Small Town Scandal

(3 customer reviews)

Banished from Chicago by her parents because of her scandalous behavior, Eliza now resides with an elderly aunt in the tiny town of Canaple. Eliza’s chief respite from the boredom of small-town life is the occasional tryst with whichever man catches her fancy.

Aníbal is a sophisticated young architect with a rising international reputation, who has been contracted by the Canaple town leaders to design their new library. Travel-loving Aníbal seizes the excuse to go west but soon finds himself overwhelmed by the scrutiny of curious townsfolk.

When Eliza and Aníbal meet by chance, the attraction is mutual and undeniable. Furtive meetings in Aníbal’s hotel room, in which Eliza awakens to the joy of sensual submission, lead to an unexpected emotional bond. But can this rare and fragile feeling withstand the disapproval of the town, and a jealous aspiring architect’s thirst for vengeance?

Publisher’s Note: This steamy historical romance contains elements of mystery, suspense, and power exchange.

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Sample Chapter

Chapter One

 

It didn’t seem fair that an object as lovely as Aunt Tamsin’s antique mirror would reflect such a terrible reality. Eliza turned her head this way and that, praying she was merely the victim of fickle lighting. With a heavy sigh, she resigned herself to the ugly truth. At the age of thirty, she, Eliza Quinlan, had sprouted her first silver hair. Intolerable.

“Is this the wage of sin?” Eliza wondered aloud to the empty parlor. The furnishings, usually so tasteful and pleasing to her eyes, suddenly took on a funerary aspect, dark and heavy draperies, dark upholstery, dark rugs and gloomy wallpaper. How could Aunt Tamsin stand it? How had Eliza never noticed how oppressive the parlor could be? Only thirty years old, with a gray hair. Had there been anyone around to appreciate the effort, Eliza might have swooned.

Swooning without an audience might not be worth the effort, but lying down held a certain appeal. Eliza’s own room was furnished more airily than the parlor, and a ray of afternoon sunshine lent the space a golden glow thoroughly at odds with Eliza’s sour mood. She threw herself across the bed and sighed again. Eliza Quinlan was developing a rich vocabulary of sighs.

Eliza closed her eyes, but couldn’t close her mind to the phantom voice of her own mother, hundreds of miles away. The clucking tongue, the Hibernian lilt, the judgment. “Bah! And what does herself have to sigh over? Mattress too soft, is it giving Her Royal Highness a backache? Or is the hard labor of reading aloud from Colliers to her aged aunt making Miss Quinlan hoarse? Now that would be a pity, surely, if the world were to miss out on the Queen of Chicago’s every passing thought.” Her mother never, of course, said exactly those words in precisely that order, but it was all too easy to imagine. Even across hundreds, no, thousands, two thousand miles, Mary Quinlan’s contempt, and her cruelly musical voice, were the unpredictable and unwelcome companions of Eliza’s lonely hours.

The lingering echoes of Mary Quinlan’s disapproval was one of the reasons, Eliza reflected, that she so enthusiastically sought out masculine company: sporting with a man quieted her mother’s voice in her head. Even spending time with dear, funny Aunt Tamsin was a respite from the specter of parental reproach. How Eliza resented her parents’ talent for dwelling in her head long after they banished her from Chicago! It was entirely unfair. She was deprived of the stimulation and high society of that bustling city on the lake, but without the consolation of freedom from her parents and their old-fashioned ideas and foolish attempts to keep her locked up like a future broodmare in a stable.

Eliza sighed, low and melodious, a sigh rich with longing for her home city, for the fashionable, sophisticated, sometimes knock-about, ever-busy, infinitely fascinating metropolis she loved so much her chest ached to think about it. But she wasn’t in Chicago, and she wouldn’t be allowed back as long as Mary and Martin Quinlan lived to lord their influence over their defiantly ruined, unmarriageable single daughter. “Thirty years old without an honorable suitor to speak of. A damned shame what this heathen country does to a spirited girl,” she could hear her father whuffle through his voluminous mustache. Eliza gritted her teeth. “I am not in Chicago. Mother and Father can’t say boo to me. I am not in Chicago.”

She was, in fact, in the tiny but striving town of Canaple in the young state of Washington, tucked way up in the extreme northwestern corner of the northwesternmost American state. Cast into exile under the pretense of serving as a companion to elderly Aunt Tamsin, Eliza had now been trapped in this perplexingly tiny town for… how long had it been? She blinked in the golden afternoon sunlight. “Christ and all His angels, I am getting old. I can’t even remember how long I’ve been in Canaple!” It had been about two years.

Eliza was saved from further dark reflections by the sound of the front door. From downstairs, Tamsin caroled a greeting. “Eliza! Eliza, dear, are you home?”

Eliza sprang from bed and scampered to the top of the stairs. “I am, Auntie. I was just lying down with a headache, but I feel better now.” Eliza descended the stairs, mindful as always of her posture and comportment. Just because she lived the semi-secret life of a hussy didn’t mean Eliza wasn’t invested in maintaining the dignity of her personal appearance—especially important, she reflected sourly, now that she was a hag of thirty with a gray hair. Scampering, bounding, and slouching might occasionally be forgivable in lithe, pretty young girls. But a thirty-year-old woman, standing almost nine inches over five feet, with a broad bosom and wide womanly hips? She owed it to herself to move as sedately and gracefully as possible, even when the only audience was Aunt Tamsin.

The Aunt Tamsin who was at that moment freeing herself of her bonnet and shawl. Her wrinkled face wore its characteristic half-smile, as if Tamsin Travers just couldn’t contain her perpetual amusement at the folly of man. Gray curls peeped out from under her cap, and it was easy to picture Tamsin as the sly but good-natured little maiden she must have been forty summers ago. Eliza smiled and greeted her aunt with a hug.

“Oh!” Tamsin giggled. “And good afternoon to you too, miss. And what have you been up to?”

“Feeling sorry for myself, mostly.”

“You do live a hard life, it’s true,” Tamsin replied gravely, but with a wink. “What unspeakable burden has fate placed on your shoulders today, beloved niece?” She patted Eliza on the shoulder and bustled past her to the family sitting room. Eliza glided behind her.

“Only the most dreadful thing imaginable, I found my first gray hair.”

Tamsin cackled affectionately. “Poor pet! Hard to learn that time neglects none of us, hmm?”

“It’s a tragedy.” Eliza’s mood was improving already, just having Aunt Tamsin home. “Now tell me your news, Auntie. What’s the gossip in town?”

“Oh, well,” said Tamsin thoughtfully, “Mrs. Youngs, you know, the lawyer Xavier Youngs’ wife, is tremendously pleased with herself.”

“And why is that?” Eliza asked, toying with the tassel on one of the plump pillows crowded on the davenport.

“She beat out Mrs. Marshall for chair of the Decennial Committee, and Mrs. Marshall pulled quite the sour face when she found out. Or so I heard from Mrs. Henry.”

“Tempest a-brewing, eh?”

“In the Canaple teacup? Yes, always. Oh, and there is a bit of real news.”

Aunt and niece sat on the luxuriously overstuffed davenport, decorative pillows closing in on them. The atmosphere was almost-but-not-quite oppressive in its coziness. Aunt Tamsin patted Eliza’s knee and continued, “The Library Committee was just notified that they won the grant!”

Eliza had to think for a moment. “The Carnegie Grant?”

“The very same.” Aunt Tamsin sighed contentedly and settled against her mound of pillows, gnarled hands folded neatly in her lap. “It really is very exciting.”

Mr. Andrew Carnegie, the great industrialist, had been funding small-town libraries for well over a decade now. It was no small feat to provide the documentation that a town desiring a Carnegie library was worthy of and ready for the honor and responsibility. Eliza reminded herself not to be amused; Canaple wasn’t Chicago and it was a little boorish to be amused by the earnestness with which her aunt’s neighbors pursued the elusive dream—a library of their very own! A memory surfaced. On the first day of a new year, when Eliza was only three years old, her father had taken her to witness the official opening of the Chicago Public Library, a gift from England after the devastation of the great Chicago Fire several years before. Now that was an edifice! The entire present-day population of Canaple could probably fit snugly in its vestibule.

“What’s wrong, dear?” Aunt Tamsin asked.

Eliza realized she’d been caught frowning. “Just pining for the majesty of the Chicago Public Library, Auntie,” she replied breezily. It wouldn’t do for Tamsin to suspect her niece might really be pained to remember her hometown. Better to say it airily, self-deprecatingly.

But Tamsin understood. “I hope you’re not too unhappy in our little village, dear heart.”

“No, Auntie,” Eliza replied honestly. Most of the time she wasn’t unhappy. Maybe a little bored. Maybe she passed long stretches of time more or less numb, feeling neither sad nor happy. But Canaple, for all its aggressive quaintness, was situated on a singularly beautiful stretch of land. Chicago boasted modern skyscrapers and Lake Michigan, but from downtown Canaple one caught sight of blue-gray mountains, peaks austerely white with snow no matter the season, the backdrop to the steely mystery of Puget’s Sound. The stunning fjord cut into western Washington State and looked like the setting for a fairy story.

“I hope not,” Tamsin said sweetly. Such a good old lady! Tamsin continued, “The best part of the Library Committee receiving the good news about their grant?”

“Is?”

Tamsin chuckled, cheeks pink with mirth. “Now Wallace B. Walpole can breathe a sigh of relief. Mr. Walpole spent so much of the last few months ‘negotiating’, begging is more like it, with some fancy Canadian architect he was determined to hire to design the library. Well, a few days ago I guess this fellow agreed and signed the contract and is en route to Canaple! Think of the egg on Mr. Wallace B. Walpole’s face if the grant had fallen through after he’d finally succeeded in seducing his architect.”

“Mercy! I suppose it’s for the best, but I won’t pretend I wouldn’t treasure the spectacle of Mr. Walpole receiving bad news. How red his face would glow.”

Tamsin giggled. “Oh, I know! I know. We’ll have to content ourselves with wild imaginings, though, since Wallace got his architect and the committee won their grant. It really will be a boon to our little town.”

“Yes, it will. And now I feel shabby for mocking Mr. Walpole. He’s a good man, if a little pompous.”

Aunt Tamsin agreed and they absolved each other of the sin of making fun of the prominent Canaple citizen. They chatted amiably awhile longer, and after Aunt Tamsin retired for her afternoon nap the rest of the day passed with little to complain about but even less to enjoy.

3 reviews for Small Town Scandal

  1. Redrabbitt

    Another page-turning story from Ms. Lorna Locke with a diverse cast of characters and plenty of angst, attitude, and passion. Eliza Quinlan is now living in Canaple, Washington, a small quaint town not too far from Seattle near Puget’s Sound. She was banished from her beloved city of Chicago because of her dalliances and the disgrace she has brought upon her parents. She lives with her widowed great aunt, Tamsin Travers, whose husband had been one of the founding fathers of Canaple. While Tamsin is a revered and respected member of the community, her niece, Eliza, is anything but, she is the scarlet woman that is shunned.

    The plot will have Tamsin informing Eliza that the town has received the Carnegie Grant for a new library and the town has hired a fancy Canadian architect to design the building. But when Aníbal Abelardo Urbino del Bosque shows up in town, not everyone will be happy—especially ones who had a history with the Spanish-American war. From the moment that Aníbal and Eliza make eye contact, there is instant chemistry between them—and it isn’t long before it becomes physical.

    “Eliza was sure she wasn’t mistaken: the man was sensuality incarnate, pure sexual energy vibrating on a frequency perhaps detectable only by a fellow voluptuary. Eliza shuddered. Yes. Without a word passing between them, somehow these kindred spirits recognized each other.”

    “This remarkable woman was pure sensuality, and the biggest problem in the world at that moment was figuring out exactly what to do to her next—his willing plaything.”

    The town of Canaple has plenty of nosy busybodies that want to try and tell Aníbal who he needs to avoid, but that doesn’t stop him an Eliza from their tryst. Eliza is honest about her past to Aníbal—they are straightforward with each other But what happens when self-righteous individuals take things too far? Plus there are several townspeople who aren’t happy that Aníbal was hired to design the new library and make their feeling known.

    “You deserve peace in your heart and a measure of happiness.”

    The story has the good, the bad, the ugly with bigotry and self-righteousness. It also has two people finding each other that are soul mates, kindred spirits with a matching taste of kink. There is some naughty play, mild BDSM, spanking and dalliances. The story has some danger and suspense and does have a happy ending.

    “Eliza, you must understand. I told you, I admitted, and I confessed, I love you. What is there to be melancholy about? Let us resolve this misunderstanding immediately and proceed to express our love physically. You are mine, and I am yours. I would have said what I said if I didn’t intend to spend the rest of my life showing you exactly what I mean by ‘love.’”

    “Aunt Tamsin spoke. “My dears, I’m so happy the two of you found each other. Passion is common enough. Love and friendship are rare. The three together? Among the greatest gifts, life can offer. I can think of no two more deserving all three.”

  2. Toni

    Most, if not all, historical romances I’ve read will have a young, demure virgin being seduced by a more experienced, older man. However, this book is not at all like that. Eliza is a 30 year old, unmarried, sexually experienced woman who doesn’t feel the need to apologise for her lifestyle choices & owns her identity. Into the small town her family has banished her to comes architect Anibal, looking for a woman to spend time with while he is in town. When Eliza & Anibal meet, it’s with mutual acknowledgment that here is someone worth passing time with. I was a bit afraid that this story would get bogged down, but it flowed really nicely & had a surprising amount emotion between characters. All of this made it an extremely interesting & enjoyable read.

  3. Julie

    Eliza is kicked out by her Chicago parents and sent to live with her elderly aunt in Canaple. Eliza’s occasional tryst with whichever she decides on at any given time continues in this small town.

    Aníbal’s young, sophisticated architect with an international reputation helps the Canaple town leaders make their decision. They decide to contract him for the architectural design of their new library.

    Eliza and Aníbal meet by chance, but it won’t be just the town people who disapprove and seek vengeance on this young couple who feels the undeniable and mutual passion.

    This book is full of self-righteousness, lust, passion, melancholy, love, friendship, suspense, and danger.

    The uncommon names are distracting and slows the reading pace too much, giving this a 4-star review.

    I received a free copy of this book. This honest review was posted voluntarily.

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