My name’s Elspeth O’Laren and I’m lady’s maid to Miss Deanna Randolph. I’m not your typical lady’s maid, because I’m not refined, but I’m smart and I learn fast and I was conveniently at hand when her mother decided Miss Deanna needed a maid. Some of us were surprised she even noticed. She pays most of her attention to Miss Deanna’s older sister, Adelaide. She says Adelaide was made for society. I say Miss Deanna is made for anything she sets her mind on.
We already had “the season” in New York City and now we’ve come to Newport for the summer season. The Newport season only lasts about six weeks and I wish it was longer, because my family lives in the Fifth Ward here.
The Fifth Ward is where the working people live. And some that don’t work so much. I was born and raised here, but my ma came over on the boat from Ireland. My brother Orrin works for Mr. Joseph Ballard. He’s really rich and until last year he lived in his family cottage on the cliffs. They call all the big houses here cottages but they look more like castles to me. Or at least my idea of castles, I’ve never actually seen one myself.
We all thought he and Miss Deanna would get married. They were even almost engaged, but something went off, and now he lives in the Fifth and works on his inventions. She just made her debut, and her mother’s been trying to marry her off to every eligible rich man that comes along.
I spend everyday helping her to dress and to undress and keeping her clothes mended and in order. These ladies change clothes sometimes eight times a day. They go on morning visits, then to luncheon, sometimes at a cottage, or a yacht, sometimes “al fresco” which means eating outside. Ugh. Then there’s tennis, and sea bathing, and driving up and down Bellevue Avenue just to see the same people everyday, and ones they’ll probably see that night at some ball or soiree or other. And everything they do has to have a different dress.
But at night when all the folderol is over and the last dress is hung up and I’m brushing out her hair, she reads our favorite stories out loud. She keeps a stash of Dime Novels under her bed so’s no one can find them. They’re not proper reading material, says Mrs. Randolph, especially the detective stories, which we like best. Miss Deanna’s favorite lady detective is Kate Goelet, who’s young and beautiful and really smart. Sort of like Miss Deanna. I prefer Cad Metti, she’s street smart, dresses in disguises, and can fight with her fists. She’s not afraid of anybody.
I guess all our reading has rubbed off on us, because we actually had to help solve a murder just a few weeks ago. Frankly, it’s safer to read about detecting than actually doing it. We had to engage in some pretty unladylike things—dangerous things. And we were in constant anxiety that Mrs. Randolph would find out and give me the sack and send Miss Deanna to her Aunt Harriett.
But in the end justice rained. Yes, I know it’s really “reigned.” I went to school—all the way to eighth grade. But I like to think of justice coming down in big wet drops over the whole world. Because we could really use some justice, especially in the Fifth Ward. Ma says it’s always been like that since the beginning of time. Those that have and want more—and the rest of us.
Miss Deanna says the world is changing and she wants to be a part of it. That won’t be easy, because her mother doesn’t like change at all. For me? I’m true blue to Miss Deanna and if she’s determined to become one of those “modern” women, I want to be one too.
You can read more about Elspeth in A Gilded Grave, the first book in the NEW “Newport Gilded Age” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime.
About A Gilded Grave
In 1895, the height of the Gilded Age, the social elite spend their summers in Newport, Rhode Island. Within the walls of their fabulous “cottages,” competition for superiority is ruthless . . . and so are the players.
During her first Newport season, Deanna Randolph attends a ball given in honor of Lord David Manchester, a Barbadian sugar magnate, and his sister, Madeline. The Manchesters are an immediate success—along with their exotic manservant and his fortune-telling talents.
But on the nearby cliffs, a young maid lies dead—and suspicion falls on Joseph Ballard, a member of one of the town’s most prestigious families.
Joe humiliated Deanna when he rebuffed an engagement to her, but while he may be a cad, she knows he isn’t a killer. Now the reluctant allies must navigate a world of parties, tennis matches, and séances to find the real murderer. But a misstep among the glittering upper classes could leave them exposed to something far more dangerous than malicious gossip. . .
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GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on August 11 for the chance to win a print copy of A Gilded Grave. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes and you will have three days to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected.
About the author
Shelley Freydont is the author of the Liv Montgomery Celebration Bay Mysteries, and the Newport Gilded Age Mysteries, beginning with A Gilded Grave.
As Shelley Noble, she is the NY Times Best selling author of women’s fiction, most recently, Whisper Beach. A former professional dancer and choreographer, Shelley lives at the Jersey shore and loves puzzles, light houses and antique carousels. She also loves to hear from readers.