Meet A Scarlet Woman’s Isobel Stevens

Copyright Watts Gallery / Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

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 practice 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…

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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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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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.

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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 practice 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.”

A Scarlet Woman by Lorna Peel eBook Cover

Buy A Scarlet Woman for   

Kindle

Or read A Scarlet Woman FREE with 

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Buy the A Scarlet Woman paperback at:

Amazon Create Space

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Amazon ASIN: B074LJJWJW

Paperback ISBN: 9781547079698

Visit 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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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

Meet Brotherly Love’s Caitriona Brady

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Caitriona Brady is twenty-six years old and is the widow of John Brady, the Brady champion who was killed in a faction fight two years ago. Caitriona and John were brought together by a local matchmaker and Caitriona was eighteen when she left her home in Dunmore Parish, married John, and began a life in a cottage on fifteen acres of rented land on a mountain in the remote parish of Doon.

Caitriona and John had no children and, after John’s death, Caitriona nursed John’s elderly mother until Bridget died. Finally her own mistress, Caitriona wants to make the most of her new found freedom. She wants to choose a husband this time and not have the decision made for her.

Michael Warner is new to the parish, is the most handsome man she has ever seen – and he loves her. So why are there so many obscacles in the way of their courtship? The Brady faction see Caitriona’s love for the priest’s brother as a betrayal of her dead husband. Caitriona’s ‘betrayal’ is used to begin a number of faction fights and she is very much afraid that she will be responsible for someone’s death. John Brady has been dead for two years and the Brady faction won’t allow him to rest in peace. Can the Bradys be persuaded to change their name and Caitriona allowed to move on with her life?

Michael’s brother, Father Liam Warner, disapproves of their courtship, too. He views Caitriona as dangerous, even if she doesn’t realise it herself, and wants nothing more than for Caitriona to return home to her family in Dunmore Parish. It seems nothing will change his mind about the ‘damned Brady woman’.

Even Caitriona’s brother-in-law, Thady Brady, has reservations about the courtship. Thady gave Caitriona permission to look for another husband and approves of Michael Warner, but not enough is known about Doon Parish’s ‘mystery man’. Thady persuades Caitriona to allow him to do some digging into Michael’s background at an upcoming cattle fair. What Thady discovers shakes Caitriona’s world to the core.

Can there ever be a solution to seemingly insurmountable obstacles? Is there no hope for Caitriona and Michael? Find out in Brotherly Love.

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Ireland, 1835. Faction fighting has left the parish of Doon divided between the followers of the Bradys and the Donnellans. Caitriona Brady is the widow of John, the Brady champion, killed two years ago. Matched with John aged eighteen, Caitriona didn’t love him and can’t mourn him. Now John’s mother is dead, too, and Caitriona is free to marry again.

Michael Warner is handsome, loves her, and he hasn’t allied himself with either faction. But what secret is he keeping from her? Is he too good to be true?

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Excerpt:

Caitriona saw the shock in Thady’s eyes when she opened the door to Mary and him. Even Mary was stunned into an unusual silence, taking in her eyes – red and swollen from crying – her limp and undone hair hanging over her face and neck, and her creased and unkempt dress. Mary glanced at the blanket hanging over the back of the chair by the hearth, evidence that she hadn’t slept in either bed the previous night.

“Have you both come to tell me how I’ve been betraying my dear husband’s memory?” she croaked, walking back into the kitchen. “You’re the first today so maybe I’ll listen to you.”

“Were you not listening to what I told you last week?” Thady demanded. “John’s dead, let him lie.”

“But they won’t,” she replied wearily. “They’ll never let him lie.”

“Wait, wait.” Mary held up her hands, clearly lost as to the jist of the conversation. “What did you tell her, Thady?” she demanded.

Thady sighed. “I told Caitriona that as it has been two years since John died, she was free to look for another husband.”

Mary’s eyes narrowed. “Well, it didn’t take you long, did it? The priest’s brother, no less. You went off into the woods with him, I was told. You went off with him into the woods in front of everyone.”

“You were told?” Caitriona retorted. “You weren’t even there, Mary. Don’t think you know what happened because you don’t.”

“All right.” Thady laid a comforting hand on her arm. “I know we weren’t there but we did talk to Father Warner and to Michael. Father Warner wasn’t very happy-looking.”

“What about Michael?”

“He didn’t say much but he looked shocked. There was an almighty fight going on.”

“Well, it shows that no-one listened to a word I said at the wake.” She shrugged helplessly. “I just don’t know what to do, Thady.”

“I have no objections to Michael Warner courting you, though, I’d say his brother does. The next pilgrimage is next month to Tobar Dhoun. I’m John’s brother, I don’t fight anymore, so how about I go and talk to Father Warner then, maybe, he can say something at Mass. Everyone will have to listen, then.”

“Do you think they will?” she asked in a small voice. “I don’t know.”

“We can only try.” Thady smiled at her, ignoring his wife who was rolling her eyes heavenwards. “I only want you to be happy and if Michael Warner’s the man…”

“He is,” she replied quietly. “If he hasn’t been frightened away.”

“Not at all, though, maybe you should be a little bit more careful in future. Michael Warner hasn’t lived in the parish very long, people don’t know him, and he’s refused to be dragged into the fighting. People don’t know what to make of him yet. Just be careful.”

“You’ll want something done before Tobar Dhoun,” Mary said shortly. “That fight yesterday was a disgrace. You’ll kill someone yet, you stupid girl.”

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Meet Brotherly Love’s Michael Warner

michael-warner

Michael Warner is twenty-eight years old. One of four siblings, he and his elder brother, Liam, are the only two who lived to adulthood. He was born and brought up on a large farm and, like Liam, Michael was well educated. He can read and write in both Irish and English.

Michael and Liam have lived in a cottage outside the village of Doon for just over a year where they rent and farm fifteen acres of good land. Although Liam helps him at the busiest times of the year – saving the hay and the turf (peat) – Michael does the bulk of the farm work himself. But why did Michael choose to be a farmer in the first place? With his education, Michael could have had the choice of many careers.

Any newcomer to an area invites comment whether they like it or not, and it isn’t long before the people of Doon begin to ask questions about the parish’s ‘mystery man’. Why did Michael come with his brother to live and farm in a remote, rural, and mountainous parish? Why don’t the brothers take lodgings or employ a housekeeper? Why has Michael stayed out out of the faction fights which have divided the parish? Why is Liam so against Michael courting Caitriona Brady, the young widow of John Brady, the Brady champion killed in a faction fight two years ago. And how long will it be before these questions are answered and become public knowledge?

caitriona-and-michael

Ireland, 1835. Faction fighting has left the parish of Doon divided between the followers of the Bradys and the Donnellans. Caitriona Brady is the widow of John, the Brady champion, killed two years ago. Matched with John aged eighteen, Caitriona didn’t love him and can’t mourn him. Now John’s mother is dead, too, and Caitriona is free to marry again.

Michael Warner is handsome, loves her, and he hasn’t allied himself with either faction. But what secret is he keeping from her? Is he too good to be true?

brotherly_love_print_jpg

Excerpt:

“Oh, stop.” Michael grabbed Caitriona’s hand and pulled her away from the dancers. “I’m fit to drop.”

The two of them sank down on the flat rock, fighting for breath, and Michael couldn’t help but stare at her. Caitriona’s blue eyes were shining, her face was flushed, and curls were blowing about her face and neck. She was so beautiful and he wasn’t going to wait a moment longer.

Taking her hand again, he led her away from the crowds, the music, and the dancers. They walked until they entered some trees and were out of sight then stopped.

Her expression was so solemn that his heart began to pound even more. He had tugged at his collar in the dance and it and his cravat were slightly askew. His long coat hung open and his hat was pushed to the back of his head. He knew he looked a mess but when would he get her alone again?

“I love you,” he told her, letting go of her hand, and waiting for a reply.

She seemed stunned at this sudden revelation and began to pull awkwardly at the skirt of her black dress. She then raised her eyes to his.

“I’m glad,” she whispered. “Because I love you, too.”

He was so shocked his mouth fell open and he gaped stupidly at her before roaring with delighted laughter. “Oh, thank God.” He laughed again. “Thank God.”

“I don’t know if He has much to do with it.” She laughed, too. “But thank Him if you must.”

“Thank you, then,” he whispered and kissed her.

He had never kissed any woman in the way he did now and surprised himself. Her hands were in his hair, pulling his face towards hers. His hands were on her back, pulling her body against his. His tongue left her mouth and began to blaze a trail down her neck to her cleavage. He was licking the hollow between her breasts, her hands still in his hair, when he felt her tense. When she froze, he quickly raised his head, feeling his cheeks burn. He had gone too far.

“I’m sorry—” he began but she covered his mouth with her fingers.

“Listen,” she whispered and he straightened up. Shouts and cries were drifting up to them on the breeze. “Oh, no. A fight’s about to begin and they’re not even drunk yet, there hasn’t been time.”

“Liam’s still down there,” Michael told her as she righted her dress. “I hope he’s had the sense to walk away and not try to break it up.”

He clasped her hand and picked up his hat, which had fallen to the ground, and led her out of the trees.

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Meet Brotherly Love’s Liam Warner

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Father Liam Warner is forty years old and is the eldest surviving child of four siblings. Liam studied for the priesthood at Maynooth College, County Kildare, which is just outside Dublin. He was the first in his family to become a priest and his mother worked herself into an early grave, taking in washing and sewing, and selling her butter, eggs, and bread at the local market in an effort to be able to afford to send him there.

Liam and his brother, Michael, have lived just outside the village of Doon for the past year where they rent and farm fifteen acres of good land. In 1831, Ireland had a population of 7,767,401 and with Roman Catholicism being the largest religion by far, the fees paid to parish priests by their parishioners for christenings, marriages, and burials etc., made them wealthy men – on a par with the Church of Ireland clergyman – and, in some cases, even wealthier. It was a hard life, however, priests spent long hours in all weathers travelling the length and breath of their parish.

With Liam’s income, he and Michael can afford to live in lodgings, so why do they need to farm the land at all? Why do they not employ a housekeeper? And why did Liam agree to be appointed priest of a remote, rural, and mountainous parish in the first place? So many questions. Discover the answers in Brotherly Love.

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Ireland, 1835. Faction fighting has left the parish of Doon divided between the followers of the Bradys and the Donnellans. Caitriona Brady is the widow of John, the Brady champion, killed two years ago. Matched with John aged eighteen, Caitriona didn’t love him and can’t mourn him. Now John’s mother is dead, too, and Caitriona is free to marry again.

Michael Warner is handsome, loves her, and he hasn’t allied himself with either faction. But what secret is he keeping from her? Is he too good to be true?

brotherly_love_print_jpg

Excerpt:

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It is a week since my last confession.”

Liam rolled his eyes. Malachy Donnellan. How the man had the nerve… He listened to the usual impure thoughts rubbish Malachy spouted each week and began to absolve him, wanting eagerly to get rid of him, wondering how many Hail Marys to give him, when Malachy continued unexpectedly.

“Father, there’s something else that’s been on my mind lately, something you should know about.”

“Oh? Well, go on.”

“It’s about your brother, Father.”

“Michael?” Liam’s heart thumped. “What about him?”

“Well.” Liam heard Malachy scratch his head. “I’m not quite sure, Father, but I think he’s done something. Something he regrets. Something he wants to keep quiet..?”

Malachy ended on a high, questioning note and Liam leaned forward and glared at him through the grille.

“Like what?” he demanded.

“Oh, well…” For once Malachy was flustered, as if he hadn’t expected the news to affect the priest so badly. “I’m not quite sure, but it’s been on my mind for a while now and I thought you ought to know, being his brother and all…”

“Yes, well, thank you.” Liam sat back, closing his eyes in relief. At least Malachy didn’t know. “Is there anything else?”

“Well…” He heard Malachy scratch his head again. “It is wrong to break a promise, isn’t it, Father?”

“Yes,” he replied hesitantly. “Why?”

“Oh, it’s just that your brother and I were having a little chat the other day and now he seems to be under the impression that it isn’t wrong. Now you can tell him that it is. Can’t you, Father?”

Liam didn’t reply but leaned forward again and stared at Malachy in consternation as he grinned back at him through the grille.

“Is that all?” He found his voice.

“It is, Father, thank you.”

Liam quickly absolved Malachy and gave him five Hail Marys before sinking back in his seat as he heard the other man leave the confessional box. He touched his forehead and jumped, he was sweating profusely.

“Bastard,” he whispered and quickly crossed himself.

He opened the door and peered out into the chapel. Thankfully it was empty and he went out and began to pace up and down the aisle. What had Michael been up to, talking to that man? What had he said to give him those ideas? Without waiting for anymore confessees, he threw open the chapel door and strode along the road to the cottage without disrobing. He stood silently in the doorway for a few minutes watching Michael, who was sitting on his bed staring into space. He went into the bedroom and closed the door to the kitchen.

Michael started up and gaped wide-eyed at him. “You’re back early?”

“I had one confessee. One who was more than enough.”

“Oh?”

“It was Malachy Donnellan. He told me a lot about you, Michael. What the hell have you been up to?”

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Meet New Blood’s Sophia Nelson

Sophia Nelson from contemporary romance new blood by lorna peel

Thirty-three year old Sophia Nelson is about to start work as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House, a stately home and former Cistercian Abbey in Yorkshire, England. She returned to her home town six months previously to be closer to her ageing parents, working for a short time at the town’s mining museum before a suspicious fire burned it to the ground.

Her mother has dementia, suffered a stroke, and lives in a local care home. When her father fell and badly broke his arm, he couldn’t live on his own anymore, so he sold the family home and moved into sheltered accommodation. Sophia slept on her father’s sofa for a short time before her best friend, Michelle, offered Sophia the bed in her loft conversion. Sophia can’t believe her luck in securing a local job which comes with accommodation – a flat in what used to be the stable yard of Heaton Abbey House.

Sophia gets off to an unpromising start with Thomas, The Baron Heaton. She first encounters a man she later realises is him behaving suspiciously at a boathouse on the abbey estate. The following day, trying to familiarise herself with the sprawling house, she wanders into the dark library and begins to examine the leather-bound books on the shelves, not realising her employer is seated in a corner enjoying a glass of whisky. He is not too impressed that the tour guide has managed to lose herself in the house on her first day. For Sophia, it is lust at first sight of her tall, dark, and handsome employer, and who turns her into what she describes as ‘a gibbering mess’.

Matters don’t improve when she witnesses Lord Heaton throwing a man out of his office and later that day she bursts into tears and runs from the library when he asks her about her parents. Returning to the library to apologise for her behaviour, she hears him speaking about his sister, Stephanie, who is in hospital having just suffered a miscarriage. What Sophia overhears leaves her torn between her attraction to Lord Heaton and the fear of opening a Pandora’s box if the truth were to get out. How long can Sophia stay at Heaton Abbey knowing what she does?

New Blood

Excerpt:

She was at Michelle’s at eight o’clock on the dot that evening.

“Come in.” Michelle smiled. “I’ve just put the kettle on.” They brought their mugs of coffee into the living room and sat on the sofa. “So what’s up? You sounded like you were about to strangle someone yesterday.”

“Lord Heaton,” she replied simply.

“What, he’s a pain in the arse?”

“Yeah, and the rest.”

“What?” Michelle’s eyes bulged. “Oh, my God, you don’t fancy him, do you?” Sophia looked away. “Sophia?”

“I don’t know what to do,” she said miserably. “I need to leave but I can’t because I need the money and I need the flat but…”

“Heaton,” Michelle finished and Sophia smiled sadly and nodded. “Okay, tell me what’s been going on.”

“Everyone thinks he’s a recluse. He isn’t. I mean, he doesn’t go out much but it’s not like he never leaves the house or anything. I mean, we’ve been going walking together for weeks now—”

“Walking?” Michelle interrupted incredulously. “Hang on. Hang on. Rewind. You go walking together?”

“It came up that I go walking and I asked if he’d like to come. He said yes after a bit and we go walking on the moors. Stephanie comes too at the moment, though.”

“His sister?” Michelle asked.

Sophia swallowed. “Yes.”

“Okay. Go on.”

“I fancied him from the start. Bloody hell, it’s so corny but he’s tall, dark and handsome. But he’s got an awful temper and he smokes.”

Michelle shrugged. “You can’t have everything.”

“No. We just…talk. He’s shy and he’s lonely. He hates to admit it but he is. Everyone just treats him like ‘Lord Heaton’ and it’s like he’s become this character and has to keep on playing it. I mean, he continually calls me Ms Nelson. He’s never called me Sophia once.”

“And what do you call him?” Michelle frowned.

“Lord Heaton,” she replied. “It sounds ridiculous but he’s never once asked me to call him Thomas.”

“And you never once thought to ask him to call you Sophia?” Michelle added and Sophia shrugged. “Does he fancy you?”

“Yes.”

“What?” Michelle had reached for her mug but had to put it down again. “How do you know?”

“He, um, draws people. He’s got drawings of me.”

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Meet New Blood’s Thomas Heaton

thomas-heaton-from-contemporary-romance-new-blood-by-lorna-peel

Thirty-nine year-old Thomas Heaton is the 13th Baron Heaton. He inherited the title from his father when he had just finished university at Cambridge. For almost twenty years, he has had the burden and responsibility of not wanting to be remembered as the Heaton who had to sell Heaton Abbey House. Despite working long hours – often sleeping in his office – and being regarded as a recluse, he has been forced to open up the house to the public in order to keep the estate afloat.

Luckily, the house is somewhere tourists will flock to see. Thomas’ ancestor, Sir William Heaton bought the abbey and its lands following the dissolution of the monasteries in the late 1530s, renamed the abbey after himself, and remodelled the monastic buildings to suit his own domestic requirements.

A descendent of Sir William’s was created a Baron in the early 18th century and more rebuilding took place, reflecting the family’s elevation to the peerage. A further descendent made a fortune from coal mining, resulting in yet more rebuilding and restyling. A 20th century descendent made a catastrophic business deal and was forced to sell the mine and some land but, thankfully, the house with its mishmash of styles and five hundred acres of land remained unsold.

When he has a few minutes to spare, Thomas retreats to the abbey library to savour a glass of single-malt whisky. Having studied History of Art at university and with a weakness for full-figured Renaissance women, he can hardly believe his eyes when a curvy red-haired woman wanders in and begins to examine the books, not realising he is seated in a corner. The voluptuous Sophia Nelson may as well have walked off the pages of his art textbooks and will be working and living right on his doorstep.

Thomas’ elder sister, Stephanie, recently suffered a miscarriage at the hands of her violent boyfriend and lost a lot of blood. When Thomas offered to donate blood, he is told he can’t – and why – a secret that has been closely guarded for forty years and which shakes his world to the core.

When Sophia overhears the secret, Thomas can only hope she doesn’t reveal it. He struggles to keep his distance and his feelings under control, despite finding himself more and more in her company. She is the tour guide – staff – someone he really shouldn’t become involved with. Is it only a matter of time before the secret becomes public knowledge?

New Blood

Sophia Nelson returns to her hometown in Yorkshire, England to begin a new job as tour guide at Heaton Abbey House. There, she meets the reclusive Thomas, Baron Heaton, a lonely workaholic.

Despite having a rule never to become involved with her boss, Sophia can’t deny how she finds him incredibly attractive.

When she overhears the secret surrounding his parentage, she is torn. But is it the attraction or the fear of opening a Pandora’s box that makes her keep quiet about it?

How long can she stay at the abbey knowing what she does?

Excerpt:

Closing the bedroom door, she saw Heaton crossing the stable yard. It was the first time she had seen him dressed in anything but a suit and she stopped and stared. He was wearing a brown wax jacket with a bottle green jumper underneath, khaki combat-style trousers similar to her own and brown walking boots. She sighed and shook her head. It looked as though he was one of those men who looked fabulous in everything they wore. She reached for her mobile phone, pulled on a waterproof jacket, and grabbed her car keys before going downstairs to join him.

“You’ll have to move the seat back,” she said as she unlocked the Mini.

He got in and moved the passenger seat so far back that he might as well have been sitting on the back seat. She looked around at him, couldn’t help herself, and laughed.

“Sorry. I wanted something small and cheap to run.”

He pulled a comical expression. “I was looking to see if you had a sunroof that I could stick my head through. Maybe we should go in the Land Rover?” She nodded and he got out. “I’ll just get the keys from Des.”

She got out, locked the car, and saw him emerge from Des’ office. The two of them crossed the stable yard to the huge Land Rover.

“You’ll have to give me directions to where we start from,” he said as they got in.

“I will.”

Twenty minutes later, he pulled in at a small car park. “I haven’t been up here for years. You don’t walk too fast, do you?”

“No. There are two routes we can take. Up to what I call the big rock, which is eight kilometres there and back. Or up to the stone circle, which is five. Maybe five would be enough for today?”

He smiled. “I think so.”

He locked the Land Rover, they climbed over the stile, and walked up onto the footpath which ran through the heather.

“It’s lovely up here, isn’t it?” He halted after a few paces, hands on hips, and looked around them.

“If you need to stop and catch your breath just say.”

“Thanks. I’m not very fit. Walking between my office and the house isn’t really enough.”

They set off again at a slower pace.

“Where did you go to university?” she asked.

“Cambridge. The Heatons have always gone there. I was halfway through my final year when I learned that my father had cancer. I still have no idea how I got through my finals. The last time I saw him, he didn’t know who I was, so I do understand what it’s like. Unfortunately, he had run the estate like there was no tomorrow. I went into his study the day after the funeral and found drawers full of bills, invoices, and tax demands. Some went back years. It took years to pay all the creditors and the tax bill was astronomical. I’m still struggling to make ends meet and when the idea was put forward of opening the house up to coach tour parties, well, you saw what I was like. I apologise if I was rude to you. It’s no excuse, but I had to go to a funeral that day and I loathe funerals.”

“I hate funerals, too, and I wouldn’t like complete strangers traipsing through my home so I can sympathise. But there are tours booked for the next three months and Lady Heaton is scheduling additional daily tours because so many coach tour operators want to add the abbey to their list of stops. The way things are going, the abbey will soon have tours all year round.”

He nodded. “I know, but I am not dressing up as a monk or in a suit of armour for anyone.”

She laughed. “What do people say to you when they ask what you do for a living?”

“When people find out I have a title it is a bit of a conversation killer. I think some people have this idea that lords are all at least fifty, frequent gentleman’s clubs, and hunt, shoot and fish. I do none of those things. I was twenty-two when I inherited the title; I’ve been working to keep the place afloat ever since and I don’t want anything to spoil that.”

“It seems to be working, though.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “Just about.”

“Mum and Dad remember when you went down the mine instead of your father when he became claustrophobic.”

“Really?” He gave her an incredulous frown. “Good God, I must have been only about twelve or something. I wanted to go down with him but he wouldn’t let me. Then, when he had to come back up I asked if I could go and he just waved his hand in agreement.”

“Mum said that you asked lots of very good questions and that Dad was impressed. That is a huge compliment from my dad.”

“Were you ever down the mine?” he asked.

“No, I was never allowed, and it’s far too dangerous now. The nearest I got was the museum. I’d liked to have satisfied my curiosity but I much prefer the open air.

Mum’s grandfather was killed in a pitfall and I think she always worried that the same would happen to Dad. Now most of the time she thinks he’s dead.” She burst into tears. “Oh, God, I’m sorry.”

“Come and sit down.” Taking her arm, he led her off the path. They sat down in the springy heather and she wiped her eyes. “You have to cry, and let it all out,” he told her gently. “I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve locked myself in the library and just…”

He pulled a comical expression as she stared at him. It was hard to imagine him crying his eyes out but who knows how he reacted when he left the library after learning that his real mother was a complete stranger.

“I used to cry for my family,” he continued. “Me; the bills that still needed paying; the career I never had; the nightmare of possibly having to sell the estate; the fact that I have no life…that sort of thing. You have your cry then you dust yourself down and, in my case, head back out to the office.”

“My friends in London didn’t want me to come back up here.” She fished a handkerchief out of a pocket and blew her nose. “But I had to, she’s my mum. She and Dad are all I’ve got left and I know I’m quickly losing her. This morning she thought I was Sally, her sister. I’m really dreading a time when she forgets that I exist.”

“Do you not have any other family?” he asked.

“Mum’s brother, Martin, died when he was twenty,” she explained. “Sally lives in Cornwall. They were never close, anyway. Dad was an only child.”

“So why did you go to live in London?”

“I followed a man down there.” She shook her head at her stupidity. “I thought I’d found ‘the one’ at long last and I thought I’d be able to persuade Dad to come and live in London, even though I knew deep down that he’d never leave Mum up here and he’d never move her down there. Anyway, needless to say, it didn’t work out between Lee and me, and I was packing up down there when I got a phone call telling me that Dad had fallen and badly broken his arm and he couldn’t live on his own anymore. That was six months ago. He said himself that he should go into sheltered accommodation so he sold the house and he’s in The Beeches Complex now. Finding a job which has a flat going with it is fantastic.” She smiled. “Do you feel like going on?”

He returned a smile. “To be honest, I’d rather sit here and talk to you. I haven’t had a conversation about anything but estate business in…I don’t know how long.”

“To be honest, I think you work too hard.”

He nodded. “I think you’re right. But I have to work hard. I’m not going to be remembered as the Heaton who had to sell up. And if that means coach parties and teas, then it means coach parties and teas.”

“Did you find the fridge in the end?”

He rolled his remarkable eyes. “Yes. It’s now built into the kitchen cupboards in the pantry. Integrated, I think Mrs Fields called it, so no wonder I couldn’t find it.”

“At least you can raid it now,” she teased.

He shrugged. “There’s no Branston Pickle.”

“I can make you a sandwich if you get a craving.”

“I might just take you up on that.”

She smiled and looked away, hoping that he couldn’t see her blush.

“I rang the opticians in the town,” he announced and she turned back. “They gave me an appointment for tomorrow morning.”

“Oh. Good.”

“I hope I don’t pick the most hideous frames there.”

“Would you like me to come with you?” she asked, hoping she wasn’t overstepping the mark, and he failed to hide his relief at her offer.

“Thank you. I’d welcome another opinion. Even if I could ask Stephanie, God knows what I’d end up getting.”

“I suppose I should have mentioned it before,” she began. “Properly, I mean. But I was sorry to hear about Stephanie. A friend of mine in London lost a baby. It was awful.”

“I suppose you’ve also heard that it was because her boyfriend hits her?”

Sophia nodded.

“She won’t leave him. I’ve begged her, Lady Heaton has begged her, her friends have begged her, but she won’t. I’m terrified that one day he will kill her. She went home to her apartment the other day, refused my offer of coming here for a bit. Stubborn to the last.”

“I take it that she doesn’t know?” she asked.

“No. And that’s the way it’s going to be.” He sighed. “Look, I’m sorry you’re caught up in all of this.”

“I have to say this: I just can’t help but feel you’re burying your head in the sand over it all.”

“Well, what can I do?” he demanded. “Turn up on your friend’s doorstep and introduce myself?”

“Her name’s Michelle,” she told him.

“Michelle’s doorstep, then. Her whole family could fall apart. It sounds dramatic but if it’s anything like what’s happened between Lady Heaton and me—” He stopped abruptly realising he’d said more than he had intended to. “For now,” he continued quietly. “I just want to try and get my head around it all and let sleeping dogs lie.”

She shrugged sadly. “All right.”

“We passed a pub about a mile back,” he said, jabbing a thumb back in the direction of the road. “Would you like a coffee?”

“I would love a coffee, thank you.”

“Good. I’m freezing.”

“Why didn’t you say?”

He just shrugged comically and they returned to the Land Rover.

new-blood-cover-mockup

Buy New Blood at:  Amazon  Smashwords  iBooks  Barnes&Noble  Kobo 

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Amazon ASIN: B01KW0I7P2

E-book ISBN: 9781911381310

Print ISBN: 9781911381358

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