And the three teenage Clarke sisters thought what they'd wear to dinner was their biggest problem…
Lady Kate, the entitled eldest.
Lady Grace, lost in the middle and wishing she were braver.
Lady Lizzy, so endlessly sunny, it's easy to underestimate her.
Then there's Will Harvey, the proud, to-die-forand possibly die with!stable boy; Daniel Murray, the resourceful second footman with a secret; Raymond Allen, the unfortunate-looking young duke; and Fanny Rogers, the unsinkable kitchen maid.
Upstairs! Downstairs! Toss in some farmers and villagers!
None of them ever expected to work together for any reason.
But none of them had ever seen anything like this.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.73(w) x 8.04(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||14 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Lauren Baratz-Logsted was a bookseller and buyer for eleven years before deciding to take a chance on herself as an author. She’s since had more than twenty books published for adults (Vertigo), teens (The Twin's Daughter) and children (The Sisters 8 series, created with her husband and daughter). She’s published a few ebooks as well, including a comedic romance for adults, The Bro-Magnet. She lives in Danbury, CT, with her husband Greg and daughter Jackie. http://www.laurenbaratzlogsted.com/
Read an Excerpt
Lady Katherine Clarke, Kate to those who were fond of her, just seventeen years old and the eldest of three daughters born to Lord Martin Clarke, the Earl of Porthampton, sat in the drawing room at Porthampton Abbey, listening to her father speak.
If he talks to me about the entail just one more time, she vowed to herself coolly, I swear I shall blow my brains out.
Kate knew all about the entail, since she had been hearing talk of it for most of her life, and she'd read her fair share of Austen. Chiefly, it meant that only male heirs could inherit her father's estate. Since there were none of those, it further meant that if she wanted to continue living the life she had grown accustomed to — and she did — and not see what was rightfully hers fall into outside hands, she would have to marry wealthy. And then, if luck were on her side, provide a male heir, posthaste.
In addition to being the eldest daughter, Kate was also the tallest and quite lean. The word "soigné" had been coined to describe creatures just such as her. She was fair-haired with keen eyes that reflected her high intelligence. In short, she was nothing like her father, who was on the stumpy side and balding, and who was fond of saying, "It troubles me not that none of my children resemble me, so long as each, a little bit, resembles her mother."
As the two sat side by side on one of the twin velvet sofas aligned perpendicular to the enormous fireplace, Kate regarded the books lining the room from marble floor to gilt-edged high ceiling. She had read many of the volumes herself and as she looked at them, she thought, not for the first time, that it was entirely possible her father had read none of them at all.
"Tonight at dinner," her father began, "there will be two men I should like for you to pay particular attention to. They are —"
But before Kate could learn who the two latest in the long line of what she privately thought of as "The Man Parade" were to be, her father was interrupted by the entrance of Mr. Ernest Wright, the butler, bearing the tea tray.
Mr. Wright had been with the household for as long as Kate could remember, and she knew he had been there even far longer than that. If she could be said to be fond of anyone outside of Father, it would be Mr. Wright, which wouldn't be saying much, since she really wasn't all that fond of anybody.
"Thank you, Mr. Wright," she said, her words and actions dismissing him as she reached for the teapot. "I shall pour."
"Very good, Lady Kate," he replied.
And yet the butler did not move from his position of attention, eyes straight ahead.
Father looked at the butler, then at his daughter, who widened her eyes to express her own lack of knowledge as she shrugged. Every time one thought one knew what to expect from the household staff — strict obedience, silence except when spoken to — they threw some spanner into the works.
"Was there something further, Wright?" Father prompted.
"Thank you, my lord." The servant all but sighed his relief at being asked. "There was a small matter that I did think I should bring to Your Lordship's attention."
"Yes?" Father was forced to prompt a second time when no more information was forthcoming.
Mr. Wright took in a deep breath before letting out with: "Someone has died, sir."
"Oh no!" Father cried. "Oh, I do hope it wasn't one of the members of the staff."
"I agree," Kate said. "Good help is so hard to find."
"It was not one of the staff," Mr. Wright assured them.
"Thank God for that," Kate breathed.
"It was one of the villagers," Mr. Wright said. "More specifically, a crofter — one of the tenant farmers on your land."
"I'm sure it is all very sad," Father said, "for someone. But surely people die every day, so I do not understand why you are telling me this."
"It is the way he died, my lord."
"The way ...?"
"It would appear he was mauled and most of his heart ripped out so that very little of it remained by the time the body was discovered."
"But the most peculiar part is that —"
"More peculiar than that?"
"— after the discovery of the body, after many had seen it and declared it dead in the yard, and after the widow said to leave it be until her nephew could be got home to help with the burial, and after the widow herself went back inside the house —"
"That is an extraordinary number of after thats, Wright."
"Indeed it is, my lord. And after all that, once everyone was inside and the widow was alone, she heard a sound from the doorway."
"I suspect it was someone coming to pay his or her respects," Father said.
"Hardly, my lord. It was the dead man."
"The one with no heart?"
Mr. Wright nodded.
"What did the widow do?" Father asked.
"She ran and got a shotgun, and then she shot him in the head until he was dead, my lord."
"But he was already dead," Kate pointed out.
Father considered for a moment. "Won't the widow hang for this?"
Both servant and daughter looked at him, perplexed.
"For what?" Kate asked.
"Why, for killing her husband," Father said. "I am fairly certain that in England, killing one's husband is still a hanging offense."
"Did you not hear what Mr. Wright said earlier, Father? The man was already dead!"
"Everyone does appear to agree on that part, Lady Kate," Mr. Wright said. "Everyone says the man was most definitely already dead."
"You see, Father?" Kate said, satisfied. "The widow will not hang. You cannot hang for shooting at someone already dead."
"Precisely," Mr. Wright agreed. "Everyone agrees that when the dead man was first found, while his heart was mostly missing, he most definitely did not have any bullet holes in him, although he does have them now."
Father looked thoroughly confused. "But if the man was dead, then how did he appear at the door?"
Mr. Wright and Lady Kate shared a look.
"Of course he didn't appear at the door, Father."
"But Wright said —"
"I know what he said, since I was sitting right here, but surely he meant that the widow only thought her dead husband had appeared in the doorway. The poor woman was no doubt so overcome with grief and terror that she only hallucinated her husband there."
"Most of the villagers agree with you, Lady Kate."
"I should think so. But wait. Only most?"
"I'm afraid there are others who believe that the widow was not hallucinating at all, Lady Kate. These others are now terrified at the notion of a dead man walking."
"But that is absurd!"
"I agree with you, Lady Kate, but you know how the villagers can be."
"I do indeed, Mr. Wright. They are, to a man, a superstitious bunch."
"Not only am I confused now," Father said with some annoyance, "but I also still do not know: Who died?"
"I'm sorry, my lord. I should have named the dead man earlier. It was Ezra Harvey."
Father considered briefly and then shook his head.
"Longtime tenant farmer?" Mr. Wright added helpfully. "Always quick with a joke?" He thought about this last, a rueful look overtaking his features. "Well, he was."
More consideration, more head shaking.
"Uncle to William Harvey?" Wright tried one last time. "William Harvey, who himself is known to the household as Will?"
"Will Harvey ... Will Harvey ..." Father tapped his lip. "Now, why does that name sound so familiar?"
"Because he is our stable boy?"
Kate gasped a smile as her elegant hand flew to her breastbone, sitting up even straighter if such a thing were possible. "The handsome one," she said, eyes flashing.
Kate couldn't have rightly said why she didn't admit immediately to recognizing Will Harvey's name as soon as Wright uttered it, because of course she did. Kate went to the stables nearly every day of her life, and every time she went there, Will Harvey was there, too. If, to Father, someone like Will Harvey was just a nameless person carrying out a necessary function on the estate, to Kate he was the person who took best care of that which she loved best outside of Father: the horses in general and, in particular, Wyndgate.
But it was more than that. When she'd been just three years old, she'd been taken to the stables for her first riding lesson. No sooner had the horse master got her seated than from the corner of a stall, a small voice was heard to cry with joy, "Horsey!" When questioned by the horse master, the little boy explained that he'd been playing on his aunt and uncle's farm but somehow, in his running and roaming, had wound up here.
"Horsey!" he'd cried again.
"Yes, well," the horse master had said, seeing Will Harvey's evident love and accompanying lack of fear as he walked among the great beasts, "you can stay for this one day, but then off you go back home. You can come back again when you're six — no, make that seven — and help out as a junior stable boy."
And so, for that one day in her life, Kate had had a friend — not her younger sister Grace, still a toddler at two, and so, useless to her; not her youngest sister, Lizzy, still a baby and so, more useless yet, but a real friend. Someone who loved horses as much as she had immediately loved them.
The event no doubt would have faded from memory, as most things experienced by three-year-olds do, were it not for the fact that for day upon day afterward, despite what the horse master had said, she'd looked for Will's return. And when he didn't, he became a fixture in her mind, like an imaginary friend who might yet be made real. That day represented her earliest memory in life. There was nothing before it, not even memories of her parents, only after. Just one day, when she'd had a friend. But no matter how much she'd looked for him after that, he didn't come back for four years.
Then, seemingly out of the blue, he showed up and announced to the horse master, "I am seven today, and I am here for my job as junior stable boy."
Kate, already an accomplished rider for her age, slid off her horse to greet him, but with only one foot on the ground and one still in the stirrup, she had been approached by the horse master, who had whispered harshly in her ear, "That boy is not for you, Lady Kate. He is one of the help, and your father would be most displeased to see you treating him as anything more."
Oh! The bitter cruelty of being asked to give up the one friend she'd ever made!
But if there was one thing Kate loved more than the horses, it was Father. And so the line had been drawn. Will Harvey was a stable boy and Kate was a lady of the house, however young a lady she might be. Over the ten years since, they'd exchanged the occasional inadvertent smile because, both loving horses as they did, how could they not? But she would never cross that line again.
Still, while she might not immediately admit recognizing his name, as soon as Wright identified him to Father as the stable boy, the playful — and in some ways, more honest — side of her nature couldn't help but utter that line about him being "the handsome one," and so ...
"Katherine!" Her father was outraged. "He's a stable boy!"
The stable boy, now grown almost to manhood, had longish brown hair with a light wave to it and kissed by the sun, brown eyes that leaned toward green framed by sinfully long lashes, and a naturally muscular body made further so by labor. To see him ride was to envy the horse.
"Well," she said, unconcerned, "that doesn't stop his being handsome."
Father threw up his hands at this. "Is there anything else, Wright? And why did you bring me this news in the first place?"
Now it was the butler's turn to appear perplexed. "Why, because, as head of the household, head of Porthampton Abbey, and head of the entire village, you are not only the financial leader of everyone beneath you, but the spiritual one as well. In that capacity, I thought it only correct that you be informed about any major concerns — and I do stress major — the villagers have."
"Yes, yes, you have informed me and now I know." Father waved a dismissive hand. "The superstitious villagers fear a dead man walking." He rolled his eyes. "You may go now, Wright."
"Very good, my lord."
After the butler had bowed himself out, Father turned once more to the ongoing matter of his eldest daughter.
"Where were we again?" Not waiting for an answer, he continued. "Ah yes! Now, about that dinner tonight ..."
Fanny Rogers had already had an incredibly full day, thank you very much.
She'd arisen at four thirty — a.m., that is, for while some Upstairs might nap until late afternoon if there was a big night ahead, Downstairs was never afforded such luxuries. Upon waking, she'd lit the lamp in her dark, cramped attic quarters, the tiniest in the house, before donning corset, dress, and apron, and then putting her hair up.
Formerly, her first task of the day was to light the fires in the family's bedrooms. The problem was that she was never quite quiet enough at this. Since two of the chief qualities required of a servant were silence and invisibility, and Fanny was not much good at either, this job was taken away from her and given to one of the housemaids, who didn't appreciate the extra work. Fanny, for her part, didn't mind in the slightest having one less thing to do, since she had so many tasks already.
After dressing, she made her way down to the cavernous kitchen to prepare the stove for the day ahead and put out breakfast for the servants in the hall just off the kitchen.
Then she woke the remaining housemaids and set to work laying fires in all the important rooms on the main floor. Despite her lack of talent at silence and invisibility, she was permitted to keep this task, since it did not intrude in any way on those still sleeping upstairs. First, she cleaned the fireplaces of residue from the day before, after which she put in paper and wood and kindling, finally setting flame to it.
From there, straight to the kitchen for an almost endless round of helping the cook, Mrs. Dorothy Owen — Dot to her friends — with anything and everything.
Clean the dishes from the servants' breakfast, help prepare the food for the family's breakfast, wash the dishes and scour the pots and pans afterward. And then repeat the process for lunch and dinner, with each meal more elaborate than the last.
By the time she finished her day, she would have worked at least seventeen hours straight with only precious few stolen moments to sit down. She did this six and a half days a week, for Fanny was the kitchen maid.
Fanny was seventeen, looked twelve, and had been with the household since exactly that age.
In fact, her only real break came at four in the afternoon, nearly a dozen hours after she'd first arisen, when the servants — or at least those who could afford to spare a few minutes from whatever current task was at hand — took their own tea.
On this particular day, those with the few moments to spare who were seated around the wooden plank table in the servants' hall included: Mrs. Ruth Murphy, the housekeeper, the big set of keys tied at her waist jangling even as she took her place at one head of the table; Myrtle Morgan, Her Ladyship Fidelia Clarke's personal maid; Agnes Hunt, the head housemaid whose chief task was tending to Lady Katherine; Becky Hill, another housemaid and the inheritor of Fanny's early morning task of lighting the fires in the family rooms; and Mrs. Owen, the cook.
Absent, because occupied elsewhere, were: Mr. Ernest Wright, butler; Mr. Albert Cox, Lord Clarke's valet; Jonathan Butler, the first footman; and Daniel Murray, the second footman.
Fanny sighed to herself over the absence of men — she did prefer the men to the ladies — and she sighed even harder over the absence of Jonathan Butler and Daniel Murray. Both were a bit past twenty, Fanny considered both to be passing handsome, and she would welcome either as a life mate, were she ever to be so lucky, as she very much wanted to be. Fanny dreamed of the day she would marry a passing handsome man who would take her away from all this, or at the very least, give her some company at night and cause to move out of her wretchedly tiny room.
Ah well. Even if no men were in sight, she could at least take this welcome break to burst out with what she had scarce been containing inside her little body for hours now.
"I think it must've been a vampire, don't you?" she gushed at the table, eyes open wide.
"What are you talking about, Fanny?" Mrs. Owen asked as she slathered a thick slice of bread with butter.
Excerpted from "Zombie Abbey"
Copyright © 2018 Lauren Baratz-Logsted.
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.
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