Wedding Bells Are Ringing As Lost Hearts And Weary Souls Return To Their Forever Homes In "Never An Amish Bride"
Amanda Hocking, the New York Times bestselling author of The Kanin Chronicles, returns to the magical world of the Trylle Trilogy with The Lost City, the first novel in The Omte Origins—and the final story arc in her beloved series.
The storm and the orphan
Twenty years ago, a woman sought safety from the spinning ice and darkness that descended upon a small village. She was given shelter for the night by the local innkeepers but in the morning, she disappeared—leaving behind an infant. Now nineteen, Ulla Tulin is ready to find who abandoned her as a baby or why.
The institution and the quest
Ulla knows the answers to her identity and heritage may be found at the Mimirin where scholars dedicate themselves to chronicling troll history. Granted an internship translating old documents, Ulla starts researching her own family lineage with help from her handsome and charming colleague Pan Soriano.
The runaway and the mystery
But then Ulla meets Eliana, a young girl who no memory of who she is but who possesses otherworldly abilities. When Eliana is pursued and captured by bounty hunters, Ulla and Pan find themselves wrapped up in a dangerous game where folklore and myth become very real and very deadly—but one that could lead Ulla to the answers she’s been looking for.
Ten Years Ago
“Tell me about it again,” I entreated—begged, really, in a small voice, small especially for a girl like me.
Mr. Tulin, on the nights he had a little too much hot tea and brandy, would tell me stories of other, less fortunate babies. One had been left out for the wolves, another drowned in the icy river. Still another was killed by an angakkuq, this time to be mashed into a paste for one of her potions.
On the other nights, he’d try to convince me there wasn’t any time for a story. But I’d beg and plead, and his eyes would glimmer—already milky with cataracts, lighting up when he spoke about monsters. I would pull the covers up to my chin, and his normally crackled baritone would go even lower, rumbling with the threat of the monsters he impersonated.
I was never sure how much he’d made up or what had been passed down to him, as he’d weave through all sorts of patchwork folklore—the monsters and heroes pieced together from the neighboring Inuit, our Norse ancestry, and especially from the troll tribe that Mr. and Mrs. Tulin belonged to—the Kanin.
But I had a favorite story, one that I asked for over and over again.
This one I loved because it was about me, and because it was true.
“Which one?” Mr. Tulin asked, feigning ignorance as he lingered at my bedroom door.
It was dark in my room, except for the cast-iron woodstove in the corner. My room had been a pantry before I was here, before Mr. Tulin had converted it into a tiny bedroom. Outside, the wind howled, and if I hadn’t been buried underneath the blankets and furs, I would’ve felt the icy drafts that went along with all that howling.
“The day you met me,” I replied with unbridled glee.
“Well, you turned out to be a big one, didn’t ya?” That’s what Mr. Tulin liked to say, particularly when I was scooping another helping of potatoes on my plate at the supper table, and
then I would sheepishly put half a portion back, under the sharp gaze of Mrs. Tulin.
But he wasn’t wrong. I was tall, thick, and pale. By the age of nine I was nearly five feet tall, towering over the kids in the little schoolhouse.
Once, I’d overheard Mrs. Tulin complaining aloud to a neighbor, saying, “I don’t know why they chose our doorstep to leave ’er on. By the size of her, her da’ must be an ogre, and her ma’ must be a nanuq. She’ll eat us out of house and home before she’s eighteen.”
After that, I tried to make myself smaller, invisible, and I made sure that I mended all my clothing and cleaned up after myself. Mrs. Tulin didn’t complain too much about me after that, but every once in a while I would hear her muttering about how they really ought to set up a proper orphanage in Iskyla, so the townsfolk weren’t stuck taking in all the abandoned strays.
I didn’t complain either, and not only because there was nobody to listen. There were a few kids at my school who served as a reminder of how much worse it could be for me. They were sketches of children, really—thin lines, stark shadows, sad eyes, just the silhouettes of orphans.
“You sure you wanna hear that one again, ayuh?” Mr. Tulin said in response to my pleas.
“If that’s the one the lil’ miss wants, then that be the one I tell.” He walked back over to the bed, limping slightly, the way he did every time the temperatures dipped this low.
Once he’d settled on the edge of the bed, his bones cracked and creaked almost as loudly as the bed itself.
“It was a night much like this—” he began.
“But darker and colder, right?” I interjected.
His bushy silver eyebrows pinched together. “Are you telling it this time?”
“No, no, you tell it.”
“Ayuh.” He nodded once. “So I will, then.”
It was a night much like this. The sun hadn’t been seen for days, hiding behind dark clouds that left even the daylight murky blue. When the wind came up, blowing fresh snow so
heavy and thick, you couldn’t hardly see an inch in front of your nose. All over, the town was battened down and quiet, waiting out the dark storm. Now, the folks in Iskyla had survived
many a winter storm, persisting through even the harshest of winters. This wasn’t the worst of the storms we’d faced, but there was something different about this one. Along with the cold and the dark, it brought with it a strange feeling in the air.
“And a stranger,” I interjected again, unable to help myself.
Mr. Tulin didn’t chastise me this time. He just winked and said, “Ayuh, and a stranger.”
The old missus, Hilde, and I were hunkered down in front of the fireplace, listening to the wind rattling the house, when a knock came at the door.
Hilde—who scoffed whenever Tapeesa the angakkuq spoke of the spirits and monsters—shrieked at me when I got up to answer the door. “Whaddya think you’re doing, Oskar?”
“We’re still an inn, aren’t we?” I paused before I reached the door to look back at my wife, who sat in her old rocker, clutching her knitting to her chest.
Well, of course we were. Her father had opened the inn years ago, back when the mines first opened and we had a brief bout of tourism from humans who got lost on their way to the mines.
But that had long dried up by the time Hilde inherited it. We only had a dozen or so customers every year, mostly Inuit or visiting trolls, but whenever I suggested we close up and move south, Hilde would pitch a fit, reminding me that her family settled Iskyla, and she was settled here until she died.
“Course we’re an inn, but we’re closed,” Hilde said. “The storm’s too bad to open.”
Again the knocking came at the door, pounding harder this time.
“We got all our rooms empty, Hilde!” I argued. “Anyone out in this storm needs a place to stay, and we won’t have to do much for ’em.”
“But you don’t know who—or what—is at the door,”
Hilde stammered, lowering her voice as if it would carry over the howling wind and out the door to whoever waited on our stoop. “No human or troll has any sense being out in a storm like this.”
“Well, someone has, and I aim to find out who it is.”
I headed toward the door, Hilde still spouting her hushed protests, but my mind had been made up. I wasn’t about to let anyone freeze to death outside our house, not when we had ample firewood and room to keep them warm.
When I opened the door, there she stood. The tallest woman I ever saw. She was buried under layers of fabric and fur, looking so much like a giant grizzly bear that Hilde let out a scream.
Then the woman pushed back her hood, letting us see her face. Ice and snow had frozen to her eyebrows and eyelashes, and her short wild hair nearly matched the grizzly fur. She wasn’t much to look at, with a broad face and a jagged scar across her ruddy cheeks, but she made up for it with her size.
She had to duck to come inside, ever mindful of the large bag she carried on her back.
“Don’t bother coming in,” Hilde called at the woman from where she sat angrily rocking. “We’re closed.”
“Please,” the giant woman begged, and then she quickly slipped off her gloves and fumbled in her pockets. “Please, I have money. I’ll give you all I have. I only need a place to stay for the night.”
When she went for her money, she’d pushed back her cloaks enough that I could see the dagger holstered on her hip. The fire glinted off the amber stone in the hilt, the dark
bronze handle carved into a trio of vultures.
It was the symbol of the Omte, and that was a weapon for a warrior. Here was this giant troll woman, with supernatural strength and a soldier’s training. She could’ve killed me and Hilde right there, taken everything we had, but instead she pleaded and offered us all she had.
“Since we’re closed, I won’t be taking any of your money.” I waved it away. “You need sanctuary from the storm, and I’m happy to give it to you.”
“Thank you.” The woman smiled, with tears in her eyes, and they sparkled in the light like the amber gemstone on her dagger.
Hilde huffed, but she didn’t say anything more. The woman herself didn’t say much either, not as I showed her up to her room and where the extra blankets were.
“Is there anything more you’ll be needing?” I asked before I left her alone.
“Quiet rest,” she replied with a weak smile.
“Well, you can always holler at me if you need anything. I’m Oskar.”
She hesitated a second before saying, “Call me Orra.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Orra, and I hope you enjoy your stay with us.”
She smiled again, then she shut the door. That was the last I ever saw of her.
All through the night, she made not a peep, which upset Hilde even more, since it gave her nothing to complain about. I slept soundly, but Hilde tossed and turned, certain that Orra would hurt us.
By the time morning came, the wind had stopped and the sun had broken through the clouds for the first time in days. I went up to check on Orra and see if she needed anything, and
I discovered her gone.
She rode in on the back of the dark storm, and she left before the sun.
Her room had been left empty—except for a little tiny baby, wrapped in a blanket, sleeping in the middle of the bed. The babe couldn’t be more than a few weeks old, but already had a thick head of wild blond hair. When I picked her up, the baby mewled, but didn’t open her eyes.
Not until I said, “Ullaakuut,”—a good-morning greeting.
Then her big amber eyes opened. She smiled up at me, and it was like the sun after the storm.
“That’s how we met.” I beamed, and he smiled back down at me. Mrs. Tulin wasn’t sure if they would keep me, so she wouldn’t let him name me yet, but then they called me Ullaakuut
until it stuck.
“It was quite the introduction,” he agreed with a chuckle. “Oskar!” Mrs. Tulin shouted from the other room. “The fire’s gone cold!”
“I’ll be right down!” he yelled over his shoulder before turning back to me. “Well, you’ve had your story now, and Hilde needs me. You best be getting to sleep now. Good night, Ulla.”
“Good night.” I settled back into the bed, and it wasn’t until he was at the door that I mustered the courage to ask him the question that burned on the tip of my tongue. “How come my mom left me here?”
“I can’t say that I understand it,” he said with a heavy sigh. “But she’d have to have got a mighty good reason to be traveling in that kinda storm, especially with a newborn. She was an Omte warrior, and I don’t know what kind of monsters she had to face down on her way to our doorstep. But she musta known that here you’d be safe.”
“Do you think she’ll come back?” I asked.
His lips pressed into a thin line. “I can’t say, lil’ miss. But it’s not the kind of thing I would hang my hat on. And it’s nothing that you should concern yourself with. You have a home here as long as you need it, and now it’s time for bed.”
Emma sprinted into my room first, clutching her older brother’s slingshot in her pudgy hands, and down the hall Liam was already yelling for me.
“Ulla! Emma keeps taking my stuff!” Liam rushed into my room in a huff, little Niko toddling behind him.
My bedroom was a maze of cardboard boxes—all of my worldly possessions carefully packed and labeled for my move in six weeks—and Emma darted between them to escape Liam’s grasp.
“He said he was going to shoot fairies in the garden!” Emma insisted vehemently.
Liam rolled his eyes and brushed his thick tangles of curls off his forehead. “Don’t be such a dumb baby. You know there’s no such things as fairies.”
“Don’t call your sister dumb,” I admonished him, which only caused him to huff even louder. For only being seven years old, Liam already had quite the flair for the dramatic. “You know, you’re going to have to learn how to get along with your sister on your own. I’m not going to be around to get in the middle of your squabbles.”
“You don’t have to tell me that,” Liam replied sourly. He stared down at the wood floor, letting his hair fall into his eyes. “She’s the one that always starts it.”
“I did not!” Emma shouted back. “I only wanted to protect the fairies!”
“Emma, will you give Liam back his slingshot if he promises not to kill anything with it?” I asked her. She seemed to consider this for a moment, wrinkling up her little freckled nose, but finally she nodded yes.
“I was never really going to kill anything anyway,” he said.
“Promise!” Emma insisted.
“Fine. I promise I won’t kill anything with my slingshot.”
He held his hand out to her, and she reluctantly handed it back to him. With that, he dashed out of the room, and Emma raced after him.
Niko, meanwhile, had no interest in the argument, and instead made his way over to me. I pulled him into my arms, relishing the way his soft curls felt tickling my chin as I held him, and breathing in his little-boy scent—the summer sun on his skin and sugared milk from his breakfast.
“How are you doing this morning, my sweet boy?” I asked him softly. He didn’t answer, but Niko rarely did. Instead, he curled up more into me and began sucking his thumb.
I know I shouldn’t pick favorites, but Niko would be the one I missed the most. Sandwiched between Emma and the twins, he was quiet and easily overlooked. Whenever I was having a bad day or feeling lonely, I could always count on him for cuddles and hugs that somehow managed to erase all the bad—at least for a few moments.
But now I could only smile at him and swallow down the lump in my throat.
This—all the scraped knees and runny noses, the giggles and tantrums, all the love and chaos and constant noise of a house full of children—had been my life for the past five years. Which was quite the contrast to the frozen isolation of the first fourteen and a half years of my life.
Five years ago, a Kanin tracker named Bryn Aven had been on an investigation that brought her to Iskyla in central Canada, and when I met her, I knew it was my chance out of that town. Maybe it was because of the way she came in, on the back of a storm, or because she was a half-breed. She was also blond like me, and that wasn’t something I saw often in a town populated by trolls and a handful of the native humans of the area, the Inuit.
Most trolls, especially from the three more populous tribes—the Kanin, Trylle, and Vittra—were
of a darker complexion. Their skin ran the gamut of medium brown shades, and their hair was dark brown and black, with eyes that matched. The Kanin and the Trylle looked like attractive
humans, and the Vittra often did as well.
The Omte had a slightly lighter complexion than that, and they were also more prone to gigantism and physical deformities, most notably in their large population of ogres. With
wild blond hair and blue eyes, the Skojare were the fairest, and they had a tendency to be born with gills, attuned to their aquatic lifestyle.
Each of the tribes even had different skill sets and extraordinary abilities. All of the kingdoms had some mild psychokinetic talents, with the Trylle being the most powerful. The Vittra and the Omte were known for their physical strength and ability to heal, while the Kanin had the skin-color- changing ability to blend in with their surroundings, much like intense chameleons.
Iskyla was officially a Kanin town, and the Inuit coloring wasn’t much different from that of the Kanin. Most everyone around me had a shock of dark hair and symmetrical features. My noticeable differences had always made me an easy target growing up, and seeing the blond-haired tracker Bryn, I recognized a kindred spirit.
Or maybe it was because I could tell she was running from something, and I had been itching to run since as soon as I could walk. The Tulins had been good to me—or as good as an elderly couple who had never wanted kids could be when a baby is dropped on them. But Mrs. Tulin had always made it clear that I would be on my own as soon as I was ready, and when I was fourteen I was sure I was ready.
Fortunately, Bryn had been smart enough—and kind enough—not to leave me to fend for myself. She brought me to Förening, the Trylle capital in Minnesota, and found me a job and a place to stay with friends of hers.
When I had started as a live-in nanny working for Finn and Mia Holmes, they’d only had two children with another on the way, but already their cottage was rather cramped. Shortly after I moved in, Emma came along—followed by a promotion for Finn to the head of the Trylle royal guard—and Mia insisted a house upgrade was long overdue.
This grand little house, nestled in the bluffs along the Mississippi River—cozy but clean and bright—had enough room for us all—Finn, Mia, Hanna, Liam, Emma, Niko, Lissa, Luna, and me. As of a few months ago, we’d even managed to fit in Finn’s mother, Annali, who had decided to move in with them after her husband passed away last fall.
This home had been my home for years, and really, this family had been my family too. They welcomed me with open arms. I grew to love them, and they loved me. Here, I felt like I belonged and mattered in a way that I had never been able to in Iskyla.
I was happy with them. But now I was leaving all of this behind.
From The Lost City. Copyright © 2020 by Amanda Hocking and reprinted by permission of Wednesday Books
Amanda Hocking's The Lost City offers lovers of her Trylle series yet another journey into that world.
But this time through the eyes of a young troll raised by a human family. Who later comes to make her home among trolls. As a nanny.
Only to leave that family when give the opportunity to intern as a transcriptionist in the Mimirin.
Which is essentially the great archive of Troll history.
Where she will also have the chance to possibly discover the identities of her parents. As well as adding her information to the effort of gathering histories for those designated TOMBS. Or Trolls Of Mixed Blood.
And all seems to be going according to plan. Until our main character learns that she has acquired an unexpected stowaway on her journey to the Mimirin. In the form of one 12-year old Hannah. When of the children for whom she serves as nanny.
Unable to take the child back to her family. Leading lady Ulla, decides to continue on to her destination. And work out the how's why's and wherefore's of what to do with Hannah after their arrival.
An arrival that is also heralded by a literal "run in" with a mysterious and beautiful creature. Who literally dents the top of Ulla's jeep as she runs across it.
And all that happens in just the first few chapters.
The Lost City is written in much the same "coming of age" vein of the first books of the Trylle series.
The major difference of this offering being that Ulla is a young adult, rather than a teen. And she is much more at home within the world of the trolls. Than the heroine of previous books.
This book concentrates on building Ulla's world and establishing her history.
Everything about this world is a beginning.
The encounters she makes.
Her love interest Pan.
Her squad Eliana and Dagny.
Her quest to find herself.
All of the mystery and intrigue that goes along with such endeavors.
Overall, this is a good start to the coming series.
Although, it is quite clear that this book is more information than action, on all fronts.
Which makes this read more of a light and fast start of an adventure series,that will hopefully grow in depth and complexity in coming progressions.
This first book is truly one to wet the appetite for adventures to come, roads yet untraveled, and lessons yet unlearned.
Thanks to Netgalley and Wednesday Books for providing the review copy on which my honest critique is based.
New York Times bestselling Trylle Trilogy and Kanin Chronicles. Her love of pop culture and all things paranormal influence her writing. She spends her time in Minnesota, taking care of her menagerie of pets and working on her next book.
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Date of Publication: April 6th, 2016
Rating: 5 Stars
The Scarlet Letter meets Divergent in this thoughtful and thrilling novel by bestselling author Cecelia Ahern.
Celestine North lives a perfect life. She's a model daughter and sister, she's well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she's dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.
But then Celestine encounters a situation where she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule. And now faces life-changing repercussions.
She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED.
In her breathtaking young adult debut, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society where obedience is paramount and rebellion is punished. And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her-everything. -Goodreads
Cecelia Ahern was born on September 30, 1981 in Dublin, Ireland. She is the daughter of the former Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. On 14th December 2009 it was announced that Cecelia had given birth to her first child with partner David Keoghan, a girl named Robin. She was secretly married on 11 June 2010 in County Kildare,
Her older sister, Georgina Ahern is married to Nicky Byrne of Irish pop group Westlife. Cecelia was a member of the Irish pop group Shimma who finished third in the Irish national for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2000. She attended Griffith College Dublin and obtained a degree in Journalism and Media Communications.
Find Her: Tweet / FB / Web / GR
It's oft quoted "charity begins at home." But any well-bred lady or gentleman with a truly benevolent disposition must devote some time and energy to worthy causes, especially those philanthropic endeavors which better the lot of the deserving poor.
This Season, do consider attending a ball, public assembly, or perhaps even a musicale in aid of charity. Visit our Society Advertisements section to find a comprehensive list of upcoming events.
The Beau Monde Mirror: The Society Page
Gunter's Tea Shop, Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London
April 2, 1818
Thank goodness it is raining.
At least that's what Miss Arabella Jardine told herself as she stepped over the puddles beneath the portico of Gunter's and caught the attention of a jarvey on the other side of Berkeley Square. As the hackney coach splashed its way toward the tea shop, she could pretend she was only dashing away raindrops, not tears, from beneath her spectacles as she turned back to face her three dearest friends in the entire world. Friends she'd bonded with three years ago at Mrs. Rathbone's Academy for Young Ladies of Good Character before they were all unceremoniously expelled amid a cloud of scandal for "conduct unbecoming."
Friends she'd only just been reunited with at Gunter's. As they'd taken tea and indulged in all manner of gastronomic delights, they also shared their hopes and dreams. Made plans for the future. Just as they'd done at Mrs. Rathbone's when they formed the Society for Enlightened Young Women. But now, due to circumstances beyond her control, Arabella was obliged to farewell her friends yet again.
Blast her family and their inconvenient plans to embark on a frivolous Grand Tour. Arabella endeavored to suppress a scowl as she fiddled with the buttons on her fawn kid gloves. She wanted to stay here in London with Charlie, Sophie, and dear Olivia. Being dragged across Europe to gawk at endless musty cathedrals and crumbling castle ruins was surely a waste of time and money. Money she could put to good use elsewhere given half the chance . . .
Lady Charlotte Hastings-or Charlie to her friends-pulled Arabella away from her disgruntled thoughts by enveloping her in a warm hug. "My darling Arabella, you must hold to your promise to write to us while you are gadding about the Continent." Charlie's unruly auburn curls tickled Arabella's cheek. "I don't care where you are-even if you're atop Mont Blanc or exploring the depths of the Black Forest-I will pay for the postage."
"Aye, as long as you all write back to me too." Arabella adjusted the shoulder strap of her leather satchel as Charlie released her. The hack had drawn up beside them. "I want to hear all about how your husband hunting goes this Season." Her gaze met each of her friends in turn. "Each and every one of you."
"Of course," said Sophie with a shy smile. A bright blush suffused her cheeks, and Arabella rather suspected she was thinking about Charlie's very dashing, very eligible brother, Nathaniel, Lord Malverne. He'd joined them at Gunter's for a little while, and Arabella was certain she'd detected a spark of interest in the wicked viscount's eyes as he'd conversed with Sophie. Even though Sophie's reputation was tarnished by the academy scandal-and her family was most decidedly "lower gentry"-why wouldn't he be interested? Shy yet sweet Sophie, with her glossy black hair and enormous blue eyes, was breathtakingly beautiful. Indeed, all Arabella's friends were fair of face and disposition, and accomplished in all the ways that mattered in the eyes of society.
Unlike herself. Arabella swallowed a sigh. Not only was she a Scottish orphan with dubious parentage and "unnatural bluestocking tendencies"-at least according to her aunt Flora-she possessed a gap-toothed smile and was so long-sighted, she had to wear glasses most of the time. Even if she did make a debut this Season alongside her friends, she was certain she'd never receive anything more than a passing glance from most gentlemen of the ton. It was a good thing she had other plans for her future. Secret plans. As soon as she bid her friends goodbye, she was going to put them in motion this afternoon. All going well.
Her resolve to succeed in her mission reaffirmed, Arabella pushed her spectacles firmly back into place upon the bridge of her nose; Charlie's exuberant hug had dislodged them a little. "Are you ready to leave, too, Olivia?" The jarvey was scowling at them from beneath the hood of his dripping oilskin. They really should go.
Olivia sighed heavily. "Y-y-yes," she replied, gathering up the skirts of her fashionable gown and matching pelisse so the fine fabric wouldn't trail through the muddy puddle directly in front of her. Her mouth twisted-Olivia's stammer always got worse when she was anxious-before her next words emerged in a bumpy rush. "As m-much as I hate to bid you all adieu as well, I m-must. Aunt Edith will undoubtedly be w-watching the clock."
Final hugs were exchanged, and once Arabella and Olivia were safely installed in the damp and dim interior of the hackney, it pulled away, barreling across the sodden square.
Olivia de Vere currently resided in a rented Grosvenor Square town house with her horribly strict guardians. Even though her home was only a relatively short distance from Berkeley Square, Arabella had made arrangements to share a hack with her friend not only to avoid a soaking in the rain but also to help Olivia escape her gilded cage for the outing to Gunter's.
A wee bit of subterfuge had been involved; Olivia's termagant of an aunt believed Arabella's aunt Flora had accompanied them on their excursion-which wasn't the case at all. Even though Gunter's was a respectable establishment, there would be hell to pay if Olivia's aunt learned her niece had visited the tea shop without a suitable chaperone.
"I really w-won't see you again before you depart for the Continent, will I?" The expression in Olivia's dark brown eyes was so forlorn, Arabella's heart cramped with sadness. She suspected Olivia was often as lonely as she was.
"I'm afraid not," she replied softly. "Bertie, my cousin's husband, has booked us all on the Dover packet, and we're due to set sail for France in three days' time."
Olivia's mouth twitched with a smile. "I'm rather tempted to stow myself away in your trunk. I won't take up much room."
Arabella laughed, pleased to see her friend's spirits returning. "Believe me, I would take you if I could. Aunt Flora and my cousin Lilias are sure to be exacting in the extreme during the journey. Your company would be most welcome."
Olivia reached out and squeezed her hand. Despite the sheeting rain and the traffic snarls, they were fast approaching Grosvenor Square. "I have a feeling you are going to have a m-marvelous time, despite your misgivings. And who knows, perhaps you might meet a charming Italian prince or handsome Swiss nobleman who'll sweep you off your feet." Olivia's eyes glowed. "Just imagine it."
Arabella very much doubted that would be the case. And unlike Olivia, Charlie, and Sophie, she didn't possess a romantic bone in her body; love matches weren't for plain, practical women like her. However, she dredged up a smile in an effort to appear lighthearted. "Well, unless his name is on the list of eligible gentlemen we just devised at Gunter's, I don't see how I can seriously consider his suit." She lowered her voice even though no one else was in earshot and rain was drumming on the roof of the hackney. "I mean, with no one of our acquaintance to vouch for him, what if he's really a dastardly rogue with a skeleton or two in the closet-literally-like a murdered first wife? Or as Charlie mentioned earlier today, what if he's afflicted with the pox?"
Olivia giggled and gave a theatrical shudder. "Perish the thought."
"At least your broodingly handsome neighbor, Lord Sleat, is on the list." Charlie had mentioned the Scottish marquess was a friend of her brother's and a highly suitable candidate for a husband. Even though he'd been terribly wounded at Waterloo and now sported an eye patch, apparently he was quite the gentleman beneath his rugged exterior. And very popular with the ladies of the ton.
"Yes." Olivia sighed and tucked a lock of dark brown hair back into the confines of her fine straw bonnet. The hackney coach had stopped before her town house, and she threw a wistful glance at the adjacent residence with its ornate pillars and shiny black double doors. "But I don't see how I shall ever cross paths with him. He very much keeps to himself." Her mouth curved into a wry smile. "I think I shall secretly dub him the mysterious marquess."
The front door to her own house cracked open, and Olivia grimaced. Gathering up her reticule, she hugged Arabella one last time. "Take care, my lovely friend. I must go before my aunt sends one of her horrid footmen out to haul me inside. Have a wonderful trip."
After waving Olivia off and issuing new instructions to the taciturn jarvey, Arabella hastily closed the hack's door against a sudden squall of icy rain that snatched at her sage green skirts and her leghorn bonnet. Settling into the battered leather seat once more, she removed her glasses to wipe off the rain spots with a lawn handkerchief, then checked her hem and brown kid boots for splashes of mud. For the most part, she wasn't fussy about her appearance, but she wanted to make a good impression at her next appointment. The matron at London's Foundling Hospital was expecting her . . . and Dr. Graham Radcliff.
She hadn't added the physician's name to the Society for Enlightened Young Women's list of eligible gentlemen. Her association with this particular man was her very own closely guarded secret, one she didn't feel ready to share with her friends quite yet.
Arabella's stomach tumbled oddly, and she frowned at her reflection in the hack's rain-lashed window. She was nervous, and she did not want to be. Was the rising feeling of anticipation and trepidation in her heart related to the fact that she was about to tour an establishment sure to bring back certain memories she'd rather not revisit? Or was it because she was going to meet the clever and engaging Dr. Radcliff once again? He'd suggested her visit coincide with the meeting of the hospital's board today. As well as providing medical expertise to the institution, the physician was one of its directors.
She fiddled with the worn pewter buckle of her grandfather's old leather satchel. The good doctor's letter of introduction to the Foundling Hospital's matron, Helen Reid, lay safely within. It had been just over a year since she last encountered the gentleman-a former medical colleague of her dearly departed grandfather, Dr. Iain Burnett. Arabella sometimes suspected her grandfather had been not so subtly trying to play matchmaker when he first introduced her to the widowed physician at a charity musicale in London in aid of the Foundling Hospital.
A smile trembled about Arabella's lips at the bittersweet memory. That had been in the autumn before her grandfather passed away. And a year and a half after the academy scandal erupted and Arabella's name had become mud in polite society-both in London and Edinburgh, where she now lived with Aunt Flora, Lilias, and her husband Albert Arbuthnott. There was one unpalatable truth Arabella had already learned in life: the stain of scandal was not easily removed, tending to cling to one's person wherever one went.
If tonnish society-here or in Edinburgh-ever learned of the real scandal attached to her past, she'd surely be banished forevermore.
At least Dr. Radcliff didn't know anything about that.
What he did know of her-that she was a bluestocking who'd rather attend a public lecture on vaccination than an assembly or ton ball-hadn't shocked him in the slightest. Indeed, on the two occasions they'd met, Dr. Radcliff always treated her with the utmost respect. And over the past year, they'd corresponded regularly about all manner of medical and social welfare topics-from the latest recommendations in treating infant colic, to the pressing need to expand access to free medical dispensaries for the poor, to the case for improving nutrition for the inmates of charity poorhouses.
It seemed Dr. Radcliff truly understood her desire to advocate for public health programs, just as her grandfather had done. In her opinion, improving the well-being of infants and children in institutionalized care was of paramount importance. Hence her visit to the Foundling Hospital. She wanted to learn as much as she could about the famous institution's practices, because one day-if she ever had the means and social connections-she dreamed of opening a similar hospital or orphanage in Edinburgh.
An impossible dream perhaps, but Arabella was committed to making it a reality. One thing she didn't lack was determination.
The Foundling Hospital, Guilford Street, Bloomsbury, London
"I'm afraid the matron cannot see you this afternoon, Miss . . ." The plump, middle-aged housekeeper of the Foundling Hospital squinted down at Dr. Radcliff's letter. The hospital's entry hall was not only chilly and damp but also poorly lit, and it took her a moment to find Arabella's name again. "Miss Jardine, is it?"
"Aye, that's right." Beneath her disheveled blond curls, Arabella's forehead knit into a frown. This wouldn't do at all. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the hall porter reaching for the handle of the front door. A large-boned, heavily browed man, he looked as though he wouldn't hesitate to eject her at a moment's notice. Turning her attention back to the housekeeper, Arabella decided to argue her case. "But I have an appointment. Dr. Radcliff arranged it. He's on the hospital board, I believe."
The woman sniffed haughtily as her gaze flicked over Arabella. She clearly wasn't impressed by Arabella's person. Given her plain attire and the fact she was unchaperoned, it was obvious she wasn't well connected or from a family of means. It didn't appear to matter that she knew the physician either. "Yes, I know Dr. Radcliff," she said, handing back the letter. "Fine gentleman he is. And ordinarily Matron would be happy to show you about. But not today. Perhaps you could come back next week when we run our public tour."
A knot of frustration tightened inside Arabella's chest. "Unfortunately that won't suit as I'm leaving town the day after tomorrow for an extended period of time. Is there anyone else who might be amenable to showing me around? One of the other staff members perhaps? A nurse or teacher? Dr. Radcliff mentioned he would be attending a board meeting this afternoon. Is there somewhere I could wait for him?" It suddenly occurred to her that she was more disappointed about the prospect of not seeing Dr. Radcliff than missing out on a guided tour. And she hadn't expected that.
Excerpted from How to Catch an Errant Earl by Amy Rose Bennett. Copyright © 2020 by Amy Rose Bennett. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.b lo bn
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