Blooming into a Duchess (Preview)


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Chapter One

December, 1804

Madeline D’Corsey sat on the large bench in the cavernous foyer of her aunt’s lavish London home. She swung her feet back and forth, her toes barely brushing against the highly-polished wood floor. Muffled voices floated to her from the parlour, angry hushed voices. Madeline hung her head, trying her best to hold back the tears.

Mama and Papa were dead, killed in a carriage accident during a freak winter storm. Madeline had been so excited about Christmas, but they had never returned from the holiday party just days before they were to celebrate the Saviour’s birth together. Christmas had come and gone, and now she found herself awaiting her fate in a cold foyer. If her aunt decided not to take her in, she would be forced to go to a boarding school on the other side of England.

Madeline leaned forward, peeking into the parlour. Her aunt paced before the fire, her fingers pressed against her temples.

“How could my sister think to thrust this responsibility on me! She knew that I was undone after the death of my husband. I do not think I am able to take the child, emotionally speaking. I must focus on my own daughter’s well-being.”

“Please consider, ma’am. Madeline will be sent away if you do not take charge of her. She will have no one—no family to comfort her in her time of need. She is sorely shaken by the death of her parents,” Mr Drake argued on her behalf. The kindly gentleman had been a neighbour and friend since before Madeline could remember. And while he had no noble blood to boast of, he had always been kind to Madeline.

Her aunt let out a huff of frustration, and Madeline heard her plop onto the settee. Madeline straightened, ducking back around the corner so that she would not be spotted spying. However, she had little trouble hearing their conversation, which was quickly becoming chilly. “I cannot. Are there no other relatives on my brother-in-law’s side? Why must I be responsible for her?”

Mr Drake paused for a moment, sighing. “I am sure you know that my lord’s younger brother is in no position to take the child. He is a bachelor of questionable morals. She needs someone who will show her the way, someone who can bring her up as a young lady of the ton as her parents would have wanted.” Madeline could tell that Mr Drake did not like her aunt. His words became clipped and icy. “I would take her myself, but I am not married. It would hardly be proper for me to take charge of her.”

Her aunt shifted on the settee, her considerable weight making the piece of furniture creak and groan. “Well, I suppose if I must, then I must.” Her aunt grudgingly acquiesced. However, Madeline wished that Mr Drake was married and able to take her. She would have been much happier growing up closer to her family home.

“Thank you, Mrs Fairweather.” Drake sighed in relief, and Madeline sat up straighter, keeping her eyes focused on the opposite wall. She did not want to get in trouble for eavesdropping. “His lordship gave me express instructions as to the dispersal of the sum he set aside should anything happen to them. I will have it sent to you from the Bank of London as soon as possible.”

“Sum?” her aunt’s voice wafted out to her, sounding greedy and calculating. “I was not aware there was a sum. You might have started with that, young man,” she finished smugly.

Madeline’s eyes smarted. She was sure that Mr Drake had not mentioned it for fear that her aunt would have taken charge of her only to get her hands on the large sum of money her father had set aside for her provision.

Mr Drake paused once more, but when he did speak again, Madeline could hear the anger lacing his tone. “Yes. His lordship wanted to be sure that Madeline was cared for in the event of his demise. He laid up five thousand pounds, more than enough to see her properly introduced to society when the time comes and help her in finding a suitable husband. Of course, he laid up another sum for her dowry, for when she does marry.”

Madeline heard the smile in her aunt’s voice. “Well, that changes things a bit. I am but a humble widow. Be sure that the money is sent as quickly as possible.”

Madeline straightened once more as footsteps were heard approaching. Mr Drake appeared in the parlour doorway first. He flashed her a white-toothed smile, kneeling in front of the little bench. “Madeline, your aunt has agreed to take you in. I am sure you will be very happy here in London. There is so much to entertain.”

Madeline sniffed back tears. She knew he was trying to cheer her, and Papa would want her to be brave. “Thank you, Mr Drake. I shall never forget you.” She threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. He hugged her back, lingering for a moment.

“Be brave, my little Madeline. I shall come and visit as often as I can,” he whispered.

When Madeline let go, she caught her aunt’s eye. She leaned in so that Mr Drake alone could hear her. “I wish I were big so you could marry me.”

Mr Drake chuckled, putting her away from him so he could look into her eyes. “Believe me, Lady Madeline. I would take you away from here if I could.” He stood, glancing at her aunt. “I leave her in your capable hands, ma’am.”

A solitary tear slipped down her cheek as she followed Mr Drake to the door. It felt as if the last familiar person from her past was walking out of her life forever. Her aunt’s cold fingers wrapped around her shoulders, digging into the tender flesh. Madeline winced. “Wave goodbye,” her aunt said through clenched teeth as Mr Drake climbed into his carriage. “And smile,” she added. Madeline did as she was told, fearful of retribution. Her aunt waved, smiling a little too brightly.

When the carriage had disappeared onto the street, her aunt hurried her into the house, slamming the door behind her. She half-dragged, half-carried Madeline through the foyer and into the long hall toward a set of modest stairs. “Genevieve!” She shrieked, propelling toward the stairs. Madeline hurried along as fast as her little legs could carry her, afraid of what her aunt planned to do with her. Genevieve, her cousin, appeared in her bedroom doorway. At seven years of age, Genevieve was a spoiled, rotten little girl whom Madeline had only seen a few times in her life during a handful of family holidays.

“Genevieve, you are to share your room with Madeline until other accommodations can be made.” Her aunt finally released her shoulder, and Madeline was thankful for it. Her nails had bitten into her skin, and she was sure there would be impressions of them once she took off her cloak.
Genevieve gave an ugly little pout. “But Mama, I don’t want to share my room. She’ll try to take all my toys and make a mess of everything.” Genevieve crossed her arms, glaring at Madeline.

Her aunt joined her daughter, both of them facing Madeline as if she were carrying the plague. “It will not be for long, dearest. We’ll find a place for her somewhere.” Her aunt waved her hand, motioning Madeline to follow her into the large room.

Madeline obeyed, looking around the room done up in the French style. Pink was the colour of the day, it would seem. The four-poster bed was hung with pink silk curtains with a matching pink bedspread and pillows. The curtains covering the floor-to-ceiling windows were of pink velvet. The oriental carpets displayed an array of beautiful pink and wine-coloured blooms. A cheery fire crackled in the hearth. It was not as big as the room Madeline had occupied back at home, but it was lovely, nonetheless.

“It’s beautiful,” Madeline breathed in genuine appreciation. Although they had all had a rocky start, she was determined to do what her mother had always taught her. Be kind, even when others are not. Treat others as you would want to be treated. Her mother’s words rang out in the recesses of her mind, and she again had to sniff back tears.

Genevieve marched over to a window seat on which a plethora of fine China dolls was situated. She sat down on her haunches before them and smoothed their skirts, mumbling to herself.

Madeline’s aunt turned with a scowl. “You may sleep there for the time being,” she said, motioning to the chaise lounge on the other side of the room. Madeline was shocked. Surely there was a guest room that had an actual bed for her. But she said nothing, taking off her cloak. She glanced at her shoulders, which were indeed red from her aunt’s maltreatment. Again, she said nothing of it.

“Thank you, Aunt Sarah. I shall be most comfortable, I am sure.”

Her aunt sniffed, letting out a mirthless chuckle. “You have no choice, do you? Now, I have some things to see to downstairs. I’ll let you two settle in. Come down for tea at three.”

Her aunt left the room in a flourish of skirts, leaving Madeline feeling anxious to be alone with her cousin. She folded her cloak and draped it over the chaise lounge before turning to regard Genevieve. She took a deep breath and smoothed down her black silk mourning dress before starting across the room. Genevieve looked up when Madeline was a few paces away.

“They are exquisite,” Madeline said, nodding toward the dolls. She tried to think of something to breach the gap between them, but it was no secret that they had never really gotten along, even when they had spent a week together at Christmas the year before. Even when Genevieve and Aunt Sarah had come to visit for a few weeks each spring, Genevieve had spent most of the time on her own in the nursery.

Genevieve stood, glaring at her. “Don’t touch them,” she snarled. “They are very expensive. My Papa bought them for me on his travels before he died. Mama said so.”

Madeline blinked, surprised by her vehemence. She took a step back. “I had no intention of touching your silly dolls.” Anger welled up inside her. Why must her aunt and cousin treat her as if she were an inconvenience? She had just lost both her parents and not two weeks later was being forced to give up everything she knew.
Genevieve did not seem to care in the slightest. “Well, see that you don’t.” She brushed past her, heading for the bedroom door. “And don’t touch anything on my vanity, either.”

Madeline followed her. “Where are you going?”

“Down to the library,” she said dully. Without another word, Genevieve left the room. Madeline was grateful, in a way. At least she could be alone with her thoughts now. She went to the chaise lounge and sank into the plush cushions. She pushed her dark brown curls away from her face, sniffing loudly. However, now she did not have to hide her tears. She lay down on the lounge, giving rise to her grief.

“Oh, Mama. I do not think I can be brave. Not anymore,” she wept. She buried her face in the seat cushion, remembering that awful morning when the butler had told her that her parents were no more. They had been found at the bottom of a steep incline after their carriage had slid off the road in the middle of the storm. She wished she had begged them to stay home. But now, she would never see them again. She was utterly alone in the world, with no one to turn to.

It is always darkest right before the dawn… Her mother’s cherished words came racing back to the forefront of her mind, and she felt close to her for the first time since Fate had cruelly ripped her from this world. She took several deep breaths and slowly sat upright. She dried her tears, gritting her teeth.

“Very well, Mama,” she whispered brokenly. “I shall try to be strong. For the sake of yours and Papa’s memory, I will try.”

Chapter Two

May 1814

Madeline stood in front of the dull, dusty mirror in her tiny loft bedroom. The hand-me-down silk gown was a little big for her, but her aunt’s maid had done her best to bring it in for her. Today was her debut into society, and no matter what she tried, she could not still the wild beating of her heart. She smoothed the silk down, feeling out of place. Unlike Genevieve’s, her gown was done in a simple fashion, devoid of jewels or embroidery. Her cousin’s gown had been embroidered with gold thread and tiny seed pearls. Genevieve would look like the belle of the ball today, while Madeline would look like an old cast-off boot.

“Madeline?” A soft knock sounded at the door as one of the upstairs maids came in. She smiled when she entered, seeing Madeline dressed in her gown. “Oh, my lady—you look wonderful,” she breathed.

Madeline smiled. “Do you really think so? By heavens, Jane, I am so nervous.” She gave a short laugh and turned back to the mirror. “I have no feathers for my hair, so I suppose these flowers will have to do.” Madeline had gotten permission from the gardener to cut a few white roses.

“You will look the best because you are kind and thoughtful and sweet, ma’am. Those other girls will not be able to hold a candle to you!” Jane came over and stood beside her. She took up one of the rose blooms and stuck it in her hair, pinning it in place. Silence prevailed as she wove two more roses in and then tucked the last one behind her right ear. “There. Now you look like a princess.”

Even though she knew it was not true, Madeline was grateful to her. She sighed, taking one last look. “I suppose it will have to do, anyway. Will you walk down to the foyer with me?” She was loath to be alone, especially as she prepared to join her aunt and cousin. The insults they would hurl at her would be cruel, but Madeline had learned to ignore them for the most part. For ten years, she had been locked away in this household, treated no better than a servant. However, she had found true friends among the people who served her jealous aunt and selfish cousin.

“Yes, in just a moment. But you are forgetting this.” Jane went to the small dresser. She took down the little wooden box that served as Madeline’s treasure chest. Jane pulled out the golden locket that had belonged to Madeline’s mother. “You cannot go without your mama.”

Madeline turned around and allowed Jane to fasten the chain around her neck. She touched the cool golden heart at her throat. She blinked several times, trying her best to keep the tears at bay. What would her parents say if they could see her now? Would they be proud of her?

Jane linked an arm through hers as they exited the small bedroom and walked down the dank hall toward the stairs. Madeline could not help remembering her first weeks in the Fairweather household. Her aunt had given her a smaller guest room as her own, but it was not to last. After she had received the money from Mr Drake, she had moved her to the attic to occupy a room that should have been for a maid.

Madeline had rankled against the injustice of it all for several months. However, she had realised that life was not about the material but the immaterial. Jane Handel had come to serve as a scullery maid shortly after Madeline’s arrival, and they had become fast friends. Their rooms were right next to each other. Madeline considered her more of a sister now than a friend.

“You shall have to tell me everything about the debut when you come home. I do not care how late it is! Come to my room later, and I shall save a cup of chocolate for you. Mrs Peters won’t mind,” Jane chattered, dispelling some of Madeline’s nervousness. Madeline smiled as they came to the doorway leading out to the main hall of the second floor. The stark difference had ceased to shock her. They stepped out onto the plush crimson carpets. The hall was flooded with bright, golden light from the tall windows, their velvet curtains pulled and tied at the sides. Beautiful oil paintings hung at intervals down the corridor, as well as gilded mirrors and little marble tables set with fresh flowers. The pristine, beautiful part of the house was where she got to visit, not reside. Her aunt was ashamed of her, she knew, and the pain of that was almost more than she could bear sometimes.

Was she not still a lady of the realm? Even though her parents had been killed, did that now negate her place in society? Perhaps things would be different after her debut. She tried not to get her hopes up. Nevertheless, she entertained thoughts of catching a young man’s eye and of him rescuing her from this horrible place.

Madeline halted at the top of the grand staircase. She took Jane’s hands in hers, trying to get up the courage to go down. “Thank you for all your help, Jane. I do not know what I would have done without you.”

Jane gave her a sad smile. “You deserve this. Your aunt may have wanted to keep you down, but everyone will see what an extraordinary young woman you are, Maddy.”

Madeline smiled at the familiar nickname Jane had given her. “Thank you,” she whispered, still not really believing it. She hung her head.

“My lady,” Jane said and put a finger under her chin, lifting it. Madeline met her gaze, blinking back tears. “Don’t you let them get to you. They are jealous because they will never be half as elegant and fine as you. Remember….”Jane began but waited until Madeline had met her gaze once more. “Look down to no one. You are Lady Madeline D’Corsey.” She waved her hands with a flourish, drawing out a smile from Madeline.

Madeline glanced down the stairs, hearing her aunt and cousin’s voices filtering up from the foyer. “I hope you are right. I don’t know how much longer I can stand to live here, Jane. Not with how they treat me. Sometimes I think I shall scream.”

Jane gave her a quick hug. “Today, your fortunes change, Madeline. I can feel it,” she whispered, giving her a sisterly peck on the cheek. “Do us proud.”

She hurried away, heading back toward the servant’s stairwell. Madeline took a deep breath before heading down the grand staircase. She kept her back straight, shoulders back. Her aunt had given her no help when it came to honing her social graces, but she had learned them anyway. It would seem she had a natural ability for elegance and grace. Which only proved to make her aunt more jealous, judging by the way she constantly tore her down.

When her aunt and cousin finally acknowledged her, they each wore the same degrading smirk. “Well, aren’t you the pretty little princess?” Her cousin laughed. Madeline’s heart rate spiked with the jab, but she remained dutifully silent.

Her aunt looked down her nose at her. She looked like she was about to burst from her stays and have her great girth come overflowing from the side seams of her dress. But Madeline kept that observation to herself.

“Aunt Sarah. Genevieve. You look beautiful,” she replied.

“I know,” Genevieve said, simpering. She walked over to a small mirror hanging just a few paces away, adjusting the large white ostrich feathers atop her head. Genevieve had reason to be worried, Madeline supposed. She was too tall and too thin. Her dress hung about her gangly frame like a shapeless potato sack. Her collar bones jutted out, causing the expensive diamond necklace to lay crooked. However, Genevieve had no idea she was not the picture of ravishing beauty. Her mother had built her up to think she was some sort of goddess. Madeline wondered how long it would take her to realise she was not as desirable as she thought herself to be.

Genevieve finished at the mirror and turned to her mother, giving a slight pout. “Shall we go, Mama? We do not want to be late.”

“Yes, of course, dearest,” Aunt Sarah said sweetly. She glared at Madeline. “Come along.” And with a wave of her hand, they were off.

Madeline smiled at the butler as they passed through the front door, nodding. He flashed her a brilliant smile when her aunt and cousin had their backs turned. “Good luck, my lady.”

She took his hand for a moment, and he squeezed it reassuringly. “Thank you, Hamilton.” She let go of his hand and walked out into the sunshine. She was the last to climb into the carriage, seated across from her aunt and cousin as they talked excitedly about what lay in store for them. She knew her aunt was only presenting Madeline, so she might get her out from under her roof as quickly as possible.

The air about London seemed to dance with anticipation. The cherry blossoms were in bloom, and Madeline thought how much the tops of the trees looked like puffy pink clouds as they drove down the lane toward Buckingham Palace. She sighed contentedly, wishing that the whole ordeal was over and done. She was so anxious to do well in front of the queen. It was her one chance to catch the eye of her majesty and change her fate.

Genevieve leaned forward, giving a short, derisive laugh that drew Madeline out of her reverie. “Daydreaming again, I see.”

Her aunt glared across the carriage at her. “I’ll thank you not to embarrass me in front of Her Majesty, Madeline.”

“I will do my best to please you, Aunt Sarah.”

“You would please me better if you did not open your mouth. Really, I am glad my time of service is coming to an end. The sooner you are married, the better.”

Madeline blinked slowly, the anger rising inside her. “Perhaps I would have a better chance if you had offered even the minutest bit of help.”

Her aunt’s gaze turned icy. “Do not sass me, young lady. The only reason you are being allowed this chance is because society demands it.” Her aunt turned away, watching the scenery pass by. Madeline said nothing. How could her aunt and mother have been so different? When she looked up again, Genevieve was smirking at her. She enjoyed getting Madeline in trouble, twisting the truth oftentimes. Madeline ignored her and turned her attention back to the busy streets.

Mama, I am trying to do as you taught me. She thought silently. But I do not know how much more of this I can take.

“Blooming into a Duchess” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Following her parents’ tragic death, Lady Madeline D’Coursey is sent to live with her aunt and cousin, who treat her no better than a servant. After years of enduring their backbiting, Madeline finally has a chance to escape when she is allowed to debut… However, all her hopes are dashed when her aunt humiliates her in front of society’s finest nobility. Taking matters into her own hands, she decides to run away and work as a governess for a Duke. What she never expected though was for the Duke’s handsome brother to capture her heart…

Could Madeline dare to trust this man with the secret of her true identity?

Captain Graham Kent has just returned from seven long years at war with France. While he struggles to settle back into civilian life after losing so many friends in battle, he wonders if the jovial young man he used to be before the war is irreversibly gone. As if this wasn’t enough, he begins to crack under his brother’s pressure to marry the woman his father intended. How will everything unfold when his entire existence is captured by the beautiful and mysterious new governess?

Will he be able to break down the walls around her heart and earn her trust?

Madeline and Graham soon find their love growing despite Graham’s vicious betrothed trying to tear them apart. However, when Madeline’s secret is revealed to the Duke, their future is in dire jeopardy. Will Graham and Madeline prove strong enough to go against their families and fight for their love? Or will duty and fear make their love an unattainable dream?

“Blooming into a Duchess” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!


Grab my new series, "Regency Hearts Entwined", and get 2 FREE novels as a gift! Have a look here!

7 thoughts on “Blooming into a Duchess (Preview)”

  1. Madeline has a life of striff ahead of her!
    Her Aunt Sarah is like a wicked witch!
    Cousin Genevieve is a horrid child.
    Made!ine must have a better future ahead!
    Captain Kent may turn out to be her savior!
    So this book is off to a roaring start!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and support, dear Austin. I truly appreciate it!

      So glad you enjoyed the story! Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming!

      Thank you again and have a lovely day!

  2. Really excited to read the book. I am curious as to what challenges she will face…and how she will overcome them. And, also to discover what will happen to her awful aunt and cousin!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and support, dear Leigh. I truly appreciate it!

      So glad you enjoyed the story! Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming!

      Thank you again and have a lovely day!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and support, dear Charmaine. I truly appreciate it!

      So glad you enjoyed the story! Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming!

      Thank you again and have a lovely day!

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