London, 1840. At the height of Victorian hypocrisy, two men meet and fall in love. Their romance is forbidden, punishable even by death, but their passion blossoms thanks to a paper Valentine.
Saint Valentine's Day has become a new and very popular day for lovers. Thousands of Londonites are clamouring for the ideal romantic gift. While men buy chocolate and posies, they yearn for something more unusual, more personal. Enterprising brothers Aldon and Samuel Barnaby hit upon the idea of paper Valentines, creating lavish presentations decorated with silk, lace, and paper flowers.
Aldon is fortunate to have his perfect valentine going to his expectant wife, Geneve, but Samuel still longs for his own true love, pouring his heart and soul into his beautiful creations. Samuel's romantic verses inside his paper Valentines are in huge demand, yet not a single local girl can lay claim to his heart…because his passion lies not in a woman, but another man—Jude, a handsome but shy widower.
Jude's heart, haunted by grief, hasn't been ready to consider marriage again. But slowly, through his inclusion in the Barnaby family's lives…and his frequent excursions to stop and stare at the Barnabys' shop window…he begins to wonder in what direction his future lies.
Can Samuel possibly allow his heart to explore love with another man? Could Jude ever love him in return? He sends Jude an exquisite, anonymous paper Valentine, not suspecting that his entire world is about to be turned upside down…
|Publisher:||Totally Entwined Group Ltd|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||450 KB|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Samuel hurried through the streets of Chelsea as soon as the little boy brought him the note. He clutched the scrap of parchment in his fingers.
Please come, hurry. Do not tell Aldon.
He tried to calm his nerves. What problem could Geneve have that required such secrecy? Perhaps she was having a problem with the servants again. It couldn’t be the baby. She’d want Aldon to know if she was in physical distress. She was seven months pregnant and, according to his brother, increasingly anxious. Aldon said she feared being in their terraced house without him.
Samuel had thrown on his frock coat and left his print shop right away. The grip of a vicious winter still held London with no immediate end in sight. It was just after four o’clock in the afternoon, but soon it would be dark and Geneve would be cooking dinner. The very thought of her fragrant offerings sent soothing messages to Samuel’s rumbling belly as he raced through the slop-filled streets. The aroma of the herb-infused saloop and hot coffee available at the street cart beside him enticed him but couldn’t block the putrid stench of garbage.
“Saloop!” the barrowman called. “Fresh and hot! Coffee! Get it now! No carrots or chicory filler. This is real coffee, folks!”
The stink and the desperation got worse each day. There was a new coarseness in people he saw on the street, a greater division between rich and poor he attributed to the loss of the great hat. Since women stopped wearing these in favour of closer-fitting bonnets, he fancied that society’s gentility had also shrunk as a whole.
Although Chelsea was considered the Bohemian quarter of the city, this term covered, as far as he was concerned, a multitude of lifestyles. You could find artists, writers, poets, musicians, intellectual radicals and...the just plain poor.
A group of small boys ran from a house on his right, dashing past him to the Hokey-Pokey man’s cart on the other side of the street, holding their halfpennies high. Samuel stopped short. The children clamoured for their afternoon milk ice treats. They looked filthy. As the children received their ices, they ran past Samuel again and he almost gagged. They smelt like rotten onions.
A crudely-dressed housewife stepped out of the house and slopped a pail, aiming for the centre gutter in the middle of the street, just missing Samuel’s new shoes. Hand embroidered by Geneve, they were his most cherished possessions. They were not perhaps the most practical shoes in mid-winter, but they were new slippers Geneve had made for him and he liked to wear them around the shop. He’d left in such a hurry he’d forgotten to change into his leather shoes.
He cringed as the woman with the bucket turned and berated the children now huddled around the kitchen table inside their dingy home. He noticed a blackened pot atop a blazing fire on the hearth. His gaze strayed to the sconces on the kitchen wall and he wondered how she could afford gaslight. He felt warm liquid seep into the soles of his slippers and moved forwards.
At Aldon’s front door two blocks away on Kings Road, he knocked. Samuel detected the odour of rancid animal fat and realised too late that it emanated from his slippers. Geneve opened the door, her beautiful blue eyes filled with tears.
“Thank you,” she said. “Oh, thank you, Samuel!”