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Reluctant courtesan, Charity, has found true love with Hugo, her first and only client.

But when poet and artist, Hugo, is tricked into gambling away his impending inheritance, then sent to India by his father as punishment, Charity finds herself at the mercy of Madame Chambon and her infamous house of ill-repute.

As Charity fends off the advances of Hugo’s slippery cousin, Cyril, she discovers how, and why, Hugo was cheated.

With support from unexpected, and unlikely quarters, Hugo’s return offers the chance for restitution.

Now Hugo must risk everything in one daring night to shine the spotlight on a true villain, and to win the approval of his family, if Charity is to become his Christmas Bride in the most unlikely match of the year.

A sweet Romeo and Juliet romance featuring two star-crossed lovers prepared to lose family and fortune in their quest to be together.



Reading Order:

Book 1 - Saving Grace

Books 2 - Forsaking Hope

Book 3 - Keeping Faith

Book 4 - Wedding Violet

Book 5 - Christmas Charity

Book 6 - Loving Lily

Associated Victorian Murder Mystery with Romance Series - London Ladies in Peril

Book 1 - Murder at Madame Chambon's 


Christmas Charity is also available as a paperback.


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You can read the ebooks on any ereader (Amazon, Kobo, Nook), your tablet, phone, computer, and/or in the free Bookfunnel app.



Charity shivered as she snuggled against Hugo’s side, anticipation heightening as his gentle hands grazed her nipples.
Outside, the wind stirred the branches of the plane tree, its soft sighs competing with Charity’s as tendrils of need speared her, even though it had been mere minutes since they’d collapsed, exhausted and satisfied, in each other’s arms.
“Are you cold?”
The joyous strains of a group of Christmas carollers singing Once in Royal David City had made Charity shiver even more. This time with excitement for, with Hugo by her side, she really could believe in “Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”
“Here, my sweeting, I’ll keep you warm.”
Hugo always anticipated her needs, Charity thought dreamily as he drew her more tightly against him, her vision encompassing only his beloved, handsome face rather than the tawdry decorations of the room where she did her entertaining.
“I’m never cold when you’re with me,” she whispered, snuggling closer which blocked out the sight of the grimy curtains. Soon they would be a thing of the past. Like the shabby dresser, the faded blue satin counterpane, and the overdone gilt-edged paintings that decorated the place she’d called home for the past two years. Everything would be replaced by pieces exuding simple taste and elegance.
She’d have a bedchamber done up in blue and white like Lady Milton’s, for whom her mother had worked as a governess when Charity had been a child. Charity had never seen such grandeur.
Charity’s bedchamber, however, would be equally hers and Hugo’s; a place of happy trysting rather than formal and cold and barred to the master of the house which is how Charity’s mother had explained the loveless marriage of her employers.
And Charity’s little house would be as far away from Madame Chambon’s House of Assignation as it was possible to be. Hugo had pointed it out to her during a carriage ride some weeks back, telling her it was as good as hers once the lease arrangements had been seen to. He’d given her carte blanche to decorate it as she chose, within certain limits, but he was as generous as any man alive. Dear lord but she was lucky. She shivered even more at the thought of their wonderful shared future and kissed Hugo’s neck. “As long as you are with me, I can face any hardship.”
His hand stilled and grew heavy on Charity’s breast.
Charity glanced up at him.
“My darling, I have to tell you something.”
The languorous contentment of just now was swept away by something difficult to read as his eyes clouded and his sweet gentle mouth formed a tight line. Raising her hand to his lips, he kissed her fingertips then sat up and swung his legs over the bed, hunched forwards and frowning as he clearly weighed up his next words.
The silence was heavy with portent. Charity braced herself as she watched him struggle. Her throat felt thick and it was suddenly difficult to breathe. Of course, it had been too good to be true. The man who’d taken her virginity; who’d kept coming back and whom she loved, now, with all her heart, was about to end the dream that she’d ever escape Madame Chambon’s. His next words would destroy the illusion that love was possible for a girl who’d sunk as low as she had.
He twisted around, his expression torn, as if he didn’t know whether to comfort her — for he extended his arm then dropped it — or keep the explanation short and brutal.
“Just tell me and don’t spare my feelings,” Charity muttered, balling her hands into fists as she lay rigidly on her back and stared between Hugo and the ceiling.
If she could only put up the casing to protect her heart that the other girls all described as their best defence in such moments, she might survive this but, truly, her heart had always been utterly unguarded with Hugo. He’d been such a loyal companion these past eighteen months. A true and loving companion who’d not stinted when it came to showing her in every way how much she meant to him.
Whereas she, Charity, had so little to offer in return.
Just her love, loyalty, and eternal gratitude.
And her body.
It was not a comforting reflection though, in truth, she couldn’t see how else she’d have managed if she hadn’t been taken in by Madame Chambon.
A girl had to make some hard decisions if she weren’t to starve.
He swallowed, his face grey and drawn as he traced the outline of a flower on the counterpane. Or perhaps it was Charity’s face, or her shoulder, or breast. Hugo had sketched just about every part of Charity with as much loving detail as he fashioned the words of the love poems which accompanied each drawing and poem he gave to her.
“Charity, I’m ruined.” He closed his eyes briefly before fixing his gaze upon Charity. “There, I’ve been unable to put the truth so bluntly to anyone else, but that’s the truth. Everyone has been in a state of quiet uproar because of my stupidity, and now I’m to be punished. I have to go away. My father has found me a position in the company in India.” His mouth twisted.
“Ruined? You have to go to India?” Charity scrambled onto her knees and twined her arms around Hugo’s neck. “How? Why?”
He stiffened. “Because I was a fool like I have never been before. I gambled away our future on the roll of the dice because I believed it would ensure we could be together forever. Always.” He turned and cupped her face, his expression infinitely tender. “But I was burned. Just like my dreams of a future with you. Nothing but ashes.”
“Oh, Hugo.” Charity didn’t know what else to say. Hugo deplored gambling. What had induced him to do such a thing? And yet she didn’t say it aloud. Hugo was suffering enough as it was.
He gripped her fingers. “I’d intended telling you this before I took you in my arms and we…went to bed.” His tone was full of self-loathing. “But your greeting was so sweet, and just holding you seemed to give me the strength to face what I must — when I’ve wondered, these past days, how I’m going to manage to do that.” His voice cracked. “Lord knows, it’s hard enough to consider a position in India which would take me away from you for months. But to live there for up to two years?” He swallowed with difficulty. “My father’s business interests in steel are prospering. His company is extending the railway line from Madras and he has decided that, as my punishment, I must oversee the project.” A nerve twitched at the corner of his mouth. Otherwise, he was utterly composed. Only the tightness of his voice indicated his distress. “So, that is what I must do. I have no choice in the matter. The money my aunt left me, and which has enabled me to keep you while I enjoy a modicum of independence free of my father when he has such different plans for me — it’s all gone. I am to accompany my Uncle Septimus.” He closed his eyes, adding in a whisper, “Apparently, this will be my salvation.”
“India?” Charity repeated. She could barely take it in. The future she’d dreamed of with the man she loved above all others had just been snatched away. But then, how could she ever have believed it was more than a dream? Girls like her had no right to believe in happiness.
Hugo stroked her face as he nodded. “God knows, I could face anything if I had you by my side. But it’s impossible. I depart Southampton for Madras in less than a fortnight. My uncle, who was, I’m told, going to induct my cousin Cyril into the family firm, will instead be taking me under his wing.”
Charity didn’t miss the sarcasm. There was little love between Hugo and his forbidding uncle, or the cousin who was only a few months older than he.
“Couldn’t I find a way to…to join you on the ship? To be wherever you are, Hugo?”
Hugo shook his head. “For the first few months, there’ll be a great deal of travel around the country. It’s no place for a woman, I’m told. Not that I could see you, anyway, as I’ll be living with my uncle,” he muttered.
The aching silence between them seemed to stretch forever; punctuated by the muted bumps and thumps from the other rooms.
“Oh Hugo, I…I don’t know how I can part with you, my love.” Charity hesitated. “Unless you wanted it.”
“I will never be parted from you. Not forever. Not while I have free will!” With uncharacteristic fierceness, he gathered her in his arms. “I want you with me, always. I need you, Charity.” He kissed her brow. “You make me whole, you make me feel alive. Only you do that.” When he put her away from him, his sensitive face was taut with pain. “When you’re with me, I can do anything; I’m the man I want to be. And I can paint. You’re my magic.”
“But your father has decreed that you go away. And…I can’t go with you!” The shock was beginning to abate. Desolation was taking its place.
“You know my plan is to marry you as soon as I come into my inheritance.”
“That’s two years away, Hugo. Oh, my love, I don’t know how I can bear it.” The lump in Charity’s throat was making it difficult for her to speak. Yes, Hugo had made it clear, right from the start of their relationship, that an honest, legal union between them was his goal the moment he was financially independent. His grandfather’s fortune was to be split between him and Cyril upon their respective twenty-fifth birthdays. An aunt’s modest bequest had enabled Hugo to keep Charity exclusively in the meantime.
But he’d lost that now. He was wholly dependent upon his father. And his father had no intention of his only son marrying a lowly, common creature like Charity. Even if it was he who had inadvertently been responsible for Charity and Hugo meeting after he’d forced his boy over the threshold of Madame Chambon’s House of Assignation when he’d learned he was a virgin.
Like Charity had been.
Hugo gave a short laugh. “I never get tired of hearing you say that. Of calling me your love, your darling. My parents weren’t exactly well-disposed to each other. No one calls anyone their love.” His face clouded over again. “Except for grandmother, and that’s because she was common. Besides, she’s dead now. And Grandfather made all his money after he married her so she no longer has a place in the Adams’ Family Lore.”
Charity knew the story. Hugo’s grandfather, a man of shrewdness and cunning, had made an unlikely fortune in the steel trade after starting life as a blacksmith. It was only natural each successive generation would marry up. Hugo’s father had been courting a baronet’s daughter when he’d been forced to marry the lowly solicitor’s daughter he’d made pregnant. Hugo’s mother.
A generation later and with even more coin in the family coffers, Hugo was to infiltrate the aristocracy. A penniless peer’s daughter trading family lineage for Hugo’s pocketbook was the plan.
Not a governess’s illegitimate daughter living in a brothel.
Smiling, Hugo ran his fingers through her hair. “I didn’t know what love was until I met you.”
A wave of emotion threatened to engulf Charity. “Oh, Hugo, I wish I really was worthy of you!” she cried, hugging him tightly before drawing back.
“You mean, in my father’s eyes.” He traced her lips with his fingertips. “For I wouldn’t change a thing about you, Charity, my love; only... my father holds the purse strings now.” A muscle worked at the corner of his mouth. “And I sail in two weeks.”
“Two weeks...” Charity felt the sting of tears, and the pain radiate throughout her body as if she’d been physically beaten by the news. “Two weeks and then I’ll never see you again? Oh, Hugo, is there no other way?”
“I’d grasp it with both hands and the gratitude of a lifetime if only one could be found. But you will see me again.” Getting to his feet, Hugo stood, naked and vulnerable by the bed where, once a week for the past eighteen months, Charity had experienced the only real love in her life. But there was no doubting his sincerity as he took her in his arms, kissed her gently on the lips and whispered, “I want you more than anything in the world, Charity.”
And Charity believed he meant it when he vowed, “I swear that two years from now, on a wintry December morning, with the carollers warbling about peace on earth and mercy mild, I will marry you.”
“And you will make me the happiest girl alive,” Charity whispered.
Even though she knew such happily-ever-afters did not happen to girls like her.

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