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THE BRIDE WORE CONSTANT WHITE: MYSTERIOUS DEVICES 1
Magnificent Devices Book 13
BY SHELLEY ADINA
Book one of the Mysterious Devices series of clockwork cozies set in the Magnificent Devices world!
A bride in search of safety. Young ladies in search of their father. A man in search of self-respect. But in the Wild West, you always find more than you’re looking for…
Margrethe Amelia Linden (Daisy to her friends) is a young woman of gentle upbringing, some talent as a watercolorist, and firm opinions that often get her into trouble. Determined to find her missing father, in the summer of 1895 she sets out for the last place he was seen: the Wild West. It’s a rude shock when her younger sister stows away on the airship—such behavior no doubt the result of her unsuitable friendship with Maggie Polgarth and the Carrick House set.
On the journey, a friendship blooms between Daisy and Miss Emma Makepeace, who is traveling to Georgetown in the Texican Territories as a mail-order bride. When Emma begs her to delay their search by a day or two in order to stand with her at the altar, Daisy is delighted to accept.
But the wedding day dawns on a dreadful discovery. Within hours the Texican Rangers have their man—but even in her grief, Daisy is convinced he cannot have killed her friend. She must right this terrible mistake before he hangs … and before the real culprit realizes that two very observant young ladies are not going to allow him to get away with it …
Copyright 2018 by Shelley Adina
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young woman of average looks, some talent, and no fortune must be in want of a husband, the latter to be foisted upon her at the earliest opportunity lest she become an embarrassment to her family. This had been depressingly borne in upon Miss Margrethe Amelia Linden, known to her family and her limited number of intimate friends as Daisy, well before the occasion of her twenty-first birthday.
“Certainly you cannot go to a ball, escorted or not,” said her Aunt Jane. “You are not out of mourning for your dear mother. It would not be suitable. I am surprised that you have even brought it up, Daisy.”
Daisy took a breath in order to defend herself, but her aunt forestalled her with a raised salad fork.
“No, I will invite a very few to lunch—including one or two suitable young men. Now that you have come into my sister’s little bit of money, you will be slightly more attractive to a discerning person than, perhaps, you might have been before. Mr. Fetherstonehaugh, now. He still cherishes hopes of you, despite your appalling treatment of him. I insist on your considering him seriously. His father owns a manufactory of steambuses in Yorkshire, and he is the only boy in a family of five.”
“I do not wish to be attractive to any of the gentlemen of our acquaintance, Aunt.” Particularly not to him. “They lack gumption. To say nothing of chins.”
This had earned her an expression meant to be crushing, but which only succeeded in making Aunt Jane look as though her lunch had not agreed with her.
“Your uncle and I wish to see you safely settled, dear,” she said with admirable restraint.
Aunt Jane prided herself on her restraint under provocation. She had become rather more proud of it in the nearly two years since her sister had brought her two daughters to live under her roof, and then passed on to her heavenly reward herself. When one’s sister’s husband was known to have gone missing in foreign parts, one was also subject to impertinent remarks. Therefore, her restraint had reached heroic proportions.
“When you have been married fifty years, like our beloved Queen, you will know that a chin or lack thereof is hardly a consideration in a good husband—while a successful manufactory certainly is.”
Daisy was not sure if Aunt Jane had meant to insult the prince, who from all accounts was still quite an attractive man. It was true that she could no more imagine Her Majesty without her beloved Albert than the sun without a moon. They had a scandalous number of children—nine!—and still the newspapers had reported that they had danced until dawn at Lord and Lady Dunsmuir’s ball in London earlier in the week. Her Majesty was said to be prodigiously fond of dancing—between that and childbirth, she must be quite the athlete.
Daisy had never danced until dawn in her life, and doing so seemed as unlikely as having children.
For as of ten days ago, she was no longer a genteel spinster of Margaret’s Buildings, Bath, but a woman of twenty-one years and independent means, having procured not only a letter of credit from her bank, but a ticket from Bath to London, and subsequently, passage aboard the packet to Paris, where she had boarded the transatlantic airship Persephone bound for New York.
“My goodness, you’re so brave,” breathed Emma Makepeace, her breakfast companion in the grand airship’s dining saloon this morning, the third of their crossing. She had been listening with rapt attention, her spoonful of coddled egg halting in its fatal journey. “But at what point did you realize you were not alone?”
Daisy glanced at her younger sister, Frederica, who wisely did not lift her own attention from her plate, but continued to shovel in poached eggs, potatoes, and sliced ham glazed in orange sauce as though this were her last meal.
“As we were sailing over the Channel. At that point, my sister deemed it safe to reveal herself, since there would be no danger of my sending her back to our aunt and uncle.” She gave a sigh. “We are committed to this adventure together, I am afraid.”
“I certainly am,” Freddie ventured. “I used all my savings for the tickets, including what I could beg from Maggie Polgarth.”
“Who is that?” Miss Makepeace asked, resuming her own breakfast with a delicate appetite. “One of your school friends?”
Freddie nodded. “Maggie and her cousin Elizabeth Seacombe are the wards of Lady Claire Malvern, of Carrick House in Belgravia.”
“Oh, I have met Lady Claire. Isn’t she lovely? What an unexpected pleasure it is to meet people acquainted with her.”
While Daisy recovered from her own surprise at a reliable third party knowing people she had half believed to be imaginary, Freddie went on.
“With Lady Claire’s encouragement, both Maggie and Lizzie own shares in the railroads and the Zeppelin Airship Works, though they are only eighteen—my own age. But that is beside the point.” Another glance at Daisy, who had been caught by the deep golden color of the marmalade in her spoon.
If she were to paint a still life at this very moment, she would use lemon yellow, with a bit of burnt umber, and some scarlet lake—just a little—for the bits of orange peel embedded deep within.
“The point?” Miss Makepeace inquired, and Daisy came back to herself under their joint regard. It was up to her to redirect the course of the conversation.
“The point is that, having had some number of astonishing adventures—I have my doubts about the veracity of some of them—Miss Polgarth was all too forthcoming in her encouragement of my sister’s desertion of her responsibilities to school and family.”
“You deserted yours, too,” Freddie pointed out. “Poor Mr. Fetherstonehaugh. He is not likely to recover his heart very soon.”
“Oh dear.” Miss Makepeace was one of those fortunate individuals who would never have to settle for the chinless and suitable of this world. For she was a young woman of considerable looks and some means, despite the absence of anyone resembling a chaperone or a lady’s maid. Perhaps that individual kept herself to her cabin. Her clothes were not showy, but so beautiful they made Daisy ache inside—the pleats perfection, the colors becoming, the lace handmade. Clearly her time in Paris before boarding Persephone had been well spent in purchasing these delights.
Miss Makepeace had been blessed with hair the shade of melted caramel and what people called an “English skin.” Daisy, being as English as anyone, had one too by default, but hers didn’t have the perfect shades of a rose petal. Nor did her own blue eyes possess that deep tint verging on violet. At least Daisy’s hair could be depended on—reddish-brown in some lights and with enough wave in it to make it easy to put up—unlike poor Freddie, who had inherited Mama’s lawless dark curls. No one would be clamoring at the door to paint Daisy, but Miss Makepeace—oh, she was a horse of a different color.
She absolutely must persuade her to sit for a portrait in watercolors.
But talk of poor Mr. Fetherstonehaugh had brought the ghost of a smile to their companion’s face, so Daisy thought it prudent not to abandon the subject of gentlemen just yet, despite its uncomfortable nature. They had been in the air for three days, and after the second day, had found one another convivial enough company that they had begun looking for each other at meals, and spending the afternoons together embroidering or (in Daisy’s case) sketching. The lavish interiors of Persephone fairly begged to be painted in her travel journal. In all that time Daisy had not seen Miss Makepeace smile. Not a real one. But now, one had nearly trembled into life, and she would use Mr. Fetherstonehaugh ruthlessly if it meant coaxing it into full bloom.
“Have you ever been to Bath, Miss Makepeace?” she asked, spreading marmalade on the toast.
“Only once, when I was a girl,” she said. “Papa’s business keeps him in London and New York nearly exclusively, and after Mama passed away, I did not have a companion with whom to go to such places. I remember it being very beautiful,” she said wistfully. “And at the bottom of the Royal Crescent is a gravel walk. I wondered if it could be the very one where Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot walked after all was made plain between them.”
Frederica, being of a literal turn of mind, blinked at her. “They were not real, Miss Makepeace.”
The English skin colored a little. “I know. But it was a pretty fancy, for the time it took me to walk down the hill to the gate.”
“Poor Mr. Fetherstonehaugh,” Daisy said on a sigh. “He attempted to quote Jane Austen to me while we were dancing in the parlor of one of my aunt’s acquaintance three weeks ago.”
“That sounds most promising in a man,” Miss Makepeace said.
“But it was the first sentences of Pride and Prejudice, Miss Makepeace.” She leaned in. “And they were said in reference to himself.”
To her delight, the smile she had been angling for blossomed into life. “Dear me. Miss Austen would be appalled.”
“My sentiments exactly. And when he turned up on my aunt’s doorstep the next morning proposing himself as the companion of my future life, I took my example from Elizabeth Bennet on the occasion of her first proposal. I fear the allusion was lost on him, however.” She frowned. “He called me a heartless flirt.”
Miss Makepeace covered her mouth with her napkin and Daisy could swear it was to muffle a giggle. “You are no such thing,” she said when she could speak again. “I should say it was a near escape.”
“Our aunt would not agree,” Freddie put in. “She and my uncle have very strong feelings about indigent relations and their burden upon the pocketbook.”
“Granted, it is not their fault their pocketbook is slender,” Daisy conceded. “But that is no reason to push us on every gentleman who stops to smell the roses nodding over the wall.”
“How do you come to be aboard Persephone?” Freddie asked their companion shyly.
She was not yet out, so had not had many opportunities to go about in company. Add to this a nearly paralyzing shyness—for reasons both sisters kept secret, and despite the misleading behavior of her hair—and it still astonished Daisy that she had had the gumption to follow her all the way to London with nothing but her second-best hat and a valise containing three changes of clothes, her diary, and a canvas driving coat against bad weather.
Now it was Miss Makepeace who leaned in, the lace covering her fine bosom barely missing the marmalade on her own toast. “Can you keep a secret?”
“Oh, yes,” Freddie said eagerly.
Which was quite true. Among other things, she had concealed from everyone—except perhaps that deplorable Maggie Polgarth—her plans to run away and accompany Daisy on her mission.
“I am what is known as a mail-order bride.” Miss Makepeace sat back to enjoy the effect of this confidence on her companions.
Shelley Adina is the author of 24 novels published by Harlequin, Warner, and Hachette, and more than a dozen more published by Moonshell Books, Inc., her own independent press. She writes steampunk and contemporary romance as Shelley Adina, and as Adina Senft, writes Amish women’s fiction. She holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction, and is currently working on her PhD in Creative Writing at Lancaster University in the UK. She won RWA’s RITA Award® in 2005, and was a finalist in 2006. When she’s not writing, Shelley is usually quilting, sewing historical costumes, or hanging out in the garden with her flock of rescued chickens.
Links to Shelley’s website, blog, books, etc.