New historical romance release – Her Timeless Obsession – Brita Addams

Her Timeless Obsession

Brita Addams

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Here is an excerpt from my newest historical romance.

During a lifetime spent at Danby Terrace, Honoria Danby, Honey

to those who knew her best, had excitedly explored the secret

passageways and hiding places that made living in the red-bricked

townhouse worthwhile. As mistress of the old pile, she intended to restore

some of the old charm the place must have once held.

With an autumnal storm blowing sheets of rain against the windows,

Honey answered the call of her curiosity, as she had often done on such

days during her childhood. She’d spent hours alone amid the relics of years

gone by. The high-ceilinged attic beckoned her to poke around amongst

paintings by the dozens, statues, and fine china. She had, over the years,

restored furniture used by Danby ancestors and filled the rooms downstairs

with them.

“Come on, Maizie,” she said to her less than thrilled maid. “Let’s explore

that corner with all the trunks.”

“Yes’m. I’ll get the kerosene lamp.”

Honey changed into a work dress and met Maizie at the foot of the stairs.

“I’ve been dying to explore those trunks. What about you?”

“I don’t like the dust. Now, you know that.”

“I know, but think of the treasures we might find.”

Maizie grumbled as she lit the lamp, and the dark attic took on light.

With the dim recesses lit, Honey strode past covered furniture, rusted

rifles, a patinaed garden bench, and an entire dining room set.

“Look here. How have I missed these in all our explorations?” Honey

pulled back the sheets that covered paintings of animals, expressionless

people, and admirably executed still lifes, “We’ll take some of these down to

hang in the dining room.”

While Maizie stacked the paintings by the stairs, Honey delved deeper

into the corner. Against the rough-hewn beams rested an age-stained oilclothwrapped

mystery that had somehow escaped her frequent explorations.

On creaking floorboards, she advanced on the corner, distracted for

several moments by copies of old magazines and a marble bust of a bald,

bearded man that looked like her grandfather.

She hung the lamp on a nail in the beam. “Maizie, come help me

uncover this.”

As they lifted the heavy cloth, dust motes clouded the airless attic as she

and a sneezing Maizie unveiled a life-size portrait, well-preserved in a dull

gilt frame.

Honoria slid her finger over the textured deep scarlet of the subject’s

uniform, over the braided cords at his shoulders, and then higher. She

shone the light on his handsome angular face—square jaw with a hint

of a shadow. Unsmiling, he stared straight ahead, as though through the

painter. “Oh, my, who do we have here?”

She lowered the lamp to the dusty brass plaque at the lower edge of the

frame. With a moistened thumb, she cleaned the filthy piece of metal.

Captain Jeremy Saintaubin, Marquess of Galmore, 1803.

Honey stared at the ribbons on the captain’s scarlet coat and imagined

his pride as he received them. The hem of his eternally creased black

trousers disappeared into his highly polished Wellington boots. His

stylish curly black hair, perfectly coifed, did nothing to soften his stiff,

broad-shouldered stance.

Honey’s heart skipped a beat when she studied his face. A man’s eyes

had always enthralled her, especially those that held a hint of mystery. “He’s

handsome, isn’t he, Maizie?”

Her maid held her apron to her face. “Yes’m.” She sneezed again.

Though the captain’s eyes bored through to her soul, Honey tore her

gaze from the visage of the handsome Lord Galmore to root amongst the

old trunks that lined a darkened wall and peek beneath dust-laden cloths at

the discarded remnants of another century.

A swath of blue drew her attention to a blue-and-cream striped

Hepplewhite sofa and matching chairs. “Even at a hundred years old, these

are in good repair.”

Maizie batted away the dust and mumbled a reply.

“We’ll take these downstairs. We can clean them up, can’t we?”

Maizie coughed. “I suppose we can.”

“You should keep your face covered so the dust doesn’t affect you like that.”

“Yes, miss.”

With Maizie’s help, Honey tugged the furniture out of the way and

settled before the first of many trunks that lined the darkest wall. After

leveraging one rusted clasp open, she giggled with glee. “Oh look, Maizie.

Old clothes.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Honey sat on the plain wood floor and pulled dresses and bonnets from

the trunk—silks, satins, cambric, and muslins in styles that had long since

lost favor. “They are remarkably unspoiled.”

Maizie sneezed several times, but she managed a weak, “That’s nice.”

“We need to get you out of this attic. Will you go get Frederick and Paul,

and they can take these trunks and that huge portrait downstairs? I want

to see it in a better light”

“Yes, ma’am.”

While Honey dug even deeper in one of the trunks, Frederick and Paul

appeared. “I’d like to have these trunks, this beautiful portrait, and the blue

Hepplewhite furniture taken downstairs. You can put them in the corridor

until I decide what else to do with them.”

Honey supervised the removals, prodding as much as she dared, eager

to see everything in the stark light of day and electrical lighting.

“What do we do with the portrait, ma’am?” Frederick asked.

Honey ran her fingers through a thick coating of dust. “After Maizie

dusts it, bring it and this trunk into my bedchamber. The furniture goes to

my drawing room.”

Honey paced her chamber floor, her impatience on a short tether. She’d

grown used to her aloneness, save for the presence of the servants, preferring

it to the silly chatter of women her age. She loved her books, music, and her

historical research. She often spent hours in the library, reading accounts of

battles and the lives of everyday people in different eras.

When, four years before, her parents had succumbed to influenza within

weeks of each other, she inherited a considerable sum, including the Danby

family home on Upper Brook Street in Mayfair. She adored the old pile, and

with her desire to restore it to another time, she suspected she’d landed in

the wrong century.

The old carved friezes and mammoth staircases set her imagination to

reeling. Her mother had filled the built-in curio cabinets with more treasures

than Honey could catalog. During another attic expedition, she found, and

had restored to their former glory, a collection of porcelain statuettes. She

displayed them in the parlor, on tables.

In an old trunk, she found a well-preserved white and luster gold

porcelain tea set, which held an honored place in a built-in cabinet in the

parlor. Often, in her quieter moments, she conjured parties given in the

rambling drawing room, dinners in the dining room she’d forsaken years

before, and her ancestors serving tea to London’s finest in the parlor.

At last, the two footmen brought the overlarge portrait to her.

Two more servants groaned beneath the weight of the old fusty

trunk. “Put the portrait against this wall.” She pointed to a space beside

the fireplace.

Again alone, she studied the likeness. The gallant soldier’s gaze followed

her every step as she paced before the painting that showed signs of drying,

with hair-thin cracks throughout. Several areas had blackened, as well. She

rubbed a finger through layers of dirt she dared not clean away, lest she

damage the portrait further.

Saintaubin stood at considerable height, judging from his proximity to

the desk beside him. Honey leaned in closer to view the bicorne hat with a

jaunty green plume that lay just out of Saintaubin’s reach. Expressionless,

he stared straight ahead, his left hand tucked into his uniform pocket.

She knelt before the trunk and lifted the lid on stiff un-oiled hinges. The

strong odor of mildew slapped her in the face when she settled the lid fully

open. An array of straw bonnets sat on top, each with plumes and ribbons, all

in need of replacement or chucking. She put the unprotected headwear on

the floor beside her and dug deeper amongst a number of parcels wrapped

in brown paper and bound with string.

Beneath layers of paper and heavy fabric of the largest package lay a

yellowed but magnificent ocean-blue silk gown, exquisitely embroidered

with vining green leaves and small cornflowers just above the scalloped

hem. She fingered the surprisingly pristine ivory Belgian lace at the square

low-cut neckline.

She imagined its owner wearing it to a fashionable ball, swishing about

the dance floor in the arms of a handsome soldier, perhaps. No doubt they’d

turned heads.

A trove of treasures made up the other bundles—gloves, matching

slippers, and a silk and ivory fan decorated with hundreds of seed pearls.

She fell in love with a gorgeous bandeau, much wider than the current

fashion. The two attached ivory ostrich feathers fell over her crown and

jauntily bobbed just over her brow.

With alacrity, she shed her high-neck pink silk dress with leg-o’-mutton

sleeves and bust bodice. “How different the styles.” She tossed her dress on

her bed.

Over her corset, she dropped the blue gown and modeled before the

cheval mirror. The garment fit as though made for her. In a matter of

minutes, she’d transformed herself from one century to another. Anxious

to complete the look, she donned the gloves and finally the blue kid slippers

and fan.

To her amazement, beneath the rest, she discovered a perfectly preserved

pearl-beaded reticule. Tucked inside was a neatly folded monogrammed

lace handkerchief with the initials J.S. embroidered in one corner.

“This belonged to him.” She brought it to her cheek. Perhaps Jeremy

Saintaubin carried it in his pocket and gave it to his ladylove, perhaps her

grandmother or great grandmother.

She put her record of the Bridal Veil Waltz on her gramophone and

turned the large horn toward the middle of the room. With a glance

toward the portrait, she placed her hand on the invisible shoulder of

Jeremy Saintaubin and her other in the warmth of his gloved hand.

Together, they twirled across her f loor, her room transformed into the

finest ballroom in all of London, with brightly lit crystal chandeliers,

large mirrors along the walls, an orchestra of violins seated discreetly

out of the way.

The music waned, but Honey held fast to her partner, until the needle

scratched and broke the spell. She bowed before the portrait. “Thank you,

sir, for the wonderful dance. You are so very light on your feet.”

Beneath the wrapped parcels of clothing, she found a bundle of letters

written in a neat cursive hand and addressed to Jeremy Saintaubin. Her

hands shook with excitement as she settled herself on a chaise longue, still

wearing the beautiful blue gown. She untied the faded blue ribbon and

opened the first letter, dated May 5, 1810.

 

Marquess of Galmore

Galmore Hall, Kent

My dearest love,

Though it has been but a few days, I cannot begin to express

how I miss you. At every turn, I expect you to walk into the room,

and when you don’t, I’m sadder than ever before, though your

absence is a tangle of my own making.

I do pray for your swift return. I look forward to our

conversations, and as always, I savor thoughts of your lips on my

own. As promised, when you return, I will have more to share with

you. I quiver with want of your arms around me.

Forgive me, my love, for my melancholy. I miss you so and

long to hear the rumble of carriage wheels in front of our home, the

wheels that carry you back to me.

All my love.

H.

 

You can find Her Timeless Obsession at:

Amazon

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