Greggory Redcake's plate is full. Widowed young and left with two small children, the manager of the Kensington location of the illustrious tea shop is besieged on all sides between the bakery and family matters. If only his remarkably efficient shop assistant, Betsy Popham, could manage his home life, too! But Greggory can't linger on thoughts of Betsy's fetching smile when a dead body is discovered in the bakery…
Betsy has no time for romance, not even with the delectable Mr. Redcake, whose kisses are all too unforgettable. Haunted by a specter from her family's past, Betsy is terrified that the man blackmailing her has turned to deadly violence. Yet the only way to save her position--and possibly her life--is to accept Greggory's help as their delicious attraction sweetens into the tantalizing promise of true love…
Praise for Heather Hiestand's novels
"One Taste of Scandal is a delicious, multi-layered Victorian treat."
--Gina Robinson, author of The Last Honest Seamstress and the Agent Ex series
"This fast paced read is both sweet and fun. It's rare to find historical romances that feature couples who are of anything but Anglo Saxon decent, and this one does a solid job of addressing some of these difficulties....A fast read with a different view point than many novels in the genre." –Library Journal on His Wicked Smile
"This is definitely one for the keeper shelf." Historical Romance Lover on His Wicked Smile
"A delightful, sexy glimpse into Victorian life and loving with two wonderfully non traditional lovers." Jessa Slade, author of Dark Prince's Desire, on His Wicked Smile
About the Author
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Read an Excerpt
By HEATHER HIESTAND
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Heather Hiestand
All rights reserved.
May 2, 1892
Betsy Popham had been paying for her mother's murderous impulses most of her life, but she hadn't expected a victim's daughter to walk into her place of business. She knew her father had paid the family their usual annuity the day before, on the first of the month, as he had for nearly eighteen years.
Violet Carter had the face of an ingénue: huge dark eyes with thick lashes, pretty rosebud lips, and a mass of curling blond hair that must have been assisted in its brilliance by the application of lemon juice and sun. Her black mourning gown dulled her beauty somewhat.
Betsy finished smoothing the white tablecloth she'd placed on a recently vacated table and went to Violet, hovering by the entrance to the tearoom at the Kensington branch of Redcake's. The locale was far too exclusive to be visited by a young working-class woman from Fulham, even one as pretty as Violet.
Violet's sweet face lost its look of desperation when she saw Betsy moving toward her. She took a step forward and clasped Betsy's hands.
"Oh, my dear friend," she cried.
Why would this girl think to call her a friend? She was the daughter of the woman who had poisoned Violet's father. While Betsy toiled to pay the Carter family's bills, she scarcely knew them as people. They were merely an unending debt her father had insisted was their Christian duty to pay.
"This is my workplace, Violet," Betsy said, pulling the girl into the entrance hall, away from the exclusive clientele who came to enjoy the mouthwatering pastries and light comestibles offered in the tearoom. On the other side of the hall, the double doors to the bakery offered a tasty selection to all passersby, and the customer might be one such as Violet, come in for a shilling cake or other special treat, after a day spent viewing art at the Victoria and Albert Museum, or shopping at John Barker & Co.
"I know, Betsy. That is why I am here."
A pair of scrollwork iron benches awaited those elderly persons who could not stand while queuing for tables in the tearoom. As they were presently unoccupied, Betsy guided her unwelcome guest to the most unobtrusive one.
"I am afraid I do not understand." As she looked at the girl again, she wondered if her drab gown was her approximation of the Redcake's cakie uniform. Cakie was the Redcake's term for the tearoom waitresses, and they wore black gowns, designed to be manageable for girls who didn't have maids to dress them. Practical as the garments were, they looked better than Violet's sad frock.
Violet reached for Betsy's hand again and held it between her two slender palms. "I am hoping you will offer me employment."
Betsy's gaze narrowed. "Violet, I am sure you've never worked a day in your life. Why, you've never needed money."
"My mother died yesterday." Violet's lush lashes fluttered down.
"Excuse me? My father just visited with her yesterday." Ralph Popham always walked the more than three miles from their house in Chiswick to the Carter home near the Putney Bridge alone, claiming it gave him time for prayer and reflection.
"Yes, dear." Violet squeezed her hand as if in comfort.
Betsy had rarely met Mrs. Carter and had a low opinion of her. She needed no support for grief. Violet, on the other hand, must want exactly that. "What happened?"
"She was run over by a cart when she went out to buy us a fish and chips dinner. It was our usual treat the first day of the month."
When the Popham money arrived, she meant. "My condolences. I hope she didn't suffer."
"It was very quick. My brother heard the shouting and ran out the door. He wouldn't let me come out."
"I'm sorry," Betsy repeated, wishing she could pull her hand from Violet's grip. "So sorry."
"Now we are orphans." Violet sniffed.
Adult orphans. Betsy wondered if her father would insist they continue to pay the Carters now that Mr. Carter's widow was gone. Probably. Her father's sense of guilt was unending. She would leave this detail to him and promise nothing.
The door leading to the back rooms opened and Betsy saw Greggory Redcake peer out, as if looking for someone. Mr. Redcake owned the Kensington tea shop and emporium, and managed the business besides. Tall and attractively lanky, with a careless thicket of black locks, it was easy to think him younger than his twenty-eight years.
His immediate family called him Gregorio because he was such a throwback to his mother's Italian ancestry. Betsy would never presume and knew she was lucky to have her position. The owner of the flagship Redcake's Tea Shop and Emporium, the Marchioness of Hatbrook, had recommended Betsy to Greggory, and she did her best to be the perfect assistant manager.
Now, with Mrs. Carter deceased, it would be nice to hope that her labors might pay for a more comfortable lifestyle for herself. She sighed.
"I know it is terribly sad, but Mother is with Our Lord now, and Father, of course."
"Yes," Betsy said, pulling her hand away from Violet's grasp and patting her shoulder.
She glanced up again and saw Mr. Redcake's approving glance. What did he think was transpiring? He kept to himself and she never really knew what he was thinking. When she stared back at him, he nodded at her and closed the door again. Should she go after him to find out what he wanted? It was her duty as his assistant to anticipate his every need.
Violet took her hand again. "What do you think? Could you train me to be a waitress?"
"Cakie," Betsy corrected. "Nobody comes here fresh from their mother, Violet. Our girls have at least five years of experience before we hire them."
"Many of them are about my age," Violet protested.
"Yes, but they went into service or a factory, or worked in a shop, by the age of twelve," Betsy explained. "Not everyone has a mother who can keep them home."
"You've known me almost your entire life," the girl said. "My mother taught me to keep a neat house, and you know I don't have any trouble with followers. My mother told me you'd give me a character if I ever needed to work, though of course she hoped I'd marry instead." She ended her speech with that afterthought.
Betsy felt her left leg twitch. She wanted to be done with this conversation and trotting after Mr. Redcake to find out what he wanted. "I do not know why your mother would have said that, Violet. I know you scarcely at all, but it is possible she knew few women to ask."
"She never needed to work. She did as she liked. My father made a good wage, and you've cared for us since he died."
Betsy forced a smile around her clenched teeth. "I can certainly write you a character if you'd like, but I suggest you attempt to find something more suitable if you are going to support yourself. There must be a family who needs help with their children, or with their house, in your neighborhood."
"I want to work with you! Learn from you. You have one of the best jobs in London, Betsy."
I've had to be the best. I had to pay your bills all these years. "Work hard for some local family, learning all the virtues of employment such as patience, punctuality, pleasant attitude. Someday you might just find yourself in a cakie uniform." Betsy patted Violet's arm briskly. "I am so sorry about your mother."
"Do you want me to pass your condolences on to my brother?" Violet asked, blinking those absurdly long dark lashes. Did the girl coat them in soot to make them blacker?
"Of course," Betsy said, her smile even more forced. She'd prefer to forget Victor Carter existed. "Please do send a note when you have the funeral sorted. I'm sure my father will want to attend."
"I'll come tell you in person," Violet promised. "And talk to you about a position again. If I ask enough times, you may just give me a chance."
Betsy stared at the girl flashing her dimples. Unease swept over her. "Persistence can indeed be a virtue, but it can also be quite unpleasant. Use it sparingly."
Betsy inclined her head. "Come. Let's take you into the bakery and fill up a nice big box with treats. One thing that will help you learn about working here is knowledge of the goods we carry. Someday, it might help you in an interview."
Twenty minutes later, Violet's box of meringues, coconut buns, and Genoese fancies had bit into Betsy's paycheck, but the girl had finally left, carrying two of the sparkling white Redcake's boxes, tightly closed with gold ribbons. Betsy had probably just fed all of the funeral party, but it was worth it to persuade the girl to leave.
Betsy sighed as she finally made it through the door into the back room, whatever she had been doing before Violet arrived long forgotten. Her only goal was to find out why Mr. Redcake had been looking for her.
"Who was that? Your cousin?" asked Winnie Baxter, the lead salesgirl in the bakery, as she stood up from the rack that held goods waiting to be loaded into the bakery cases. The same age as Betsy, she was the employee Betsy felt closest to, though she didn't really have friends.
"No, an old family acquaintance," Betsy replied.
"Pretty girl," Winnie said. "I wouldn't want to fight her for a man."
"Oh? Are you looking for someone?" Betsy would hate to lose their best salesgirl to marriage, but it happened all the time.
Winnie made a face as she hefted a tray of chocolate bismarcks. "It would be nice to have a man doing the heavy work. After a day of this, I have to go home and start my weekly wash."
"If you were married, you'd have to do his wash, too," Betsy said. She regretted her words when she saw the dreamy-eyed expression on Winnie's round face.
"Oh, I'd only marry a man who could keep me in a sweet little house, far away from here." Winnie sighed. "I could take all day to do the wash. Wouldn't it be grand to have time to scrub your whites truly clean?" Arms rigid, she hauled the heavy tray toward the bakery.
"Let me help you," Betsy said. She took one side and together they carried it in.
After another twenty minutes spent helping to restock the bakery, during which time she discovered that their latest bakery girl, Miss Brown, was not working with a sense of urgency, she finally was able to go upstairs to Mr. Redcake's office.
Greggory Redcake stared through the small window behind his desk into the alley at the rear of Redcake's. At this time of day, not much transpired at the loading dock. All the deliveries had gone out and a peaceful lull existed before an early afternoon rush to deliver items to private homes for teas and evening entertainments. The residents of the surrounding exclusive neighborhoods had taken to his Redcake's branch quite enthusiastically.
He'd never have thought, when his Uncle Bartley moved his family to London to open the first Redcake's Tea Shop and Emporium, that he'd someday be in London himself, owning the second Redcake's. But Uncle Bartley had spent time in London opening this location, then had given it to him as a wedding present.
Now, less than two years later, he had no wife, but the wedding present consumed most of his time. What he really needed was a kind, efficient lady like Betsy Popham to manage his personal life as well. She had such a way about her with the staff. He'd noticed she turned tongue-tied around customers sometimes, as if she didn't quite know how to act around their wealthy clientele. With the workers she did a corking job and was universally well-liked.
A knock at his door had him standing up from the wide window ledge. He straightened his back and buttoned his coat as he went to open the door.
"Mr. Redcake?" said Betsy, stepping into the room before he could respond. Her bosom brushed his arm as she went by.
He wondered if she realized how often she did that. This question sent his thoughts tumbling toward the realization that Miss Popham had a larger bosom than most ladies, which led him to think about the rest of her: short of stature, round, and with the most perfect peaches-and-cream complexion. Her glowing skin showed that her full curves were Nature's gift and not the result of eating too many petits fours. Greggory knew the only way to know how a woman would age was to take a look at a girl's mother. He had no idea what Mrs. Popham looked like, but he'd bet the full curves would remain and not tend to fat later in life, as many girls did as they aged and had babies.
One of the last conversations he'd had with Letty, before the sudden fever had ended her life, was a lament about what her figure would be like after birthing their twins. He'd had to reassure her that she would fit into her gowns in time, and that he still found her attractive, all of the things men said to their wives, not really knowing if they were true or not. But he'd never had the chance to find out what Letty looked like, post-babies. She hadn't lived a month. Since then a succession of ill-bred wet nurses and nursemaids and baby nurses, an ever-changing assortment of surprisingly hard-eyed women, had been his in-home companions.
He'd arrive at Redcake's in the morning and see Betsy Popham and the soft-eyed, well-rested, pretty cakies in clean uniforms that didn't smell like unwashed baby. Oh, he felt guilty for how good it felt to come to his business, leaving his home in wealthy Kensington Church Walk, nose to nose with his clientele, his children, and his dead wife's incomplete decorating schemes.
"Mr. Redcake?" Betsy asked again.
"So sorry, woolgathering." Greggory forced a smile for his favorite employee. "You wanted to see me?"
"You wanted to see me," Betsy said, pushing thick bangs off her forehead.
"Yes, sir. You came out of the back corridor into the foyer." Greggory straightened the photo of his wife on his desk. "Ah, but I wasn't looking for you."
"Very well, I'm sorry to disturb you then. I had the impression you needed something."
You have no idea. He forced a smile. "I apologize. I heard something unusual as I was passing by the door and peered out. That young woman crying, I believe."
Betsy winced. "I am sorry about that. She wanted to apply for a position, but she has no experience."
"She will need to toughen up before she is suitable for the workplace." He stared at the photo. Did it still belong on his desk?
Betsy nodded. "In her defense, her mother has just passed away. Yesterday, in fact."
"And she's looking for work? Is she destitute? I do wonder, in a case like this, if we should offer such a person a meal." Greggory frowned. "Of course, we have to protect our clientele."
"I gave her two boxes of baked goods. I'll take the expense out of my paycheck, of course."
"No, no, my dear. No need to do that. I appreciate your compassion with those less fortunate." He opened a drawer and shoved in Letty's photo. Maybe seeing her face less often would clear some cobwebs from his brain.
Betsy's smile was strained, leading Greggory to wonder what he'd said wrong. Letty was the only woman he had never irritated. Until her pregnancy, at least, she'd been the most placid girl, peaceful. Sometimes, he had the impression Betsy Popham was anything but peaceful, but she was still the most magnificent example of buxom womanhood he'd ever seen.
"Perhaps we could keep a tray or two of day-old baked goods handy for just such occasions," he suggested.
"We don't have leftovers very often. I do not think it necessary," she said. "If there is nothing else, I should continue my efforts to tidy the tearoom."
He took a closer look at his assistant manager. She swiped at her bangs again, a gesture that struck him as nervous. Her color was high. Normally, her forehead, chin, and the tip of her nose weren't so pink. "Where were you just before you came upstairs?"
"In the bakery, helping to load the cases for the afternoon."
"That isn't anything you have to do."
She sighed. "The new girl isn't pulling her weight, Mr. Redcake. I'm not sure she's going to work out."
Ah. "Every hire will not be a perfect fit," he said, then attempted some reassurance. "We all make bad hiring choices at times, and it isn't even always our fault. People can be quite deceptive."
"She seemed bubbly in the interview. I may have mistaken her character for her energy level. She's really rather languid."
"We don't have room for languid at Redcake's," he agreed. "Give it a couple of days. She may be so nervous about making mistakes that she's moving slowly."
"There is a lot to learn," Betsy said. "Thank you, sir."
"Thank you, Miss Popham."
Excerpted from Trifling Favors by HEATHER HIESTAND. Copyright © 2016 Heather Hiestand. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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
The last book is always the saddest because it's the end . But this book was worth reading the others and it's a great last book .
Not sure if this is the end of this series but if it is I was left with lots of questions. This one ended too abruptly. I wasn't paying attention to the page numbers but I turned a page and it had ended.
We have met both Betsy and Greggory previously in the series and now we visit with them as they find their happiness. Unfortunately that happiness must wait for slow police work, family betrayals, murder, vandalism and lack of self-esteem. Once again Ms. Heistand brings deep and complex character portrayals to the story and even if you have not read the other books in the series you will cheer for Betsy and Greggory and hiss at the betrayals. I loved the story and the tension the murder brought to it. Right up to the end I thought I had figured out who dunnit, but was pleasantly surprised and glad to be there as karma came back around. I especially like the way she has created independent minded women in a time that they are struggling to come into their own and they shine. The personal doubts that both Betsy and Greggory struggle with are ones that are relatable and touchingly handled. I could see myself in Betsy’s position as she struggled to break free from her father and gain a sense of where she stood in the world of commerce. Greggory’s trials as a widower with infant babies is real and you could feel for the sleepless nights, the constant crying and the triumphs of a full night’s sleep. I gave this story 4.5 stars because I would have liked to see the end a bit more drawn together or at least a short epilogue as it ended a bit abruptly. While this may have been done because Ms. Heistand knows what is coming next, it left me hanging. This is a delightful series that I will continue to follow. I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
This is book 7 in the Redcakes series. Greggory Redcake would love for his home life to be as well organized as his workplace. Everything at work runs smoothly because of his assistant manager, Betsy Popham. But that doesn't last long when someone is murdered at the tea shop. Betsy thinks that the murder has to do with something from her past and when it appears that she is in danger, Greggory offers his home for Betsy and her father to move in to. Now that Betsy and Greggory not only work together but live together, the feelings that both of the have kept hidden are suddenly to strong to ignore. Can they find the murderer as well of figure out where their feelings might take them? I've enjoyed reading about the Redcakes and this story is no exception. I was hoping that Betsy would get her HEA when I met her earlier in the series, so I was excited to see this was her story. I loved that Hiestand added a "who done it" aspect with this story. That element brought more drama to the story as well as propelling the love story forward. I'm not certain if Hiestand is continuing with the Redcakes, but I sure hope she does!! I'm looking forward to reading whatever she comes up with next! Thanks go out to Kensington via NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.