A GIFT FROM A GODDESS

~A LEGEND TO LOVE~

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A Regency Mystery

Hebe Fenchurch’s life has been turned upside down after her father became involved in a swindle and killed himself. Shunned by the ton and with her mother struggling to make ends meet, Hebe is forced to seek employment. Told she is unsuited for a governess and lacks the skills of a maid, Hebe finds work as an artist’s model.

Sculptor, Lewis, Lord Chesterton has shut himself away, working on his sculptures after his wife, Laura, left him and was subsequently murdered. Some in Society believe he was behind her death. When Lewis begins a new work titled Aphrodite, Hebe Fenchurch comes to pose for him.

Lewis prides himself on his professionalism. He never sleeps with his models although many in the ton believe he does. He finds himself drawn to Hebe, his work stalls, and he fears he won’t finish the statue of Aphrodite. Must he dismiss Hebe and lose his best model?

After another of Lewis’ models suffers the same fate as his wife Laura, the mystery intensifies and gossip spreads. Hebe is drawn into the fray.

Bow Street have had no success in finding the murderer. Will they strike again?

As Hebe sits for him, Lewis’ employs his skill as a sculptor to fashion the beautiful goddess from a block of marble. It is said that Aphrodite stands for love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation, and she can even mend a broken heart.

Can the goddess’ power be real?

And will Lewis be able to keep the model he’s fallen in love with from suffering the same fate as the others?

Inspired by the Myth of Pygmalion and Galatea.

4 Flames

REVIEWS

Amazon Reviewer: “This is a very well-written story with a romance and murder mystery moving along side by side.”

Amazon Reviewer: “Her world disintegrated when her baron father did the unthinkable, leaving she and her mother as destitute outcasts. Not one to wallow in self pity, Miss Hebe Fenchurch did what she had to do to survive. Hopefully her mother would never find out.

Lord Chesterton’s world disintegrated when his wife was murdered and society suspected him of the crime. Immersing himself in his sculpting saved his sanity, but the hollowness in his heart was still painful. Without warning his goddess muse walked into his studio looking to fill his opening for a model.

A Gift From A Goddess is just the type of Regency romance that I read and love. Maggi Andersen’s descriptive writing style and richly developed characters makes her one of my favorite authors. I was not disappointed with this book, which is going on my 5 star favorites list. I loved both Hebe and Lewis. Each were damaged, but they were not quitters or whiners. They kept moving forward towards a hopeful and better future.”

Excerpt:

The next day in the studio, Lewis greeted Hebe with his distant smile. “Good morning, Hebe.”

“Good mornin’, Lewis. ’Tis brisk out.” Hebe rubbed her arms and moved gratefully closer to the fire smoldering in the grate. “But nice an’ warm in ’ere.”

He gestured at the white silk sheet folded on the chaise. “After you undress, drape this around yourself, like so…” He indicated with a hand. “One arm and shoulder uncovered.” He glanced at her top knot. “Leave your hair as it is.”

Hebe hurriedly stripped off her clothes. Cocooned in the sheet, she tripped out from behind the screen with the silky fabric trailing behind her. She kicked it back with a foot and almost laughed. It reminded her of the long train she’d worn when presented at court.

With a nod of approval, Lewis approached her, the sunlight through the attic window shining on his dark head.

Hebe held her breath while he teased out a lock of her hair to rest against her neck. She stared at his broad chest, suffering an absurd urge to trace the pattern over his Egyptian-brown silk waistcoat. He smelled of starch, fresh linens, and tangy lemon soap, which was nothing like Mr. Wainscot.

After she was positioned on the chaise with her head slightly turned to the left, he stepped back to view the result. “Perfect.” He studied her, a hand on his chin. “You can hold that pose?”

“I’m an old ’and at this.” She held herself stiff in the pose.

Lewis shrugged on a white cloth coat and pulled on a pair of thick gloves. After holding a wooden sliding scale up to her, he marked the measurements on the stone with a pencil. Then, taking up one of the bigger chisels and a hammer, he began to knock wedges from the corners of the amorphous block of marble while Hebe watched. It was delicate work, but his hands looked strong, his fingers nimble.

Silence settled over the room, except for the tap, tap, tap, of his chisel, and the crackle of the coal fire. Careful not to move her head, Hebe’s gaze took in the jumble of things on the table. She attempted to read the spines of several books on art then studied the rich patterning on a rug thrown over the chair. But her eyes constantly returned to Lewis, a picture of concentration as he bent his dark head over his work. Now pitted, the marble began to change shape beneath his chiseled attack, as the chips fell onto the sheet at his feet.

Two hours passed in relative silence. Completely absorbed, his gaze flickered over her as if she wasn’t a living, breathing person, but a statue herself. Fascinated, she watched him knock out the edges of stone with a flat chisel and hammer as the rough shape of her head, neck, and shoulder, emerged.

“We’ll have a break.” Lewis put down the implements. He emerged from behind the marble block pulling off the gloves and strode over to pull the bell cord.

Hebe stood clutching the sheet against herself. “I’ll put on my robe.”

He turned his back to her and rummaged through the papers on the table. “Mm? Yes, do.”

When she returned, Lewis sat on the splat-back chair inspecting his drawings. As Hebe seated herself he stood and added coal to the fire. His sharp prods with the poker sent sparks flying up the chimney. She leaned back, enjoying the warmth and silence. Four stories above the road they were high in the air, with only the birds for company. Little noise reached them from the refined streets below.

There was always a cacophony of sounds in Cheapside: neighbors calling, screaming, arguing, even coming to blows. Then there were the drunks, who laughed, sang, or wept, as they staggered along the street beneath her window. It made her so tired. She supposed it was because she wasn’t yet used to the constant clamor. She’d spent much of her childhood in the quiet countryside of Wiltshire. Her chest tightened, and she tried not to reflect on the past, afraid it would make her tear up. It always upset her to think of her dog. A neighbor had promised to take good care of Rex, her red setter. Her mare, Columbine, had been sold along with her father’s hunters.

Hebe sighed and told herself to stop moaning about what couldn’t be changed. She listened for footsteps climbing the stairs that would herald the arrival of a hot drink and something nice to eat as she hadn’t had time to have any breakfast. The truth was she didn’t feel a bit like moaning. She glanced over at the handsome sculptor. What woman wouldn’t want to be here in his company?

~~~

Lewis sipped his coffee, strong and slightly bitter the way he liked it, while Hebe nibbled on one of Cook’s scones laden with cream and strawberry preserve, her eyes closed, and her lips curled with pleasure. A dimple at the corner of her mouth caught his eye. He must get that just right. “This is so delicious.” She licked a piece of jam from her bottom lip.

He lowered his gaze to his cup, amazed at how unconscious she was of her sensuality. At times, he had to steel himself to the task in hand. He had great hopes that he could capture that quality in his statue. “The preserves come from Bath. The blackberry is my favorite, you might like to try that next.”

“Oh yes, Bath,” she murmured taking a sip of coffee.

“You’ve been to Bath? My country estate lies only twenty miles from the town.”

Her blue eyes widened, and she straightened on the chaise. “No. Never set foot outside ’o London.”

Lewis sighed. He wondered how long he would allow this ruse to continue. He was concerned for Hebe, and didn’t wish to embarrass her, but this really served neither of them.