A moving romance set in the 1920s - Julia Howard is a perfect daughter to her father, a now-bankrupt toy manufacturer who created a paper doll in her image. Julia longs for freedom, but marries wealthy businessman Latham Miller to please her father. Latham soon proves possessive and controlling, and when Julia is reacquainted with troubled war hero Martin Lee-Trafford, the attraction between them grows to love. But when Julia gives birth to a child, she faces a heart-wrenching decision – for if she runs away with Martin, she’ll be forced to leave her beloved son with Latham . . .
|Publisher:||Severn House Publishers|
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Janet Woods' previous books include "The Stonecutter's Daughter "and "Where Seagulls Soar,"""
Read an Excerpt
By Janet Woods
Severn House Publishers LimitedCopyright © 2010 Janet Woods
All rights reserved.
Rosie the paper doll had been one of the Howard Toy Factory's best sellers for the past eleven years. The doll had been a gift for Julia Howard's tenth birthday. Her father had created the doll in his daughter's image and she'd been given the task of naming her, a task which had afforded her many hours of thought and pleasure before she'd decided on her maternal grandmother's name of Rosie – something that had pleased the old lady before she'd passed on.
The latest and final doll had been released on to the market four months previously, when Julia had turned twenty-one. They'd had a party in the factory, with sherry and sandwiches for the employees, which had been rather jolly. After that was a dinner party at home, with a mixture of her father's friends and her own in attendance. Her best friend, Irene Curruthers, had rather shocked people by playing the vamp. Posing on the piano in a pair of silk lounging pyjamas, she'd held a gasper in a long black holder and had made eyes at all the men, including the hired pianist.
Irene could be an absolute scream at times, Julia thought with a grin.
Irene had taken an interest in the Rolls belonging to Latham Miller, who was a friend of Julia's father – a rather odd friend she'd always thought because her father was almost ready to retire whilst Latham was in his forties, and considerably younger.
Julia had to admit that Latham was attractive in a saturnine sort of way, with the grey edging into his dark hair at the temples. There was something rather deliberate and forbidding about him. He'd always been polite when they met, and, unexpectedly, he'd given her a brooch for her birthday. Although it had been sweet of him, she'd been obliged to protest at the expense and had tried to return it.
'Good grief, you silly girl! The trinket cost next to nothing,' he'd said, and had laughed it off, which had made her feel like a fool and left her thinking that the stones, though mounted in silver and gold, were reasonably small and were probably paste.
Latham had taken Irene outside to show her how to drive his Rolls, and they'd gone off together with her at the wheel. Irene had looked a little self-conscious and crumpled when they'd returned.
'Latham gave me a driving lesson,' she'd said loudly, and Julia didn't understand why she'd sounded so embarrassed about it until one or two people had sniggered.
The Rosie doll was now thoroughly modern. Like Julia, she was slim-hipped and small-breasted, and her boyish cardboard form was dressed daringly in feminine peach-coloured combinations edged with lace.
Rosie's hair had also changed along with that of Julia's. From dark ringlets with ribbons the pair had progressed to the latest hennaed bob, a colour that suited the clear green of her eyes. Sales of the doll were slow though, even through the lead-up to Christmas.
'The economy hasn't recovered from the slowdown during the war and exports are still down,' her father had said, and he'd looked so worn out that she couldn't bear it, and had hugged him.
'But we'll be all right won't we, Daddy darling? I mean ... we have money in the bank and property, and there are the jewels my mother left me. If need be I can sell those.' The thought of her mother, who'd died in the first wave of the flu epidemic when Julia was eighteen, saddened her. 'I don't think I could tolerate being poor, especially when I remember Mrs Brewster, who has a husband who was gassed in the trenches to look after, as well as two children. She looks so old and worn out, though she's not much older than me.'
'Yes, she does. But she's a good woman who never complains about her lot in life; I'll say that for her.'
'I could look for work, too. Perhaps I could train to be a secretary or a nurse, so you wouldn't have to pay me an allowance. That would help, wouldn't it?'
Her father had smiled at that. 'My darling girl, I need you to run my household. Besides, you practically faint at the sight of blood, so what sort of nurse would you make?'
'Not a very good one, I imagine. I could learn to use one of those typewriting machines I expect, though. My spelling is good and it doesn't look too hard. All you have to do is press the key with a letter on it, like playing the piano.'
'Of course you can learn how to use one, dear. A girl should always have a skill to fall back on. I'll buy you a typewriter and you can enrol on a course. However, we're better off than most people, and things will improve before too long, so I don't think you need to sacrifice your allowance.'
'Oh, good,' she said with some relief, because she'd heard that wages for women were low.
The typewriter had arrived in due course, along with a box of ribbons. Her hands had got covered in ink putting the ribbon in position, but then she'd been too busy to try it and had put the machine in a cupboard, telling herself that she'd start the course.
Her intentions had come to nought though. When the time came the course had been full and the woman in charge of it had gazed with disapproval at her for some reason. 'It's not a hobby. The course is designed for girls and widows who need to support themselves, and who are training for a career. There's a waiting list. You may register and I'll notify you when, or if, there's a vacancy.' She gazed at the application form. 'You've never worked, it says here.'
'Well, not for money, of course. I'm good at organizing though; everyone says so. I've sat on committees, helped to arrange dinners and balls to raise money for various charities ... and I run the house for my father.'
The woman had looked so stern that Julia felt guilty and had shelved the idea of becoming a typist for the time being. When notification of a place on the course had arrived the timing turned out to be inconvenient and she couldn't take advantage of it, for she'd have had to cancel several long-standing engagements.
Right now though, she hoped sales of the Rosie doll would pick up. Julia had designed the fashions for the paper doll's coming of age. Rosie would go through the final year of production in tubular dresses with real beads, a coat with fur collars and muffs to match and the latest cloche hats. To finish her wardrobe off was a beautiful calf-length wedding gown made of paper lace. It had a sweet little veil of real chiffon attached to a beaded band that fitted around her forehead.
Julia gazed at her father and smiled. 'Rosie's a bride without a groom. We shall have to design a hero husband for her ... a returned soldier perhaps.'
Benjamin Howard shrugged at the thought. 'I'm in no hurry for you to wed, my dear. Besides, people want to forget the war. I had high hopes for you and Dickie Henderson. He was a fine lad with prospects. Damned shame, really. What an appalling loss of life the war was.'
'Poor Dickie, they never found his body.' She shuddered at the thought that he might be ground into the Flanders mud. Her late fiancé seemed remote from her now, unless she wore the diamond ring he'd given her. She avoided thinking about him if she could. As Dickie would have said, Life goes on, old thing, it's no good moping. 'Dickie was such a good sport, and such fun to be with, and the same with Nigel Devison and Willie Carpenter, though I never thought Willie would be a hero, not with his stammer. He was awfully shy, you know.'
'Only around you. I think the fellow was in love with you.'
She laughed. 'You think everyone is in love with me. Men are in short supply now, and if you want grandchildren to inherit the factory and your estate I shall have to find someone to marry me and father them before it's too late. Goodness, all the eligible men are being snared as swiftly as possible, and there are a suspicious number of babies being born, supposedly premature.'
'You won't do that, will you, my dear?'
'Get yourself into a spot of bother. Men don't respect fast women, especially if they're tricked into marriage by them.' A look of embarrassment stole over his face. 'I'm only saying this because you haven't got a mother to tell you these things.'
Julia felt her face grow pink. 'Good gracious, how can you think such a thing? Mummy and I had a good chat about the birds and the bees when I was sixteen. And before she died, Grandmother Howard gave me a lecture on becoming a woman.' Her grandmother, sweet old thing, had been frightfully stern and prudish. She'd said the marital union was something women had to put up with if they wanted children, and that they didn't actually enjoy it, even though men frequently indulged the wicked side of themselves with their wives.
'Tosh, and more tosh!' Irene Curruthers had said to that idea. 'What do you think all those sensations churning inside you are for? It's lust, pure and natural, my dear. People like your grandmother secretly enjoyed the attention, they just wouldn't admit to it because they were told that they shouldn't.'
'You think so?'
'Of course. It's best to lose your virginity as soon as possible. It's fashionable to have a lover, you know. A wicked man is just the thing, since he knows how to make a woman feel too wicked to want to stop him, and he has enough sense to protect her.'
Julia remembered with shame the little damp rush of pleasure Irene's words had brought. 'Protect her?'
'From getting herself knocked up ... by using a French letter for protection, you ninny. You do know what that is, don't you?'
'Of course,' she lied, her mind scrambling to her schoolgirl French. 'It's a billet-doux.'
Irene had shrieked with laughter. 'How gloriously droll of you, darling. I can't wait until I tell Charles. Never let a man near you without a frenchie. They are so careless about such things, so it's up to the woman.'
Julia managed to hide her mystification. 'Oh ... perhaps I'll just wait until I wed.'
'What if you never marry, you don't want to go through life being a virgin, do you? How absolutely dreary that would be. I could probably fix you up with my brother, Charles, if you like. He's just oozing with lust and experience, but I warn you, don't fall in love with him because he's rather louche, and definitely not the marrying kind.'
'As if I would. Actually, I have no intention of marrying until I'm at least thirty.'
'Then I'll have to invite you to the country for New Year, when Charles is home from Oxford. You should trot over to the Marie Stopes clinic in Marlborough Road; she give lectures about birth control, which scandalizes certain people no end, of course.'
Julia grinned at the thought of changing her image, and of having Charles Curruthers as a male friend. There would be a certain glamour attached to it because, as Irene had pointed out, her brother was quite a prize. If she were to lose her virginity for the sake of fashion, why not to Charles? He was as lithe and lean as a leopard and had a laconic sort of charm. He'd also had other leopard attributes the last time she'd set eyes on him. 'Does Charles still have spots on his face?'
'Good God, no! Charles is the cat's whiskers now. He's doing well with his studies ... and he's learned to fly. Women adore him. I first did it when I was eighteen with one of Charlie's friends.'
Irene had slanted her head to one side and her eyes had narrowed. 'That would be telling.'
Which didn't seem quite fair to Julia and she pointed out, 'But you would know who I'd lost my virginity to.'
'It's not exactly the same, my dear. I was only offering you my advice, since you're not actually fast by nature, and are really quite naïve for your age. One doesn't usually discuss intimate affairs, one just gets on with them and enjoys them for what they're worth. Take my word for it, everyone, but everyone, is doing it now, even the most unlikely people.'
Julia had gazed upon her father with some fondness and thought, not everyone, since her father was too old, and anyway, he didn't have a lady friend.
This morning Julia and her father, already dressed in his business clothes, breakfasted together in the dining room of their serviced mansion flat in Earls Court. The flat looked out over the road. Not that the traffic could be seen today and the sound was partly smothered by an overnight, but thinning, pea-souper of a fog.
Dear daddy, he was so old-fashioned. Julia felt a rush of love for him. 'I do wish I'd been born a boy, then I wouldn't have to bother about tiresome things such as marriage and producing children. I could just run the factory for you. As it is, I'm absolutely hopeless with figures.'
'You don't have to worry. I'm interviewing a new manager today.'
'Oh, I see. What's his name? I might know him.'
'I doubt it, dear. His name is Martin Lee-Trafford, and he's a doctor of medicine. His family hails from Hampshire ... Bournemouth I recall.'
'He's a doctor. How odd. Why would a doctor want to manage a factory?'
'He practised his profession during the war. He saw too much and it affected him badly. He's been recovering, and as yet doesn't feel able to return to his former profession.'
Her eyes widened. 'You mean that he's mentally ill? Good Lord, Daddy, be careful; some people can be quite violent. I saw a man begging outside a chemist shop the other day who had eyes staring out of his head, and he was shaking fit to bust. The poor thing; I dropped a shilling or two into his cap, of course.'
'Oh, good for you, my dear. Those men had a terrible time of it.'
'The chemist came rushing out and shooed him away. He told him he was frightening the customers off. The man swore horribly, and the chemist told me he was shell-shocked, which was a sort of madness brought on from being at the front. He was terribly unkempt and had a notice around his neck saying he was looking for work. But I doubt if anyone would employ him acting like that. The way he acted was quite frightening.'
'I would have. He could have worked on the packing bench.'
'Well, I suppose.' Julia hoped she didn't sound as doubtful as she felt. Her father was too soft-hearted for words and she hoped he wasn't going to allow himself to be taken advantage of. 'Surely you can find someone better to manage the factory. What would a doctor know about toys ... or management come to that?'
'Can you think of anyone with a better character than a man who cared for fallen soldiers in their time of need. Lee-Trafford won a DCM with bar.'
When she raised an enquiring eyebrow her father sighed. 'Didn't they teach you anything at that expensive school you went to?'
'Not manly things, but I can cook a soufflé and talk about nothing.'
This time he laughed. 'One of your strong points, I might add. The DCM is short for the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Besides which, Martin is the son of an old friend of mine. I went through school with David Lee-Trafford. He manufactured domestic goods before his retirement. David is gone now. Spanish flu took him, the same as your mother. Lee-Trafford practically grew up on the factory floor. He has solid ideas, and what could be better than that?'
'You mean he's a fuddy-duddy like you.'
'I mean nothing of the sort. If I take him on, which is likely, he can start work on the Tuesday after New Year.'
'But a doctor in charge of a toy factory ...' She gazed dubiously at him. 'Wouldn't he consider it beneath him?'
'Having a job and feeling useful – no matter how humble that job – gives a man back his pride. So if you come across that poor damaged man again, you send him round to see me and I'll try and fit him in somewhere.'
'Actually he was rather churlish; he didn't even thank me, or look me in the eye come to that.'
'Having to beg wouldn't sit well with most men, especially one who had served his country well. Can you blame him?'
'I see, well, you know best, I suppose. Now ... could I bother you for a small advance? Please say yes.'
Her father smiled indulgently at her. 'My past experience of that statement suggests that you've spent your allowance for this month.'
'Most of it, but you know how expensive the Christmas season is. I saw a darling little beaded evening bag in the window of La Belle Moderne the other day, and with a matching headband. I'll just die if I can't have it. It was wildly expensive. But there ... If we're hard up then I must learn to go without these things. It will do me good.'
'You know very well that a little evening bag for my favourite girl won't make much of a dent in my overdraft,' he said, and chuckled. 'Take some money from my safe; you know the combination.'
'More tea, Daddy?'
'Yes please. You haven't any plans to go away for Christmas, have you?'
'And leave you moping here all alone with only thoughts of Mummy for company? Good Lord, what do you take me for? We'll go to the midnight service together, as usual, and we'll visit Mother's grave. I've been invited to a weekend party at the Curruthers' country house in Kent for New Year though.' She didn't tell him that Irene and Charles' parents would be staying in the city.
Excerpted from Paper Doll by Janet Woods. Copyright © 2010 Janet Woods. Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
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