Haddows House, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
The gale had been blowing for so many days now, and with such strength, that Lady Sarah Hall wondered how the entire Haddows estate remained standing. Not that it was a ramshackle estate. On the contrary, it was one of the better-built manor houses in all of Warwickshire. It had to be. It had been built almost three hundred years earlier when King Henry VIII was still on the throne. The doors and windows were draughty, however, and the wind did howl and whistle noisily around the tall chimneys and the three pointed roofs. But heavy tapestries over the doorways and standing screens in front of almost every door dealt with the draughts, and if the noise grew too loud, she would simply play the piano and sing.
Whatever the weather threw at it, the house remained resolutely intact. It had even survived a few cannonballs thrown at it by Parliamentarian forces during the Civil War. One such cannonball had smashed through a window, flown through a door, and gone right through the grand staircase. For some reason, the family had historically retained the hole in the bannister, leaving it unrepaired.
“For posterity,” her father, Lord Godfrey, the Marquess of Haddows, had explained.
“To remind us,” her mother, Lady Jane, the marchioness, had agreed.
Sarah thought it spoilt the otherwise beautiful woodwork in the main hallway. However, it was not her house. It was up to her parents and her brother, Lord Charles, to carry out any cosmetic repairs like that. Or their descendants. And if they chose to leave them as a nod towards the family’s own part in the Civil War, then that was their decision. The family had sided with the royalists, of course, as had many of the Warwickshire families. But when a Parliamentarian general had come knocking on the door, wanting a room to stay in for the night, they had been forced to oblige. He had even taken the best room.
It was all there, in the history of the house and the family. And Sarah had been brought up with tales of the Tudors and the Stuarts and the Roundheads. The old residence teemed with history and intrigue. Sarah loved the house and all of its little idiosyncrasies—priest hidey-holes, secret rooms, and suchlike. However, it was not the same now that Nanny Anne was gone.
She and her nanny had passed many a happy hour playing games like hide and seek or touch or charades. In the summer, they played in the extensive gardens and among the mighty yew trees that had been there almost as long as the house had. In the winter, the house provided more than adequate nooks and crannies in which a child could hide. Whenever her brother was away at boarding school, Nanny Anne was Sarah’s constant companion, and they had grown closer over the years until eventually, they were the best of friends, despite the age gap.
Sarah sighed. She missed Nanny Anne so much. Not that Anne Quarry had been a real nanny, and referring to her as such, even in Sarah’s own mind, was paying the woman a disservice. Nanny Anne had actually been Sarah’s governess. However, despite her only being twenty-or-so years older than Sarah and quite spritely, Nanny Anne was a homely, middle-aged woman with soft features and a loving manner, making her more suited to the role of nanny than the stiff and sharp-edged role of governess.
Watching the leaves battling against the wind outside the drawing room window, Sarah thought back to the last time she’d seen her beloved friend. She had tried to remain brave, tried not to cry.
“I do not want you to go!” Sarah had wailed, stamping her foot like a spoilt child.
Nanny Anne shrugged her shoulders and gave the younger woman a cuddle. “I cannot stay here for ever,” she said. “You are all grown up now and no longer in need of a governess.”
“But you are my friend, my closest companion,” Sarah argued.
“And I will still be your friend. I am still your companion. I will write letters to you, and you can come and visit me in London.”
“Why do you have to go all the way to London?”
“It is closer than the north of Scotland,” Nanny Anne laughed. “It will not take as long for you to come by carriage to visit me at the London house.”
“Mama and Papa will not let me come to London unaccompanied,” Sarah said. “They say I am too young.”
“You are eighteen years old,” said Nanny Anne. “It will be your time soon enough. And when it is, you can come and stay with me. Please be happy for me, my lady. I no longer have to work, and I can finally enjoy the life I have long yearned for.”
Sarah pulled herself together. She was being selfish and childish. Of course, inheriting the Duchy of Lauder from a distant relative had been wonderful news for her friend. She changed the subject and dragged the older woman over to a settee to sit down. “Tell me again how you managed to inherit the estate, being a woman.”
Nanny Anne eyed the clock on the mantelpiece over the fireplace and seemed to decide that she had time to go over it all again with her former charge.
“The law is slightly different in that part of Scotland, apparently,” she said, dropping down on the settee next to Sarah and pulling her gloves off again. “That is how my aunt held onto the duchy in the first place. And most likely why she never married. Or one of the reasons, at least.”
“Did you know her?” asked Sarah.
“I remember her from a long time ago before my own family fell on hard times, and I had to pursue a career instead of waiting for a man to come and marry me. We had no money, so I had nothing to offer a man.”
“Apart from your loving nature, your intelligent conversation, and your pretty face,” Sarah reminded her sternly.
“Well, the topic never came up, and I had to find my own way. Now I can afford to go and live the life of luxury I was denied. I will be able to go to all of the London balls, and I will not need a chaperone at my age. And whenever I feel like it, I can travel all the way up to the northern wilds of Scotland and pretend to hunt deer.”
“When in fact, you will be drawing them,” said Sarah. For Nanny Anne was a most accomplished artist. That was something else they had always done together: drawing and painting.
“Yes!” she replied with a bright smile. “So, be happy for me and come and visit me as soon as you can. Even if your parents force you to stay at the London residence, you will still be able to visit me, and I will be able to visit you.”
Suddenly, a funny thought occurred to Sarah. “Will I have to refer to you as Your Grace, now you are a duchess?”
She watched as her former nanny considered that. “I suppose that you will when we are in public.”
“Oh, I wish I could come and live with you there. We would have so much fun. I could be your companion, and you could act as my chaperone, and I would not have to marry anyone either.” She glanced around at the familiar room in the familiar house. “I wish that I could inherit Haddows House,” she said.
“Do not wish for such things,” said Nanny Anne, tapping her sharply on the knee. “In order for you to inherit all of this, even if the same law applied here, your brother would have to die first. And you do not want that to happen, do you?”
Sarah frowned. She had not considered that. “No, of course I do not want him to die. That would be terrible.”
“He is also the eldest,” Nanny Anne reminded her. “So even if you were both girls, you still would not inherit.”
“No,” said Sarah sadly. “I suppose that I would not.”
Nanny Anne waited for a beat before standing up again. “I really do need to get on,” she said, pulling her gloves back on. “The carriage will not wait all day for me.”
“Are you staying in Warwick overnight?” asked Sarah, also standing up and walking to the door with her friend.
“I believe that I will,” said Nanny Anne. “I do not know what time the last stagecoach is, but I would rather not be setting off for London in complete darkness.”
Sarah went to the main entrance and pulled the big tapestry curtain to one side. It had not been as windy on that day, yet they still felt the instant draught come in around the edge of the heavy oak door. They had hugged, and Sarah had remained at the door until the carriage disappeared at the end of the long driveway. And then she had let the tears come.
That had been only three weeks ago, but it felt like a lifetime to Sarah. Puttering around the big old house without her friend to keep her company made her realise that, actually, there was not a great deal to do in the country. Her parents kept busy managing the estate and arranging or attending social get-togethers or charitable events, but all Sarah had to do now was read or sew or play the piano.
She sighed again and flopped down on a chaise longue, resting her hands on the backrest and her chin on her hands so she could stare out at the bare winter garden. Her eyes followed the long, straight path that led to a wrought-iron garden gate set into a brick wall, beyond which was the yew garden. Many large country homes had follies, little summer houses, or miniature castles or turrets. Haddows House had yew trees.
How did the trees fare in such strong winds? Some of them were very old and quite tall, but many were still growing, although a team of gardeners kept them well-clipped and neatly pruned into shapes. She could see the taller trees beyond the wall bending under the strain of the gale. According to the newspaper, which she had filched earlier from her father’s study once she was sure that he had read it, the winds were much stronger on the east coast, and the sea had breached the sea walls in the coastal villages of East Anglia. Farmland was flooded, and livestock had been lost. Unusually for the east coast, a number of shipwrecks had washed up on the beaches as well.
She glanced at the newspaper lying on a low table in the middle of the room, along with the letter she had received from Nanny Anne. Sarah had already read the letter three times and felt as though she knew the contents off by heart. That did not stop her from reaching over to read it through again.
I wanted to let you know that I have arrived safely in London. I spent one night in Warwick, in a hotel—can you imagine? Me, in a hotel? They looked after me very well and did not let me forget that I am now a duchess. And I was up bright and early the next morning to catch the first stagecoach. There is another at noon, but I wanted to get an early start.
We had a good journey and were not molested by highwaymen. The weather was a different matter, of course, but that is only to be expected at this time of year. There were six of us in all, inside the carriage, who were travelling the whole way to London. There were not many passengers who travelled outside the carriage, but that is probably more to do with the time of year. I certainly should not like to be travelling outside in December.
Our carriage arrived in Ludgate Hill, which is not far from St Paul’s Cathedral, less than one week later. We did very well, apparently. I would have liked to have stayed at the coaching inn, La Belle Sauvage, for at least one night as it is rumoured that Pocahontas stayed there back in the seventeenth century. But at the same time, I was eager to see my new home.
I will write to you again as soon as I am settled, and we will arrange for you to come and visit me soon. I have included the address for you to write back to me.
“La Belle Sauvage,” said Sarah out loud, practising her French pronunciation. “The Wild Beauty.” Yes, she could understand why her former nanny would want to stay in such a place. “How romantic!”
Dreamily, she turned to stare out of the window again and was alarmed to see what looked to be a tree hurtling towards the house.
Brandon Smith was enjoying some well-earned time off. In actual fact, it was not time off, rather spare time. He was kicking his feet in Warwick until he could continue on with his journey. He had a full four days in between leaving his position as under-butler at a house in Warwickshire and joining the stagecoach to London, where he would start his new role as the butler in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. He knew that Lincoln’s Inn Fields had a reputation for being the legal centre of London, and many of the townhouses around the square had been commandeered by legal companies whose partners practised law in the city. Some of the townhouses had been knocked together to form larger business premises, and other larger houses had been split into two for the smaller companies. But there were a few houses left that were still homes, and one of those was where his final destination lay.
Having cadged a lift into town from one of the local farmers, he had managed to get an advance ticket for the stagecoach that left Warwick first thing on Monday morning. Until then, he had a few days off, and he intended to spend them exploring this historic town and some of the surrounding area.
Brandon was a big fanatic of the works of William Shakespeare. He did like the plays, but he preferred the poetry and fancied himself as a bit of a poet, too. Knowing that the great bard had possibly tramped these very streets in his youth, or even in the later years before he died, filled Brandon with excitement. He promised himself a bit of a pilgrimage to nearby Stratford-upon-Avon before he left for London, where he hoped to learn more about his lifelong hero. Brandon had a secret desire to have his own poems published, and he thought a trip to the town where the man had been born, was married and had died would be the inspiration he needed.
His parents had looked down on his aspirations to be a poet, reminding him that in order to make his way in the world, he would require actual employment rather than dreaming about writing. However, an elderly relative on his mother’s side, his uncle, William Jenkins, the Earl of Stone, had secretly encouraged him every time Brandon went to visit him, telling him to pursue his dream in his spare time and earn his income in the same way that ordinary folk did so. His uncle said that if Brandon’s poetry became successful, then he could leave whatever employment he found, but at least he would have work to fall back on while he was both learning his craft and getting it published. Failing that, Uncle William had hinted that Brandon may one day come into an inheritance that would support his passion, and he could forget all about having to earn a living altogether. He might even be able to fund his own publishing with the legacy.
Sadly, Brandon’s parents were both dead now, and so were his sisters. They had been taken by a fever that had turned out to be highly contagious and had swept through Brandon’s home village. None of the doctors knew what the fever was or how it was caused, only that it spread like wildfire and killed very many people in the process. Brandon had been working at the residential courthouse by then, closer to the town, learning his craft as under-butler to the household, and so he did not catch the fever. It was the worst day of his life, however, when he’d had to bury all of his family all in one day. There was no property there to inherit. It had all been rented, and he had been given a week to empty the house of his family’s possessions. Not only was he an orphan at the grand old age of nineteen, but he was also homeless and on his own.
Apart from Uncle William.
Uncle William was still going strong, and he offered Brandon a place to visit on his occasional days off from work and a place to live if he ever found himself in search of employment. The chattels he had rescued from his family home now resided in a barn on his uncle’s estate. However, he had not truly seen his uncle since stowing his belongings there.
That was six years earlier, and now, at the age of twenty-five, Brandon was embarking on the next phase of his life, having been offered a promotion that had been arranged by a colleague of the gentleman he was working for as under-butler. The two gentlemen were solicitors who had studied through both university and law school together, with Brandon’s current employer, Mr Michaels, coming to practice in Warwick and his colleague, Mr Norbert, going to London.
When Mr Norbert’s neighbour’s butler had suddenly died, the butler Brandon reported to and learnt his craft from, Mr Parrot, had given him an excellent reference and had written it out several times in case Brandon felt up to applying for any other similar positions.
To whom it may concern.
Mr Smith is charming and gregarious, good-natured, and loyal. He is a hard worker and keen to learn. As well as that, he also maintains a respectful relationship with the other staff, who all feel that they can trust him implicitly, myself included.
Whilst I would be very sorry to see him go, I would not hesitate to recommend him as a butler and feel that I have completed my task well of training him.
G.M. Parrot, butler to T.W. Michaels Esq., LLB (Hons)
In the event, the reference was used only the once and had worked. And so, perhaps, had a similar recommendation from Mr Michaels himself, via Mr Norbert. Brandon was going to work for a duke! He had been granted so many days to say goodbye to his friends and pack his things, and then he had gone to Warwick, on the back of that kind farmer’s cart, for the first leg of his journey.
Brandon had written back to Mr Parrot at the old place to let him know where he was staying for his few days in Warwick. As soon as he arrived safely at the house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, he would write to Mr Parrot again so that the butler might forward any post to him. Not that Brandon received many letters. The only person who did write to him now that his family were gone was, indeed, Uncle William.
Whilst he was in Warwick, Brandon decided that he would spend one day travelling to Stratford-upon-Avon, perhaps take a rowing boat out on the river, if the boats were allowed out whilst it was so windy. And he would spend another day visiting his Uncle William, whose small estate was not far from Warwick either, in a place called Stoneleigh, to which the ‘Stone’ part of his uncle’s title referred. The earl had several businesses scattered around Warwickshire, where he had made his small but perfectly adequate fortune.
Today, though, Brandon was exploring Warwick, where he admired and marvelled at the Tudor architecture, the half-timber buildings and tall chimneys, the narrow, cobbled streets and, of course, the old castle. Once a fortification, the castle was now a private home with landscaped gardens on the banks of the River Avon, the same river that ran through Stratford-upon-Avon. Despite that, the family who lived there did welcome visitors during the summer months. Unfortunately, it was the middle of January, but that would not prevent Brandon from going to have a look in any case.
In his pocket, he carried a small sketchpad, a pad of small sheets of parchment that were stitched together at the top, in which he also wrote versions of his poetry as well as sketching places of interest to him or caricatures of people he encountered. He patted the pocket to make sure the sketchpad was still there, also feeling a couple of stubs of charcoal that were wrapped in parchment to stop them turning his pocket black with dust.
Despite the gale-force wind that had been blowing for several days, the town of Warwick was relatively protected. Brandon had wrapped up well, with a good thick greatcoat, a warm scarf, and a hat, as he wandered the cobbled streets in his good, sturdy boots. If the weather had been fine and dry, he would have lingered outside the many buildings and monuments to make quick sketches or draft a few lines of verse. Instead, he stood and stared for several minutes as he committed the images to memory, hoping to capture them with the charcoal when he returned to his lodgings, and then he moved along to the next one.
He was staying at the Roebuck Inn, which was reputed to have been in the town since the 1400s, and he had already sketched the exterior. In particular, he had picked out the higgledy-piggledy lines of the four-hundred-year-old coaching house as well as how the roof sagged in the middle, or where it looked as though it once had another chimney. And he had drawn a close-up of the shingle that hung outside the hostelry, declaring it to be open for business. The Roebuck Inn was actually a public house rather than a hostelry. However, the landlord and landlady did let the private rooms out to travellers, and as it was January, with hardly any visitors, they had jumped at the chance of Brandon renting out one of their rooms for a few days.
These few days off were like a little adventure to Brandon and his only regret was that he had no one to share it with. He wanted someone to talk to, to indicate the various points of interest on a building’s façade and explain why they were there and what they depicted. He wished he had someone who would ask him questions about the history of a place or with whom he could speculate on what might have happened in the past or what might become in the future. He longed to have someone he could go back to the inn with and share a meal or a drink with, in front of the roaring fire, and they would laugh and reminisce about the day they had just had.
Had he not already been planning on visiting his Uncle William, he would have written it all down in a letter to the old man, knowing full well that his uncle would take great pleasure experiencing the visit vicariously through his nephew. A thought occurred to Brandon as he considered this: Should he have asked Uncle William to perhaps meet him in the town so that they could have explored together? Probably not. Uncle William would be old and infirm by now and would probably tire easily. Better that Brandon write it all down in his book anyway and tell his uncle all about it when he saw him next. He would even show his uncle any drawings he had completed.
Of course, what Brandon truly needed and wanted was a family of his own with whom to share such things. Perhaps he would meet a nice young lady in London…He shook his head. It was better not to speculate but to wait and see, for he would only be disappointed if he did not meet anyone within the first few days. For the time being, he would concentrate on the here and now and he would go to his uncle’s house on Friday and to Stratford-upon-Avon on Saturday. Perhaps by then, the wind would have calmed down, and the River Avon would not be as choppy as an ocean.
Having made up his mind and feeling just a little worn out by the strength and vivacity of the wind, Brandon Smith made his way along the narrow Tudor streets back to the Roebuck Inn on Smith Street. He smiled every time he thought of the name of the road. It could have been his very own road!
The fresh air must have been doing him good, or perhaps it was the exercise, for Brandon ate a hearty supper before turning in and sleeping right through the night, despite the storm that was still raging outside, rattling the windowpanes and the doors and hurling loose roof tiles onto the roads below. He also ate a large breakfast before making his way to the coaching house, where he would join a carriage going to Coventry that would drop him off at and pick him up again later from the village of Stoneleigh, which was on the way.
If he had time, he would walk up to Stoneleigh Abbey, which stood on extensive grounds and sketch the house there too. Perhaps he might be able to convince his uncle to go on a carriage ride to visit the abbey. The wind had dropped a little, and Brandon knew that Uncle William had friends at the abbey who would be pleased to see him.
The coach dropped him off at the end of his uncle’s drive and with a spring in his step, he approached the house the earl had built himself.
Haddows House, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
The Marquess and Marchioness of Haddows, who were in their mid-fifties, were simple traditionalists, and their daughter, Lady Sarah, already knew that they would not be happy for her to go gallivanting off to London on a whim. The Halls of Haddows were very much still in love with each other, and they believed that true happiness could be found in the home and with the family. They had no wish for their daughter to move far away. She could go to London for the Season when they were good and ready to accompany her, and not before, if at all. Sarah knew all of this, and yet she also knew that she still had to ask them if she could go and stay with Nanny Anne.
Unfortunately, waiting for a suitable moment to raise the subject with her parents would not arise for several days now that they had the tree incident to sort out. Fortunately, the tree that the gales had thrashed loose from a neighbouring property had stalled when it reached the ha-ha that kept any sheep away from the manicured lawns. Unfortunately, it had damaged the ornamental bridge that the family used to cross the ditch that separated the farmland from the formal gardens. Sarah’s father had gone out himself to examine the damage, along with two of the groundsmen and the estate manager. They had all worked well into the evening, ensuring that the broken bridge was at least safe, and that no sheep would be able to cross into the ornamental garden.
It was no great matter, really, for the main drive crossed the ha-ha at a different place across a larger stone bridge that was far more suited to horses and carriages than the little decorative one the ladies crossed in their slippers. Even so, it was still a trial for the Halls to contend with and even if it was not, they were usually far too busy to listen to their daughter’s complaints about how bored and lonely she was.
Sarah would simply have to take a deep breath and speak to them. However, she would give them their Thursday evening to get over the shock of the tree incident first.
It was Friday now, and another letter had arrived from Nanny Anne, who was already safely ensconced in the Lauder residence in London. She must have written the letter the very next day following the first letter.
I have settled in nicely to the new house, which had been aired and well-stocked for me by the staff—oh yes, I have my very own staff! Every one of them bobs or bows to me whenever I enter a room, and they all call me ‘Your Grace’. It is very odd but also most exhilarating. I do not know for how long I will be able to put up with it before telling them all to simply call me Anne. Or even Miss Quarry if my Christian name is too informal for them. However, for the time being, I intend to enjoy it to the fullest.
The house is very big. The kitchens are on the first floor, an attic where the servants sleep, and four floors in between. Plus, a large garden at the rear and even a stable on the other side of the wall. And I have it all to myself! If this is the London residence, I cannot imagine how vast the country estate is likely to be in Scotland. I do not think that I will grow very lonely here, however, for the house is full of all of these servants and, oh, the callers!
I have experienced a visiting hour already, which apparently occurs every day, every morning, in fact, at precisely eleven o’clock. I did not realise that there were so many titled individuals who had nothing better to do all day than visit other titled folk who also have nothing better to do all day. Especially handsome young gentlemen who, I feel, would be far more suited to you, my dear, than they are to me. It also appears that I need to have some visiting cards made, with my name on them, so that I, too, can take my turn calling upon others who do not even know to expect me.
London society anticipated my arrival with a bundle of invitations to an assortment of events. There are so many to choose from, and several of them clash. I hope that I will choose wisely between them and not offend anyone in the process. For example, there is a high tea in Holborn, a ball in Chelsea, and a fund-raising event in Whitechapel that will benefit the charity school children, all on the same day. I do not know how to prioritise.
There seems to be a ball or a dance of one kind or another every evening of every week, either at the Assembly Rooms or in a private residence. It seems that Lady Bartlett is the social leader in private balls and dances. However, I have yet to see an invitation from that esteemed hostess.
I wish that you were here so that you may be able to enjoy it all with me, for I am certain that you would enjoy it. Indeed, I hope that you will be able to come and visit me soon. Otherwise, I fear that I may be rattling around this vast house with its endless floors and corridors all on my own until my dying day. In fact, should you not hear from me for a while, I would be grateful if you could send out a search party to ensure that I have not collapsed in some disused room and expired!
I have included details of the address again so that you can reply straight away. And please do approach your parents with the suggestion that you might come and join me.
Sarah sighed both with happiness for her friend and frustration for herself. However, the arrival of the letter did spur her into making a decision. Regardless of the tree incident, she would speak to her parents over dinner that very evening.
The Stone House, Stoneleigh, Warwickshire
Meanwhile, in another part of the county, William Jenkins, the Earl of Stone, was delighted to see his nephew.
“What a splendid surprise, my boy,” he said brightly when the butler showed Brandon Smith into his study. The earl looked genuinely pleased to see him.
Brandon was also surprised. It had been a while since he had seen his uncle. Years. And yet here he was looking as well as he had done the last time he had seen him. Better, in fact, if anything.
“You are looking well, Uncle,” he said truthfully, shaking the man’s hand. Uncle William stood up from his desk to embrace his nephew, and Brandon breathed in the smell of his cologne. It was a woody smell, and it would forever remind him of his uncle.
“Can I get you anything, my lord?” asked the butler.
Uncle William looked to Brandon for guidance. “You are early. Have you had any breakfast?”
“Yes, I have, but I would not refuse a cup of tea. It is cold and windy out there still, and I hope I have not caught a chill.”
Uncle William arranged with the butler for a tray of tea to be brought to the study. He sat back down in his desk chair and indicated that Brandon sit in the leather armchair facing him.
“It is good to see you, my boy,” said the earl. “What brings you to Warwickshire?”
“I am on my way to London, Uncle, where I have a new job.”
Uncle William’s face broke into a big smile. “You must tell me all about that,” he said.
Over tea, Brandon did just that, without leaving anything out.
“And now I find that I have two or three days to spare before continuing my journey, and I wondered if you would like to take a carriage ride to the abbey?”
The older man glanced at the window and stared for a good few minutes as a gust of wind blew a heap of leaves into the air. Taking a deep breath, he shook his head and turned back to Brandon.
“I fear it is far too cold to be gallivanting around in this weather at my age, but if you would like to use the carriage yourself, you are most welcome to it.”
“I would far rather sit and talk to you if it is all the same, Uncle,” said Brandon.
“That is a splendid plan, my boy,” said Uncle William. “And while you are here, perhaps you can show me some of your butlering skills.”
Haddows House, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
It was difficult to get a word in. Despite being sat at different ends of the incredibly long dining table, the marquess and the marchioness maintained a constant chatter discussing the tree incident of the previous day.
“We really ought to send them an invoice for the repairs,” Sarah’s mother said.
“It is not their fault that we are in the midst of the biggest storm in history,” said her father.
“And nor is it ours!” exclaimed the marchioness. “And yet not one of our own yew trees has blown over, let alone travelled all the way into our closest neighbour’s front parlour.”
The marquess laughed indulgently at his wife. “It was hardly in our front parlour, my dear,” he said.
“Even so, we only had that footbridge installed last year. I would have liked to have a little more enjoyment out of it than we have.”
“And you will again,” said the marquess, raising his wine glass in a toast to his wife.
“You are quiet, Sarah,” said her mother. “What do you think of the situation?”
Sarah shrugged her shoulders. “What can we do, Mama?” she said. “The storm is an act of God. I am certain that they did not mean for it to happen.” She did not wish to discuss the stupid tree. Sarah wanted to ask her parents about going to London. She took a deep breath and took the plunge. “My mind is on other matters in any case.”
“What other matters?” asked her father.
Her mother added, “Surely these matters are not as important, my dear?”
“They are to me,” said Sarah, hoping that she would be given permission to continue. She held her breath as she stared first at her mother and then at her father. The marquess waved his knife in the air as if to tell her to speak.
“I have had a letter from Nanny Anne,” she said. But before she could continue, her mother jumped in.
“I thought you had a letter from Miss Quarry only yesterday. Or is that the same one?”
“Her Grace has written to me twice now,” she said, emphasising her friend’s correct title.
“She will always be Miss Quarry to me,” said the marchioness.
“Just as she will always be Nanny Anne to you,” said her father.
They did that all of the time, finishing each other’s sentences. Usually, it made Sarah smile, but today it frustrated her a little. She pressed her lips together as she gauged what to say next.
“What does the duchess have to say?” asked her mother at last.
“She would like me to go and visit her—”
“In London?” asked Lady Jane, startled.
“Or in Scotland?” asked Lord Godfrey.
“She is in London. That is where her letter yesterday came from, too,” Sarah reminded them, trying to keep the impatience out of her voice.
“It is out of the question,” said her mother.
“Will you not at least consider it?” asked Sarah.
“We have,” said her father. “If your mother says it is out of the question, then it is out of the question.”
And so ended the conversation. For now, at least.
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Lady Sarah Hall has always been a bit of a dreamer, feeling stifled by her parents and her boring life in the country. When Sarah’s closest friend inherits the Duchy of Lauder, Sarah wants nothing more than to go with her to London and enjoy the high life. Little did she know that her parents would never trust the newly minted duchess to take responsibility for their only daughter, leaving Sarah with no choice but to run away…
What will happen when her heart skips a bear after meeting Brandon, the most charming man she could dream of, on her way to London?
Brandon Smith, Duke of Howard’s new butler, has been cruelly hit by fate and left almost alone in life, after an epidemic took away his family. When Brandon meets Sarah though, his heart will overflow with hope and special emotions that he has never felt before. However, he soon realises that he is not the only one captured by Sarah’s beauty and that he will have to move heaven and earth to claim her pure heart.
Two gentle souls caught in an emotional whirlwind…
Not long after, there will come a time that neither Sarah, nor Brandon, will be able to deny their powerful connection. However, not only Sarah’s parents, but also a wicked man, will trap them into an endless turmoil. Will Sarah and Brandon’s love prove strong enough to save them when they find themselves venturing in deep and dark waters? Will they be able to continue the love journey that has brightened up their lives, or will it come to an end once and for all?
“The Lady Who Ran Away” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.