Letter from Quamby House parlour maid Sally Cooper to her older sisters.
Dear Mabel, Agnes and Dorcas,
This is another one of them letters where you’ll have to choose what’s only good and proper to report to the little ‘uns, cos I can tell you that the goings-on at Quamby House between Her Grace and an actor fellow called Mr Ambrose ain’t fit for their innocent ears—notwithstandin’ that I won’t ever criticize my beautiful lady duchess since she gived me her fine spotted muslin from only last season and a tippet wot she said reminded her too tragically of her last lover.
So, here’s the gossip and I can’t see a happy endin’ in sight for either the new house guest Miss Montrose or my beautiful duchess—who must know she’ll burn in hell for runnin’ from her duties attendin’ to the earl’s gouty foot to makin’ secret plans with her new actor fellow, Mr Ambrose in his bedchamber. (Not but that the earl don’t seem to care what she does as long as she’s there to play cribbage when he wants and to lean on her when they go out and about.)
Well! Last week, along came beautiful Miss Montrose for a five-day visit and you could have knocked me down with a feather when I were told that His Grace, the Earl of Quamby’s horrible nephew Mr George Bramley were going to marry ‘er. Me beautiful duchess didn’t like it either, for that’s when she said she were goin’ to get Mr Ambrose to do some sly work and see if Miss Montrose had a sweetheart lurkin’ in the shadows for Miss Montrose—sure as God made little apples—couldn’t want to marry Mr Bramley.
If you ask me, Miss Montrose is madly in love with Mr Bramley’s friend, Mr Patmore, a very kind and charming gentleman wot came here to buy a horse and were ever so generous, givin’ me two shillings for stoking up his fire ‘just as he likes it’, he told me. Ah, but I can see why Miss Montrose would be mad for him, wot with his handsome brown curls and twinking grey eyes, an’ I can’t understand why she refused him. Yes! She refused him for I saw him ask her when I were taking the stable boy his dinner. She wouldn’t let him go down on one knee and be all romantic, and then later I heard her cryin’ in her bedroom.
It’s a mystery and it don’t make sense she’d want to go ahead and marry that sly, cowardly Mr Bramley when her heart is breaking for noble, brave Mr Patmore who wants to marry her.
But what do I know of love? Just that I’m more determined than ever on bein’ a good girl and not takin’ as my example my beautiful duchess who I overheard Mr Bramley say would turn black and pockmarked with her corruptness—though the whisper is ‘e once ‘ad a passionate affair with her, though he were, in truth—madly in love with her sister, Miss Fanny Brightwell, who rejected his marriage offer.
The last word is that the two sisters—my beautiful duchess and Miss Fanny—are plotting to get Miss Montrose and Mr Patmore together. And when my beautiful duchess hatches a cunning plan, she always succeeds.
Must go and change the bedsheets. There’s more dirty linen in me life than you can shake a stick at; and since there’s nothin’ here you can read to the little ‘uns, just tell ‘em that thanks to Mr Patmore’s generous two shillings, I’ll come home Sunday next with three sugar mice for each of ‘em.
Your loving sister Sally
Devil’s Run, by Beverley Oakley
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A rigged horse race – and a marriage offer riding on the outcome. When Miss Eliza Montrose unexpectedly becomes legal owner of the horse tipped to win the East Anglia Cup, her future is finally in her hands – but at what cost?
George Bramley, nephew to the Earl of Quamby, will wager anything. Even his future bride.
Miss Eliza Montrose will accept any wager to be reunited with the child she was forced to relinquish after an indiscretion — even if it means marrying a man she does not love.
But when the handsome and charming Rufus Patmore buys a horse from her betrothed, George Bramley, whose household her son visits from the foundling home, her heart is captured and the outcome of the wager is suddenly fraught with peril.
**This is book 3 in the Scandalous Miss Brightwell series, though it can be read as a stand-alone.
This excerpt begins after Eliza has just plunged into the lake to rescue three drowning children and their nanny. Having dragged them – and herself – to shore, she makes a shocking discovery.
Eliza had forgotten what it felt like to enjoy a man’s attention. He’d started to dry her in a vigorous attempt to warm her but then his touch gentled and he simply stared down at her.
The wonder in his eye as he murmured words of praise was a rare sensation. Embarrassed, she turned away. Yes, turned away because she could not afford to be so obviously disquieted by another man when she was affianced to George Bramley who stood a few feet away from her. He was also staring but there was no softness in his countenance.
Hoping to avoid any more gestures of admiration or kindness from Mr Patmore, Eliza politely extricated herself and put out her hand to arrest the progress of the Foundling Home lad whom Nanny Brown was pursuing with a piece of dry linen.
His impish grin reminded her of young Miss Katherine’s, Lady Fenton’s daughter. Clearly the two had had a great adventure unlike Young George who was lying on his stomach upon the grass, shaking with sobs.
“Did you drink a lot of water, Young George?” Eliza asked, looking down at the crying boy but he ignored her. “I said we shouldn’t go out! I said!” He pounded his fists. “No one ever listens to what I say!”
Eliza shared a wry smile with the rather lovely Mr Patmore whom she found still staring at her but, as he looked about to approach her again, she turned her back on him and instead brought the Foundling Home boy to stand in front of her now that she’d succeeded in catching him. Eliza would not have Mr Bramley – or anyone else – accuse her of encouraging the attentions of a man not her betrothed.
“Jack – that’s your name, isn’t it? Well, you’ll have something to tell them back at the Foundling Home.” She’d seen him only from a distance and now, mud bespattered and with his hair matted over his forehead it was difficult to make out his features though she knew from various anecdotes that young Jack distinguished himself for keeping Miss Katherine’s wilfulness in check and peace between Katherine and her cousin, Young George.
Jack stood obediently before her as he started to wring out his threadbare shirt. “Nah, I’m fine, m’lady,” he said, glancing up to reveal a pair of small white teeth in a freckled face. “But thanks for savin’ me, an’ all.”
Eliza was about to let him go. Releasing her grip a second later might have changed the course of her life, she thought later that evening, and perhaps it would have been better if she had. Why repeat the trauma she’d already experienced?
But for now she was acting on instinct and instead of letting him go when it would have seemed natural, her grip on his wrist tightened while the air in her lungs disappeared, and she had to open and close her eyes three times before she was ready to believe what she saw.
“Gideon?” There seemed still no air to say his name. A great pressure was building in her head. Finally she was able to gasp in a breath, forcing herself to resist the urge to draw him into her embrace and wail her joy.
How many other boys of seven years sported a tiny extra claw on their left hand? Or had been thrust into the cold, unloving world of the Foundling Home, she thought bitterly.
He stopped what he was doing to look at her uncomprehendingly and she added faintly, “Though that’s not what they call you, of course.”
An amused look crossed his face, making him look older and wiser than his seven years. Nearby, the weeping and wailing George was a puling infant. Smiling at her was a little man.
He pushed out his chest and said in a tone that was neither boastful nor self pitying, “There’s some ‘at call me Devil’s Cub, or bastard, but at the manor here they call me Jack.”
Devil’s Cub? The sixth finger accounted for the nickname, of course.
“Miss Montrose?” In the distance, Lady Fenton was calling her. Eliza was suddenly shaking like one suffering the ague. “Jack,” she repeated in a whisper, still staring at him as she clenched her own fists. Was the child tormented by his deformity? It looked as if not much troubled him though Eliza couldn’t remember how many times Eliza had been told the sixth finger was God’s punishment upon her bastard babe.
“Miss Montrose! Come away! Susan is waiting in the house with a warm bath and blankets. You must be chilled to the bone!”
Vaguely, she could hear the sounds of concern all around her but all Eliza could focus on was the impish face before her: that of her lost child.
Other Books in the Series:
Meet Beverley Oakley
Beverley Oakley was seventeen when she bundled up her first her 500+ page romance and sent it to a publisher. Unfortunately drowning her heroine on the last page was apparently not in line with the expectations of romance readers so Beverley became a journalist.
Twenty-six years later Beverley was delighted to receive her first publishing contract from Robert Hale (UK) for a romance in which she ensured her heroine was saved from drowning in the icy North Sea.
Since 2009 Beverley has written more than thirteen historical romances, mostly set in England during the early nineteenth century. Mystery, intrigue and adventure spill from their pages and if she can pull off a thrilling race to save someone’s honour – or a worthy damsel from the noose – it’s time to celebrate with a good single malt Scotch.
Beverley lives with her husband, two daughters and a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy the size of a pony opposite a picturesque nineteenth century lunatic asylum. She also writes Africa-set adventure-filled romances tarring handsome bush pilot heroes, and historical romances with less steam and more sexual tension, as Beverley Eikli.
You can get in contact with Beverley at: