In 1895, the height of the Gilded Age, the social elite spend their summers in Newport, Rhode Island. Within the walls of their fabulous “cottages,” competition for superiority is ruthless...and so are the players.
During her first Newport season, Deanna Randolph attends a ball given in honor of Lord David Manchester, a Barbadian sugar magnate, and his sister, Madeline. The Manchesters are an immediate success—along with their exotic manservant and his fortune-telling talents.
But on the nearby cliffs, a young maid lies dead—and suspicion falls on Joseph Ballard, a member of one of the town’s most prestigious families.
Joe humiliated Deanna when he rebuffed an engagement to her, but while he may be a cad, she knows he isn’t a killer. Now the reluctant allies must navigate a world of parties, tennis matches, and séances to find the real murderer. But a misstep among the glittering upper classes could leave them exposed to something far more dangerous than malicious gossip...
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NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND
Deanna Randolph eased away from the hairbrush that was scraping her scalp.
“Miss Deanna, would you please hold still? Everyone will be ready to go and you’ll still be sitting here.”
Deanna glanced up and smiled at the mirror image of her maid, Elspeth. The filigree that surrounded her dressing-table mirror framed them like a portrait. The seated figure, dark hair piled up on her head and clothed in a white dressing sacque, dark eyes peering out at the painter. The smaller figure standing behind, barely a head taller even with her mistress seated. Her fair complexion, made even rosier by the gaslight of the bedroom, almost luminescent above the black and white that was her daily uniform.
Deanna would like to paint them just this way. Not in the style of the Pre-Raphaelites, with their vibrant colors and play of dramatic lighting. And not like the pen-and-ink covers of the dime novels featured in the windows of the Bellevue Avenue newsstand. Something less defined, their figures softened and made slightly hazy by the gaslight, like the brushstrokes of the Impressionists.
But all she was ever given were pears and vases and landscapes to dutifully reproduce.
Oh, to be like Mary Cassatt, painting and living in Paris. Or Nellie Bly, traveling around the world. Or even Kate Goelet, the dashing lady detective of the dime novels she and Elspeth secretly read each night as Deanna got ready for bed.
“Sorry,” Deanna said, falling back to earth. She was eighteen and about to make her second coming-out, the first in New York, and now tonight in Newport for the summer season. She glanced over her shoulder at Elspeth, only twenty-two but already in service for ten years, the last two as Deanna’s maid.
They would both be going to the ball at Seacrest tonight, Elspeth to sit at the ready to answer Deanna’s every little need and Deanna to impress the elite of Newport. She straightened her back and felt nerves flutter in her throat.
Elspeth tapped the brush on Deanna’s shoulder. “You’ll want to make a good impression tonight. So, hold still.” She paused, the brush raised over Deanna’s head. Maid Slaying Her Mistress with Hairbrush.
“And if you’re worrying about seeing Mr. Joseph tonight, don’t be. Orrin says he never attends any social events.”
“Ugh.” Deanna slumped again. “I wasn’t thinking about Joe at all. Not until you reminded me.”
“I’m sure no one will remember anything of what happened.” Elspeth tugged Deanna’s shoulders back.
“You mean that I was jilted before I was even proposed to?”
“I know. Your brother thinks Joe is a paragon of modern society. Sometimes I’m sorry I suggested Joe take him on as an apprentice.”
That was before Joseph Ballard had shocked her, their families, and all of Newport at the end of last season by announcing that he wouldn’t be returning to New York but planned to remain in Newport year-round to work on his inventions. To add insult to injury, he was living and working in an old warehouse he’d rented in the working class Fifth Ward, when he had a perfectly good mansion on Bellevue Avenue.
“Oh, miss, you don’t mean that.”
“No, of course I don’t.” Deanna sighed and pushed at a curl that had sprung from her fringe of bangs. Stupid things, bangs. “I’m sure Joe is a perfect master. Now, let’s not talk about him anymore.”
Elspeth returned the brush to the dressing table, lifted a strand of pearls and tiny white flowers, and pinned them to the knot of hair that crowned Deanna’s coiffure. Deanna hardly flinched when the pins scratched her scalp. It wasn’t that Elspeth was ham-handed; she was quite gentle. It was just fashion that wasn’t comfortable. No wonder Deanna’s sister, Adelaide, was always succumbing to the migraine.
“I don’t know why they’re having a ball at Seacrest tonight. They say that Mr. Woodruff has been acting right strange ever since he came back from that heathen place.”
“Barbados isn’t heathen,” Deanna said. “At least, I don’t think it is. And Cassie says her father always gets seasick.”
Elspeth harrumphed. “Seasick? He’s been back on land for almost a week and he’s not getting any better. Daisy, she’s chamber maid over there, says one minute he’s all energetic and the next he looks like he’s gonna kick it. She’s had to light a fire in his bedroom every morning. I just hope he didn’t bring home some unheard-of disease and give it to the whole household just so he can show off those guests of his.”
“I’m sure Lord David Manchester is no heathen and is perfectly healthy, even if he does live in Barbados.”
“Hmmph. They say he has a valet as black as the night and seven feet tall, who can pull coins out of thin air, but if you get in his way, he puts a curse on you.”
“Sounds like a carney trick, if you ask me,” Deanna said.
Elspeth shrugged. “Maybe. Or maybe it’s really black magic.”
“I think black magic only happens in novels, Elspeth.”
“Maybe.” Elspeth added another tiny spray of flowers to Deanna’s hair.
“Are you finished?”
“Almost. They say that Lady Madeline—she’s Lord David’s sister—didn’t even bring a lady’s maid. Said her maid was afraid to get on the boat. Well, I don’t blame her. My ma came on a boat from Ireland, said she nearly died. Anyways, Mrs. Woodruff offered her the use of her own maid, but that Lady Madeline points to Daisy, who was filling the water ewer in her bedroom, and says, ‘That one.’ Now Daisy is a chambermaid and a lady’s maid, and she only came over from Ireland a year ago. What do you think about that?”
“I think Daisy is going to be very tired before the Manchesters leave for home.”
“Well, I say, good for her.”
“So do I.”
Elspeth stepped back to regard her handiwork. “All done. You look like a princess.” She helped Deanna out of her dressing sacque and disappeared into the next room.
Deanna stood before the full-length mirror wondering if she would be a success tonight or if people would whisper about her because she’d been jilted. But when Elspeth returned carrying Deanna’s ball gown high above her head, she forgot about Joe, and what people would think, and even about Kate Goelet and her detectival adventures.
The dress was unbelievably beautiful, with the lightest jonquil bodice, trimmed in Valenciennes lace, and tapering to a fitted waist before flaring out in soft flounces of gold-embroidered gauze. Mama had spent time and money to ensure Deanna’s success at her first Newport ball. Now it was up to Deanna to do her part.
She held on to Elspeth’s shoulders for balance and stepped into her dress, then stood patiently while Elspeth closed the row of tiny buttons down the back of the bodice and shook out the flounces that trailed down the back of the skirt.
“There now, you’re as pretty as a peach. You’ll turn heads tonight, miss.”
“Wonderful, just what I need.” How could she feel excited and depressed at the same time? She was a minnow—no, a goldfish—swimming with the sharks. Smiling, bejeweled, and beautiful sharks, but deadly all the same. She might not have been out very long, but Deanna knew what was what.
“I don’t mean the old snouts. If one of them looks at you funny, you just out-grand them.”
Deanna nodded, but it was easier said than done.
“I meant the gentlemen what will be there tonight. And one gentleman in particular.”
Deanna shivered, even though the room was oppressively close. “Not Joe.”
“Not him, though I’m sure he’s kicking himself for how he acted. I meant Lord David. Everyone says he is very charming—and handsome and rich—” Elspeth gave her a saucy smile. “And single. I bet he’ll only have eyes for you.”
There was a quiet tap at the door followed by the entrance of a diminutive parlor maid. “Miss, you’re wanted downstairs.”
Deanna sucked in her breath and pulled on her gloves. She waited impatiently for Elspeth to do up the buttons, took her fan and evening bag from the dressing table, and paused long enough for Elspeth to stand on tiptoe to give her headdress a final check.
“Oh, miss, you look beautiful,” the parlor maid said before she stepped back to let Deanna pass through the doorway.
Elspeth draped Deanna’s evening cape over her shoulders and followed her out of the room. “You’ll do us all proud, Miss Deanna.”
“Yes, I will.” If she couldn’t be a painter or catch villains, at least she could marry well. She’d have to be content reading about someone else’s adventures. “Tell me again what you’ve heard about this Lord David Manchester.”
They were waiting for her in the foyer: Mama, Papa, and her older sister, Adelaide. Her father looked grumpy, an expression he’d been wearing too much lately. He was overworked, poor dear, and he had never quite regained his vigor in the three years since her brother, Robert, had died during the influenza outbreak at Yale. That was why Adelaide was engaged to marry Charles Woodruff, to consolidate the two families’ R and W Sugar Refineries, now that Bob was dead.
Deanna kissed her father’s cheek and breathed in the lingering aroma of his pipe tobacco. That did more than anything to calm her nerves.
Her mother gave her an appraising look and nodded. She herself was dressed in deep green Chantilly lace with large puff sleeves and a diamond parure, and beside her, Adelaide was a vision in pastel pink. Her sister looked beautiful and very self-assured, and Deanna felt a tiny spark of envy. Adelaide had been out for three years and engaged for one. Deanna had only been out for six months; she was still feeling her way.
“Girls,” her mother said. She didn’t need to say more. The one word contained a lifetime of advice, commands, expectations, and warnings of how to behave. She turned, paused long enough for the footman, who had been staring unabashedly at Adelaide, to rush to open the door, then swept out of the house.
Adelaide followed immediately after. Her father gave Deanna a reassuring smile, offered her his arm, and the two of them went out together.
“Heavens, it’s close tonight,” Mrs. Randolph said as soon as they had all taken their places in the carriage. “Let’s just hope it doesn’t come on to pour before we arrive.”
The sky was indeed overcast, the moon a vague halo behind the clouds. There was no breeze, and both the night and the carriage were dark and oppressive. Deanna could hardly make out her family in the shadowed depths of their seats as the carriage started out, moving slowly and stately down the street.
Deanna reached to open a window.
“Your gloves,” her mother said. Deanna drew her hand away from the window.
“Deanna, please sit still,” Adelaide said languidly. “You’re mussing my skirts.”
Deanna sat back. Beside her, Adelaide sat perfectly still. She could stay that way for hours. Nothing perturbed her. Deanna, on the other hand, tumbled from excitement to dread with each sway of the carriage.
“You know, my dear,” her mother continued, “just because you had a successful New York season doesn’t mean you will take in Newport. There are different requirements of a young lady here.” She sighed heavily. “Especially after that embarrassing incident with Joseph Ballard last summer. I don’t know how your father and Lionel Ballard could make such a muddle of something so simple. You’ll just have to brave it out if the subject comes up.”
Deanna concentrated on sitting still while her mind raced with all the instructions she must remember at the ball. All too soon, the carriage took its place in the long line of conveyances slowly progressing up the horseshoe drive to Seacrest, the Woodruff family’s summer cottage.
Her mother gave her a penetrating look. “Remember that you are a lady born and bred, Deanna.”
“Yes, Mama. I won’t forget.” How could she? Her mother had been molding both her daughters for as long as Deanna could remember. And over the last winter, she’d been well and truly finished. She was eager to take her place in society. Still, she’d miss leaving her girlhood behind. No more sneaking off to run down to the sea or swinging in the tire swing her brother, Bob, and Joe Ballard had made in the garden of Bonheur, the Ballards’ cottage on Bellevue Avenue. No more lying in the grass watching the clouds pass or naming the constellations in the night sky.
She’d not been able to visit even one of her old haunts since arriving in Newport last week. There hadn’t been a minute that wasn’t filled with shopping, fittings, visiting, and afternoon drives. It was a different life; she’d looked forward to it, but now she wasn’t certain she was going to like it.
Her mother stirred the air with a plumed ivory fan. “Seacrest is always stifling. Deanna, make sure you are breathing properly. And if you get overheated in a dance, retire immediately to the ladies withdrawing room and send for your maid before you start to perspire.”
“I know, Mama.”
A snort came from the corner of the carriage where her father sat.
“George, this is her first big night in Newport. It’s a mother’s duty to remind her of every little thing. Newport is not New York. And one little misstep here—”
“Oh, leave off, Jeannette. You’ll make her so nervous that she’ll fall out of the carriage, trip up the stairs, and knock over a tray of champagne.”
“I won’t, Papa.”
“Of course you won’t.” He leaned forward to pat her knee. “And even if you did, you would carry it off with such panache, no one would dare snub you.”
“Don’t you dare,” said Adelaide in her perfectly modulated voice.
Deanna glanced at her sister. Adelaide would never expend the energy to fall up the steps or knock over a tray of champagne. Sometimes Deanna was amazed she could stand upright.
The air in the carriage ruffled as her mother made use of her fan. “I wonder how many people are invited? Seacrest won’t accommodate a large number of guests, no more than two hundred at the most. Francis and Eleanor should have heeded our advice and used Hunt instead of this American architect no one has ever heard of.”
The carriage inched ahead.
“I don’t know what Lord David will think of us, with us missing dinner.”
“I’m sure Francis will explain that the ferry was late. No doubt there will be other late arrivals.”
“And Lionel not even bothering to make an appearance to the man’s introduction to Newport society.”
“As I explained to you, my dear, Ballard had business issues that couldn’t wait.”
“Ah, business,” she said, dismissing the idea with a wave of her fan.
“Keeps you and the girls in finery, and I must say the three of you are looking exquisite tonight.”
Deanna shot a smile across to her father. Her? Exquisite?
Mrs. Randolph nodded slightly and returned her attention to Deanna. “Lord David is the owner of a huge sugar plantation in Barbados, and from what I hear very handsome—and eligible. And a peer. I expect you to be on your best behavior tonight, Deanna, and please, please try not to scare this one away.”
“But I—” A look from her mother hushed Deanna’s tongue. She hadn’t scared Joseph Ballard away, had she? It had all happened so suddenly. The families had decided the two of them would marry, and before Deanna had even assimilated the news, Joe had bolted. An unladylike word, but there it was.
It wasn’t even as if she’d loved Joe. Or he, her. They had practically grown up together. When Bob died, Joe became a surrogate big brother. He’d always been solicitous to Adelaide, who was just four years younger than he, but Adelaide never wanted to do anything fun or interesting or energetic.
Joe called her Adelaide the Limpid.
Deanna, on the other hand, according to Joe, was a handful. He could be bossy and a little overprotective, like an older brother, but he could also be fun.
She erased the slight smile from her face. She wasn’t going to think about Joe tonight.
The carriage moved forward and finally came to a stop at the front steps of Seacrest. The door was opened by a liveried footman, and a ripple of anticipation danced up Deanna’s spine.
Jeannette Randolph looked quickly across at her daughters.
“Adelaide, pinch your cheeks. You’re looking positively peaked.”
Adelaide pinched her cheeks, and they all descended.
Deanna didn’t fall out of the carriage or trip up the steps, but she did stop to take it all in. Deanna and Cassandra Woodruff were great friends, and she’d been to Seacrest hundreds of times. It was one of the many new “cottages” that lined Bellevue Avenue. Not as monumental as Marble House or Chateau-sur-Mer, not nearly as big as the new Vanderbilt “cottage,” The Breakers, which had just been completed in time for the summer season.
Seacrest was a sprawling confection of towers and turrets and fairy-tale details with wonderful places to play hide-and-seek. The Woodruffs held extravagant parties that Deanna and Cassie had spied on from the oriel window above the ballroom. But tonight was the first time she’d actually been invited to one.
Every window was ablaze with light. The Woodruffs had installed electricity throughout the house last year, and the lights were so much brighter than the gaslight they still used at Randolph House. Gaslight was softer but harder to see by; her father so far had refused to install the new lighting.
Deanna had to admit there was something garish about all that brightness. It took the mystery out of the façade: flattened out the scrollwork until it looked almost like a painting instead of intricately carved detail; and turned the turrets, belvederes, and gabled eaves into hard geometric shapes.
Her mother paused on the landing, looked down the sweeping steps, and cleared her throat. Deanna collected herself, lifted her skirt gracefully in one hand, and climbed the steps without mishap.
They stopped in the foyer, where backlit stained glass windows rained particles of color on the visitors as they entered. The majordomo showed them through to the ballroom as if none of them had been in the house before. Even Deanna had danced there, but only in the daylight, when Cassie and she would sneak in and twirl to the music in their heads until Cassie’s governess found them and shooed them back to the schoolroom.
Tonight it had been transformed. The three giant chandeliers shone brilliantly overhead. Each crystal had been washed and dried and replaced by gloved hands, and they sparkled like diamonds. Wall sconces shot cones of electric light against the new “japonesque” wallpaper that Mrs. Woodruff had commissioned for the occasion. Chaises and chairs were placed for convenience around the dance floor.
The ballroom was already filling with people, the women’s colorful dresses standing out among the gentlemen’s dark evening wear as if bits of light from the foyer had followed them inside. Music floated down from the hidden orchestra alcove above their heads and filled the room with the latest tune.
The Randolphs made their way to their hosts, who were standing near the entrance to the ballroom. Mrs. Woodruff was wearing a gold-and-orange brocade evening gown with a ruffled scooped neck that showed off her ample bosom. A tiara of diamonds and amethysts was nearly buried in the curls of her coiffure. A diamond choker circled her rather plump neck and a corsage of pale lavender orchids embellished her left shoulder.
She was dressed lavishly but none too tastefully, and Deanna knew her mother would not approve. Mostly, her mother disapproved of Eleanor Woodruff because her wealthy silver-mining family, though rich in money, was poor in pedigree. Deanna thought that what Mrs. Woodruff lacked in taste and refinement, she more than made up for in generosity and good humor.
Fortunately, her mother had to put up with Mrs. Woodruff, because Francis Woodruff not only was a partner in R and W Sugar, but came from a family with both a staggering fortune and an impeccable pedigree. And why she’d allowed Adelaide to become engaged to Charles.
“Don’t you look lovely tonight,” Mrs. Woodruff said when it was Deanna’s turn to be presented. “Cassie is somewhere around here. She’s been looking for you all evening.” She practically winked at Deanna. “Won’t it be nice to be down here among the grown folks rather than peeking through the oriel?”
Deanna unconsciously glanced up at the peep window where she and Cassie had sat, heads together as they’d watched the dancers waltzing below. Mrs. Woodruff smiled and turned her attention to her next guest.
“And who is this beauty?” Mr. Woodruff took Deanna’s hands in his. Always a slight, lean man, tonight he looked positively frail. There were dark circles under his eyes. But his eyes were bright and his smile was genuine, and Deanna forced a smile to her lips.
“How do you do?”
“Just fine, my dear, just fine.”
“There you are.” Cassie Woodruff, swathed in layers of light rose taffeta, appeared out of the crowd. She was glowing with excitement, her cheeks flushed to the same lovely color as her dress. “I’ve been waiting ages. I want to introduce you to Lord David and his sister, Lady Madeline. She’s gorgeous and so much fun. You’re going to love them.”
She took Deanna’s hand and began leading her across the room, so close to the swirling dancers that Deanna felt dizzy. She quickly looked around to make sure her mother wasn’t watching.
“Cassie, slow down.”
“Oh.” Cassie dropped her hand. “Sorry. I forgot this was your impression night.”
“Yes. And don’t pretend you’re so old and jaded just because your parents brought you out a year ahead of me.”
“Yes, and still an old maid,” Cassie said. “Though Lord David is definitely delectable.”
“Cassie . . .” Deanna began, but she couldn’t chastise her friend for not taking Deanna’s first Newport appearance seriously. Cassie loved parties, and she was naturally vivacious and high-spirited, sometimes embarrassingly so.
“There they are, over by the fireplace.”
Deanna looked toward the far end of the ballroom, where a giant spray of peacock feathers screened the fireplace, lending an Egyptian feel to the gabled and gilded overmantel. The dance ended, and the crowd separated to the sides of the room, leaving them a full view of the sugar baron and his sister. But Deanna hardly noticed him. Standing at his right side was Joseph Ballard. He caught her eye, quickly excused himself, and walked swiftly into the crowd and out of sight.
Mortified, Deanna stood frozen for a full ten seconds, while heat flooded her face. What was wrong with her that Joe would be so anxious to avoid her? And why was he even here? So much for what Orrin said. She would make Elspeth promise to never use the words “Orrin says” ever again.
Deanna dragged her gaze from the empty spot next to Lord David and turned to Cassie.
“Why didn’t you tell me he was going to be here?”
“Lord David? It’s a party in his honor.”
“I meant Joe.”
“Joe? Is he here?”
“He was standing right next to your guest of honor. Didn’t you see him?”
Cassie giggled. “No. I didn’t even know he was invited. Shall we snub him all evening?”
Deanna shook her head. “I don’t think that will be necessary.” From the way he’d reacted to seeing her, she didn’t think she had to worry about running into him again. How had she gone from friend to pariah so quickly? She wished their families had never cooked up that marriage scheme. It had ruined everything.
“Well, forget him and come meet our guests.”
Deanna made a concerted effort not to glance around for Joe as Cassie guided her across the floor to Lord David and Lady Madeline. She forgot Joe the instant Lord David saw them and turned his smile on her. He was tall and thin with dark blond hair “kissed by the sun,” probably from overseeing his plantation. A full mustache and a sparkle in his eye made him look slightly roguish, like the hero of one of her dime novels.
And more handsome than Joe, who was dark and clean-shaven, though maybe just a tad taller than Lord David. And a tiny bit more muscular. And he had looked very distinguished in a crisp white shirt and black formal attire.
Not that she cared how Joe looked.
“Lord David, Lady Madeline,” Cassie began a little breathlessly, “may I make my friend known to you?”
Deanna curtseyed to Lord David, then turned to his sister. “Lady Madeline.”
“Do call me Maddie. I can tell we’re going to be great friends.” Madeline Manchester was as beautiful as her brother was handsome, with even lighter hair and the same sparkling blue eyes fringed in dark lashes. Her gown was a rich azure, trimmed in pointed lace that accentuated her tiny waist, and had a décolleté that hinted at, but didn’t quite show, high, firm breasts.
Madeline was so bubbly yet so decorously assured that Deanna knew she would be an instant success in Newport, even with the more exacting ladies.
As well as the envy of every girl in the room.
Cassie was enchanted with both guests, though Deanna found the sister the more captivating of the two. So much so, that she was startled when Lord David asked her to dance. Recollecting herself, she curtseyed and let him guide her onto the dance floor.
Joe Ballard stood in a shadowed alcove and watched Lord David lead Deanna Randolph onto the dance floor.
Of all the rotten luck. He’d been so intent on getting entrée to the Manchesters, he’d forgotten that Deanna had made her coming-out over the winter and would most likely be here, too.
“That was very unmanly of you. Not to mention rude.”
“Grandmère.” Joe turned quickly to encounter his grandmother.
Gwendolyn Henriette Laguerre Manon was a much smaller woman than her name implied. Joe had heard one of his father’s friends say she was like Queen Victoria, but with twinkle. “My mother-in-law may look like that old prune,” his father remarked, “but she has the spirit of a French—” He’d broken off immediately, remembering Joe was in the room, but Joe knew just what he’d meant.
Grandmère had a fire for living and had exercised that fire in more than one affaire de coeur. Even now, she held sway over men who should know better. She had a distaste of the boring, anger at injustice, and wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. Which evidently she was planning to do at the moment.
Joe bowed over her proffered hand.
“Joseph, was that really necessary?”
He looked up over their linked fingers. His grandmother’s deceptively mild gray eyes flashed for an instant before she smiled. He didn’t trust that smile; he hadn’t missed her brief look of censure.
“I suppose you’re talking about Deanna.”
“I didn’t expect to see her,” he said. “If that’s what you mean.”
“And what else would I mean?” She tapped his hand with her fan.
Joe was sure it looked like a playful act from a distance. But his skin felt the sting of her displeasure.
“Did you mean to give her the cut direct?”
“I did not.”
“Well, that’s what it looked like to me, if I didn’t know you better. But other people might not be so astute. You could easily wreck her season by treating her like she has the plague.”
“I would never do that.”
“Then ask her to dance; stop all those malicious tongues before they start wagging—and stop skulking around the fringes of the ballroom like one of Allan Pinkerton’s spies.”
Joe flinched. “They’re detectives, not spies. And I’m not skulking, Grandmère.”
“And you can stop mooning over that girl from Barbados.”
“I was not mooning. I was being polite.”
His grandmother sniffed. “In my day we called it something else.”
Joe gritted his teeth. Oh, he was making up to Madeline Manchester all right—and to the brother, too—but not for the reasons his grandmother imagined.
The telegram folded into the inner pocket of his jacket was his sole reason for being here. A request from his father that Joe go to the ball in his stead and make sure none of the guests trundled Lord David away to undercut his deal with R and W.
Joe knew it was a volatile time in the sugar trade. And that R and W, in which his father was a silent partner, needed the deal with the Manchester sugar plantation in order to stay in business. Joe knew his father was worried and wondering why the sugar baron and his sister had been in town for almost a week but had yet to venture into Manhattan to finalize the deal. Every minute’s delay was a chance for someone to usurp R and W’s claim on Lord David’s raw sugar.
But it was clear Lord David intended to enjoy himself tonight. He’d been unimpressed when Joe introduced himself as envoy from R and W. He hardly had a word all evening for anything except his own pleasure.
“Stop avoiding Deanna Randolph,” his grandmother repeated. “You don’t have to marry the girl, but at least be civil.”
Fortunately, Bernie Ainsworth approached them and bowed formally over Gwendolyn’s hand. “You promised me a dance.”
Years were shed in a second as his grandmother took Ainsworth’s proffered arm. “I’ll probably bust a gusset.”
“Nonsense,” he answered. “You’ll put them all to shame.”
She’ll cause tongues to wag as usual, thought Joe, but at least it stopped hers from wagging at him.
Deanna was still dizzy from twirling and excitement when Lord David led her off the ballroom floor. He was an excellent partner, and she’d acquitted herself well.
She barely had time to catch her breath before Mr. Woodruff came over to introduce her to another young man, who accompanied her back to the floor and an extended quadrille.
Next came a schottische with Herbert Stanhope, a nice young man with a shock of red hair and a ready laugh. His father was one of the Boston Stanhopes; his mother was related to Henry Havemeyer, whose Sugar Trust was R and W’s arch competitor.
Luckily, Herbert didn’t seem to be interested in sugar at all. He was entertaining and funny and didn’t take anything quite seriously. He was an enthusiastic dancer and kept her laughing through the entire song. When they finished, he offered to bring her some lemonade.
She met Cassie near the fireplace.
“Whew, it’s hot,” Cassie said, and fanned herself with the back of her hand.
“Maybe we should go up and be tidied,” Deanna suggested.
“And chance missing the fun? Not me. I wonder where Maddie is. Do you see her?”
Deanna looked around the ballroom, but there must be two hundred people milling about. It was impossible to find anyone.
Herbert returned with her lemonade and entertained them with nonsense until the orchestra struck up again.
“Excuse me, ladies. I believe I have this dance with Lady Madeline.” He hurried away.
He made a beeline across the floor, and soon they saw him swirling around the floor with Lady Madeline in his arms. Deanna also saw Charles and his father standing side by side, both watching the couple. Charles was smiling. His father said something to him, and Charles stopped smiling, bowed slightly to his father, and walked away.
Now, what was that about? Deanna wondered.
Joe spent the next half hour cooling his heels, waiting for a chance to dance with Deanna in order to please his grandmother and Newport society. But the one time he attempted to approach Deanna, she latched onto Herbert Stanhope like he was the crown prince. Nor was Lady Madeline ever without a partner, including Mr. Woodruff, who should have left her for younger men. Lord David was constantly dancing or holding court with the other young blades about town. The one time Joe had approached Charles, his father had trundled him off to dance with a neglected young woman.
It was obvious he would learn nothing tonight. This had been a waste of time. The ballroom was stifling hot, and he could get nowhere near the Manchesters. He would just quietly take his leave. He skirted the dancing couples, bowing and smiling but never stopping long enough for anyone to introduce him to some poor girl who needed a partner.
Once in the foyer, he nodded to the butler and strode out the front door before remembering that he’d arrived in a borrowed carriage. He’d be walking back to his rooms in the warehouse tonight.
He walked down the drive, past carriages and dozing coachmen. As soon as he passed the front gates, he loosened his tie and pulled it from his neck. Not only had the evening been wasted, he’d irritated his grandmother and hurt Deanna’s feelings. He’d seen it in her face before he’d turned his back on her.
For a moment he hesitated, deliberating whether to turn back and undo his bad manners, then looked at the tie in his hand. No. He’d go apologize tomorrow.
Besides, what he had to say could not be said in the middle of a crowded dance floor. He would explain that what had happened at the end of last season had had nothing to do with her. He’d just have to be on his guard not to say too much. None of this was her fault.
Joe set off down the street. He’d promised Bob that he’d watch over both the girls, though he hadn’t really believed that the flu would carry him away. Adelaide didn’t need much watching over; she was the most beautiful, most lethargic creature he’d ever known. But Deanna . . .
It was hard to believe the sisters were from the same family. Deanna was curious, vivacious, intrepid, smart. He’d been enchanted with her from the first time Bob had brought him home on holiday from Exeter, when they were both fourteen. She had just turned seven and was such a brat.
At ten, Adelaide already took her entry into society seriously, garnering the most attention from her mother, like any promising student would do. Deanna was left to the nursery and the care of her governess, who spent more time looking for the adventurous little sprite than actually teaching her anything. Deanna and Bob had a special rapport. Being an only child, Joe envied them.
Now Bob was dead.
Joe yanked the top button away from his throat and halted momentarily, as ahead of him a gate in the wall that surrounded Seacrest opened and a dark figure slipped through to the street.
One of the maids sneaking out during an event this size? She was sure to be sacked if she was caught. The girl hesitated, looked furtively around, first left, then right in his direction. And in that brief moment, he recognized her. It was Daisy, one of the Woodruff maids, his apprentice Orrin’s sweetheart.
Daisy let out a squeak and cowered back into the shadows.
“It’s Joe Ballard, Daisy. What are you doing out here? And at this time of night?”
“Oh, Mr. Ballard, you about scared me witless.” She took a couple of quick breaths and stood still, wringing her hands while Joe closed the distance between them.
“What’s the matter, Daisy? Surely, Mrs. Woodruff didn’t send you out on an errand this late?”
She shook her head. “No, Mr. Ballard. I need to talk to Orrin.”
“At this hour?”
“It’s—it’s important. Awful important.”
Oh Lord. Joe hoped to hell Orrin hadn’t gotten her in the family way. “Is it something that can wait until the morning, Daisy? It really isn’t safe to be out on your own.” Especially if she were planning to walk to the Fifth Ward, the denizen of working class families and angry Irish men who after too many beers spoiled for a fight and would think nothing of having their way with an unprotected young girl.
“I know Mr. Ballard, but there’s something I—something that—” She choked back a sob.
Joe touched her arm. “There now, Daisy. It can’t be so bad. Can’t you tell me?”
“It’s—I don’t know. You won’t—please let me—”
She was cut off by raucous laughter coming toward them. Two young bucks leaving the party early, as Joe had done. Probably seeking more exciting entertainment.
Daisy shrank back into the shadows. Joe stepped in front of her.
The men slowed down. “Is that Joe Ballard?”
Joe recognized them as Cokey Featheringham, a dissolute younger son of a steel-mill baron, and his equally dissolute cousin Nathaniel.
Cokey stuck his neck out of his evening wear like a turtle out of its shell. “I do believe it is. What’cha doing lurking in the shadows, Joe, my boy?” He attempted to peer around Joe’s shoulder and nearly fell over. “Ah. I see. Not ’nuff ladies in the ballroom for you?” He laughed. “Oh, that’s right, heard you were taking up with the common folk down in the Fifth Ward.”
Nathaniel grabbed Cokey’s shoulder and pulled him away. “Sorry, Ballard. Didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“S’what happens when men start fraternizing with the ‘footies,’ meeting the help on dark street corners. Think he’ll take her up against the wall?”
“Shut up, Cokey,” Nathaniel said.
“No, no. If Joe here doesn’t treat you right, just tell Cokey. I’ll show you a good time.”
They staggered off.
Joe turned back to Daisy. “Sorry about them. A couple of drunks with no manners and half a brain between them. And you stay away from both of them.”
Daisy stepped away from the wall. “I know the likes of them. But they should’na talked to you like that, Mr. Ballard.”
“They shouldn’t have talked about either of us that way, Daisy. Pay them no mind. Now go back inside. And don’t walk out by yourself again. I’ll send Orrin down in the morning.”
“Mr. Ballard . . . ?” She bit her lip. “No. I’d best be getting back, I have to lay the fire for Mr. Woodruff’s room. He’s not well, Mr. Ballard. Nothing’s going right in that house.”
Joe studied the girl’s worried countenance. “I noticed he was looking pale tonight, but what else is wrong?”
“Yes, sir, he—he . . .” Daisy shook her head. “I can’t.” She dropped an abrupt curtsey. “G’night, sir.”
“I can’t,” she said, and slipped back into the grounds and closed the gate.
Joe stood for a moment to make sure she didn’t try to sneak out again. Had he missed an opportunity to find out what was going on with Francis Woodruff? Servants saw and heard a lot more than their employers realized. . . . Joe dismissed the thought. It was more likely that Daisy had problems of her own. He just hoped it wasn’t the usual problem. First thing in the morning, he would have a little talk with Orrin—assuming it wasn’t already too late.
Deanna’s evening sped by. She was claimed for every dance, which made her feet ache but her mother happy. In between she’d slip away to gossip with Cassie while they cooled their flushed countenances with lemonade in the lady’s parlor, while Elspeth and Cassie’s maid neatened their hair and straightened out their skirts. Then it would all begin again.
Twice Deanna shared scintillating waltzes with Lord David. He quite literally took her breath away. During the rest of the evening, she hardly saw the Manchesters except to watch Madeline float by first with Mr. Woodruff, then with Charles, and after that on the arm of one gentleman after another.
She didn’t see Joe at all, and by midnight, when supper was served, she’d forgotten all about him. She was escorted into supper by Herbert Stanhope.
The Woodruff dining room had been transformed into a sea of small round tables set for intimate conversations. A buffet table, so crowded that the silver chafing dishes sat almost edge to edge, lined the entirety of one wall. On another table, fresh fruit and sweets were arranged artistically around an ice sculpture that surely would melt before supper was over.
Herbert seated Deanna at a table with Cassie and Vlady Howe, scion of the Boston Howes and the object of Cassie’s latest flirtation, before going off to the buffet to fill their plates.
Deanna was surprised to see Charles Woodruff seating Madeline Manchester at one table while Adelaide was seated at another with Colonel Morrell, an older British gentleman staying with his son’s family in town. Adelaide looked paler than ever and bored, though Deanna couldn’t fault her for that. The colonel did tend to ramble.
Shouldn’t Adelaide be seated next to Charles? Of course, husbands and wives usually sat with some other acquaintance at dinner—not with each other. Her father was seated at a larger table with Mrs. Woodruff and Mrs. Van Alen; her mother with Tessie Oehlrich and two gentlemen who Deanna couldn’t see.
But Charles and Adelaide weren’t married yet. And it seemed like they’d had no time at all together this evening, what with Charles’s duties as host. Deanna felt a little sorry for her sister. It seemed to her that Charles had been paying too much attention to Madeline during the evening and not enough to his fiancée.
The supper was delicious, with crab cakes and lobster roulade, cresses, asparagus, and boeuf anglais. Deanna let Herbert fill her champagne glass twice, though she kept in mind her mother’s admonitions not to drink or eat to excess. Dessert was a glacé of mint and tiny cakes that melted in her mouth.
After supper, the ladies adjourned upstairs to freshen up while the men took the opportunity to have a port and a cigar or cigarette out on the terrace.
Deanna found Cassie and Madeline already in the withdrawing room.
“Look. I’ve torn my hem and no one can find my maid,” Madeline said.
“I told you to watch out for Dr. Morrison,” Cassie said. “He’s notorious for stepping on his dance partner’s feet.”
“Better my feet than my hem,” Madeline said. “What am I going to do?” She sank onto a nearby chaise.
“I’ll send for Elspeth,” Deanna said. “She’s a dream with a needle.”
Elspeth appeared a short time later, carrying her sewing basket.
“Oh, you are a dear,” Madeline told Deanna, and stood for Elspeth to examine the damage.
“Just hold still for a moment,” Elspeth said, and knelt to repair the fabric. It was only a few minutes before she stood and fluffed Lady Madeline’s skirts. “There, almost as good as new.”
“Oh, thank you, Deanna.”
Deanna smiled perfunctorily. “It’s Elspeth you should be thanking.”
“Oh, yes, she was wonderful,” Madeline agreed.
“Will there be anything else, miss?” Elspeth asked.
“Not at the moment,” Deanna said. “I seem to still be put together.”
Elspeth curtseyed and left the room.
The three girls returned downstairs, where the orchestra had resumed playing and the floor was soon filled with dancing couples. The room became unbearably hot, just as Deanna’s mother had predicted.
Between dances, Deanna stood near the French doors to catch a whiff of breeze. She was standing there when Cassie grabbed her hand. Her face was red against her pink dress.
“It’s sweltering. Everyone’s going out to the terrace. Come with me.”
Deanna didn’t need any persuasion. The thought of the mild ocean air had her moving through the French doors with alacrity. But once outside, she hesitated. “My mother . . .”
“Is an old fogey. Everyone under thirty is outside. And some of the old folks are, too.” She nudged Deanna farther onto the terrace. “Whew! That’s so much better,” Cassie said, fanning her face vigorously and looking around. “I was afraid I was going to wilt. Oh, there’s Vlady Howe.” She lifted her eyebrows. “He’s even richer than Lord David.”
She started off and Deanna followed, past a knot of gossiping young ladies, several middle-aged men smoking cigars, and toward a quartet of younger men who’d managed to snag a bottle of champagne and were quietly and deliberately getting drunk.
“Ah, Cassie, you wonderful creature. Just in time.” Vlady was a muscular young man, tall enough and certainly good-looking. A little too much of the playboy flair for Deanna’s taste, but he suited Cassie just fine, and she’d been on the catch for him since last season.
“I’m parched.” Cassie reached for the champagne bottle, but Vlady snatched it back.
“Not so quickly. Close your eyes.”
Cassie closed her eyes.
“Open your mouth.”
Cassie opened her mouth and tilted her chin up, which lifted her décolleté with it. Vlady openly admired it before he poured a stream of champagne into her mouth.
Cassie swallowed, choking and laughing as she batted at his arm, which had stolen around her waist and was pulling her closer.
No one offered to pour champagne down Deanna’s throat. She was as disappointed as she was relieved. She turned to look out across the lawn, where couples were strolling down to the sea or looking for a dark niche in which to carry on an affair.
Deanna knew about these things, mainly from Cassie. And from Joe’s grandmother—whom Deanna called “Gran Gwen”—who had explained the way of the world to her. “Since I know your mother won’t, and God forbid you find yourself in a situation that can’t be rectified by good manners.”
Deanna smiled, remembering that first talk. She’d blushed then, but she’d been grateful. At least she had some knowledge of the world, if only vicariously.
Vlady pulled Cassie closer, and they started across the lawn.
“Oh, do come on, Deanna,” Cassie said. “Herbert, bring Deanna along. There’s a good boy.”
Herbert Stanhope clicked his heels together in a way that made them all laugh and took Deanna’s arm. She considered demurring, but everyone else was granted more freedom than her mother allowed, and it didn’t seem fair that she had to miss all the fun.
They followed the brick walk to the cliff, passing between topiary beasts that sprouted from giant marble urns. The rising moon appeared and disappeared through the scudding clouds, and shadows of dolphins, peacocks, and rabbits dove before them as they laughed their way to the cliffs.
And Deanna began to enjoy herself immensely.
Two of Vlady’s friends began an impromptu dance among the animals and then ran headlong toward the cliff. Deanna was about to cry out to warn them when they stopped abruptly, turned, and bowed comically to their audience of four and waited for them to catch up.
The air was so much cooler here, and the breeze from the water ruffled Deanna’s hair. She lifted her face to sky, felt the salt air on her skin, and reveled in the unexpected freedom.
Until Cassie exclaimed, “Lord, what is that? Down on the rocks? Vlady, look. What is it?”
Her voice had become suddenly shrill. They all peered over to the rocks below. Something lay tangled in the shadows. At first it looked like spots of light against the dark of the rocks, but as Deanna looked more closely, she could make out the shape of—
“Good lord, someone is down there,” Vlady said. “Hello there! I say! Are you all right?” He turned to the others. “I don’t want to interrupt a tryst, but this looks— Cassie, stay here.” He thrust Cassie aside, and she grabbed hold of Deanna as the men began to scramble down the steps to the cliff walk and then climb down the rocks below.
“What are they doing?” Cassie asked.
“I think someone is hurt.”
“Who could it be?” Cassie moved to the edge of the walk. Deanna didn’t want to get closer; she had a bad feeling about what they would discover. But truth be told, she couldn’t stay away. She stood beside Cassie, both of them staring down at the rocks, perched at the edge of the walk like a couple of birds of prey.
Vlady and the others closed in around the figure.
“Vlady! Who is it?” Cassie called out. She lifted her skirts and would have started to climb down, but Vlady stood.
“No! Go back. Don’t look.” He stretched his arms out to stop them just as the moon slipped out of the dark clouds. It illuminated Vlady’s pale, horror-stricken face. And revealed what he was trying to conceal from them.
Deanna froze. Beside her, Cassie let out a feeble cry.
A young girl, dressed in a maid’s uniform, lay crumpled on the rocks, arms flung to the side, skirts twisted around her ankles, revealing only two small feet, clad in button-up shoes. Her head had fallen back, and a strand of loosened hair fell across her face.
Deanna leaned over as far as she dared, praying that it wasn’t Elspeth. She could see the pale face in the glow of the moonlight. And she recognized her. “It’s Daisy.”
“Our Daisy?” Cassie asked, and fainted dead away.
Deanna made an ineffectual grab for Cassie as she fell. Fortunately, their yells had attracted a crowd, and someone scooped up Cassie and carried her over to one of the marble benches that overlooked the cliff. Herbert’s mother, Mrs. Stanhope, and another lady began chafing Cassie’s hands and running a vial of smelling salts under her nose.
Seeing that Cassie was well taken care of, Deanna turned back to the gruesome scene below her.
Lord David stepped beside her. “What’s going on?”
“It’s Daisy. One of the Woodruff maids. I’m afraid she’s fallen, or something.”
“Something indeed. I hope you know better than to meet a lover on a cliff in the dark of night.”
Deanna looked at him, confused. What was he suggesting? That Daisy had been out meeting her sweetheart on the night of a huge ball, or that Deanna was in the habit of meeting men alone at night?
“Maybe it’s not too late. We must try to help her.” She slipped past Lord David, picked up her skirts, and started over the rocks. It was child’s play. She had climbed these rocks for years. Her skirts and delicate slippers made it a bit more precarious than usual and her slippers would most likely be ruined, but that couldn’t be helped.
“Wait! Where are you going?” Lord David’s voice.
Deanna hesitated. “Someone has to do something,” she said. “Vlady and the others are just standing there gawking.”
Lord David pulled her back and kept a firm grasp on her elbow. “Admirable, but I’m afraid no one can help that poor girl now. Look at her neck.”
Deanna looked. And she saw what she hadn’t seen before. Daisy’s head was turned far too extremely to be normal, rather like a chicken that . . . Deanna brought her hand to her mouth.
Do not be sick. Do not be sick. Lady detective Kate Goelet wouldn’t be so squeamish. But Kate Goelet wasn’t real. Suddenly, the sea air was no longer refreshing, but clammy and evil. And Deanna would trade any manner of excitement to bring Daisy back from the dead.
Vlady looked up at them, spread his hands in a helpless gesture. Then he knelt by Daisy’s body. When he stood again, he was holding something that looked like paper. “Found this in her hand,” he called.
Deanna couldn’t seem to speak the question in her mind.
Lord David did it for her. “What is it?”
“An envelope of some sort, too dark down here to tell, really.”
The group gathered at the edge of the cliff grew to include some of the older male guests. The news must have reached the servants’ hall, because at the edge of the growing crowd, several servants huddled together, risking their positions to see the news for themselves.
One of those stark staring faces belonged to Deanna’s own maid, Elspeth. She looked from the cliff to Deanna, then with a sob she broke away from the group and rushed to the walk. Deanna barely managed to wrench away from Lord David and stop Elspeth from careering over the edge herself.
“Is it Daisy, miss? It can’t be Daisy. Oh, please say it isn’t.”
Deanna put her arm around Elspeth. “I’m afraid so. I’m so sorry.”
Elspeth began to cry.
Suddenly Deanna’s father was there by her side.
“Don’t be angry, Papa.”
“I’m not. What has happened here?”
“There was an accident. It’s Daisy. You know Daisy.”
Her father nodded, looked over the edge of the cliff. “Vlad?”
Vlady shook his head.
“Then come away. There’s nothing more you can do down there.” Her father turned from the cliff and pointed to one of the footmen. “You there. Please take Elspeth here to the house and call for our second carriage to take her home.”
“I should go with her, Papa.”
“No, my dear. You’ll see her when we return home.”
Two of the male servants came to take Elspeth back to the house, but she held on, her eyes pleading. There was nothing Deanna could say. Daisy was dead, and there was an end to it.
The Woodruffs’ butler, Neville, stepped toward her father. “I took the liberty of calling for the police, sir. I didn’t think we should move the girl’s body into the house before they . . . can make arrangements for her to be returned to her family. They should be here shortly.”
Deanna’s father turned to her. “You’d best get back to the ballroom and make yourself presentable before your mother sees you.”
“Go now, Deanna. There’s nothing you can do.” He looked around the group. “In fact, none of you young ladies should be witnessing this. Go on, now.”
“Yes, let us go.” Lady Madeline was supporting Cassie, whose cheeks were completely drained of color. “Can you help me with Cassie? I’m afraid it’s been a terrible shock to her.”
To us all, Deanna thought.
“No, wait,” whimpered Cassie. “Vlady’s coming back. I want to wait for Vlady.”
Vlady and Herbert were scrambling back up the rocks, and the crowd began pelting them with questions.
Vlady came straight over to them, and Cassie threw herself at him. “Now, now. Be a brave girl.” He looked at Cassie with concern, then said to Deanna, “I think we should stay behind in case we’re needed. You ladies can go up to the house. I don’t think the police will want to speak to you.”
“I should hope not,” Lady Madeline said, taking hold of Cassie. Deanna nodded and took Cassie’s other side. They were halfway up the walk when Deanna realized she hadn’t asked Vlady about the envelope.
She turned back in time to see several policemen coming around the side of the house. Four of them continued straight to the cliff. One strode toward the butler and her father.
Deanna recognized Will Hennessey, a sergeant in the Newport police. A local boy, from an old Newport family, who’d been with Bob and Joe at Yale. He had an air of authority with enough polish to work among the inhabitants of Bellevue Avenue.
Will touched his hat to Deanna’s father, and the two men walked away from the group.
Deanna strained to hear what was being said, but it was hopeless.
“Come, let us go,” Madeline said, and Deanna reluctantly returned to the house.
Getting back inside without causing a stir was impossible. Most of the guests had heard of the discovery and were clustered, talking and speculating, on the terrace or in the French doors.
Deanna didn’t see her mother among the onlookers, but she had no doubt her mother saw her and that she’d hear about it as soon as they got home. Madeline kept her wits and neatly herded Cassie and Deanna past the waiting crowds, through the nearly empty ballroom, and upstairs to the lady’s withdrawing room to put themselves back together.
Cassie sank onto one of the wheat-colored satin stools. “Why did she have to fall off the cliff tonight of all nights?”
“Cassie!” Deanna snapped. “How can you say such a thing? The poor girl’s dead. She was seeing Joe’s apprentice. Imagine how he will feel. And her family.”
“I know. It’s just—” She burst into tears again. It took a few more minutes to calm her down.
“Oh, dear,” Madeline said. “There’s a man in the picture? That would explain it.”
“What do you mean?” Deanna asked.
“Really, Deanna, you can’t be that naïve. Why would a girl throw herself off a cliff?”
“Throw herself?” Deanna asked. “It was an accident, surely.”
“Possibly. But consider. A young woman. With a lover? Perhaps she was jilted.”
Deanna blushed. “She wouldn’t throw herself to her death over a broken engagement.”
“Perhaps not, unless maybe she was enceinte.”
“In the family way?” Cassie asked.
Deanna shook her head. “No. Orrin would never take advantage.”
“Oh, my dear. Men will always take advantage. And leave us to take care of the situation.”
“Why wouldn’t she tell Orrin?” Deanna said.
“Ah,” Madeline said. “Maybe she did.”
“Oh, come now, Deanna.”
“Oh,” Deanna said, making the connection. “You think that Daisy told Orrin and he spurned her, then she jumped off that cliff in despair? I don’t believe it.”
Madeline smiled sadly. “Jumped of her own accord . . . or worse.”
Deanna stared at her.
“What do you mean?” Cassie asked.
“Perhaps she told this Orrin fellow he’d gotten her in a family way, and he pushed her off the cliff.”
Cassie and Deanna stared at her.
“Don’t you believe a man would do that? I assure you, most men would do that and worse if their lover became an inconvenience.”
Madeline, who until an hour ago had been so cheerful and vivacious, now seemed a little cold, wise and jaded beyond her years.
Deanna shook her head. “Perhaps people in Barbados are like that, but not here.”
“Of course they are, you silly girl.”
Deanna wanted to snap that she wasn’t silly, but maybe she was just a naïve, silly girl. She and Elspeth had read so many stories about betrayal and murder. Tales of scorned lovers; vengeful, spurned suitors; women overpowered by dastardly villains. They’d thought them exciting and fun. But this wasn’t fun. Real life, unlike the stories, didn’t always end with the heroine overcoming adversity.
“I think,” Deanna said, standing and brushing out her skirts, mainly to recapture some semblance of a rational world, “I’d better go find my mother. She’ll want to go home to see to Elspeth.”
It was a lie. Deanna was the one who was worried about Elspeth. She didn’t know what her mother would think . . . if she thought anything about it at all.
“We’ll have to get Maddie a new maid,” Cassie said.
They all stopped and looked at one another.
“That was the girl taking care of me?” Madeline asked.
Cassie bit her lip and nodded.
“Oh, dear. I didn’t recognize her at that distance.”
“Don’t worry,” Cassie said. “Let’s find Mama. She’ll know what to do.”
The three of them went downstairs and found Mrs. Woodruff attempting to pull together the remnants of her gala evening. The orchestra was tuning their instruments. Footmen with trays of champagne began to circulate through the room. But it seemed a hopeless endeavor.
Cassie ran to her.
“Oh, my dear, your father and Charles have gone down to the cliff to talk with the police. What a disaster. And it’s not like Daisy has ever given us a moment of trouble. I just don’t know what she could have been thinking.”
Deanna didn’t either; she just couldn’t believe that Daisy had thrown herself over the cliff in despair, or worse, that Orrin had helped her do it. She excused herself and went to find her mother. She passed knots of guests talking in hushed whispers. No one was dancing, but no one was headed for the door.
It seemed to Deanna that everyone was taking a prurient interest in the maid’s death. She was, herself. And that made her uneasy. She hadn’t been able to take her eyes off that poor girl, her broken body draped over the rocks, her feet in her dark button-up shoes as small as a child’s. The Death of Innocence.
Adelaide was sitting in an alcove looking sick. Their mother was standing over her, a watchful eye on the other guests as if one of them might suddenly go berserk and kill them all.
“There you are,” her mother said as soon as Deanna approached them. “Where have you been?”
Excerpted from "A Gilded Grave"
Copyright © 2015 Shelley Freydont.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
Acclaim for Shelley Freydont’s Mysteries
“All the charm of a Norman Rockwell painting, but with a much more colorful cast of characters!”—Cynthia Baxter, author of Crossing the Lion
“An entertaining mystery in the classic tradition.”—Publishers Weekly
“An enjoyable slice of small-town life.”—The Mystery Reader
“A delicious read filled with interesting characters.”—Joyce Lavene, coauthor of the Missing Pieces Mysteries
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Loved this book! Hope there are many more in the series!
Although this book was not my usual genre (historical mystery) I have read several in the genre (primarily Rhys Bowen.) I thoroughly enjoyed this peek into 1895 Newport, Rhode Island Society. The characters are fascinating and multidimensional. The mystery kept me guessing almost to the end. Little hints were dropped here and there, which kept me interested. Truly wonderful book with a bit of romance to add to the intrigue. Deanna and her maid Elspeth, begin digging into the murder of a maid in the house of Deanna's best friend Cassie. Deanna is not exactly your typical Society debutante, she is feisty and adventurous. I was given a copy of the book by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. This book is a wonderful choice for anyone who likes mysteries or historical romances.
the essence of the era brought to life A Gilded Grave by Shelley Freydont The First Newport Gilded Age Mystery Deanna Randolph is trying to enjoy her first Newport season. It's somewhat of a challenge due to her domineering and exacting mother, plus the ramifications of a rebuffed engagement with a childhood friend who is now working amid the working class! A sugar plantation owner from Barbados has come to help her father's business, but he seems more interested in socializing that working. When a maid winds up dead Deanna decides to look in to the matter with the help of her own maid, hoping to gain information that she knows the police will never receive from the entitled crowd. In A Gilded Grave Shelley Freydont brings us back to a time of opulance; where millions are made and frittered away. A world where the majority struggle to earn a living while a select few live in a self indulgent microcosm of excess. She also shows the other side of society, living side by side, dependent on each other, yet worlds apart. When a maid from the serving class is found murdered there are certain societal facts that can't be breached. The rich will protect their own, the maid's death will make little difference to the majority, and no one, rich, working class, or poor, will talk to the police! Shelley Freydont has captured the essence of the era and brought it to life in A Gilded Grave. From the detailed descriptions of the clothing and social rituals to the realistic details of the murder and its investigation I felt immersed in the Gilded Age. The book is also a finely crafted mystery with subtle clues, interesting suspects, and a delightful way of capturing the villain. It also takes a look at society and its values and gives readers the opportunity to see what's changed and what hasn't. While a life of luxury and excess sounds lovely, I wouldn't wish to trade my independent life for Deanna's for all the sugar in Barbados!
A delightful debut novel. Author Shelley Freydont has made a wonderful transition from the twenty-first century cozy mystery to the nineteenth century historical mystery. It is so clear she has done her research of the Gilded Age. Her character’s words, behavior, and mannerisms are all perfect for the era. Deanna Randolph is an unlikely sleuth, yet in the talented hands of author Freydont, she is not only believable, she is very much up to the task. It’s going to be interesting to watch Deanna grow as the series continues. This was an incredibly well plotted mystery with more suspects than a few. With twists and turns all the way to the exciting end, I second, third, and fourth guessed myself and yes, still guessed wrong! A GILDED GRAVE is sure to be a hit with historical and cozy mystery fans alike.
Summer Season Opens with Murder There is something about the very rich that fascinates. I must admit that one of the things that drew me to A Gilded Grave was the chance to spend time with some extremely rich people in Newport, Rhode Island, during the 1890’s. To be specific, this book is set in 1895, and the book stars Deanna Randolph, who is looking forward to her summer season in Newport, having had a mostly successful debut season in New York over the last few months. Her first major ball of the season is in honor of Lord David Manchester and his sister Madeline. The two are from Barbados, and they are in Newport to work out a deal with Deanna’s father and his business partners to sell them sugar from Barbados for their sugar refinery business here in America. However, the night ends in tragedy when one of the host’s maids is found dead on the bottom of a nearby cliff. The maid was friends with Deanna’s maid and the intended of Joe Ballard’s apprentice. Joe is one of Deanna’s lifelong friends who was briefly Deanna’s intended. With accusations flying, Deanna must reluctantly team up with Joe to find out who the killer really is. Can the two work together to learn the truth? The characters in this book are wonderful. Joe has given up his family’s money, at least briefly, to follow his dream of inventing, more specifically to invent machines to help the family business. Deanna is a strong and independent young woman, or at least as much as she can be for this time in history. Even Deanna’s maid gets into the action quite a bit and proves to be a lot of fun. I did feel the book was a bit too long. While I always enjoy getting lost in another time and place, at times those details slowed things down. Chopping about 50 pages would have helped keep things moving along at a brisker pace. I did find the climax logical and satisfying, and I’m quite curious what life has next for our main characters. I must say I enjoyed spending time with the extremely wealthy. Since one of the main characters is a maid, we do get to see the great divide between the two classes at the time. I think part of the reason I enjoyed living with the rich is I can only imagine ever living that way, so it’s a bit of a fantasy escape that I enjoy. The book is narrated third person, and we get scenes from both Deanna and Joe’s perspectives. This is mainly Deanna’s story, with two thirds to three quarters of the book told from her point of view, but the times we switched to Joe really did help the story unfold, and I truly enjoyed that. So if you are looking for a trip back in time, A Gilded Grave is for you. Savor it during your own summer season. NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in hopes I would review it.
Dollycas’s Thoughts I escaped back in time with this wonderful debut. Newport in 1895, in all its glory, until a young maid is found dead on the cliffs. Deanna Randolph and her maid, Elspeth, make a dynamic duo both in life and as sleuths. Deanna’s mother has warned her not to get too friendly with the help, but Deanna has ignored that piece of advice. They are friends and they both would do anything for the other. While the plans for Deanna and Joe Ballard to marry have fallen apart and she doesn’t want him around she knows he is not a killer. The author brings the time period of the Gilded Age alive. The “cottages”, the cliffs, the clothes, the parties and daily life are described in colorful detail. Her words painted so fantastic images. I enjoyed the character development as Deanna became more and more independent as the story moved along. Then again, her mother was out of town with her ailing sister so things may change when she returns. I loved learning about Joe’s work and his ideas. Through Elspeth we come to understand life from a servants point of view. The Manchesters were interesting characters as well. The story is well written and you know the author really researched the material to make it as accurate as possible. She gave me plenty of suspects and several red herrings to track as I followed the clues right along with Deanna and Elspeth. Shelley Freydont has shown she can write a superb mystery set in present time in her Celebration Bay Mysteries, and now she has shown she can do historical mysteries too. The next book in this series, A Golden Cage, comes out June 7. I recommend that if you haven’t read this one yet, grab it so you are all ready for the next installment.
A Gilded Grave by Shelley Freydont is a historical cozy Deanna is having her coming out season in Newport, RI in 1895. She and her maid, Elspeth, become involved in a murder investigation involving Elspeth's brother. The descriptions of the social scene, clothing, and the "cottages" is very vivid. I felt I was there watching. The author did a good job of describing the social situation that women were in during that time period as well as showing the class boundaries all wrapped in an entertaining mystery. I received this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.
A Gilded Grave is a nice twist on a traditional murder mystery. Freydont brings the past glory of the gilded age to life throughout the story. As the keeps-you-guessing murder mystery unfolds, she takes you back and forth between high society and the working class in turn of the century Rhode Island. Far from predictable, as this genre can tend to be, Gilded keeps you guessing until the very end. The protagonist is likable and realistic and you root for her to solve the mystery and walk away with her man to boot. This was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I recommend it for light entertainment.
Freydont A Gilded Grave is a great novel. Deanna Randolph is a likeable, relateable character, whether it's her controlling mother who thinks that the servants shouldn't be friends with the upper class, or her sense of curiosity that sometimes gets her into trouble. Freydont successfully brings a story from the gilded age to the present. The story starts out with Deanna,18, who is going to her first ball of the Newport season. Lord David Manchester, a sugar magnate, and his sister Lady Madeline have come to talk to Deanna's father and a former friend's father who owns Rand W Sugar about a contract they had previously made. While the talks are going on, Deanna and some friends go for a work on the Seacrest grounds, where Cassie lives, Deanna's friend. One of the friend's spots a dead body on the rocks. A maid had been murdered. A few days later, something similar occurs, this time at the beach. Both times, at me point or another Joe, a friend of Deanna's, was accused of murder. While Freydont doesn't delve into their history, she did, in the end, produce a book that produced a good book that had plenty of plot twists and a shocking ending. Can't wait for the next book
This historical cozy mystery was very good. While historical cozies are not my usual choice, I have enjoyed the ones that I have read and this one is a good one. The author describes the clothing so well! I wish I could be there to see it! Nancy Drew is a more modern Deanna Randolph. Deanna is bold and tomboyish and her sidekick is Elspeth, her personal maid. They work very hard to find clues so Elspeth's brother will not be held for the murder of his girlfriend. If you loved Nancy Drew, I think you will love Deanna Randolph. I hope there will be more adventures for Deanna and Elspeth and Joe. I received a copy of this book so that I might give it my honest review.
I really, really enjoyed this story. I hope I hear more from Deanna and Joe. It is an interesting look into life during 1895 in Newport. Even though Deanna is suppressed by her mother most of the time, she is able to become quite the sleuth along with her maid, Elspeth. Joe wants to invent and his inventions with help his family, but he must live in an area that is frowned upon by the elite and so he is kind of on the edge of society. Deanna and Joe's parents wanted them to marry, but Joe wanted to work on his inventions and so everyone acts like he jilted Deanna. Even though they were never officially engaged. She has to put all that aside and trust Joe when some people are accusing him of murder. A grand adventure.