.
Miles smiled. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. But if I did, I should say to mind your own business.”
Miles sat down next to his father and leaned back against the couch. It had been years since his mother had died. He admitted that it would be nice to have a female around the house again.
“It is no great secret, Son, that you have fallen in love with our county beauty. But you may find that she is sorely lacking in manners appropriate for the city.”
“You know I don’t care about that, Father.”
“I know. But you may not want to wait too long to make your intentions known, Miles. She is a beautiful girl and men will be flocking to her, this being her first season,” his father cautioned.
Miles had not thought of that. To him, Sarah was the girl next door, and would always be there for him to snatch up. But after she was presented and entered society, he would not be the only one vying for her attention.
With that, Miles stood up and decided to go for a walk. “Would you like to go with me?” he asked Joel.
“On one of your long treks? No, thank you. I am quite comfortable here. Besides, it looks like rain.”
“It is not going to rain. I shall not allow it!” he teased, holding up his hand as if him simply declaring it would make it so.
Joel laughed. “Very well. But promise me that we shall return if there is any hint of rain?”
“On my honour, sir!” Miles said. He slapped his brother on the back playfully as they exited the drawing-room.
Joel was a good sort of fellow, shy, unlike his older brother. Miles thought him much too quiet for a boy of seventeen. Then again, he took after their mother in that regard. He had acquired their mother’s black hair and brown eyes and was much shorter than Miles. The two brothers could not be more different, for Miles was blond and blue-eyed, standing a head above most men at 6 foot 2 inches.
The brothers walked out of the front door and turned right down the lane. The quiet streets near their home were replaced by the hustle and bustle of the city. They turned into Hyde Park to get away from all the madness and strolled leisurely among the fountain and gardens.
“What do you think Miss Armstrong will say when she sees you at the ball?” Joel asked, a mischievous grin on his face.
“Probably, ‘Miles, you devil!’” he said, impersonating a high-pitched female voice.
Joel laughed. “She would not now be annoyed so much by you if you had been nicer to her when we were all growing up.”
“What is the fun in that, my dear man?” Miles asked.
Joel rolled his eyes. Miles laughed and turned his attention back to the gravel path.
“Is that not Lord Cedric Welford?” Joel asked, nodding his head towards a gentleman coming up the path towards them.
“I believe so,” Miles said, trying to catch a glimpse of his face. He looked like his was in a hurry and glanced over his shoulder at a lady parked in a carriage about a hundred yards behind him. Lord Welford did not notice them until he was almost upon them.
“Hello, Lord Welford,” Miles said.
Lord Welford looked up in alarm, as if he had seen a ghost. He straightened and bowed his head slightly. “Ah, Sir Farrington. Master Joel. How good to see you both,” he replied. He glanced again over his shoulder and then back at them. He motioned for them to turn around and walk with him. “When did you arrive?”
Miles got the idea that he was trying to hide something. Perhaps another one of his gambling schemes gone awry. But what did the lady have to do with it? “Ah, yes. Yesterday evening.”
“Jolly good. We shall have to sit down to a card game one of these evenings at the club,” Lord Welford said, pasting a smile on his face.
“Indeed,” Miles replied, looking behind his shoulder at the carriage. It had disappeared down the lane.
“Ah, I trust you are attending the opening ball?” Lord Welford said, hurrying on. He grasped Miles’ arm and pulled him down the path away from the carriage. Miles raised an eyebrow and continued with him. What was he hiding?
“Of course. Won’t everyone?” he asked.
“Yes, indeed,” Lord Welford answered nervously. He looked over Miles’ shoulder and relaxed when he realised the carriage was gone. He smiled a toothy grin and walked on. “Well, I shall see you at the ball, if not before. Good day,” he said and walked away.
Miles halted and steered his brother back the way they had been walking before Lord Welford had interrupted them. “Come on. Let’s go home. I believe it is going to rain.”
His brother rolled his eyes. “I tried to tell you.”
“But I never listen,” Miles teased.
“One day, you are going to go out and get washed away by a flood and wish that you had listened to me,” Joel replied dryly.
Miles laughed. “Why would you say that. You know you would just have to come and rescue me.”
“Miles Farrington! You are the most cruel boy I have ever known!”
Sarah stood in the parlour, tea dripping down her new dress.
Miles smirked, looking very pleased with himself. He had stowed a frog underneath her biscuit and then given it to her on a saucer. Her teacup had gone flying, spilling the contents all over her front.
He stopped laughing long enough to be sure she was all right. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. Did your tea burn you?” he asked.
“No, but you’ve ruined my dress!” she lamented. He handed her a napkin, covering his mouth with his fist to stifle a laugh. Joel had dissolved into fits of laughter and had excused himself so as not to embarrass her further. He was a very polite young man, even at ten years old.
“Miles Farrington, get out of my sight!” Sarah yelled in a very unladylike manner. Sarah had been trying to practice acting like a lady, and at twelve was making good progress. But Miles enjoyed teasing her far too much. When he continued laughing at her, she stamped her foot and left the room. She turned at the doorway and scowled at him. “I never wish to see you again!”
“Wait, Sarah. Wait!” he said and followed her to the door. She lifted her beautiful face up to his. He tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear.
“I apologise. I did not realise you were going to scare so easily,” he said, a smile still playing at his lips.
She had been staring daggers at him, but her eyes softened when he brushed her cheek. “Why do you torment me so?” she asked pleadingly.
His face fell. “Because you are so pretty when you’re angry.” He smiled again, giving a short laugh. She turned her nose up at him and stormed off, her blonde curls bouncing as she went.
Miles awoke the next morning, a small smile playing on his lips at the dream. He had been fifteen, immature, and sorely lacking a sense of timing. Poor Sarah. But he was determined to turn it all around now. He had also been in love with her since he was fifteen, probably even before that.
Tomorrow at the opening ball, he was determined to show her he had changed, that he could be the perfect gentleman – a man who was worthy of her affections.
Sarah and Charlotte arrived at the Lucas estate just after sunset. It had taken ages to get back to the boarding house in Whitechapel. They quickly had their trunks loaded, paid the small fee for occupying the room for a few short hours, and promptly departed. Sarah breathed a sigh of relief that they had escaped the small, dirty boarding house safely.
The butler opened the door at Sarah’s knock, and Audrey was there to welcome them.
“Oh, my dear, you both must be absolutely exhausted. Come into the drawing-room,” she said. “We were about to go into dinner, but we shall wait for a few minutes while your trunks are brought in.”
Audrey had them both sit down near the hearth, as it was a chilly evening, and a small fire had been built.
“Thank you again, Cousin, for allowing us to stay with you,” Sarah replied.
“Nonsense. We are glad to have you. Father will be in shortly to welcome you. So, tell me, are you looking forward to your debut?” Audrey said. She sat next to Sarah and smiled, putting her at ease. Sarah glanced over at Aunt Charlotte, sitting close to the fire to soak up its warmth. She wore a sour expression, worried even. But Sarah ignored it, chalking it up to exhaustion and shyness. Her aunt was not a social butterfly.
“I am. And a little nervous too,” Sarah admitted.
“You will be wonderful, I’m sure. Ah, here is Father,” she said.
Lord Lucas came into the room and greeted the ladies. “We are so happy to welcome you into our home. I was most worried when Audrey told me that you had secured rooms in Whitechapel. I would have come to collect you myself if you had been delayed in coming. A most dangerous quarter of London, Whitechapel.”
He sat down, and the butler handed him a glass of sherry.
“We were very fortunate to see Audrey in the park today…” Sarah began.
“Ah, yes, the park was lovely today. Listen to us, gabbing away. You both must be famished. Shall we go into dinner?” Audrey asked, holding her hand out towards the dining room. The butler had opened the door for them so that they could all go through.
“Yes, thank you,” Sarah replied. Her aunt stood without a word, giving her a sideways glance.
Lord Lucas offered his arm to Aunt Charlotte, and they went into dinner ahead of the girls. Audrey linked arms with Sarah and halted just before the doorway.
“Please do not say anything to Father about the gentleman you saw walking away from the carriage today. He is an acquaintance that merely wanted to say hello, but Father does get so defensive of me. I hope you understand?” she asked, smiling sweetly at her.
“Of course,” Sarah replied. She had thought it odd that Audrey had not been accompanied by a maid or some sort of chaperone on her ride through the park. But she was only accustomed to country manners. Perhaps etiquette was followed more loosely in the city. Sarah pushed the thought aside and went in to dinner with her cousin.
“Sit by me,” Audrey insisted. The girls sat together on the left side of the table, while Aunt Charlotte sat on the right. Lord Lucas was seated at the foot of the table.
The meal was wonderful. Sarah had rarely had the pleasure of dining on such rich foods. Her father preferred a more moderate diet, stating that overindulgence led to gout and stomach problems down the road. Sarah enjoyed herself, sipping her wine, and listening to Lord Lucas talk about his time on the continent.
“My father is on the continent at present,” Sarah chimed in.
“Really? I am surprised he did not take you with him,” Lord Lucas said.
“I wanted to be presented in England for the season. He has promised to take me next year, if I am not married already, that is.” Sarah blushed at the thought.
“I am sure you will be,” Audrey replied. “A beautiful young woman such as yourself will have no shortage of suitors.”
Sarah glanced at her aunt, who was still wearing a sour expression. She had barely spoken a word throughout dinner. She turned her attention back to Lord Lucas and Audrey.
“I don’t know about that, but I am looking forward to the first ball. I don’t know many people yet, this is my first visit to the city,” Sarah replied.
“You will learn fast. I shall help you, Cousin,” Audrey smiled. “You shall be my little protege!” She chatted about having to inspect Sarah’s dresses and helping her choose one appropriate for the ball. Aunt Charlotte shifted uncomfortably.
When the meal ended, the ladies stood to retire to the drawing-room, leaving Lord Lucas to enjoy his port and a cigar in peace.
“I think I should like to retire for the evening, Lady Audrey. It has been an extremely long day,” Aunt Charlotte said.
“Of course, Miss Bradley. I shall have Mrs. Clark, our housekeeper, show you to your rooms,” Audrey replied.
“I think I should retire as well, Cousin. I am quite tired after the journey,” Sarah said, trying to hold back a yawn.
“Yes. I shall explain to Father. He will not mind,” Audrey said. She rang for the housekeeper and instructed her to show the ladies to their rooms.
“Sleep well. We shall see you for breakfast at eight,” Audrey said as they left the drawing-room. Aunt Charlotte continued in her silence as the housekeeper showed them to their neighbouring rooms.
“Goodnight, Aunt,” Sarah said jovially.
“Goodnight, my dear. Come to my room in the morning before you go down, won’t you?” she asked.
“Yes. We shall go down together,” Sarah nodded. She left her aunt at the door and entered her own lavish guest room. A four-poster bed graced the centre of the room, white crepe de chine strung between the posts. The room was done in the French style, complete with a lounge chair and vanity. Sarah looked around in awe at her beautiful room. It was even more lavish than her rooms at home in the country. She could not believe their luck at getting to call this home for the next few months.
“Is there anything else I can do for you, Miss Armstrong?” the housekeeper asked.
“No, thank you, Mrs. Clark. This will do very nicely,” Sarah replied.
“Very good. Goodnight, ma’am,” she said and closed the door behind her.
Sarah smiled as she explored her new room. She then changed into her nightdress and sat by the fire reading, too excited to go to sleep.
“I shall have no shortage of suitors, I’m sure,” she said, impersonating her cousin. She finally climbed into bed and stretched out on the soft, white sheets. Her stomach fluttered at the thought of having dozens of men flocking around her, the belle of the ball.
The next morning, Sarah awoke before dawn and hurriedly dressed. She pulled back her long, blonde curls into a simple bun, checking her appearance in the vanity mirror. Her deep blue eyes sparkled with excitement.
She left her room, sure to close the door quietly, and knocked on her aunt’s door at half-past seven.
Her aunt opened the door, already dressed and ready to go downstairs. “Come in, my dear,” she said.
“Good morning, Aunt. Did you sleep well?” she asked.
“Not very. But I am old, and my bones complain more. Sit down,” she instructed. They sat down near the hearth, which had been stoked recently and was warding off the early morning chill.
“What is it, Aunt Charlotte?” Sarah asked, hoping that she was not going to start complaining about their situation with Audrey and her father.
“I have been thinking. I would like to send out some enquiries about securing other accommodation. I do not feel comfortable staying here throughout the summer. It is an awfully long time, and I do not like the idea of inconveniencing the Lucases.” Her aunt wrung her hands nervously.
“Nonsense. You are overthinking this. Lady Audrey said that they were delighted to have us, as did Lord Lucas. Besides, it will be nice for me to have a companion my age, and you shall be able to visit with Lord Lucas. It is the perfect arrangement,” Sarah argued.
Her aunt got up to pace in front of the fireplace. “Very well. Then I shall tell you what I really think of Lady Audrey. I do not like the influence she could have over you. She is a few years older and knows London. You do not. She has been out for two years, you have not. She knows much more about the world, and I fear that her motives for having us here are not what they should be. I cannot put my finger on it, but I do not trust her, my dear. I do not want to see you get hurt,” her aunt explained.
Sarah stood and took her aunt’s hands. “Thank you for looking out for me. But I am not a child anymore. Lady Audrey is my cousin, and she would not hurt me for the world. I have known her all my life.”
“And I have known her since she was a child as well. She was a spoiled little debutante back then, and I do not see how much could have changed since. Perhaps she masks it better now. But she is a selfish, vain young woman that I do not feel comfortable with you being around, day in and day out,” her aunt said, releasing her hand from Sarah’s grasp.
Sarah felt herself growing angry. She could not help feeling that her aunt was trying to hold her back. She had been her sole companion for so many years. If Sarah did find a husband, her aunt would be left alone. Aunt Charlotte had never married. She did not know what it was like to be in love, to want a family. Sarah did not want her to hold her back from experiencing all the excitement that the season had to offer, simply because her aunt was afraid of it.
“Aunt, I cannot help but think that your only objection to Lady Audrey is that she is knowledgeable of the world. That is not a crime. I want to experience the season and soak up everything I can. She will not lead me astray, I promise,” Sarah replied, trying to put her aunt’s mind at ease.
“Very well. But please be careful around her. She is not all that she seems,” her aunt said.
“I shall be careful,” Sarah said. “Now, shall we go down to breakfast?” she asked.
Her aunt nodded and followed her out of the room. When they entered the dining room, Lord Lucas was the only one there.
“Good morning. I did not expect you to be down so early,” he said, smiling. He took a sip of his tea as the ladies were seated and served cups of tea.
“We are used to rising early. Country life, you know,” Aunt Charlotte replied.
“I agree. All this lounging about is not for me. The young people stay out until all hours of the night, dancing and tippling champagne. I cannot do it anymore,” he laughed. “But I’m sure Sarah will soon find out how London society works.”
“She will not be staying out so late as that,” Aunt Charlotte said.
“Of course. With this being her first season, I completely agree.” Lord Lucas said.
Sarah rolled her eyes. Her aunt was an awful prude. It would be a wonder if Sarah was able to find a husband at all.
“Ah, good morning!” Audrey said as she came into the dining room. She looked resplendent in a bright red silk gown, her hair arranged as if she were about to go to a ball. Sarah secretly wished that she looked so refined. She looked down at her simple pale pink dress and sighed.
“I am glad you are up early, Sarah. For right after breakfast, I think we should go through your clothes and see which ones will be appropriate for the ball.”
“I would like that very much,” Sarah said, glad that she had Audrey to help her navigate the intricacies of her first season.
Aunt Charlotte said nothing, keeping a wary eye on Audrey.
“Confessions of a Betrayed Lady” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Sarah Armstrong, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, has always dreamed of becoming a lady of elegance and sophistication. Visions of meeting the perfect gentleman fill her head as her first London season draws nigh. But falling in love with the man of her dreams proves anything but simple. Her maiden aunt protests when a charming young gentleman asks to court her. Finding herself next to the man she likes, little did she know that an old friend was watching jealously from the side, as he felt that something did not seem quite right about her new beau…When, in an instant, everything turns upside down in Sarah’s life, will she be able to entrust her bruised heart to Miles?
Sarah’s blue eyes have been haunting Sir Miles Farrington’s dreams for years. He has been in love with her since they were little, but mishaps seem to follow him wherever he goes, despite his attempts to act like a gentleman…His brother reminds him that he must stop his childish pranks if he wants to have a chance to win Sarah’s fiery heart. The more determined she is to avoid him, the more determined he is to win her heart. Will he be able to convince Sarah that they are meant to be together? And that she is perfect just the way she is?
When Sarah finds out that her new beau has only been courting her to get close to her cousin, she is devastated and outraged. This seems to be the perfect opportunity for Miles to claim Sarah’s wounded heart once again and prove to her that true love exists. Soon their paths begin to entwine more than either of them expected and they must find a way to unfold their complicated feelings. How is he to prove his love is genuine? Will he convince her that he is the one for her? In the end, is the choice actually hers to make?
“Confessions of a Betrayed Lady” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.