The Seduction of Ellen

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781551668147
  • Publisher: Mira
  • Publication date: 4/1/2001
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 4.21 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Read an Excerpt



Chapter One


London, England
Early April 1899


It was growing dark when Ellen Cornelius stepped down from the hired coach before a gloomy tenement house in London's West End. Ellen gazed at the dilapidated building and inwardly shuddered. She did net want to go inside. She dreaded knocking on the door, dreaded meeting the person behind it. Nervous, doubtful, Ellen longed to climb back inside the carriage and return to the safety and comfort of the Connaught Hotel.

    She didn't dare.

    She hadn't chosen to come here. She had been sent by her indomitable aunt, aging American heiress and industrialist Alexandra Landseer.

    Alexandra, with Ellen in tow, had come to London from her Park Avenue home seeking a medical miracle. Desperate to slow the aging process, Alexandra seemed convinced that money would buy her longevity.

    "Why can't I live forever?" Alexandra had often asked with an arrogant sincerity. "I don't intend to die like everybody else. I intend to stay young and vital!"

    Now, after spending a week in a famed London clinic, Alexandra was both angered and disappointed by the results. She had been outraged when the team of noted Harley Street physicians bluntly told her that there was absolutely nothing they could do for her. She was, they pointed out in forthright terms, only mortal.

    Nor did they sugarcoat their prediction that although she seemed to be in fairly good health, she could not expect to live many more years past her present age of eighty-one.

    So now Ellen, Alexandra's only niece, had come alone across the city of London to this strange place to do her aunt's bidding. Just as always.

    Ellen would, she knew, continue to endure and acquiesce to her self-centered aunt for as long as the old woman lived. She would cater to her every whim.

    She would do it for Christopher—for her son who was now a cadet in South Carolina.

    Resigned, long ago, to her lot in life, Ellen Cornelius looked older than her thirty-six years. And felt older. Especially tonight as she stood alone and frightened in this squalid section of London. She did not even know why she'd been sent to the West End. Only that she was to instruct the tenant in #203 to contact Alexandra Landseer at the Connaught Hotel in Mayfair as soon as possible.

    Ellen summoned up her courage, stepped smartly up the weed-choked front walk and entered the building. It was dim and foreboding inside. The light was inadequate and as she looked up the shadowy stairway, Ellen felt the fine hair rise on the back of her neck. She clamped her teeth together, forced herself to climb the rickety stairs and, squinting, soon located the correct room.

    Her heart in her throat, she lifted a hand and knocked. She waited, listening for sounds of movement inside. She heard nothing. Seconds passed. Ellen knocked again, more forcefully this time. Still no answer. Apparently no one was in. Beginning to relax, Ellen tried one last time.

    Secretly delighted that no one was home, she hurriedly skipped back down the stairs and out into the deepening dusk. Once in the carriage she instructed the driver to return her directly to the Connaught and then she settled comfortably against the plush leather seat, relieved that one more unpleasant task was behind her.

    Halfway to the hotel, the coach slowed as it passed a noisy street fair. Ellen's green eyes began to glow slightly as she watched the gaily colored lights and the crowds of people and the shouting pitchmen hawking their games and wares. On a lark, she behaved impulsively, uncharacteristically. She decided to seize the opportunity to stay away from the Connaught—and her demanding aunt—for at least another hour.

    "Driver," she called out excitedly. "Please stop the carriage. I ... I am going to visit the fair!"

    The coach stopped quickly and the smiling, ruddy-faced driver helped Ellen down.

    "You will wait for me?" she asked.

    "Why, I certainly will. Stay as long as you want, madam," he said, then eagerly confided. "I took my wife to this very fair last night and she had such a good time she's still in high spirits." He winked at Ellen and grinned.

    Ellen smiled back at him and replied, "Perhaps it will sweeten my mood."

    "Guaranteed," he assured her.

    Nodding, feeling uncommonly buoyant, Ellen turned away and hurried toward the bustling fair to join the milling crowds.

    The night was mild and the slight breeze that touched Ellen's face and lifted wisps of her chestnut hair was pleasantly warm. She was glad she hadn't brought a wrap as Alexandra had instructed.

    Ellen found herself smiling as she made her way in and out of groups of starry-eyed children clinging tenaciously to strings supporting high-flying balloons. Her smile broadened when she noticed a trio of pretty girls, giggling and sticking their tongues out to taste the huge pink balls of cotton candy they carried. Ellen noted that the girls were well aware of a group of admiring young men following them at a distance, the bashful boys elbowing each other and laughing and blushing.

    Young and old were obviously enjoying themselves and their happiness was contagious—soon Ellen realized that she, too, was having a good time. As she strolled leisurely past the many booths, a palm reader's tent caught her eye and her interest.

    Ellen had never in her life visited a fortune-teller. A little shiver of excitement skipped up her spine as she took a couple of decisive steps forward, pulled back the heavy scarlet curtain and stepped inside. Immediately feeling anxious and wishing she had not been so adventurous, she nonetheless took a seat ha the shadows directly across from a turbaned old crone.

    For a long tense moment the bony, wrinkle-faced woman stared at Ellen, making her extremely uncomfortable. Then the soothsayer took Ellen's right hand in her own and studied it carefully. When she finally looked up, there was an odd expression on her face.

    She made a strange prediction.

    Her voice gravelly and coming from deep inside her narrow chest, the fortune-teller said, "I see a pretty young woman with glossy chestnut hair, flawless fair skin and large eyes that shine with excitement and anticipation. Green eyes they are. Vivid emerald eyes that sparkle with fire and mischief." The old woman paused and gazed unblinkingly at Ellen, then told her, "This emerald-eyed woman is soon to meet a man of great mystery and charm. A dark stranger who sees into her secret heart. A tall, spare man with lustrous coal-black hair and dark liquid eyes who will put the bloom of the rose back into her pale cheeks and—"

    "No, wait. That's enough. Stop," Ellen interrupted, swiftly withdrawing her hand and waving it

(Continues...)

The Heart Too Long Suppressed
A Chronicle of Mental Illness


By Carol Hebald

Northeastern University Press

Copyright © 2001 Carol Hebald. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    amusing historical romance that never decides between satire or serious work

    In 1899, divorcee Ellen Cornelius accompanies her octogenarian Aunt Augusta to London. The wealthy, crusty senior citizen seeks an elixir that will allow her to live forever. In England, the two Americans meet medicine salesman Steve Cory and his associate Padjan, allegedly an Anazasi. <P>Steve and Padjan agree to escort Augusta to the latter¿s Indian village where they insist a fountain of youth can be found. Ellen believes Steve and his cohort are clever con artists, shilling her aunt. However, the quartet travels to and across America. On the journey, Steve begins THE SEDUCTION OF ELLEN and soon they make love several times during the trek in places that will hurt the back. Still, though attracted to him, she hates him for what he is doing to her aunt and to her. <P>THE SEDUCTION OF ELLEN is an amusing historical romance that never decides whether to be a satire or a serious work. The story line succeeds when the plot winks at the sub-genre and Nan Ryan¿s previous novels, but ironically falls short when the tale turns serious as with the graphic sex scenes. A key secondary plot never ties back to the main theme leaving the audience wondering why Ellen¿s visit to the Citadel is included. Though often humorous, award winning Nan Ryan¿s latest novel is not at the level expected from this superstar. <P>Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2001

    Charming and heartwarming story

    This is the first book I have read by Nan Ryan and I am looking forward to her other books. She has a wonderful style of writing and her characters were beautifully realized. This is a keeper and very sensual too.

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