SUMMER IN RYE
A tragedy brought Eva Brookwell and Samuel Shaw back into each other’s lives. But will lies from the past destroy their chances of a future?
Left penniless after the death of her philandering father, Eva Brookwell takes a job as a governess at Rye Hall, but didn’t expect to find her young charges scarred and blinded from smallpox. Rye Hall is an unhappy house with a tyrannical master and Eva is forced to turn to her pupils’ uncle, Samuel Shaw for help.
Eva and Samuel had once been engaged, until his lies drove them apart. Still in love with him, Eva knows she could never trust him again; however he is her only ally in the dark and disturbed household she now lives in.
The miniature portrait stood on the mantelpiece. Eva Brookwell stepped onto the hearthrug and stared at the man’s face. Even through oil paint, his dark eyes gazed into hers. Thick chestnut hair curled back from his brow, matching his brown, trimmed mustache. Samuel Shaw, the man who had danced with her so recklessly a year ago people had whispered of a secret engagement. But he had left her, sailing off with the army and—it was rumoured—a new fiancée.
Footsteps echoed from the polished floorboards and she turned, placing her hands behind her back. She needed this job, even if it was in the house Samuel grew up in. Her new mistress strode in wearing a long, pink silk dress, slithering across the ground behind her. Brown hair had been yanked back into a rough pleat at the back of her head, and her face, although young, had the tight-lipped expression of a much older woman.
“Lady Shaw?” Eva said, dipping her knee.
“You’re the new governess?”
“Yes, I’m Eva Brookwell, you offered me a place.” She frowned. Their two families had been on nodding acquaintance for many years.
Lady Florence Shaw’s gaze travelled slowly over her and Eva held her head high. Was her dress suitable? She’d selected the plainest in her wardrobe, as her mother had instructed. Lady Shaw’s eyes narrowed and Eva dropped her gaze, reminding herself of her sister and mother.
Florence Shaw drew a sharp breath. “Your father lost his money, I believe?” she said.
“Yes, my lady. He invested in a wine selling venture, but it failed.”
“It was a con, as anyone with sense would have known.”
Eva looked at her feet, hands tightening into fists. Yes, her father had been gullible, but he had loved and cared for his daughters, even if his fondness for mistresses made him a less than perfect husband.
“Is he in debtors’ prison?”
“He died.” Eva didn’t try to soften her voice. Who did this woman think she was? His passing was well known, Eva had arranged the announcement in The Times newspaper herself.
“Lower your tone, please,” Florence said.
Eva’s cheeks burned, this was more embarrassing than her coming out dance. She needed to remember she was now Miss Brookwell, governess, with years of caring for difficult children and a frugal, friendless old age to look forward to. She didn’t blame her father for what had happened, but sometimes it was hard not to resent her change in circumstances, especially when it took away her dignity. The Shaw family had asked her here as their governess, and she would maintain a professional relationship with them. There was no chance of her and Florence becoming friends.
“Where are the children?” she asked.
Her mother had always formally introduced new governesses. There’d been several over the years, none of which had taught her very much, except how to cheat at cards and, on one memorable evening, smoke a pipe.