Dr Will Fitzgerald is thirty years old. He was born and brought up at number 67 Merrion Square, Dublin and is the younger son of Dr John Fitzgerald and his wife, Sarah. Will’s elder brother, Edward, is a major in the British army and is serving in India.
Will studied medicine at Trinity College, Dublin with his best friends Fred Simpson and Jerry Hawley. He then joined his father’s prosperous medical practice but quickly grew tired of treating rich hypochondriacs. Will left the practice and set up his own medical practice in the Liberties area of Dublin, living in a gable-fronted Dutch Billy style house on Brown Street South.
When A Scarlet Woman opens, Will is nursing a broken heart and is expecting to be a poor and lonely bachelor doctor for the rest of his life. His fiancée, Cecilia Wilson, has ended their engagement. Will had agreed that after their marriage they would live at number 67 with his parents but he refused to stop practising medicine in the Liberties and rejoin his father’s practice. Cecilia did not want to be the wife of a doctor whose practice is in a poorer area so she married Clive Ashlinn, a rich barrister, instead.
On the eve of his wedding, Fred Simpson brings Will and Jerry to a brothel in Dublin’s red light district, known as Monto. Little does Will know as he reluctantly follows Fred and Jerry inside that the scarred and disgraced young woman he meets that night will alter the course of his life and he will soon put Cecilia well and truly behind him.
Dublin, Ireland, 1880. Tired of treating rich hypochondriacs, Dr Will Fitzgerald left his father’s medical practice and his home on Merrion Square to live and practise medicine in the Liberties. His parents were appalled and his fiancée broke off their engagement. But when Will spends a night in a brothel on the eve of his best friend’s wedding, little does he know that the scarred and disgraced young woman he meets there will alter the course of his life.
Isobel Stevens was schooled to be a lady, but a seduction put an end to all her father’s hopes for her. Disowned, she left Co Galway for Dublin and fell into prostitution. On the advice of a handsome young doctor, she leaves the brothel and enters domestic service. But can Isobel escape her past and adapt to life and the chance of love on Merrion Square? Or will she always be seen as a scarlet woman?
Read an excerpt from Chapter Two…
Reaching Merrion Square, he found a gate to the gardens ajar. He hadn’t been in the gardens for months so he decided to make a circuit in the evening sunshine. About half way around, he stopped dead when he saw Cecilia seated on a bench with a book open on her lap. As if sensing she was no longer alone she turned.
“Will?” she said, in faint surprise.
He moved forward reluctantly, taking off his hat. “Mrs Ashlinn.”
“Please call me Cecilia.”
“I would rather not. I am due to dine with my parents, so if you would—”
“You hate me, don’t you, Will?” she interrupted.
“I wouldn’t describe it as hate – more of a disappointment in you for not having the decency to tell me in person that our engagement was over.”
She flushed. “I have hurt you deeply and I can only apologise. You will find someone worthy of you, I’m sure of it.”
“Someone who will be content with a husband whose medical practice is in the Liberties? I can only hope so. Please excuse me, Mrs Ashlinn.” He put on his hat and walked away from her, his heart thumping.
His mother took one look at his face as he was shown into the morning room and got up from the sofa. “Oh, no, you’ve seen Cecilia,” she said, putting a glass of sherry down on a side table then kissing his cheek.
“Whiskey, Will?” His father, dressed more like an undertaker than a doctor, in a black frock coat, trousers, and black cravat, was standing at the drinks tray in a corner of the room with a crystal decanter in his hand.
“Yes, please, Father,” he replied, before turning back to his mother. “I hadn’t been in the gardens for a while so when I saw an open gate, I decided to make a circuit. Unfortunately, she was sitting on one of the benches. She saw me before I could avoid her. Thank you.” He accepted a glass of whiskey from his father. “When are she and Clive moving?”
“Tomorrow,” his father replied.
“And I’ve ruined her last evening here. What a pity.”
“You weren’t too rude, were you?” his father asked as they sat down.
“No, just rude enough. Good health.” He raised his glass and drank, noting the dark circles under his father ’s eyes. Unlike his mother ’s hair, his father ’s hair was now all grey and turning white at the temples. “You look tired,” he commented, and his father ’s eyebrows rose and fell.
“I had a long night last night, Will,” he explained. “I was sitting with a patient who died just after four o’clock this morning. She was briefly your patient at the practice – Miss Harris.”
“Miss Harris…” Will tailed off and racked his brains. “Miss Harris – yes – good God – she must have been a great age.”
“Ninety-nine,” his father replied. “She put her longevity down to not being married, and she very much wanted to live to a hundred, but it wasn’t to be.”
“I’m sorry to hear she has passed away, I used to enjoy chatting with her,” he said as his father stifled a yawn. “Have an early night tonight, if you can,” he added, and his father nodded.
“You’ll meet someone worthy of you, Will,” his mother told him, and he fought to hide his irritation at her steering the conversation back to Cecilia.
“That’s what Cecilia said, Mother.”
“I hear Frederick and Margaret are back from London.” His father swiftly changed the subject. “I cannot believe Frederick is married now. It seems like only yesterday when the three of you were starting at Trinity College. How is Jerry, by the way?”
“Oh, the same as ever,” Will replied. “I showed him around Brown Street last week.”
Will smiled. “He wished me good luck. He said he would find a spot for me on Harley Street if I was so inclined.”
“Except you are never going to be so inclined.”
“I’m not in it for the money, Father, how often—”
“I know,” his father interrupted. “I just don’t want to see you struggling in Brown Street in ten years time, no better off in any way than you are now.”
“You think I’m going to end up a poor and lonely old bachelor doctor, don’t you?” he asked.
“Your mother is not the only one who worries about you.”
“Edward has everything – army career – wife – and now a child. I have a medical practice in the Liberties and not even a fiancée anymore. Sorry about that, Father.”
“Will,” his mother warned. “Don’t.”
He peered down into his glass. “I’m sorry. Once Cecilia is gone from the square, and people stop commiserating with me, it will get better. I suppose it is getting better already. I faced her. I spoke to her. Not very civilly, I admit, but I did. Soon I’ll be wondering what I ever saw in her.”
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Author: Lorna Peel
Title: A Scarlet Woman
Genre: Victorian Historical Romance
Cover Designer: Rebecca K. Sterling, Sterling Design Studio
Ebook and Print Formatting: Polgarus Studio
Mrs Langtry (cover): Photo credit: The National Archives UK / No known copyright restrictions
Gun Powder Office (cover): Photo credit: National Library of Ireland on The Commons / No known copyright restrictions
Photo credit: irinaraquel via Foter.com / CC BY