Dublin, Ireland, 1881. Will and Isobel Fitzgerald settle into number 30 Fitzwilliam Square, a home they could once only have dreamed of. A baby is on the way, Will takes over the Merrion Street Upper medical practice from his father and they are financially secure. But when Will is handed a letter from his elder brother, Edward, stationed with the army in India, the revelations it contains only serves to further alienate Will from his father.
Isobel is eager to adapt to married life on Fitzwilliam Square but soon realises her past can never be laid to rest. The night she met Will in a brothel on the eve of his best friend’s wedding has devastating and far-reaching consequences which will change the lives of the Fitzgerald family forever.
Read an Excerpt from Chapter Two…
At half past three, they were seated at a corner table in a café on Grafton Street and Isobel smiled as she stirred milk and sugar into her cup of coffee.
“What is it?” he asked.
“I wrote the character reference I used for the position of parlourmaid at the Harveys’ over there.” She pointed to a table at the window. “And I wrote quite a few other letters to you here as well.”
“I loved receiving your letters,” he said, reaching out and squeezing her hand.
“I refused to admit it to myself that I loved receiving yours. I was falling in love with you even though I knew I shouldn’t, but I couldn’t help it. Can we do this again? Come here for coffee, I mean, because when I sat here writing to you I never dreamt that one day I’d be sitting here with you as your wife.”
“Of course we can,” he replied softly. “I still have to pinch myself, too. I love you, Mrs Fitzgerald.”
They strolled around the frozen lake in St Stephen’s Green, before walking the short distance to number 1 Ely Place Upper. They were shown into the morning room, which thankfully wasn’t as oppressively hot as on her previous visit. Seated in an armchair, Fred uncrossed his legs, got up and threw his cigarette into the fire. He tensed on seeing Will but smiled and nodded politely to her.
“Margaret is lying down. I’ll just—” He went to ring for a servant but she caught his arm.
“Let Margaret rest, Fred,” she told him and he nodded again. “Will and I called to invite Margaret and yourself to dinner. You and Will have important matters to discuss.”
Fred stared at her, realisation dawning on his face that she knew of the incident at the practice house. “Yes, we do.”
“Tomorrow evening or the evening after that?” Will suggested.
“Tomorrow?” Fred asked. “We have no other invitations. Margaret is beginning to feel very self-conscious of her size. A small private dinner will be very nice, thank you.”
“Tomorrow it is. Seven o’clock. It’s good to see you, Fred.” Will held out a hand and, after a moment’s hesitation, Fred shook it. “Please give our regards to Margaret.”
“I will, and thank you for calling,” Fred replied and saw them out himself.
She decided on onion consommé, poached salmon with steamed vegetables and a fruit salad with cream to follow and spoke with Mrs Dillon as soon as they got home. The housekeeper began compiling a list and Isobel left her to it.
“It’s nothing too elaborate and I’m not fond of meals with umpteen courses,” she explained to Will as she joined him in the morning room. “But it’s a solid enough meal.”
“It sounds delicious.”
“Yes.” She sat down on the sofa and wrung her hands. “I also instructed Mrs Dillon to prepare the dining room and drawing room as it would look very odd if we didn’t eat in the dining room but…” Tailing off, she shuddered.
Will moved up the sofa and put an arm around her. “Don’t think of that meal,” he whispered. “This house is ours now and the dining room looks completely different.”
It was true. Since her short-lived meal with Hugh Lombard, who had been intent on making her his mistress and, as with the rest of the house, the dining room had been decorated and all the furniture replaced.
“You’re right. I’m sorry, I’m just being silly.”
“No.” She felt him kiss her hair. “Just always remember that this house is ours now.”
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Author: Lorna Peel
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Cover photo credit: Hubert von Herkomer – Emilia Francis (née Strong), Lady Dilke, is a derivative of irinaraquel, used under CC BY 4.0
Cover photo credit: Penny Farthing / National Library of Ireland on The Commons / No known copyright restrictions
Eugène Delacroix – Portrait of Léon Riesener: Photo Credit: irinaraquel via Flickr.com / CC BY 4.0
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Shelbourne Hotel Dublin. County Dublin, Ireland; St. Stephen’s Green Park, Dublin. County Dublin, Ireland; Sackville Street and O’Connell Bridge, Dublin. County Dublin, Ireland; College Green, Dublin. County Dublin, Ireland: Photos Credit: The Library of Congress / No known copyright restrictions