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It's 1926 and England is six years behind America in the women's suffrage movement. For Kit Quinn, however, getting the vote is of little value -- she needs to get a job. Orphaned in her childhood and raised in a boarding school, Kit has no illusions about what life has in store for her. She needs to find a position with room and board and a little spending money for trinkets and that's it.
What she does not need to do is fall in love. Not even -- especially not -- with James West. For one thing, he's too rich. And, if she gets right down to it, he's also too handsome and too intelligent. Then there's the delicate matter of him being her boss, a situation she really should have foreseen. But given her history, Kit has to grasp at anything Madame Fortune condescends to toss at her -- in this case, a post as housekeeper at Aurelie, James's beautiful estate in Surrey county.
The trouble is, James can't seem to stay within the narrow role of the employer -- not after he makes the acquaintance of his newest employee, at any rate. So when he starts pushing the boundaries of their professional relationship, Kit's got a choice to make. She can stay and hope for some fleeting happiness (he's made it clear he intends to marry for money). Or she can leave her job but keep her self-respect.
She's read enough classic literature to know what last century's heroines would do, but in 1926, a girl should be able to keep her man and her dignity.
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Excerpt. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
Chapter 14 - Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
The headlamps from the cars cast small, wavering circles of light on the gravel and dirt in front, but one glance to the side reminded me that we were really two tiny ships traveling through a sea of darkness. We had not thought to bring a lantern or torch or any other means of illumination, and so we rolled on, slowly and quietly, through the countryside.
During the second hour we had to stop several times: once when Mr. West almost hit a fox scurrying out from the gloom into the glare of his car's headlamps and once to repair a punctured tire on our vehicle. The next stop, however, was our last. Since the drive to Worthing had included more downhills than up, it made sense that the return road would have more ups. And although Daniel had procured as much gasoline as he could find and stored it in large barrels at the feet of the passengers in both vehicles, the cars pulling weight up so many hills used more fuel than we had in reserve.
Mr. West ran out first. He coasted to a stop at the side of the road and then he and William got out and pushed his car off into the brush. Daniel followed after him and turned off his car. After a brief discussion, the men decided it would be unwise to send Daniel ahead to look for more gasoline in the dark, since there was a great chance he would run out before he found anything, and we did not want to be separated.
Everyone accepted the inconvenience, however, and settled down for the night with high spirits. William and the girls tramped around until they found a smooth, level patch of ground not far from the cars. They spread out the towels and blankets we had brought for the beach and rolled up their extra clothes as pillows. Although Julia and Darcy tried to convince the entire party to lie down on their makeshift bed, Eliza, screwing up her courage for the fight, refused to sleep in the same area as the men. The other two girls pleaded and cajoled and mocked and criticized, but Eliza would not budge, so in the end, the women stretched out on the blankets, with Daniel assigned to keep watch over their party during the night, while the remaining men slept in the cars. After a great deal of giggling and false starts, Julia, Darcy, and Eliza finally grew quiet. Daniel curled up on the edge of the blanket and began to snore.
But I could not sleep. I felt an odd sense of responsibility for what had happened, as if I should have insisted we stay in Worthing for the night, even though I knew it would not have made a difference if I had. I tossed and turned for half an hour and finally decided to get up and take a walk. The moon had come up late and provided only a little light, but it was enough to see by, as long as I stayed on the road. When I reached the automobiles where the men were sleeping, however, I heard a voice calling softly from the vehicles.
"Miss Quinn," whispered Mr. West. I stopped.
"Where are you going?"
"I can't sleep."
"Nor I. Perhaps I may join you on a walk?"
"Of course," I said, and waited while he climbed out of the car and fell in beside me.
After only a few steps, he said softly, "What I would not give for a horse right now."
I nodded my head in the darkness. "Why don't you keep horses anymore, Mr. West?"
"It was my father," he said. "When he bought his first automobile, he loved it so much, he sold his horses and carriages immediately and vowed never to buy them back. Then I returned home, and I was of the same mind as him. Carriages break down as often as cars do, and horses cost a great deal more to keep than gasoline."
"Although they do seem a bit more reliable in a pinch," I said.
"Yes, but what is a little sacrifice in the name of progress?"
"You're right," I said. "The occasional sleepless night is a small price to pay."
"I've given up sleep over many things more trivial than this," he said, and I thought of his disastrous business venture. "But I'm sorry your peace has also been disturbed."
"I don't mind. Although I do wonder whether I ought to have urged the party to stay in Worthing for the night."
"They would never have agreed to it. Once Julia gets an idea in her head..." he trailed off. I could think of nothing to say that would not overstep my bounds as a housekeeper. He continued, "Why are all the women I know so deficient in sense? Present company excluded, of course," he hurried to add.
"Of course," I said.
We walked on in silence for a moment -- I feared I might say the wrong thing or give myself away if I tried to comment on the women Mr. West knew. But he soon began again, almost as if he was speaking to himself. "Lord Drelen has been urging me to get married." He cleared his throat. "Of course, he believes Julia would make an excellent match. It would solve the dilemma of her father's land, and I have to admit, the possibility has occurred to me," his voice was the voice of someone who is confessing an embarrassing secret. Turning toward me in a tone edged with helplessness, he continued, almost pleading, "What can I do? As a temporary companion, she is good enough, I suppose, but I cannot imagine marrying her. Then again," he continued after a slight pause, during which I bit my tongue as hard as I could, "if her friends are any indication, then they are all like her, and I might as well get on with it."
"Miss Quinn," he said suddenly, stopping in the middle of the road. "I apologize. I should not speak so openly of such matters."
I wished in vain to speak as openly back to him of such matters. "Apology accepted. And if it is any consolation, Mr. West, I am sorry my sex has not provided you with any more suitable candidates."
"It's certainly not your fault. They should all be housekeepers for a while."
My heart beat wildly in my chest and I felt a flutter of hope. "Well, why not? What is a little sacrifice in the name of progress?" I asked, only partially in jest.
"Ah, progress! If only society could keep up with industry..."
His voice trailed off and I felt the air grow heavy with our unspoken thoughts. I glanced up at the sky, streaked with a few pale stars and the ethereal moon, and I struggled to contain the pain and anger I felt bubbling up inside me. This humiliation -- the knowledge that the only man I had ever cared for was eternally out of my reach -- was greater than anything else I had suffered.
But then I imagined Mr. West marrying Julia and having to live in the same house with her as my mistress. If he did, I would be forced to find other employment; staying on as housekeeper after Mr. West married would be sheer agony. At that moment, I felt I could restrain myself no longer. He had almost admitted he would have preferred to marry me, had he not? 'If only all women could be housekeepers,' he had said. And so I turned to him, speaking as calmly as I could, although inside I seethed with anger and frustration.
"Will you always be a slave to fashion, Mr. West? How many men must marry their scullery maids before you will choose your own happiness over the advice of someone like Lord Drelen?"
He did not answer, and I felt my mistake immediately. I realized how inappropriate it was for me to say something like that to him, even as I hoped, against all odds, that the truth of my words might make some small breach in his defenses. But then he stopped, turned around and, touching my arm, replied,
"At least one, Miss Quinn. At least one."
Shaunna Sanders has sworn off fame and fortune permanently. When first introduced to the idea, she thought she would like having her novel in Oprah's book club or listed as a NYT bestseller. But then she realized how much that might change her. She'd have to get dressed every day. And not just in jeans and a t-shirt.
That might work for some people, but she's one author who prefers to spend her mornings in pajamas, sipping a hot cup of brewed cocoa and working a cryptic crossword in pen. Unfortunately, she's got a husband and four kids, so those mornings are equally as rare, but it's good to dream. Dreams are the stuff that life (and good novels) are made of.
During her spare time, Shaunna writes novels. She's also the co-lead singer of the band PAJJES with her husband. In addition, she cooks and cleans and crafts and creates and mothers her own children and any others who happen to visit. At night she reads and then she dreams.
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Book Description CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1519746784