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By the time Ross Calvert discovers that Harry Martin is in fact Harriet Martin, she has already fallen in love with him. Realising she has failed in her final effort to protect her shell-shocked brother, she puts a desperate proposition to her reluctant employer—marry her and she will give his Devil’s Ridge an heir.
Ross accepts. However, he is tormented by the betrayal of his former fiancé, Virginia. When on honeymoon he meets her again, he is still infatuated. With the army recalling him to France, he faces a terrible dilemma: Taste Virginia’s passion, or keep his marriage vows to Harry?
With the spectre of war hanging over them, there are bigger obstacles for Ross and Harry. Keeping love alive is only part of survival as Ross returns to the trenches and a man seeking wealth at any cost endangers Harry’s life in a way she had never imagined.
“Mrs. White hates you, Harriet. I think it’s because you’re so pretty,” Elsie, the seventeen-year-old scullery maid said, examining an encrusted pan.
“Pretty!” Harry slammed a saucepan down on the sink. “I’m a wreck.”
Six days a week scrubbing and scraping for the tyrannical Mrs. White had seen to that. She pushed irritably at a wayward curl slipping out from under her cap.
Her cheek was still smarting from the slap she had received half an hour before, when the horrible old witch accused her of not making the entrance foyer gleam. If she were not so desperate for money, and a place to live that was close to the convalescent hospital, she would tell Mrs. White exactly what she thought of her.
“She hates it when you go off visiting your brother,” Elsie continued.
“I don’t care what the old witch thinks of me. Once Gil gets better we’ll be leaving Melbourne. I’ll never come back here again,” Harry vowed.
Her employer, Sebastian Littlejohn, carried his head high, and liked to think of himself as a respected pillar of society. The whole family wallowed in luxury while a sadistic housekeeper treated their servants like slaves. Harry scrubbed with vigour, wishing it were those hypocrites she was scrubbing off the face of the earth.
What she wouldn’t give to expose them for what they really were. The dark, mean, little rooms the servants shared in the attics and the dreadful, inedible food they were fed. They treat us worse than dogs, she thought viciously, whipping up her anger to give her the energy to keep on scrubbing.
Please, Gil, get better soon, Harry prayed desperately. I hate the city with its crowds of bustling people, noise and selfish, hypocritical society types.
The poverty was terrible in the poorer suburbs. She shuddered. On their farm they were poor but at least had plenty to eat and fresh air to breathe. The squalid boarding house in Collingwood, her first taste of Melbourne life, would haunt her for a lifetime.
Thank goodness it had been summertime when she stayed there. Judging by the damp smell of decay, the building would have leaked when it rained. Huge rats more than a foot long scurried around the back alleys, where rotting garbage and excrement from overflowing privies mingled, giving off the vilest of smells. Whole families lived in one or two rooms in buildings that were in such a state of decay, it was a wonder they hadn’t collapsed years ago.
We are definitely going to take those jobs advertised by Ross Calvert at Devil’s Ridge, she decided, wiping her brow. She couldn’t stand working here for much longer and pretending to be Gil’s kid brother would be a lark.
Cutting her hair and dressing in loose, baggy clothes to hide her feminine shape was simple. Getting up to an isolated mountain station like Devil’s Ridge was the main hurdle they would have to overcome.
“Do you want to go to a picture show with Ted and me?” Elsie asked, interrupting Harry’s train of thought. “He could bring a friend along from camp. That’s if the old dragon lets us off.”
Harry thought of the gangling, awkward Ted who was a cook at the Broadmeadows Army Camp. His friends were probably of the same stature.
“I won’t go out with a soldier, Elsie. They go off to war and get themselves killed or come back maimed. Anyway, after I’ve seen Gil I’ll hang around here in case they need help at the garden party. The old witch would make you stay otherwise, even if it is Saturday.”
“I don’t know how you can bear going to that hospital all the time, seeing those poor crippled soldiers. If something like that happened to Ted, I’d die,” Elsie finished off on a sob.
“It’s terrible, but I have to go, Gil needs me.”
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
No. of Pages: 320
Paper Weight (lb): 13.4
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