Fict Historical Julie Klassen Lady Maybe

ISBN 13: 9780425282076

Lady Maybe

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9780425282076: Lady Maybe

In this novel by the three-time Christy Award-winning author of The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, a woman’s startling secrets lead her into unexpected danger and romance in Regency England... 

One final cry...“God almighty, help us!” and suddenly her world shifted violently, until a blinding collision scattered her mind and shook her bones. Then, the pain. The freezing water. And as all sensation drifted away, a hand reached for hers, before all faded into darkness...

Now she has awakened as though from some strange, suffocating dream in a warm and welcoming room she has never seen before, and tended to by kind, unfamiliar faces. But not all has been swept away. She recalls fragments of the accident. She remembers a baby. And a ring on her finger reminds her of a lie.

But most of all, there is a secret. And in this house of strangers she can trust no one but herself to keep it.

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About the Author:

Julie Klassen is the bestselling, three-time Christy Award-winning author of Lady MaybeThe Secret of Pembrooke Park, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, and The Girl in the Gatehouse. She loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She and her husband have two sons and live in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER 1

Bath, England

1819

Lady Marianna Mayfield sat at her dressing table—clothed, curled, and powdered. She feigned interest in her reflection in the mirror, but in reality, she watched the housemaid behind her, packing away every last one of her belongings.

Early that morning, Sir John had come to her room and announced that they were leaving Bath that very day. He refused to tell her where they were going, fearful she would somehow get word to Anthony Fontaine. Nor was he allowing her to bring any of the servants, who would of course wish to know where they were headed, and might let slip their destination.

Marianna’s stomach clenched. Did he really think another move would stop her? Stop him?

She shot to her feet and stalked to the window. Pulling back the gauzy drapery, she frowned. There in the rear mews, the groom and coachman prepared the new carriage for departure—replacing the long, spring-loaded candles in its brass lamps, then checking the wheels and springs.

Now she knew why he had ordered a traveling chariot, custom built for long journeys. It was an expensive equipage, but a man like Sir John Mayfield would not blink at the cost. Not when he was determined to steal away with her, and leave any would-be followers behind.

Anthony will find me. Of course he would. He had done so easily the last time they moved, taking a house here in Bath. Still, she wished he might return early from London, before they departed. Perhaps he would finally stand up to Sir John, tell him what he could do with his futile scheme, and end this farce of a marriage once and for all.

A knock sounded on the open doorjamb. Frown still in place, she glanced over, expecting Sir John with another edict.

Instead it was the butler, Hopkins. “A caller for you, your ladyship.”

Marianna’s heart leapt.

“It is Miss Rogers,” he added. “Are you at home, or shall I send her away?”

Marianna’s momentary elation deflated, but not completely.

“Heavens no, don’t send her away,” she said. “Show her into the morning room.”

“Very good, your ladyship.” Hopkins bowed and departed.

The arrival of her former companion was certainly a surprise, considering how abruptly Hannah Rogers had left their employ a half year before—but not an unhappy surprise. Glancing at her empty drawers and wardrobe with sinking heart, Marianna left her bedchamber and made her way downstairs.

A familiar, willowy figure rose at her entrance, assailing Marianna with waves of nostalgic fondness—followed by betrayal that the woman had left without a word. She swallowed the bitter lump and began, “Hannah! My goodness. I never expected to see you again.”

The young woman met her gaze, expression tense. “My lady.”

Marianna smiled brightly. “You’re a godsend, an absolute godsend—if I believed in such things. What timing! That you should come back now.”

Hannah Rogers clasped her hands tightly, and lowered her eyes. “I . . . I never received my final allowance.”

Companions received a modest salary referred to as an allowance, not vulgar “wages.” Marianna had not expected the belated request, but didn’t quibble.

“Of course you should have it. I never understood why you left without collecting your due.” She rang a bell on the side table and Hopkins appeared.

“Ask Mr. Ward to bring in Miss Rogers’s remaining allowance, if you please.”

When the butler left the room, Marianna turned back to Hannah and asked, “How have you been keeping?”

“Oh . . .” Miss Rogers formed a tenuous smile. “Well enough, thank you.”

Unconvinced, Marianna sat and studied her, taking in the wary eyes, pale skin, and sharp cheekbones—the hollows beneath more noticeable than she remembered.

“You appear in good health,” Marianna allowed. “If a little tired. And thin.”

“Thank you, my lady.”

“Please, be seated. I would offer you refreshment, but Sir John has seen fit to dismiss most of the servants already. We’re down to Hopkins, Mr. Ward, and one maid.”

Hannah remained standing, but Marianna didn’t press her. Instead, she tentatively asked, “And have you found another situation? I awaited word from you, or request for a character reference, but nothing ever came.”

“Yes. I have another place, or did, until recently.”

“Oh?” Hope rising, Marianna asked, “Are you not engaged at present?”

“No.”

Marianna rose and eagerly took the young woman’s hand. “Again, I say, what timing. For I am in dire need of a traveling companion.”

“Traveling companion?”

“Yes. Sir John insists on uprooting us again. Just when I have begun to appreciate Bath society. But he will not yield, and so off we go.” She laughed in artificial gaiety. “Say you will come with me as my companion, Hannah. He won’t even let me take my lady’s maid. He’s already dismissed her.”

He would probably refuse to allow Miss Rogers to go with them as well, Marianna knew, but she had to try.

Hannah shook her head. “I couldn’t leave Bath, my lady. Not now.”

“You must! I shall . . . double your allowance to convince you. If Sir John does not agree, I shall use my own money.”

Hannah hesitated, then faltered, “I . . . I don’t even know where you are going.”

“Nor do I! He won’t even tell his own wife where we are bound. Isn’t that a laugh? Thinks I’ll tell a certain someone, which of course I would.”

Again Hannah shook her head. “I couldn’t leave at present. I have family here—”

“Your father lives in Bristol.” Marianna reminded her. “And you left him when we moved here.”

“Yes, but . . . that was different.”

“Oh, I don’t imagine it will be so much different,” Marianna said breezily. “I doubt we’ll go far. The last time we only moved from Bristol to Bath—as though a mere dozen miles would keep us apart.”

She knew Hannah would understand the reference to her first love, whom Miss Rogers had met on several occasions.

Still Hannah hesitated. “I don’t know. . . .”

“Oh, do come, Hannah. It won’t be forever. If you don’t like the place, or need to return to your family, you will be free to leave. You left before, after all, when it suited you.” Marianna smiled to soften the words—jab and assurance rolled into one.

She continued, “I really can’t bear this alone. Traveling with Sir John to some unknown place. No comforting presence between us. No familiar, friendly faces. He insists we hire all new servants when we arrive. We are not to take Hopkins or even Mr. Ward.”

As if on cue, the door opened and her husband’s secretary entered. She noticed Hannah stiffen.

“Ah, Mr. Ward. You remember Hannah Rogers, I trust?”

The thin man with thinner hair and pockmarked skin turned expressionless eyes her way. “Yes, m’lady. Left without notice, as I recall.”

“Yes, well, no matter. She has come for her allowance, which she is owed fairly, so no argument, if you please.”

His eyes glinted with displeasure or perhaps rebellion. “Yes, m’lady. Hopkins did inform me.”

He turned stiffly to Miss Rogers. “I’ve taken a penalty from your allowance,” he began in patronizing fashion, “for leaving without proper notice, along with the eleven days you missed that quarter. Here is the remainder.”

Miss Rogers gingerly extended her palm, head bowed like a beggar. The man dropped several sovereigns and shillings onto her outstretched hand, smirking all the while.

“Thank you,” Hannah mumbled.

He turned without a word and quit the room.

Watching him go, Marianna shivered. “I cannot say I am sorry to leave him behind. Odious man. He is returning to Bristol to oversee Sir John’s interests there.”

Hannah glanced down at the coins in her hand. “I’m grateful for the offer, my lady. I am. But I . . . need to think about it.”

Marianna Mayfield studied her. Something was different about Miss Rogers. What was it? “Well don’t think too long,” Marianna said. “We’re leaving at four this afternoon, according to Sir John. Unless I can persuade him to forgo this idiotic notion. Jealous fool.”

Hannah looked up at her, expression torn. Almost miserable. She said, “If I’m not here by half past three, don’t wait for me. It means I’m not coming.”

The hours passed all too quickly. The maid continued packing, and Marianna continued pacing. Still Anthony did not arrive. Nor did Hannah.

Marianna looked out the drawing room window toward the street. The traveling chariot had been moved to the front of the house, four horses now harnessed to it, the lead horse now and again stamping an eager hoof.

The maid, butler, and a hired lad stowed their belongings in the built-in imperial—like a large, shallow valise atop the roof. More baggage rode in the rear, strapped in to the outside seat where two servants could have sat, had Sir John allowed her to take any with them.

At that moment, he strode into the room, imposing in his shooting jacket. He sternly insisted Marianna gather her hand luggage and prepare to depart so Hopkins could begin closing up the house. He turned on his heel and stalked away, his grim expression brooking no disagreement.

One of Marianna’s friends had told her she was lucky to have a husband with such a decided, commanding manner. Marianna did not agree. But she knew further argument about staying would be futile. The house had already been sold. She glanced at her watch pin. Twenty after three.

Ten more minutes . . .

Still hoping her former companion would arrive in time, she gathered her things and stepped outside.

Beside the carriage, Sir John spoke with a hired postilion, who would ride the lead horse for the first stage of the journey. They were taking no groom or guard. As Marianna approached, Sir John reached inside and extracted a flintlock rifle from the chariot’s concealed gun case. He checked it, then returned it to its hiding place. Apparently, he would act as guard himself. Perhaps she ought be glad Anthony had not shown up after all.

Her gaze fell to her watch pin once more. Half past three. Dash it. She had so hoped Hannah would come.

Suddenly that very figure appeared at the end of Camden Place, where the crescent met Lansdown Street. Marianna’s heart lifted. As she watched, a tall, dark-haired young man jogged after Hannah and snagged her by the elbow. They were too far away for Marianna to hear their conversation, but she saw Hannah shake her head and gently extract her arm from his grip. Resignation showed in her expression, but no fear. A suitor, perhaps? If so, no wonder Hannah hesitated to leave Bath.

Hannah turned away from the man and strode toward the carriage.

“John, look,” Marianna said. “Miss Rogers has come to join us!”

Her tall husband stiffened and turned to stare, expression inscrutable.

Hannah Rogers hurried toward them, valise bumping against her leg.

Marianna beamed. “Oh, Hannah, how happy I am to see you! I dread making this journey, but I shall not mind nearly so much with you beside me.”

“The offer still stands?” Hannah asked, panting to catch her breath.

Marianna ignored her husband’s glare and smiled at her would-be companion. “Of course.”

“And I may return if the situation doesn’t suit?”

“Well you won’t be a prisoner, Hannah. I wish I could say the same for myself.” She sent Sir John a pointed look. Waited for him to refuse. To insist that they travel alone.

His jaw clenched, but he said nothing.

The hired lad strapped Hannah’s valise with the others, and the three entered the carriage, settling themselves onto the velvet cushions of the plush interior. Marianna reached up and fingered the golden tassels of the rich blue window draperies and murmured, “What a pretty cage.”

They rode through the night in uneasy silence, stopping to change horses at coaching inns along the way. Cramped and sleepy, Marianna sat as far away from Sir John as possible on the bench seat they shared. She leaned against the carriage wall and looked out the side window, avoiding his gaze.

The brass candle lamps glowed steadily beyond the windowpane. Eventually, night waned and dawn began to redden the sky, following their westward course along the Bristol Channel.

Miss Rogers, perched on the pull-down seat nearby, seemed to grow more restless with each passing mile. Brow furrowed, she bit her lip and twisted her long fingers again and again in her lap. Outside, a light drizzle began to fall, and if Marianna was not mistaken, her companion’s eyes were damp as well.

As they entered yet another unknown hamlet and rumbled past its village green, the three of them stared out the window at a sobering sight: a pair of low-lying wooden stocks. Two women sat on the ground behind them, bound at the ankles. One woman scowled and swore at the jeering passersby. The other stared off into the distance with as much quiet dignity as the mortifying position allowed. Marianna wondered what each woman had been found guilty of. She was struck by how differently each faced the consequences of her actions, whatever they were. A chill passed up Marianna’s neck. Would she face consequences for her own actions? She shrugged off the uncomfortable thought. Nothing would happen to her. It had not been her fault—or her idea. And after all, they had gotten away with everything for more than two years now.

Sometime later, they stopped at another coaching inn. To that point, they had traveled with a team of four, driven by a succession of mounted postilions. But this inn had only two horses available, and how mismatched they were. The weary postilion departed, replaced by a fresh young man of nineteen or twenty. He converted the chariot’s front box into a coachman’s seat and from there, lifted the reins.

“It won’t be long now,” Sir John said, continuing to survey the road behind them with wary eyes. “We’re beginning the final short stretch of the journey.”

As they left the inn yard, the drizzle swelled into a driving rain. The winds increased with each mile, howling and rocking the carriage.

They all lurched as the young driver pulled the horses to the side of the road and halted. He turned on his seat to face them through the front carriage window. Sir John opened the speaking flap to listen to what the young man had to say. Wind and rain garbled his words.

“The roads are awful bad, sir. And the storm is picking up. I don’t think it wise to go on.”

“Come lad, it cannot be much farther.”

“Three miles, give or take.”

“And no inn before?”

“No, sir. But a farmer might let us shelter in his barn.”

“A barn—with these ladies? No. We must press on. I have a particular reason.”

“But, sir . . .”

“I shall make it worth your while.” Through the flap, Sir John handed the young man a small bulging purse. “And that much again when you deliver us there safely.”

The young man’s eyes widened. “Yes, sir.” He wiped the rain from his face and turned forward, allowing the flap to fall.

Marianna protest...

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Descripción Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In this novel by the three-time Christy Award-winning author of The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, a woman s startling secrets lead her into unexpected danger and romance in Regency England. One final cry. God almighty, help us! and suddenly her world shifted violently, until a blinding collision scattered her mind and shook her bones. Then, the pain. The freezing water. And as all sensation drifted away, a hand reached for hers, before all faded into darkness. Now she has awakened as though from some strange, suffocating dream in a warm and welcoming room she has never seen before, and tended to by kind, unfamiliar faces. But not all has been swept away. She recalls fragments of the accident. She remembers a baby. And a ring on her finger reminds her of a lie. But most of all, there is a secret. And in this house of strangers she can trust no one but herself to keep it. Nº de ref. de la librería AAS9780425282076

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Descripción Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In this novel by the three-time Christy Award-winning author of The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, a woman s startling secrets lead her into unexpected danger and romance in Regency England. One final cry. God almighty, help us! and suddenly her world shifted violently, until a blinding collision scattered her mind and shook her bones. Then, the pain. The freezing water. And as all sensation drifted away, a hand reached for hers, before all faded into darkness. Now she has awakened as though from some strange, suffocating dream in a warm and welcoming room she has never seen before, and tended to by kind, unfamiliar faces. But not all has been swept away. She recalls fragments of the accident. She remembers a baby. And a ring on her finger reminds her of a lie. But most of all, there is a secret. And in this house of strangers she can trust no one but herself to keep it. Nº de ref. de la librería AAS9780425282076

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