The fog rolled over the River Thames as the packet ship made its way to the London docks. It reminded Sophie of steam rising off of fresh bread after being pulled out of the wood fire oven. As Sophie stood on the top deck, watching the great town come into view as the morning sun peeked over the horizon, she wrapped her cloak tightly around her. It was far chillier here than it had been in southern France. And as she looked in the distance, the large buildings framing the river, she knew she was far from home.
“Time to dock!” came the captain’s voice over the ship, seeming to pierce the morning silence. It jarred Sophie from her thoughts as she made her way to the narrow stairs leading below deck where she had a very small cabin in which she’d kept her things. The space was only big enough for a cot and her two small trunks, and after a week at sea, she was thankful to have finally reached her destination. Any place after this would be far more comfortable for her.
After looking over her things once more and double-checking that she hadn’t left anything behind, Sophie secured her trunks and stacked them, one on another, before bending down to pick them up. Then slowly, she made her way back down the narrow hallway and up the stairs to the main deck, eager to disembark.
“Please, miss. Let me help you with your things,” said one of the crewmen once the others noticed her carrying such a large load.
“Don’t worry yourself. It looks heavier than it is,” Sophie said with a smile, walking over to the gunwale and setting her things down at her feet as she waited for the packet ship to finish docking and the planks to be lowered so she could finally leave the ship behind. If she was lucky, she’d never have to sail again.
“It was a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” Captain Maidus said as he walked towards her.
“Thank you, Captain. Your company made the journey bearable,” Sophie replied with a smile. Sophie could reasonably say that Captain Maidus kept a professional crew who had all respected Sophie as a lady. She had been relieved by getting so lucky in choosing a ship headed for England at the last minute. Things could have gone a lot worse for a woman by herself, travelling for a week at sea where she was at the mercy of the crew and captain.
“I’m glad to hear. And the different dishes you taught Cook made the journey worth the effort,” Captain Maidus replied.
“I’m glad to be of service,” Sophie said as the planks were lowered. “Good luck on your next voyage, Captain Maidus.” Sophie then bent down and picked up her trunks once more.
“Good luck to you as well, Miss Fournier. I hope you find what you’re looking for here in England,” Captain Maidus said with a dip of his head before he moved towards the other passengers who had prepared to disembark.
Squaring her shoulders, Sophie walked slowly down the planks with her two trunks wrapped up in her arms. As she stepped down onto the docks, she felt the way they swayed as the river water slapped against the shore as ships came and went. She made sure to watch her step on the sleek wooden docks and up the stone stairs that led to the street above.
Though it was early morning, the docks and upper streets were alive with activity. Ships were docked to unload their goods or gather others to transport across the ocean. Sailors milled around everywhere, and early risers had come to barter for goods before they were distributed to the market. It was a familiar sight to Sophie because she used to accompany her father to the French docks once a week to purchase food for the restaurant. The familiar sight before her gave her hope as she stood watching from the upper street. But as the load in her arms became heavy, she knew she needed to find a place to stay until she could secure some sort of employment.
Therefore, Sophie began to walk the streets of London as the sun rose over the town, shedding light on everything around her. Her cotton skirts swished around her legs as she walked, her leather half-ankle boots clacking on the cobblestone. Her black cloak swayed around her like wings, and for the first time in a long while, Sophie was filled with a sense of freedom like she’d never known before.
Sophie walked by building after building till she approached a street that seemed quite busy with people going about their business. It appeared to her that this street seemed to home several businesses, and she began to hope that she might find an inn of sorts for a few days.
As she approached a newsboy standing on the street corner bellowing the morning news while holding up a newspaper, she asked him, “What inn around here would you recommend?”
“Buy a paper, and I’ll tell you whatever you want to know,” the young boy said with a grin. Sophie refrained from rolling her eyes as she set down her trunks and fished a coin out of her small wrist purse. She handed it over to the boy and watched as he bit it, trying to see if it was genuine. Seeming to be satisfied, he pocketed the coin and handed her a newspaper from his pile.
“The Royal Lion Inn is right down the street here on ye left. They have clean rooms for a decent price, and I like the cook there as well,” the boy said briefly before he started shouting his morning message once more to the people coming and going up and down the street. Sophie tucked the newspaper into her trunk before picking up the two again and making her way carefully down the street to where the young boy had indicated.
A small wooden sign hung over the door of the inn, the words ‘Royal Lion’ painted in white. Sophie thought how lucky she’d been to learn English as a small girl and sent thanks towards her deceased father once more as she cautiously crossed the street to reach it. The last thing she wanted to do was get in the way of a house or carriage and draw attention to herself. Being French at the end of the Napoleonic Wars wasn’t something that Sophie was proud of. Therefore, she wanted to blend in as much as possible.
As Sophie made her way through the open door of the inn, she was pleasantly surprised to find it rather quiet. Either the inn hadn’t been that full or the patrons had yet to rise. Regardless, Sophie was thankful for the reprieve and quietness as she went to the main counter and set down her trunks on the floor.
“Good day, miss. What can I help you with?” a jolly man asked as he came to the counter wearing an apron over his dark muslin shirt. The sleeves were rolled up, and it signalled to Sophie that this man was a cook as well.
“I’m looking for lodging for a few days. Do you have any small rooms available that would be the most affordable?” Sophie asked, speaking slowly in as close to an English accent as she could.
“It’s at the top of the stairs, but there is a small attic room that is most affordable. Includes meals and the lot. You think you could manage carrying your trunks all the way up there?” the man said, a little sceptical. Since Sophie had been kneading dough since she could speak, she’d gained quite a bit of muscle mass over the years.
“For the right price, absolutely,” Sophie replied with a smile.
The man chuckled as he nodded his head. “The name’s Gregory. I’ll rent you the room for a sixpence a night. Meals are served twice a day,” the man said.
“Nice to meet you, Gregory. My name’s Sophie Fournier,” Sophie replied with a dip of her head.
“Pleasure to make your acquaintance. Feel free to get settled. When you come back down, I’ll have located the key,” Gregory said before he disappeared into the back of the inn, to where Sophie could only assume was the kitchen.
Knowing that she only needed a little further to go, Sophie bent down one more time and picked up her trunks before making the long journey up the stairs. As Sophie carefully took one step at a time, not wanting to trip on her skirts or cloak, she quickly understood why the room at the top of the stairs was so inexpensive. After going up two flights of stairs, Sophie finally reached the top and was very out of breath. She was able to quickly push open the door and step into the tiny room.
As Sophie set her trunks down on the floor, she tried to be grateful for the accommodation. A small bed lined one wall where the ceiling was slanted. And on the other side was a small dresser and chamber pot. On top of the dresser was a single candle and water bowl for washing. And straight ahead of her was a window that gave her a perfect view of the town below.
“At least it has a good view,” Sophie said as she shut the door behind her and pulled back the bolt. She went over to the window and opened it, allowing fresh air to flood the small room that seemed to have been unoccupied for some time. But it looked well maintained with clean bedding and a floor that had been recently swept. Sophie peered out the window for a while, simply watching people coming and going on the main street. She couldn’t help smiling as it dawned on her that she’d finally made it to England.
Feeling exhausted, Sophie sat on the edge of the narrow bed, mindful not to hit her head on the slanted ceiling. She made quick work of pulling off her leather boots, allowing her feet to finally relax as she curled up on the bed and pulled the covers over her. With her cloak still wrapped around her, she was plenty warm though the morning air was chilly. Surely as the day progressed the rising sun would warm the town. But if it did not, Sophie was confident she’d be warm the way she was.
“Merci Seigneur pour mon arrive en toute securite,” Sophie prayed as she shut her eyes, finding the feather-stuffed pillow comfortable. She sent up a prayer of thanks as she settled onto the bed. Though her body was exhausted, her mind still ran wild with thoughts. Her thoughts roamed back to her father, the image of him in the kitchen rising to the forefront of her mind. She smiled softly, having grown up with this daily image. Even though her father had become a famous cook in France, he always rose early to cook at home as well.
How Sophie dearly missed her father. She missed the time they’d spend together in the kitchen, cooking and experimenting with new techniques. It was this way of thinking that had made her father so famous. He’d even opened up his own restaurant with a close friend. In turn, he’d become very successful. But when every eligible male was recruited for Napoleon’s war, the day he left for battle was the last time Sophie ever saw him. It was a letter from a fellow soldier that brought the news of his death to their home. It was that day that her life had changed forever.
Sophie tried to push the sad thoughts away as she reminded herself that she had succeeded at crossing the sea and making it to England. After her father’s death, she tried to keep his memory alive by working at his restaurant with his partner, but when more and more customers stopped frequenting the establishment because there was a woman in the kitchen, she was let go. And even though her father’s best friend tried all that he could to keep the restaurant alive and provide for her and her brother, in the end, it hadn’t been enough.
Now, Sophie was taking her destiny into her own hands. She knew that the prestigious families of England liked to hire French cooks and wouldn’t turn their nose up at a woman cook. Though she knew she would never cook for the French again, she knew that she could still make a living if she could land a household position.
Sophie tucked her long black hair behind her head as she ignited her motivation to succeed once more. As soon as she had enough money, she would send for her brother back in France. Having been born with a lame leg, he wasn’t able to perform many tasks. Thankfully, her father’s best friend had hired him as a stable boy. Yet the pay hardly covered their basic needs. After selling everything in the house, and even moving into a cottage, they still hadn’t had enough money to survive. Taking the last of their savings, Sophie had made her way to England in hopes of creating a better future for her and her brother. Having been taught English and how to read and write in both languages, Sophie was confident she had everything she needed to succeed. But most importantly, she was a determined young woman of twenty-years-old.
With this motivation in mind, Sophie finally fell asleep.
It was later in the day when Sophie awoke from her nap. She was stiff in her legs but better than she had been in days. She hadn’t enjoyed sailing, and now that she was on solid ground once more, she could feel that sickness bubbling in her stomach all over again. But she knew she needed to get up and get something to eat if she was going to have a speedy recovery.
Rising, Sophie crossed the room and closed the window. Thankfully, the day had grown warmer, and with being at the top of the building, the room itself was warmer. Therefore, she took off her cloak and folded it on top of her trunks. Then, she smoothed down her skirt and took a moment to re-braid her hair before gathering a few coins and sticking them into the inner pocket of her skirt. Feeling prepared, Sophie left her room and took the time to walk down the several sets of stairs before reaching the main room of the inn once more.
Unlike this morning, the inn was now busy with life. Several patrons occupied the many tables in the main room, enjoying good company and the meal of the day. Sophie couldn’t help smiling at the pleasing aroma that filled the room. Her stomach rumbled in response as she approached the counter where Gregory stood talking to a few patrons.
When she could get his attention, Sophie pulled two coins from her pocket and handed them over to Gregory without breaking eye contact. She had found this tactic particularly useful as she handed Gregory coins that would look similar but were, in fact, copper francs instead of pounds.
“Hope you found the room to your liking,” Gregory said as he pocketed the coins and handed her over a key. She immediately put it in her skirt pocket as she smiled at the man.
“Indeed, Gregory. The room is suitable. It has a good view at least,” Sophie said, causing Gregory to laugh boisterously.
“That is a fact. How about something to eat? I make a fine minced meat pie that pairs well with the house ale,” Gregory offered.
“That sounds splendid,” Sophie replied, though she had never eaten minced meat pie before. She knew that coming to England would mean that she would be exposed to several new foods she wasn’t accustomed to. It was all part of the excitement of moving to a new country.
As Sophie waited at the counter for the plate of food and tanker of ale, her eyes roamed around the room. She spotted a small table by a window and hoped to sit there once her food had arrived. She turned back to the counter as Gregory returned from the kitchen with a wooden plate that indeed had a pie sitting on it and then quickly filled up a tanker from the barrel.
“Thank you,” Sophie said as she accepted the plate and tanker, then made her way slowly around all the tables. The last thing she wanted to do was accidentally spill her food or drink on someone else. Feeling proud of her accomplishment of fooling Gregory and obtaining a meal, Sophie sat down at the table she’d spotted and took in a deep breath to settle her nerves.
Picking up the pie, she took a small bite, curious to understand what minced meat was. She found the pie crust nice and flaky, and the filling a savoury mixture of meat and mushrooms. The sauce was spectacular as it dripped from the pie onto her plate. As she slowly ate the pie, trying not to make a large mess, she found her first dish in England to be particularly educating. French meals usually included a buttery sauce and some sort of fish or venison since the south of France didn’t have as many cows at the north did. But whatever was in this pie it was definitely beef.
“I heard His Grace is looking to hire a new cook after his retired. Whoever gets that position is one lucky duck,” an older woman said to her female companion. They laughed together as they enjoyed their meal.
“But I heard the Duke is rather hard-handed,” the other woman replied.
“You must be thinking of the older man. He died two years ago and left the estate and title to his son. By what I’ve heard, things have really been turned around since then,” the first woman replied. Sophie couldn’t help overhearing the conversation from where she was sitting and was curious to know more about the person they were speaking of.
“Excuse me, ladies. I couldn’t help overhearing you speaking of a cook’s position,” Sophie spoke up as she turned towards the two older women at the table next to hers.
They smiled pleasantly at her as the first nodded her head. “Indeed, Lord Kingston is holding open interviews tomorrow morning at his home in the uppity side of town. Are you an experienced cook?” the woman asked.
“Yes, ma’am. I’ve been cooking since I could reach the counter. My father taught me everything he knew about food,” Sophie said with a proud smile.
“But have you ever been hired on by family before?” the other woman asked.
“No, ma’am. But I’m hoping my other culinary experience might prove valuable,” Sophie replied.
“Well, if you don’t have any references, I wouldn’t bother. Lord Kingston is a Duke. It’s not like he’s a Baron. I would advise against it,” the first woman said as she took a bite of her minced pie.
“Regardless, I still want to try out if this will be an open interview process. Sometimes you have to be a little risky in order to succeed,” Sophie said, hoping she could gather more details about where this Lord Kingston lived. She watched as the two older women exchanged a look, and finally the second one shrugged her shoulders.
“What does she have to lose,” she said as she looked to her friend. The other woman finished chewing and turned her attention back to Sophie.
“Lord Kingston lives on Grosvenor Street. I heard from one of his servants today that he will be holding interviews early tomorrow morning. If I were you, I’d get there before the sun rises,” the woman replied before turning her full attention back to her plate of food. The other woman smiled kindly at Sophie as she dipped her head and turned back to her own table.
Though she was mindful of what the older woman had explained to her about the fact that she didn’t have any references, she was at least hopeful that she could make a good impression and secure this position. As she thought back through what she had learned of English nobility, she tried her best to remember what rank a duke held in terms of social standing. Not wanting to sound ignorant or give away the fact that she was indeed not English, she kept her ponderings to herself.
After finishing her food and tanker, Sophie returned the plate and cup to the counter and gave her compliments to Gregory.
“That is very kind of you to say, miss,” Gregory said with a proud smile as she bid him farewell. She then made the trek back up the flights of stairs to her room, wanting to look through her trunks to discover what would be the best gown she could wear for the interview tomorrow.
Even though it was a long walk up all the stairs, Sophie was nonetheless excited for the opportunity to interview as a cook. She hadn’t even been in England for a full day and had already stumbled upon an open position. And as she made it back to her room, it finally dawned on her who and what a duke was.
“Oh, dear Lord,” Sophie said with a deep sigh. She finally remembered that a duke was just below a prince in social standards. A blush came to Sophie’s face then as she tried to imagine how she could possibly impress a duke. Though she was skilfully trained by one of the best chefs in France, she wasn’t sure if she could impress such a man of high standing. After all, she had no English reference and wasn’t particularly educated on traditional English dishes. She only hoped that this duke was keen on French cuisine like most prestigious English families were.
Regaining her sense, Sophie began looking through her trunks for her best dress. She would not only need to impress the Duke with her cooking skills, but also assumed that she would need a good appearance as well. Settling on a crème muslin gown, Sophie set to work in making sure it was wrinkle free and smelling fresh. The last thing she wanted to wear was something that smelled stale and old. And with all of her things being kept together for a week at sea, she knew she had her work cut out for her.
But regardless of the work, she would make sure she would succeed tomorrow morning. After all, her brother was counting on her.
Having gone to bed fairly early after enjoying another meal in the great room below, Sophie rose well before the rising sun. She lit the candle on the dresser after stepping into the hallway and using the wall torch, and then made quick work of dressing in the muslin gown she’d worked on the rest of the day. As she changed from her nightgown, she took the time to wash her body thoroughly with the water on the dresser, rubbing her body with dried lavender to give herself a pleasant aroma. Then, she dressed in the muslin gown, making sure to smooth down the skirt of any wrinkles.
After pulling on her leather boots, Sophie took the time to braid her long black hair, making sure there were no loose ends that would get in the way if the Duke required her to prepare any dishes during the interview. With nothing more than her room key and a few coins tucked away in her petticoat pocket, she left the room after locking it and made her way back down to the main room.
With it being such an early hour, Sophie wasn’t surprised that there weren’t any patrons in the room. As she looked towards the kitchen, she could see firelight glowing from within and wondered if Gregory had risen early to start the oven fires. But she didn’t have time to worry about such things. She had to find this street that the older woman had spoken of the day before. And with little knowledge of London geography, she knew that she had a challenge ahead of her.
Keeping her wits about her as she stepped out onto the street in the early morning hours, Sophie kept her eyes wide open in an effort to catch any sign of mischief about or something that would point her in the right direction of Grosvenor Street. Sophie wasn’t unaware of the dangers of walking about a town during the dark hours alone. The last thing she wanted was to draw attention to herself and unexpected trouble, so therefore she was careful of every shadow she passed.
As she headed away from where she knew to be the docks, Sophie walked block after block in hopes of spotting some sign that would tell her the way. At some point, Sophie passed by several beautiful parks that she wondered if she could visit again soon. She hadn’t expected anything like it in town because she could almost remember her father joking about something related to the fact that the English liked keeping magnificent flower gardens. It was a strange thing for Sophie to consider because she’d only considered gardens used to grow vegetables.
As the sun began to peek over the horizon, sending rays of gold and white throughout the town, Sophie was starting to grow a little panicked. Though she was happy for the sunlight to light up her path, she still hadn’t made any progress in finding the Duke’s townhouse. But as more and more people started to appear on the footpaths, she knew she would need to ask someone for directions.
“Excuse me, sir?” Sophie spoke up as she approached a man coming out of his home. But the man just stuck up his nose at her and continued on his way as though she didn’t even exist. Sophie stared at him with wide eyes till he was out of sight. His rudeness was both unexpected and shocking.
Sophie decided it was best to keep her mouth shut as she continued on her way. But as the sun started to peek above the houses, she knew she needed to take a risk if she was ever going to succeed. Therefore, she squared her shoulders and approached a man wheeling a cart down the footpath.
“Excuse me, sir?” she said as she stepped in front of him.
“I’m not open yet,” he replied as he glanced up at her.
“I’m looking for Grosvenor Street. Could you please give me directions?” Sophie said in a determined voice. The man regarded her for a moment before setting down his cart and crossing his arms over his tall body.
“And what’s in it for me?” he asked with a wicked grin. Sophie scowled at him as she fished a coin out of her skirt pocket and set it on the cart. The man looked at it wearily before picking it up and pocketing it. He then pointed up the street.
“Just a bit further and make a right. That will be Grosvenor Street. But it’s a very long street. Is there a particular residence you are looking for?” the man asked.
“Yes. I’m looking for the residence of Lord Kingston. I hear he’s hiring a cook,” Sophie explained.
The man’s eyes grew wide at the mention of the Duke. “For a shilling more I’ll take you there myself,” the man said with a wide smile. Not wanting to ruin any opportunity she had, she fished out the proper coin, or at least what appeared to be, and handed it to the man. He quickly pocketed it and picked up his cart, turning it around on the footpath and heading in the direction he’d just given her.
“Keep up,” he called over his shoulder, causing Sophie to make haste as she followed after the man.
“So, you’re a cook?” the man asked as he pushed his cart at a fast pace. It wasn’t unusual for Sophie to assume he needed to be travelling in the other direction for his business. She was surely lucky to have come across someone who was willing to help her, even if she had to pay for the bit of information.
“Yes, I’m a cook. And I’m hoping to obtain this position. However, I’m not familiar with the layout of London,” Sophie said as they walked along the street and made a right in the direction the man had explained earlier.
“Ah, it’s your first time to Town?” he asked then.
“Yes, it is. I just arrived yesterday morning and hope to find employment as soon as possible,” Sophie explained.
“Well, yer really taking a chance with landing a position with a Duke. I don’t know whether to think you’re daft or risky. Perhaps both,” the man mumbled. Sophie chose not to respond to that type of talk, wanting to remain as positive as possible.
After walking a few blocks down this street, the man with the cart stopped suddenly and pointed towards a white townhouse with large rose bushes throughout the front garden. “This would be the home of Lord Kingston, Duke of Northpeak,” the man said. Then, he nodded towards Sophie and went on his way.
“Thank you!” Sophie called after him, but the man didn’t stop as he hurriedly pushed his cart back in the direction they’d come. Then, Sophie turned her focus on the townhouse, praying that she wasn’t too late.
Pushing open the front gate, she quickly walked up the stone pathway to the front door and pulled on the cord. Chimes sounded in the distance and footsteps could be heard coming quickly to the front door. Sophie straightened her posture and mustered up a confident look as the door was opened.
“May I help you?” asked an older man with grey around his temples. His otherwise black hair was parted neatly. By his structured clothing of black coat, vest, and trousers without any finery, she could tell that this man was a servant of some sort.
“Yes. My name is Sophie Fournier. I’ve come for the open interviews for a household cook,” Sophie explained, trying to keep her voice calm when she was filled with nerves.
“I’m sorry, miss, but the interviews are over. I’m afraid you’ve come too late,” the man said, looking apologetic.
“My late father’s name is Jean-Louis Fournier, famous French chef who taught me everything he knew. I’m proficient in French cuisine and would be an asset to the Duke,” Sophie quickly said before the man could close the door on her. He seemed to observe her for a moment, thinking over the idea of letting Sophie in.
“Do you have any references or documentation of your relationship to Jean-Louis Fournier?” the man asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Do you accuse me of being a liar, sir?” Sophie asked as she narrowed her eyes at the man. He seemed taken aback by her forwardness and quickly averted his eyes.
“No, miss. But you must admit how absurd it sounds that the daughter of a famous French chef would be here in England,” the man explained.
“My father passed away, and now I look for meaningful employment. You’d be surprised that a woman such as myself wouldn’t be accepted in my own father’s restaurant. Therefore, I seek better opportunities elsewhere,” Sophie said with a pleasing smile. She was doing her best to remain positive.
After watching the older man consider her words, he eventually opened the door and beckoned her inside. “Well, let me tell His Grace that you are here. The final decision is up to him, of course,” the man said as he dipped his head to Sophie before walking quickly down the hallway. She stood in the foyer and watched him go, and when he disappeared into a room, she let her eyes wander around the home.
It was the most magnificent home she’d ever been in. Though her father had cooked for many aristocrats of France, she’d never had the chance to visit their estates. The floor was made of marble that shined in the morning light. She looked to the staircase that led upwards and realised it was made of high-quality wood by the way it shone as well. Beautiful bouquets filled large porcelain vases that stood on stands, making Sophie cautious of where she stood, afraid to knock into such a fine piece of art. She was so focused on her surroundings that she didn’t realise that the older man was coming back down the hallway till he neared her.
“His Grace will see you now,” the man said as he gestured down the hallway. “Follow me, please.”
Sophie did her best not to smile too widely as she followed the man down the hallway and into a large room to the left. It appeared to be a preparation room for varies things, and after passing through that room, Sophie was shown into what appeared to be the kitchen. She recognised the dry sink and the wood-fire stove. In the centre of the room was a large wooden table, perfect for rolling out dough or preparing varies meals. Several pots and pans hung from above the stove, and as her eyes roamed, she saw several curing chunks of meet that hung near what looked to be a pantry. Sophie couldn’t help smiling as she took it all in.
“I assume that the kitchen would fit your needs?” came a low voice from behind her, causing Sophie to quickly turn on her heels to discover the surprising voice. As she turned, she came face-to-face with the most handsome man she’d ever laid eyes on. He was tall with broad shoulders, his hair a sandy blonde. And his eyes were such a bright shade of blue that it looked like sunlight shining off the ocean.
“The kitchen is very satisfactory,” Sophie replied once she had found her voice and reminded herself not to stare. She lowered her eyes then, wondering who this man could be.
“Miss Fournier, may I introduce you to His Grace, Lord Kingston, Duke of Northpeak,” the older man said in a proud voice. Sophie quickly curtsied low, feeling embarrassed to be caught surprised by the Duke himself.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Sophie said before she rose and met the Duke’s eyes once more.
“Likewise, Miss Fournier. Mr Martin explains that you are a professional trained French chef under the care of Jean-Louis Fournier,” the Duke said as he folded his hands in front of him, taking on a very serious persona. Though his kind smile was comforting.
“Yes, Your Grace. I worked alongside my father since I was old enough to reach the counter. My father taught me everything he knew, and if I had been a son, I would be managing his restaurant right now,” Sophie explained.
“And what brings you to England, then?” the Duke asked next.
“There are more possibilities for me here. A woman cook with French cooking skills is well sought after, I hear. I’ve come to London to seek better opportunities than I had in France,” Sophie said.
Sophie watched as the Duke nodded his head, seeming to agree with her. “You would be correct in making that statement, Miss Fournier. Out of all the cooks I interviewed this morning, not one possessed the necessary French cooking skills that I was looking for,” the Duke said as he started to walk around the kitchen.
“This evening I am hosting a small dinner party for my sister and her close acquaintances in lieu of the upcoming Season. I was just about to cancel the dinner party because I was still considering my candidates. But, I will give you a chance to prove yourself by having you cook for this small party. If you do well, you can have the position,” the Duke explained as he eventually turned to face Sophie once more.
Sophie was silent for a moment as she looked around the kitchen. She knew that the space would be adequate to prepare a large dinner for the Duke’s guests. A smile spread over her face then as she nodded in response. “I’d be happy to cook for you. I promise you that you won’t be disappointed,” Sophie said confidently.
“We shall see,” the Duke replied before dipping his head towards Sophie and then leaving the kitchen.
“What a surprising turn of events,” said the older man as Sophie started to move quickly through the kitchen. If she was going to prepare a large meal, then she needed to become familiar with the kitchen right away.
“Nothing I can’t handle,” Sophie spoke up as she found an apron hanging in the pantry and quickly put it on. “I’ve served countless patrons with my father when he was still alive.”
“But I’m sure this still possesses a few challenges. It’s an unfamiliar kitchen, for one,” the man spoke up.
“Then surely you’d like to point me in the right direction, Mr Martin,” Sophie responded as she gave the man a small smile.
He returned the gesture as he folded his hands behind his back. “Though I could show you around, it wouldn’t be much of a challenge if I did that. Instead, I shall send in Bonny and Freda. They assisted the previous cook from time to time,” Mr Martin replied.
“Very well,” Sophie said, not really minding having the challenge put before her. She found flour and eggs, along with a small bucket of what looked like fresh cream. She figured it was left over from the Duke’s breakfast and snatched it up quickly. Even though it was a few hours away till dinner, she needed every minute if she was going to have fresh bread prepared for the occasion.
As Mr Martin disappeared, Sophie set to work in preparing the most sophisticated meal of her life. Sophie knew that she would need to impress the prestigious family and their guests. Flavour would not only be important, but the key to her success. There would be several complicated dishes she would prepare for the five-course meal, to include a hare à la royale. But no matter what, Sophie was determined to impress like never before.
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Miss Sophie Fournier arrives in London penniless, while she desperately needs to pay for her brother’s passage from France to England. Having no other option, she takes up the position of the cook at the townhouse of the Duke of Northpeak. When the former Duke’s solicitor, Mr. Ferguson, offers Sophie a way to earn additional income if she spies on the Duke, who will she trust, when all she sees in the Duke is kindness? To her surprise, she will soon find out that the charming Mr. Ferguson schemes to dishonor the Duke in the hope of claiming his title. With this in mind, will she be able to keep herself distant to his affection?
Lord Marcus Kingston, the Duke of Northpeak is a kind man who inherited his title at a very young age. The Duke has always longed to achieve his own happiness, but finding a perfect match to his beloved sister, Margret, must come first. What will happen when his forbidden feelings for his new lady chef are about to explode? How will he be able to resist this undeniable passion, and stay true to his plan at the same time?
They have discovered their electrifying connection under very peculiar circumstances, but what will happen if he finds out about her secret identity? Being conquered by two men, will she be able to make the right choice? Was it fate that these two passionate souls would meet?
“The Double Identity of a Seductive Lady” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.