Miss Ella Ward gave her hand a good shake and did her best to stretch her back in the wooden seat. She used the moment to steal a glance out of the window. Already the sun was setting, and lamplighters were making their rounds.
Spring was on its way in, and each day got a little bit brighter. Still, Ella saw little of it. Instead, she sat in her chair, working in the back room of her mother’s dress shop. Occasionally she would get up and move her simple wooden chair to keep her project in the sunlight streaming through the small kitchen window.
However, soon the sun would begin its descent down below the London buildings, and Ella would be forced to light the rush to work by. It was a poor source of light, but with the residual sunset streaming in, it was enough. The lamplighter was often the signal that the last rays of the sun were about to disappear, and it was time for her to switch to the costlier but brighter oil lamp.
She could hear her mother beyond the curtain that separated the small kitchen from the shop up front. She was showing several of Ella’s latest dress designs to a very indecisive customer. Ella had the sudden desire to be the one out front with the customers, rather than back in the kitchen doing the stitching.
She repositioned the long line of cut fabric over her lap before taking up the needle again. It was a simple cream-coloured muslin dress for morning wear. It was so simple; in fact, Ella was having difficulty focusing on it.
The customer who ordered it was a bit of a regular of Mrs Ward’s Dressmaking Shop. The daughter of a lesser baron married to a shipping merchant, Mrs Henson, seemed to sit on the gentry’s fringe. For her, that meant the need for morning dresses, something Ella had never needed, and yet never had the financial means for anything beyond simple and plain designs.
Ella liked to consider herself somewhat of an aspiring dressmaker. Often ideas for new gowns came to her through the day and night, and she would be compelled to sketch them outright at that moment no matter the hour. Most of the more intricate designs were saved in a collection next to the shared bed in the shop’s back half. The standard, practical designs were the ones that made it to the front of the shop to be given as options.
Mrs Ward’s shop simply didn’t have the clientele of the upper crust of society. Having rented the spot just off the main Covent Garden road of shops, they were often passed by. It didn’t stop Ella from making one of her creative, elaborate designs to at least sit on a form in the front window of the shop.
She had promised her mother, Maria, that she would only work on these creations in her private time, late into the night as her mother slept. Then she would hang them in the window once finished hoping that someone would see it and wish to it buy one day.
The Wards were not starving as many families seemed to be in London’s bustling centre, but they certainly were not well off. Things had gotten significantly harder when Mr Ward had lost his arm at the factory. As the shift foreman, Mrs Ward had considered it a less dangerous job. Still, when the shuttle on the machine had stuck partway through, it was Mr Ward who had reached his hand in to restore it to its place. The gears had not been completely locked in place. As he reached into the contraption, the gear’s teeth had settled into place, switching the weaving pattern and severing Mr Ward’s arm at the elbow.
Back then, Mrs Ward had been taking laundry in. Ella fondly remembered those younger years where she sat by her mother’s washtub playing with rag dolls and smelling the lavender-scented lye soap. With the added income of washing and a foreman’s higher pay, the Ward family had been reasonably comfortable, almost middle class.
Mr Ward’s arm had never healed all the way, however, and soon he took a fever. He knew the hardship his death would be on his little family and therefore made a valiant effort to fight for his life. In the end, he lost the battle.
The few regular clients of washing were not enough to support the two in the humble London apartment. Mrs Ward had always been handy with a thread and needle, and friends had complimented her often for the skills she showed with her own homemade gowns.
Seeing that this skill was the only hope for herself and her daughter to survive without both being sent to the factories themselves, the two ladies left their comfortable home behind. They took up residence in the small shop.
The first few years had been the worst. There were many nights both Ella and her mother retired to bed with empty bellies. The landlord cared little that Mrs Ward was widowed and starting her own business from scratch. All that concerned Mr Brown was that the rent was paid on time when he visited the shop every month.
Ella was twelve when her father died, and they moved to the shop. She had learned basic math and reading at a small school provided by a lady in their apartment building Now, however, basic reading had been deemed sufficient for her needs, and instead, all of Ella’s time was spent learning her mother’s skills.
With only one pair of hands making the dresses and seeing to the mending, it would not have mattered if they had a hundred customers a day. One seamstress simply did not have enough hours in the day to work to keep both their mouths fed.
By Ella’s thirteen year, Mrs Ward began to trust her daughter to make entire dresses all on her own. When she wasn’t doing the simple work for the shop, Ella did the household duties. She learned quickly how to cook, clean, and see to all the needs in their home so that her mother could focus solely on filling any order that came through their shop door.
Now Ella was twenty, and life was finally starting to get comfortable again for them. With a few regular customers from the gentry, they were able to fill their bellies every day.
Though Mrs Ward’s dresses were the finest in London in Ella’s opinion-and in many other opinions as well-they were still not well known by many beyond the middle class and lesser gentry. Ella knew it was in the upper-class of society that they would genuinely find enough work to provide regular security for their shop.
Though they were no longer starving, their current financial situation was tenuous at best. If anything was ever to happen to Mrs Ward—who was now getting on in age—they still didn’t have enough loyal clients for Ella to keep the shop up on her own.
This future grew closer and closer as Mrs Ward’s arthritis seemed to ail her more and more every day. Ella had done her best to take on the brunt of the work, leaving her mother now to tend to the customers at the front of the store or see to the household chores. She had also set aside her love for designing and creating extravagant gowns. Instead, she opted to use her late-night sewing sessions to do extra orders to spare her mother the pain of working.
As of yet, they had not had to turn any customers away for lack of sewing hands, but Ella feared the time was not far off when Mrs Ward would be unable to contribute to the seamstress duties at all. Then Ella would be responsible for all the work required to keep them up on rent and well-fed.
It was a worry never spoken of between the mother and daughter, yet always present in the room with them. For Mrs Ward, the answer was to just keep working through the pain. To push herself harder, and no doubt into the grave next to her husband. Ella knew this was not a practical solution.
If they were to get their shop in the view of the ton, they would be getting new orders by the hundreds. It was well known that fine ladies wanted new dresses to stay up with the changing fashions every Season. With that amount of work brought in by a higher class of clientele, they could charge more for intricate designs and take in enough orders that hiring an extra seamstress could be manageable. “Your head is always in the clouds wishing to be somethin’ you’ll never be,” had been Mrs Ward’s opinion on her daughter’s desires. “Makin’ them fancy dresses to sit in the window. Thinkin’ some fine lady’ll come on down this road and wish you to make ‘em for her. You need to stop the dreamin’ and use the wasted time to work.”
With her mother’s arthritis and the cold of the last winter, Ella had no choice but to take her mother’s advice. The same dress had sat in their window front since last August, whereas she would have always changed them out with the changing seasons in the past. Instead, the same dress had tried its hardest to entice a new class of customers unsuccessfully while she had done her best to take on her work and as much of her mother’s work as she could.
Ella Ward let out a long sigh as she continued her simple stitch that would run the length of the skirt when the tinkling of the bell caught her attention. She stilled for a moment. She could hear her mother still working with one client while the voices of two new customers came in behind her.
“Ella,” her mother called back from the store.
Grateful for the break from the tedium, Ella stood and set the half-made gown on the wooden kitchen table. She felt like a rusty machine as her joints moved again for the first time in hours.
It was an oddity to have two customers simultaneously, let alone with the hour stretching on to supper time. Ella expected it was Mrs Smith come to collect her husband’s jacket. Ella had planned to deliver it in person in the morning, as she often did for the lesser gentry, but clearly, Mrs Smith had come in knowing it should be done by now.
To Ella’s surprise, when she slid through the curtain, it was two young misses that stood in the shop. They were both dressed in fine cotton walking dresses with fashionable hats elaborately decorated with pheasant feathers. They were looking at the dress in the store window.
“My daughter, here, will be happy to assist you,” Mrs Ward announced to the two ladies.
“I’d be happy to show you some designs if you’re in the market for a new gown.”
Ella reached below the table that separated her from the front of the store as she always did with new clients.
“I’m actually quite intrigued by this one,” one of the ladies spoke, pointing her gloved hand at the model.
It had been one of Ella’s riskier designs. The high waist had split to reveal a soft blue silk skirt below. The dress’s bodice was in the blue silk plaited together along the neckline with a delicate pink lace fringe. The back of the dress had gathered slightly at the empire waist with a modest train that trailed just slightly longer than the hemline.
“Would this not be perfect for Friday’s dinner that Viscount Rothburd is hosting, Lady Clarissa?” the girl continued to her friend.
Ella’s heart skipped a beat as she came around the table to join the two ladies. For once, her work had attracted the attention she had hoped it would.
“I don’t know, the sleeves are all wrong for this Season.”
Lady Clarissa picked at the pink lace that hemmed the long sleeves.
“It won’t take me long at all to shorten the sleeves if you wish it, your ladyship. You would look right pretty in it, and I would guarantee to have it done in time for your fancy ball,” Ella responded with a polite curtsy as she came up to them.
Both ladies studied her for a second, though one with a much friendlier eye than her companion.
“It’s not a ball, dear, just a private dinner,” Lady Clarissa spoke with exasperated distaste.
Ella expected to be looked down on by these two ladies but hadn’t anticipated the sudden streak of resentment that suddenly boiled up inside her.
“Oh, hush, Lady Clarissa. She had no way of knowing that,” the companion responded, waving her friend off. “My, where are my manners. I’m Lady Pamala Edmundson, and this is my dear friend, Lady Clarissa Rowe.”
“Ella Ward,” Ella responded, adding a second curtsy for good measure.
“Do you really think you could alter the sleeves and have it done by week’s end, Miss Ward?” Lady Pamala asked, looking back at the dress.
“More than just the hem,” Ella responded, lighting up at the prospect of selling one of her own designs to a bonified lady of the ton. “We could make them capped, and I’d ruffle ‘em up like the bodice and reattach the lace. Wouldn’t that just be lovely?”
“I think that would be perfect,” Lady Pamala stated though she turned to her friend for confirmation.
“I suppose it would do for a private dinner party,” she reluctantly agreed.
She took off a glove and rubbed the silk between her fingers.
“It’s not the finest material, but it will just be a few families, and since the Season hasn’t truly begun, I see nothing wrong with wearing the gown.”
Ella was keenly aware that it wasn’t the finest silk, but it was the only silk she could allow herself to buy when they had no real need for the material in their shop. Most of their clients stuck to muslin and cotton. There was also the fact that she had made this particular dress from an old design taken apart and re-sewn in a new fashion. Silk was delicate, and she knew that it had suffered under the extra handling.
“Good,” Lady Pamala nodded.
She shined a satisfied grin at her friend’s reluctant approval.
“May I please take this one then, Miss Ward? I would be happy to settle the account right now and return Friday afternoon to retrieve it,” Lady Pamala asked turning her attention back to Ella.
“Don’t you want to know the price first?” Ella blurted out.
She was still getting over the shock of finally attracting high society into the shop. She could barely register that someone would actually buy one of her own designs.
Her mother made a disapproving sound behind her at the sudden crass outburst.
“Perhaps we should have the price first? This certainly isn’t Madame Malcome’s,” Lady Clarissa spoke as her eyes wandered the whole shop sceptically.
Ella was familiar with Madame Malcome’s Millinery Shop. It was only two blocks away from their own and directly on Covent Gardens. It was where most ladies of the ton brought their fabrics to be sewn into dresses.
“Nonsense,” Lady Pamala said waving off her friend.” I can clearly see this is a fine establishment, with a keen eye for quality work. In fact, I only wish I had found this little gem sooner.”
They made their way over to the counter, Ella walking around it, reaching down, and pulling out an order slip. She started to write down the lady’s name and information, including the date to complete the work.
“Mrs Ward, really, I still must give half up front,” Mrs Henson huffed next to the two ladies. “One would think after years of patronage, such a thing would not be required.”
“I beg your pardon, Mrs Henson, but it is our store policy,” Mrs Ward calmly explained as she did every time Mrs Henson ordered a new garment.
Ella did her best to ignore the other conversation. She passed the slip on to Lady Pamala for her approval. She barely looked at the price before opening the coin purse that had hung from her wrist and producing the full amount.
Ella was amazed as she watched Lady Pamala pull out one guinea after the next. When she had four produced, she slid them over to Ella.
“I don’t want any change,” Lady Pamala announced. “I know it will be hard work to finish the alterations in such a short time, and when you have other orders to fill, I think this price is more fair than the one offered.”
“It’s a half-pound more!” Ella stuttered. “I can’t take it!”
“Nonsense,” Lady Pamala repeated.
It seemed to be a practised habit to dismiss any good deed or opinion that she had as a common occurrence.
“Lady Pamala, it’s a ready-made item,” her friend reminded her.
Though the price reflected a milliner’s design, Lady Clarissa was subtly suggesting that it was nothing more than a jobbing seamstress’s pre-cut work.
“It is an original piece. I promise you that. I designed it myself,” Ella interjected with her delicate chin jutted out.
“And I expect you made the lace yourself?” Lady Pamala encouraged.
“Yes, your ladyship.”
““Then well worth the price, even if it’s ready-made,” Lady Pamala commented to her friend.
Ella knew her mother would scold her for vanity later, but she couldn’t help but beam with pride as her hard work was given recognition. However, her moment was short-lived as she was jolted out of it by the jingle of the front doorbell as the entrance to the shop swung open yet again.
She nearly dropped her mouth open in shock that three clients could possibly be in the shop at once. She recovered quickly, noticing who it was. As he liked to be called, Mr B had been expected to collect some embroidered monogram handkerchiefs that evening.
Ella automatically reached behind the counter and produced the ready-made package for her mother to give over once she was done with Mrs Henson.
“Ah, what a splendid surprise. Lady Clarissa,” he said with a bow to the two ladies.
“Mr Brummel, what a pleasant encounter,” Lady Clarissa said with an entirely different countenance. “I don’t believe you have met my friend; this is Lady Pamala Edmundson. This will be her first Season out in society,” Lady Clarissa explained.
“I know your brother well. I am not sure there is a more hard-working gentleman than the Duke of Winthrope,” Mr Brummel explained as he bowed to his new acquaintance. “I would hope you will do me the honour of a dance at the Dowager’s ball after you are presented.”
Ella struggled to take this all in. She would have liked to kick herself for not realizing that Lady Pamala Edmundson was the sister to the Duke of Winthrope. She had seen his name many times over the years in the newspaper.
What was worse, she had never realized that the pleasant Mr B was none other than Beau Brummel, a close friend to the Regent and authority on all things fashionable for the ton. He had been patronizing their shop for years, though only on sporadic occasions as he often preferred the country over London. Even when away from town, though, he had written to Mrs Ward asking for her monogrammed handkerchiefs as he favoured the embroidery design developed by Ella.
Mr Brummel scooped up his package, leaving a pound in its place for the four silk handkerchiefs.
“What has brought you ladies to this little treasure of a shop this evening?” Mr Brummel asked the ladies by way of pleasant conversation.
“Lady Pamala was rather insistent on purchasing the dress that caught her eye in the window,” Lady Clarissa explained.
“One of yours, Miss Ward, is it not?’ Mr Brummel asked.
“Yes, sir.” Ella nodded, struggling to regain her composure.
“I’ll expect you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better milliner shop than Mrs Ward’s here, what with Ella making the designs,” Mr Brummel commented.
Ella’s eyes widened almost as big as Lady Clarissa’s at the firm announcement.
“You’re always too nice with your words, Mr B,” Mrs Ward said after bidding Mrs Henson a good evening.
“Well, they are certainly not undeserved,” Mr Brummel reiterated. “I enjoy how readily available you have always been for any job big or small I bring to your door, but I know it is only a matter of time before the rest of the gentry discover how fine an establishment this is. I dare say when that time comes, you’ll scarcely have time to make me a riding jacket.”
Mrs Ward blushed and waved off the high praise. Lady Clarissa still looked astounded that such a man as Mr Brummel could think so highly of this little shop off Covent Grove.
He checked his pocket watch and stored it properly.
“Well, I must be off. Until we meet again, Mrs Ward, Miss Ward. And a good evening to you ladies as well.”
He bowed politely before exiting the store.
Two high-society ladies’ appearance was enough to give Ella hope that their shop had a future yet. Still, the high praise of Mr Beau Brummel and in the earshot of a duke’s sister was enough to send her near to fainting from excitement.
“Mama, can you believe it?” Ella exclaimed after all their customers had left the shop. “All this time, him bein’ Beau Brummel. And a duke’s sister! If tomorrow is half as good as today, we are sure to be set for life!”
The Duke of Winthrope let out a heavy sigh as he exited the carriage and walked up the short path to his London home. Despite the warm and inviting lights already emanating from the house in front of him, the Duke took little comfort from it.
He had arrived in London just over a week behind his mother and sister. Both had insisted on not wasting a moment of this Season away and desired to arrive in town well before the official start to make their necessary preparations.
Of course, he understood their urgency. This was to be Pamala’s first Season out in society. His solicitor had already informed him of a large sum charged against the estate in preparation for the upcoming Season.
He had no need to curtail his sister’s or mother’s spending but still was not looking forward to the added burden it would present to his estate and his time. It was his time that made him the most uncomfortable.
The Duke was more than energetic when it came to his civic duties in the House of Lords and very active in running and improving his lands. Still, when it came to society, he preferred to avoid those duties. With a sister coming out in society, he wouldn’t be able to circumvent this Season as he managed to do over the past few years.
He would be required to chaperone her as she was presented the first time at court, escort her to various balls, dinners, and events, including her very own ball hosted by his mother.
The Duke didn’t wish to deny his sister all the glamour and splendour that could be offered to her as she came out in society, but at the same time wished he didn’t have to participate in it as well. She had waited patiently for the last two years, and it was for this reason, he mustered his resolve to do what he must for her sake.
The expectation had been that Lady Pamala Edmundson would be presented before the Queen Mother in her sixteenth year, as was common practice. All of her education had been situated to prepare her for that moment. However, everything had changed when the Duke’s father had suddenly passed the winter before Lady Pamala’s sixteenth year.
It had been devastating to every member of their family, coming so quickly and so unexpectedly. Out of respect, they had stayed home that first Season to mourn in private. Still, as the next came into view, the Dowager Duchess had not yet recovered from the loss of the late Duke.
Lady Pamala had been understanding and kind, as was her nature, and agreed that another Season spent in the comfort of their Essex home was best suited for the whole family. The Duke rather thought it was overly mature for her age to be willing to sacrifice a moment so highly anticipated for young ladies for the sake of her mother.
Now, Lady Pamala was eighteen, and if she were not to make her presence in society this year, it would undoubtedly inspire questions from the ton. The Dowager Duchess had put on her brave face, did her best to shake out the sorrow from her heart, and focused all her attention on a successful first Season for her daughter.
The Duke had considered this a healthy distraction for his mother as the task had given her some purpose again. He almost wished he had insisted on their return to society a year earlier if only for the marked improvement it gave his mother.
If he could have but sent his sister and mother to London alone to navigate the balls, dinners, plays, operas, and so much more of the Season, he would have sent every shilling he had along with them. However, that was not to be the case.
The Duke certainly didn’t consider himself a recluse. Still, when it came to frilly dressed ladies in ballrooms tittering behind their fans at unsuspecting gentlemen, he was vehemently opposed. He had seen enough of the ton his first few years as a young pup. He had no desire to interact with any of the lot ever again if he could help it.
Yet with a heavy sigh, he entered the front door of his London home, knowing that this visit was to be much different. Instead of visiting on occasion throughout the Season to complete his duty to the Lords, he would be staying the whole extent and leaving his social calendar completely in his mother’s hands.
“Winthrope, we wondered when we might expect you,” his mother exclaimed at his entrance into the ladies’ drawing-room.
He found both his mother and sister seated in the well-furnished room near the hearth and a glowing fire. As he expected, Lady Pamala was bent over her embroidery with a brow furrowed in concentration. In one of her black satin dinner dresses, his mother had set aside the book she had been reading to welcome her son home.
“Pamala, have a lantern brought over. You look like you are straining your eyes far too much,” the Duke scolded.
“I told her the very same thing,” the Dowager agreed as she took her place back on the soft sofa across from her daughter.
Lady Pamala finished her stitch before looking up at her brother.
“I can see perfectly fine by the firelight.”
“You know there was a time when you came running to hug me when I came home,” the Duke scoffed as he took a seat next to his sister and nudged her with his shoulder.
He was a sombre man most of the time, but nothing brought a smile out of his dark visage like teasing his little sister.
“I expect at my age that would be very unbecoming. Besides, that was when you would be away for months at a time for school. I saw you only ten days ago. Hardly enough time to warrant a hug,” she teased back.
The Duke let a humph of disagreement but let the subject drop.
“What are you doing there? I expected I would return home to find you and mother huddled together in a corner, counting the coins you plan to spend on the morrow.”
Lady Pamala let her eyes roll exaggeratedly.
“One would think I am sending you to the poor house the way you go on about it,” Lady Pamala retorted.
“So what have you been up to?” he asked with a chuckle. “What is this bit of scrap you are working on?”
He tugged at the item in Lady Pamala’s hands just as she pulled it away from him. Lady Pamala had always had a passion and talent for needlework. As a result, she was rarely found without her sewing basket and a project in hand.
“I’m embroidering down the hem for my court dress,” Lady Pamala replied.
She held out the section of the long train of satin that was tight in a hoop. The intricate golden peacock feathers reflected the firelight, giving them an almost glittering effect against the white fabric. “
“How do you already have a dress to embellish? Ten days ago, you and mother were just beginning to discuss milliner options. Although, that doesn’t look like much of a dress,” he finished lifting up the length of fabric that trailed from her lap along the couch and over the arm so that it just hovered above the ground.
“Pamala has the ridiculous idea of making it herself,” the Dowager chimed into the conversation. “I’ve told her over and over that she will not have time to make one herself without completely shutting herself away for the next three weeks. There is far too much to still plan to let her do such a thing.”
“Yes, Pammy, let someone else make the gown, then you can add all your bits and ribbons after. No sense in running yourself into the ground. This is meant to be a Season for you to enjoy yourself,” the Duke agreed with his mother.
Lady Pamala wrinkled her button nose at the mention of the nickname the Duke had called her as a child. The Duke was half tempted to tug on one of her chocolate ringlets as he used to do when she was young to really get her riled up.
It mattered little that Lady Pamala was now eighteen, and he was nearly twenty and five. When the two of them were together, they were always the silly little children that once ran all over the country estate to hide from their nurse.
“I don’t find this tedious; I enjoy it,” Lady Pamala informed them. “Besides, this is meant to be special, and nothing would be more dear to me than a dress of my own design and workmanship.”
Lady Pamala looked up at her big brother with matching rich chocolate eyes. He held her gaze for only a second before rolling his eyes and letting loose a big sigh. The Duke was stern and demanding in just about every aspect of his life, except when it came to his litter sister.
“I suppose you will just let her have her way then,” the Dowager spoke with her own sigh, not letting her eyes leave the book she had returned to. “You know, your father had a much firmer hand with her.”
The Duke looked to his sister, questioning the validity of that statement, and Lady Pamala scrunched her nose again and shook her head in disagreement with her mother’s statement. They both knew that it was, in fact, the Dowager Duchess who had been the serious and proper parent of the two.
He leaned back in his seat and relaxed. Already the tension of the trip, with its impending societal obligations, seemed to melt in the background as he enjoyed the company of the two most important ladies in his life.
“If I do recall correctly, Pammy obsessed over horses after Nurse read her one bedtime story about a little girl and her pony. After a mere week of this little five-year-old asking for her own, Father presented the little pony with a ribbon tied about its neck. I believe he even taught her to jump it,” the Duke ended on a chuckle.
The Dowager closed her book loudly.
“It was you who taught her to jump,” the Dowager countered.
The Duke looked at his sister again, who this time shrugged and nodded to the truth of her mother’s statement.
“Perhaps, I did.”
The Duke tried his best to remember.
“So I suppose my advice will fall on deaf ears, and you will let her have her way on this matter too,” the Dowager Duchess spoke serenely, “but I won’t have you staying up and losing sleep over it. I won’t have you stand before the court sallow-faced and exhausted.”
“Of course not, Mother.” Lady Pamala did her best to hide the smile that played on her lips.
“Nor will you shirk your duties regarding the preparations. We still have the ball to plan for.”
“I am sure whatever you choose will be perfect for the event. I would only nod in agreement with whatever you pick. You can’t possibly want me for that?”
The Dowager Duchess pursed her lips at her daughter. She was still a beautiful woman, though on now in years. Her hair, once matching the soft honey brown of her son’s, had long ago turned white. Like her son, she shared the same angular features and jaw with matching scowl.
Lady Pamala, on the other hand, had favoured her father in looks and temperament. Both with darker hair that curled quite tightly naturally. Like her father, she was a bit round in the face, always making her look slightly younger than she truly was. With her sweet looks and gentle temperament, Lady Pamala was perpetually cherished by all. She would always be a heavenly ray to the rest of the family.
The Duke did tug on his sister’s hanging ringlet at that comment.
“You really are hoping to get away with everything, aren’t you?” he joked. “This is a very important Season for you,” he continued in all seriousness, “and Mother does know what is best for a proper introduction. It is best to do as she requests, at least some of the time.”
Lady Pamala stuck her tongue out at her brother before turning back to her work. It was clear she was conceding to his advice.
“Oh, Pamala, most unbecoming!” their mother scolded. “And it is not just for her this Season holds weight,” she continued, now turning her attention on the Duke.
“Me?” he stuttered out.
“Yes,” the Dowager spoke with exasperation that she would even have to explain such a thing. “You bear your father’s title and the weight of the Dukedom now. It is time you made a proper match.”
The Duke’s face instantly darkened, and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
“I will make the inquires ahead of time and find the best ladies suitable,” the Dowager pressed on, “and thereby give you easy navigation of all the unattached ladies. It won’t be like what happened before.”
“I’m far too busy to find time to do a marriage justice. Perhaps in a few years.” The Duke tried to brush off his mother’s suggestions.
“Your sole responsibility is to secure the line of your title. Nothing is of more importance than this,” the Dowager pressed on. “It must be dealt with now. I assure you I plan to thoroughly vet any lady I put to you first.”
“I really am exhausted. Perhaps we can discuss the matter later.” The Duke attempted to change the subject.
“You were so young back then, it was easy to be…well…anyway…” The Dowager stumbled as she knew she was now treading on a very sensitive matter. “The point is, you are older and wiser now. It’s not good for you to hide away from the world, busy yourself with jobs that could be easily given to another, all because of one silly girl.”
“You’re mistaken, Mother,” the Duke did his best to force a smile, “I hardly even think about her. In fact, I can’t remember the last time she crossed my mind up until this moment. I simply have no desire to waste my time among shallow and unreliable people. Shallow and unreliable is the pure definition of society ladies in my opinion.”
“Hmph! You would rather assume that than risk being disappointed again. You shut yourself out from the whole ton all because of one bad experience.”
“That’s not true. I haven’t shut myself from all of the ton. I still have you and Pammy,” he did his best to lighten the mood. “The two best members of society if you ask me. And let us not forget Lord Fennimore.”
“Your family hardly counts, nor does the second son of an impoverished viscount who is in your employ.”
“I’m afraid, Mother, it will have to be enough for now.” The Duke spoke with finality to his tone.
The Dowager pursed her lips again but said nothing. She knew better than to push the Duke any further. He was just as stubborn as he was severe. Pushing the matter would only cause him to dig his heels in deeper.
“I’m exhausted. Long journey and all that. I’ll expect my room has been made ready by now, so I think I’ll wish the both of you goodnight,” the Duke said, coming to a stand.
The light mood had been lost, and the Duke had no desire to stay longer in his mother’s company when she was bound to find a new way to approach the subject. His sister gave him a weak, sympathetic smile as he bid the pair good night and retired early to bed.
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Miss Ella Ward, the daughter of a poor seamstress, has always dreamed of becoming a dress designer and catching the eye of even the most prominent figures in London. However, when her beloved father dies, she dedicates herself to working by her mother’s side, to make ends meet. Her luck will finally change when a young lady becomes astonished by her talent and hires her as her personal dressmaker, spiralling her into a world she only dreamed of joining. It won’t be long until Ella’s world turns upside down once again, when she meets the lady’s charming brother and becomes unable to stop daydreaming about his sparking gaze. Will Ella manage to survive and find love in a world that is totally unknown to her? Could she truly have the fairytale ending that any other girl of her class would die for?
After the unexpected loss of his father, Ross Edmundson, The Duke of Winthrope, has become distant, burying himself in grief. Carrying the extra wound of a past love, he has refused to open up his heart again and much to his distaste, he must suffer through the upcoming season as chaperone to his young sister. Everything is about to change though when he sees the beautiful seamstress of his sister and day by day realises he is desperately falling in love with her. However, he knows that this love would be against society’s rules and that he would have to clash even with his own mother, who would undoubtedly be against this romance. Will the lonely Duke find the strength to defy everything for the sake of love? Could Ella be the one to finally sew his broken heart back together?
Ross and Ella cannot deny their blossoming feelings and they are desperate to make amends that will bring them closer to their happily ever after. However, a malicious figure who has set eyes on the Duke, tries to sabotage Ella and take her out of the picture once and for all. Will the honourable Duke manage to protect her from a world that keeps breaking her gentle heart? Will the two soulmates eventually beat the odds stacked against them or will they fail to break down the walls that keep them apart?
“Mending the Duke’s Heart” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.