London, Saturday Last
Although I was thrilled to receive your letter now that you are settled in, I find your new situation most tenuous and upsetting! One can hardly believe that you have no decent milliner in that little town of Clun that you and Randall have moved to, but to also know that a young woman serves by choice to be the town’s layer-out of the dead is most disturbing. I found myself in need of respite after reading your letter the first time through. I cannot imagine the dire straits you find yourself in. Does anyone in that little town serve as your equal? I dare hazard a guess that there is none amongst them worthy of sitting in the same parlor as you.
I do hope Randall understands your sacrifice. While I know he has business interests in the area and hopes to expand into milling and manufacturing, he cannot expect you to reside there forever, does he? Men. Our husbands have no understanding of the sacrifices we make do they?
It is not the same here in London without you. I find I must take tea with the Chatsworth sisters more often now, and I find them much less entertaining without you. They are in need of advice as their daughters are coming of age and shall debut next fall. I do not hold much hope for either of them. Both seem too mousy and indelicate in features and personality. I have forgotten twice now that they were in the same room with us upon meeting with them. Can you even imagine being so forgettable?
As you expected, the snow is beautiful and banked deeply along the Thames as our winter has been a cold one so far. Ms. Starling sends her well wishes and has promised to make you a special hat for me to bring to you, since you have no milliner worthy and equal to her skill in your quaint little town. I shall ask her to use some of that lovely blue fabric you commented on during your last visit.
Please do come and stay with us. You need never wait for an invitation. When you come you must tell me all about this scandalous woman who deals with the dead. Despite my efforts to be only appalled at the thought of it, I find myself quite curious as to what such a woman would look like and act like.
With all my love,
About the Book, Lovely Digits
When two murders strike the sleepy Victorian town of Clun, England, an unlikely partnership forms. But can the killer be found before there is a third?
Lovely Digits is the town oddity…
But quirky spinster Lucy Wycliffe prefers to ignore gossip and embrace her position as the town’s layer out of the dead, despite how her parents’ deaths thrust her into such unlikely work. Lovely Digits, as she’s known to the local townspeople, no longer dreams of marriage, but takes pride in providing dignity to the dead. Desperate to hold on to her family’s cottage and support her widowed sister and young niece, an unexpected offer of employment as assistant to the constable arrives at the perfect time.
Former sailor John Brodie is the mysterious new constable…
But John Brodie is far from a stranger to Clun or the events of its past. Accepting the position as constable in the small town is a double edged sword meant to heal his past and redeem his future, but falling for the beautiful and intelligent Lucy Wycliffe was never part of his plan. As the killer closes in, will John reveal his secret and risk losing everything to save Lucy’s life?
Old Man Codger’s frozen toe rolled across the floor toward the door.
“Lord above. Mind the corner, sister,” Lucy muttered. She blew an errant curl from her cheek as they swung the man’s stiff body onto the scarred wooden table in front of the hearth. The body landed with a thud.
Blast. Lucy scanned the floor. Nothing. Where had it gone? She lifted her skirts.
“There you are,” she grumbled. The rogue digit rested between the scuffed heels of her old brown boots. Using the edge of one of the sleeves of her faded blue blouse, she leaned down and clutched the rather putrid, large hairy toe and placed it on the man’s chest. Now she’d have to sew on a toe, too. A frozen toe.
Priscilla covered her mouth with the back of her hand and yielded a dry retch. Plugging her nose, she rolled her eyes. “There has to be another way.”
Lucy eyed her pert younger sister and sighed. At thirteen, Cil was on the cusp of womanhood. There were so many things she would miss from their parents not being there to guide her. The guilt over the death of Mother and Father a month past stung like a barb under Lucy’s skin. If only she’d arrived home at the cottage sooner instead of lingering about the forest to find her pet starling. She banished the thought away.
After tying back her hair, Lucy pushed up her sleeves to the elbow. “If there had been any other option, we’d have done it. It’s either prep him for burial or starve. It’s just us now, Cil.”
The old man’s time in the woods had not been kind to him, but at least the extreme cold had kept the insects at bay. A white milky maggot dropped from his nose to the table. Lucy shuddered. Most of them. She loathed insects, especially worms. Things that could move without legs weren’t natural.
“Hand me the needle and thread.” Lucy rested her hands on her hips. “I need to get this toe sewn back on when he thaws. I’ll not be docked pay for him missing parts.”
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About the Author:
Jeanine Englert is a Golden Heart ® Finalist, Silver Falchion Award Winner, and Daphne du Maurier Award Winner in historical romantic suspense. After years of writing in secret, she joined Romance Writers of America and Georgia Romance Writers in 2013 and has been an active member ever since. She writes Scottish Highland historicals and historical romantic suspense novels.
When she isn’t wrangling with her characters on the page, she can be found trying to convince her husband to watch her latest Masterpiece or BBC show obsession. She loves to talk about books, writing, her beloved pups, and of course mysteries with other readers on Twitter @JeanineWrites, Facebook, or at her website www.jeaninewrites.com.
Her debut novel, Lovely Digits, released in June of 2019 by Soul Mate Publishing, is a Victorian romantic suspense that won the 2020 Silver Falchion Award for Best Mystery and the 2020 Maggie Award for Best Romantic Suspense. It also won the 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award and was named a 2018 Golden Heart ® Finalist for best unpublished romantic suspense. Her latest novel, The Highlander’s Secret Son, will be released in May of 2021 by Harlequin Historical.
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