A Lady’s Scandalous Novel (Preview)

Chapter One

Lady Anne Polder glanced out the carriage window as it made its way through the familiar streets of London. Seated beside her was her ageing lady’s companion, Miss Smith, who was already dozing slackly against the wall of the carriage. Seated across from her was her very best friend in the world, Lady Henrietta Trenton, who was absently fiddling with the buttons on her gloves.

Annie sighed heavily, clutching the heavy leather bag next to her, which contained the most important thing in the world. The first part of her novel, which had been written over the course of the past year, mostly by candlelight, very late at night. It was her pride and joy, and she thought she had done very well with it. But the problem was, of course, that she was supposed to be a proper young lady of the ton, who could never hope to dream of becoming an authoress.

She glanced at Miss Smith. She had counted on the fact that the ageing lady would be falling asleep by now. Miss Smith had been with the family for years and served her older sisters, Violet, Jane, and Kitty before Annie had been lumped with her. Miss Smith was white-haired, hunched, and well into advanced age now. She regularly fell asleep during the day for long periods, waking up befuddled and disoriented. It was a gentle family joke.

Her heart started to race. She had already quietly informed the carriage driver of their true destination today. She turned to her friend. Henrietta had no idea yet, and Annie was counting on the fact that Miss Smith would sleep through the whole outing and never have any idea of where they had gone. But she had to tell Henrietta now, before the carriage turned, making it obvious that they weren’t heading to fashionable Bond Street for shopping and tea, but rather to a more unsavoury part of the city.

How was Henrietta going to react? Henrietta was very proper. Very meek and docile. She never rebelled, even an iota, against the strict etiquette of being a lady. She was going to be shocked, even though she knew Annie harboured secret dreams of being an authoress. Proper young ladies didn’t sabotage sedate outings like this to do other things entirely. Things that they would get into a lot of trouble for if they were ever discovered.

Annie exhaled slowly, taking the plunge.

“Henrietta,” she said in a loud whisper, her heart racing harder still. “Dearest. I must tell you that we are not going to Bond Street today.” She paused. “At least, not until later, if there is still time.”

Henrietta stopped fiddling with the buttons on her gloves. She gazed up at Annie in astonishment.

“We are not?” She looked bewildered. “But then…where are we going? I do not understand, Annie.”

Annie quickly glanced at Miss Smith, who mercifully hadn’t budged an inch, and had clearly fallen into a deep slumber. “Please, can you lower your voice, just a little? I do not want her to wake up.”

Henrietta straightened, sitting up a little higher. “What is going on, Annie?”

Annie took a deep breath. “We are heading to another part of London entirely,” she whispered. “To a publishing house, near Skinner Street.”

Henrietta’s eyes bulged. “But—that is in a bad area of town. It is near Newgate Prison! We cannot go there, Annie. There are thieves and cutthroats. Drunkards. Loose women.” She shook her head incredulously. “A publishing house? What do you intend to do there?”

Annie clutched the brown leather satchel. Henrietta’s eyes drifted towards it.

“Now I understand,” she said in a strained voice. “Is that the novel you have been working on late at night?”

Annie nodded. “It is, dearest. My most treasured first work. I have finished it, at long last. I have within this satchel the first part of Allenby. I intend to show it to an up-and-coming publisher on Skinner Street, who I have heard publishes new authors…and even female authors.”

Henrietta stared at her as if she had just said she intended to fly to the moon.

“Annie,” she said, shaking her head again. “You know it is impossible. You are the youngest daughter of a viscount. You cannot become an authoress! Why, it is scandalous. Only very objectionable women even attempt such a thing. Your family will never allow it, not in a hundred years.”

Annie’s jaw tightened. She knew all of that was true. Her family already despaired of her, telling her that she was rather too outspoken, too opinionated, and far too bookish. They teased her about wanting to be a bluestocking. When she told them of her desire to write, they scoffed, thinking it a fanciful hobby. When she had once dared mention that she was serious about her work, they had looked at her as if she had grown another head.

They continually tried to make her a proper young lady, sending her to the usual round of balls, society events, and the like. They tried to push her to court eligible young men. They constantly told her that she must be more like her older sisters, who were all married by her age, to respectable members of the nobility. 

Annie was different. And they didn’t like it one bit.

She took another deep breath. “I am very well aware that my family would never give their permission, dearest. This is why I am doing this secretly. It is the only way.”

Henrietta looked confused. “But…if you are successful and manage to get published, they will know. Allenby will come out with your name upon it. It shall cause a terrible scandal and quite ruin your chances of a good marriage.”

“It shall not have my real name on it,” said Annie slowly. “I have already thought of that. It is a hard enough thing for any woman to have her name attached to a book, let alone a lady of my station.” She hesitated. “I am using a pseudonym. If I am published, my family will never know that I am the author of the work.”

Henrietta still looked doubtful. “I do not know, Annie. It is a very risky thing indeed. What if we are seen on this street? What if word gets back to your family or mine?”

“No one shall see us,” said Annie, trying to sound more confident than she felt. “No member of the ton ever frequents such a place—or if they do, they run in bohemian circles and shall not judge me.” She leaned forward towards her friend. “Think, Etta! I could be a published authoress. My dream might be about to come true. And no one will ever be the wiser. It shall be my little secret.”

Henrietta’s eyes flickered towards Miss Smith, who was now deeply asleep and snoring softly. “You are counting upon the lady remaining asleep the entire time we are at this publishing house, then? What if she suddenly awakens, and we are not in the carriage, and she looks out and sees where we are? What then?” Henrietta’s voice was thready with panic.

“She will not awaken,” said Annie, offering up a silent prayer that it would be so. “She sleeps for hours at a stretch. I have no idea why Mama still keeps her on as a companion, given her advanced age, but it is serving me very well in this instance. Miss Smith will never be any the wiser about our outing this afternoon.”

Henrietta still didn’t look convinced. In fact, she looked slightly ill. Annie felt a quick stab of guilt. Her friend was so very proper and never did anything like this. Henrietta would never have even thought of such a thing. She was content to be just a lady, going to balls and the like. She placidly accepted her role in life.

Annie sighed heavily. She had tried to be like Henrietta and her sisters. She had tried very hard indeed. But the yearning for a different life, to fulfil her creative destiny, was just too strong. She had no interest in marriage at all. She just wanted to write. And the fulfilment of that dream was to become published, even if she had to do it under a pseudonym.

And now, her dream was tantalisingly within her grasp. All she had to do was convince the publisher to take a chance on her. She was confident that her work was good enough to be published. She had rewritten it two times, scrupulously developing the characters, plot, and themes. She was proud of what she had accomplished. 

She had carefully researched publishing houses in London which might accept her work. Most were conservative, respectable, and staid. They would never entertain publishing the work of a woman.

But the publishing house she intended to approach was different. It had started up six months prior, in a risqué area of the city, amongst the squalor of the outskirts of London, bordered by a notorious prison. Quickly, it had established itself as willing to take a chance on authors that no other respectable publishers would even glance at. It had published some very innovative and daring work so far and was quickly becoming the darling of the bohemian literary set. 

Annie had done her homework. Apollo Publishing was run by two men. Neither had a background in publishing before they had set up this business. Apparently, they were firm friends, having served alongside each other in the Navy. It was a small concern, with only one printing press. But people flocked to buy their books, hot off the press.

And Apollo Publishing had set a precedent. They had one female author among their small stable. A woman who had set society’s tongues wagging with her scandalous debut novel. Everyone was talking about it. It had become a runaway success and Miss Morgan Braithwaite a cause celebre. Everyone who was anyone had read Lady Baldwin’s Butler, although there were many who wouldn’t admit to it, of course. 

Annie had been passed a copy of the scandalous book. She hadn’t had time to read it yet as she had been so busy putting the finishing touches to her own book, but she was intending to pick it up soon. She was very impressed with what Miss Braithwaite had accomplished in so short a time. And very impressed with the publishers who had dared to take a risk on such a work.

“It will be all right, Henrietta,” she said softly, leaning over and taking her friend’s hand. “We shall be in and out before my companion awakens. No one will ever know what we have done. And perhaps if Miss Smith is still snoozing soundly, we shall still head to Bond Street afterwards. If there is time.” She hesitated. “I appreciate you doing this for me, more than you can ever know.”

Henrietta sighed heavily. “Very well, Annie. As long as we are quick about it and do not linger.” She smiled wryly. “It seems I have little choice now. But promise me that you shall not get carried away and dally in this area. I would not feel comfortable at all walking the streets.”

“I promise,” said Annie fervently. “We shall be in and out. No dallying. Thank you, Etta. This means the world to me.”

The carriage was starting to slow down. Annie glanced out the window. She had been so involved in their conversation, she hadn’t realised how close they were to their destination. 

The sight that confronted her was very different to the quiet, tree-lined streets where she and Henrietta lived and shopped. It was teeming with people and carts and street-side stalls, selling pork pies and flowers and a myriad of other things. Street sellers were calling out their wares in loud singsong voices. It was a colourful and vibrant cacophony of sight and sound. 

Annie felt a stab of pure excitement. The carriage was pulling up. And there, on a small shop advertised in gilt lettering, was Apollo Publishing.

She clutched the leather satchel tighter. She had arrived at her destination, at long last. 


Chapter Two

Mark Turner, joint owner of Apollo Publishing, sat back in his chair, wearily pushing aside the manuscript in front of him. It had arrived just today in the morning’s post, and he had a spare hour before a meeting with one of their most successful authors and had decided to open it up and have a quick scan. Now, he wished he hadn’t. It was turgid and badly written and wasted parchment.

He sighed, gazing around his small office. This was part and parcel of being a publisher, of course. Unsolicited manuscripts arrived in the mail every day. Some were hidden gems, just waiting to be polished a little, but most were dreadful. 

The worst part was writing the rejection letters to those who had written them. He hated breaking someone’s heart and destroying their dream of becoming an author, but he wasn’t in this business to indulge talentless people. He was in this business to publish new and exciting talent and create a name as a fearless publisher. If he and Thomas Beverley, his business partner, made a little money as well, then he would be well satisfied.

He stood up, rubbing his neck. Being a publisher was a far cry from what he had done in the past. He had done so much that he could barely remember it all. He had grown up on the mean streets of London, selling newspapers and running errands and a myriad of other menial jobs. Anything and everything he could to make a coin. The pursuit had led him to work the docks of London.

His lucky break had come when he had met an old Navy man in a pub near the docks, who had convinced him to sign up to join His Majesty’s Royal Navy and see the world. For seven long years, he had led the life of a seafarer. That was where he had met Thomas. They had sailed to India together, which had led him in another direction entirely.

His Navy tenure up, he had joined the East India Company, making a small fortune in cotton and silk. But books had always been his passion. A voracious reader, the dream of opening his own publishing house had become a reality when Thomas had reappeared in his life. Over a bottle of whisky on a long veranda in Jaipur, he and his old friend had stitched together a plan to return to England and become business partners. Their joint dream was to one day become the most successful publishing house in the country.

It had been a very fortuitous meeting, indeed.

And now, here they were, ensconced in a small shop in a slightly seamy area of the city. An area known for its bohemian leanings. There were book circles, artist groups, and revolutionary talking groups. William Godwin’s publishing house was just around the corner. Life was good…even if he did have to read his fair share of appalling manuscripts.

At a sharp rap at the door, Mark turned around. It was Thomas, poking his head into the room. “Do you have a moment, old chap?”

Mark nodded, smiling. “Of course. I would welcome the break.” He grimaced a little.

Thomas laughed, sitting opposite him, gesturing towards the manuscript on the table. “I take it this morning’s post didn’t offer up anything of interest?”

Mark sat back down, pushing the manuscript away. “No, it did not. I can barely concentrate on it at all. I am struggling to get through the introduction and first chapter.”

“Then toss it,” said Thomas, leaning back in his chair. “The book has to have a strongly written introduction and first chapter. Or at least something intriguing that can be worked upon. Do you think it has any potential at all?”

Mark slowly shook his head. “I am afraid not. It is merely a long-winded diatribe, and the story is not appealing at all. Just a dressed up morality tale.”

“Ah, one of those,” said Thomas, smiling widely. “There are quite a lot of them out there.” He paused. “We should talk about this meeting. Go over some of the things we might discuss with our starring lady.” He rolled his eyes.

Mark grimaced again. Thomas was referring to one of the most successful authors in their stable. Her name was Mary Braithwaite, and she had written one of the sauciest novels he had ever read, under the pen name of Morgan Braithwaite. Mary had chosen the name Morgan for two reasons: firstly, because of its gender ambiguity—some people could assume a man had written the scandalous book—and secondly, because she greatly admired the character of Morgan Le Fay, the sorceress from Arthurian legend. 

The book, Lady Baldwin’s Butler, had been a runaway success and caused a minor scandal in London. Mary—or Morgan, as she now insisted everyone call her—had become the toast of bohemian London with her very first book. But unfortunately, sudden infamy had gone to Miss Braithwaite’s head in the most alarming of ways. She was temperamental, highly strung, and brash, making demands left, right, and centre.

In short, Morgan was becoming a rather sharp pain in the derriere.

“What does she want this time?” asked Mark, feeling a flash of irritation. “We already increased her royalties, which was what she was on the warpath about last time. We cannot increase them again.”

Thomas sighed heavily. “She wants us to be more active in the promotion of the book. She says that she has suggestions for it.”

“Will she be wanting us to fund a tour of the country?” said Mark tightly. “I have already told her that it would not be advantageous to do so. Lady Baldwin’s Butler has limited appeal outside of the artistic and literary circles of London. The book is just too controversial, and most of England is too conservative to stomach it. She should realise the book’s limitations.”

Thomas sighed again. “I just do not know, Mark. You were the one who was willing to take the risk on her, but I always had doubts about it. It isn’t just because she is a woman, and there are always difficulties with that. It’s the type of woman she is. She is just too loud and highly-strung, always making a scene.”

“She has also written a great book,” reminded Mark gently. “Our most successful book so far. Lady B’s has far and away outsold anything else we have published.”

Thomas pursed his lips. “Yes, it has. But we didn’t get into this business just to make money, did we? Our plan was to publish new and exciting work, to give a voice to those who might never be accepted at regular publishing houses. We have both already made our fortune. Miss Braithwaite is too temperamental and demanding. She takes up too much of our time.”

Mark rubbed his neck ruefully. He understood his partner’s concerns about Miss Braithwaite. Of course, he did. She was very hard to handle. She needed constant attention from them. And the success of her book had gone to her head like slightly cheap Madeira wine. Morgan believed she should be fawned over and adored like a goddess.

“And then there is the other thing about her,” continued Thomas slowly. “She has set her sights upon you, Mark, and she will not give up until you have capitulated to her. She is a woman of voracious appetites, and she has earmarked you as her next lover, old chap.”

Mark laughed uncomfortably. It was true—Morgan wasn’t shy about making her interest in him visible. She was always trying to flirt with him, touching him, batting her eyelashes at him. She made thinly veiled suggestive comments. 

The woman wanted him. There was no doubt about that.

He stirred uncomfortably in his chair. Morgan was a striking woman. Raven-haired, with a buxom figure and heavy-lidded, sultry brown eyes. It wasn’t that he wasn’t attracted to her—a man would have to not have eyes in his head or blood in his veins. It was just that she was so bold about it, and relentless. He also wasn’t convinced it was a great idea to have an affair with one of their authors. Plus the fact that Morgan Braithwaite was known to chew up men and spit them out for breakfast.

He had managed to evade her advances thus far, but she was becoming bolder. He knew that she would be wearing one of her infamous low cut gowns to the meeting this afternoon, with her bosom pushed up so high it would be spilling out. Morgan had a habit of leaning over towards him as he spoke to her, making sure he noticed. 

“I can handle Morgan,” he said slowly. “She isn’t the first woman I have ever encountered who is so forward in that way, Thomas. There were many bored ladies in India, looking for a fling to pass the time. I am a big boy and can look after myself.”

Thomas sighed. “I just do not want things to become even more complicated with her than they already are, Mark. If you end up having an affair with her and it doesn’t work out, she might get even more volatile. And I do not like how her obsession with you is growing. Her eyes follow you everywhere.”

“I am not going to have an affair with her,” said Mark in a clipped voice. “Apart from the complications, she really isn’t my type at all. She is a stunning woman, to be sure, but far too unpredictable and explosive. I am handling her carefully, I do assure you.”

Thomas sighed again. “Very well. As long as you have your eyes open and are aware of it. I am still not entirely convinced we should even keep her on. Perhaps we should tell her to approach another publisher for her next book, now that she has established a name for herself? It’s not as if we need the coin. Remember that.”

Mark nodded. “It is worth considering. But let us not act hastily yet. I still think Morgan is one of the most exciting talents in England at the moment, and I am proud to be her publisher. She might be temperamental, but she is a very fine writer, indeed.”

“Her only redeeming quality, as far as I can tell,” said Thomas in a peevish voice.

Mark laughed softly. Thomas was so careful and considered, always prudent, wanting to over-plan everything. Mark appreciated that about his friend—they worked so well together because they had different qualities. Mark was the visionary, the creative force, while Thomas was the meticulous planner. They were like chalk and cheese, but it seemed to be working so far.

A person like Morgan irritated Thomas immensely. Morgan was so extroverted and gregarious that it offended Thomas, who was naturally more introverted and serious. But Mark was confident that he could handle Morgan. She was like an excitable Thoroughbred horse that needed careful tending but always ran a good race.

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. Mark turned to Thomas. “Are you expecting anyone?”

Thomas shook his head slowly. “Not at all. No appointments until the lady writer arrives.” He grimaced. “Unless she is early. It would be just like her to surprise us like that.”

Mark shrugged. “Enter.”

The door handle turned, and a lady stepped into the room. She gazed around slowly, before settling her eyes upon the men at the desk.

Mark felt like someone had just slapped him across the cheek. She was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen in his whole life. Silky chestnut hair, with porcelain skin, and large emerald-green eyes. She was young—he didn’t think she was older than two and twenty. And definitely not from this area, judging by the cut and quality of her gown. She was clutching a large leather satchel tightly to her chest.

“Excuse me,” she said, clearing her throat. “But can I speak to the publisher?”

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

The tantalising Lady Anne Polder, with her audacious spirit, always dreamt of being a writer, even if proper ladies of the ton are not supposed to disobey society’s norms. Yet, her life is about to change forever when she takes a bold risk and secretly delivers her first novel to a publishing house in a seedy area of London. After meeting Mark, the seductive book publisher, the most sinful adventure is about to begin…

Lady by day, writer by night, Anne is trying to balance a delicate double life…

Being an orphan, Mark Turner has worked hard all his life, rising from the London gutters and creating his own book publishing business. However, when the mysterious Anne walks into Apollo Publishing with her novel, he can not help but feel the sizzling attraction between them. The more he spends time with Annie the more he becomes impervious to her charms…

Can his business and his heart survive a tempting distraction like her?

Attraction between them burns hot and fierce, and Anne and Mark realise that scandal may be just around the corner. With the danger of her noble parents discovering her deception and a wicked man trying to sabotage everything, will these two passionate lovers become the match of the season or are the obstacles too much to overcome?

“A Lady’s Scandalous Novel” 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 “A Lady’s Scandalous Novel (Preview)”

    1. I want more!! I do not like reading on a laptop – but I could sit at this table reading this story from my laptop screen for hours! It grabbed me right away and I was really disappointed hen I came to the end of this excerpt – I was not at all ready to have this story interrupted! I want more! I can’t wait to read the rest of this story –

  1. Looking forward to reading the book, very curious to know about Annie’s novel. yes! really looking forward to reading, (A lady’s scandalous novel)

  2. A very good story of Lady Anne who wants to get her first novel published and Mark who has his own publishing company. Will Lady Anne fulfil her dreams of becoming an author and get her book published. Even though her parents are against their daughter becoming a bluestocking. Will Anne and Mark overcome all their obstacles and have a happy ending. Enjoyed the preview can’t wait to read the book.

  3. Very interested tease!
    Great cover!
    Very likable charaters!
    Going to.rate 5.stars I belive!

    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!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *