The Daughter of Highland Hall: A Novel (Edwardian Brides)

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9781601424983: The Daughter of Highland Hall: A Novel (Edwardian Brides)

What if the title, the estate, the life of security and splendor... what if it isn’t enough?

Strong-willed and beautiful, debutante Katherine Ramsey feels ready to take the London social season by storm, and she must. Her family estate, Highland Hall, has been passed to older male cousin Sir William Ramsey, and her only means of securing her future is to make a strong debut and find a proper husband. With her all-knowing and meddling aunt as a guide, Katherine is certain to attract suitors at the lavish gatherings, sparkling with Great Britain’s elite.
 
When a shocking family scandal sidelines Katherine, forcing her out of the social spotlight, she keeps a low profile, volunteering with the poor in London’s East End. Here Katherine feels free from her predictable future, and even more so as a friendship with medical student Jonathan Foster deepens and her faith in God grows. But when Katherine is courted anew by a man of wealth and position, dreams of the life she always thought she wanted surface again. Torn between tradition and the stirrings in her heart for a different path, she must decide whom she can trust and love—and if she will choose a life serving others over one where she is served.

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About the Author:

CARRIE TURANSKY is an award-winning author of more than a dozen novels and novellas. She has been the winner of the ACFW Carol Award, the Crystal Globe Award, and the International Digital Award, and a finalist for the Inspirational Readers Choice Award and the ACFW Carol Awards and Genesis Contest. She has written contemporary and historical romances, women's fiction, short stories, articles, and devotionals. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, Scott, and they have five adult children and four grandchildren.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

London, England
April 1912

If she lived to be one hundred and five, Katherine Evangeline Ramsey would never understand why every debutante must begin the London social season by curtsying to the king and queen. Of course, she was excited to be presented at court and to take part in her first season. She had looked forward to it for years, however, mastering the required skills had proven more challenging than she’d expected.

But her aunt, Lady Louisa Gatewood, insisted that was how every wellbred young lady made her debut into English society and announced she was ready for marriage. Kate certainly hoped her aunt was right. Because marriage to the right man was the only way she would gain control of her life and create a future for herself.

Pulling in a deep breath, she straightened her shoulders and prepared to practice her curtsy once more.

Mr. Philippe Rounpear, her gray-haired dancing master, lowered his bushy, silver eyebrows and pointed his white-gloved finger at Kate. “You must float over the floor like a swan gliding across a lake.” He gave a firm nod. “Try again, please.”

How many times was he going to make her do this? Kate stuffed down her frustration and cast a heated glance at her  aunt Louisa, who sat on a high-backed chair by the piano, taking on the role of King George V.

Her aunt stiffened. “Katherine, the only way you will gain a position in society is to take your training seriously.”

“I am taking it seriously!” The words flew from Kate’s mouth before she could stop them.

“Then you must conquer these presentation formalities and do them perfectly.”

Kate swallowed the sharp reply rising in her throat, tugged her skirt aside, and stepped into her next curtsy.

Mr. Rounpear’s voice rang out. “No, no! You look as stiff as a broom.” He crossed the oriental carpet of her cousin William Ramsey’s London drawing room and tapped her left shoulder. “You must relax your posture. Think grace, think poise.”

Heat flushed her face. She looked past the dancing master at her younger sister, Penny, who sat next to their aunt, pretending to be Queen Mary. Penny’s eyes danced as she waited for Kate to attempt her next curtsy.

Kate narrowed her gaze at her sister. Just wait. In two years you will be eighteen, and you’ll have to prepare for your own presentation. You won’t be laughing then!

Mr. Rounpear clapped his hands. “Miss Katherine, our hour is almost over. One more time, please.”

“All right.” Katherine blew out a breath and tried to relax her shoulders. She would get this right or expire in the process. She had to. Her future depended on it.

Lifting her chin, she stepped to the side, then crossed one leg behind the other, and slowly sank down in front of her Aunt Louisa.

“Better.” Mr. Rounpear nodded. “Not perfect, but better. Now lower your head, count to three, then rise slowly.”

Katherine’s legs burned as she waited and then rose.

“Now take two steps to the right, and curtsy to the queen.”

Katherine glanced at Penny and took the first step, but when she took the second, her foot tangled in her skirt. She gasped and her hand shot out.

Penny smirked and covered her mouth.

Katherine swayed, struggling to recover her balance.

Mr. Rounpear scowled. “Is that how you will conduct yourself at your presentation?”

“Of course not.” Kate untangled her skirt and turned toward the windows, frustration bubbling up within. This man was impossible! She would like to see him curtsy fifty times and never lose his balance.

“Face this way!”

Kate clenched her jaw and turned around.

“You must never turn your back on the royal family.” He motioned toward Penny and her aunt.

“They are not the royal family, and neither are you!”

His eyes flashed, and he lifted his hand. “Very well. That will be all for today.”

“Mr. Rounpear, please!” Aunt Louisa rose from her chair. “There’s no need to cut the lesson short.”

“It appears your niece is tired, and that has made her irritable.”

“But Katherine’s presentation is Friday.”

“Yes, the time is short.” The dancing instructor lowered his eyebrows and studied Kate. “I suppose I could come again on Wednesday at three o’clock.”

“Yes. Thank you. We’ll look forward to it.” Aunt Louisa sent Kate a pointed glance and waited for her response.

Kate thanked Mr. Rounpear for the lesson, though it nearly killed her.

Louisa crossed the room and pulled the cord to summon the footman. He arrived and escorted the dancing instructor out. When the door closed, she swung around and glared at Kate. “There is no excuse for your rude behavior toward Mr. Rounpear.”

Kate lifted her chin. “I don’t see why he has to come back. I know how to curtsy.”

“There is more to court presentation than learning how to curtsy.”

“Of course, but he’s so superior and demanding.”

Louisa’s nostrils flared, sending a warning. “You will have one more lesson with Mr. Rounpear, and I don’t want to hear any more about it.”

Kate’s face burned. She clenched her hands, barely able to keep herself under control. But her aunt was her presentation sponsor, and if Kate didn’t hold her tongue, she might lose her opportunity to be presented.

Louisa didn’t seem to notice Kate’s response, or perhaps she didn’t care. She turned to Penny. “Have you tried on those two new dresses?”

“Yes, but the hem of the green silk is terribly uneven. Should we send it back to the dressmaker, or should I ask Lydia to fix it?”

“Goodness, you would think with the price I’m paying that dressmaker, she could at least hem a dress properly.” Louisa motioned toward the open doorway. “I’m going to the Tremblys’ for tea at four, and I need to change, but I suppose I have time to look at it.”

“Splendid.” Penny turned and dashed out of the drawing room.

“Penelope, slow down!” Louisa raised her hand to her chest and hurried after her. “This is not a racetrack!”

Kate shook her head as she watched them go, then turned toward the window. Sunlight poured through the tall panes, drawing her gaze up to the blue sky.

It would be a perfect afternoon for a ride. Of course, a tame promenade down Rotten Row in Hyde Park wouldn’t be nearly as exciting as a highspeed race across the beautiful rolling hills at Highland Hall, her country estate in Berkshire.

That thought stopped her cold, and pain pierced her heart.

It wasn’t her estate anymore.

It had been almost a year since her father’s death, and when she lost him, she lost control of Highland as well. It wasn’t right, but it was the law.

She had no brothers, and daughters could not inherit their father’s title or the estate that was tied to it. So even though they barely knew him, William Ramsey—her second cousin once removed—had taken her father’s title as baronet and become master of Highland Hall. Even worse, her father had named Cousin William to be her guardian until she married, and that had made her life very difficult these last few months.

Of course, her father had not left her penniless. Money had been put aside for her marriage settlement. But if she wanted freedom from her cousin’s control and a home of her own, she would have to find a husband this season.

Which was exactly what she intended to do.

She crossed to the center of the room to practice her curtsy a few more times before tea. Perhaps without everyone hovering over her and criticizing her every move, she could relax and master the graceful movements she needed to impress the king and queen. And everyone else who would be watching.

Closing her eyes, she pictured the motions. Then she lifted her hand, stepped to the left, and sank down once more. Lowering her head, she counted to three, then slowly rose. There, that was better. She smiled at the imaginary queen. “Thank you, Your Majesty. I’m very pleased to meet you.”

A giggle drifted in through the open doorway.

Kate glanced to the right, following the sound.

Six-year-old Millie, Cousin William’s daughter, peeked around the edge of the doorway. Her ginger curls spilled over her shoulder as she leaned in.

A smile broke across Kate’s face. “Millie, are you spying on me?”

“No, I’m just watching. What are you doing?”

“I’m practicing for my presentation to the king and queen.”

Millie’s blue-green eyes glowed. “You’re going to the palace to see the king and queen?”

“Yes, I am. There will be two hundred other young women presented that day, but I’ll have my turn to meet them, and you’ll do the same when you’re my age.”

Millie’s impish smile spread wider. “Really?”

“Of course.” Kate’s spirit lifted. Millie was right. Presentation at court was an exciting opportunity that would open the door to Kate’s future. She shouldn’t let her overbearing aunt or her gloomy dancing instructor squelch her happiness.

It was time to make the most of the day. She focused on her young cousin again. “Would you like to learn how to curtsy?”

“Yes!” Millie hurried across the room toward Kate.

“All right. Stand like this.” Kate showed her young cousin the first position.

The little girl watched Kate with eager expectation, then lifted her skirt
and followed along.

· · ·

Jonathan Foster hopped down from the London omnibus and set off across Hathaway Court, a broad, tree-lined street in the heart of Kensington. The late April sunshine warmed his shoulders, and the fresh spring breeze carried a faint floral scent. What a perfect day.

The pleasant spring weather wasn’t the only reason for his cheerful mood. In less than two weeks, he would finish his fifth term at medical school, and he could enjoy a bit more freedom and a lot more sleep for the next few months.

Jon glanced at his watch. He didn’t need to be back at St. George’s Hospital until seven this evening. That gave him plenty of time to call on his sister, Julia, and her future husband, Sir William Ramsey, and welcome them to London.

Although their parents were in favor of his sister’s upcoming marriage, Jon wanted to become better acquainted with William and be sure he was the right man for Julia. Ramsey might be a baronet and master of a large country estate, but it was Julia’s recent inheritance from their grandfather that had saved Highland Hall from financial ruin just two months earlier.

Did William truly love Julia, or had he pursued her for the inheritance? With their father still recovering from a prolonged illness and living miles away in Fulton, Jon wanted to make sure his sister was protected and her future secure.

He rounded the corner, and Ramsey House came into view. He studied the impressive three-story Queen Anne–style home built of red brick. It had white trim, an intricate dutch gable with a scrolled roofline on the left, and a large round turret at the corner on the right. Another arched gable sheltered the front entrance.

He stopped at the wrought-iron gate and surveyed the property. Two well-kept flower gardens and neat boxwood hedges lined the walkway leading to the front door. They added a warm welcome and softened the formal appearance of the house. He was sure his sister appreciated that.

William Ramsey’s London home was certainly different from Jon and Julia’s simple childhood home at the mission station in India—and the thatched cottage where their parents now stayed in Fulton. His sister would lead a very  different life here. But he imagined she would accept those changes with the same grace and goodwill she had always shown.

Still...was this marriage what was best for her? Would she be happy here? That’s what he needed to discover.

He pushed open the gate, mounted the steps, and rang the bell.

A few moments later, a stout butler in a neatly pressed black suit answered the door and ushered him in. “Please wait here, sir.” The butler motioned toward a chair in the entrance hall.

“Thank you.” Jon removed his hat and glanced around as the butler passed through a doorway at the end of the hall.

The interior of the house was even more impressive than the facade, with beautiful hardwood floors, thick carpets, and an elaborately carved wooden staircase leading up to the next floor. A large mirror in a gilded frame hung on the wall to his right between two large family portraits. He stepped closer and examined one of the paintings.

Could that be William Ramsey when he was a boy? The young lad had the same features as the man he’d met at his sister’s engagement dinner at Highland Hall in February. Two boys stood with him. Jon guessed they were his brothers. A younger sister and their parents sat in front of them in a garden setting. If that boy in the middle was William, he looked rather somber, even as a child.

A soft female voice followed by a little girl’s giggle drifted from the partially open doorway down the hall.

Jonathan tipped his head and listened. Was that Julia with Sir William’s daughter, Millie? Julia had grown very fond of Sir William’s two young children since she’d become their governess at Highland Hall six months ago. And in a few months she would become their stepmother.

“Very nice, Millie. Let’s try it again.”

No, that wasn’t Julia’s voice. Perhaps it was Katherine Ramsey or her sister, Penelope. Jon had met William’s cousins at Julia’s engagement dinner at Highland, and he had seen them again at William’s sister’s wedding earlier this month.

“Show me again.” Millie’s young voice carried a smile.

“All right. Follow me.”

Jonathan moved closer and looked into the drawing room. The plush furniture had been pushed back. Katherine Ramsey stood in the center of the room wearing a sky-blue dress, with Millie standing beside her. Katherine’s
back was to the entrance hall, so she didn’t see him step into the doorway.

Katherine lifted her skirt a few inches and exposed a bit of ruffle around her slim ankles. “Step to the left and place your right foot behind. Then slowly sink down until your knee almost touches the floor, but not quite.”

Millie copied each movement, though hers were not as smooth as Katherine’s.

“Now, lower your head.” Katherine demonstrated and Millie followed. “Hold perfectly still while you slowly count to three before you rise.”

Millie wavered, then gasped and tipped to the side.

Katherine lunged to catch her, but Millie crashed onto the carpet, and Katherine landed in a heap beside her.

Jonathan dashed across the room. “Miss Ramsey, are you all right?”

She looked up at him, and her cheeks flushed bright pink. “Mr. Foster...Yes, of course, I’m fine.”

Millie giggled as she pushed herself to her hands and knees and then stood. “I guess I need more practice.”

“I suppose I do as well.” Katherine started to rise.

Jon extended his hand to her. “Please, allow me.”

She glanced up at him, her eyebrows slightly arched. “I promise you I’ve curtsied dozens of times today, and this is the only time I’ve fallen.”

“Of course. I’m sure it was only because you were trying to help Millie....

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Book Description Multnomah Press, United States, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. What if the title, the estate, the life of security and splendor. what if it isn t enough? Strong-willed and beautiful, debutante Katherine Ramsey feels ready to take the London social season by storm, and she must. Her family estate, Highland Hall, has been passed to older male cousin Sir William Ramsey, and her only means of securing her future is to make a strong debut and find a proper husband. With her all-knowing and meddling aunt as a guide, Katherine is certain to attract suitors at the lavish gatherings, sparkling with Great Britain s elite. When a shocking family scandal sidelines Katherine, forcing her out of the social spotlight, she keeps a low profile, volunteering with the poor in London s East End. Here Katherine feels free from her predictable future, and even more so as a friendship with medical student Jonathan Foster deepens and her faith in God grows. But when Katherine is courted anew by a man of wealth and position, dreams of the life she always thought she wanted surface again. Torn between tradition and the stirrings in her heart for a different path, she must decide whom she can trust and love--and if she will choose a life serving others over one where she is served. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9781601424983

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