How about you introduce yourself by providing the basics?
My name is Jeanne Brown. I am lady’s maid to the Duchess of Bartlett.
I am Robert Townley, valet to Phillip Peartree, Duke of Bartlett.
Where were you raised?
I was born in France. My mother was the daughter of a wealthy French aristocrat, and my father was an Englishman. When I was young, we moved to England to get away from the unrest of the French revolution. We lived in the English countryside near my father’s family.
I was raised in Bartlett Manor, in Lincolnshire. My father was valet to the present duke’s father. My mother died when I was young, and the duchess allowed me to live on the estate with my father.
My father died in a farming accident when I was a teenager, and I went to work in the home of the Earl of Sudbury to help support my mother and younger brother Pierre. But the house burned down and my mother died in the fire. My brother’s body was never found, and no one knew what happened to him.
I don’t remember my mother, and I don’t have any siblings. I was raised with the present duke, but my father taught me to always remember my place.
Did you always want to be a lady’s maid?
I never really thought about it. I became a domestic servant because I had to make money, and there really aren’t many professions open to women.
Being a valet is all I know. My father and his father before him served the Peartree family.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I enjoy sewing and knitting, although my duties don’t allow much time for them. I did manage to make some clothes and blankets for the new baby.
My father took me to the boxing saloon in London when I was a teenager so that I’d learn how to defend myself from ruffians. Now I go there when I need to think, or when I need to work out my frustrations.
Describe your ideal mate.
I never imagined marrying. I always assumed I’d remain in the duke’s household all my life. But I suppose if I met someone like my father, I’d be tempted to leave. Papa was handsome and strong, and he always took time to play and read to my brother and me. Until he died, he did his best to provide for all of us. He was our hero.
I’d never thought about marrying until recently, especially with the duke and duchess expecting their first child. I grew up without a mother, so the previous duchess is the only mother figure I’ve known. Children are a legacy, and in order to have children, I need a wife. My ideal mate would be intelligent and well mannered. She wouldn’t have to be beautiful, but at least pleasant to look at. And she would need to know how to work with children, because I simply don’t have the patience for them and their endless questions.
Robert Townley prides himself as an efficient and indispensible valet to Phillip, Duke of Bartlett. But when Robert is coerced into teaching the poor children at the duchess’ chapel school, he’s out of his element. Thankfully, he has assistance from some of the other servants, including the prickly Miss Brown.
Jeanne Brown is lady’s maid to the Duchess of Bartlett. She loves working with the children but can’t abide Robert’s lofty attitude toward them. She’d love to put him in his place — but she needs her job.
When the duchess decides to hold the school’s Christmas party in her home, Robert and Jeanne must put aside their differences and work together to ensure that the holiday celebration goes off without a hitch. Will they be able to endure the partnership, or will their sparks ignite something more?
What would it be like to have a family of my own, a home where I could decide what to put where, and a husband who will give me children?
Taking one last glance around the room, she noticed a candle out of place above the mantle. Pushing one of the library ladders over to the correct wall, she mounted the bottom step.
“Miss Brown, please allow me.” Robert appeared behind her, and his nearness sent a warm glow through her.
“Oh, I’m not going very high. I just want to straighten that candle up there.”
“Then I shall hold the ladder steady for you.”
She opened her mouth to argue, but thought better of it and nodded. If not held still, the wheels on the bottom of the ladder could cause it to move. Robert put his foot on the bottom step and held on to the side rails, using his weight to hold the ladder still. She made quick work of straightening the errant candle and came back down.
Stepping backward off the bottom step, her back made contact with Robert’s chest, and she realized he still held on to the ladder. She basked in the circle of his powerful arms. “Er, thank you.”
“It was my pleasure. If the ladder had moved while you were perched on it and you were hurt, I would be devastated.” His warm breath tickled her neck, and a delicious shiver ran through her. The sensation burned in her memory long after they parted ways and she retired for the night.
Blast the man!
In a previous life, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary school students by day and changed diapers at night. Now she teaches college students part time and changes diapers only when she’s taking care of grandkids. She loves to do anything that doesn’t involve exercise. Right now her favorite activities, in addition to writing, include scrapbooking, sewing, and making music. She and her husband live in southwest Michigan, near their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.