A Suitable Wife: Available to Pre-order

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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 One…

Dublin, Ireland. Monday, January 17th, 1881

Will helped Isobel out of the cab outside the Shelbourne Hotel on St Stephen’s Green. He paid and tipped the cabman generously and they made their way carefully up the steps. A bellboy with a shovel – fighting a losing battle to keep the steps clear of snow – stood to one side to let them pass, and the liveried doorman touched his silk top hat with a white-gloved hand as they went into the foyer.

The heaviest snowstorm for years was wreaking havoc on Dublin and Will had considered cancelling the celebratory dinner but hadn’t the heart to send a servant out in such atrocious weather. The deep snow had resulted in traffic chaos, the cabman had been forced to take a longer route to the hotel, and they were cold and late.

Will’s oldest friend, Fred Simpson, and his wife Margaret were waiting near the reception desk and gave them relieved smiles as Will and Isobel stamped snow from their shoes. They were shown to a table in the hotel’s dining room and they sat down. Although the large room was pleasantly warm, Isobel opted to unbutton but continue wearing her striking new coat of black velvet leaves on a white velvet background with black velvet collar and cuffs and Margaret chose to keep her exquisite black velvet cloak around her shoulders for the time being.

“May we have a bottle of champagne?” Fred asked the waiter. “We will make our selections from the menu shortly.”

“Very good, sir.”

The waiter left them and Fred grinned around the table.

“It is the 17th of January. Doctors Fitzgerald and Simpson have been in general practice together for just over a month and in partnership for a week. We couldn’t allow it to pass uncelebrated – despite the best efforts of the weather.”

“No,” Will agreed. “And I’ve never been for a meal here before. Have you?”

“I have,” Margaret replied, glancing around the elegant room, where the murmur of conversation intermingled with the clinking of glassware and china. “But it was a birthday dinner a long time ago. Fred.” She turned to her husband. “Isobel and I shouldn’t really be drinking champagne.”

“One glass won’t do you expectant mothers any harm.”

“No, I suppose not,” she conceded.

“Could you ask for a jug of water as well, please, Fred?” Isobel asked. “I’m parched.”

“Yes, of course. I hope this will be the first of many celebratory dinners.”

“So do I,” Isobel replied but didn’t sound particularly enthusiastic as she tucked a wisp of her dark brown hair behind her right ear.

At almost three months pregnant, the new gold-coloured evening dress she wore only emphasised how pale she looked and she was unusually quiet. While at four months pregnant, Margaret in mauve was positively blooming with colour in her cheeks following a weekend away in Co Wicklow. He and Isobel wouldn’t stay out too late this evening. Reaching for her hand under the table, he gave it a little squeeze and she squeezed it in reply.

The waiter served the champagne and they made their orders from the menu before Fred raised his glass.

“I propose a toast – to Margaret and Isobel – and to the continued success of Doctors Simpson and Fitzgerald’s medical practice.”

“To Margaret, Isobel and the medical practice,” they all chorused and sipped the excellent champagne.

“You’re going to have to excuse me for a few minutes.” Isobel got up and Will and Fred also got to their feet. “Could you come with me please, Margaret?”

“Of course,” Margaret replied and the two women left the dining room.

“Will, is Isobel all right?” Fred asked as he and Will sat down again.

“She’s tired,” he explained. “I’m delighted she’s pregnant but, ideally, it could have waited a few more months. She was prepared to come and live with me in Brown Street but then her mother gave us number 30 and all it entailed.”

“I thought she was coping well with the servants?” Fred added.

“She is, but being mistress of number 30 is still a huge responsibility, as is trying to ensure we don’t spend too much while you and I rebuild the practice.”

“She must think this dinner is an enormous extravagance?”

Will opened his mouth to reply but heard Margaret’s voice calling him.

“Will? Please, come quickly.”

Turning in his seat, he saw Margaret at the entrance to the dining room beckoning him to come to her. Both he and Fred went to her and Will’s heart turned over as tears rolled down her cheeks.

“Where is Isobel?” he demanded.

“In there.” Margaret pointed to the ladies cloakroom.

Will pushed the door open and found Isobel sitting on the edge of an armchair just inside the door, her brown eyes wide with horror.

“Will, I’m bleeding. The baby—”

“We’ll go straight home.” He helped her up and out into the foyer. “Fred, find a cab.”

“I’ll ask the doorman to hail one for us,” Margaret said and hurried away from them.

“Isobel’s bleeding,” he whispered to Fred. “We need to bring her home at once.”

“Waiter.” Extracting his wallet from the inside pocket of his tailcoat, Fred pulled out a banknote and handed it to the young man. “I’m afraid we must leave.”

“Thank you, sir. Do you need any assistance?”

“No, thank you,” Will replied, searching the foyer for Margaret’s blonde head and spotting her at the revolving doors signalling for them to leave the hotel.

He and Fred guided Isobel outside, carefully down the steps, and into the waiting cab. Sitting beside her, he clasped her hands. They were freezing cold and he raised them to his mouth, gently blowing his warm breath onto her fingers.

“Number 30 Fitzwilliam Square, please,” Fred told the cabman before tipping the doorman, assisting Margaret into the cab, then getting in himself.

The cab, with the four of them squashed in the back, travelled excruciatingly slowly through deep snow to Fitzwilliam Square. When it stopped outside the Georgian townhouse, the cabman was asked to wait and they led Isobel inside.

“Some towels and warm water, please, Mrs Dillon,” Will instructed the cook-housekeeper as she approached them with concern in the hall. “My wife is unwell.”

Isobel was brought upstairs to the bedroom they shared on the second floor and Will lit all the gas lamps then the oil lamp on his bedside table. Mrs Dillon came in with an ewer of water, a basin and some towels draped over her arm and placed them on the marble-topped washstand. She and Will undressed Isobel, helped her into a nightdress and let down and plaited her hair while Fred pulled back the bedcovers and laid out the towels in the bed. Isobel was bleeding heavily and Will’s heart plummeted.

“My wife has gone to wait in the morning room, would you please look in on her, Mrs Dillon?” Fred asked. “She may be a little upset. Oh, and please bring the cabman inside for a hot drink, he must be frozen.”

“Yes, Dr Simpson,” the housekeeper replied and left the bedroom.

Isobel was lifted into the huge double bed on top of the towels and the pillows arranged at her back.

“Let me examine her, Will,” Fred offered.

“No—”

“I’m calmer than you are, so let me do it,” Fred insisted softly. “Wait outside.”

Will nodded and went onto the landing. I’m delighted she’s pregnant but, ideally, it could have waited a few more months. Wincing at what he had told Fred, he pulled open his white bow tie and his collar before leaning on the banister rail and closing his eyes.

Feeling a hand on his shoulder, he jumped and turned around.

“You probably already know,” Fred told him. “But Isobel is miscarrying. There is heavy vaginal bleeding with clotting, but it’s not excessive and I’m afraid nature will just have to take its course. I’m so sorry, Will.”

“Is she in pain?” he asked.

“She says there is cramping but nothing too extreme. I’ve helped her into her drawers and placed two small towels in the drawers to absorb the discharge.”

“Thank you, Fred. Take Margaret home. This must be awful for her.”

Fred nodded. “I’ll take your surgery and house calls tomorrow. Be with Isobel.”

“Yes. Thank you.”

Fred squeezed his arm and went downstairs.

Will took a deep breath before opening the bedroom door. Isobel was lying back against the pillows but her face was turned away from the door.

Closing the door behind him, he went to the bed and sat down. Gently putting his arms around her, he held her, feeling her trembling.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“This is no-one’s fault.”

“But it must be my fault,” she insisted. “Did Fred’s father leave me damaged when he carried out the abortion?”

“I don’t know,” he replied helplessly and kissed her temple. “You wanted some water at the hotel, would you like some now?”

“Yes. But please hold me first.”

“Of course I’ll hold you. Fred is taking my surgery and house calls tomorrow. I’m staying here with you. Are you hungry at all?”

“No. Just very thirsty.”

“I’ll ask for some water.”

He laid her back against the pillows and left the bedroom. Downstairs in the hall, he met Mrs Dillon.

“How is Mrs Fitzgerald?” the housekeeper asked anxiously.

“Please come into the morning room.” He opened the door for her and they went into the large reception room at the front of the house. “My wife is having a miscarriage,” he said, hearing his voice shake, and Mrs Dillon’s face crumpled in sympathy. “She isn’t in any pain but the process will take a day or two. After that…” He tailed off and sighed. “She will need time to recover, both physically and mentally. But now, she would like some water, please.”

“Water? Is that all?”

“Yes. And Dr Simpson will be taking my surgery and house calls tomorrow, so I can be here.”

Mrs Dillon nodded. “I’ll bring up a jug of water. I am so sorry, Dr Fitzgerald.”

“Thank you.”

He went back upstairs and into the bedroom. Isobel was sitting up, her face in her hands. He sat on the bed and she clung to him, sobbing. He stroked her hair until she rested her forehead on his shoulder and he heard a knock at the door. He lifted her head, kissed her lips, and opened the door.

Mrs Dillon, with more towels of various sizes laid over her arm, was lifting a tray with a jug of water and a glass on it from a table on the landing. She had clearly discreetly waited for Isobel to stop crying before knocking.

“Thank you,” he said, taking the tray from her, and watching as she draped the towels over his arm.

“If there is anything else you or Mrs Fitzgerald need, just ring.”

“I will. Goodnight.”

He closed the door and put the tray down on the bedside table. He poured a glass of water, sat on the bed again, and passed it to Isobel. She drank the water in three gulps, he took the glass from her and placed it back on the tray.

“I’m going to put some more towels under you and then I think we should try and sleep.”

“Yes.” She lifted herself, he laid the towels under her, then leant back against the pillows.

He got undressed and pulled on a nightshirt, extinguished the gas lamps and got into the bed. “If you are in any pain or if you feel the bleeding getting any heavier, wake me.”

She nodded and he turned the oil lamp down before lying down and holding her hand. He listened until hers was the deep and slow breathing of an exhausted person fast asleep. But he couldn’t sleep. This was two miscarriages now. Was she right? Had Duncan Simpson damaged her while carrying out her abortion? Would she never be able to carry a baby to full term? He lay staring up into the darkness and didn’t fall asleep until dawn was breaking. 

* * *

Isobel opened her eyes and ran her hands over her stomach. She was still cramping and could feel herself bleeding like a very heavy monthly. Will was fast asleep and snoring a little so she didn’t move. Two miscarriages. She blinked back tears. She’d so wanted a baby with Will and this pregnancy had been progressing positively – she’d almost reached the three-month mark.

“Isobel?”

Hearing Will’s voice, she turned to him in the twilight. He looked as exhausted as she felt and tears stung her eyes. This must be awful for him, he had been looking after her so well.

“I’m all right.”

“Are you in any pain?”

“No, but I am hungry.”

“Good.” He raised himself up onto an elbow. “So am I.”

“And I’d like to get up. I don’t want to lie in bed all day.”

“Well, if you’re sure?” he said, sounding uncertain.

“I am. And please don’t tell my mother?” she begged.

“Isobel, I’m going to have to tell her. I want her to be here with you tomorrow.”

“Mother can fuss tomorrow,” she said. “I want peace and quiet with you today.”

He leant over and kissed her lips. “I need to examine you first.”

He got out of bed, opened the curtains, then went out to the table on the landing where their water for washing and shaving was left for them. Carrying the two ewers into the bedroom, he closed the door with a foot before placing them on the washstand. He washed and dried his hands then pulled the bedcovers down.

He removed the soiled towels from her drawers before helping her to take the drawers off. Wrapping them in a large towel, he placed it on the floor by the door. Lying down on the bed, she opened her legs and stared up at the ceiling as he examined her.

“Is your bleeding heavier than the last time?” he asked.

“It feels heavier. But I wasn’t quite two months pregnant then.”

“Yes.” He straightened up, reached for a flannel, and began to clean her. “I can’t see anything which would lead me to worry. Nature will just have to take its course.”

“That’s what Fred said.”

After washing, shaving and dressing, Will helped her to wash and dress. She pinned up her hair, placed two more small towels in her drawers, then stood in front of the full-length wardrobe mirror smoothing her hands down the skirt of her new high-necked emerald green day dress.

From arriving in Dublin with nothing but the square-necked navy blue dress and black coat she was wearing, she now had five dresses, two coats and three hats to her name. Sadly, the gold-coloured evening dress would now be forever associated with the miscarriage. Perhaps she could bring it back to the dressmaker and have it altered in some way, as it would be a shame – and a waste – to never wear it again. But that is a decision for another day, she told herself, closing the wardrobe door.

Taking Will’s arm, they went slowly down the stairs to the ground floor breakfast room overlooking the rear garden which they used as an everyday dining room.

“Mrs Fitzgerald?” Mrs Dillon followed them inside. “I was preparing a breakfast tray for Florrie to take up to you.”

“Thank you, but I didn’t want to lie in bed all day.”

“My wife needs peace and quiet today, Mrs Dillon,” Will told her. “So, no callers, please.” As he spoke, a bell jangled downstairs in the servants’ hall and he sighed. “I’ll see who that is.”

He went out to the hall and Isobel sat down at the table, her stomach rumbling.

“Some porridge, toast and marmalade and coffee, Mrs Fitzgerald?” Mrs Dillon asked.

“Oh, yes, please.” She gave the housekeeper a grateful smile as she heard Fred’s voice in the hall. “I’m very hungry.”

“That’s good to hear.”

“I’m afraid the bed is in rather a mess—” she began but Mrs Dillon held up a hand.

“Don’t you worry about that, Mrs Fitzgerald. You just rest and recuperate.”

Mrs Dillon left her and a couple of moments later both Will and Fred came into the breakfast room. The weather must be bitterly cold still as Fred was wearing a black woollen overcoat with a grey scarf wound around his neck almost covering his chin.

“I’m delighted to see you up and about.” Fred bent and kissed her cheek and she smiled as his black moustache tickled her ear.

“Thank you for all you did last night, Fred.”

“Not at all. I’m glad I was able to help.”

“I hope Margaret wasn’t too upset?” she asked.

“She was, a little, but she’ll be very relieved when I tell her you are up and about and hungry.”

“Fred.” She clasped his hand. “The last thing I want is any awkwardness between Margaret and myself. I would be delighted if she would call here in the next few days. Will and I are going to have a very quiet day today.”

“Of course.”

“And perhaps we could attempt the celebratory dinner again soon, too?”

Fred gave her a grin. “When you’re well enough, we’ll all go to the Shelbourne again.”

“Yes. Will you stay for some breakfast?”

“Thank you, but no. I simply called to see how you were. It has stopped snowing at last but it’s deep and difficult to walk in so I’d better be on my way to the practice house.”

“Thank you, Fred. Be careful.”

Fred kissed her hand and Will followed him out of the room. A few minutes later Will returned with Florrie, one of their house-parlourmaids, and their breakfast.

Isobel soon finished a bowl of porridge, two triangular slices of toast and marmalade followed by a cup of coffee, and was sitting back satisfied in her chair when she heard her mother’s angry voice in the hall.

“What do you mean, no callers today? Don’t be ridiculous, girl, I’m her mother. Is she still at breakfast?”

Isobel exchanged a weary glance with Will and he swore under his breath as footsteps approached the breakfast room door and it opened.

“Mrs Henderson.” Will got to his feet as her dark-haired mother came in wearing a russet-coloured dress and hat she favoured with a matching cloak.

“What is this nonsense, Isobel?” she demanded, pulling off her black gloves. “The maid said you were receiving no callers today?”

Will closed the door to the hall then held the chair next to Isobel’s as Mrs Henderson sat down.

“I’m afraid we have some bad news,” he said, returning to his seat at the head of the table. “Isobel is losing the baby.”

“Losing..?” Her mother frowned, struggling to grasp Will’s meaning.

“I’m having a miscarriage, Mother,” she said quietly.

Mrs Henderson clapped both her hands to her cheeks. “Oh, Isobel. Oh, why didn’t you tell me at once? Why are you not in bed?”

“We were going to tell you later, Mother, and I wanted some peace and quiet today but not to lie in bed all day.”

“Why did this happen, Will?”

“I’m afraid there is no answer to that,” he replied. “It’s just one of those things.”

“I’m so sorry. I was so looking forward to being a grandmother.”

“Would you like some coffee, Mother?” she asked, changing the subject and gesturing towards the coffee pot.

“No, thank you. As it has stopped snowing, I called to ask if you would like to visit the National Gallery this afternoon as I have never been, but it can wait.”

“Perhaps next week?” she suggested.

“Oh, Isobel,” Mrs Henderson whispered, her voice shaking.

“Don’t cry, Mother, please,” she said, fighting to keep her own voice steady. Or I will start again, she added silently.

Mrs Henderson pulled a handkerchief from a sleeve and dried her eyes. “Would you like me to stay with you?”

“I will be staying with Isobel today,” Will told her. “But if you could stay with Isobel tomorrow, I would be very grateful.”

“Yes, of course. But may I call this evening?”

“Yes, you may.” Will nodded. “Shall I see you out?”

Her mother kissed her cheek before getting up and leaving the room with Will following. He returned a few moments later, kissed the top of her head, and poured them some more coffee.

“How are you feeling?”

“Better. The porridge was delicious.”

“Good.”

They settled on the huge reddish-brown leather sofa in the morning room, fell asleep, and didn’t wake until luncheon was announced at one o’clock. After some delicious thick vegetable soup and soda bread, she went upstairs to change the towels in her drawers. She then put on her beautiful black and white velvet coat and joined Will in the garden for some fresh air and to see the snow.

The steps down from the back door and a couple of yards of the path had been dug out but the remainder of the long and narrow garden which ran between the house and the mews was covered with at least five inches of snow. She hadn’t seen so much snow since one severe winter in Co Galway when she and her elder brother, Alfie, her parents and the servants had been snowed in at Ballybeg Glebe House for three extremely long days.

Snow drifts had rendered the roads impassable and being cut off from, not just Ballybeg village, but also from his beloved church, her father’s cruel and vindictive temper intensified. The Reverend Edmund Stevens took his frustration out on, not only his wife and children but also on the servants for the first and last time. As soon as the roads were passable, their cook-housekeeper and house-parlourmaid packed their bags and left. It was almost a month before they were replaced and, having inherited her mother’s lack of culinary skills, the meals the two of them struggled to produce simply served to infuriate him even more.

February 23rd would bring the first anniversary of his death. Were any of his former parishioners mourning him, she wondered because his widow and children most certainly were not. Crouching down on the path, she laid the palm of her right hand on the snow. It had an icy crust which even the warmth of her hand couldn’t melt. Her father’s heart had been frozen through and through and his grave in cold, damp peaty soil near the church door in Ballybeg Churchyard, and now likely covered with a deep blanket of snow, was a fitting resting place for him.

“Whenever there was snow at the Glebe House, my father never allowed Alfie and I to play in it,” she told Will, straightening up and rubbing her hands together. “He wanted his precious garden to always appear pristine. But when it began to snow here, I was already visualising our child playing out here with us – throwing snowballs and building a snowman – things Alfie and I were forbidden to do. How silly of me.”

“Remember what I said, Isobel,” he said, raising her hands to his lips. “If it turns out that we can’t have a child ourselves, we will adopt. We may not have made the child ourselves but we will have a child.”

“But I wanted us to have a child we made. I wanted to have your child, Will.”

“Isobel?” They turned around as Alfie stood at the back door wearing a black woollen overcoat similar to Fred’s and a pale blue scarf wound around his neck. “No, don’t step into the snow, there’s enough room on the path for the three of us.” Closing the door, he came down the steps. “I had lectures this morning and Mother has just told me. Oh, Isobel.” He kissed her cheek before hugging her. “I’m so sorry.”

“Is Mother very upset?” she asked.

“Yes, she is. I’ve persuaded her to go and lie down. I have only one lecture tomorrow and it’s first thing in the morning. Would you like me to call here afterwards and keep you company?”

“Well, I had already asked Mother, but if you could come as well and try and keep the conversation a little upbeat?”

Alfie smiled. “I’ll try my best.”

After her mother called that evening, Isobel and Will retired to bed early. Will examined her again and agreed with her that the rate of bleed was slowing. He kissed her lips then turned down the oil lamp and she fell into a deep sleep with her head resting on his chest.

Explore my blog for more excerpts, character profiles and historical background information

A Suitable Wife: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Two the sequel to A Scarlet Woman will be published on 5 Sept 2018

Pre-order A Suitable Wife for   

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Amazon ASIN: B07FDB3B3W

Paperback ISBN: 9781723286810

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Author: Lorna Peel

Title: A Suitable Wife

Series: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Two

Genre: Irish Historical Fiction

Cover Designer: Rebecca K. Sterling, Sterling Design Studio

Ebook and Print Formatting: Polgarus Studio

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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
Lily Langtry, The Lily of Jersey: Photo Credit: the lost gallery via Flickr.comCC BY 4.0 
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 CongressNo known copyright restrictions
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Meet A Scarlet Woman’s Isobel Stevens

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Isobel Stevens is twenty-two years old. She was born in County Galway, Ireland, the youngest of two children of the Reverend Edmund Stevens, a Church of Ireland (Anglican) clergyman, and his wife, Martha. Her parents’ marriage was an unhappy one. Reverend Stevens was a cruel and vindictive man who beat, not only his wife but his children, too.

Despite his cruelty, Reverend Stevens wanted what was best for his children. Both Isobel and her elder brother, Alfie, were well-educated. Alfie was sent to Harrow public school in London, England while at the age of twelve, Isobel was sent to Cheltenham Ladies College in Gloucestershire, England. With Isobel’s beauty and education, Reverend Stevens hoped to arrange a good marriage for her.

Unfortunately, this was not to be. Isobel was seduced by James Shawcross, a neighbour’s son, and she fell pregnant. James wouldn’t stand by her and Isobel was forced to tell her father about her pregnancy. Incensed, Reverend Stevens whipped Isobel and threw her out of the Glebe House.

Disgraced and disowned, Isobel pawned the jewellery she was wearing and travelled to Dublin not knowing what she was going to do. In Dublin, Isobel approached a girl standing outside the railway station and asked her if there was anywhere she could work in exchange for bed and board. The girl said yes, and brought Isobel to Sally Maher’s brothel on Montgomery Street in Monto, Dublin’s red-light district…

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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?

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Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

She woke feeling Will stirring beside her. His brown eyes stared blankly at her for a moment before he smiled.

“You remember me, then?” she asked, fighting an urge to explore his now heavy stubble with her fingers.

“Yes, I do. Good morning.” He rubbed his eyes. “Thank you for putting up with me last night. I don’t often drink to excess. I hope I didn’t pry too much and upset you.”

“It was nothing,” she lied, giving him as bright a smile as she could manage.

“I’d better go.” Throwing back the covers, he got out of the bed and went to the chair and door for his clothes. “Any sounds from the other bedrooms?” he asked as he got dressed.

“I don’t think they’ll be stirring for hours yet.”

“Well, I’m afraid Fred and Jerry need to stir right away. Fred’s getting married in—” He took out his pocket watch. “Three hours.” Putting his watch back in his waistcoat pocket, he went to the dressing table and bent in front of the mirror finger-combing his hair into place.

“Use my brush.” She pointed to it lying beside a bottle of overly sweet scented perfume.

“Thank you.” He reached for the brush, tidied his hair, then turned to face her. They observed each other for a couple of moments until she smiled self-consciously and pulled the bedcovers up to hide her breasts. “Why don’t you—” he began, then stopped abruptly and flushed.

“Find more suitable employment?” She shrugged. “I’m all but unemployable. I was schooled to be a lady.”

“But think of what you might catch here?”

“I am clean, Will,” she replied tightly. “You needn’t worry.”

He flushed even deeper. “You could go into domestic service?”

“Yes, I suppose I could.”

“I can only advise you to leave this brothel while you are still young and healthy.”

“Thank you, Doctor.” Getting out of the bed, she quickly put her robe on and went to the door. She lifted his hat down from the hook before opening the door for him. “Good morning to you.”

“Good morning.” Taking the hat from her, he went out. She closed the door, hearing him knocking loudly at the two other bedroom doors on the landing, ordering his friends out of bed and home at once.

Standing in front of the dressing table mirror, she opened her robe and surveyed herself. He was right. A few years of this and she would be as coarse as Lily down the landing and would probably have syphilis or herpes into the bargain as well. It was time to leave.

Pouring some cold water from the ewer into the bowl, she got washed and dressed, then pinned up her hair before going downstairs to the kitchen. Sally was seated at the table breaking her fast, seeming to thrive on as little sleep as possible.

“That tea in the pot is still hot,” Sally told her.

“Thank you.” Sitting down opposite Sally, she poured herself a cup and added milk, then cut a slice of soda bread.

“Your fella gone?”

She nodded as she buttered the bread. “Yes, he’s just left. He’s a doctor. All three are doctors.”

“We did well out o’ them. Hope they come back.”

“Yes. Mine was nice.”

Sally grunted. “So, what will you do with yourself today?”

She took a sip of tea. “I thought I might go into town and look at the shops. I haven’t done that for a while.”

“Do.” Sally nodded. “You deserve a day out. You’ve worked hard of late. Here.” Sally reached into the pocket of the white apron she was wearing over a gaudy yellow dress, lifted out some coins, and passed them to her. “Treat yourself to a bite to eat. But you didn’t get this from me, all right?”

She smiled, trying not to stare too much at Sally’s freshly dyed copper-coloured hair. “Thank you.”

“Finish that tea and bread and be off with you.”

In her bedroom, she counted the coins and dropped them into the small black leather handbag she had bought after seeing it for sale in a pawn shop window. Two shillings and sixpence ha’penny. Sally wasn’t usually so generous.

Donning her best dress – a navy blue relict from her pre-Dublin life with a square neck and buttons up the front – and a fashionable hat in matching navy blue she had purchased from a second-hand clothes stall, she walked to St Stephen’s Green. It was the last day of July and the trees of the park, newly opened to the general public, were lush with leaves of varying greens. They reminded her of Ballybeg but she blinked a few times to banish the memory. For now, she was going to find a spot in the sunshine, watch the ladies and gentlemen parading past, and mull over what she could possibly gain employment as.  

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Amazon ASIN: B074LJJWJW

Paperback ISBN: 9781547079698

Explore my blog for more excerpts, character profiles, and background information

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Author: Lorna Peel

Title: A Scarlet Woman

Series: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book One

Genre: Victorian Historical Romance

Cover Designer: Rebecca K. Sterling, Sterling Design Studio

Ebook and Print Formatting: Polgarus Studio

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(Book Cover): LILLIE LANGTRY (1853-1929) UK socialite, actress and mistress of Edward VII in August 1885. Photo William Downey. Photo credit: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
Gun Powder Office (Book Cover): Photo credit: National Library of Ireland on The Commons / No known copyright restrictions  
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “Lily Langtry, Photo File A” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47df-1081-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Meet A Scarlet Woman’s Will Fitzgerald

Eugène Delacroix

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.

A_Scarlet_Woman_SQUARE-1

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?

A_Scarlet_Woman_PRINT_2

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.”

“And?”

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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Amazon ASIN: B074LJJWJW

Paperback ISBN: 9781547079698

Explore my blog for more excerpts, character profiles, and background information

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Author: Lorna Peel

Title: A Scarlet Woman

Series: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book One

Genre: Victorian Historical Romance

Cover Designer: Rebecca K. Sterling, Sterling Design Studio

Ebook and Print Formatting: Polgarus Studio

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(Book Cover): LILLIE LANGTRY (1853-1929) UK socialite, actress and mistress of Edward VII in August 1885. Photo William Downey. Photo credit: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
(Book Cover) Gun Powder Office (cover): Photo credit: 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

Merrion Square

Merrion Square is one of Dublin’s finest Georgian squares. Three sides are lined with red brick townhouses, while the fourth side faces Government Buildings, the Natural History Museum, Leinster House (seat of the Oireachtas or Irish parliament), and the National Gallery of Ireland.

12-Merrion-Square-0-1-2

Merrion Square South

After the then Earl of Kildare (later the Duke of Leinster) built his Dublin home, Leinster House, on farmland on the edge of the city in the 1740s, the area became fashionable. Merrion Square, named Merrion after the seventh Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion, was laid out after 1762 and was largely complete by the beginning of the 19th century. Two other residential squares were built in the area – St Stephen’s Green and Fitzwilliam Square.

Richard_Fitzwilliam_of_Merrion

The Hon. Richard Fitzwilliam, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion

The plots for each house differed in size, although most were for houses of three bays. The standard height for each house was for four storeys over basement but this also varied from one house to the next, resulting in a variation in roofline height. As it took more than thirty years for the square to be built, changes in architectural styles can be seen. 

Merrion Square North

Merrion Square North

The proportions of doors and windows in many of the houses are different. Some houses have decorative ironwork, such as first-floor balconies, and not all of the houses were fronted in granite on the ground floor. Inside, the townhouses contain magnificent ceiling plasterwork, ornate fireplaces and staircases.

800px-Merrion_Square,_Nov_2017

Merrion Square Park

Up until the 1970s the central railed-off garden was only open to residents in possession of a private key. It is now a public park managed by Dublin City Council and contains a statue of Oscar Wilde who resided in number 1 Merrion Square from 1855 to 1876. On Sundays, artists hang their works for sale on the railings surrounding the park.

A_Scarlet_Woman_SQUARE-1

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?

A_Scarlet_Woman_PRINT_2

Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

By four o’clock on Sunday afternoon, she was fit to drop as she arrived at the Harvey residence on Merrion Square. Mrs Black brought her upstairs to a tiny attic bedroom, which she was to share with the other as yet unnamed parlourmaid. She longed to simply crawl into the narrow single bed allocated to her and sleep, but she had to go back downstairs to the servants’ hall to meet the other servants at dinner.

Mr Johnston sat at one end of the long dining table and Mrs Black sat at the other. Mrs Harvey’s lady’s maid, Edith Lear, Mrs Gordon the cook, Claire – the other parlourmaid – and Bessie and Winnie – the two housemaids – sat along one side. Down the other side, she was placed beside Frank, the footman, and Mary, the tiny kitchenmaid. She couldn’t help but notice a large number of servants for what was actually a very small household.

They all seemed friendly, asking her where she had been born, why she had come back to Ireland after her mother’s death, and telling her the Harveys’ were a good and fair couple to work for.

As early as she dared she excused herself, and climbed the stairs to the bedroom with a small oil lamp. Unlike the rest of the house, Mrs Black informed her, none of the servants’ bedrooms was lit by gas lighting. There was no rug on the bedroom floor either, only a small threadbare mat, and the window and door were draughty. She smiled all the same, as she unpacked her few belongings and ran her fingers over the two uniforms. She really needed two of each, but the others would have to wait until she received her wages. Being a parlourmaid was going to be hard work but it was infinitely better than being a prostitute.

She was sitting up in bed, plaiting her hair, when Claire came into the bedroom and gave her a smile.

“I’m glad I’m sharing again.”

“What happened to the last maid?” she asked, as Claire began to undress.

Claire pulled an awkward expression. “She got pregnant by a footman across the square. Both had to go.”

“Oh, I see.”

“So, you were in England? I’d love to go to England one day…” Claire tailed off and watched her yawn.

“Sorry,” she said. “I didn’t sleep well last night. A bit nervous, you know?”

“You’ve nothing to worry about here.”

“I’m glad. You’ll probably have to give me a nudge in the morning.”

Poor Claire almost had to pull her out of the bed. Used to not getting up until all hours, having to get up at six in the morning and being called Maisie, were completely foreign to her. Still half asleep, she washed in lukewarm water and got dressed in the dull grey dress and lace-trimmed white apron and cap, before following Claire downstairs.

In the hall, Claire explained the house to her. The morning room and breakfast room on the ground floor were for the Harveys’ everyday use. The drawing room and dining room on the first floor were only used when the Harveys’ had guests but still had to be attended to. The library – created when the drawing room was divided in two – also had to be attended to, as it was used each day by Mr Harvey. To escape his wife, Claire added with a grin. The lighting of the gas lamps in the house was one of the footman’s tasks and, finally, the Harveys’ bedrooms on the second floor were the responsibility of the two housemaids.

Mary, the kitchenmaid, had already removed the ashes from all the hearths, blackened the grates again and set new fires, so she and Claire only had to light them. She followed Claire’s lead, only pausing for their breakfast after the table was laid in the breakfast room, the morning room had been done, and the serving dishes, milk, tea, and toast had been carried up to the breakfast room. They were placed on the sideboard as Mr and Mrs Harvey helped themselves at breakfast.

They continued on all morning, clearing away after the Harveys’ breakfast, and setting the table for luncheon. Then, the cleaning, polishing and dusting in the hall, drawing and dining rooms, and the library had to be completed until, at last, they went downstairs to the servants’ hall for their mid-day meal. 

Claire was friendly and chatty and she warmed to her. Returning to the servants’ hall after changing into their black uniforms, Mr Johnston informed them that Mr and Mrs Harvey were having guests to dinner on Friday evening.

A Scarlet Woman by Lorna Peel eBook Cover

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Amazon ASIN: B074LJJWJW

Paperback ISBN: 9781547079698

Explore my blog for more excerpts, character profiles, and background information

goodreads11-1024x409

Author: Lorna Peel

Title: A Scarlet Woman

Series: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book One

Genre: Victorian Historical Romance

Cover Designer: Rebecca K. Sterling, Sterling Design Studio

Ebook and Print Formatting: Polgarus Studio

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facebook-48x48  twitter-48x48  pinterest-48x48  google+-48x48  tumblr-48x48  goodreads-48x48  Wordpress  instagram_app_large_may2016_200  newsletter

(Book Cover): LILLIE LANGTRY (1853-1929) UK socialite, actress and mistress of Edward VII in August 1885. Photo William Downey. Photo credit: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
(Book Cover): Gun Powder Office (cover): Photo credit: National Library of Ireland on The Commons / No known copyright restrictions
Richard Fitzwilliam of Merrion: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Merrion Square: Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Merrion Square (Park): Photo Credit: NTF30 from Wikimedia Commons and used under CC BY-SA 4.0
Merrion Square North: Photo Credit: Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon, United States from Wikimedia Commons and used under CC BY 2.0 

The Liberties of Dublin

Dubline

Dublin in 1610

The Liberties is an area in Dublin, Ireland, located to the southwest of the city centre, and is one of Dublin’s most historic districts. In the 12th century, King Henry II of England ordered the Abbey of St Thomas the Martyr to be built on a site close to where St Catherine’s Church on Thomas Street stands today. The abbey’s Augustinian monks were granted lands to the west of the walled city and were also granted privileges and powers to control trade within their ‘liberty’. The Liberty of St Thomas Court and Donore became very wealthy and the abbey gave its name to St Thomas Street, which runs along the ancient western route into the city of Dublin. 

St Catherine's Church

St Catherine’s Church, Thomas Street

Following the dissolution of monasteries in the 16th century, the abbey lands passed into the ownership of William Brabazon. The Brabazons, who later became Earls of Meath, were landlords in the Liberties for the next three centuries.

 

Cork Street Fever Hospital


Cork Street Fever Hospital

In the late 17th century, construction began on houses for the weavers who were moving into the area. Settlers from England were involved in the woollen industry, while many French Huguenots’ trade was silk weaving. They built their own traditional style of gable-fronted houses in the Liberties, known as Dutch Billies.

dutchstylehouse

Dutch Billy on Kevin Street

English woollen manufacturers felt threatened by the growing Irish industry and heavy duties were imposed on Irish wool exports. The Navigation Act was passed to prevent the Irish from exporting to colonial markets and then, in 1699, the Wool Act was passed which prevented any exports whatsoever. This put an end to the woollen industry in the Liberties and, coupled with economic decline which set in after the Act of Union in 1801, many of the once-prosperous houses became poverty-stricken tenements. This prompted a number of housing developments by the Earls of Meath and the Guinness and Power families in the late 19th century. Modern houses were built for workers on Gray Street and John Dillon Street by the Dublin Artisan Dwelling Company and the Iveagh Trust Buildings on Patrick Street were the first flats built for Dubliners.

pimlico

Pimlico

During the 18th and 19th centuries, brewers and distillers moved into the Liberties, most notably the Guinness family who, in 1759, established the world’s largest brewery at St James’ Gate. Powers and Jameson also established distilleries in the Liberties, and the area had its own harbour linking it to the Grand Canal, and a mini-railway through the St James’ Gate brewery.

Guinnesses

Guinness’ Brewery

Today, the Liberties retains its distinctive character and its evocative street names, such as Weaver Square, Engine Alley, Cross Stick Alley and Marrowbone Lane. If you’re on a visit to Dublin, make sure you visit the Liberties.

A_Scarlet_Woman_SQUARE-1

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?

A_Scarlet_Woman_PRINT_2

Read an Excerpt from Chapter Two…

At five minutes past five in the morning, he was called out to a woman experiencing a prolonged and difficult labour. Ten minutes later he was on the third floor of a tenement house being watched both anxiously and suspiciously by the mother-to-be and two neighbours. Their eyes widened as he lifted his stethoscope out of his medical bag and placed it over the mother-to-be’s abdomen. There was absolute silence from both inside and out as he listened for a heartbeat. The baby was most likely dead, poor little mite.

At a quarter past seven, the woman was breech delivered of a large baby boy. It was as he had feared – the child was dead. If only they had called him out sooner. If only…

Mrs Bell was cooking his breakfast when he returned to Brown Street and frowned when she saw his face.

“Delia Brennan’s baby was born feet first and dead,” he explained, and Mrs Bell crossed herself. “It was a boy and was dead before I got there. If only they had called me out sooner, but there’s no point in saying that now.” Lifting the kettle off the range, he poured some hot water into a bowl in the sink, added some cold water from a bucket and washed and scrubbed his hands.

“I was all set to ask you whether you had enjoyed the dinner last night.”

He gave her a little smile as he dried his hands. “It was pleasant enough.” And all the better for discovering he hadn’t been responsible for ‘Rose Green’ killing herself, he added silently.

“Good. Now you sit yourself down and eat this.” He sat at the table and she put a bowl of porridge down in front of him. “You can wash and shave afterwards.”

“Thank you.”

“That boy would have been Delia’s seventh.” Mrs Bell poured them each a cup of tea. “Tragic, but probably a blessing in disguise.”

“I suppose so, yes.”

“It’s strange, isn’t it?” his housekeeper mused, as he added milk and sugar to the porridge. “Delia’s been married seven years and she’s had a child every year. Maggie Millar, now, she’s been married donkey’s years and nothing.”

“George Millar drinks like a fish.”

“Could that be it?” she asked.

“It could be. It could be a lot of things.”

“Do you want children?” she added suddenly.

He grimaced. Sometimes she could come out with the most probing questions when he least expected them. “One day,” he replied. “I’m only thirty. I’ve plenty of time.”

“But don’t leave it too long, will you?”

“I need a wife first and they haven’t exactly been queuing up of late.”

“Did Amelia Belcher give you the eye last night?” Mrs Bell smiled.

“Yes, but I ignored it.”

“You told her that you were staying here. Take it or leave it.”

He nodded. “And she left it. And I’m relieved. I’m still battered and bruised after Cecilia.”

He finished his porridge and two slices of soda bread and marmalade, drank his tea, and went upstairs with a jug of warm water. When he had washed and shaved, he went into the surgery and lifted some notepaper out of his desk drawer.

A Scarlet Woman by Lorna Peel eBook Cover

Buy A Scarlet Woman for   

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Or read A Scarlet Woman FREE with 

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Amazon ASIN: B074LJJWJW

Paperback ISBN: 9781547079698

Explore my blog for more excerpts, character profiles, and background information

goodreads11-1024x409

Author: Lorna Peel

Title: A Scarlet Woman

Series: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book One

Genre: Victorian Historical Romance

Cover Designer: Rebecca K. Sterling, Sterling Design Studio

Ebook and Print Formatting: Polgarus Studio

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facebook-48x48  twitter-48x48  pinterest-48x48  google+-48x48  tumblr-48x48  goodreads-48x48  Wordpress  instagram_app_large_may2016_200  newsletter

(Book Cover): LILLIE LANGTRY (1853-1929) UK socialite, actress and mistress of Edward VII in August 1885. Photo William Downey. Photo credit: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
(Book Cover): Gun Powder Office: Photo credit: National Library of Ireland on The Commons / No known copyright restrictions 
Dutch Billy on Kevin Street: Photo Credit: Lorna Peel
St Catherine’s Church, Thomas Street: Photo Credit: Lorna Peel
Pimlico: Photo Credit: Lorna Peel
Cork Street Fever Hospital: Photo Credit: Lorna Peel
Guinness Brewery: Photo Credit: jraffin on Pixabay used under Creative Commons CC0 1.0
Dublin in 1610: Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons: Public Domain Mark 1.0

Monto: Dublin’s Red Light District

Click the map to open it in a new window/tab in a larger size

Monto is the nickname for Dublin’s red light district derived from Montgomery Street, now named Foley Street. Monto encompassed an area bounded by Talbot Street, Amiens Street, Gardiner Street and Gloucester Street (now Sean McDermott Street). Between the 1860s and the 1920s, Monto was reputed to be the largest red light district in Europe and, according to popular legend, the then Prince of Wales, Prince Edward (later King Edward VII), lost his virginity there.

Montgomery Street

Montgomery Street

Monto emerged as a red light district in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. In the 1860s and 1870s, prostitution in Dublin had centered on the fashionable Grafton Street area. In 1863, police statistics counted 984 prostitutes in Dublin. By 1894, Dublin had 74 brothels, mostly located in Monto.

14799619693_cac2388733_o

Monto flourished due to its location being far enough away from upper and middle-class residential and shopping districts and, crucially, due to the authorities turning a blind eye. Its proximity to Amiens Street Station (now Connolly Station) provided plenty of innocent young women from the countryside looking for work, plus Dublin’s port and Aldborough Military Barracks brought in plenty of clientele.

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Nelson’s Pillar from Carlisle Bridge (now O’Connell Bridge)

The number of women working as prostitutes in Dublin in this period was extremely high, caused by chronic unemployment, and the lack of any kind of industrial employment opportunities for women. In 1870, Manchester recorded 1,617 arrests for prostitution, London 2,183 and Dublin 3,255.

Lower Gardiner Street

Lower Gardiner Street

Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921 and the establishment of the Irish Free State, the departure of the British Army from Dublin took away a large part of Monto’s income. The rise to power of the Roman Catholic Church in 1920s Ireland meant prostitution would no longer be tolerated. Although various religious groups hadn’t turned a blind eye to Monto over the years, it was the Association of Our Lady of Mercy (better known as the Legion of Mary) which had the greatest impact on ending prostitution in Monto.

Elliot Place 1930s

Elliot Place in the 1930s

The Legion of Mary received the co-operation of the Dublin Police Commissioner, General William Murphy, and a police raid on 12 March 1925 ended with a large number of arrests. While this raid didn’t shut Monto down completely, prostitution in the area petered out and dispersed over the following years. With subsequent street clearances and street renaming, almost nothing now remains of Monto’s infamous past.

A_Scarlet_Woman_SQUARE-1

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?

A_Scarlet_Woman_PRINT_2

Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

Dublin, Ireland. Friday, July 30th, 1880

Will blinked and fought to stay awake as the cab rattled along the dark streets. It was years since he had been this drunk. The night of their graduation, wasn’t it? Fred, seated between Jerry and himself, was clapping his hands. Whether it was in an effort to keep warm or that it was because he was just as drunk but more intent on keeping awake, Will didn’t know.

“Nearly there now,” Fred announced.

“Eh, what?” Jerry slurred.

“Oh, you two are hopeless. It’s my last night of freedom. We haven’t had that much to drink.”

“We have,” Jerry stated firmly.

“Where are we going now?” Will wiped some condensation away and peered out of the window but couldn’t see a thing. “Where are we, Fred?”

“My dear Dr Fitzgerald, we are about to have the night of our lives. My treat, to thank the two of you for being such good friends to me over the years. You don’t get out enough, either of you. You with your swanky London practice, Jeremiah. And as for you, William.” Fred kicked his ankle. “The less said the better.”

“Where are we?” Will demanded. He knew what Fred thought of his practice and didn’t need to be reminded. “Fred?”

“Monto,” Fred shouted triumphantly as the cab stopped. “Sally Maher ’s kip.”

“A brothel?” Will straightened up, sobering a little. “No, Fred, I’d rather not.”

Fred just laughed, irritating him. “Don’t be ridiculous. I said I’ll pay.”

“You know damn well it’s not that.”

“I’m not listening. I’m getting the first pick of the girls, though. You two can toss a coin if you can’t agree. Don’t fall asleep, Jerry, we’re here.”

The three of them got out of the cab and Fred paid the fare. He and Jerry went straight inside while Will glanced up at the brothel. It was a commonplace terraced house if a little run down. Reluctantly, he took off his hat and followed them.

“Will?” Fred bellowed at him, and he jumped violently before turning away from the supposedly seductive red furnishings in the narrow hallway. “We’re fixed up. What sort of a girl do you want?”

Fred, Jerry, and the brothel madam all waited expectantly. Will sighed. He hadn’t a clue.

“I don’t know… black-ish hair?” Cecilia’s hair was blonde but he forced her face out of his befuddled mind. “Yes, black-ish hair.”

“Good, you can have Rose.” The madam turned away. “Maggie. Lily. Rose,” she roared up the stairs.

Three young women appeared at the top of the stairs. The first was a redhead, the second a blonde, and the third his brunette. Will watched her come down the steps. She wore a red silk robe, her dark hair was loosely pinned up, and wisps fell over her face and neck. As she reached the foot of the stairs, Will also saw to his relief, that she was in her early twenties, tall, and quite shapely. Good. Cecilia was as thin as a rake and a year older than him. His brunette nodded to the brothel madam then gave him a little smile.

“I’m Rose.”

“Will.”

“Hello, Will.” Taking his hand, she led him up the stairs, along the landing, and into a bedroom. “I hope you’re not expecting anything too outlandish,” she said as she closed the door. “Because you won’t get it from me.”

Again, he was relieved. He had never been very sexually adventurous and recently he had lived like a monk.

“No, I’m not,” he replied, shrugging off then hanging his frock coat and his hat on a hook on the back of the door.

Glancing around the room, he noted that apart from a double bed, it housed a dressing table and stool, a wardrobe, a bedside table with an oil lamp and ewer and bowl standing on it, and an armchair upholstered in red fabric. A fire was lit in the hearth but the coal was producing more smoke than flames.

“Good. Shall I help you with your clothes?” she offered.

“I can manage.”

He began to fumble with his cravat and collar, eventually managed to get them off, then set to work on his cufflinks. Minutes passed, he had made no progress whatsoever, and he swore under his breath.

“Allow me,” she said softly. He stood meekly while she undid them before proceeding to completely undress him. “Celebrating?”

“Fred’s getting married tomorrow.”

“Are you brothers?”

“No. We were at Trinity College together. We’re doctors.”

“Doctors? I see. Are you married?” He hesitated before replying and she glanced up at him. “I won’t mind if you lie.”

“I won’t lie,” he replied tightly. “I nearly was married but I’m not.”

“I’m sorry. There.” She laid his clothes on the back of the faded and threadbare armchair then gave him a long look while taking the pins from her hair. How did he compare with the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of men who had passed through this bedroom? Cecilia had found him handsome. But ultimately not handsome enough. Thick dark brown hair fell down Rose’s back and she slipped off her robe before throwing it over his clothes on the back of the armchair. He blinked a few times. She had a very shapely body and firm full breasts. This might not be such a bad idea after all.

A Scarlet Woman by Lorna Peel eBook Cover

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Amazon ASIN: B074LJJWJW

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A Suitable Wife: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book Two will be published on 5 September 2018

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Author: Lorna Peel

Title: A Scarlet Woman

Series: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book One

Genre: Victorian Historical Romance

Cover Designer: Rebecca K. Sterling, Sterling Design Studio

Ebook and Print Formatting: Polgarus Studio

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(Book Cover): LILLIE LANGTRY (1853-1929) UK socialite, actress and mistress of Edward VII in August 1885. Photo William Downey. Photo credit: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
(Book Cover): Gun Powder Office: Photo credit: National Library of Ireland on The Commons / No known copyright restrictions 
Grafton Street: Image from page 431 of “Picturesque Ireland : a literary and artistic delineation of the natural scenery, remarkable places, historical antiquities, public buildings, ancient abbeys, towers, castles, and other romantic and attractive features of Ireland”. Photo Credit: Internet Archive Book Images / No known copyright restrictions
Nelson’s Pillar from Carlisle Bridge: Image from page 388 of “Picturesque Ireland : a literary and artistic delineation of the natural scenery, remarkable places, historical antiquities, public buildings, ancient abbeys, towers, castles, and other romantic and attractive features of Ireland”. : Photo Credit: Internet Archive Book Images / No known copyright restrictions
Elliot Place in the 1930s: Photo Credit: The Frank Murphy Collection (Old Dublin Society)
Lower Gardiner Street: Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/337488565799148189/
Montgomery Street / Old Dublin Housing: Photo Credit: ImageShack 
Map of Dublin: The Sunny Side of Ireland. How to see it by the Great Southern and Western Railway … With seven maps and over 130 illustrations, etc. Image Credit: The British Library / Public Domain, from the British Library’s collections, 2013

Available Now: A Scarlet Woman: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book One

I’m delighted to announce the publication of my Irish historical romance A Scarlet Woman: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book One in Kindle and paperback.

A Scarlet Woman by Lorna Peel eBook Cover

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?

A_Scarlet_Woman_PRINT_2

Read an excerpt from Chapter One…

Donning her best dress – a navy blue relict from her pre-Dublin life with a square neck and buttons up the front – and a fashionable hat in matching navy blue she had purchased from a second-hand clothes stall, she walked to St Stephen’s Green. It was the last day of July and the trees of the park, newly opened to the general public, were lush with leaves of varying greens. They reminded her of Ballybeg but she blinked a few times to banish the memory. For now, she was going to find a spot in the sunshine, watch the ladies and gentlemen parading past, and mull over what she could possibly gain employment as.

She found a suitable spot on the grass near the lake but found the ducks and pigeons far more entertaining. A little boy in a white sailor suit was throwing pieces of bread into the water for them and there were heated battles between the birds for possession. A little further along the lake shore, a gentleman folded his newspaper and got up, leaving it on the grass as he walked away. Immediately, she got to her feet and retrieved the newspaper. It was the previous day’s Dublin Evening Mail.

Out of curiosity, she went through the pages until she found the Situations Vacant columns. Her eyes rested on one advertisement for a parlourmaid but her heart sank when she read that references must be presented. She bit her nails for a few minutes before twisting around and glancing through the trees at the imposing red-bricked facade of the Shelbourne Hotel across the street. She tore the advertisement out of the newspaper before closing and folding it, placing it on the grass, and putting the advertisement in her handbag.

Leaving St Stephen’s Green, she adjusted her hat so it sat on her head at a jaunty angle, and crossed the street. She entered the hotel as if she knew exactly where she was going. Taking a quick glance around the foyer, she went to the reception desk. Scrutinising it, she saw just what she wanted. The concierge was dealing with a guest at the other end so she took a chance and grabbed a few sheets of notepaper and some envelopes. Hiding them in the folds of her skirt – trying desperately not to crumple them too much – she nonchalantly left the hotel, the doorman lifting his hat to her as she passed.

Her heart raced as she walked along the footpath towards the top of Grafton Street. She had never stolen anything before in her life. Retrieving the items from her skirt, she saw that she had three sheets of notepaper and two envelopes before halting. The name of the hotel was printed at the top of the notepaper and her heart sank. How stupid not to have realised that. Well, she wasn’t going to go back with them now. She carefully folded the sheets of notepaper and put them in the envelopes before carrying on. Now to find a pen and some ink. A pencil was out of the question.

She wandered slowly down Grafton Street, passed a café, then turned back and peered inside. A young man was busily writing something in a notebook with a pen at a window table. She would have to part with some of the two shillings and sixpence ha’penny on tea or coffee. She went in, sat at the next table and ordered a cup of coffee, the young man only glancing briefly at her.

“Excuse me?” she began before he bent to write again.

“Yes?” he replied rather shortly, clearly not having liked being disturbed.

“I hope you don’t mind, but could I please borrow your pen? I have an urgent letter to write.” She pulled a sheet of the Shelbourne Hotel notepaper out of an envelope, laid it on the table, and he stared at it curiously. “Please? It is very urgent.”

“All right.” He passed his pen and pot of ink to her, reached for a teapot, and poured himself a cup.

“You’re very kind, thank you.” She smiled at him and then up at the waitress who brought her coffee.

She dipped the nib into the ink, took a deep breath, and wrote a character reference in the nearest she could manage to her mother’s handwriting.

The Glebe House

Ballybeg

Co Galway

To Whom It May Concern:

Maisie Byrne was a house-parlourmaid in my household from June 1876 to July 1879. During that time she proved to be a hard worker, good timekeeper and was always polite, tidy, courteous, and willing.

I would have no hesitation in recommending Maisie Byrne for any future household position she may apply for.

Martha Stevens (Mrs)

She signed her mother’s signature with a flourish and read the reference through twice. Maisie had left because her own mother had fallen ill. They had never seen her again and the chances of her turning up in Dublin were scarce.

She added milk and sugar to the coffee and sipped it, waiting for the ink to dry. The young man leant over, read the reference, and laughed.

“I hope you get the position.”

She smiled and placed the envelope containing the unused notepaper in her handbag. “So do I. I really need it. Thank you very much for these.”

“Not at all,” he replied, taking the pen and ink back.   

“Are you writing a book?” she asked, glancing at the pages of neat handwriting in the notebook, and he rolled his eyes comically.

“Trying to.”

“I hope you get published.”

“Thank you… Maisie.”

Twenty minutes later, she stood outside a terraced Georgian townhouse on Merrion Square and took a deep breath to compose herself. She went carefully down the steep areaway steps and rang the bell. A maid, barely five feet tall, wearing a grey dress and white apron and cap, opened the door and looked her up and down.

“Yes?”

“I’ve come about the position—”

“Yes, yes, you’re the ninth since it was advertised. Come in.”

A little dejected, she followed the maid into the servants’ hall. The cook, another maid, and a footman were seated at a long dining table and gawped at her curiously while the tiny maid knocked at then opened a door to her left.

“Good morning,” she said politely.

“Morning,” the cook replied, reached for a teapot, and poured herself a cup as the tiny maid returned.

“Mr Johnston will see you now. In the butler’s pantry – there.” The maid pointed to the door she had just opened and closed.

“Thank you.” She walked to the door, braced herself, and knocked.

“Come in,” replied a loud voice in a harsh Ulster accent and she complied. The butler and a woman, presumably the housekeeper, were seated behind a table. “Stand there.” The butler pointed to a spot right in front of the table. “I am Mr Johnston, the butler. This is Mrs Black, the housekeeper.”

“Good morning, Mr Johnston, Mrs Black.”

Mr Johnston glanced up at her, then leant back in his chair. He was a gaunt red-haired man of late middle age, while the housekeeper was a little younger, her dark hair tied in a bun at the nape of her neck. Both were dressed in black. Mr Johnston wore a black coat, white shirt with wing collar, and a black cravat, while Mrs Black’s dress was tightly buttoned almost up to her chin. She stood meekly as they noted her accent and their eyes took in her general appearance, face, figure, hair and posture.

“Name?” the butler asked.

“Maisie Byrne, Mr Johnston.”

He nodded and held out his hand for the reference. Heart thumping, she handed it over and watched as he read it before passing it to Mrs Black.

“You have not worked since July 1879,” he said. “That is a year ago. What have you been doing during that time?”

“My mother had consumption, sir, and couldn’t look after herself,” she told him, hoping she sounded convincing. “I left my position at the Glebe House and cared for her until she died a month ago.”

“And where was that?”

“Gloucestershire in England. My mother had moved there to care for her sister. Aunt Mary also died of consumption. I have come back to Ireland because I now have no relatives left in England.”

“Do you have relatives here in Dublin or in—” The butler leant over and peered at the reference in Mrs Black’s hands. “Ballybeg?”

She shook her head. “No, Mr Johnston, but Ireland is my home, and I am more likely to find another position here in Dublin than in Co Galway.”

“Number 68 is the residence of Mr and Mrs James Harvey, Maisie. Mr Harvey is a barrister. Mr and Mrs Harvey entertain frequently, their guests often not leaving until the early hours. Despite this, parlourmaids at number 68 are expected to rise every morning at six o’clock. They are expected to work very hard.”

Six o’clock in the morning. She almost winced. Quite often, she didn’t go to sleep until six in the morning. “Yes, Mr Johnston. I am prepared to work very hard.”

“The wages are twenty pounds per year,” the housekeeper informed her, passing the reference back to the butler. “There is one-half-day off per week and every second Sunday. Servants at number 68 are also required to provide their own uniforms. Parlourmaids wear grey for mornings, and black for afternoon and evenings.”

Servants had to buy their own uniforms? Had she enough money for them? “Yes, Mrs Black,” she replied all the same.

“And last, but certainly not least, parlourmaids – indeed, all servants at number 68 – must have no followers.”

“Followers?” She was mystified and fought to stop herself grimacing. Had she just given her lack of knowledge of domestic service away?

“In your case, Maisie, men friends. Male admirers.”

“No, Mrs Black,” she replied quietly.

“Good.”

The butler glanced at the housekeeper, who gave him an almost imperceptible nod, and he got to his feet.

“Come with me, Maisie. Mrs Harvey is in the morning room and wishes to see each applicant.”

“Yes, Mr Johnston.”

Her heart thumping again, she followed him upstairs to the hall, and almost walked into him when he stopped suddenly.

“Wait here,” he said and went into a room at the front of the house.

She gazed around the rather cluttered hall. Two narrow mahogany tables stood along one wall and a mahogany grandfather clock stood across from what she now knew to be the morning room door.

“Maisie.” She jumped as the door opened and the butler held it open for her.

She walked into a large bright room. Two huge brown leather sofas stood opposite each other at right angles to the fireplace and on the walls, she counted four gas lamps. Before she could take in more of the room, a woman in her fifties with greying reddish-brown hair piled elegantly on top of her head got up from a writing desk at the window with the reference in her hands.

“I have never received a reference written on Shelbourne Hotel notepaper before,” Mrs Harvey said, by way of a greeting.

“When I received the telegram from England telling me my mother was very ill, I left the Glebe House as quickly as I could so I wouldn’t miss the Dublin train,” she replied, hoping it wasn’t glaringly obvious she was making the story up as she went along. “Mrs Stevens kindly told me I could request a character reference at a later date so, when my mother died and I was preparing to return to Ireland, I wrote to Mrs Stevens. That is the reference I received, Mrs Harvey.”

“Probably in town visiting her dressmaker,” Mrs Harvey murmured, smoothing a hand over a beautiful high-necked day dress of gold silk satin. “Well, Maisie,” Mrs Harvey continued, folding the reference. “You begin on Monday. You may move in tomorrow.”

She was so flabbergasted she almost forgot to reply. “Thank you, Mrs Harvey.”

Mrs Harvey nodded and dismissed her from the morning room.

Her head spinning, she followed the butler back to the servants’ hall.

“Mrs Black will be expecting you tomorrow afternoon or evening, Maisie,” he told her, and all she could do was nod as she left the house.

Climbing the areaway steps up to the pavement, she walked away in the direction she had come.

A_Scarlet_Woman_SQUARE-1

Buy A Scarlet Woman for   

Kindle

Or read A Scarlet Woman FREE with 

download

Buy the A Scarlet Woman paperback at

amazon  B&N  wordery  Book Depository  blackwells  waterstones  Booktopia  Fishpond AU  Fishpond NZ  BAM  McNallyRobinson

2

Amazon ASIN: B074LJJWJW

Paperback ISBN: 9781547079698

Explore my blog for more excerpts, character profiles, and background information

goodreads11-1024x409

Author: Lorna Peel

Title: A Scarlet Woman

Series: The Fitzgeralds of Dublin Book One

Genre: Victorian Historical Romance

Cover Designer: Rebecca K. Sterling, Sterling Design Studio

Ebook and Print Formatting: Polgarus Studio

facebook-48x48  twitter-48x48  pinterest-48x48  google+-48x48  tumblr-48x48  goodreads-48x48  Wordpress  instagram_app_large_may2016_200  newsletter

(Book Cover): LILLIE LANGTRY (1853-1929) UK socialite, actress and mistress of Edward VII in August 1885. Photo William Downey. Photo credit: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo
(Book Cover): Gun Powder Office: Photo credit: National Library of Ireland on The Commons / No known copyright restrictions