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Mariah’s Marriage

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The worlds of teachers and aristocrats collide and fuse when a pig charges Mariah Fox in nineteenth century London.
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Author: Anne Stenhouse
Description

Genre: Historical Romance

Tags  Romance, humour, early teaching practice, teachers, Nineteenth century London, blackmail, family influences, friends, the Thames, summer flowers

Release: May 2, 2013

Editor: Judy Roth

Cover Designer  Charlotte Volnek

Words  52767

Pages  174

ISBN  978-1-77127-314-5

Price  $5.50


Back Cover:

Leaving the chapel in London’s 19th century Thames’ side where she teaches the alphabet to a raggle-taggle of urchins, Mariah Fox is charged by a stray pig. The quick intervention of Tobias Longreach saves her from certain injury. Mariah has always believed her destiny to be teaching. After the early death of her mother, she was brought up by her papa, Jerome, to believe that she could learn anything a boy could. She shares his vision of a future in which everyone, rich or poor, boy or girl, will be taught at least the rudiments of reading, writing, and counting.

Tobias was brought up a second son, but following his elder brother’s premature death, inherits an Earldom and the need to provide it with an heir. He comes to believe that Mariah will make a perfect countess and enrolls her papa’s help in securing her hand.

However, Sir Lucas Wellwood, whose debts have made him urge his sister to attempt to trap Tobias into marriage, has sinister intentions. Mariah suspects Wellwood has been mistreating his sister and she heads off impetuously to rescue her. Will Tobias and his friends reach Wellwood’s home before he can exact revenge on Mariah?


 Excerpt

Mariah took a deep breath and inhaled a lungful of lilies and roses. She looked beyond her aunt’s enormous figure and an astonishing sight met her gaze. Every receptacle they owned for the display of flowers was filled to bursting point. She clapped a hand over her mouth and turned slowly on the spot.

“That’s an uncommonly expensive dress you’re wearing,” her aunt said as if the garment’s very existence was a personal affront. “I had hoped that the silly women had got it all wrong but I see they may have some grounds for their suspicions.”

Mariah dragged her attention back to the people in the room. Her papa was sitting on the very edge of his usual chair as he always did when his sister called and Mariah’s heart was pierced by a shaft of compassion. It looked as if he hadn’t slept while she had been keeping to her bed. Crossing the room and bending over him, she kissed his forehead. The doorbell clanged, but no one paid it the least attention.

“Are you feeling better, my love?” Jerome asked and stroked her arm.

“Much better, Papa, thank you. I am sorry to have been so indisposed.”

“Indisposed!” her aunt said. “Why have you not been attending to your responsibilities, Mariah? Miss Ellyton tells me the urchins’ class has been taught by Peter Sharp and your girls at the Browning chapel by one of Mavis Shawditch’s daughters. Is this what we brought you up for?”

“Good morning, Aunt Augusta,” Mariah said and dropped a curtsy. Her aunt had never encouraged intimacy so she felt no need to embrace her. “Uncle Arthur, it is good of you to bring my aunt to visit.”

Her aunt’s news that Peter Sharp had seized the chance to take over her urchins’ class distressed her, but there was so little prospect of her returning to it. Perhaps, she thought, it was better he made the attempt than that it faded away.

“Mariah, answer me,” her aunt’s voice, always loud, had become strident. “I would not have raised such a vulgar subject but Mr. Sharp tells me he fears you have been led astray by the Earl of Mellon. If this is so, then we need to act immediately to remove you from further harm.” She wheezed out the words as her temper and her immense size began to overcome her breathing. “My friend Miss Venables will undoubtedly welcome your skills at her ladies’ seminary in Bath.”

“Mariah will not be going to work in Bath,” her papa said while Augusta struggled to bring her breathing under control. Mariah watched her with detached interest, unable to look away even when she heard the outer door open and confident footsteps cross the hall floor.

“Augusta feels the girl has overstepped what is proper, Jerome,” Mariah’s uncle offered as his wife was unable to speak. “She thinks we need to act quickly to nullify the damage done to her reputation. Don’t ye agree?”

“No, sir, I do not. Mariah, Lord Mellon has called every day since our return on Sunday evening and has sent a flower or two.” The ludicrous understatement brought a smile to his face. “He has spoken to me, my dear, as I’m sure you would expect...”

“Jerome,” Augusta spluttered, having found some breath. “You cannot be contemplating a marriage with that man. Remember how he came into the title.”

Mariah looked at her father. “He lost an elder brother to an infection following a sword wound,” she said. “Was there anything suspicious about it, Papa?”

“It would seem that Leo Longreach was fighting with his brother when he was injured,” Jerome said.

“In other words, very suspicious,” Arthur Wilson said. “The heir is killed off by the next in line.”

Mariah reached out to catch the side of a screen. Instantly, her hand was covered by a larger one. Tobias, she knew without looking. Comforting warmth drove out the cold of shock and she gasped. How she had ached for his touch while she lay prostrate. Now the moment was spoiled by a room pulsing with anger and the frustrated hopes of others.

“Good morning, Mariah,” he said. “I am glad to see that your indisposition has been relieved.”

She bridled at the words whispered into her ear because he was telling her that he knew exactly what had caused her indisposition. How could he ignore the allegations being made about him in order to chastise her?

“It may return at any moment, sir, when I am overcome by the scent of so many blooms,” she said. His low chuckle inflamed her temper but he was moving away from her and she took a seat as far away from the main group as possible.

The earl bowed to Jerome. “Sir, I would be glad to meet your relatives.”

Mariah tried to understand the import of her uncle’s words. Could there be any justification at all for such an accusation? She went over it in her head as introductions and formal exchanges were made. Was this why Constanzia wanted to retreat to Spain? Could she not bear the sight of her younger son because he had jealously killed off the heir standing in the way of his advancement?

“Mariah.” Jerome’s voice cut through her troubled thoughts. “Lord Mellon would like a few moments of your time.”

“Yes, Papa, of course. Shall we walk out into the garden...” she began to say when the memory of another garden rose in her mind’s eye and stifled the words.

“Perhaps we should,” the earl said with firmness. He strode across to the double doors leading out to the house’s small garden area and after a quick appraisal threw them open. “Mariah,” he said, and she rose.

They stepped through and the greenery surrounded them. She heard the doors clip shut, cutting off her aunt’s stridency and replacing it with the drone of bees and the distant barking of a chained dog.

Tobias walked ahead of her down the short brick path that led to a gate from Jerome’s property into the shared land in the square. He waited while she walked through and closed the gate behind them.

“You have no hat,” he said.

“The trees are in full leaf and will protect me from too much glare,” she answered.

He caught her hand and pulled it through his arm, making her walk at his side. She felt the heat of his body, heard the rhythmic noise of his boots, and inhaled his scent of clean linen and soap. Whatever this man had done, her heart was lost to him.

Tobias tensed, and she felt his muscles ripple as he struggled to relax. “You acted with great presence of mind when my supposed crimes were alluded to by Mr. Wilson. I am very glad you did not faint at my feet.”        

“I thought it time to break the habit of having women fall at your feet. I am convinced it cannot be good for your character,” she said.

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About the Author:

ANNE STENHOUSE has always loved words. Reading them and using them greedily, she can’t truly remember a time when she couldn’t escape into the pages of a book and certainly can’t remember when she couldn’t talk and ask questions. Anne is a published and performed playwright. She studied both English and History at University in Edinburgh, and finds it a great joy to combine these two disciplines in her first novel, Mariah’s Marriage. Being a playwright means Anne loves dialogue and knows a piece is going well when she ‘begins to hear the characters talking to each other’. She has been a civil servant, full-time Mum and, for a while, a worker in an Addictions’ rehabilitation unit. Anne lives in Scotland with her husband and dancing partner of over thirty years. Their children and a grandchild are close by.

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