It is generally assumed that a woman’s reputation once lost can never be restored…
Counting the Cost – (Linmore – The Early Years) – begins the story of a young woman, who, having overcome adversity, sets out to help others less fortunate. Set in Pre-Regency rural Shropshire (1794-1808) at a time when the common man had few rights and women had none – other than those their menfolk deigned to bestow on them.
(Reissued as the Prelude to Living in the Shadows)
Maria knows, from bitter experience, that a woman alone must do what she can to survive. Ten years ago, her life was in ruins, and she would have died but for the help of a gypsy herbalist. Afterwards, she determined to restore her good name and reputation, even if it took subterfuge.
Since then Maria has, by sacrificing her youthful looks, become Miss Dinchope, housekeeper, the epitome of primness and virtue. Her past is forgotten but she has learned that respectability has many faces; some of which hide dark secrets that are every bit as threatening as her own experience.
Appalled by the degree of ignorance and sloth, Maria adopts a regimented approach to raise standards in the household, and by degrees succeeds in her endeavour – but no one knows what the effort of being constantly on her guard against discovery, costs her.
Sometimes in the lonely hours of the night, she vows to move on to better things but anger, an emotion she contrives to hide, drives her to protect the vulnerable servants for which she has responsibility. One little pauper child, a new housemaid, touches an inexplicable chord of memory. Where she has met the girl before – and when?
Nell Walcote is an anomaly, unlike any other servant in the household. Despite the girl’s poor upbringing, she seems strangely refined and eager to learn. She can read and write her letters, and Miss Dinchope determines to teach her the right way to behave. The prospect so appeals to the housekeeper’s sense of Christian charity, she feels it is her duty to train the girl for a better place in service, even if she must defer her own plans to gain advancement.
To avoid the pitfalls, she encountered as a girl, Maria insists that Nell avoids men. Will the guidance of a maiden lady of indeterminate age be enough to keep her safe..?
A heart-warming story, which gives a rare insight into the lives of women to whom kindness, honesty and friendship mean more than money and social class.
First published as a standalone, Counting the Cost now sets the scene for The Foundling’s Path – Part 1. The story remains the same; only the edition and the cover have changed.
Maria’s story continues in Held to Ransom – (A Marriage of Conveneince – Part 1)