From USA Today Bestselling Author Callie Hutton is a new captivating and suspenseful historical romance...
Recently widowed, Charlotte Pennyworth is relishing her independence and it rankles to have to rely on a man to help her with an increasingly sinister stalker. Former Yardman, Elliot Baker, is reluctant to take on Charlotte's case but despite himself and his history with another woman, he is drawn to the bright, attractive widow.
Sparks smolder between the PI and his client but neither is looking to form an attachment. Elliot thinks Charlotte is hiding something. Charlotte has no desire to marry again, especially to a private investigator, no matter how handsome, brave and kind he is. The risk to his life and her heart is too great. But more dangerous than a menacing stalker is secrets and if Charlotte's come to light, even the passion between them might not douse the flames of Elliot's distrust.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||3 MB|
About the Author
USA Today bestselling author, Callie Hutton, author of more than twenty-five historical romance books, writes humorous and spicy Regency with “historic elements and sensory details” (The Romance Reviews). Callie lives in Oklahoma with two rescue dogs and her top cheerleader husband of many years. Her family also includes her daughter, son, and daughter-in-law. And her almost three year old twin grandsons “The Twinadoes.”
Callie loves to hear from readers. Contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find her online at www.calliehutton.com for a complete list of all her books and sign up for her newsletter to receive information on new releases, appearances, contests and exclusive subscriber content. Also visit her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.
Read an Excerpt
London, England — Eighteen months later
Elliot Baker studied the small calling card in his hand. A charming card, it had a colorful array of flowers, with two doves, on one side. The second side read:
Mrs. Gabriel Pennyworth
"You say she is here in the waiting room?" He tapped the card with his finger and regarded his secretary, Mr. Gleason, the man who had been with him ever since he opened his office two years prior. Tall, thin, dressed — as always — in all black, he was the perfect complement to the type of business Elliot conducted.
"Yes, sir. She said she is aware she does not have an appointment, but it is of utmost importance that she see you." His sniff told him how inappropriate he deemed the woman's actions.
Elliot stood, rolled his sleeves down, and shrugged into his jacket. "Very well. Send in" — he glanced at the card — "Mrs. Pennyworth."
He was just settling into his chair when a young, very attractive woman passed through the doorway. As he stood back up, he tried very hard not to notice her full lips, creamy skin, and golden-blond hair, fashioned into a chignon at the back of her head. Her high-necked, well-made black carriage dress did not sport the bustle that so many women had returned to, but gathered in the back, pulling the fabric close against her stomach. The style of the dress would draw any appreciative male's eyes to her fine form.
Overall, she was of a most attractive countenance, which immediately annoyed him.
Mrs. Pennyworth cleared her throat, reminding him he had been staring. He flushed at being caught gawking, gave her a slight smile, and waved to the chair in front of his desk. "Won't you please have a seat, Mrs. Pennyworth?"
She sat very primly at the edge of the seat, her delicate black lace-gloved hands resting on the handle of her parasol. "Thank you for seeing me without an appointment, Mr. Baker. I will not take up much of your time."
He dipped his head in acknowledgment. "How may I be of service, ma'am?"
Her clear green eyes studied him in cool detachment, telling him nothing. "I wish you to investigate an issue on my behalf."
He leaned back, regarding her once again. No wedding ring visible through the lace glove, a black dress, and asking for his services, which was generally done by a man. A widow. Perhaps a recent one. Tenting his fingers together, he tapped his lip. "Indeed? And what is it you wish me to investigate?"
She glanced off to the side, and a slight flush covered her lovely cheeks. "I am being bedeviled by someone who is making me quite uncomfortable."
An alarm sounded in his brain, and his well-earned suspicious nature rose to the forefront. Slow down, Elliot. Not every pretty woman is a manipulator.
To give himself time to clear his mind, and accept whatever it was Mrs. Pennyworth was about to tell him without prejudice, he pulled a pad of paper toward him, and dipping his pen in the inkwell, looked up at her. "Please continue."
She chewed her bottom lip, then taking a deep breath, drawing his eyes to her well-formed bosom, blurted out, "I have been receiving unwanted items on my front doorstep." She stopped and once more worried her plump bottom lip.
If the woman needed to be prodded every time she made a statement, the interview would take much longer than her initial promise. However, it was apparent she was upset, and having a difficult time of it. Since he rarely had women for clients, he softened a bit, without letting down his guard, and realized how out of her element she must be.
Perhaps the formal atmosphere was hindering her. He replaced the pen in its holder and pushed the pad away. "May I offer you tea, Mrs. Pennyworth?"
She visibly relaxed and nodded. "Yes, that would be quite nice." She pulled out a fancy lace and linen handkerchief and patted her forehead and upper lip.
Elliot pushed back his chair and walked around the desk to the doorway. "Mr. Gleason, please bring tea for Mrs. Pennyworth and myself."
He attempted small talk while they waited for the refreshments, but it soon became apparent that whatever had brought Mrs. Pennyworth to his office had a firm grip on her sensibilities, and she merely smiled and nodded distractedly at his comments.
Elliot was greatly relieved when Gleason appeared at the door with a tray of tea things. "Would you care to pour, Mrs. Pennyworth?"
Once they were settled with tea and plates of biscuits on the narrow table in front of the small wood-burning stove, Elliot said, "Please start at the beginning so I may understand what your problem is, and how I can be of service to you."
Taking a sip of tea, she placed the cup in the saucer and folded her hands in her lap.
"About three weeks ago, I received a bouquet of flowers on my front doorstep. Since I had attended a small gathering the evening before, I assumed a gentleman had sent them over. The odd thing was, it arrived with no card. They were simply left there. Ordinarily, a delivery boy rings the bell and presents them."
Time to get some facts. "And was Mr. Pennyworth upset by this arrival of flowers?"
She raised her chin. "Mr. Pennyworth passed a year ago." She took another sip of tea. "I live alone in my own home, with a small staff, a bit north of Hyde Park."
He made a mental note. Widow. Solid middle-class neighborhood. Her clothes reflected sufficient money and good taste.
"A few days later there were more flowers, but again, no note." She stared off into the distance, her voice lowering, her words disjointed. "Days followed with more flowers, a lovely plant, a box of chocolates, and an expensive handkerchief —"
"All with no identifying card?"
She nodded. "Last week, however, I received a single black rose, a blank card attached, with what appeared to be a drop of blood on it." She patted her upper lip with her handkerchief once more and looked directly into his eyes. "This morning there was a dead bird on the steps." She chewed her lips and shivered. "With a knife through its poor little body."
What he had begun to think was merely a man too shy to approach an attractive woman, swiftly changed to something more sinister. "And still no note?"
She shook her head. "None."
He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. "Have you notified the Metropolitan Police?"
"Yes. I just came from there. They dismissed my concerns. The man at the desk suggested I had an admirer, whose attentions I should be enjoying."
He shook his head in disgust. "And the bird? What did he make of that?"
"That it was merely some rough youths playing a trick. He then informed me that unless I lived in Whitechapel and plied my trade on the street" — she winced — "they had no time for me since they are busy with that horrible man committing all those murders of prostitutes."
Bloody hell of a way for an officer of the law to speak to a woman. "Yes, the one the newspapers have given the moniker 'Jack the Ripper'."
She swallowed visibly and took another sip of tea, her hand shaking slightly. "I don't know what to do. I have not reached the point where I am afraid to leave my home, but I must admit to having twinges of fear each time I open the front door."
"Do you mind if I take some notes?"
"Not at all." Her eyes followed him as he rose and retrieved the pen and pad from his desk. "Do you think you can help me, Mr. Baker?"
Prior to the incident with the woman Annabelle, that had led to his resignation from Scotland Yard, he would not have hesitated to help a woman in need. However, time and experience had taught him to go carefully with pretty women. Even though he'd tried many times to tell himself all women were not like Annabelle, he was cautious in his answer. "I am not sure. What is it, exactly, you wish me to do?"
"Find out who is doing this, and stop these things from coming to my front door." Her voice rose, and her face flushed. "I apologize for shouting, but I am quite stressed."
He looked down at the pad to give the poor woman a moment to compose herself. "Tell me, is there a pattern with the arrival of these items? For example, you mentioned the first flowers arrived the morning after you had attended an event. Is that true for the other packages? Or maybe after a specific type of event you attend on a regular basis? On certain days of the week, perhaps?"
"Yes. I have noticed they mostly arrive the morning after I have been to a social event. However, there have been times when nothing came the morning after."
"Which means your tormentor might not have been at that event."
"I thought of that and tried to remember who was not there, but so many of the events have people coming and going all night, it is hard to keep track."
He nodded and made some notes. "Any particular type of event that did not have a package left the next morning? For example, the theater, a dinner party, garden party, etc.?"
She shook her head. "No, I don't believe so."
"Have you ever had a package arrive the morning after you've had an evening alone, at home?"
She considered for a minute. "No. I don't believe so."
Elliot continued to look down at the pad. "Is there a gentleman who has offered his attentions that you have spurned?"
Her body stiffened. "I am just coming out of mourning, Mr. Baker. Any gentleman who offered his attentions has been spurned."
He nodded. Either she was a good actress, or she lived by a decent moral code. Until he knew her better, he opted for actress. "And yet you attend social events."
If she saw any condemnation in his words, she didn't show it. "Since I recently passed the anniversary of Mr. Pennyworth's death, I have been accepting invitations, but only those of a more sedate nature. Smaller assemblies, no large balls or gatherings."
"And those in your circle of friends and acquaintances would be aware of your situation? Of the fact that you are coming out of mourning?"
Still reluctant to take on Mrs. Pennyworth's case, he asked, "Have you no men in your family to champion you?"
He did not imagine her miniscule change in demeanor. The slight tension in her body, the hesitation, as if considering her words carefully. What is she hiding?
"I am an only child, with no male relatives."
Leaning back, he regarded her. If he were to help this poor frazzled woman, he would need to spend time with her, which he did not relish. Once burned, and all that.
"May I ask what brought you to my door?"
"The constable at the Metropolitan Police. He said you were a former Inspector."
* * *
Charlotte attempted to calm herself, so Mr. Baker wouldn't think she was a swooning, hysterical female. When she had first decided to take the constable's suggestion and visit with Mr. Baker, she had been expecting to meet a middle-aged paunchy man, with thinning hair, beady eyes, and thick spectacles.
Instead, she found the private investigator to be young, handsome, and someone who did not seem to confine himself to sitting behind a desk. He filled out his coat quite well, and the peek she'd gotten of his well-formed legs bore witness to time spent in active pursuits. His deep-blue eyes seemed to look right into her soul. A lock of light-brown hair fell over his broad forehead, which he kept pushing back with his fingers. To no avail.
However, the last thing she needed was to develop a fancy for a man. She was still angry at Gabriel for risking his life in that stupid carriage race. She'd begged him not to go. Cocksure, as usual, he'd kissed her goodbye and tweaked her nose, telling her she worried too much.
That was the last time she'd seen him alive. He'd been thrown from the carriage, landing in such a way that he'd broken his neck. Rage, tears, and depression had taken over her life for months.
After her narrow escape from Lord Barton, she'd only been in London and at her new situation at the bank for a few weeks when Gabriel Pennyworth had appeared one morning and begun to take notice of her. A well-placed solicitor and the third son of a viscount, he had not been exactly handsome but had possessed a personality that charmed women wherever he went.
Only a month after their marriage, all her hopes for a happy life with a husband, a comfortable home, and children, had vanished on a rainy Saturday morning at Hyde Park. The arrival of her menses a week later had added to her sorrow for the child who was not to be.
The owner of a sizeable trust fund from his grandparents, Gabriel had left her with a lovely townhouse, along with a nice income that would last the rest of her life.
One would think, after her experience with Lord Barton, she would realize no man could be trusted. Gabriel had promised to love, honor, and cherish her. What sort of honor was risking your neck in a carriage race with a group of ninnyhammers? She intended to take care of herself from now on, which was why it rankled to have to ask Mr. Baker for help.
"Are you planning any social events in the near future?" Mr. Baker's deep voice cut into her musing.
"I have accepted an invitation to a poetry reading at Mrs. Bertha Ainsley's home tomorrow evening."
Mr. Baker pulled a face, which piqued her curiosity. "Why do you ask?"
"Right now, it appears your persecutor is a member of your social circle. The best way for me to uncover this culprit is to attend the events where you will be. Since I do not travel in your circles, I will need to accompany you as your escort. Although I abhor poetry, would it be difficult to obtain an additional invitation to this affair? Also to any others you will be attending?"
She pursed her lips, mentally reviewing the various occasions on her social calendar. "No, I do not believe it will be a problem."
He placed his pen back into its holder on the desk and stood. "Excellent. I will call for you at ..."
Startled at his abrupt change of demeanor, she hesitated. "Oh, the reading begins at eight o'clock, so I would think seven-thirty or so shall do it."
"Please give your direction to Mr. Gleason as you leave."
She scrambled to gather her things at being so summarily dismissed. "But ... we haven't discussed your fee. Or whether you think you can assist."
"Madam, if I could not assist in the search for this man, I would not be foisting my company upon you. As far as my fee, I will charge you less than you expected, yet more than you had hoped." He offered a smile, enough for her to realize the man had a smile that should be declared illegal. White even teeth, full lips, and small lines alongside his mouth that gave him a rakish look. None of which I need note.
He clutched her elbow and walked her to the door of his office. "Don't forget to leave your information with Mr. Gleason."
Her head spinning with the energy emanating from Mr. Baker, she nodded and made her way to the front office where she gave the needed information to the secretary. Feeling hopeful, she left the building, took a deep breath, and was immediately overtaken with a spasm of coughing from the ever-present coal dust in the air.
She headed to the hansom cab she'd arrived in, since her coachman, Bones, had developed an ague, and she had insisted he stay abed.
Thinking ahead to tomorrow's poetry reading and being accompanied, of all people, by a private investigator, she let herself into her house and headed straight for the kitchen. Another cup of tea would be just the thing to settle her nerves and help her decide what to wear. Not that it made a whit of difference. This was just another social event.
* * *
Ensconced in a safe place, it was easy for M to watch the woman climb out of the rented equipage and hurry into her snug little house. Why was she not using her own carriage? Had she found it necessary to let the coachman go? To sell the carriage and pair? That would never do for sweet Anne.
Anne. Now going by the name of Charlotte. M sighed at her trickery.
Perhaps the next gift should be one of value, so she could sell it if she needed the funds. How comforting it would be to take care of her again. To watch her lovely face light up with pleasure at the little gifts. To remind her to wear a pelisse when it was chilly outside, and to be sure to eat breakfast since she tended to start her day with only a cup of chocolate.
Anne was such a delicate little thing and had brought great happiness to their life together. Except when she hadn't. Memories returned of when it had been necessary to punish her. That was why other, more unpleasant, gifts had been left on her doorstep. The bloodied rose and dead bird would not have made her face light up with joy. Things that would make her sweet breath catch, and her delicate hand tremble. Reminders that she was being watched.
Excerpted from "The Pursuit of Mrs. Pennyworth"
Copyright © 2018 Callie Hutton.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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
I am voluntarily submitting my honest review after receiving an ARC of this ebook via NetGalley. This novel is a significant departure from Callie Hutton's other work, however, I still enjoyed the book a great deal. This book revolves around Mrs. Pennyworth's mysterious stalker, with her romance with Mr. Baker playing an important, but secondary role in the novel. As always, Hutton's prose is fluid and natural, and the plot progresses quickly, making this a fun, light read, perfect for a rainy afternoon. Fans of historical fiction, particularly those who love a good mystery with a dash of romance, will love this book.
I haven't read a historical romantic suspense book for a while, so I was really intrigued by the possibilities The Pursuit of Mrs. Pennyworth offered. A young widow being stalked by a jealous lover (or are they?) who falls for the PI she hires to help her? Yes, please! Ms. Hutton did a decent job of providing us with red herrings here--I'll admit I did suspect the perpetrator earlyish on, but I was far from convinced of their guilt until the person Elliot thought it was turned up dead (which really begs the question, just how good a detective is he? But I digress...) Charlotte and Elliott's romance starts rather awkwardly--their initial attraction feels a bit overblown, and all the foot rubs/shoulder rubs/scalp massages seem inappropriate in a not-quite-good-way--but by the end I was completely invested in it. Which is when Elliot acts completely idiotically (though admittedly mostly in character) and ruins everything. He gets over it a bit too quickly and easily, but since he was really in the wrong to begin with, it's hard to be too upset about it. Charlotte's (completely justified) refusal to forgive him until he does some major grovelling therefore seems exactly as he deserves, and makes their HEA feel that much more as it should be. Rating: 3 1/2 stars / B- I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
3.5* Charlotte Pennyworth just out of mourning for her husband and start to get back into society, someone is leaving her some very macabre gifts on her front steps. Scotland Yard has very little time for such things with Jack the Ripper running the streets of London and send her away with a recommendation to seek out Elliot Baker investigator. Elliot Baker retired from Scotland Yard now a private investigator and Solicitor is intrigued with Mrs. Pennyworth and her problem. She is beautiful and clearly distraught by the the mounting disgusting gifts being left her. Elliot can tell she’s hiding something but he agrees to help her. If his mistake that’s drove him to leave Scotland Yard taught him anything he needed to stay away from beautiful woman who have secrets. Charlotte has decided she will not marry again. All the men in her life have cared more for themselves and fun then her safety and end up leaving her alone. Elliot may find a wife down the road but no has peaked his curiosity and when one did she played him for a fool. The more time Charlotte and Elliot spend together the more their attraction grows and the secret gifts become more violent. I had a difficult time getting into the story but when I did I truly enjoyed it and all the characters. There were twists and turns and a very interesting tormentor and heartbreaking moments. Callie Hutton never disappoints!
When Miss Charlotte Reading is falsely accused of being a jewel thief, she flees to London to begin and new life. But trouble and danger stalk her every step. Charlotte turns to Inspector Elliot Baker when disturbing items are left on her doorstep. Can Elliot discover who is tormenting Charlotte? And what can he do with his growing attraction towards her? I thoroughly enjoyed The Pursuit of Mrs. Pennyworth. I highly recommend it if you love romance and suspense.
For my first historical romance, The Pursuit of Mrs. Pennyworth gave me all I wanted and more. The thriller aspect was creepy and kept me guessing up to the reveal. The romance was sexy with just enough push and pull between the characters to stay interesting and fun. Mrs. Pennyworth was so relatable which I absolutely loved. She wasn't a damsel in distress and wasn't afraid to stand up for what she believed in. I love the descriptions of historical London and their way of life. I felt transported into this world for a few hours and honestly would have loved to stay a bit longer. The pacing was a bit slow, but I've heard that is common for historical romances, and the story was never boring. If anything I was kept on my toes up until the very end. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Unfortunately, this book isn't as good as I thought it'd be. At least, for me it's an average read, something you take your time with and maybe then it won't get boring in the middle. I'm the kind of reader who mostly read books in one sitting, so I prefer fast paced reads, which will keep me entertained for a few hours. This is not one of those books. Although, story is good and both main characters are well-written, however, it is really slow. Nothing much seems to happen for a while at times. I'll be honest I skipped few chapters after 50%. It picked up again at the end, ending is good. Overall, as I said, it's an average read for me. Charlotte's life hasn't been easy and just when she thinks it will get better it actually gets worse. She has no idea who is after her but she is sure someone out there doesn't want her to live a quite peaceful life. After few dead animals are left on her doorstep she decides to hire an investigator. Hopefully he will be able to catch the perpetrator and then she can deal with it. Mr. Baker seems like a very professional person. He also thinks of himself as one, but apparently Charlotte is going to test his believes. Soon he realizes that being professional around her is not something he is capable of. First, they must solve the mystery behind all the 'gifts' she has been receiving and after that they can think about their future, hopefully together... The mystery side of the book is quite good. It kept me intrigued and ending is completely unexpected so I loved that part. If you like slow-paced historical fiction then this is a book you'd definitely enjoy.
Melbourne Station, England - 1887 Miss Charlotte Reading, age 23, is supposed to meet with Lord Barton, but instead she has packed her belongings and headed to London on the train. She had been a companion to Lord Barton’s mother until he tried to coerce her into being his mistress by threatening to accuse her of theft. Now, Charlotte hopes to find a new position soon. London - 18 months later Charlotte is now Mrs. Gabriel Pennyworth and a widow just coming out of mourning. She had been married to Gabriel for just a few months when he foolishly lost his life racing a carriage. Charlotte has called upon Mr. Elliot Baker for his help. She has been receiving strange items left on her doorstep that range from flowers to a dead bird. Since she lives with just her servants, and a prostitute murderer is on the loose called Jack the Ripper, she is even more frightened. Mr. Baker used to be an Inspector at the police before becoming a private investigator. He agrees to help Charlotte find out who is leaving these things on her doorstep. He begins accompanying her to social functions observing the people she knows and trying to ascertain if one of these people could be her tormentor. Before too long, their frequent togetherness sparks an attraction between them. Who is the person intent on frightening Charlotte and why? The story introduces readers to many acquaintances of Charlotte, many with strange personalities, making it more difficult to figure out who is trying to terrify her. I liked the story but must say that while Elliot is a good help to her, I could not have forgiven him like she did. You will have to read the book to see what I mean and I’m interested in seeing if you could forgive him or not. Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Deranged Love 3.5* An interesting story set in the time of the Jack the Ripper murders which means that the Authorities have no time to spend on the increasingly bizarre & twisted offerings being left on Charlotte’s doorstep by an unknown admirer. Charlotte engages Elliot to investigate and they are thrown into each other’s company and a romance ensues. The book kept my attention though I was not keen on the gruesome elements! I did feel it was rather overlong and the American terms were rather jarring to an English reader. If I read a book set in the USA in whatever time period I expect them to use American terms. If I read a book set in the UK I expect the characters to speak using British terms if they are British. I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley. I was not compensated for my review, and I was not required to write a positive review. The opinion expressed here is my own.
Skillfully plotted and full of suspense, I was intrigued from the start. Late 1880's England, the story starts out with our heroine, Miss Charlotte Reading fleeing from a position as a companion after being accused of theft. Fast forward 18 mos and we find Charlotte visiting Elliot Baker, private PI and solicitor, formally of the Metropolitan Police. Charlotte, now Mrs Pennyworth had married but lost her husband shortly afterwards in an accident. Now a widow after a year, strange packages had begun showing up on her doorstep, thus her need of an investigator. Elliott really did not want to take the case due to having had a bad experience with another beautiful lady making a fool out of him. But against his better judgement he decides to help her. There is definitely a threat being made against Charlotte but the clues are few and far between. With a strong attraction beginning to form the more they spend with each other, Elliott tries to keep himself distanced. But when he becomes the aim of the mysterious threat, can he leave Charlotte on her own? I truly love historical romance and when there is added mystery and suspense, it really draws me further in. This reminded me a little of Victoria Holt and Georgette Heyer although Callie Hutton has a style of her own with this book. I truly did not want to turn the last page because I so enjoyed the interaction between Charlotte and Elliott. I hope there will be many more stories like this to come and will have my fingers crossed!!
I really liked Charlotte and Elliot's story! I really liked the mystery portion of the story. I really enjoyed Charlotte. She came from modest means, but that didn't stop her from making her way in the world. After getting married, her life seemed to be on the right track. Even though her husband died a month after the marriage, he had left her well suited. She was finally secure in her life, until some unwanted packages started arriving for her. She hires Elliot to figure out who is sending them. They are quite taken with each other from the start and that just seems to aggravate the sender even more. Can Charlotte's past have something to do with the unwelcome packages? Will Charlotte and Elliot solve this mystery before one of them is seriously injured or even killed? This was different from Hutton's other work and I hope she continues to write more like it as I was throughly entertained!