A False Lady’s Allure (Preview)

Chapter One

“Millie! Where are you? I need you … now.”

Amelia Baskins sighed inwardly while quickening her pace towards her lady’s bedchambers. Lady Florence Atwood’s imperious voice calling her could be heard halfway down the hallway. Her lady was not usually so shrill or insistent. Millie knew that it was a mixture of excitement and nerves that were causing Florence to behave in such a way.

She opened the door to the chambers. Florence was pacing the floor in her costume for the Huntingtons’ Annual Masquerade Ball. Her lady had decided to attend as a shepherdess, with an elaborately wide, Marie Antoinette style gown, complete with bonnet and hook. The gown swayed dangerously as she walked.

“There you are,” breathed Florence, her hazel eyes widening. “Quick, you must unlace one little bit of this corset, Millie. I can barely breathe.”

Millie approached, unlacing the top two notches of the corset, quickly giving Florence the relief she needed. Florence sighed heavily, leaning back against Millie.

“I declare, I do not know how ladies wore this style of gown in the past,” said Florence, smiling slightly, spinning around to look at her maid. “I thank the Lord that the current fashion is not quite so restrictive.” Her smile widened. “Well, what do you think? Shall I pass muster?”

Millie gazed at her lady steadily. “You look beautiful, My Lady. Like a porcelain doll …”

Florence laughed. “Well, I do not know if I wish to be a doll, but thank you just the same, Millie.” She sighed again. “I do wish that you could attend the ball with me this evening! What fun the two of us would have together!”

Millie smiled, her heart melting. Her lady was always saying such things to her. They had grown very close in the two years since she had taken her position at Brentwood Lodge; so much so, that Millie considered Florence a friend. Probably the only friend she had in the whole world despite the vast differences in their social status.

Florence was like a breath of fresh air. She didn’t seem to care in the slightest that Millie was only a maid. Her lady was always chatting freely with her about the various social events she attended, and the gentlemen who tried to court her. Millie knew that Florence’s mother, Lady Atwood, frowned upon their closeness. She had once overheard Lady Atwood telling Florence in a frosty voice that one simply did not become overly familiar with the servants. But Florence had merely laughed, brushing off her mother’s words. Florence did exactly as she pleased. She always had.

Millie’s smile widened. Some might call her lady wayward, or rebellious, but Millie loved her high spirits and her lack of concern for social convention. Florence stood up for the people she loved; it did not matter to her what their social position was. If she liked someone, she liked them. It was as simple as that.

“It is very nice of you to say such a thing, My Lady,” said Millie, wishing suddenly that it were possible – that they could have an evening out together as equals. “But you shall have a wonderful time without me, I am sure …”

Florence’s eyes glittered slightly in a way that Millie had come to recognise. Something had occurred to her lady, and when Florence had an idea, it was almost impossible to dissuade her from it.

“Millie,” she breathed. “You could come, you know! I still have my costume from last year’s masquerade ball hanging in the wardrobe … we are about the same size … I am sure it would fit you …”

Millie gazed at her lady, amazed that she was even suggesting such an outrageous thing. She laughed uncertainly, waiting for a moment for Florence to say that she was playing a joke on her.

But Florence didn’t say that she was joking. Instead, she looked at Millie intently, the gleam in her eyes growing stronger by the second.

“My Lady, that is not possible, as you know,” said Millie in a small, nervous voice. “It is not the done thing at all. How could I attend a grand ball? I am only a lady’s maid. Your good mother …”

Florence waved a dismissive hand in the air. “Mother is not here,” she said steadily. “And neither is Father. They are on a tour of the castles of the district, as you well know.” She took a deep breath. “Neither of them would ever be the wiser that you had come with me this evening! I can pay off the other servants not to open their mouths about it …”

Millie’s eyes widened in alarm. Florence sounded serious. Deadly serious.

“Oh no, My Lady,” she said quickly, her heart thumping. “I truly could do no such thing! It is far too risky. I could lose my position if your good parents were ever to discover it …”

Florence took her hand, staring at her intently. “They will not discover it, Millie, and even if they did, I would be like a lion defending you. Mother might grumble, but I would make sure that your position at Brentwood Lodge is secure. Do you doubt me?”

Millie gazed at her lady. Florence had that obstinate, determined look on her face that signalled she had made up her mind about something. And she had no doubt, at all, that Florence would defend her to her parents. Her lady always protected those that she liked.

She bit her lip uncertainly. It wasn’t just about keeping her position here if she were discovered. Lady Atwood would think her an upstart and behave even more condescendingly towards her than she already did. Florence’s mother already thought that her daughter was too familiar with her maid, and she would not like it one little bit. She could make Millie’s life a misery at Brentwood Lodge.

“Oh, go on, Millie,” breathed Florence, smiling mischievously as she tightened her grip on her hand. “Think what fun it would be for us to have an evening out together! It would be such a lark dressing you up as a lady! Why, you would be like Cinderella going to the ball …”

Millie hesitated, suddenly torn. It would be great fun to attend the ball as a proper lady; to mingle with the upper class. She might never get a chance to do such a thing again in her life. This might be her one and only opportunity to forget that she was merely Millie Baskins, lady’s maid. The one opportunity for her to forget her life of hardship and simply have pure, unadulterated fun.

She took a deep, ragged breath. She had worked so very hard to get this position after her family’s fortunes had plummeted when she had been a girl. Once upon a time, the Baskins had been a rather genteel, middle-class family. They had never been overly wealthy, but they had been comfortable. Millie had looked forward to a future as a lady’s companion, or perhaps even a governess. She had been well educated, after all.

But one bad investment had changed all that. Her father had gambled on a ship, pouring a large portion of their modest income into it, thinking it would improve their wealth and position in society. Instead, the ship had gone down along the Caribbean coast, along with all their hopes. They had been ruined; forced to move to small, cramped lodgings in the bad part of town. Millie and her younger sister, Prudence, had been forced to go into service to help the family.

Millie had long ago resigned herself to her fate. She was two and twenty now, and she had risen from scullery maid to lady’s maid through sheer hard work. Could she put all of that hard work at jeopardy for one night of fun and frivolity?

It was one moment of hesitation that was her undoing. Florence pounced on it, as swiftly as a cat upon a cornered mouse.

“You deserve it, Millie,” breathed her lady. “It is just one night, after all. One night. And you shall be well disguised; it is a masquerade ball, after all. You shall have a mask. No one will know who you truly are, nor your position.” She paused. “Go on. Real life shall still be waiting here for you to pick up at the end …”

Millie took another deep breath, gazing into her lady’s eyes. 

“Very well,” she said quietly, her heart thumping like a hammer in her chest. “Very well. It is only one night, after all, as you say.”

                                                                            ***

It was a strange experience, indeed, to have her lady act as a maid, lacing her into the gown. Florence’s hands fumbled, and she giggled uncertainly, but eventually, the gown was secured. Florence stood back, admiring her handiwork.

“There,” she said in a satisfied voice. “It is done! Go on, Millie. Look at yourself in the mirror. You shall not recognise yourself at all.”

Millie did as her lady commanded, turning around slowly to stare at herself in the full-length mirror. She gave a strangled gasp, her hand flying to her throat in wonder.

It wasn’t Millie Baskins, lady’s maid, staring back at her any longer. Her plain maid’s gown, apron, and cap that she always wore were gone. Instead, a lady she did not know at all was standing there.

The costume was in the style of a Grecian goddess, soft and shimmering and pearly pink. The material draped over one shoulder and clung to her body. She looked like Aphrodite, or Juno, about to descend from a cloud. 

She gasped again. The material was the lightest chiffon and felt as she imagined gossamer to feel. It was so very light, unlike the coarse fabric of her maid’s gowns, caressing her skin. She swayed for a moment, just to feel that material swishing against her legs like a dream.

She didn’t just feel like a lady. She felt like a woman for the very first time in her life.

She bit her lip, entranced by her reflection. The gown clung to her form, accentuating her narrow waist, long legs, and full breasts. Her body had never been revealed in such a way before. Was it even decent?

Her eyes trailed up to her head. Florence had piled her chestnut coloured hair upon her head hastily, sticking combs in to secure it so that curls tumbled randomly around her face. She herself had applied a smidgeon of rouge to her cheeks with a trembling hand, and then a whisper of gloss on her lips. It was something that she had never done before in her life.

The result was obvious. Her pale complexion seemed to glow, and her light, golden brown eyes were sparkling. 

“Oh, Millie,” breathed Florence, gazing at her reflection as well. “How beautiful you are! Why, I truly cannot believe the transformation!” She giggled again. “What fun we are going to have, parading you as a bona fide lady this evening! Go on … put the mask on.”

With trembling hands, she did as her lady commanded. It was a pure white mask, which covered her upper face, with holes within it so that she could see. It moulded to her nose and cheeks, but her lips and lower face were fully exposed. Still, her identity was secure; no one would know who she was. Not that any of those fine ladies and gentlemen would recognise Lady Florence Atwood’s maid, anyway.

Florence giggled again with delight. “Come on! The carriage is waiting for us …”

Millie took her lady’s outstretched hand, and Florence pulled her towards the door, still giggling uncontrollably. It was infectious. Suddenly, it bubbled over within Millie’s chest. She giggled too. It felt almost effervescent.

They giggled together as they descended the grand staircase, walking through the foyer to the front door. Millie saw the carriage waiting for them at the bottom of the steps. She could barely believe it was real.

She truly was going to the ball … and it was all too late to change any of it now.

 

Chapter Two

Millie’s heart was hammering when she saw the large, stately house in the distance surrounded by rolling green hills. A line of carriages stood outside, their occupants disembarking, looking like a flock of brightly coloured birds as they made their way up the front steps and into the house.

Her heart seized in pure panic. She wanted to open the carriage door, even though it was still moving, and run away in the opposite direction. What had she been thinking, to participate in this madness?

Florence didn’t seem to notice her panic at all. She was still grinning at their daring, and off in her own little world.

“I wonder if the Marquess of Townshend will be in attendance this evening?” she pondered, frowning slightly. “He has only recently returned from the continent, Millie, and the whole district is abuzz with talk about his bravery and daring.” She leaned forward towards Millie, her hazel eyes gleaming. “He was a spy, my dear, for the government, gathering intelligence about the movements of Napoleon’s armies. Can you imagine?”

Millie shook her head mutely. Such a life was beyond her imagining.

“He has been gone for years,” continued Florence breathlessly. “I still recall the only time that I met him at a ball in the summer of 1812.” She blinked rapidly. “Such a fine figure of a man … tall and commanding, with hair that was neither red nor gold … and clever …” Her voice trailed away on a whisper.

Millie gazed speculatively at her lady. This was the first time she could recall Florence mentioning this particular gentleman, and there was a strange fervour in her voice that she had never heard before. Florence was greatly admired in the district, and had many gentleman callers, but she had never talked about any of them like this. 

But before Millie could ask her about it, the carriage was suddenly pulling up in front of the grand house. Her heart quickened, again, and a flurry of butterflies leapt to life in the pit of her belly.

They had arrived. It was time to pretend she truly was a great lady. Could she do it, or would everyone know her for a fraud the second she walked into the place?

                                                                       ***

The house was lit up and looked like a magical fairyland. Millie craned her neck, gazing up at the baroque ceiling in pure wonder. Lanterns were hanging from it, casting pools of light upon the revellers gathered in groups beneath it.

She bit her lip. Her throat was as dry as a bone. Florence took two glasses of champagne from a passing servant, handing one to Millie.

“Go on,” she whispered, her eyes gleaming with pure mischief. “Taste it. I promise it is like nothing you have ever had in your life …”

Millie did as her lady commanded. It tasted acrid, and bubbles rose to her nose. But her throat was so dry that she ignored the strange, unfamiliar taste, and steadily drank the whole glass without stopping.

“Millie, no!” Florence was giggling, her eyes wide. “You cannot drink it like water! It shall go to your head!”

Millie smiled at her lady. It was true; her head was starting to spin just a little, and everything was effused with a kind of glow. What was this magical liquid that had abruptly calmed her nerves? She felt like she could take on the whole world now.

She gazed around. It was so crowded. There were groups of gentlemen and ladies all around her, pressing against her, loudly chatting and laughing. They were dressed in a myriad of costumes. Some looked like carnival performers, and others like characters from a fairy tale.  There were Roman gladiators, princesses, and court jesters. They all wore masks concealing their identities. 

It was a colourful, overwhelming spectacle. Her head suddenly spun violently. There was so little air in here. Just then, she heard the orchestra strike up. The sweet strings of the violin, the tinkling notes of the piano, and the magical lilt of the harp all intermingled together, creating a cacophony unlike any that she had ever experienced before.

She squeezed her eyes closed for a moment as it swept over her. She loved music with a  passion. When she had been a little girl, and before her family’s fortune had changed so dramatically, her mother had taken her to performances from time to time. She still remembered those occasions as some of the happiest of her childhood.

She had grown up in a musical household. Her mother was a skilled pianist, and she had learnt at her knee. But when they had lost their fortune, the piano had been sold, along with most of their finer furniture. There were no more outings to see orchestras at the local assembly. All of it had vanished in the blink of an eye. It was as if her world had suddenly gone silent, as well as dark.

Her heart clenched as she listened. It was almost bittersweet; so very beautiful, but painful too, a reminder of all she had once had and lost.

The two-storey house, in a comfortable area of Hillsgate village … gone. Instead, there had been a single level dwelling, in a questionable part of the town, surrounded by coarse, odd people, who had mocked her fine voice, so unlike their own garbled accents. She had learnt quickly, mimicking how they spoke, but at home, she and her family had continued speaking the way they always had, clinging to their past as if it were the last link to what they had once been. 

She opened her eyes. The world spun again dangerously. Was it the champagne that Florence had implored her not to drink so quickly?

“I must have air,” she gasped, stumbling slightly as she lurched away from Florence. Her lady said something, trying to stop her, but she could not look back. She saw some French doors in the distance, opened wide, and beyond it, a vast garden. She had to get to it.

She pushed her way through the crowd. People gazed at her speculatively, their faces enshrouded by masks. She felt like she had just stumbled into a circus, where everything was larger than life, and she couldn’t make out what was real and what was fantasy any longer.

She was almost to the doors. It was all she could do to restrain herself from breaking out into a run to get to them and the garden beyond. She felt beads of sweat upon her forehead; how she longed for the coolness of the breeze against her face.

She gasped for air as soon as she was beyond the doors and in the darkening light of the evening. It was suddenly quieter, but she could still hear the music and the chatter within. She took another deep breath, trying to steady herself. For the first time, she fully gazed at the garden before her.

It was immaculately manicured, with a neat, sweeping lawn of verdant green. Various paths led off in all directions, interspersed by large white statues that appeared to glow with an inner life. Garden beds, filled with flowers, edged the lawn, a cacophony of colour and scent. She imagined being here, in full daylight, surrounded by the dull hum of bees, and the trilling of birds high in the trees that dotted the garden.

There was no sound of bees, or birds, here now. They had all retreated for the day, slumbering in their secret spots; hives and nests that were hidden from her view. The garden was alight with lanterns, and she could just discern a full moon rising in the lilac-coloured sky. There was more than enough light for her to make her way down one of the paths and compose herself before she returned indoors to her lady.

She walked slowly, breathing deeply, the air replenishing her. Her head was clearing, like a veil being pulled away. She felt more like herself once again. It must have been the champagne that had caused her to feel like she was abruptly suffocating, bringing up vivid visions of the life that she had once had, and that Millie believed she had put behind her, twisting her heart with regret.

She stopped beneath an arbour covered with a twisting vine. A familiar scent wafted towards her, and she recognised the tiny white flowers. Jasmine. She smiled. At her first home, in that good area of Hillsgate, there had been a jasmine vine growing in the garden. Her heart twisted again; it was as if she were a girl again and back there, her whole life ahead of her, spread out like a feast.

She took another deep breath, trying to push the feeling away. She rarely thought about the past, and particularly not her previous life, when her family’s fortunes had been better. She had schooled herself, with rigorous discipline, not to dwell upon it. This was her life, now, for better or for worse. She was a lady’s maid, and she could never hope for anything more. That life was gone, was just a dream now, and she refused to live in the past, wishing for something that could never be.

It must have been the champagne, she told herself fiercely. A momentary lapse in reason, causing me to become weak. I shall make very sure that it will not happen again.

Suddenly, the sound of the orchestra from within the house became louder. She smiled. It was a song that she recognised; a beautiful tune. One of her mother’s favourites. How long had it been since she had heard it?

Unconsciously, she started to sway to the melody, lifting her hands into the air, and mimicking the notes that she imagined floating on the breeze towards her. It was divine. She closed her eyes, moving to the music, imagining herself dancing to it, that it was sweeping her away to a far off and magical place …

She stopped, her heart beating, opening her eyes. There was another scent, competing with the aroma of the jasmine. A strong, overwhelming smell, drifting dangerously closer towards her.

She spun around, her heart beating harder still. She didn’t know how she hadn’t noticed the figure, sitting further back towards the wall, beneath the arbour. A figure enshrouded in darkness, smoking a cigar. A gentleman.

Her face burnt with mortification. He must have been sitting here this whole time, watching her move to the music. Watching her making a complete and utter fool of herself, imagining that she was alone.

“Pray, do not stop,” he drawled in a deep voice. “I do not wish to disturb your dance, madam …”

She felt rooted to the spot as she gazed at him, her face flaming. He slowly butted out the cigar on the grass, then stood up, approaching her.

He was tall, at least a head taller than herself, with broad shoulders, and dressed as a legionnaire in the Roman army; the costume was bright red and gold, with high boots over his exposed, muscular legs. A white mask covered half his face, but she could clearly see his bright blue eyes through it, gazing at her with amusement.

He wore a hat with a feathered plume, in the style of a legionnaire, but she saw that his hair was golden red, too. It was a commanding costume, but it wasn’t just the outfit, because his whole physique was commanding, and there was an aura of suppressed energy about him as he gazed down at her.

She swallowed painfully. She simply did not know what to say to this imposing figure, nor how to skilfully make her exit to escape him.


“A False Lady’s Allure” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

With her family being left penniless when she was just a little girl, Mille Baskins has been forced into a life of servitude. When her mistress dares her to accompany her to a Masquerade Ball, dressed up as if she were a real Lady, Millie cherishes the idea of being a noblewoman for a night. However, an electrifying encounter with a mysterious masked gentleman beneath the moonlight, makes her heart skip a beat. From that point on, everything will go askew, as Mille realises that the man she is intensely drawn to, is the Marquess her lady had her eye on. Will Mille succumb to the dashing nobleman who triggered her most forbidden longings? Or will she manage to resist him, for her lady’s sake?

Edward Lithgow, the Marquess of Townshend, has just returned from France, where he led the adventurous life of a spy, during the Napoleonic war. After having a lot of fiery affairs during the war, he is certain that no parochial lady could ever capture his attention or excite his body. Little did he know that he would soon meet the lady who will make him completely lose his mind and overwhelm him with lust. Everything will turn upside down though, when he discovers that the woman that conquered his heart, is the servant of the lady who has a crush on him. What is the charming Marquess willing to do when he realises that the woman he can’t have is the same woman he simply can’t live without?

When it comes to affairs of the heart, boundaries between social classes are set on fire and turned into dust. Just when this fire between Mille and Edward is burning hotter than ever, outside forces have plans to tear them apart forever. Will their love and passion be powerful enough to defy all the emerging obstacles? Despite knowing they are flirting with danger, will they find a way to melt their two worlds into one?

“A False Lady’s Allure” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

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4 thoughts on “A False Lady’s Allure (Preview)”

  1. I have been unable to find “A False Lady’s Allure” per your offer of free book in my email yesterday and today. Every time I touch the “get your free book” button I get the page that says it’s 99cents. Why?

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