Must she pay for the sins of her mother?
Miss Charlotte Danvers has just received a life-altering shock. After spending most of her life in France in an elite school for girls, first as a student, and then as a teacher, she decides to return to London and take up residence with her mother.
When she arrives at her mother’s townhouse in London, she is stunned to discover that the woman who raised her is a well-known courtesan.. After an angry and tearful confrontation with her mother, Charlotte leaves London and makes her home in Bath.
All goes well until she meets Mr. Carter Westbrooke, close friend and business partner of Charlotte’s best friend’s husband, Lord Berkshire. After only a few weeks, Mr. Westbrooke declares his intentions to make Charlotte his wife.
She can be no one’s wife but cannot bring herself to tell him why. Must she run again?
Miss Charlotte Danvers stepped out of the hackney she’d taken from the rail station to her mother’s home right outside of Mayfair in London. She was excited at the surprise she planned for Mama.
Charlotte had spent most of her life in France at an exclusive girls’ school. Once she graduated, with her mother’s encouragement, she’d taken a teaching position at the school. That was three years ago, and now she was ready for the next phase in her life. The first step was moving to London to be with her mother.
She dropped the knocker on the front door as the hackney driver piled her luggage on the doorstep.
The door opened to an older man, obviously the butler, who stared at her as if he’d seen a ghost. “Miss Danvers? Surely that must be you.”
“Yes!” She grinned. “I don’t know who you are, but you seem to know me.”READ MORE
He bowed at her but looked a bit uncomfortable. “I would know you anywhere Miss Danvers. You look remarkably like your mother.”
“Yes. I’ve been told that many times.” When the man continued to stare at her, she said, “May I come in?”
He stepped back, quite flustered. “Of course. My apologies, miss.”
Charlotte drew off her gloves as she looked around the house she’d never seen before. Her earlier years had been spent in the country with a family who were friends of her mother. Mama told her she did not want her breathing in the putrid London air. Then at ten years of age, she’d been sent to the school in France.
“I hope my mother is home.”
“Yes. She is. If you would retire to the drawing room, I shall inform her of your arrival.”
Goodness, it all seemed so formal. What she wanted to do was race upstairs and find her mother and shout “surprise!” Wouldn’t that bring a smile to her face?
Within minutes, the sound of footsteps rapidly coming down the stairs had Charlotte jumping up to meet her mother at the door to the drawing room. “Mama. Surprise! I left my position at the school and decided it was past the time I should join you here.”
Mama looked quite pale under the makeup she wore. Charlotte had never seen makeup on her mother’s face, so it was a surprise. She immediately decided she liked her better without face paint.
Her mother hugged her. “My dear. Yes, this is quite a surprise.” She leaned back, her hands resting on Charlotte’s shoulders and regarded her. “Why didn’t you wire that you were coming?”
Charlotte grinned. “Then it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it?”
“No. Indeed it would not.”
For the first time she could ever recall, Mama seemed to be at loss for words. “Are you well, Mama? Is something wrong?”
“Yes. No.” She waved her arm around. “I am just trying to recover from this shock . . . rather, surprise.”
“Yes. Isn’t it wonderful? I decided it was time to start my life as a woman and maybe even look for a husband.”
Mama drew a lace-edged handkerchief from the cuff of her dress and patted her face.
“You seem quite fancy,” Charlotte said, “are you going out for the evening?”
“No. In fact, I am expecting some guests in a few minutes.”
Charlotte clapped her hands. “Excellent! I shall love to meet some of your friends.”
Mama paled even more and licked her lips. “My dear, as much as I would like you to meet my friends you do look quite peaked. I propose you retire to one of the bedchambers upstairs and enjoy a hot bath and some dinner, then a good night’s sleep. We shall have a nice long chat in the morning over tea and one of Cook’s famous breakfasts.”
Although she did feel quite tired, she was disappointed that Mama didn’t want her to meet her friends. “Perhaps you are right, Mama.”
Her mother took a deep breath and let it out, her color returning somewhat. “I shall have Carlson—he is the man at the door—direct you to a lovely room that you can use. I’ll then have Amy—my lady’s maid—prepare a bath for you in the bathing room.”
Mama hurried from the room, giving Charlotte time to look around. It was a well-appointed room in the taste she would expect from her mother. The furniture was elegant and well-made. The walls were papered with a pale green and rose stripes, with cream-colored wainscoting.
The man who met her at the door entered the room. “Miss, I had the footman bring your luggage up to the bedchamber Mrs. Danforth chose for your visit. If you will follow me, I will direct you there.”
The man looked confused. “Yes, Miss, that is the name your mother goes by.”
“How very odd.” There was no reason to inform the servant that this was no mere visit, but a permanent move to be with her mother. They’d been separated most of her life and now it was time for them to live together.
The bedchamber was as charming as all the other rooms she’d seen in the house. No surprise there, since Mama had excellent taste.
A middle-aged woman dressed in a maid’s uniform greeted her as she entered the bedchamber. “Miss, your bath is ready. If you will follow me, I will show you where the bathing room is. I will be happy to unpack your things while you bathe.”
“Thank you. Right now, all I need is in that small brown satchel. My nightgown, slippers, dressing gown, and other personal items are in there.”
Despite her long journey and the soothing bath and wonderful dinner, Charlotte enjoyed in her room, she was still restless. Sleep would not come for hours, she was sure. She had a hard time accepting her mama’s edict that she needed rest and should not meet her friends.
The sound of carriages drawing up to the house and then conversations from Mama’s guests had been teasing her for a couple of hours. From what she could hear, the group seemed quite lively and free-spirited. Laughter erupted on occasion and someone played the piano.
Suddenly, she decided to dress in something simple and join the party. If she were going to begin her life as a woman, she must make decisions for herself. Hadn’t she decided, without Mama’s knowledge and consent, to leave her position at the school and join her mother in London?
Within minutes, she had shrugged out of her nightgown and dressed in a plain day dress since all her more formal gowns were hanging in the armoire horribly wrinkled from the trip.
With a quick glance in the mirror, she smoothed back her hair and left the room, excitement making her heart beat fast. This was her first party!
She didn’t see Mama at first. There were about thirty guests, all dressed quite formally, which made her re-think her decision to come down dressed as plainly as she was.
A woman walked up to her, a glass of some sort of liquid in her hand. “I had no idea that Alice had a daughter, but you must be. You look exactly like her.” Then she bent closer. “A much younger, version, though.” She sipped her drink, winked at Charlotte, and walked off.
Whatever the woman said to two other women had them both turning her way, their eyebrows raised. Within minutes, she heard ‘daughter’ murmured among the crowd. She made a beeline to Mama, suddenly uncomfortable with the attention she was getting.
Not shy by nature, nevertheless, it seemed like her surprise to her mother was also a surprise to her friends. She felt a bit let-down that Mama had never told her friends that she had a daughter.
“Dearest, what are you doing here? I thought you were asleep by now.” Her mother’s face had grown taut, revealing lines Charlotte hadn’t noticed before. A gentleman walked up to Mama and touched her on the arm. “Is everything all right, my dear?”
He was an older man, very elegant and noble-looking. Even with his gray hair, he was a good-looking man with deep blue eyes and laugh crinkles at the corners. He eyed Mama with concern.
Mama smiled at the man. “Everything is fine, my lord.”
She didn’t introduce Charlotte to the man who seemed to be quite familiar with Mama. Truth be known, Charlotte had felt off-center since she’d arrived at Mama’s house. By now she thought Mama would have gotten over her surprise arrival, but she seemed even more disconcerted than she had been earlier.
“I was too restless. I thought maybe spending some time down here with your friends would be nice.” Charlotte mumbled the last part of her statement, aware of the gentleman next to Mama smiling at her.
Mama waved at a tall man in a livery, most likely a footman. “Please escort my daughter back to her room.”
Charlotte’s jaw dropped. Her mother was treating her like a child! “Thank you anyway, I shall find my own way.” She glared at her mother. “Since I am not welcomed here.” With a flounce of her skirt, she turned and strode toward the door. At the doorway, she turned back to see the gentleman and Mama in deep conversation.
She was almost to the staircase when a man called, “Wait.”
Charlotte turned to see a young man, quite handsome actually, approaching her. He offered a slight bow. “I had no idea that Alice had a daughter. You are stunningly beautiful, like your mother.”
“Thank you.” Never comfortable with praise about her looks, Charlotte dipped slightly and put her foot on the first step.
“May I speak with you a moment?” He reached out and touched her hand, which caused her to shudder. The man looked at her in such a way that she felt dirty. He looked her up and down like he was buying horseflesh.
“I think not, sir. I have the beginnings of a megrim. If you will excuse me.”
“I am sorry to hear that, Miss Danforth. I just wanted to ask when you might be accepting a protector?”
“I am Miss Danvers, not Danforth.” After her automatic correction, she took a second look at him, replayed his words in her head. The expression on his face, his question about taking a protector, her mother’s overreaction at her arrival earlier, and the sort of people who were Mama’s ‘friends’ caused a horrible thought to take hold of her mind. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” The words were barely above a whisper.
“Oh, come now, Miss Danvers. There can be no other reason why your mother suddenly decided to show you off. What I don’t understand is why she dressed you so plainly. You need to make use of those curves. And the neckline is much too high.”
Her heart beat so fast, the thumping so loud, that she barely heard her own words. “And for what reason would my mother be showing me off, sir?” She knew she shouldn’t ask that question, but she suddenly had no control over herself.
He frowned. “To follow in her footsteps as a well-known courtesan, of course.”
L. Meehan, Amazon wrote:
I just devoured this book in a few instants. I was at first afraid the heroine’s shame will hold her back and keep her in check, not allowing her any move but Mrs Callie Hutton surprised me again.
Mrs Callie Hutton brought to life a so refreshing character, he is truly the knight in shinning armor any girl might dream of. His so positive vision of life is astonishing, he knows what he wants and with whom, he does not ponder his sentiments, he embraces them what comes with them.
Cheryl, Goodreads wrote:
You can always depend on Callie Hutton to write a compelling story with great characters and strong women. Be prepared to laugh, cry and fan yourself from the sexual tension.
Dec 06, 2019Cheryl rated it it was amazing
Oh I did enjoy this captivating story! The characters were extremely likeable. I loved the bond of friendship between the three ladies, Charlotte (Lottie), Addie and Pamela. This is mainly Lottie’s story and how she felt she had to hide her background from people in general. Mr Carter Westbrooke, was an ideal hero, he was so caring and protective of Lottie. The fact he was handsome didn’t hurt either.