Lord Bradley has just learned a terrible secret, which, if exposed, will change his life forever. When he glimpses a figure on the grounds, he fears a spy or thief has overheard his devastating news. He is stunned to discover the intruder is a scrap of a woman with her throat badly injured. Fearing she will spread his secret, he gives the girl a post and confines her to his estate. As Olivia and Lord Bradley's secrets catch up with them, will their hidden pasts ruin their hope of finding love?
|Publisher:||Baker Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.74(h) x 1.24(d)|
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The Silent Governess
By Julie Klassen
Bethany House PublishersCopyright © 2009 Julie Klassen
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIt is nought good a slepyng hound to wake. -Geoffrey ChauCer
Twelve years later November 1, 1815
Heart pounding with fear and regret, Olivia Keene ran as though hellhounds were on her heels. As though her very life depended upon her escape.
Fleeing the village, she ran across a meadow, bolted over the sheep gate, caught her skirt, and went sprawling in the mire. The bundle in her cape pocket jabbed against her hip bone. Ignoring it, she picked herself up and ran on, looking behind to make sure no one followed. Ahead lay Chedworth Wood.
The warnings of years echoed through her mind. "Don't stray into the wood at night." Wild dogs stalked that wood, and thieves and poachers camped there, with sharp knives and sharper eyes, looking for easy game. A woman of Olivia's four-and-twenty years knew better than to venture into the wood alone. But her mother's cries still pulsed in her ears, drowning out the old voice of caution. The danger behind her was more real than any imagined danger ahead.
Shivers of fear prickling over her skin, she hurled herself into the outstretched arms of the wood, already dim and shadowy on the chill autumn evening. Beneath her thin soles, dry leavescrackled. Branches grabbed at her like gnarled hands. She stumbled over fallen limbs and underbrush, every snapping twig reminding her that a pursuer might be just behind, just out of sight.
Olivia ran until her side ached. Breathing hard, she slowed her pace. She walked for what seemed like an hour or more and still hadn't reached the other side of the wood. Was she traveling in a circle? The thought of spending the night in the quickly darkening wood made her pick up her pace once more.
She tripped on a tangle of roots and again went sprawling. She heard the crisp rip of fabric. A burning scratch seared her cheek. For a moment she lay as she was, trying to catch her breath.
The pain of the fall broke through the dam of shock, and the hot tears she had been holding back poured forth. She struggled up and sat against a tree, sobbing.
Almighty God, what have I done?
A branch snapped and an owl screeched a warning to his mate. Fear instantly stifled her sobs. Hairs prickling at the back of her neck, Olivia searched the moonlit dimness with wide eyes.
Eyes stared back.
A dog, wiry and dark, stood not twenty feet away, teeth bared. In silent panic, Olivia scratched the ground around her, searching for something to use as a weapon. The undergrowth shook and the ground pulsed with a galloping tread. Two more dogs ran past, one clenching something round and white in its jaws. The head of a sheep?
The first dog turned and bounded after the other two, just as Olivia's fingers found a stout stick. She gripped it tightly, wishing for a moment that she still held the fire iron. Shivering in revulsion,
Olivia thrust aside the memory of its cold, hard weight. She listened for several tense seconds. Hearing nothing more, she rose, stick firmly in hand, and hurried through the wood, hoping the dogs wouldn't follow her trail.
* * *
The moon was high above the treetops when she saw it. The light of a fire ahead. Relief. Wild animals were afraid of fire, were they not? She tentatively moved nearer. She had no intention of joining whoever had camped there-perhaps a family of gypsies or a gentlemen's hunting party. Even if the rumors of thieves and poachers were stuff and nonsense, she would not risk making her presence known. But she longed for the safety the fire represented. She longed, too, for its warmth, for the November night air stole mercilessly through her cape and gown. Perhaps if another woman were present, Olivia might ask to warm herself. She dared move a little closer, stood behind a tree and peered around it. She saw a firelit clearing and four figures huddled around the flames in various postures of repose. The sound of men talking and jesting reached her.
"Squirrel again tonight, Garbie?" a gravelly voice demanded.
"Unless Croome comes back with more game."
"This time o' night? Not dashed likely."
"More likely he's lyin' foxed in the Brown Dog, restin' his head on Molly's soft pillows."
"Not Croome," another said. "Never knew such a monkish man."
Every instinct told Olivia to flee even as she froze where she stood. This was no family, nor any party of gentlemen. Fear slithering up her spine, she turned and stepped away from the tree.
A young man's loud whisper stopped Olivia's retreat. She stood still, afraid to make another sound.
"What's what? I don't hear nofin'."
"Maybe it is Croome."
Olivia took a tentative tiptoe step. Then another. A sticky web coated her face, startling her, and she stumbled over a log onto the ground.
Before she could right herself, the sound of footsteps surrounded her and harsh lamplight blinded her.
"Well, kiss my bonnie luck star," a young man breathed.
Olivia struggled to her feet and pushed down her skirts. She brushed her fallen hair from her face and tried to remain calm.
"Croome's got a mite prettier since we saw 'im last," said a second young man.
Beside him, a bearded hulk glowered down at her. In the harsh, gravelly voice she had first heard, he demanded, "What are ya doin' here?"
Panic shot through her veins. "Na-nothing! I saw your fire and I-"
"Looking for some company, were ya?" The big man's leer chilled her to the marrow. "Well, ya come to the right place- hasn't she, lads?"
"Aye," another agreed.
The big man reached for her, but Olivia recoiled. "No, you misunderstand me," she said. "I simply lost my way. I don't want-"
"Oh, but we do want." His gleaming eyes were very like those of the wild dog.
The stout stick she had been carrying was on the ground, where it had landed when she fell. She lunged for it, but the man grabbed her from behind. "Where d'ya think yer going? Nowhere soon, I'd wager."
Olivia cried out, but did manage to get her hand around the stick as he hauled her up.
"Let go of me!"
The burly man laughed. Olivia spun in his arms and swung the stick like a club. With a thwack, it caught the side of his head. He yelled and covered the wound with his hands.
Olivia scrambled away, but two other men grabbed her arms and legs, wrestled the stick from her, and bore her back to the fire.
"You all right, Borcher?" the youngest man asked, voice high.
"I will be. Which is more'n I can say for her."
"Please!" Olivia implored the men who held her. "Release me, I beg of you. I am a decent girl from Withington." My brother lives near there," the youngest man offered.
"Shut up, Garbie," Borcher ordered.
"Perhaps I have met your brother," she said desperately. "What is his na-?"
"Shut yer trap!" Borcher charged forward, hand raised.
"Borcher, don't," young Garbie urged. "Let her go."
"After the hoyden hit me? Not likely." Borcher grabbed her roughly, pinning both arms to her sides with one long, heavy arm and pressing her back against a tree.
She tried in vain to stomp on his foot, but her kid slippers were futile against his boots. "No!" she shouted. "Someone help me. Please!"
His free hand flashed up and clasped her jaw, steely fingers clamping her cheeks in a vise that stilled her shouts. She wrenched her head to the side and bit down on his thumb as hard as she could.
Borcher yelled, yanked his hand away, and raised it in a menacing fist.
Olivia winced her eyes shut, bracing herself for the inevitable blow.
Fwwt. Smack. Something whizzed by her captor's ear and shuddered into the tree above her. She opened her eyes as Borcher whirled his head around. Across the clearing, at the edge of the firelight, a man stood atop a tree stump, bow and arrow poised.
"Let her go, Phineas," the man drawled in an irritated voice.
"Mind yer own affairs, Croome." Borcher raised his fist again.
Another arrow whooshed by, slicing into the tree bark with a crack.
"Croome!" Borcher swore.
"Next time, I shall aim," the man called Croome said dryly. Though he appeared a slight, older man, cool authority steeled his words
Borcher released Olivia with a hard shove. The back of her head hit the tree, where long arrows still quivered above her. Even the jarring pain in her skull did not diminish the relief washing over her. In the flickering firelight, she looked again at her rescuer, still perched on the stump. He was a gaunt man of some sixty years in a worn hat and hunting coat. Ash grey hair hung down to his shoulders. A game bag was slung over one of them. The bow he held seemed a natural extension of his arm.
"Thank you, sir," she said.
Glimpsing the stout stick by the light of the forgotten lamp, Olivia bent to retrieve it. Then turned to make her escape.
"Wait." Croome's voice was rough but not threatening. He stepped down from the stump, and she waited as he approached. His height-tall for a man of his years-and limping gait surprised her. "Take the provisions I brought for these undeserving curs."
She accepted a quarter loaf of bread and a sack of apples. Her stomach rumbled on cue. But when he extended a limp hare from his game bag, she shook her head.
"Thank you, no. This is more than enough."
One wiry eyebrow rose. "To make up for what they did to you-and would have done?"
Olivia stiffened. She shook her head and said with quiet dignity, "No, sir. I am afraid not." She handed back the bread and apples, turned, and strode smartly from the clearing.
His raspy chuckle followed her. "Fool ..."
And she was not certain if he spoke of her or of himself.
Excerpted from The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen Copyright © 2009 by Julie Klassen. Excerpted by permission.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Julie Klassen has become one of my new favorite historical fiction writers. Her books bring to life Regency England and make reading history fun even for those who normally hate reading history. In this book, we meet Olivia Keene, a young woman escaping her past who is caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. She becomes injured and cannot speak and is placed on the staff at an estate. There she meets Edward, who is the heir of the estate who has his own secretive past. The two soon find out that they are connected because of this past and seek to find out why all the secrets had to exist. This book totally plays out like a gothic romance or something akin to a Jane Austen novel. Klassen brings to life both the aristocrats and the servants by allowing to reader to see behind the scenes of life at an estate. I enjoyed reading about what it was like to be a governess in that time period and the solitary lifestyle they were supposed to live was sad. It was different from the life of a teacher because you were there 24/7 and had no contact with the outside world or even the adults in the house. My favorite part of the book was the transformation of Croome throughout the story. I was convinced from the beginning of the book that he was a dodgy character that was up to no good and could be potentially harmful to both Olivia and Edward. As the story progressed, we see that armor that's been protecting him all these years begin to chip away slowly to reveal a character that's not what he seems. It was definitely one of the best transformations in a story complete with heartache, humor and joy. What I like best about Klassen's books is that she weaves a mystery inside all her historical tales. They are done extremely well, to the point where (and shame on me) I HAVE to peek at the end to find out what really happens. This is no fault to the author as the storyline is written very well. I'm just very impatient and want to find out the ending very quickly. I was pleasantly surprised with the ending on this one. It was not what I had expected and I had to flip back to see what I had missed. Also there is not a heavy focus on romance. While the subject is there and a good deal of the plot is focused on it, the story is not a regency romance and more attention is paid to the mystery. There are a few slow sections in the book that do drag on a little, mainly because the action does not take place in the central location. They are not really a bother, but I did find myself wanting to get back to the heart of the story. Overall I really enjoyed reading this book. The storyline is intriguing, the characters engaging and the setting just sumptuous. I can easily see myself transported back to this time period and living among the characters. Julie's books have been a delight to read and I eagerly await her next offering. If you are a big fan of Regency novels, this is a must read.
I enjoyed reading this novel. I loved the characters, the plot. it was hard to put down.
This Julie Klassen is my absolute favorite! I have read all four of her books, and this one is my most favorite. I especially liked the story line & plot. I was on the edge of my seat the ENTIRE time I first read the book. Since then, I have re-read it several times and loved it every time. I would definitely recommend this book as a good mystery/suspense/romance read. AWESOME book!! :D
I loved this book from beginning to end. There were certain twists and turns in the story that had me gasping in surprise. With Julie Klassen's book I can lose track of time and found out that I have been reading for hours. Julie is a wonderful writer and she has made it to my list of top 5 favorite authors. I can't wait for her next book.
I have read all of Klassen's books, and they're all phenomenal. However, this one outshines the rest in terms of realistic characterization, mystery, suspense, and drama. Klassen beautifully weaves the themes of identity and trust into this novel where no one is who they seem to be. Though I'm looking forward to future books from Klassen, it's hard to imagine that any will outshine this!
Love all her books but this is my favorite
I have now read all of Julie Klassen's books and I think I like this one best of all! Exceptional character development and very interesting story line - I hope Ms. Klassen writes another book soon! I have loved each of them!
THE SILENT GOVERNESS by Julie Klassen is an Inspirational fiction romance. It is written with rich detail of the Regency era. It gives insight into the family members, the governess and other servants in the household during this era. The story has romance, intrigue, mystery, family secrets, faith, friendship and loyalty. It will capture you from the first page until the last. The main characters are realistic and charming. The secondary characters are charming and enchanting they help carry the story along. This is a delightful story with wonderful characters. If you enjoy the Regency era, history, romance and mystery you will totally enjoy this one. It is a keeper. I would highly recommend.
I enjoyed trying to figure out this story. Some I guessed and some surprised me. Good read and neat characters!
Wonderful story and very well written!
I absolutely loved this book! I have read all of Julie Klassen's books and this one is my favorite. This book was so well written and you fall easily in love with the characters. I could not put this book down and I loved the connection and love that was built between the two main characters. I can not wait for her to write her next book! You must read this!!
I enjoyed this story so much the characters revisited me in my dreams. I grew to love them all. I was saddenened when my fears of the blackmailers was confirmed.
Olivia is a strong female character. The story had a beginning, middle and end. The Lord Bradley character was a little weak, but Olivia's strength made up for it. A very good read
This book is definitely worth reading and buying. I ABSOLUTELY loved this book very much!
This book is so twisted and always throws you for a loop every time you think you figured it out. I adore Julie Klassen's books. I have never been dissapointed by any of her writings.
This book had me from page one, I didn't want it to end.
This book is awesome! Like my favorite book ever!
The main character, Olivia, is very likeable. I found that she got into trouble quite often - even realized that she would wind up in trouble if she continued on her chosen path - but she did it anyway. Quite remarkable for someone in this timeframe to be female, yet take so many chances. The story line was very intriguing and kept my interest from beginning to end. I did not put the book down until I had read it completely. The only reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 is because I was able to figure out all the twists and turns of the plot and found that I did not have many surprises waiting at the end. BUT, with that said - I would read it again and will certainly pick up another Julie Klassen regency book to read.
Great read! I enjoyed this book so very much!
I always love her stories, detailed and complex but delivering a simple story. (and beautiful happy endings)
I loved this book from the beginning. I enjoyed it very much and would recommend it to anyone that enjoys mysteries and romance. I couldn't put this book down until the end which I am very satisfied with also. All in all, an excellent read.
Enjoyed the "Girl in the Gatehouse" and "The Apothecary's Daughter" more but this was a good read too. I believe it lagged in the middle a little... with her pretending to be "mute" which seems a little too far-fetched. But what are we reading for but to suspend belief a little?
this book is an excellent read!! really it is. i read it and i LOVED it!! it is clean and wholesome and funny......i reccommend it to everyone!! i love to just escape the trials of everyday life and this is the perfect type of read for that.