A Cinderella for
the Earl of Selmore



Hartwell Hall, Bedfordshire, 1800


The night was dreary and cold. Rain fell like sheets across the countryside and pattered against the windows of Hartwell Hall. The home was the country house of the Hartwell family, in which the Baron Timothy Hartwell resided comfortably with his wife the Baroness Irene Hartwell and his young daughter, Iris.

Though the home was the scene of many happy times, this night would not be one of them. The Baroness had become quite ill and despite the efforts of many doctors, she had come to the end of her life. The Baroness was much loved by everyone who came across the kind and beautiful woman and therefore many would mourn her death. Though there were none that would mourn as heavy as her husband and child.

The Baroness coughed into her fine handkerchief. “My darling Iris, come to me,” she said in a weak whisper.

The nanny Mrs. Harrison picked up the small child and laid her on the bed. Iris held her mother tight.

Irene pulled the child to her heart. “Do not cry, my little flower. All shall be well. You will grow to be a fine lady and have children of your own. I will always be with you.”

“Don’t go, mamma,” Iris cried.

“I’m not going, not really. I will be in your heart always. Shall we speak of the fairy tales that you so love?”

Iris nodded her head, yes.

“Remember the tale of Cinderella, your favourite story. Cinderella’s mother told her. “Dear child, be pious and good, and God will always take care of you, and I will look down upon you from heaven, and will always be with you, helping you to find happiness.”

“I remember,” Iris said.

“Good, always remember it my love,” Irene said. Irene nodded at Mrs. Harrison. She picked her up from the bed and set her down on her feet. But Mrs. Harrison held the girl’s hand tightly in comfort and support.

A violent cough overtook the Baroness and her husband, the Baron Hartwell, knelt down at her side.

“Oh my dearest wife, please do not leave us,” he sobbed.

Irene held his hand, but then her hand softened and she was gone. The Baron sobbed harder. “No. No.”

Irene ran to her father’s side. “Papa. What’s happened to mamma?”

Her father pushed her away in a cold and heartless way as he said, “Nanny, get her out of here.”

“Yes, sir. Come, child,” Mrs. Harrison said and picked the child up and rushed her out of the room. Iris cried out for her mother with her hand reaching out before her, but it would be the last time she saw her mother.

With a shattered soul and heart, Iris cried the entire night in the arms of Mrs. Harrison. At such a young age she could not fathom the loss of her mother.

And so when the funeral finally arrived, she was but a shell of a child. Lost and confused by the coldness of her father and the absence of her mother. There were many mourners in attendance at the funeral; all in black with tear stained faces. The Baroness had touched many lives and hearts. When all was said and done, the mourners dispersed with some staying behind to speak of happier memories of the Baroness.

Iris stayed at the side of mother’s grave a little longer.

Mrs. Harrison held her hand. She recited the child’s favorite fairy tale to offer her comfort. “The maiden went every day to her mother’s grave and wept, and was always pious and good. When the winter came the snow covered the grave with a white covering, and when the sun came in the early spring and melted it away, the man took to himself another wife.”

Iris lifted her head and saw her father being consoled by a woman she had never seen before. The woman was thin, tall, and elegant with sharp features and dark hair. She placed her hand delicately on her father’s shoulder. Iris did not know… that this was only the beginning.


Chapter One

London, 1815

Bordon Market


The Bordon Market was home to the most luxurious establishments in London. The retail, trade, and markets were of the best that all of high society enjoyed. This was not the usual trade one would find by the dock, where only gentlemen ventured. In fact women moved freely among the Borden Market in a very safe manner.

On any given day the elite of society strolled the streets shopping and mingling amongst each other. Horse-drawn carriages of all types could be observed, but most of them were ornate and carried their passengers to the dressmakers and jewelers. The busy streets also made way for simple carts that carried items to be brought to the open air market. The ladies carried parasols to keep the sun from their skin.

The bustling streets were very busy and packed on one particular morning. The noise tended to be a low roar of all kinds of sounds meddling together. Merchants shouted their wares, while gossip moved on tongues, and the jostling sound of carriage wheels on cobblestone combined to create a very noisy morning, indeed.

One particular ornate carriage stopped in front of the most expensive dressmakers that the market had to offer. The valet opened the door and out stepped the Baroness Anna Hartwell. She was tall and slender with a sever look upon her face that would frighten anyone. Her two teenage daughters Ena and Mavis stepped out behind her.

“Oh I cannot believe we are coming so late, all the best items will be gone by now, mother,” Ena pouted. The sixteen year old’s countenance was always to complain about something or other. A kind word was rarely uttered from her spoiled mouth.

“Do not worry, I have it on good authority that the shopkeeper has kept some particular items hidden away for our visit specifically,” the Baroness said.

“That is very exciting to hear. I know that I shall find the best baubles to wear to the Spencer Ball tomorrow tonight,” Mavis said. The fifteen year old had always known she was a beauty, keen to let everyone else know as well.

“And you shall have them,”Anna said. “All the best for my two daughters as always.”

She then turned to the carriage and gave a look of disgust to Iris, who waited to dismount the carriage, but the ladies stood in the way. She also had to wait for the Baroness to nod to her and allow her to dismount the carriage. The Baroness had shouted at her in such a wrath when Iris dismounted the carriage without getting permission to do so. After that, Iris knew to wait until summoned.

“Hurry up, Iris. You take your sweet time as always. You will not be accompanying us into the shop,” the Baroness said.

“Why would she? She’s not going to the Spencer Ball, she’s lucky she’s here at all. By the way did you put those finishing touches on our dresses last night, or did you not?” Ena asked.

Iris dismounted the carriage and stood on the sidewalk. “Indeed, I have started but it is such intricate sewing pattern I have not finished quite yet. Both dresses will be completely finished, however,” she said.

“My word, you have been working on those dresses for months. How are they not done? See mother, I knew we should have hired the dressmaker. Miss Cinders here spends all her time in front of the hearth reading books and no time to make our dresses,” Ena said.

“Now, now, Ena. Calm yourself. Do not raise your voice so loud for all to hear,” the Baroness said. Then she moved closer to Iris and spoke down at her. “There is nothing to fear, is there Iris? You will have the dresses finished as we discussed.”

“Indeed, I will stepmother,” she said.

“Good. You shall go to the market and get this list for cook,” the Baroness handed Iris a piece of paper.

“Of course, stepmother. I shall get these right away and return,” Iris said. She moved to the front of the carriage where the carriage driver Mr. Gavin handed her a large wicker basket. He had a smile for her, because like most of the household servants, he got on extremely well with the young girl.

“Thank you, Mr. Gavin,” she said.

“Oh no, do not return here. You must walk back to the townhouse carrying the items. You see with the girls purchasing so much today there won’t be any room in the carriage. We do not want to mount such delicate packages on top of the carriage where they could get ruined so they will need to take up the seating inside,” the Baroness said.

“Then I shall walk,” Iris said.

“Of course you will. Come girls, we must be quick. There’s much to do before the ball tomorrow,”Anna said and marched toward the door.

Ena and Mavis turned to give Iris a smug look and followed. Iris took a deep breath and walked toward the open air market portion of the street, in order to buy the items on the list for the cook, Mrs. Hatchett. She knew that Mrs. Hatchett also enjoyed going to the market, but the Baroness rarely let her out of the house.

However, Iris did not mind doing the chores in town. In fact she was relieved to have time away from her stepmother and half-sisters. It offered her some respite from their awful behavior toward her. They always had some demand or other to put upon her head and it weighed heavy on her at times, though for the most part, she had grown used to it.

Iris could hardly remember a time when she was part of a happy family, or having the love of a mother and father. When her mother died everything changed for the worst for the young girl and continued to do so on a day by day basis.

Her own father, the Baron, grew distant in his grief for his departed wife and it created a rift between the relationship with his daughter. Iris was left in the complete care of her nanny Mrs. Harrison. She became very attached to her nanny who became like a second mother to her. The only comfort that she found in her grief.

Matters became worse when her father remarried. It was the same woman that had consoled him at the funeral, after which she was relentless in her pursuit of the Baron, constantly calling upon him to check after his well-being, with an agenda of her own. She became quite successful in her endeavors, and married the Baron only a brief six months later.

With the new Baroness, Anna Hartwell, the Baron had two daughters Ena and Mavis. However from the very first moment of their marriage the new Baroness had subtly undermined Iris’s position as the eldest daughter. Slowly over time she restricted her freedom and put her own daughters forward.

She gave Iris chores to do on a regular basis, just a few to begin with, and then more and more. She convinced the Baron that it was to save on household expenses to which he agreed. However, what wounded Iris the most was that the Baroness let go of her nanny Mrs. Harrison. Once again using the excuse that it was to save on salary, and that with her presence Iris did not need a nanny

It crushed Iris to the core and she retreated inside of herself. With no one to support or speak up for her she had to do what the Baroness bade her to do. She was an obedient child that did not give much fuss or conflict, but no one could foresee that to be so isolated Iris would gradually become more like a servant to her stepmother and sisters, than family. It was such a gradual manipulation that not even the Baron himself saw what had happened. His travels abroad meant he was rarely home and when he was at home, the stepmother made sure to make Iris’s daily chores much lighter.

It was such a strange transition that Iris was not sure how it had happened. She didn’t know that her own sisters were brought up to think of her as less, which wounded her greatly.

Her stepmother forced her to learn to sew and as she became older she became the family seamstress. Once again the Baroness used the excuse of saving money and complemented Iris on her skill in order to persuade her to take on the job.

“No other dressmaker in London is as good as you, my dear. Why would we have anyone else do our dresses, when we can have one of a kind clothing from you?” she would say with a fake smile.

Iris knew her game, but she was not one to fuss and rather enjoyed the new skill herself. In fact she had been secretly sewing clothing for herself such as a new ball gown, even though she was assured that she would never attend a ball anytime soon.

There was also the matter of the household entertainment after dinner. The two young girls of course learned to sing as any woman of their station would, but they hardly enjoyed practicing. Therefore it was up to Iris to provide the evening’s entertainment in the parlor on many occasion, which consisted of singing, playing the piano forte, or reading out loud from a book.

She found little connection with her stepmother and sisters and spent the majority of her free time in the warm kitchen with the servants who had become her friends. It was much better suited than being in her chamber that rarely had a fire burning in it due to the lack of coal the Baroness allotted her. But when she was in the kitchen, she made the most out of the warm fire used for cooking and would sit so close to the hearth that she would get cinders on the bottom of her dress. Her half sisters constantly teased her about it and would compare her to Cinderella in the fairy tale.

“Cinders on your skirts, always such a mess, Iris,” Ena would say.

“Cinder-Iris,” Mavis would tease.

Iris did not care if they teased her, nothing would stop her from keeping her toes warm and toasty by the fire. Besides, she considered it a compliment to be called Cinderella because it was her favorite story that her mother used to tell her. Every time they wanted to tease her about it, it only brought a happy memory of her own mother. Even now she enjoyed reading the stories with happy endings and she herself would romanticize about finding her own Prince charming or a knight in shining armor. She would love to find true love to marry, have children, and a life of her own. It was a great wish for her but she never spoke of it because she knew her stepmother and sisters would ridicule her. It was a wish that she kept locked inside her own heart.

“Good morning to you, Iris,” a fishmonger shouted from his table of wares as she passed in the Bordon Market.

“Good morning, to you, sir,” she smiled. The friendly man had brought her out of her reflections on her life. She was a frequent shopper from the many market vendors and most knew her by name. “Good catch this morning?” she asked.

“Indeed. A blessed day, we had,” he shouted back.

“Good work,” she said and continued on her way. She enjoyed speaking with the vendors because they often would speak of their own lives and adventures. She longed for that type of escape. Though she did not know if it would ever happen for her. She longed to be on a ship that would take her far away, or on a wagon filled with items headed for the countryside.

Her stepmother had made it very well known that she could not attend any balls not until her official coming out, and although at nineteen years of age she should have had one many years ago, the Baroness concluded that she should have it along with her sisters. Again, she said it was to save money. So she waited until Ena and Mavis would have their coming out the ball together. This occasion happened to be in a month’s time and Iris was very happy to finally have the pleasure of doing so. The excitement was overwhelming.

However her sisters discouraged such a thing because she  always looked shabby with her hair in a mess and cinders on her cheek. Always reading books and not conversing. “Who would marry her?” they teased.

With the family now in London for the season and the coming out ball due in a month, Iris was kept very busy sewing gowns for them all, which she did as well as acting as a lady’s maid for her sisters and stepmother and housekeeping duties. Their demands never seemed to stop and made it hard to have time to herself.

Therefore walking in the market was a much-needed respite and she never turned the opportunity down to do so. So as not to have to deal with the shouting she always had to listen to. The sky overhead was blue and the day was nice and kind with barely a light breeze. Such a day did not come often in London, for the rain tended to dampen such a shopping trip on short notice. But as she looked up, there was  not a cloud in the sky. It made her smile.

She walked through the market buying the items on the list slowly filling the basket. Turnips, potatoes, and a small slab of cured bacon. Followed by leafy green bushels and twine to tie the game hen for supper.

After filling the basket, it had become quite heavy and she knew it was time to walk back towards the townhouse. Everything on the list had been bought, though she wished that she could somehow buy a bit of ribbon for her own gowns, but she had no coin to do so.

As she was walking, she envisioned the dress that she had been making. It was a white dress with navy blue embellishments that matched her eyes. She had managed to make it by hoarding scraps from the dresses that she made for her stepmother and sisters. Now it was almost complete and she yearned to wear it to a ball, but would have to wait to her coming out.

She wished that she could wear it to the Spencer Ball the very next evening, despite her stepmother and sisters forbidding her to do so. Wouldn’t it be splendid to find her true love and dance all night with him? The two would fall in love and she would be able to  escape her unhappy existence at his side. They would move to the countryside and she would not have to see her stepmother and sisters except for family occasions, though she would wish to see her father on his own. He did travel much and alone very often, so perhaps he would stop at her new place of residence.

“Oh you silly fool,” she said to herself. She realized that she was making concessions for a life that did not exist. Her wishes of a husband could not come true if she was not out in society.

She had never been to a ball before, and only danced when partnering with her stepsisters during their dance lessons as she was never properly given her own, so how could she dance with a suitor? It was a frustrating affair as her sisters would pout because Iris was more graceful than they were. Something that made Iris laugh under her breath.

But they would never allow her to attend the Spencer Ball, as they always complained that she was unfit for company and society or would attempt to show them up and embarrass them with her poor manners and poor appearance. At the same time they said that she would steal a gentleman’s attention away from them, which Iris did not know how their two claims could co-exist. She really wished they would decide on whether she was the thief of gentlemen’s attention or unfit to be in a gentleman’s attention. Iris thought that both of her sisters were quite the beauties, so how could she possibly outshine them? She did not consider herself a beauty at all.

It was much to bear and it was made worse by the fact that her father largely ignored her existence. Her nanny Mrs Harrison always told her it was because Iris reminded him of her mother and preferred her to be out of sight so that the death of Irene was out of his mind. It was a painful thing to be told at such a young age, but she beared it as best as she could.

With that in mind she thought her father would encourage her to have her coming-out sooner rather than later so that she could be married and out of the house. If he found it so hard to look upon her face, wouldn’t she be better off somewhere else? And at the very least it would save him money as the Baroness was always keen to remind him of. There were so many reasons that she should be out in society attempting to find a husband like all young ladies of her age, though none seemed to be good enough to persuade such a thing.

She marched forward in frustration and when she became frustrated it also made her unobservant to her surroundings.

Then suddenly, and without expecting it, she was violently pushed to the ground and her items went flying out of her basket.


Chapter Two

Christian Fletcher was the Earl of Selmore, son and heir of George Fletcher, the Duke of Avon. Mary Cornish Fletcher was his mother and the Duchess of Avon. With such a title, and being yet unmarried, he had become a most sought after eligible man. At the age of twenty six, he was athletic with a stature of six foot two, light brown hair cut in the stylish Brutus cut, and light blue eyes. This made him the target of every young woman. This season in particular had many women speaking of the eligible bachelor for it was high-time, he took a wife.

Christian was very well aware of the tongues that were wagging on his behalf. He felt the target on his back wherever he went in society and at every occasion, even something as simple as a night of supper and cards had young ladies bouncing their lashes at him.

However it also made him the target of his parents who expected him to marry very well in order to have a good match that would increase the family’s holdings. All marriages were arranged on such matters and rarely for love. At the age of twenty six years old his parents had been putting the pressure on him to marry for the last three years, which he had managed to avoid. The constant pressure and nagging had gotten to Christian’s head and he agreed that he would select a bride very soon. It was all that he could do to stop them from arranging a match for him themselves.

His mother, The Duchess of Avon, hoped that he would pick the season’s diamond, Lady June Carteret. She had already spoken with June’s mother and father and they both had aspirations that a match would be made between them.

What The Duchess did not know was that Christian despised Lady June Carteret. He found her to be quite annoying and felt the opposite in everything that she stood for. He knew in his heart that wedding her would be a lifetime of unhappiness for him. Though she took on all the qualities of a lady that was well educated and groomed to be a perfect bride, he could see underneath that facade to a manipulative and whining woman. It was not to his liking whatsoever.

It was the matter of Lady June that brought him to the tavern that day to speak with his good friend Justin.

“At the ball tomorrow night I know my mother will be up to something or other regarding pushing Lady June Carteret into my path,” Christian said.

“Then I shall do all I can to part you from her,” Justin teased.

“Thank you my friend although I doubt you will be much of a wall when it comes to ladies wanting to find a husband.”

“I hate to see you in such a stressed manner, perhaps you should just pick one and get it over with? How bad could it be?” Justin said taking a drink of his ale.

“That is not my notion. I am much more of a romantic as you know and wish to choose a wife out of passion and love, not from her financial assets,” Christian said.

“So you are determined to seek happiness on your own terms not those of your parents or of society for that matter?” Justin asked.

“Exactly, you know me quite well, don’t you?” Christian said.

“Good luck with that as many men before you have failed miserably,” Justin said.

At that moment there was a commotion outside. At first the two men did not respond to it for it was a very busy day in town, but then there was some shouting and Christian was not one to stand by while any injustice was done in his presence.

He stood up from his table and marched toward the door.

“Christian, what are you doing? Not with this again. Can you not let matters that do not concern you, simply be?” Justin said.

“No I cannot,” Christian said and walked out the door.

Outside the tavern was a commotion concerning a very large dog. The owner was a very skinny man that had the dog on the lead but barely able to control it. The dog barked at a menacing looking man that crossed its path and this man now shouted at the owner. “Get that nasty beast away from me, you hear me? Or I will do with you.”

“What’s all this about?” Christian asked.

“This here idiot cannot control his mutt. Look at that thing, it’s a killer,” the menacing man said.

The dog owner chimed back, “He is not a killer. He is simply misunderstood and excitable in town.”

“Keep it under control, or else” the menacing man said as he waved a fist in the air and walked away.

Christian looked at the dog and thought it was quite an impressive specimen with a muscular form and snapping jaws.

“This is an impressive creature. It seems to protect you quite well,” Christian said.

Sensing the interest by the well-dressed gentleman the dog owner immediately went into his sales pitch. “Oh yes, yes very good dog. It has protected me and my family many times. The problem is my… my wife is giving birth to our first child in a few weeks and she forbids me to have such a creature around the infant. Therefore I must sell it. It would be a good asset for any gentleman that needs protection. The city has become a very dangerous place, and having such a creature on a property would be very good indeed, sir. That’s right. It’ll be good for you.”

“That is a good thought. Hmmm…” Christian walked around the creature. He could sense that the dog was not dangerous as the menacing man had proposed. In fact it seemed quite calm and sat down next to its owner while Christian looked it over. He held his hand out to it and it gave it a sniff and then a playful lick. It made Christian laugh.

“He likes you, sir,” the dog owner said. “He will be your best friend if you let it. Just feed him good and he will know who his new master is.”

“And I like him. How much to part with him?”

“Um one… no two pounds,” the owner said.

“Have you gone mad? Absolutely not,” Christian said. “I’ll give you half a pound and no more.”

“Done,” the owner said.

“Wait here and I shall return,” Christian said. He walked back inside the tavern and approached Justin who still sat at the table content in his drink.

“Are you done? We must go,” Christian said.

“Go where? What have you got yourself into now, Christian? Always so rash.”

“I have just acquired a guard dog and must walk him back to my home. You will accompany me, come quick,” Then Christian walked back outside.

“A guard dog? But why? Sometimes I question my friendship with you,” Justin said even though Christian had already walked out the door.

Outside the tavern the dog owner patted the dog’s head and said his goodbyes, speaking softly in his ear. Christian could tell the dog was well loved. Christian handed the man the coin and the dog owner handed him the leash.

“Take good care of him. His name is Buster.”

The dog whined as the owner walked away, but Christian was quick to scratch it behind the ears and get its affection. “It’s all right, Buster you’re coming home with me. You will love it. I guarantee.”

This is what you have acquired?” Justin said. “Have you gone mad?”

“Indeed. Say hello to Buster,” Christian said.

Justin looked at it and Buster gave a very loud bark that frightened him. Justin stepped back. “I think this is as close as I will get.”

Christian laughed and then together they walked side by side. The dog was very large and cumbersome and Christian, although a strong man, had trouble keeping the excitable dog in line. It was almost as if the dog was leading him instead of the other way around. They moved through the bustling market.

“Where is your carriage? I do not think you’re going to make it all the way home with this thing,” Justin said. “We should get it inside the carriage and then to your home.”

“I told my driver to wait on Canal Street. He should be around this corner. And I don’t take delight in you questioning my every decision of late.” Christian said.

“That is because you make questionable decisions,” Justin said back.

But as the two rambled on with their accusations, the leash slipped from Christian’s hand and the rambunctious dog bolted forward.

“Wait, no…” Christian said.

It knocked over a woman and sent her basket of items flying.

“Buster! Stop!” Christian shouted but it was too late. The dog had already done its damage and bolted towards a table of fowl for sale.

The market was in chaos and the young lady lay flat on her belly surrounded by her items as onlookers laughed at the event.


I hope you enjoyed the preview of my new novel  – “Iris, a Cinderella for the Earl of Selmore” is now live on Amazon!

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Diana Effner

    I love it, so far. Can’t wait to read the rest of the book!

  2. Lucille Eldhardt

    I like the story. Hardly wait to read more

  3. Lena

    when will it be for sale. sounds like a good story.

  4. Monica Kumah

    Lovely read, I will like to read it all.

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