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Beverley's Books



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Paris-educated Evelina Chambon has no idea her mother is London’s most infamous brothel madam.

When Evelina arrives in the capital to make her debut in the spring of 1883, she quickly becomes society’s darling, choosing as her future husband wealthy shipping magnate Lord Dunstable over dangerously charismatic Lord Childers.

Evelina can not afford to involve her heart in as important a matter as her marriage.

But when Lord Dunstable is found dead in Madame Chambon's private sitting room at her High Class House of Assignation, and Madame Chambon is charged with his murder, Evelina’s future teeters on a knife edge.

Can those with intimate knowledge of the young women who work at the brothel, and the aristocratic gentlemen who frequent it, protect Evelina from social ruin, if not the truth of her parentage?

Former spiritualist Lily Bradden, who now works to secure respectable work for the "fallen women" at Madame Chambon’s, and her new husband, newspaper proprietor Hamish McTavish, are prepared to stake their reputationsand Evelina’s—on solving the mystery.

For if they can't find Lord Dunstable's real murderer, Evelina's reputation will be destroyed.


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Amidst the dusky haze of a fading afternoon, the rhythmic clatter of wheels against tracks was fast sending Evelina to sleep when a bone rattling jolt thrust her book out of her hands and sent her maid sprawling to the compartment floor.
“Mon Dieu! What is happening?” Evelina cried as she put out her arm to help Mimi before she, too, was sent hurtling against the window, her head hitting the glass and her vision blurring.
Metal shrieked in protest as carriages were torn from their moorings, overlaid by the cry of passengers from the adjacent compartments.
“Miss! Madam!” It was the cold of rising water seeping through her clothing that had Evelina opening her eyes to the horror surrounding her, and the insistent calling of a male voice, whom it took her a moment to locate. A handsome youthful face loomed above her.
The carriage in which she and Mimi had been traveling from Dover to London was on its side, the plush seats torn from the wood paneling, water now rising from the broken window at her feet.
“Quickly! Take my hand!”
Evelina struggled to regain her balance, her hand curling around strong fingers before another ominous lurch broke her grip.
She screamed as she fell back against the window beneath her, and the young man’s face grew distant.
“Take my wrist. I’ve got you!”
He hadn’t, but his words were the reassurance she needed.
“Mimi?” She swung round, screaming as she saw that the young woman’s head was at an odd angle and her eyes were open and sightless.
“You can’t do anything for her! Take my hand. We’re running out of time!”
His urgency galvanized Evelina into action, but she had to jump to bridge the growing distance between the hand he held out as he lay flat upon the upturned compartment which she realized had slid down the embankment and into the river below.
He was strong. Strong enough to haul her entire body weight the distance needed before he had sufficient purchase to reach out his other hand and drag her through the broken window.
With a mighty heave, he pulled her free from the wreckage just as the carriage, burdened by its own weight and the river’s inexorable pull, slid into the water with a deafening splash.
The cries and screams of passengers and the haze of coal from the broken steam engine added to the confusion, but Evelina was safe.
The thickness of her skirts and bodice had shielded her from the worst of potential injuries, though she saw her left hand was bloodied by the time she’d been pulled to safety. Or perhaps it was a head wound, she wondered, as she withdrew her hand from wiping the hair from her eyes.
“Monsieur?” She cast around for her rescuer when she discovered she was alone again, panic filling her as she registered the carnage.
Not that she could see much until a gust of wind cleared the smoke sufficiently for her to realize that hers was one of two carriages that had derailed and slipped into the river while the front few carriages remained on the track at the top of the embankment.
She was alone again, but alive, and all she needed to do was to negotiate the muddy climb to the top.
Yet she was in shock and with the urgency past, she sank down upon the metal side of their compartment and which separated her from Mimi. She wouldn’t leave her friend, for Mimi had been with her since she’d been a child. The young man would have to come back so he could get the older woman out when he’d finished saving other lives.
Her dazed thoughts were running in discombobulated loops before she was roused by the insistent screams of a woman some yards away, she saw, as the smoke once again cleared.
“William! My son William is still inside!”
Evelina sat up sharply. Then, scrunching up her skirts so she could move, she struggled through the mangled metal and mud towards the woman who was kneeling on the upturned carriage, dangling her arm through the gaping window.
“He’s too small to reach! Help me! The water’s rising!”
Evelina stared helplessly into the void. She couldn’t see the child, but she could hear his frightened whimpers. The woman’s cries grew louder in relation to Evelina’s desperation.
“Please, sir! Help me!”
Evelina saw she’d thrust out her arm to grip a checked trouser leg, and she looked up into the face of the young man who had dragged her to safety a few minutes earlier. There was a cut above his eye and a smear of mud on his cheek, but nothing else marred his strong good looks.
Unless it was the bleakness in his eye which was directed now towards the sound of the young boy in the far depths of the carriage. Even Evelina could see it was hopeless for him to help, for the distance was too great for his seeking arm to help a small child.
“Hold me while I reach for him! You’re strong enough!” Evelina burst out, unbuttoning her tight-fitting bodice and unclasping her skirt as she spoke. The thick heavy swathes of embellishment slithered over the bustle cage which she untied and tossed aside, unembarrassed as she wriggled into a sitting position. The glass of the window had completely fallen away, so no jagged edges impeded her rescue attempt.
Only the strength and willingness of the young man, but he was already gripping her wrist while she gripped his as he began to lower her into the dark compartment.
The claustrophobic darkness hit Evelina with force and momentarily dashed her bravado as she dangled helplessly into the void, completely dependent upon the strength of her rescuer. “William?” she called.
But when small fingers almost instantly ticked her palm, relief and purpose galvanized her courage once more. “William, take my hand and don’t struggle!” she said, shouting back up to the light, “I’ve got him! Bring me up now!”
The little boy’s eyes were wide with terror as he was drawn into the afternoon haze, before his mother threw herself upon him and Evelina fell back, her strength and courage drained.
“My name’s William, too.” Her rescuer smiled at her, a warm, open smile revealing strong while teeth, his dark blue eyes seeming to connect to something deep inside her, causing a flowering sensation to bloom in her heart.
Then he was straightening at a distant cry for help, while a billow of smoke obscured him from view.
When Evelina tried to find him again so she could thank him properly, he’d gone.
“Miss! Are you all right?” Another team of rescuers, obviously from the nearby metropolis, swarmed over the wreckage and Evelina found herself covered in a blanket as she was carried towards a line-up of carriages parked at the top of the embankment.
She twisted her head, searching for the young man—the older of the two Williams. But now the muddy slope and mangled carriages were overrun by strangers.
“Miss, let me tend to that nasty cut upon your forehead.” They were motherly words and the soft hands of a woman who’d come to help were soothing. “Poor child, is someone looking for you? Let me clean you up so your loved ones can recognize you for a start.”
She was a farmer’s wife by the look of her, and she’d seated herself next to Evelina in one of the carriages, cleaning Evelina’s face as she spoke.
Evelina didn’t answer. No one would be looking for her.
She had no loved ones. Only the distant memory of a fiery red-headed mother who’d sent her away to Paris when she was six years old and who was now determined that her twenty-year-old daughter must return for a magnificent London debut.
And that Evelina would find a worthy and titled husband, thanks to a dowry sizeable enough to entice a prince.

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