Apr 15 2011 11:00am

The Duchess’s Tattoo: Original Story

“Anyone suffering Downton Abbey withdrawal symptoms (who isn't?) will find an instant tonic in Daisy Goodwin’s The American Heiress. The story of Cora Cash, an American heiress in the 1890s who bags an English duke, this is a deliciously evocative first novel that lingers in the mind.” —Allison Pearson, New York Times bestselling author
We’ll have to wait until June 2011 for
The American Heiress to arrive, but Daisy Goodwin’s original short, “The Duchess’s Tattoo,” introduces us to her heroine, the delightful Cora Cash, and the aristocratic decadence of 1895. Enjoy!  

London 1895

Mr. Palmer was working on the thirty pieces of silver when the bell rang. He was experimenting with a shade of mauve that gave the blood money just the right tinge. It was his subtle palette that made him the choice of the discerning customer, that and the artistry of his designs which paid for these premises in fashionable Bond Street, a long way from the back room in Cable Street where he had started out, inking the names of sweethearts onto the brawny biceps of sailors.  Palmer dared to hope that one day his art would be considered sufficiently respectable to allow him to display a royal warrant. He was, after all, as entitled to one as Asprey’s the jewellers next door.  Hadn’t he practiced his craft on His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and his son the Duke of York? He had even worked for the Duchess of York, although he doubted whether he would ever be allowed to display her coat of arms.

“There’s someone here to see you, sir.” Betty’s voice interrupted his thoughts. A lady,” she added in a whisper.

Palmer put down his needle. “We’ll finish this later, Sam. Another hour or two should do it.”

Sam got up from the table, where he had been lying face down, and stretched out his massive shoulders. Christ and his disciples were ranged across his back, from Doubting Thomas on the right shoulder to Judas on the left. The Son of God was blessing the bread and wine somewhere to the left of Sam’s spine.

It was Palmer’s most magnificent piece yet. He was going to display it at the Paris Exhibition, along with his depiction of M. Eiffel’s extraordinary tower, which stretched up the back of the sailor’s right calf.   

The tattooist pushed back the heavy velvet portiere that hung over the door to his studio and went into the small waiting room. He saw at once that Betty had been correct in describing his visitor as “a lady.” Although most of his female visitors were well dressed, there was often a touch of gaudiness that betrayed their humble origins. But this woman was the real thing.  She was wearing a navy blue costume trimmed with sable, and a neat round hat with a veil. She was so impeccably turned out that Palmer wondered whether she might be foreign, French perhaps.  English ladies, in his experience, cultivated a certain shabbiness; he thought of the minute darn on his last Countess’s jacket sleeve. But this young woman looked as though she had never worn anything that wasn’t brand new.

From habit, Palmer looked for skin and found a thin band of flesh between her glove and the top of her sleeve. He could see from the dusting of hairs that she was a redhead, with the waxy white skin that would make the perfect background to one of his more elegant designs. Too often his most delicate work was obscured by darker hair.

He introduced himself and asked, “How can I help you, madam?” He did not pause for her to tell him her name as, in his experience, his female clients, the respectable ones at least, preferred at this stage to remain anonymous. His visitor lifted her veil and he could see that she was young, barely into her twenties, he guessed. There was something familiar about her face. Was she an actress after all? Surely not; she was too shy to be on the stage. The woman looked at him, and he saw that her eyes were such a light brown as to be almost golden.

She cleared her throat and said hesitantly, “I was given your name by the Duch…I mean by an acquaintance.”

She stopped, blushing at her own slip. Palmer could tell from the sound of her voice that she was an American and, from the size of the diamond drops dangling from her earlobes, a rich one.  Suddenly he remembered where he had seen her face before—in the Illustrated London News. She was Cora Cash, the famous Dollar Princess who had  exchanged her enormous fortune for the title of Duchess of Wareham earlier in the year. The paper had called her the richest girl in the world and the Duke the luckiest fortune hunter in Britain.  But looking at the girl in front of him, Palmer thought that the Duke was lucky in every respect.

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St. Martin’s Press





“The Duchess’s Tattoo”

Copyright © 2011 by Daisy Goodwin

All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York,NY 10010.

St. Martin’s Paperbacks are published by St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.


DAISY GOODWIN, a Harkness scholar who attended Columbia University’s film school after earning a degree in history at Cambridge University, is a leading television producer in the U.K. Her poetry anthologies, including 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life, have introduced many new readers to the pleasures of poetry, and she was Chair of the judging panel of the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction. She and her husband, an ABC TV executive, have two daughters and live in London. The American Heiress—available from St. Martin's Press on June 21, 2011—is her first novel. Visit her website or connect with her on Facebook.

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1 comment
Saundra Peck
1. sk1336 about wanting a book right now!!!! This is a very beautiful excerpt, which makes me really want the book. Cannot wait...
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