Mimi MatthewsMimi Matthews

Appointment in Bath: Excerpt from Chapter Two

Ivo shut the door behind him with an audible click. There was a fire awaiting him in the hearth. He came to stand before it, raising his hands to the blaze.

A rustling sound emitted from the bowels of the attached dressing room. Partridge stuck his head out soon after. “Ah. It’s you, sir.”

“Don’t act so surprised,” Ivo replied. “We both know you calculated my arrival time down to the minute.”

Partridge emerged from the dressing room with a smile. He was a short, brawny man of fifty, with sandy hair liberally peppered with gray. A jagged scar intersected his brow, the remnant of a mysterious encounter he never spoke of.

Whatever had happened, Ivo would wager that Partridge’s opponent had come out the worse in the affair. Despite his advancing years, the valet was a man to be reckoned with.

“I confess, you’re later than I anticipated.” Partridge assisted Ivo off with his coat. “Didn’t run into any trouble, did you?”

“Not the kind you mean.” Ivo loosened his cravat. “I stopped to render aid to a lady in distress.”

“Aye, did you?” Partridge inspected Ivo’s coat for wear and tear before draping it over the back of a nearby chair. “Not many ladies in these parts as I recall. Excepting your mother and sister, there’s naught but village girls hereabouts.”

“You’re wrong,” Ivo answered before he could stop himself.

Partridge arched his brows. “Sir?”

“Miss Burton-Smythe is a lady.”

Partridge went still.

Ivo returned his attention to the crackling flames of the fire, anticipating the valet’s censure. “She’s the daughter of a baronet, anyway.”

“She’s the daughter of Sir Frederick Burton-Smythe,” Partridge said.

“Through no fault of her own.”

“As that may be; the Burton-Smythes are no friends to the Beresfords. Never have been. A dangerous lot, they are.”

“For pity’s sake, Partridge.” Ivo shot the valet a dark look. “You know how I feel about this tendency to cling to the past.”

“Yes, sir, but the Burton-Smythes—”

“It’s why we’re in this muddle. All this emphasis on traditions at the expense of progress. One is supposed to keep doing something just because it’s what’s always been done before. It’s mindlessness. What this country needs is to be moving forward, not forever looking back.”

“The country, mayhap. Not your father. You’ll find he keeps a keen eye on the past. When he was a boy—”

“Yes, I’m aware,” Ivo interrupted brusquely. “The Beresfords take grudge-keeping to the extreme. It doesn’t follow that I must leave a lady to perish on the side of the road simply because her father once slighted my own.”

“Perish?” Partridge echoed. “Was the lass hurt serious-like?”

Ivo sank into the velvet wingchair by the fire. “No,” he admitted. “It was a turned ankle, merely. But you take my meaning.”

“Aye, sir.” Partridge crouched in front of Ivo to assist him in removing his damp boots. He ably pulled off the first one and set it by the fire. “If you don’t mind my saying so…”

Ivo leaned back with a weary groan. In any other servant, it would have been outright impertinence. But Partridge had earned the right to speak his mind. “Oh, go on if you must.”

“It weren’t a slight, Master Ivo. What Sir Fred did to your father, and to your mother besides…” Partridge removed the second boot. “It were more than that.”

A frown compressed Ivo’s mouth. “I know.”

At least, he thought he did.

As children, Ivo’s mother and Sir Frederick had been intended for each other. It had been their parents’ fervent desire to see them wed, thereby joining up the neighboring estates of Beasley Park and Letchford Hall into one formidable property. On Squire Honeywell’s death, Sir Frederick had even been made Ivo’s mother’s guardian for a time. He’d attempted to use the position as leverage to force her into marriage.

Naturally, Ivo’s mother hadn’t succumbed.

She’d roundly rejected Sir Frederick in favor of Ivo’s father. Sir Frederick hadn’t taken it at all well. Not only had John Beresford been his childhood nemesis, he was also a man long rumored to be illegitimate. For Sir Frederick, who considered his own pedigree something sacred, the insult had been impossible to forgive. There were whispers of a duel. Of devious dealings, brutal bouts of fisticuffs, and false accusations of despicable crimes.

Ivo suspected his parents had never shared the whole of it.

The point was, they hadn’t forgotten. Nor had Sir Frederick. It’s why he’d christened his only daughter after Ivo’s mother. Meg Burton-Smythe was named Margaret for no other reason than pure, unadulterated spite. Sir Frederick had wanted to deliver a final insult to Ivo’s father. Even at the expense of his own daughter.

Ivo pitied Miss Burton-Smythe the more for it.

“In any event, it was long before I was born,” he said. “I don’t plan on shunning the girl. If she and I ever cross paths again, I shall treat her with as much kindliness as I’d treat any other gently bred young lady.”

Excerpt from Appointment in Bath copyright © Mimi Matthews, 2023.
Reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part, by any means, is forbidden without written permission from the author.

Appointment in Bath will be out June 27th. Preorder today at:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple | GoogleKobo

Where to Buy Mimi's Books

  • Buy on AppleBooks
  • Buy on Amazon
  • Buy on Barnes & Noble
  • Buy from Google Play
  • Buy from Kobo
  • Buy from Audible

Mimi’s books are also available at Penguin Random House, IndieBound and Powell’s, and at Amazon in the UK, Australia, and Canada.

Our website uses cookies which may collect information about your visit to improve our website (anonymous analytics), to show you media (video and audio), targeted advertising, and social media feeds. Please see our Cookie Policy page for further details or agree by clicking the 'Accept' button.

Cookie settings

Below you can choose which kind of cookies you allow on this website. Click on the "Save cookie settings" button to apply your choice.

FunctionalOur website uses functional cookies. These cookies are necessary to let our website work.

AnalyticalOur website uses analytical cookies to make it possible to analyze our website and optimize for the purpose of a.o. the usability.

Social mediaOur website places social media cookies to show you 3rd party content like YouTube and FaceBook. These cookies may track your personal data.

AdvertisingOur website places advertising cookies to show you 3rd party advertisements based on your interests. These cookies may track your personal data.

OtherOur website places 3rd party cookies from other 3rd party services which aren't Analytical, Social media or Advertising.