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Prequel to SCANDALOUS LADY
The story begins when Olivia has nearly reached Constantinople.
But how did she manage to escape from the strictly chaperoned life
of a debutante and set off to travel abroad, like her role model,
Lady Hester Stanhope?
London, November 1810
Olivia was admiring her new hat in the pier glass, when the drawing room door opened and two middle-aged ladies sailed into the elegant entrance hall. The look they cast her warned Olivia that Aunt Sophie was about to hurl more reproaches at her. Aware of their scrutiny, she stroked the curled ostrich plumes and adjusted the saucy bow under her left ear until Crowbold, the butler, had bowed the ladies out. Then she grimaced at her reflection and whisked herself into the drawing room to brave the storm.
'You may take that hat off,' snapped Lady Hollis. 'We are not going to drive in Hyde Park today.'
'Why ever not?' Olivia enquired. 'Surely you're not upset by anything your friends may have told you? It’s all gossip.'
'It is all shocking!' Lady Hollis wrung her hands. 'As if you had not caused enough scandal by your all-night escapade with Lord Craybrook.'
'There was no escapade,' Olivia stated scornfully. 'He claimed his curricle had a loose wheel and we must stop at an inn while it was repaired - but it was all a plot to compromise me. Nothing happened, Aunt…except that I gave him a black eye,' she added with a gleam of satisfaction.
'It was in all the scandalsheets.' Lady Hollis dabbed at her eyes with a lace-edged handkerchief. 'I warned you then that you would have to accept him.'
'Never.' declared Olivia, swirling away to stare out of the window at the passers-by in Clarges Street. 'It was he who told his version to the reporters, Aunt Sophie.'
'If he will still have you after this…this latest episode. Wretched girl. You were seen riding astride! Galloping in Hyde Park! And with Captain Lucas, of all possible companions!'
'He rides so well,' murmured Olivia. She gave a wicked grin when her aunt covered her eyes with one trembling hand.
'Your reputation is fatally damaged. My dearest friends have just hinted that you are no longer welcome at their tea parties -'
'How uncharitable,' Olivia swiped at the potted ferns on the window ledge.
Lady Hollis waved a delicate hand towards the marble mantelpiece with its row of tasteful ornaments, 'We have not received a single invitation this week. Your only chance is to accept Lord Craybrook's offer.'
'So that he may gamble my fortune away on cards and horses. No, I thank you.' Had she pushed her aunt to the limit? She clasped her hands behind her back and managed to hold back a cry of triumph when Lady Hollis announced, in failing accents, 'If no one will receive you, you cannot stay in London. You have even replaced Lady Hester Stanhope as the chief subject of gossip in society.'
'Well, she’s left the country,' said Olivia. 'I envy her.'
'And your brother gone off to those savage eastern lands.'
'Just so,' Olivia agreed, smothering another grin. 'And the poor lamb will be in such a muddle without me to look after him. In fact…'
Several months later, Olivia reaches Constantinople and is reunited with her brother.
As an artist, she is busy capturing the sights of this ancient city.
But it doesn't take many days before she is in trouble again
A 'yali', a seaside dwelling View of Constantinople from Galata The Galata Tower
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