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Miss Addie Mallory is finished with the husband hunt. After six London Seasons as a bumbling wallflower, she convinces her parents that she should be allowed to use her dowry to buy a bookstore in Bath where she can live her life the way she wants.
Lord Grayson, Earl of Berkshire, has never gotten over his deceased wife’s betrayal with his own brother. He plans to make his life all about his son, Michael, who is deaf. When Grayson gets into a legal issue over his son’s competency, he turns to Addie, a dyslexic bookstore owner, for help.
Addie takes a personal interest in helping the boy. However, as time passes, Grayson and Addie’s joint venture to keep Michael from being declared incompetent leads to feelings and desires neither one of them expected.
Or necessarily wanted...
Miss Adeline Mallory accepted the footman’s hand and climbed from the carriage in front of her family’s townhouse in Mayfair. Her chaperone, Mrs. Wesley, followed her down the two short steps, then up the stone pathway to the stairs leading to the gleaming white front door with the well-polished brass knocker shaped like a roaring lion.
Before she reached the top step, the door was opened by Grimsley, their ancient and much-loved butler. “Good evening, Miss Mallory. I hope you had a pleasant time at the ball.”READ MORE
She didn’t have the heart to tell him that she had yet another entry to add to her ongoing chronicle Adeline Leaves the House. That was the running saga she kept in her journal, where each day she recorded the mishaps that happened to her every time she left the comfort of her home. Not that her life was full of mishaps—well, not all her life—but there were certainly enough to fill the pages of the three journals she’d kept since she had been old enough to write.
Tonight’s misfortune, however, was the proverbial last straw. This Season was starting out no better than all the others. The red stain on her pale blue ball gown was a stark reminder of her clumsiness. Although she had a good reason to believe one of the girls who had hated her for years purposely jarred her elbow, making her glass of punch spill down the front.
While she still had the anger churning in her stomach, she smiled and nodded at Grimsley, then marched down the corridor to the drawing room. Precisely where she knew her parents would be sitting this time of night, mother doing her endless needlework and father reading.
Such a peaceful couple, how could they have produced such a clumsy, inept daughter? Adeline pushed away the self-pity slowly making its way into her thoughts. She’d accepted a long time ago that she was not like other girls. And at every single event for the past six years, the other girls made sure she knew it.
Shifting the material on the front of her gown to cover the red stain, she said, “Good evening, Mother. Father.”
Her parents looked up from their tasks and smiled at her. The love in their eyes almost brought her to her knees. How would they receive the request she was about to make? The last thing she would ever want to do was to hurt them, but she’d made up her mind on the way home from the Everson ball, and nothing would dissuade her.
“How was your evening, my dear?” Mother patted the spot alongside her on the sofa as an invitation for Adeline to join her. Taking a deep breath, she settled next to Mother. “It was a typical ball. Nothing different.”
“No special gentleman?” Father grinned.
“No. I’m afraid not.” She kept a bright smile on her face, even though she was all knotted up inside and felt as if she were about to burst into tears. If she showed any sort of weakness, she would never get their permission.
Mother patted her hand. “Not to worry, dear. The right man will present himself when the time is right.”
“Soon, I hope,” Father mumbled as he picked up his book to continue reading.
“Arthur!” Mother chastised.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean it the way it came out.” He raised his book to cover his face.
“Father, I need your attention.” She turned toward her mother. “Yours, as well, Mother.”
Unable to sit any longer, Adeline hopped up and moved back a few spaces so she could see both of her parents clearly. It was nice to have a good view when one was about to break one’s parents’ hearts. “I shall not participate in another Season. I have attended my last ball.”
Two pairs of blue eyes similar to her own looked up at her, Mother with a slight frown, Father with a more pronounced one. “What do you mean, dearest?” Mother said.
“I am twenty-four years old, and by most measuring sticks, a spinster.” She raised her palm when both parents opened their mouths to speak. “Please let me finish. It doesn’t matter that you don’t think I am a spinster. The rest of the world perceives me as such.”
Mother glanced over at Father, a look passing between them she’d seen many times before. It was the ‘whatever is she talking about now’ expression.
Before she lost her nerve, she continued. “I am aware of my shortcomings and have accepted them.”
Father shifted in his chair and placed his book on the table next to him. “Now wait just a minute—”
“Please, Father. Hear me out.” She needed to stay angry. If she succumbed to their defense of her, and their resistance to see her as she actually was, she would dissolve into tears, and nothing would change.
“I believe it is time for me to make my own way in the world.”
Mother sucked in a deep breath and placed her hand over her mouth. “What do you mean?”
“I want to move away from London. And more than that, I want to own a bookstore.”
“You want to work!?” Father came right up out of his chair. “No daughter of mine will work. And that is the end of it.”
Her mother withdrew a lace-trimmed white handkerchief from the sleeve of her dress and patted her eyes. “What have we done to make you want to do this to us?”
Adeline dropped to her knees and took her mother’s hand. “I am not doing anything to either of you. I love you both with my whole heart. But the life you have always planned for me is not going to happen. In six years of husband-hunting, not one gentleman has shown any interest.”
“There was Mr. Abercrombie,” Mother said.
Addie sat back on her heels. “Mother. The man was fifty years old with children older than me. And,” she added with a smirk on her face, “he needed my dowry.”
“Arthur, say something to her,” Mother begged.
Father looked back and forth between her and her mother, and his face softened. “Perhaps she is right, Mildred.”
“What?” The screech coming from her mother probably brought all the horses in Mayfair to an abrupt halt.
Father studied her, tapping his lips with his finger. “Maybe it is time. I know it is not the normal thing for a young lady to move from her parents’ home and strike out on her own, but it might be the right thing for our daughter.”
Mother moaned. “I cannot believe the two of you.” She looked down at Adeline, still on the floor at her feet. “You must find a nice man. All right, maybe Mr. Abercrombie was not for you, but I shall ask among my friends. There are many sons, cousins, nephews, and friends of friends who we might introduce to you.”
Adeline shook her head. “No, Mother. I am finished with the game. I don’t care if I never have a husband. I don’t care if I never have a child”—a slight lie there—“but I want to feel as though there is more to my life than changing clothes and attending social affairs.”
Father moved to sit on the arm of the sofa and rested his hand on Mother’s shoulder. “This sounds like something you’ve thought about for some time. What do you have in mind?”
Excited that Father would actually consider her plan, she demurely placed her hands in her lap and stared up at him. “There is a bookstore in Bath for sale.”
“Bath!” Mother moaned again. “That’s on the other side of the country.”
Ignoring her mother’s outburst, Adeline continued, “Since I will have no need for a dowry, I had hoped you would allow me to use the funds to buy the bookstore. I would get a small flat nearby and run the store.” She smiled, enthused about her plans. “You know how much I love books.”
“But you can’t read,” Mother wailed.
Thank you, Mother. It was always nice to hear one’s faults so adequately expressed.
“I can read, Mother. It just is a bit difficult for me.”
Ever since she’d picked up her first book and looked at the words, she’d had a problem. It appeared no one else saw what she saw because when she read, it all came out wrong. When her teacher told them she was lacking intelligence, her parents had removed her from school and hired a tutor.
The tutor worked with her for years. She suggested that Adeline suffered from something recently termed word blindness, and she would have it her whole life. All Adeline knew of the condition was everyone else could read a book in a flash, their eyes moving back and forth over the lines on the page, while she had to stumble over every word. But that never stopped her love for books.
She loved the feel of the book in her hands. She loved the smell of the ink when she opened the tome for the first time. She loved turning the pages, smiling, as if she could read that fast. ’Twas difficult when one loved something that didn’t love one back.
Just then, her elder brother, Marcus, entered the room and saw her kneeling at her mother’s feet. “Paying homage to the Queen, Adeline?”
“No. I’m pleading for a change in my life.”
He walked to the sideboard and poured a small glass of brandy. Tall, confident, handsome, and charming, Adeline always idolized her brother, wishing she could be more like him and less like herself.
His expression softened. “Will it make you happier than you were tonight at the Everson’s ball, poppet?” As usual, her brother had attended the same event, spending his time avoiding the marriage-minded mamas. She had only seen him briefly, but he apparently had been watching her.
She blinked away the tears rushing to her eyes. “Yes. I believe so.”
He downed the drink and shrugged. “Then do it.” With those curt words, he offered her stunned parents a slight bow and left the room.
Gina, Goodreads wrote:
I loved, loved this book!! For one thing I’m very interested in sign language. I’m not deaf but I am mute. So it thrilled me that SL was part of the story. Also, reading difficulties for people are hard but in the story it was also dealt with dignity. It was just a great love story. Can’t wait for the rest of the series.
Moose Girl, Amazon wrote:
I thought this was a very charming story that touched on the difficulties of having a a handicap where people treat you with contempt. When Grayson meets Addie in her bookstore he is intrigued. When he asks for books on sign language to help his deaf son, Addie eagerly offers her help. As his son and Addie grow closer, Grayson is smitten. But since his deceased wife was unfaithful he does not want to fall in love, so why does he keep calling on Addie. Sometimes things just happen that make you reconsider your feelings. This story has a nice flow to it that brings everything together.
This was quite an enjoyable book. I liked Addie and her determination to make her own way. I loved the little boy, Michael, and Grayson was fine, too. Both Addie and Michael's issues did lend a little more depth to the story, which was quite nice. (Along with Pamela's stutter, it was nice to see some not-so-perfect characters). We had a little drama, an interfering mother, evil in-laws, and a slightly scary but likeable great aunt (I'd have loved to see more of her!).