The Fallen Governess
False Rumors #1
A fallen lady must rise above her disgrace.
A lady with limited options. A gentleman left without a choice. Could two souls forced together find it in their hearts to forgive one another?
Vivian Wescott was once a debutante who won the affection of the most sought-after bachelor in London. However, her family’s fall from grace forced her into a life of servitude. With what remained of her pride, Vivian eagerly arrived in Scotland to begin her position as a governess. Only to discover her new employer was her ex-betrothed. A gentleman who had thrown her over, yet still held her heart within his grasp. Could Vivian ever forgive how he had abandoned her when she needed him the most?
Maximilian Courtland led his life following the demands of a strict society. However, chaos had descended on his life. The bitter ending to his betrothal didn’t compare to the heartache of losing his cousin. Now pressed with raising two young children, he must rely on the governess his sister hired. Not any governess, but the very lady who betrayed him. Would Max discover the truth of Vivian’s love before it was too late?
Max ended their betrothal because of a rumor. He now protects Vivian from another rumor that would destroy her reputation. Would the truth ever prevail? Or would the lies forever keep them apart?
The Fallen Governess is the first book in Laura A. Barnes’s False Rumors series. If you love second chance romances, then you’ll love how Vivian and Maximilian overcome the deceit of others with the strength of their love.
Indulge in The Fallen Governess
Vivian Wescott pressed her hand down harder on her knee to keep it from bouncing up and down. She didn’t want to draw her friends’ attention to her fury, especially when they were comforting Sara Abbott and reassuring her that she wasn’t at fault for their current state of looking for new employment. It was true that they had been dismissed from their positions for coming to Sara’s defense when her employer thought it was appropriate to grope Sara whenever he pleased, but it wasn’t the reason for her anger.
Vivian’s fury lightened as she remembered Lord Baldridge’s reaction when they’d made a spectacle of him in front of his peers—and at his own ball no less. Their actions had been justified for the safety of Sara’s virtue. However, those who employed Vivian and her close-knit friends didn’t hold the same opinion. The peers of society had deemed them unfit to educate the young minds of the future peerage, which had left them in their current predicament. Unemployed.
Vivian was well aware of how the ton turned on those who behaved with reckless actions because of the injustices handed to them. If one crossed the wrong peer in an attempt for justice, their actions set them on a path of misery. She knew firsthand how vindictive they could be. Her history with them showed proof of their coldhearted souls. Vivian held no remorse for showing the ton the true colors of Lord Baldridge. The ton hadn’t ousted him, but it had left him the victim of gossip. At any function he attended, scandalous whispers of his inappropriate action would follow him wherever he led. His wife would never trust him again and would fill their homes with the oldest of servants.
Vivian held no regret for their actions other than the fate of her friends. Because of her guidance to retaliate against the ton for personal reasons, she had encouraged them to help protect Sara. Before the next morning arrived, they had found themselves dismissed without a single reference. While their fellow servants applauded their effort, and even the wives in some cases, society had deemed them troublemakers who threatened the hierarchy of their standings.
No matter the depth of their downfall, it would not undermine Vivian’s determination to rise to the status of her virtue. Her parents had raised her to achieve greatness. Yes, her mother expected it in her choice of a groom and a successful marriage. However, Vivian never measured success in those terms. Greatness was in the act of her character. She had thought her choice of a groom complimented her character, but he had proven himself otherwise. At the first sign of trouble, he had abandoned her to the masses, leaving her to pick up the shattered pieces of her life and those of her family. Now it was her duty to help them rise from the ashes of their despair, along with those of her friends.
The friendships she had made over the past few months were ones she would treasure for eternity. They accepted her with open arms and offered no judgment on her past. While they’d come from humble beginnings and she’d come from wealth, it had never mattered to them. They only saw her as Vivian, not the daughter of a viscount. A person with her own thoughts and feelings. Every single one of them reminded her of her best friend, Joy. A friendship lost but hopefully never forgotten. Vivian hoped one day the friendship would flourish again. However, for now, it remained a memory to treasure.
Vivian stared at her friends and realized it was time to deliver her news. She must convince them that this was for the best. For them to survive and make a fresh start, they needed to accept her terms. It would involve taking them out of their element and away from any nearby family. It was only for a short while until another incident amongst the ton overshadowed their demise. In the meantime, they would forge a fresh path.
She had already secured them employment in new households. It didn’t leave them much time to arrive at their new positions, considering the distance they must travel. They must leave in two days to make the trip a success.
Vivian cleared her throat. “Sara, dry your eyes, my dear friend. I have promising news.”
Sara sniffed into her handkerchief. “Did you find a new position?”
Vivian winked at her friends. “Indeed, I did.”
Sara attempted a smile while drying off her tears. “What wonderful news.”
“How fortunate for you. May we ask how you acquired this good fortune?” Grace Penrose asked with a trace of sarcasm.
Sara frowned at Grace's tone. “Yes, please tell us about your new position.”
While Grace's attitude bothered Sara, Vivian only found humor in her snarl. She regarded her friends as they waited for her to describe her luck. Poor Sara. She tried to hold the wavering smile on her face, but her swift indrawn breath to keep her sorrow at bay revealed her genuine affectionate friendship.
However, Grace held skepticism about the impossibility of Vivian landing another position. With Vivian’s lack of experience, her once-known status in society, and being the ringleader of Lord Baldridge’s embarrassment, she would find it most difficult of all of them to find a position first.
Then there was their friend Flora Grant, who sat back, not saying a word. She only raised her eyebrow in a way that spoke of her curiosity.
Vivian leaned over and pulled out a packet of papers from her satchel. “Much to my disappointment, I was unable to secure a position in London. Perhaps England as a whole. However, the lovely country of Scotland offers me an invitation I cannot refuse. Also, I share my good fortune with all of you. I have secured a position for each of us.”
“No! Absolutely not!” Flora grumbled.
Vivian knew she would meet resistance from Flora. After all, Flora had taken a position in London to escape from Scotland. She had never confided why, but from the conversations they had shared, Vivian believed it involved a disagreement with her family.
“These positions are in Edinburgh. You are from Inverness. Correct?” Vivian asked Flora.
“It does not matter. I refuse to touch foot on Scottish soil ever again.” Flora’s Scottish brogue slipped out with her declaration.
Grace settled her hand over Flora's to help calm her. “Perhaps we should listen to Vivian's plan.”
Grace nodded at Vivian to continue with her explanation. Vivian glanced around at her friends and found their gazes focused on her as they waited for the details that might end their suffering. Vivian stood and handed a packet to each girl before sitting back down again. Each packet held the correspondence she had written in their names seeking the employment she thought best suited each friend.
She understood how she played devil’s advocate, but they were out of options. They either took these positions or they would find themselves forced into unfortunate measures to secure coin. They couldn't even find positions as scullery maids, and when they attempted to gain positions at the shops in Mayfair, the shopkeepers had laughed at them. Gossip of their actions had spread to even the common folk, and no one wished to hold any association with them. This only left the horror of selling their bodies for survival. Vivian refused to have her friends lose their souls, their goodness, their virtues all because of the vindictiveness society offered them.
Vivian laid her hands over her packet. “Inside, you will find letters I have written on your behalf to gain employment. They will state the date, location, and terms of your position. Also, I included what I have learned of each of your employers. Their character, how they treat their servants, their standing in society, and every aspect of how they care for the charges you will be responsible for. I hope you will consider these opportunities because I only sought them out in your best interests. Please forgive me if I have overstepped the bounds of our friendship, but I hold great responsibility for the loss of your positions because of my selfishness.”
Vivian attempted a smile in hopes to encourage her friends to consider her plan. “My actions have guaranteed us a fresh start. A new beginning. A chance to seek a new adventure. To open ourselves up to the possibilities of achieving greatness. Please take into consideration that our only means of survival is losing what we treasure most.”
Grace tore into her packet with enthusiasm. “This sounds like a marvelous answer to our prayers. I am always one for a grand new adventure.”
Sara bit her bottom lip, unsure if she wanted to take the risk. “Do we not hold any other options?”
Vivian gave a slight shake of her head. “I am afraid not, my dear.”
Flora scoffed. “Life is full of options.”
Vivian leaned back against the bench and folded her hands across her lap. “There is only one option left. Do you wish that for yourself or the others?”
Flora gritted her teeth. “You know it is not.”
“What is not an option?” Sara asked.
Vivian, Flora, and Grace exchanged a look between them. Sara was the youngest of their group and the most innocent. They always took whatever means to protect her from the harsh realities of life. Her elderly grandmother had raised her in a cottage in a small village in Southern England before she passed away. Sara had never experienced the injustices of the world until Lord Baldridge.
Vivian smiled warmly at Sara. “The option is one I would not even wish upon my greatest enemy and one we must avoid at all costs. It is one where we would have to sell our bodies to survive.”
Sara gasped. “Oh.” Sara cast her eyes down at her lap and fumbled with the papers, bringing them up to her face to cover the blush heating her cheeks. “It cannot be our last option available.”
Grace sighed. “I am afraid so.”
Vivian closed her eyes at Sara's stricken expression. Soon, there came the rustling of paper as each of her friends perused the documents she had handed them. A light breeze teased the stray curls against her neck. She saw the fear in her friends’ eyes, and it was the reason for keeping hers closed. She couldn't allow them to see her own fear or they would question everything she had put into motion. While Vivian was prepared to strike out to make a new beginning for herself, it also frightened her. She would leave behind everything she had once held dear.
It was necessary for her survival and for the sake of her family. Ever since her family's fall from grace, Vivian had been the only one to keep her family from destroying themselves. Her degenerate brothers still kept with their carousing, gambling, and spending foolishly. While her mother and father lived in denial, it was her younger sister, Chloe, who suffered the most. She would do anything to protect her sister from the hedonistic lifestyle her family lived. Vivian had thought at one time that she could rescue her sister when the gentleman of her dreams proposed to her. She had planned to bring Chloe into her household and offer her the secure love she deserved. However, the shame of her family's disgrace had caused Vivian's plans to diminish in the wind.
That very wind swirled around her today. As much as she wished for her friends to join her in Scotland, she must also respect their wishes if they so declined. However, she must make the journey, for it was the only way to give her sister a chance she no longer held herself. Vivian opened her eyes as silence descended on the group.
Vivian tucked a stray curl behind her ear. “Do these positions seem acceptable to you?”
Grace nodded. “Thank you, my friend. I think it is an excellent idea to leave London behind for a spell.”
“I agree. Thank you, Vivian. It was most generous of you to go to these lengths for us. I do not blame you. Any of you. You hold my deepest gratitude for removing me from a situation I found uncomfortable,” Sara declared.
Everyone turned to glance at Flora, curious about her answer. However, Flora stayed silent. None of them wished to rush her, but they were eager for her to take this journey with them. Flora continued to glare at Vivian for putting her in this position, which only made Vivian’s smile grow wider. Once Flora growled, the rest of the girls erupted into laughter.
“I guess I am bloody well returning to Scotland.”
Vivian clapped her hands. “Excellent! We shall travel to Scotland in two days. Prepare yourselves, ladies, for a new chapter in your lives. I believe this will be the first step in our chance for happiness.”
Vivian rose from the bench and embraced each of her friends. Before she left, she noted their trepidation of the unknown. While she could offer them platitudes of assurances, they would only ring false. Even Vivian didn’t know the outcome of their chosen paths. As they traveled along, each girl would learn if she had made the right decision. She only prayed she didn’t steer them wrong and that her own path led to a favorable outcome. At this point, what else did they have to lose?
Who knew? They might find more than they had ever dreamed possible.