Jane Orcutt: All the Tea in China

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Jane Orcutt All the Tea in China
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    All the Tea in China
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    Триллер / на английском языке
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All the Tea in China: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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The good young Englishwoman knows that her destiny depends upon a good marriage match. But Isabella Goodrich is not your typical good young Englishwoman. After an encounter with those less fortunate than she, witty and fun-loving Isabella makes a shocking decision. Against everyone's advice and wishes, she is going to become a missionary in the Far East. Fighting against cultural expectations, common sense, and a mentor who is not as he seems, Isabella leaves her predictable Oxford life behind and sets sail to a new world fraught with danger. Can she trust the mysterious missionary Phineas Snowe? Or will her adventure end before it even begins? This first novel in the Rollicking Regency series will delight readers who like high adventure, twisting plots, and a fun bit of romance.

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Be kind yourself, Isabella. He is a missionary. Be charitable.

I drew a deep breath as we approached Uncle Toby, who was just finishing a conversation with Sir Henry. Our host bowed, excused himself, and left us alone.

“And who is this?” Uncle Toby smiled in the stranger’s direction.

“Phineas Snowe, sir.” He bowed. “But you need no introduction, Mr. Fitzwater. I feel I am acquainted with you already.”

Uncle Toby bowed, looking at me curiously, as though I could explain this peculiar man’s ways. “He is visiting from China,” I said and watched in revulsion as Snowe sidled closer to my beloved uncle. Odious man! “Obsequious” must surely have been his original Christian name.

To my distaste, Uncle Toby’s face brightened. “Ah, yes, the missionary. Sir Henry told me about you. You are here to-”

“To endeavor to raise funds that we might spread the Good News among the heathens in China,” Snowe said, reaching into his coat pocket. “In fact, I brought along this newly translated account of the Gospel According to St. Luke. I believe you have heard of Robert Morrison?”

“Yes, yes. Quite,” Uncle Toby said, putting on his spectacles and accepting the volume. He flipped through it carefully. “Unfortunately, I do not read Chinese, but I am sure that it is a faithful translation.”

“You may be certain,” Snowe said, smiling from one side of his mouth.

“Izzy, did you look at this?” Uncle Toby asked, handing the volume to me.

Snowe smirked as I accepted it. I felt my cheeks flush. “I do not read Chinese either,” I said, pretending humility that I did not feel.

“I would not expect you to.”

“Isabella is quite accomplished in other languages, however,” Uncle Toby said, “and I have no doubt that given time, she could learn Chinese as well.”

Snowe laughed until the spectacles slid down his nose. He pushed them up again, still chuckling. “Forgive me, but it is a very difficult language. I doubt that it could be acquired by even a woman who wore it on her best slippers.”

Uncle Toby had been right that someone would notice. I had had no notion that it would be a man. How embarrassing!

Uncle Toby looked interested. “Would you please be so kind as to translate for us, Snowe? Isabella and I were discussing those very symbols today.”

“Not at all.” He turned to me. “If you will hold out one of your feet.”

Face flushing, I extended one. I felt that I should die of mortification, knowing that he had ample glance at my ankle in the perusal.

“Well?” Uncle Toby asked.

“They mean,” Snowe said thoughtfully, as though trying to decide. “They mean love.”

Oh my. That was rather forward.


Uncle Toby looked amused. “I am not surprised, Izzy. It seems the sort of notion that would pass as fashion for you young ladies.”

“I must disagree, sir,” I said, “for I never felt that young ladies were much concerned with love but with making a good match. The two are seldom the same, in my personal estimation.” David’s marriage to Catherine had taught me that.

“How wise you are, Miss Goodrich,” Snowe said. “A lady who settles for love generally settles beneath herself. You, I am certain, are too clever to claim less than a marriage that is… what did you call it? A good match?”

I could not tell if he was jesting at my expense, but I suspected as much.

“Isabella can have a wonderful life without love or marriage.”

“Uncle Toby,” I murmured. He seemed determined to defend my honor.

“Really?” Snowe gave me his full attention. “And why are you above both love and marriage?”

“But I do not think myself so,” I said. How on earth was I to repair this conversation? My dear, it was beyond repair. It was in dire need of termination. I had heard that a lady’s swoon could bring an entire room to a standstill. Dare I attempt it? Yes, I must. One, two…

“Perhaps our Lord has called Isabella to a different life,” Uncle Toby said. “I am certain that a man of God such as yourself, Snowe, can well understand how the Almighty sometimes sets the feet of his children on different paths from others.”

“Indeed I can. No doubt God will reveal that path to you in his good time, Miss Goodrich.”

Bewildered by the conversation’s turn, I was nonetheless pleased. Phineas Snowe had uttered what I believed were his first sensible words all evening. “I await his command,” I said.

Snowe pressed his hands together in a soundless clap. “Spoken like a true disciple! Miss Goodrich, I am delighted to have met you. Mr. Fitzwater, might I have a word with you about my mission work? Miss Goodrich, you will not mind if we excuse ourselves? I fear that our conversation will be entirely too boring for your tastes.”

“On the contrary, Mr. Snowe. I find discussions of foreign lands most intriguing.” China! The Orient! Oh, to see all the foreign sites and peoples of such places as my imagination could only invent from my reading. Surely I could forbear Phineas Snowe long enough to hear his firsthand tales.

Uncle Toby pressed my hand. “The Ransoms are in want of your company to keep the party amiable.” He smiled. “You must not waste what should be a convivial time.”

“Of course, Uncle,” I said, knowing that I was being dismissed. Perhaps it was for the best. I had yet to make note of any gown save Catherine’s, and Flora would want a full accounting when I returned home. And there was still the eligible man who was supposed to be in attendance. “You will want this back, Mr. Snowe,” I said, handing him the Chinese translation of Luke.

He bowed, his thick spectacles sliding down his nose. He pushed them back as quickly as he rose, his smile peculiarly unctuous. “It would honor me were you to keep it.”

“Thank you,” I said, curtsying as he and Uncle Toby headed for a quiet corner. I could hear Snowe’s voice, cheerful and animated now, and wondered again at the strange man.

As for other strange men, it was far past time to search for the eligible one who was due to be in attendance tonight. I oddly sensed that my future depended upon him.

Finding myself unengaged, I tried to watch the doorway to see the mystery man arrive. He should be handsome, certainly, but even if he were not, a pleasing disposition and intelligent demeanor would suffice. Despite her faults, Catherine knew men, and she would match me with no one less than I deserved.

Unfortunately, my watch was curtailed when I was drawn into a conversation with which obligation demanded I pay strict attention. Mrs. Marston complained bitterly about her verrucas, and though I would have liked to politely disengage myself from discussions of oozing and the merits of potatoes planted in the garden at midnight, she was the oldest woman in attendance and therefore due the courtesy of my attention. Lady Ransom soon joined us and proceeded to expound upon the vagaries of the Methodists. Here, at last, was a discussion with merit, though of course I could not share the extent of my true opinion. Freddie had repeatedly warned me that I should never reveal the depth of my mind or then I would have nothing left to show.

Several other women joined us, and I gradually realized that no one in the circle was within twenty years of my age. The other young women, all engaged to be married or already wed, huddled in conversations of their own. In between discussions of Mrs. Marston expounding on colonics and elderly Mrs. Gentry bellowing (she being rather hard of hearing) herbal remedy suggestions, I could hear the prittle-prattle of my peers.

“… scandalous education…”

“… uncle even permits her to use a sword!”

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