Born to Blush by Fran Connor Genre: Historical Romantic Adventure
When she finds honest and paid employment far away from the Victorian Workhouse where she grew up, Mary leaves with hope and sadness in her heart.
Her future looks secure; that is the hope but she must leave behind a childhood friend, the son of a wealthy local family with whom she managed to cross the social divide; that is the sadness.
Not all employers in 1850s England are bad and young Mary works her way up the servants' ladder to become lady's maid to a kind aristocrat. She grows into an attractive young woman which does not go unnoticed by her employer's lascivious husband.
When her Ladyship unexpectedly dies, the husband makes unwelcome advances towards Mary.
Her defiance of his carnal desires sets in motion a series of adventures and catastrophes.
This thrilling romantic adventure follows the plucky Mary on her journey into the depths of Dickensian England where she encounters a myriad of odd characters some of whom mean her harm while others strive to help her.
When someone from her past reappears, her joy is tinged with fear. Much has happened to her since last they met. To cross the social divide as adults is far more difficult than in childhood and romance instead of friendship complicates it even further.
Mary has a secret. Should it be discovered it will have her transported as a felon to Australia.
If you love your historical romantic fiction to have a gutsy heroine, this is the novel for you.
Mary stood with Mrs Jones at the back of the graveside mourners in St Andrew’s churchyard. The vicar intoned but Mary’s thoughts were cast back to another graveyard where her brother lay. A tear escaped. Mrs Jones put her arm around her.
The budding branches of an oak tree swayed in a cold breeze. At the far side of the cemetery a pile of last Autumn’s leaves smoldered adding an acrid taste to the air.
The vicar finished his intoning which the servants under the direction of Mr Stevens took as the signal to board a horse drawn omnibus arranged specially by the butler to take them to the church and the internment and afterwards to get back to the house to put on the reception for the invited gentry.
Mary’s heart felt heavy. Lady Elizabeth Glendenning had been a wonderful employer. She had taught her how to swim and had Mr Stevens teach her arithmetic, English and history and even taught her how to speak properly. For how the people in High Society conducted themselves she had had a ringside seat. The thought brought sadness mixed with the melancholy of the day as for the first time in her life she felt the sin of envy. Mary knew she had the skills to pass herself off as part of the upper echelons of society, it wasn’t that difficult, but the chance would never come her way. The next best thing would be a lady’s maid but now there was no need for a lady’s maid at Hartford House.
She would find other employment. Lady Elisabeth, even though she was on her death bed, took the trouble to write her a letter of recommendation.
Mary sat on her bed and slipped off her leather soled ankle boots without metal tips. The sad day had been long. So many to feed after the funeral when she would have preferred to be in her room alone with her thoughts.
A knock at the door brought her thoughts back to the present. She stood and with heavy steps made her way to the door and opened it to find Polly the kitchen maid.
“Master says he wants to see you in the study, Mary.”
“Thank you.” Well this is it. He’ll either offer me the parlour maid job or send me away. He doesn’t need to bother because I’m going anyway. I can get another job with the letter of recommendation. Mary put her boots on. Butterflies in her tummy and a racing heartbeat went with her to Sir Edward’s study on the ground floor with its view of the ornate gardens at the back of Hartford House. The sun was on the cusp of setting, coloring the sky shades of orange and giving a sepia hue to the land. A nice evening after a horrible day.
“Ah, Dunsford, come in,” said Sir Edward. “What are we to do with you?”
“I wish to give in my notice, sir.”
“Really? I was about to offer you the parlour maid post and Mrs Jones isn’t getting any younger. One day soon she will retire and I shall need a good housekeeper with my wife gone.”
“Thank you, sir. I shall work whatever notice is required and then leave.” Mary let out a sigh of relief that she had stood up for herself. Her relief felt tinged with caution. On the day of his wife’s funeral it didn’t seem right for him to concern himself with a servant’s position.
That would normally be left to Mr Stevens and Mrs Jones.
Sir Edward stepped over to the study door and turned a key in the lock.
Mary’s heart thumped. She could see a horrible expression on his face as he turned towards her.
“Of course, but we have unfinished business before you leave, Dunsford.” He stepped towards her.
Mary backed away but he was between her and the locked door. She could see no other way out. What he wanted was clear to her. Mary had never been with a man or boy before. She hadn’t even kissed one except once when she kissed Johnny Sandes on the cheek which seemed so long ago.
Sir Edward closed the gap and grabbed her, holding her tight against him. “I can make your life very comfortable or very bad.” He forced his lips against hers. She bit his lip, struggled and managed to step back from him. He lunged at her again. In a desperate swipe she clawed her fingernails down his cheek drawing blood. He put his hand to his face and bellowed.
Mary ran for the door, managed to unlock it and get out into the corridor. As if she had wings on her feet she ran upstairs, into her room and dragged the washstand in front of the door.
Her mind raced as she tried to think what to do. If she went to Mrs Jones or Mr Stevens, they would do nothing because there was nothing they could do. They would lose their jobs if they intervened. Her ears tuned to any noise in the corridor outside but detected none. She expected him to come to her door, maybe break it down. But no sound came from outside.
As she sat on the bed a plan began to unfold. She would leave in the morning and take the letter of recommendation that Lady Elizabeth had given her. Though she wanted to keep the diamond earrings she would need to find accommodation and eat until she found a suitable position perhaps in Dorset or Wiltshire. If she could get to Southampton, she would board a train for Dorchester on the newly opened line. Only if her money ran out would she sell the earrings . On a salary of thirty pounds a year she had saved some and bought herself a few good clothes that she could wear away from the house.
Mary sat up all night listening to every creak and groan that the house made as it settled itself.
Fran now lives in SW France with his wife Viv after serving thirty three years in a UK police force retiring with the rank of Chief Inspector. He doesn’t do cop stories. He says he’s seen enough of the real thing. He enjoyed his time in the police during which he met many odd characters some of whom creep into his novels in very different circumstances.
Without wandering into the political minefield of today’s policing issues, he’s saddened by the current events.
He’s the author of nine novels and nine novellas published in his name and a host of others that he has ghostwritten.
Although he doesn’t restrict himself to a particular genre, the two he likes to work on most are Historical Romance with a large dose of Adventure and Contemporary Thrillers. Most but not all of his protagonists are female. Women in his opinion make more interesting characters as they are more complex and often need to think their way out of jeopardy rather than bash their way out.
He does do ‘steamy’ in some novels but not violence against women. It’s anathema to him after his service. If a woman is in a tight corner she gets out of it before anything serious happens to her.
Born to Blush falls in the Historical Romance genre.
When not writing, Fran keeps himself fit by walking Molly, a Griffon Nivernais dog who is the real boss of the house, tending his large garden and keeping his old farmhouse from falling down. Set in the French countryside surrounded by vineyards, orchards and ancient hilltop villages he finds it inspires his stories.
If you enjoy Born to Blush you may like two of his other Historical Romance novels “Passarinho and the Highlander” and “Honourable Lies”.