An heiress, thinks spoiled Miss Alethea Hardy, should rise late, dress elegantly and marry well.
A far cry from her new responsibilities--up at dawn to fetch and carry for her betters!
In running away from a repulsive proposal, Thea has ruined herself. Until she meets Marcus Ashfield, Viscount Strensham, who seems to see the beautiful woman behind the dowdy uniform. Such a devastatingly handsome, arrogant lord can't be interested in a lowly maid...can he?
The secret life of the Regency servant!
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January 31, 2008
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Excerpt from Housemaid Heiress by Elizabeth Beacon
'You will have to marry Granby now,' Lady Winforde observed with undisguised satisfaction.
'I'd sooner wed the boot boy!'
'Your low tastes are irrelevant.' Lady Winforde contemplated the bedraggled figure in front of her with distaste, and Thea forced herself to meet those cold, colourless eyes as if it cost her no effort at all. 'It's not as if you have any claim to breeding, and my son will be taking a step down by marrying the granddaughter of a foundling.'
'Your son is a gambler and a drunkard. No female with any regard for her comfort or sanity would willingly marry him, whatever her birth.'
'Ah, but such a lady would not be shut in a gentleman's bedchamber all night in the first place. How on earth you expect me to believe a door could stick at night and open freely in the morning I shall never know, but you have no choice but to accept my son's offer. The poor boy thinks himself very hard done by I fear, having been trapped in such a distasteful fashion by a designing female with no pretensions to rank.'
'No doubt unfettered access to my grandfather's fortune will help him endure.'
'How well you understand the matter. Now it's high time you retired to your room to contemplate your undeserved good fortune.'
'If you recall, Lady Winforde, my room is being refurbished. How unfortunate that such a catastrophic flood should force me to take up residence in the attics at such a time,' Thea said drily.
'Yes, the roof on that side is sadly neglected.'
'Oh, no, my dear, highly inconvenient when it puts you so far from my care and guidance, as last night's escapade amply demonstrates. Never mind, once you are married to Granby you can join him in the master suite quite respectably.'
'I'd rather share it with the lunatics at Bethlehem Hospital.'
'Would you, niece? I'm sure that could be arranged, if you persist in showing such stubbon disregard for the conventions.'
'I am not your niece.' Thea had steadfastly refused to call the woman aunt from the day she and her repulsive son arrived under Grandfather's much-maligned roof. 'And my trustees would never believe such shameful lies.'
'I think you might be surprised. Refusing such an honourable offer of matrimony, after being discovered in my son's bedroom in such a state of disarray, will hardly convince them of your sanity. Especially when such impeccable witnesses discovered you in that dreadfully compromising situation.'
'And just how were the vicar and his wife so conveniently to hand?'
What more natural in a worried aunt than to scour the countryside for her missing niece? It was hardly to be wondered at that a man of the cloth should rush to my side to offer support and succour at such a time.'
'And his wife's curiosity was the icing on the cake I suppose?'
'What strange turns of phrase you possess, a legacy of your peculiar upbringing one can only suppose.'
'There was nothing wrong with my upbringing,'Thea was goaded into protesting and one of Lady Winforde's plucked eyebrows rose incredulously as she let a smile fleetingly touch her thin lips.
Drat, she had let the scheming witch win another bout, and once upon a time she had thought herself so very clever.
'Perhaps not for the granddaughter of a cit, but you are ill prepared to follow in my footsteps,'her ladyship informed Thea haughtily. 'Still, we must make the best of the inevitable. You will return to your room and compose yourself for your wedding to my son. A bride must prepare for such a solemn occasion.'
Thea was marched back to captivity by one of the thuggish servants the Winfordes had brought in when Grandfather was hardly cold in his grave. Somehow she must lull them into thinking her defeated; in the hope they would relax and give her a chance to escape.
Not that she feared another visit from Granby; even last night he did no more than half-heartedly molest her, until her virulent, and fluently expressed, disgust sent him back to his beloved brandy bottle. What an idiot she had been not to take the unscrupulous rogues seriously from the outset, when she might have stood a better chance of confounding them.
Thea plumped down on the narrow bed that was the only furniture in her dreary attic, apart from a broken joint stool. Tempting though it was to fall into a despairing stupor after such a night, she refused to give in. Somehow she would find a way out of this trap, even if it killed her. At least that would frustrate the conniving rogues after her fortune! *** 'Confound it, Nick, I should have left you in Southampton,' Major Marcus Ashfield, the new Lord Strensham, announced as he regarded his gaunt companion through narrowed eyes.