Journals of a Lady’s Scandal (Preview)

Chapter One

The lady took a deep breath as she surveyed the ballroom. It was decorated resplendently, as always; she had been to quite a few balls here over the years, and the hosts, the Wilcox’s, never disappointed. But somehow, it looked different this time.

She took another deep breath, for courage, repeating the same thing that she had told herself in the carriage on the way here, and at home, at her dressing table, before stepping foot out the door.

I am Victoria Belleville, she told herself once again. I am just the same person as I have always been.

But somehow, she knew that it was all a lie. And the fact that she was now a different person was going to become manifest, very soon. She wished she had never let Priscilla persuade her to come this evening. It was too soon, but her best friend had insisted, telling her that she could not hide away like a rodent in a hole forever. Despite herself, Victoria smiled. Her friend always did have a very plain way with words.

Nervously, she tucked an errant curl behind her ear that had somehow escaped the confines of her bun. It was now or never.

Priscilla turned to her, taking her arm, reassuringly. “Are you quite ready, dearest heart?”

Victoria took yet another deep breath, feeling the air drawing deep into her lungs. She turned, wide-eyed, to her friend.

“As ready as I will ever be,” she muttered as they slowly walked down the two steps into the ballroom, trying not to feel as if she was on display like fine china in a shop window.

                                                                       ***

Mercifully, Mrs Wilcox, the host, swept over to the two ladies almost immediately, a kind smile on her face. Victoria smiled tentatively back. Mrs Wilcox was an old friend of her mother’s and could be relied upon to treat her well, despite everything.

“Victoria,” said the older lady, taking her hand and peering at her gently. “How well you look this evening, my dear.” She paused, her filmy blue eyes raking over her. “It has been an age since we have seen you …”

Victoria felt her heart beating faster in her chest. “It is very good to see you, too, Mrs Wilcox,” she said in a soft voice. “And thank you for your kind words. I must admit, I feel rather nervous …”

The older lady coughed discreetly into her hand. “Well, we shall not talk of it,” she said slowly. “It is probably for the best. Just enjoy yourself, my dear. Try to put the events of the past out of your mind entirely.” She turned to Priscilla determinedly. “Miss Pierpont. You are looking very well, too. Is that a gown from Mrs Lambert’s dressmakers? She always does such intricate embroidery, does she not?”

Priscilla nodded, casting a quick, reassuring look at Victoria, as she launched into a conversation with Mrs Wilcox about the skills of the dressmaker’s on Church Street, in Farstoke, their local village.

Victoria tried to concentrate on the small talk, even joining in occasionally, but it was a hopeless enterprise. Nervously, she glanced around the ballroom. The orchestra played a jig, and several ladies and gentlemen were dancing already, gliding around the space like elegant swans on a lake. Around them clustered many more ladies and gentlemen, chatting while watching the dance.

Victoria felt her heart beat faster still. Was it her imagination, or were several of those ladies and gentlemen glancing her way, their looks slightly contemptuous, as they gossiped behind their hands and their fans?

Do not be silly, she told herself fiercely. Why do you imagine that you are the centre of attention? They are probably not noticing you at all.

To her horror, she found that she had started to shake slightly. Appalled, she gripped her hands together tightly, trying to make it stop. But it didn’t. Instead, the tremor swept over her ever more forcefully, almost like a force of nature, a strong wind, or a storm. Desperately, she tried to retain her composure.

It is true, she thought, in despair. They are looking at me. They are all staring at me and talking about me. How has it come to this?

But even as the question lodged itself into her mind, she knew the answer. This was always going to happen. She had just been trying to avoid the inevitable.

                                                                         ***

She walked slowly to the refreshment table, trying to remain steady. She needed a drink. But as soon as she took her first steps into the fray, amongst the assembly, she knew that it was a mistake.

The crowd of people, pressing into the ballroom, seemed to part like the Red Sea before her, as she tentatively made her way through it. She tried not to glance left or right, fixing a fake smile onto her face. But still, she saw the cold glances, heard the whispers, felt the contempt, as if it was rising up, to strike her firmly in the face. No one stepped forward to greet her, even though she was acquainted with most of them. Deliberately, they turned their backs on her as if she was a foul smell that had suddenly wafted their way.

Tears of utter humiliation sprang into her eyes. Why had she allowed Priscilla to persuade her to come here this evening? It was exactly as she had dreaded. Even worse.

Her soul started to shrivel, just a little, to curl and twist as if it were burning parchment. These people were not her friends. They were judging her as if she was a Mary Magdalene. As if she was a Jezebel. She could almost hear the words of those whispers as she passed by.

Who does she think she is, showing her face in public? After what she did to that poor man. Shameless, that is what she is. She will never recover from it …

It was all that she could do not to turn and run straight out of the room, like a weasel, with its tail between its legs.

That it had come to this. That she was being so misjudged … and she couldn’t say one word in her own defence.

                                                                   ***

“Dearest heart,” whispered a sweet voice just behind her. “I am so sorry that Mrs Wilcox distracted me …”

Victoria turned. Priscilla was at her elbow, gazing at her sorrowfully, her pale blue eyes so large in her face they almost looked like saucers. She felt a rush of love and affection for her best friend. Dear Priscilla – she was always there for her, fiercely defending her, almost like a mother lion when one of her cubs strayed out of the den.

But even Priscilla, with all her strength and fortitude, could not save her from the public censure that had always been waiting for her.

“It is quite alright, my dear,” she said, blinking back the tears. “I am a big girl, after all. I can make my way through a crowd and not manage to get lost, I think.”

Priscilla sighed deeply, glaring at the ladies and gentlemen, who were pointedly staring at them now. Even Priscilla couldn’t deny it any longer. Her friend had insisted that no such thing would happen – that these people were neighbours and friends – but it seemed that Priscilla had misjudged just how strongly the antipathy towards Victoria actually was.

“Pay no heed to them,” she whispered, anger suddenly clouding those blue eyes. “They are small-minded and petty.” She raised her chin. “Look them straight in the eye, Vicky, and do not betray what you are truly feeling. It shall pass, in time …”

“Will it?” whispered Victoria, blinking back tears once more. “I know that you are only trying to make me feel better, Cilla, but I think that we both need to acknowledge the truth of it.” She paused, trembling anew. “I am a pariah in Farstoke society now. No one will treat me kindly any longer. My reputation is ruined.”

Priscilla bit her lip, not saying anything, for a moment. “It shall pass. Your broken engagement will be old news any day now. Something else will come along, some other minor scandal, to entertain their shallow minds. It always does …”

Victoria’s mouth twisted. “Well, it has been over a month now since the news of my broken engagement became public, and it does not seem that any juicier piece of gossip has arrived to take its place.” She took a deep breath. “We just have to accept the truth of it, Cilla. I am a social pariah now. They all think me a cold-hearted, brutal woman, who toyed with her fiancé before discarding him on a whim.”

Priscilla sighed again. “If only they knew the truth, Vicky.” She paused, gazing at her friend, almost entreatingly. “All you need to do is mention what truly happened in a few ears, and I am sure that your reputation will be redeemed …”

“Would it?” Victoria heard the bitterness in her voice. “You know as well as I do, how admired and feted my former fiancé is in this society. He is a golden boy, so well-loved, that they almost genuflect to him when he walks through a crowd.” She paused. “They would never believe what he actually did, and why I had no choice but to end our engagement. And besides, I have no proof of it, either. It would be his word against mine. Who do you think they would believe?”

Priscilla looked mortified. She bit her lip. Victoria could see that her friend knew she was telling the truth. Priscilla might not want to acknowledge it, but it was there, in her face. 

Victoria’s heart sank further. It was impossible. She should never have come here this evening. But then, what was the alternative?

The crowd started to blur, just a little, through her tears. Was it her destiny to become a social recluse, then? Must she become a hermit, withdraw from society completely because of what had happened with that man?

Stubborn anger burned in her heart, at the very thought of him.

Mr Harry Lyndon, local landowner, respected and admired gentleman about town. A pillar of society. She had such high hopes when she had entered the engagement. She had thought him as charming and wonderful as everyone did. She had truly believed that her future was assured, stretching out before her, as golden as the sun. 

How wrong she had been.

For Mr Harry Lyndon, the pillar of society was not the golden boy that everyone believed. Mr Harry Lyndon was a liar, and a degenerate, with dark secrets, that he hid – oh so skilfully – from all those around him. It had only been through sheer luck that she had discovered the truth about him, but she had been feeling uneasy, in a way that she could not explain, for weeks before. Some instinct that had wormed its way into her chest.

She had ended the engagement, telling her horrified parents that she had simply changed her mind. They had begged and pleaded with her, not understanding, but she had been adamant. She didn’t tell them the truth, either. It was too humiliating. She had wanted to hide it, licking her wound like an injured animal.

She raised her glass to her mouth, taking a deep sip of the champagne. No one knew the truth about her humiliation, except Priscilla. And that was the way it was going to stay. She had confided in her best friend, but to everyone else, the truth was hidden.

She must wear the consequences of her actions now. And it didn’t help that Harry Lyndon was obviously fanning the flames, telling everyone that he had been wronged, by a cold and contemptuous woman, milking sympathy that he was a man done wrong for all that it was worth.

She took a deep breath. She was a social pariah now. And God help her; she just had to live with it.

Chapter Two

Benjamin Farraday, the seventh Duke of Charleston, sighed painfully, as he gazed out the carriage window. He didn’t feel like going to this ball this evening. Yet another dull affair, this time at the Wilcoxs’, a very proper and staid district family. He knew that it wouldn’t be any fun at all.

“What is the matter, Charleston?” asked his friend, sitting across from him in the carriage. “You look like you have a veritable bee in your bonnet, Your Grace.”

Benjamin smiled slightly, gazing at his friend. Good old Allencourt. Lord Robert Allencourt, who had been by his side for so many years now that he could no longer remember when they hadn’t known each other. 

“Just anticipating the evening ahead,” he replied, in a slightly sour voice. “Thinking of how very dull it is going to be. All the local young ladies, being paraded in front of me like sows at the market, waiting to be picked.”

Robert burst out laughing. “You certainly have a way of talking about the local ladies, old chap! I do not think any of them would appreciate being referred to as sows, no less.” He shook his head, a glint in his eyes. “Why are you so dispirited all of a sudden? There are some very lovely local ladies, to be sure. And you have never been immune to the charms of a beautiful lady.”

Benjamin sighed again, rubbing his chin as he stared out the window. He was dispirited; there was no denying it. Irritated, as if the weight of the world was suddenly on his shoulders. 

“I do not know,” he said in a solemn voice. “I guess it is all getting on top of me.” He paused, gazing at his friend. “My mother has been at me once again. Braying about how I must get me a wife, find a duchess, and so on. The usual story.”

Robert smiled sympathetically. “Oh, so that is it. When did they sit you down for the talk, once more?”

Benjamin grimaced. “Only yesterday. Cornered me in the drawing room, going on about how as the Duke of Charleston, it is my sacred duty to marry and produce an heir.” He paused. “Mother was particularly animated, saying that I am five and twenty now, no longer a pup. Old enough to marry and bring a duchess into the fold. She even put on the tears, saying that all her friends are looking at her with pity because she has no grandchildren.”

Robert winced. “Ouch. That is pressure, my friend. No wonder you are in a slightly foul mood and not looking forward to the evening ahead …”

Benjamin nodded, feeling so dejected that he could barely speak. He was being pressured unmercifully by his mother. His stepfather, too, was weighing in on it, but since the gentleman was not his true father, could not compel him in the way that Mother did. Lord William Joyce just did it because he felt that he had to. The man did not have one independent thought in his head; he was led by his stronger willed wife, in all things. A far cry from his late, domineering father, the sixth duke, who had died suddenly last year.

“It just takes all the spontaneity out of it,” said Benjamin, narrowing his eyes. “It is true what you say, Rob, that there are many lovely local ladies. But when I must view them so coldly and calculatingly, as potential brides, it just … seems bloodless, somehow.” He stared dejectedly out the carriage window, barely seeing the green fields and grey cobblestone fences of the land around Farstoke.

“Just put it out of your mind,” advised Robert, nodding sagely. “Concentrate on the charms of the young ladies, and nothing else. Otherwise, you shall defeat yourself before you even begin, and it shall truly be a bloodless enterprise.”

Benjamin ran a distracted hand over his face. “How can I do that, Rob? Mother is like a bloodhound on the trail. She will not accept just any local lady as a potential bride. You know what she is like. The lady must be exceptional, in every way, and have an impeccable reputation. I think she believes that a princess would not be good enough for me …”

“You are a duke, Ben,” said Robert. “It is right and proper that your mother, the Dowager Duchess, wants you to marry well. You do see that, do you not?”

Benjamin rolled his eyes. “Of course, I see that! It has been drummed into me since I was barely out of swaddling rags, how it is my sacred duty to marry well and preserve the duchy.” He paused. “It is just the expectations are too high, my friend. No lady will ever be good enough, so how do I even choose who to pursue? As soon as it becomes serious enough to introduce her to Mother, I know that the young lady will be grilled as if she is about to become a princess …”

“A duchess,” interjected Robert. “Who is almost on a par with a princess, do not forget. Your exalted status demands no less.” He paused. “But, as I said, put that all out of your mind this evening, my friend. The weight of it is too much. And if you find no lady worth pursuing at this ball, then that is alright, too. There shall be other engagements, other assemblies, other young ladies, after all.”

Benjamin nodded glumly. He wouldn’t speak about it any longer. There was no point. It was just there, like a heavy ball that he carried around inside of him. He just had to accept it, that was all.

And despite Rob’s encouraging words, he didn’t think it was as simple a matter as just suddenly finding the right lady at one of these district engagements. Farstoke society, in this corner of Essex, was closed; there were only so many local ladies to go around, after all. He had probably met most of them by now, anyway.

He might have to go further afield, maybe to London. Stay at his townhouse there and do the season. But he had already attended so many London seasons, and they had grown equally as wearisome. So many accomplished, beautiful young ladies, fluttering about him, like butterflies, eager to impress. He had pursued a few and liked and admired them, but not one had made him lean towards matrimony, in the slightest.

The carriage drew up at the front door of the Wilcoxs’ country mansion. He took a deep breath as the footman opened the carriage door, steeling himself for the onslaught. Firmly, he tried to put all the talk about marriage and finding a duchess out of his mind entirely, and just enjoy the night, as Rob had advised.

                                                                    ***

The ball was unfolding exactly as he had envisaged. The same local orchestra that did the rounds of all the balls and assemblies in the district. He almost knew the order of their tunes – when they would play a jig or a quadrille – by heart. They were nothing if not predictable.

His eyes scanned the crowd. There was Miss Darnley, and Miss Knight, and Miss Carlson, milling together, as always. They laughed behind their fans, casting him shy glances as soon as they were aware he was looking at them. Hastily, he averted his eyes. He didn’t want any of them to think he was admiring them in a special way.

“Your Grace,” said Mr Wilcox, approaching him in welcome, his face florid as if he had already imbibed too much of his own champagne. “What a great honour it is that you have graced our humble ball with your presence!” He turned to Robert, bowing slightly. “And Lord Allencourt. Welcome, to you both.”

Benjamin nodded in acknowledgement. “It is our pleasure, Mr Wilcox. A pleasant evening, so far?”

Mr Wilcox puffed up slightly like a peacock. “Indeed, it is, Your Grace! Why, I was just saying to Mrs Wilcox, that the turnout is far greater than we were expecting. Many local families have already left the district to travel to London, in anticipation of the coming season, after all.” He smiled slyly. “But I am sure there are enough lovely young ladies to dance with, Your Grace. Like my daughter Ursula …”

To Benjamin’s alarm, the man turned and grabbed his daughter, who was standing just behind them, forcing her into the group. Miss Wilcox looked equally alarmed at being confronted by the two gentlemen, sinking into a low curtsy. When she rose, there were two bright pink dots on her cheeks; she was so flustered.

Benjamin forced a smile onto his face. Miss Ursula Wilcox was a dull, plain girl, with limited skills at conversation. He had been forced to endure several conversations with her in the past, and it had always been a painful enterprise.

“Your Grace,” she breathed. “And Lord Allencourt …”

Mr Wilcox almost pushed the poor girl towards him in his eagerness. “I am sure that His Grace will be honoured to lead you onto the floor, Ursula!” The man gazed at him expectantly.

Benjamin sighed again. “It would be my pleasure, Mr Wilcox.” He held his hand out to the young lady. “Shall we?”

Miss Wilcox blushed to the roots of her brown hair. “Oh, you do me such an honour, Your Grace!” She took his hand. 

He had no choice in the matter. The last thing that he felt like was dancing as soon as he had entered the ballroom, but it would be rude to refuse her. He felt eyes upon them as he led her to the dance floor, bowing to her at the commencement of the quadrille. And he could almost hear the whispers about how he had chosen Ursula Wilcox as his first partner of the evening, and what it might signify.

A tight knot of anger twisted in his chest. This was what it was always like, wherever he went. People always speculating about whether any young lady he showed the slightest smidgeon of attention to was special somehow. It was so very wearisome, and the last thing he wanted was anyone thinking he had designs on this particular young lady.

He took a deep breath as the dance commenced. He had no choice. His host had foisted her upon him, and it was only one dance, after all. As soon as it was over, he would make his excuses and flee. Find a glass of champagne, or two, and see if he could salvage the evening, in some small way. But already, it wasn’t looking hopeful.

He could just see the way it was going to unfold. All of the local gentry would push their daughters at him, and he would have no choice but to spend all his time dancing with them or enduring their small talk. Suddenly, he felt a blinding headache coming on, wishing he could just escape to his carriage and go home.

But as he led Miss Wilcox through the steps of the dance, a flash of bright, cerulean blue caught his eye, on the sidelines. He turned, gazing at the lady who wore the gown, which had arrested his attention.

His heart flipped over in his chest, just a little, as he beheld her.

He had never seen her before.

She was very beautiful, tall and willowy, with flaming auburn hair, curling down the side of her face. A pale, almost translucent complexion, with high cheekbones and a pointed chin. And then, she turned towards him, and he saw her eyes, flashing like bright emeralds. A striking green, unlike any that he had ever beheld before.

Who was she?

But before he could feast his eyes upon her further, he was forced to move with the dance, and the next time he looked in her direction, she was gone, as if she had never been there, at all.


“Journals of a Lady’s Scandal” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

When Victoria Belleville realises her fiancé, Mr. Harry Lyndon, isn’t the gentleman she thought he was, she instantly frees herself from this hopeless engagement. Ever since, though, he has been spreading rumours that she is a scandalous cold hearted woman, who gave up on him. How can Victoria tell anyone the truth, when the cruel society is waiting for a just a misstep to tear her apart? After all, since she decided to dance on the wild side, every member of high society despises her, and her reputation is in tatters… Can she ever hope to recover from the damage? Just when she thinks she is ruined forever, she meets the dazzling Duke of Charleston who, to her surprise, is very tempted by her. Trouble is, once she’s tasted this sizzling connection, she only wants more… Could Victoria ever find her way back into her former status and discover true love?

Benjamin Farraday, the Duke of Charleston, is under his family’s pressure to find a suitable Duchess. When he sees Victoria Belleville, he knows she is the most tempting woman he has ever beheld, but there is something he is not aware of- her reputation. When he finds out, he regretfully tries to put the wicked Lady firmly out of his mind. He is a Duke after all, and he has always known that his duty is to marry well… However, ever since he met her, he instantly felt she is the woman his heart and body belong to. As a man, it’s tormenting to be so very close to the beauty he is fighting to ignore… As her questionable reputation clashes with undeniable passion, will he make the right decision?

A Lady discredited by her former fiancé. A Duke, who must marry a Lady of impeccable reputation. They can never stand a chance at love… or can they? More obstacles come their way, as Victoria is desperately trying to recover her reputation, while her former fiancé is determined to destroy it. After everything, will she manage to convince the Duke she is so much more than the rumours that surround her? With the fire between them burning hotter than ever, will they be cursed to lose each other or will their flaring connection turn into an everlasting flame?

“Journals of a Lady’s Scandal” 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!

9 thoughts on “Journals of a Lady’s Scandal (Preview)”

  1. This one definitely caught my attention. Between a supposedly
    damaged lady and a browbeaten man, can’t wait to see what
    happens next.

  2. So far so good! Looks like I’ll be reading this straight thru another can’t wait to get to the next page.Keep writing like this and I will keep reading.

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