A Silent Duke’s Dreamy Maid (Preview)


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Chapter One

Ashbourne, Derbyshire, 1811

“Evie, please do hurry up. What if you are caught?”

“Another minute more. Keep watch,” Evelyn pleaded as she pressed herself tighter to the window seat. It was a few stolen minutes with her favourite passion, reading, and she was reluctant to give it up so easily. Her frantic fingers turned the pages of Plato’s writing as she curled up on the window seat. Hurriedly, she pushed the blonde locks that had fallen out of her maid’s coif back under the white cloth, allowing her to see the pages clearly.

“What do you think I am doing? Standing on my head?” Clara hissed from the doorway.

Evelyn couldn’t hold back her laugh as she looked up from the book. Clara stood in the doorway, through the towering library shelves, the liquor cabinet shaped like a globe, and the various fine armchairs and Savonarola seats made of rich cherry and mahogany wood. Another maid in the Duke of Ashbourne’s household, Clara was everything Evelyn was not.

Where Evelyn was quiet, a reader, and often pensive, Clara preferred to speak, rarely found without a word on her lips or a smile.

“Shall I attempt it, do you think?” Clara said, fidgeting with her white apron wrapped around her pale-yellow gown, a sharp contrast to her rich black hair.

“Pray, do not.” Evelyn laughed warmly. “I shall have to pick you up off the floor when you fall over.”

“Well, how rude!” Clara pretended to be affronted but smiled broadly. “Yet sadly, I know you are right. Oh, how long is this going to take, Evie?” she said with drama and turned back to the doorway, looking up and down the corridor.

“The key with reading is that one is never done. There are always new pages to read.” Evelyn returned her focus to the book, clearly much to the annoyance of Clara, who raised her perfectly dark eyebrows as she glanced back at Evelyn.

“Is this your way of telling me I am stuck here forever more now in the doorway of this library? What a joyous way to spend my life. Perhaps I will turn to stone and become a statue like the duke’s other fine ornaments.” She mirrored the position of one of the stone statues in the corner of the room, with her arms raised in the Grecian fashion to frame her face. “I’m not quite small enough for that, I think.” She breathed in sharply and held her breath.

Evelyn closed the book and laughed warmly at her friend, wondering what she would have done these last five years without Clara to make her smile. There was a time when Evelyn feared she would not smile again. The day she had turned up at the door of Ashbourne Manor, begging for a job as a maid, Clara was the one who had dressed her in a maid’s uniform and simply declared to the housekeeper that the duke had hired a new maid. Evelyn could still recall her embarrassment and the heat in her cheeks when she was presented to the duke by the strict housekeeper, Mrs Long.

When she had first arrived, the Duke of Ashbourne was between trips to the continent, still dealing with the aftermath of his father’s death. His rich blue eyes had barely glanced at Evelyn before he had nodded and said to Mrs Long that he had indeed hired a new maid. To this day, Evelyn had no idea why he had lied. Her many questions to Clara on the matter had been equally unyielding. 

“Are you done for the day?” Clara asked, huffing and dropping her arms from their position in mirroring the statue. “What if the duke was to catch you reading his books?”

“I think that highly unlikely, as he is never around.” Nevertheless, Evelyn stood to return the book to its position on one of the many shelves, not wishing to push her luck, as discovery by Mrs Long would be equally dangerous. “For the first four years of me being here, he was on the continent fifty-one weeks of the year. Though this last year he has returned much more, he spends most days beyond the walls of this house.”

“Perhaps so, but it is still risky.” Clara wrinkled her freckled nose. “It reminds me of George and I.”

Evelyn poked her head around the nearest shelf, eyeing her friend carefully.

“Reading a book is hardly as risky as what you and the stablemaster are up to,” Evelyn said suspiciously.

“Oh, but that is at least worth it,” Clara said with a mischievous smile.

Clara was a few years older than Evelyn and clearly in the throes of a hurried romance. The stablemaster was a little older than her, too, and their clandestine affair was hardly clandestine at all but whispered by many. The only person who seemed not to know was Mrs Long, which was a wonder to Evelyn how she had managed to avoid knowing for so long.

“I just do not understand how you would risk all of this for a book.” Clara leaned on the doorframe with folded arms. “If you were found here by Mrs Long or the duke, they may reprimand you or worse.”

They may indeed. What would Mama say then?

Evelyn held onto the thought as she ran her finger down the spine of the old leather book, feeling the cracks in the rich red leather, with the scent of the ancient pages lingering in the air around her.

Her mother had been most insistent when they parted ways. Whatever Evelyn did, she had to stay secret. No one could know who she really was, and no one could know of her education, for it may then lead someone to question her true identity. Fortunately, Clara just believed Evelyn had been taught to read as a child by a passing stranger. She had no idea where Evelyn truly came from.

“I would risk a lot for a book,” Evelyn whispered, knowing it was the truth. “Books are the source of knowledge and entertainment. I hardly wish to give that up. If you could read, Clara, I am sure you would appreciate Plato’s Symposium. His discussion of love, Eros, and virtue is all so captivating and wise. Not to mention a little bit …”

“What?” Clara stood off the doorframe, clearly intrigued.

“Well, a little racy,” Evelyn said with a giggle.

“I have my own experiences for that, thank you. If I need to know anymore, I shall talk to George.”

Evelyn tipped back her chin and laughed warmly, as did Clara.

A sound beyond the door made them both freeze, their laughter dying. The noise of a door closing made them whip their heads around.

“I thought you were keeping a look out,” Evelyn whispered as Clara peered around the door frame.

“Well, clearly, I am not to be trusted with such a task. It is the Duke of Ashbourne! Come, Evie. Quick.” Clara darted back into the room and grabbed Evelyn’s hand, dragging her away from the shelf of books and into the corridor.

They ended up scrambling down the hallway as the sounds of the duke’s footsteps followed them. When he turned a corner, appearing behind them, Evelyn pulled Clara’s hand. They both stopped and curtsied to him.

“Good morning,” the duke said nonchalantly as he walked past them, staring at the papers in his hand rather than at either of their faces. As he walked on, heading to his study, Evelyn raised her head long enough to watch him.

He moved so fast that she now only had a view of his back and the dark black hair that was rather mussed as if he had just run a hand through it. He was hardly the most formal of dukes, rarely ever wearing a tailcoat, which she rather liked about him, though she would admit it to no one, not even Clara. He walked around now with his shirt sleeves rolled up to his elbows, revealing a flash of tanned muscle on his forearms. Evelyn swallowed, rather startled by how dry her mouth suddenly was.

As the duke stepped into his study, Clara sighed dramatically and leaned on the nearest wall.

“Well, that was a close call. To think we do all of that for a book. Nonsense,” she whispered, taking Evelyn’s hand and dragging her down the corridor again.

Evelyn glanced back behind her as she was hauled away, her thoughts trailing on that dark hair and the flash of muscle on the duke’s forearms.

“I do not believe any maid should read Plato, Evie. It doesn’t sound right,” Clara murmured as she entered a small door underneath the main staircase, revealing the servants’ stairwell, hidden deep within the belly of the house. “Not right at all.”

Evelyn decided not to comment as she followed her friend onto the stairs. How could she possibly explain to Clara that there was a time when she hadn’t been a maid at all?


“These are your plans?”

“Yes. Is there something wrong with them?” Sebastian asked as he looked over the papers in front of him on the desk that he found far too overzealous in their ornate decoration.

That desk will have to be the next thing to go.

Over the last six years or so, he’d been slowly changing everything about his house and the estate, but this last year, he had been even more determined to change everything so that the memory of his father was lost from this building. He detested looking at the paintings and ridiculously expensive ornaments that reminded him of his father’s pride and arrogance.

I’d rather live in a hovel and never be reminded of him again.

“These plans have worked for agricultural land in all the places I have been these last few years.” Sebastian pushed his sleeves past his elbows as he gestured to the papers in front of him. The elder steward, who sat on the other side of his desk, took the notes rather gingerly, his nose wrinkling with uncertainty. “I know my father handled the land for many years in a certain way, but you have to admit, Tomas, those plans have not worked.”

“You will not hear me arguing with you on that, Your Grace.” Tomas sighed heavily, clearly disappointed to admit it.

Sebastian nodded in understanding. It was a source of great pain to him that his father had practically plundered his own land and tenants. He’d made his tenants miserable, taking as great a cut as he could from the profits and spending the least money possible on the upkeep of the lands.

I intend to change all of that.

“Take a look at this.” Sebastian stood and slid the papers across the desk for Tomas to look at. The short man pushed the spectacles up to the bridge of his nose and bent down over the papers. “These changes I saw on agricultural land in Scotland, Ireland, and France. Even my last trip to the Mediterranean showed similar procedures. They are tried and tested, proved to work, and should work here.” In particular, he tapped a large map of his lands, showing all the changes he wished to make.

“You are aware these changes will cost money?”

“I am.” Sebastian nodded. “I am not my father, Tomas.” At the simple words, Tomas looked up, blushing red as if he feared overstepping a mark. “I am not afraid to spend money on making my tenants’ lives easier. Especially when all these improvements should have been many not just years, but decades, ago. It’s high time it changed.”

Tomas smiled broadly, revealing the wrinkles in his cheeks.

“Then it shall be done.”

“Good. Thank you.” Sebastian gathered the papers together into a folder, ready to hand them to Tomas. “Anyway, the dukedom is secure in its funds and investments. Money is not something we need worry about for now.”

“There are other ways to find money, too, if it is needed. A dowry, perhaps.”

Sebastian froze, his fingers stilling over the folder as he reached to hand it to Tomas.

“You always had an audacious streak in you, Tomas,” Sebastian observed as Tomas laughed just once.

“If you were to marry, Your Grace, you’d have a wife and a dowry.”

“I am not searching for a wife yet. Though I have always enjoyed you keeping me on my toes.”

They laughed softly together. Since the late duke had died, Tomas had been a little bolder than before. It was refreshing to Sebastian and made him feel like he wasn’t always the distant duke.

“I’ll send off for some quotes for the work now. Good day, Your Grace.” Tomas bowed and left the room, leaving Sebastian with his thoughts.

He looked back at the ornate chair he had been sitting in but suddenly found he could not return to it. The plush cushion and the carved head reminded him too much of his father. Grabbing the chair, he dragged it away into the corner of the room and discarded it there so it was far away from him. Rather than sitting at the desk, he took a small stool by the window and placed his papers in his lap, looking over the letters he had yet to open.

Breaking the seals, he found numerous invitations to local dinner parties and balls. The sight of them made him sigh, recalling exactly what Tomas had just suggested about finding a woman to marry.

It is expected, is it not? Someday, I must marry and produce an heir for the dukedom.

Yet, looking at these letters, he could summon no enthusiasm for the idea at all. Before he had gone on his travels, he had spent much time in Derbyshire at such parties and balls. He had found each one vapid, and many of the ladies whose company his father had thrust him into lacked education and were only ever interested in buying another fine bonnet or dancing the next dance at an assembly. It bored him intensely. He would rather spend his days with his books or riding the fields and checking on his tenants than standing in a ballroom with a ridiculously uncomfortable waistcoat and cravat, trying not to move for the cloth itched.

“No, I shall not marry yet,” Sebastian said aloud as if concluding the matter to himself. He dropped all the letters bearing invitations he had just opened in front of him on a window seat, having no wish to reply to them and attend. “I do not even see how it would make me happy.”

He scratched the back of his head and ruffled his dark hair. As far as he could see, there was only one way to make himself happy. He’d provide for his tenants, change the land, and change his house, too, so there was no memory of his father left here to look at.


Chapter Two

Sebastian’s knee bounced up and down as he looked out the library’s window from his armchair. It was one of the chairs he’d brought home with him after his travels in Italy, something his father would have hated, yet he loved it, for it reminded him of a different time and culture. With the book on agriculture in his hand, Sebastian was finding it hard to focus. He wished to march the fields and put what he was learning from the book into action, but beyond the windows, the rain had come. The droplets lashed the glass incessantly in a great downpour, making escape from the house impossible.

The fire had been lit on his other side, and he sighed every so often, glancing into those flames in frustration. If only it would stop raining, then he could be productive again. He couldn’t bear to be idle, sitting about and doing nothing.

What a waste of a day!

Casting one last angered look at the rain, he returned his focus to the book, hoping to get something productive out of his forced imprisonment in his own home.

A creak disturbed his thoughts, and he looked up to catch sight of his library door opening. The room was so full these days of various curios he’d brought back from the continent that one large buffet cabinet blocked the view of who stood in the doorway. Sebastian was forced to cock his head to the side, listening to the sounds as someone crept in.

Beyond the buffet cabinet, he caught sight of a feather duster and a maid’s apron as someone crept further in. She came into view, but only just. It was the young maid who had appeared at his house five years or so ago now. She was much grown since the first time he’d seen her, for back then she’d been no more than a child, just fifteen or so. Now, she was a young woman.

Plainly, she did not notice he was there as she crept toward the shelves, glancing repeatedly over her shoulder in the direction of the doorway. It was clear she feared being discovered. She passed the duster over one of the shelves and reached for a book, drawing it out a little from its position.

Wait, what is she doing?

Sebastian cleared his throat.

The maid dropped the duster. It clattered to the floor, and she released the book and jerked her chin towards him.

“Oh, Your Grace.” She hurried to curtsy.

Sebastian wracked his brain as he looked at her, trying to remember her name. Evelyn, was it? Evie?

She pushed back one of the loose locks of her blonde hair that had fallen out of her white coif. She avoided looking at him as she gathered her duster from the floor and hastened to stand.

“Forgive me. I did not know you were in here. I merely came to clean.” She dragged the duster along one of the shelves to emphasize her point.

Sebastian held back his smirk.

She was not here to dust.

It was the way her fingers had lingered on that book. There was something more to this; he was certain of it.

“It is no matter.” He shook his head.

“No, no. I should not be here. I apologize, Your Grace.” She bobbed another curtsy before Sebastian could get another word in to explain it was no great matter. She spun on her heel and made her way to the door, but not before she looked him once in the eye.

Those eyes.

He wasn’t sure he’d really noticed them before. They were bold in her face, unusually large above those high cheekbones.

“Wait.” Sebastian couldn’t explain it as he jumped to his feet. All he knew was that he didn’t want the maid to leave just yet. She halted beside the buffet cabinet, turning back to look at him. Those eyes were rather intense, but at this distance across the room, he couldn’t see what colour they were. “Really, it is no matter, but well timed, in fact. Perhaps I could have some tea?”

“Yes, of course, Your Grace.” She bobbed yet another curtsy and left.

A small, startled laugh escaped his lips as the door swung shut behind her. She curtsied an awful lot to him in her embarrassment, and her cheeks had turned bright red. Curious, he sat down again but only managed the edge of his chair this time as he waited for his tea. Rather than reading his book, he kept looking up, awaiting her return. In the end, he read the same sentence about five times in his effort to concentrate.

When the door opened again, marking her return, Sebastian discarded his book on the table beside him and turned to look at her.

She walked around the buffet cabinet carrying a large silver tray. It bore a tall teapot with a cup, saucer, and so many biscuits on a plate that Sebastian could have laughed again. Instead, he rested his elbow on the arm of his seat and placed his mouth in his hand to stop himself. It always amused him how much display and ostentation Mrs Long went to for simple things. She insisted he always had tea in style, though he had assured her more than once that a smaller teapot and fewer biscuits on a tray that was not so grand would suit him all too well.

He had a feeling Mrs Long still thought much about his father. He had been a cruel master, unkind to many of the staff, even Mrs Long, who had not shed a tear the day he passed. Yet Mrs Long had lived for too long under the late duke, and clearly, old habits died hard.

“Thank you,” Sebastian said to the maid as she walked towards him.

Looking up briefly from the tray, she offered the smallest of smiles, and it transformed her features. Those full lips spread into her smile, and her cheeks lifted high, crinkling the edges of those bold eyes. She was rather short and lithe of figure, too. She was indeed beautiful.

That is not something I should be noticing. She is my maid!

He snapped his eyes to meet hers again, praying that she had not noticed how he had looked at her. She didn’t seem to as she stopped beside him and placed the tray on the table next to his book. Now she was so close, he could see the colour of those eyes.

They’re green. The colour of the ocean that day in Ravello, the morning after the storm had passed.

The sight of those eyes brought back the memory of that happy day.

She released the tray and reached for the teapot, pouring it into the cup.

“Well, I am not one for silence,” he said eventually. Despite his words, he had no objection to the quiet, but he wished for an excuse to say something more to her to satisfy his curiosity about why she had come to the library in the first place. “Evelyn, is it?”

“Yes, Your Grace.” She bobbed a curtsy once more, pausing with the tea. “Though most people call me Evie.”


It is a lovely name. It suits her.

“Well, Evie,” he said, clearing his throat before gesturing across the room. “Were you really here to clean? It looked to me as if you were reaching for a book.”

She drew back, her eyes growing wide as she held the teapot in both palms. A sudden flash of lightning snapped beyond the window, accompanied by a deep rumbling of thunder almost instantly. They both flinched in surprise, for the sound was so close, but Evie’s reaction was stronger. She dropped the teapot, flinging her body around to look at the window. It crashed onto the floor, spilling tea all over Sebastian’s trouser leg.

The burning sensation was instant, and Sebastian hissed between his teeth as he stood from his chair, reaching for a handkerchief and trying to mop up the spilled tea from his leg.

“Oh, God’s wounds. I am so sorry, Your Grace.” She dropped to her knees and tried to pick up the broken teapot.

“Please, do not worry. Leave that, or you’ll be burnt, too.” He waved a hand at the broken shards of porcelain, but she didn’t let up and continued to pick up the pieces, shaking out a hand every few seconds from the heat.

“I cannot apologize enough, Your Grace. The thunder, it startled me.”

“Yes, I had rather noticed,” he murmured wryly as he moved to the fire, trying to dry himself up and mop up the last of the tea.

When she made a pained sound, Sebastian turned back, peering over the maid’s shoulder to notice she had cut her finger on one of the shards.

This cannot go on.

“Please, Evie. I must insist you do not do that anymore.” He moved back to her side. Fortunately, the dampness on his legs was no longer so hot, though the burning sensation remained, and he pushed himself through it.

“I must. I am the one who broke it.”

“By accident,” he reminded her, kneeling in front of her and reaching for the pieces of the ornate teapot.

“I still must do it.”

“I give no order for you to do as such.” He took one of the pieces from her hand before she could hurt herself further and dropped it to the tray beside him, yet she continued to pick up the shards, for there were hundreds of tiny pieces and large ones. “Evie?”

She glanced up momentarily, revealing wet eyes. Those green eyes had even more of an impression on him now.

They feared my father. All of the staff hated him. I will not be the same.

“Please, stop.” He took her hand and drew her to her feet. She stumbled, clearly shocked at the sudden movement. “It is my teapot. I daresay I can pick up the broken pieces. If I were not so lazy and bothered to pour the tea myself, then none of this would have happened, would it?”

Her lips flickered into the smallest of smiles as he released her.

“I am your maid, remember?” she said, sudden lightness in her voice. “It is my place to pick up after you.”

“Ha! And does not that make me sound like an incapable child?” He laughed warmly, encouraged when she did the same, though she hung her head forward as if she knew she should not be doing such a thing. “Please, take this.” He pulled out another handkerchief and handed it to her. “For your cut.”

She took it slowly, with tentative fingers, and wrapped it around her wound as Sebastian lowered himself to his knees to pick up more pieces from the broken teapot.

“Thank you,” she whispered, her voice high-pitched in plain surprise.

“I know what the servants think of me,” he confessed, not looking at her as he attended to the broken porcelain. “Yet I am not my father. There is no need to fear me, Evie.”

He smiled to himself, thinking of one of the first essays in writing he’d ever read about the concept of fear itself. He found the words falling from his lips now. “Courage is knowing what not to fear. Yes, you do not have to fear me.”

He picked up the last of the pieces and dropped it onto the tray, standing tall when he noticed her staring at him rather strongly.

“Is all well?” he asked, startled by the strength of that gaze.

Those green eyes. They’re rather distracting.

“Yes.” She seemed to force a smile. “We missed a bit, that is all.” She walked around him towards the hearth rug and picked up two further shards that she placed on the tray, too, then gathered the tray into her hands, leaving behind his half cup of tea and the biscuits. “If you do not mind me saying, Your Grace, that is an interesting quote you said just now.” She seemed to avoid looking at him as she walked back towards the buffet cabinet and the door, carrying the tray.

Wait. She knew it was a quote?

“Yes?” He lifted the half cup to his lips to take a sip.

“It makes me think of another.” She paused by the cabinet and turned back to look at him, a small smile on her face. “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark,” she nodded at the rainy weather beyond the window and the grey day, “the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

Sebastian stilled, certain for a minute that he had heard her wrong. She smiled once more and dropped yet another curtsy. He’d have to talk to her about not needing to curtsy to him quite so much.

“I apologize again, Your Grace. I’ll have another pot of tea brought up to you at once.” She turned and left hurriedly, avoiding looking at him again. He caught sight of one of her cheeks and how it blushed a rich shade of red. She slipped out of the library with the door closing behind her.

Sebastian still hadn’t moved for a full minute after she left, standing beside his chair with his shin stinging with that burning pain. The teacup was raised near his lips, but he didn’t take another sip as he thought of exactly what she had said.

“How does a maid know Plato’s writings?” He slowly returned the teacup to the table behind him, thinking over what they had talked about, but he wasn’t mistaken. Not only did Evie know the quote, but she had recited it word for word.

Raising a hand and pinching the bridge of his nose, Sebastian tried to push away the thought of the maid, but he could not. Those green eyes remained, that beautiful smile, the way she had curtsied a ridiculous number of times, and now this fresh curiousness of her knowing Plato.

No maid knows Plato, yet she does. Perhaps she heard it somewhere?

He lowered his hand from his face, staring at the door and awaiting her return. When Evie didn’t come back to the library, but Mrs Long took her place, apologizing profusely for the maid’s error, he tried to hide his disappointment and sat back down in the chair again.

“I shall endeavour to keep the maid out of your way in future, Your Grace,” Mrs Long said as she proffered up the fresh teapot.

“No, no, don’t do that. It was a simple error, Mrs Long. Please, do not chastise her for it.” He remembered vividly Evie’s wet eyes. He didn’t want her crying because of him.

“A Silent Duke’s Dreamy Maid” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Evelyn Sinclair, the enigmatic daughter of a fallen aristocrat, guards a secret that could unravel her carefully constructed life. Working in the shadows of the Duke’s estate, she’s determined to rebuild her family’s fortunes and remain concealed from the scrutinizing eyes of society. Yet, when her path intertwines with the returning Duke, their connection sparks a friendship that challenges Evelyn’s resolve to stay hidden.

Can she maintain this clandestine friendship while safeguarding her secret, or will the whispers of their relationship irreversibly destroy her ties with the Duke?

Sebastian Sterling, the Duke of Ashbourne, is under the strain of familial expectations and societal pressure. However, a chance encounter with Evelyn shatters the carefully laid foundations of his life. Intrigued by her intellect and individuality, Sebastian contemplates defying convention by pursuing a love that transcends duty. As their secret meetings turn into an extraordinary romance, he confronts the unsettling truth that their growing connection might put Evelyn in grave danger…

What lengths will Sebastian go to protect her, and is the prospect of marrying a woman like her truly as mad as it seems?

As Evelyn and Sebastian struggle with their feelings and the many obstacles around them, the tension rises. Their secret romance suddenly becomes both a source of solace and a potential downfall. Class, reputation, and the shadows of their past threaten to tear them apart. Will their forbidden love survive the trials ahead, or will their hidden connection become the source of a heartbreaking parting?

“A Silent Duke’s Dreamy Maid” 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!

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