What? A Cover Reveal

Vanessa here,

I am so excited to announce a few things. For “The Bargain” fans, the season finale is on its way. My editor is having one more look at it to make sure it sparkles when it shows up on your Kindle. It will also be available in Paperback, too. Today, I must share with you the cover for my next serial novel that will release in January 2016.

UnveilingLove_pulled back_72

Unveiling Love:

Winning in the courts, vanquishing England’s foes on the battlefield, Bradley Norton has used these winner-take-all rules to script his life, but is London’s most distinguished mulatto barrister prepared to win the ultimate fight, restoring his wife’s love?

Amora Norton is running out of time. The shadows in her mind, which threaten her sanity and alienate Bradley’s love, have returned. How many others will die if she can’t piece together her shattered memories? Can she trust that Bradley’s new found care is about saving their marriage rather than winning the trial of the century?

It’s available on Pre-Order now at Amazon:

This story of Bradley and Amora’s is very dear. Parts of their tale made me weep. I hope it lives up to my heroes like Jo Beverly, Beverly Jenkins, and Laurie Alice Eakes who weave suspense into their sweeping romances.

 

What is a serial novel?

Unveiling Love is a serialized story or soap opera told in episodes. Each episode averages three to eight chapters, about 15,000 to 30,000 words. Each episode resolves one issue. Emotional cliffhangers may be offered, but the plot, the action of the episode, will be complete in resolving the main issue.
My promise to you is that the action will be compelling, and I will tell you in the forward the length of the episode.

 

Marriage A Glimpse Of Heaven Or Hell

Vanessa here,

Glad you can join me here, today. Well, the porch at the Regency Reflections Blog now possesses new paint, a bit of a makeover. We’ve been posting here since 2012. We love being able to showcase different glimpses of Inspirational Regencies, talking about the stories and the motivations behind them. We’ve even given tastes of the Regency romances that hooked us long before the first traditionally printed Christian Regency was released.

But our fire had grown cold.

It was time find our love again.

The reason I write Regencies is because I found my voice in the 1800’s.  It sounds of a woman, with dreams of a happy-ever-after, challenged by the circumstances, the very skin she’s born within. These stories, gifted by my first love, a passionate, merciful God must be told. It is my first love. And this blog will now share stories of authors and characters who possess the same fire.

Now some of my friend’s stories may be secular authors.  Before you throw holy water at me, I just have to say it. Not everyone is meant to entertain the pews. All types of stories are needed to edify, entertain, and to educate. All of my friends, regardless of what they write use their God-given talents to bring joy and hope into this world. This is something all should see.

 


The Fabulous Jude Knight


My first guest is the wonderful Jude Knight.  Jude traveled all the way from New Zealand to have tea with me on my Atlanta porch. Jude writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humor.

“Jude, I know you must be tired, so have a seat. Let me fix you some tea. How would you like it?”judeknight

“Thank you, so much for your hospitality. I’d like a green tea with a slice of lemon, or black tea with a small dash of milk.

“Green it is. Here you go. It’s quite hot. While it cools, tell the good readers what a happy ever after means to you.”

“My view of ‘happy ever after’ is shaped by my life and my beliefs. Falling in love is not enough. A wedding is not enough. Good intentions are not enough. To believe that a romance has a happy ending, I need to believe that the couple’s love will last for a lifetime; that they have what they need to work out the inevitable problems that will try to tear them apart.”

“I don’t mean to get you kicked out of any ‘ABA’ bad girl societies, but tell me what love and faith means to you.”

“My beloved and I have known one another for 47 years, and been married for nearly 44. In that time, our love has been tested over and over, but each challenge we’ve surmounted has made our relationship stronger.
I joke that our marriage has survived because his parents and mine were both against it, and we were too stubborn to admit they were right. He always adds that it also survived because we lived at the end of a long country road and were very poor. Walking out on the marriage would have meant a literal walk — and it was a long way.”

“I love that. Please continue.”

“More to the point, though, we both believed that we had to work things out. Our Christian faith told us that marriage was a permanent commitment. We promised ‘as long as we both shall live’, and we meant it. And we both came from fractured marriages; we knew what disharmony did to children. We were determined to find our ‘happy ever after’, and we did.”

“Tell me how your beliefs have shaped your writing.”

“My husband is a Catholic, and I converted to Catholicism some eight or nine years after we first met. Catholic marriage theology holds that marriage is a sacrament — a visible sign of the presence of God in the world. Just as water is the sign of Baptism, and the bread and wine are the signs of the Eucharist (Holy Communion), so the man and the woman are the sign of Marriage. Water signifies (and becomes) the cleansing grace of God. Bread and wine signify (and become) the presence of Christ in the church community and each individual. The couple signify something very wonderful: Christ’s union with the Church, God’s union with His creation. A person could spend a lifetime thinking about the implications of this, and some people have.”

“Wow. That’s deep. I’m Baptist, and I get it. More so, I feel the same.”

“For today, suffice it to say that building the kind of marriage that is a true signifier of this mystery is not a magic trick taking place in front of the altar on a couple’s wedding day. It is the work of a lifetime together.”

“Ok, tell the good folks about A Baron for Becky.”

“A Baron for Becky is my Regency about marriage, which is why it is a book of two halves. In the first part of the book, my heroine — rescued from dreadful danger — becomes the mistress of a kindly libertine whose view of marriage is extremely jaundiced. Their relationship is founded on lust and convenience on his part, and gratitude on hers.”

“Did I mention to you to tell the PG version for Regency Reflection readers? Just kidding. So in a A Baron for Becky, the heroine makes wrong choices, but that didn’t disqualify her from finding true love. Now that is a message for today.”

“Yes. The second half of the book is about just that between, Becky and Hugh. The libertine arranges their marriage, which takes place at the midpoint of the book. But Becky and Hugh build that marriage. I poured my heart into showing them falling in love; showing how their past experiences almost destroyed them; showing the slow painful process of rebuilding.”

“He was sorry for hurting her, for not trusting her, for manipulating her into marriage, for being a representative of the men that had hurt her. He was sorry for it all, and he could never make it up to her. But he would live his life trying.”

“Dear hubby and I just made 19 years. An accomplishment in this age, but tell us your 44-year secret.”

“The trick of a happy marriage (and a happy life) is to go on loving one another between trials, and to consistently fall in love with the same person, over and over and over. Because love is not about being in love, pleasant though that state is. Love is an action, not a state, not a feeling. Love is making breakfast for the person you want to brain with the frypan. Love is listening to the same joke for the twentieth time and laughing yet again. Love is walking hand in hand for no better reason than that you are fond of one another. Love involves feelings: lust and affection, familiarity and friendship, mutual respect and regard. It grows on shared experiences, memories—both good and bad—of the things you’ve lived through together. But above all, love is what you do when your feelings prompt you against being loving.

How could it be otherwise when love is an echo of Love Himself, the One who loved His people even though they betrayed him, rejected him, and even killed Him? Love is far too important to depend on chemical soup. Love is an action.”

Now that is a message to kick off the new Regency Reflections. Thank you Jude. While my friend takes a swig of her green tea, I just want to thank her for traveling to Atlanta and being my guest. Below is more about Jude and links for A Baron for Becky.baronforbeck

About Jude Knight

Jude Knight is the pen name of Judy Knighton. After a career in commercial writing, editing, and publishing, Jude is returning to her first love, fiction. Her novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair, was released in December 2014, and is in the top ten on several Amazon bestseller lists in the US and UK. Her first novel Farewell to Kindness, was released on 1 April, and is first in a series: The Golden Redepennings.

Follow Jude on social media:

Visit Jude’s Website http://judeknightauthor.com/

Like Jude on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/JudeKnightAuthor

Buy links

Amazon http://amzn.to/1C3hFNl

Amazon UK http://amzn.to/1H3YmTk

Amazon Aus http://bit.ly/1HzUZ9R

Smashwords http://bit.ly/1HzUXPf

Barnes & Noble  http://bit.ly/1GRTvkR

iBooks http://apple.co/1FVFNfU

Kobo http://bit.ly/1NzI2LK

 

Barbara Cartland’s “Curse of the Clan” Set in 1822

100_8609Dame Barbara Cartland wrote over 723 books.  Known for setting her novels in the Victorian era, she was an exceptionally popular novelist, peaking in the 1970s.  (I remember my mother reading her novels.)  After recently picking up two Cartland books at a used book sale, I was pleasantly surprised to find  The Curse of the Clan (published in 1977) to be quite satisfying.

Imagine my further delight that the novel is set in 1822.  Set in the late “Regency” to be sure, the tale follows an orphan who is elevated to the title of Scottish Duchess.  Her fearsome, yet handsome husband marries her to gain revenge upon a neighboring clan who foisted an adulterous, now-dead, wife upon him.

The story boomed along with vivid action and upon reflection, would make an excellent movie, if historical films were popular. The scenes at the orphanage, a carriage accident (which affected the plot), a shooting attack, revelation of her true parentage, then the winning over of the husband…all would make for a delightful, picturesque movie.
I got a real kick out of finally trying a Cartland book, and wouldn’t hesitate to read more –especially if I can ferret out which were set in the early 1800s.

Have you read any of Barbara Cartland’s books? What do you think?

To Ruin a Lady is Quite Fun

Helloooo, thank you to the Regency authors for letting me join your lovely group. My first Regency is releasing from Love Inspired Historical in September and it was a hoot to write. So much so that I’m at work on another.

A great regency involves just a bit of ruination…at least for the heroine in my current manuscript. But how canI go about ruining her so that she’s forced into a marriage of convenience?

As someone who has enjoyed regency romances since I was a teen, I still have so much to learn. I needed a ruination that was palatable for a Christian audience but still severe enough to force my heroine into the arms of my delectable yet decidedly anti-marriage hero. So the first place I looked was, of course, Google. My dear friend Google.

The search yielded many interesting titles but no specific reasons on why or how a lady could be ruined. I really wanted something concrete. Something unarguable. But that showed my misunderstanding of the Regency period. Thank goodness for writing friends! A dear author friend named who has been writing regencies for years informed me that all it could take is some gossip to rip my heroine’s reputation into tatters.

And so I got to work in creating ruination. After all, my hero and heroine belong together, even if they don’t know it yet!

Has gossip ever hurt you or ruined your reputation? How did you recover?

 

Charming Quotes from Jane Austen

Hello, my Regency-loving friends. Interesting, isn’t it, that the actual Regency last only from 1811-1820, but the periods before and after can also be considered part of the era?  When trying to explain to the uninitiated, what the Regency is, I’ll often bring up Jane Austen. I find that most, but not all, have heard of the book Pride and Prejudice and they can get a grasp on what kind of fiction genre I am writing.104_2304

So, to bring Jane Austen alive again, in our minds only, I bring you some of her delicious quotes.

What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance.

A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.”

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

Based on these quotes alone, I do believe I would have enjoyed know Jane Austen.

Which author would you have liked to spend time with? Answer in the comments, please.

A Pressing Engagement: Part 2

If you missed part 1, click here.

Insufferable man. Already planning her future. All of Mama’s wonderful training about reserve fled Sara Hargrove and a groan welled inside. “I’d don’t think I’ll be able to finish this painting. I’m too flustered.”

He took the paintbrush from her tight fingers and slipped it onto the easel’s ledge. “Miss Hargrove, your prospects are endless. Both of the earl’s sons are smitten.”

“The obsessive heir or the humorous flirt, for me?” She shook her head. Maybe Jeremiah Wilton didn’t know her soul. How could the man suggest such poor matches? Providence surely misled her. Her heart sunk even lower.

“I see how they’ve taken notice of you.” His sea blue eyes swept over her as if he hunted for agreement. “My dull nature will stifle you. You must concur.”

Dull? She counted upon his steadfast manner, so like, Papa. For a brilliant man, Jeremiah could be dense. “This must be a courtroom, barrister. You’ve declared your judgment. My feelings are not material.”

He hovered so close she could feel his soft breath on her crown. Pushing away from him, she knocked her easel. Jeremiah thrust his arms about her catching the canvas, but imprisoned her within his embrace. The warm smell of his sandalwood surrounded her, shrouding her in hopeless dreams.

Unwanted tears pregnant in her lashes fell. “Have you come to torture me?”

He eased the canvas back upon the easel, but kept his arms about her. “I didn’t know the strength of your feelings, not until this moment. You do love me?”

“You came to gloat?” She balled her fist and punched at his gut. Her knuckles stung against the iron muscles of his stomach as if she’d hit a metal washbasin. Undaunted, she struck him again.

He grunted and released her.

“Good day.” She picked up her paints and headed toward the house.

“Miss Hargrove. Please don’t go.” The hitch in his voice stopped her.

She wiped her face, then glanced over her shoulder.

Jeremiah, so tall and handsome in his crimson tailcoat and cream breeches, wrenched his arms behind his back. “Miss Hargrove, lovely Sara, I love you. With all my heart, but I cannot hold you to a long engagement. I don’t know how long the war will burn.”

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath of the fresh air. The sweet scent of apple wood met her. His confession didn’t salve her heart. Maybe, if she ran to thickest part of the orchards, her composure would return among the hearty trees, her safe haven.

Something yanked on her hem.

Jeremiah’s head covered in thick ebony hair hung near her hip. On bended knee, he gripped the muslin fabric of her paint smock. The proud giant humbled himself at her feet.

“I’m desperate for you. This is against my reason. I shouldn’t propose, but I can’t find a way not to. Accept me?”

“Get up, Mr. Wilton.” With another quick tug on her skirts, she’d be free.

Jeremiah held fast. “I’ll give you the power to dictate our course, but for your sake say no to my proposal.”

“This is a proposal?”

“It is Miss Hargrove, but it’s not rational. It’s inappropriate to obligate you. Say no.”

Did he think mere words could free them from this bond? She licked her lips. “No.”

He swallowed hard then stood to his full height. Head drooping, he kicked a rock with his boot. “Tell…. Tell your father and mother I called.”

Her heart beat hard at his stutter. He’d gotten his way, but maybe his spirit, his proud spirit, was breaking too.

He soldiered away, his shoulders hunched as he marched to his dapple-grey mount.

Could she let him go, forget him? No, he was for her. Since the day she climbed Papa’s tree and witnessed Jeremiah besting the town beaus to save his friend, Jeremiah Wilton owned her heart. “Is this how you wish to leave things, sir?”

“No.” He scooped up his gloves, but hadn’t turned.

“What type of husband will you make, if you can’t admit to be being wrong? And what would it say about me, if I waited for such a man?”

“Perhaps, you’re just as foolish as I?” He trudged back to her, took her hand, and placed it over his heart. “I need to trust that our thoughts are the same, shared of one spirit. I’ll not doubt us again. But, if you find you can’t withstand a long engagement—”

Putting a shaking palm to his mouth, she stopped the voicing of his misgivings. Her gaze lowered from his searching eyes to the gold braiding of his epaulet. Only time would prove her commitment.

Yet, how could he be so uncertain of her character? Perhaps each passing day would lessen the sting.

He moved her fingers, bent his head, and slowly covered her lips. His arms tightened about her as she let his affection deepen. In spite of his words, Jeremiah’s actions seemed clear. He had to love her as much as she loved him.

Tossing her paints, she wrapped her arms about his neck and reveled in his possessive grip of her waist, the heavy coursing of his pulse.

He tugged her closer, snuggling her against the smooth floss of his waist sash. “Come, we must go convince Mr. Hargrove. I know Mrs. Hargrove won’t be happy. They may not give their permission.”

“Mama, may be more difficult to persuade, but who can withstand my Mr. Wilton.” The clouds in Sara’s spirit receded as she slipped her palm into his. They soon trudged the path to the great portico of the main house. “If the war can end by spring, we should take our wedding breakfast on the lawn or even set a table on the entry.”

Jeremiah looked off into the distance. An unreadable expression set upon his thinned lips. “If we can convince your parent, then I’ll make this war as short as possible, even capture Napoleon to return to you.”

 

Spiritual Truths Abound in “The Soldier’s Secrets”

Hi, all! Susan Karsten here…I’m bringing insights on the spiritual themes found in        “The Soldier’s Secrets” the latest release by our own dear Naomi Rawlings.

Not only does author Naomi Rawlings deliver a compelling read with this historical romance set during the early days of the French Republic, she gently brings home some serious spiritual truths.

The importance of honesty and truthfulness is drawn out in an unusual way. Both the hero, Jean Paul, and the heroine, Brigitte, are brought low by dishonesty. The unusual aspect of this is that some of their troubles are of their own doing. So often, we find idealistic, too-perfect heroines and heroes–this is not the case in this gripping novel.

Brigitte and Jean Paul should have abided by the following verses:

Proverbs 12:22 Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight….Proverbs 19:1 Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool…2 Corinthians 8:21 For we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man….Proverbs 6:16-20 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.

Forgiveness is another strong theme in “The Soldier’s Secrets“. To receive God’s forgiveness, to forgive other people who sin against you, and to forgive one’s self are all treated in the midst of this historically accurate gripping story.

Here are some pertinent verses on the facets of forgiveness–we can all keep in  mind:

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you….Mark 11:25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”  1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Matthew 6:15 But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Leave a comment to be entered in a giveaway of a copy of The Soldier’s Secrets and a History Channel documentary: The French Revolution. 

Naomi Rawlings The Soldier's Secret
French Revolution DVD

 

I hope you read The Soldier’s Secrets — I think you’ll be happy you did. Leave a comment on your favorite verse on forgiveness or honesty. Thanks!

Susan Karsten
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A Proper Prodigal, Regency Short Story (Part 2) ~ by Susan Karsten

A Proper Prodigal (Part 2)

A Regency Short Story ~ by Susan Karsten

 Upon awakening the next morning Virginia lay back with her fingertips laced behind her head. She’d just woken up from a dream. One of those that replayed again and again. A good dream, though. In it, she danced the night away with a tall man. A man who looked like Quentin Ashleigh.

A tap on the door signaled the maid with a breakfast tray, she and her mother having decided in advance to breakfast in their own rooms. The kitchen maid placed the tray on the bedside table. Next, to her surprise, a housemaid entered with a large bouquet of flowers.

“Where would ye like this put, Miss?” The maid staggered under the ungainly weight of the large display.

“Over there.” Virginia pointed to a table near the window. “Please hand me the card, Ruthie.”

Savoring the moment, she waited to open it. When both maids left, she propped and fluffed her pillows, then smoothed her hair, before prying open the envelope’s seal.

 ‘As you have danced your way into my affections, I would like to see you today. A walk in the Primrose Hall gardens perhaps? I shall call at two. Fondly, Quentin Ashleigh, Esq.’

Virginia’s hands flew up to her warm cheeks. Oh my, a beau! Nothing I ever expected here in Beckston. I’d anticipated withering away on the shelf without a backward glance. No sooner do I submit my life completely to the Lord and he brings me a man. This time, maybe a good one. The one intended for me.

There was no doubt in her mind Quentin was interested. She’d been plagued by boys and men since she was thirteen. Her looks drew them like flies and made her a target. Oh, it was sometimes fun to get the attention, but mostly it was a bother, finding a way to let them down without bruising their amour proper.

It wasn’t until Randall came her way that she succumbed to any of them. Why did it have to be? Why couldn’t Randall have aimed his potent brand of seduction at another beautiful girl? Providence could be a hard pill to swallow, but the whole experience had brought her to a place where she threw herself on the Lord’s mercy. She’d truly put it behind her. Praise the Lord the world didn’t know of her fall.

 ***

  He spotted her. She was sitting on a garden bench under an arbor, a portrait of feminine loveliness. “The maid sent me around – told me you were out here.”

Quentin picked up her hand and kissed the air above it.  He held her hand longer than necessary, then caught himself and dropped it as if scalded. “Sorry, I lost track of my mind, I mean my thoughts. For a moment.”

What a buffoon I am. Seeing her in the light of day had thrown him. He knew she was a pretty girl, but daylight revealed her true exquisiteness. Never mind that her intelligent wit and charm drew him – she was also a diamond of the first water. He hoped she wasn’t above his touch.

“I thank you for the flowers. Roses are my favorite. How did you guess?” She tapped his arm with her fan. Thank you, Lord, she’s flirting like she likes me.

“They are my favorite as well, and our succession house had some beauties in bloom. I couldn’t think of a better place for them than to grace your vicinity.”

There. That should make up for my earlier cloddishness. The combination of her lithe yet lush figure, dark glossy long hair, classic features, and soft brown eyes caused him to go silent, wanting only to drink in the sight of her.

“Shall we walk the garden paths?” She began to rise from the bench, and he slipped his hand under her elbow to assist.

“I’d love to go down the garden path with you, Miss Mortimer.” This sally brought a delightful fluttering of her eyelashes, a delicate hand to her bosom, and a smile perking the corners of her mouth. Be still my heart. She likes me so far. Good, that’s a start.

She placed her hand on his proffered forearm, and they strolled off. Quentin noticed she was just the right height for him. Not too short or too tall. He liked that.

“This is the herb garden. Mother and I make medicines and so forth with some of these plants.” She broke off a stem of rosemary, rubbed it, and passed it close in front of his face.

“My yes, I can see, I mean smell, that would be quite medicinal, Miss Mortimer.”

“Let’s go to the fountain. It’s over there.” They moved off in another direction and were soon out of sight of the house. “We should stay closer to the house, but you must see the fountain first. I think you’ll like the inscription.”

“I love inscriptions.” Quentin wanted to say ‘I love you,’ but held his smitten tongue.

“Ah, here it is.” He struck an orator’s pose and read from the fountain’s rim, “The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death. A Proverb.”

“Apropos, don’t you think?” She looked up to him, as if he held the key to wisdom.

Dropping his self-mocking pose, he grasped for a response. “Apropos? The whole of Scripture is that, Miss Mortimer.”

“I have a request, sir.” She turned from perusing the fountain to face him.

Oh no. This sounds serious. Have I spoiled it?

“Since we are going to be friends, might you call me Virginia, and I call you Quentin?”

“Indeed. Yes, that would be fine.” He almost choked with relief. She’s going to be my friend? How sweet. He’d be her best friend if she’d let him.

They moved back onto the main path and toward the house. Her parents were standing on a terrace off one of the rooms on the west side of the house. Mr. Mortimer waved. Disappointed their idyll appeared to be at an end, Quentin comforted himself that he’d made wonderful progress, both in getting to know Virginia, and in gaining her favor.

“Hello, Mr. Ashleigh. Won’t you come inside before tea? I want to show you a folio I just added to my collection.” Mr. Mortimer hooked his thumbs in his vest pockets.

Mrs. Mortimer waved Quentin on. “That’s quite fine. We’ll see you back out here for tea in a trice, when Mr. Mortimer’s done showing you his new treasure.”

The two men looked over the folio, and Quentin was taken aback when Virginia’s father shoved it in a drawer, and said, “I wanted to speak with you.”

He mustered up his courage, and answered, “How amusing, I wanted to speak with you as well, sir.”

“You first, then, young man.”

“I, sir am a man of thirty years, of good fortune and good repute and I’d like permission to court Miss Mortimer. She’s a real treasure and I must make her my wife. Do I have your permission?”

“My, you’re a blunt one. Charging right to the point, no? I’ll consider it, but there’s something you must know. She’s more fragile than she looks. I mean her spirit. You must promise to value her, never hurt her, and be a valiant champion for her. You see, she needs that, after all.”

After all? What does he mean? “You have my word on that, sir.”

“Good. Since I have your word to prize her happiness, I shall let you proceed. We can discuss settlements another time, after you’ve secured her heart.”

***

Weeks of rides commenced, Virginia always chaperoned by Lizzy, who hovered in the background. A picnic with Annabelle in attendance, dinners and lunches at both Primrose Hall and Fairbrook took the couple to the point of knowing their minds.

On a warm afternoon, Quentin found Virginia alone in the garden when he came to call. “Hallo! The maid told me where you were.”

She watched his approach, drinking in the good looks of this man who’d become so dear. Finding true love came as such a surprise, but her secret made her sad. The time had come to tell Quentin the truth about her. She couldn’t let him propose, which she sensed imminent, without knowing all about her.

“Virginia, you must know that I have something I must ask you.”

He looked down at the ground, and suddenly she knew the time had come. He was going to drop to one knee. Forestalling him, she held up a hand face out. “Before you do, I have something I must tell you.”

A shadow passed across his face. The poor man, he probably thought she was about to let him down easy. The silly man, she’d go to the ends of the earth with him, if she could. “Sit here.” She patted the bench.

Hating what she had to say, she forced out the words. “I must inform you that I was taken from here by a cad, and cruelly mislead. The good Lord saw fit to restore me to my home without anyone else finding out about my shame. Before you say anything more, I need you to decide whether you can see past this blot on my maidenly escutcheon.”

“Say no more. This must be heartbreaking for you and your parents. But I see no stain on you, my lovely. God doesn’t either, since you’ve certainly repented, correct?” He put his arm around Virginia’s shoulders and lifted her chin with his other hand.

“Of course I have, but this society of ours – so harsh on a woman who errs, and giving a blind eye to the sin of the males. Never have thought that fair.” She shuddered and Quentin gave her shoulder a comforting squeeze.

A tear rolled down her cheek and she let it fall, not caring a whit about hiding her sorrow. “Don’t rush into this. Take the night to think it over. Make sure you can forget.”

“Darling, now I must tell you a secret. The reason my sister and I moved to the country, is that she was seduced and abandoned. Removing from society seemed best at the time. The fact that I fought a duel over her lent urgency to our departure. And I’m glad we did, because that led me to you, darling Virginia.”

In one smooth move, he went down, not on one knee, but on two. Before Virginia could get out a word of protest, he asked her to be his wife.

“My dear. I would be highly honored if you would grace my life with your presence all my days. Nothing would make me happier than to settle down with you and enjoy our life together, come what may. Say you’ll be mine?”

She couldn’t resist his dark blue eyes beseeching up at her. “I will. And I will never disappoint you. I’ll always be your proper prodigal.”

The End.

Dear readers, nay, I shall call you friends…I’d love to hear your comments! Thank you for reading this, my first Regency short story. Susan Karsten

A Proper Prodigal, Regency Short Story (part 1) ~ by Susan Karsten

 

 “Miss Virginia!” The dubious butler called – nay bellowed – her name.

Virginia Mortimer jumped at the stentorian tones. She’d asked for the summons, but it hadn’t been necessary. It seemed she’d hardly slept at all. She’d been up and dressed for the last hour.

She took a last glance around the plush bedroom. How elegant it had seemed the night she arrived. In the light of what had transpired over the last few weeks, it looked tawdry now – faded and dusty in the dawn light now shafting through the windows.

The hackney must be here to take her to the posting inn. To ride a public stagecoach home to Primrose Hall would serve as only the latest indignity of her headlong fall from grace

On the floor, half under the bedside table, the corner of a book caught her eye. She reached for it, not wanting to leave a trace of herself behind. It was a slim leather-bound book, given to her by her parents. Stamped in gold letters on the front was the word ‘Psalter’. She jammed it into her capacious reticule.

Only then did she turn to the door, square her shoulders and respond to the odious butler. “I’m coming!”

The cad who’d brought her to this nadir was nowhere to be seen. She didn’t care to say ‘good bye’ and her departure wouldn’t matter to him when he stumbled in from another night of carousing.

The butler eyed her valise, but made no move to assist, but simply opened the door. No pretense of respect, he closed the door as she humped her own valise down the scrubbed white steps. She rummaged in her reticule, and handed a note to the driver before hiking her skirts and launching herself awkwardly into the hackney. The hackney gave a lurch, and she was on her way home. Back to the small village of Beckston to face her parents’ recriminations and her future as a ruined maiden.

Though the day was sunny, a high wind blew swirls of gray smoke down into the dusty inn yard where she waited, clutching her cloak about her and hoping her large bonnet hid her face. She wondered what the chances were that someone of her village would be making this same journey.

When the coach arrived, she was the first passenger to board. One by one, others entered the coach. She held her breath as each passenger mounted, letting it out when she recognized no familiar face. What would the grim-faced soldier, the plain lady in the depressing bonnet, or the elderly clergyman think of her if they knew what she really was, and that she was slinking home in shame?

Only two months ago, when she slipped out during the night, she’d left her childhood behind, naively thinking she knew better than her parents. She’d believed Lord Beckwith’s son Randall loved her and would do right by her, no matter what her mother and father said to the contrary.

Virginia had noticed Randall for the first time at the Beckwith’s annual picnic at their country estate outside Beckston.  He must have been down from Cambridge. The local gentry were invited for the day, which began with competitive games on the lawn for entire community, followed by a picnic. The gentry then joined houseguests and the noble lords of the manor for an evening dinner and ball inside, while the common folk reveled on outdoors.

Invited with her family to the dinner and ball, she enjoyed the lavish surroundings, and never expected to draw Randall’s attention. From the moment he’d lofted a crumpled note at her she’d been hooked. A note which landed down the front of her bodice. She fished it out, read the words ‘You’re beautiful’ and looked up in surprise to lock eyes with the impossibly handsome young man.

His wavy blond hair, chiseled straight nose, teal-blue eyes and muscular physique caught all the young girls’ fancy, and when he kept paying her, a mere barrister’s daughter,  particular attention, she was sunk.

As the coach rumbled out of the London inn yard, Virginia’s mind shied away from continuing this inward litany of her fall, and instead thought ahead to her arrival home. Her parents’ quick response of ‘yes’ to her note requesting them to allow her to come home came as a relief since she had only a few coins and nowhere else to go. Beyond that, she didn’t know what to expect of her homecoming.

***

Hours later, her mother sailed toward her with open arms. “Darling, you’re home!” Hugs, pats on the back, and murmurs of welcome caused the tears to flow. Virginia vowed right then and there never to disregard her parents’ wishes again. They had tried to tell her what was best, but she had defied them for Randall and his false promises.

She drew away from her mother’s embrace and girded herself to look her parents in the eye. “Mother – Father, how can I thank you? I am so sorry. How could I have been so blind, so foolish?” Fresh gales of tears followed.

“We forgive you, Virginia.”  Her father’s gentle tone only served to make her feel more quilty. “Here, you must be chilled to the bone. Put this on.” Her father moved around behind her and laid a fur-lined robe across her shoulders. “A little homecoming gift.”

How forgiving they were. In fact, they acted as if nothing had changed and Virginia’s flight of passion hadn’t ever occurred.  Mother led her to her old room upstairs, and Father trailed behind with her valise.

A dreamlike state swept over Virginia – how unreal to be back in her frilly, maidenly girlhood bedroom with its narrow bed, after the shameful deeds she’d done. Defying, sneaking away, rebelling outright and allowing herself to be deceived by a seducer.

“Put your things away, dear, and then come down for supper. We have a surprise for you.”

Virginia used the pretty china pitcher and bowl on the washstand to freshen up after the dusty travel. She’d left in London the lavish wardrobe Randall gave her. But here were all the dresses she left behind, hanging in the white-painted wooden wardrobe. How soft, simple, and demure the pale-colored muslin dresses appeared. Do I even have the right to dress as a maiden?

She had no one to hold responsible but herself. Taught from childhood to be pure, Virginia threw that teaching to the wind on the basis of a few kisses and compelling whispered words, and then allowed young love’s passion to take control. Yes, Randall was the instigator, but she alone chose sin, her own conscience told her that.

She picked a pink and white dress with a silk ribbon sash, and shimmied it over her head. Her parents must have dismissed her maid when she left, and she had to shift for herself, for now at least. She stood in front of the mirror, tying the sash into a bow, then turning it to the back. The high-waisted dress was almost too flattering to her young figure. She didn’t deserve to look so young and pretty anymore.

She sat down at the dressing table and picked up her silver-backed brush, scraping her long, glossy brown hair back into a tight chignon, wishing she could bind her sinful past as easily. But the relentless door to the future stood open, and she had to walk through.

***

“You look charming, my dear girl.” Virginia’s father pulled a chair out for her to sit at the intimate family table.

“Yes, not a day older than when you left.” Mrs. Mortimer beamed upon her daughter.

“Dear, don’t talk about that yet, let Virgie have her favorite dinner first.” He lifted the cover off a roast of beef, surrounded by potatoes and vegetables and a ring of parsley clusters.

“You’re too good to me. I don’t deserve this.” Virginia lifted her index finger to wipe away a tear.

“Remember, God’s love never fails. And we want to be like Him. Love covers a multitude of sins. His love and ours.” Mr. Mortimer laid his hand on her shoulder.

“Now let’s pray.” He bowed his head. “Dear Father in Heaven, thank you for bringing our daughter home. Thank you for this food, In Jesus Name, Amen. There, now we can eat.”

***

“But Father, we can’t have a party. A celebration for my return? How will I face the neighborhood?” They’d moved across the hall after dinner to the drawing room, where a fire crackled in the hearth.

“As far as anyone here knows, you’ve been visiting an elderly relative in the north. I felt the Lord would forgive a bit of dissembling to protect your name, unsullied, as it were.”

“Yes, we are just so grateful you are back, and none’s the wiser. We’ll just go on as before.” Mrs. Mortimer’s smile became tremulous.

“And, before you ask, we heard Beckwith’s son was given an ultimatum to join the army, else be shipped off to the West Indies to manage a plantation. He got into a duel in London and won’t be back here.  He’s probably landed on the continent by now. As a younger son, he won’t be needed, either. The eldest two all have well-established nurseries. But enough about that family.”

“Now let’s have a song, Virgie.”

She took her Psalter over to the piano and started riffling through the pages. Settling on one, she began to sing and accompany herself to Psalm 68. “This one reminds me of me.”

“God frees the captive and He sends

The blessedness of home and friends,

And only those in darkness stay

Who will not trust Him and obey.”

She hung her head a moment, then straightened her spine, and turned toward her parents. “Mother, Father, I want to make very clear that I am repentant and have submitted my life to Christ now. I know it’s belated, and you always wanted me to have the Faith. Now I do. It took my fall into the miry pit to bring me to my senses and to throw myself on God’s mercy.”

“We forgive you, don’t we Tansy?” Overjoyed, with tears spilling, Mr. Mortimer looked to his wife.

Mrs. Mortimer’s face lit up, wet with tears of joy, and she responded likewise. “Yes, Harold, we both forgive. Now let it go, dear Virginia. God forgives you too, and you need to move on with your life.”

“I was such a fool to believe Randall. He told me we’d be married, so it didn’t matter because we were in love, and that God knew we were sincere. He never intended to wed me. In fact, he ended laughing in my face, and told me to find my own way home.”

“Such a base seducer will always say anything to achieve his wicked will. Most rakes at least keep hands off well-born maidens. So sorry you had to learn such a hard lesson.” Mrs. Mortimer rose and put her arm around Virginia’s shoulders. “Now come over to the sofa, and let’s plan the party. All our friends will want to celebrate your homecoming with us.

***

Long, quiet days of healing commenced. Virginia helped around the house, doing little chores like peeling apples, mending linens, knitting socks, and helping plan the party her parents insisted on.

Dread flickered in her mid-section every time she thought ahead to the celebration, but she steeled her nerves, not wishing to disappoint her parents. They seemed so hopeful everything could return to how it had been before her disgrace.

Even though her parents thought nobody knew of her shameful fall from grace, Virginia braced herself each time someone came to the house or she ran into someone in the village. What if . . . someone knew something, and spread gossip? She’d hate that, but worse, hate the taint that would fall on her family.

The day of the party arrived. She could put off her preparations no longer. Up she went, to her boudoir, where her maid fussed around, waiting to work her magic.

“Lizzy, I’m so glad you were able to come back to work. I wasn’t gone long, but you could have easily been hired on somewhere else.”

“Miss, glad I am to be back here,” her young tidy maid said with a grin. “The only job on offer whilst ye were gone was at the fishmongers, cleaning fish.”

“Well then, let’s do my hair, and get me dressed. I’ve picked out that ivory taffeta, trimmed in coral.”

Lizzy’s deft hands created a stylish psyche knot.  Virginia approved, tilting her head this way, and that. “I love this style. I should have tried it sooner.” Maybe this party wouldn’t be a disaster. Her heart began to hope.

She stepped into the dress, and the maid fastened it. High waisted, it flattered her figure and whispered when she walked. A filmy fichu of ivory silk filled in the too-low neckline. Styles of the day tended toward the immodest, but Virginia was done with that. The coral cameo necklace her mother brought in earlier that evening complemented her coloring.

 *

“There you are!” Her mother scurried over and grasped Virginia’s elbow as she entered the drawing room where the guests had begun to gather. “You must meet the Ashleighs, from rural Beckston. They are twins, just your age.” Mrs. Mortimer towed her across the room.

Dread of facing the guests took the form of a rock in Virginia’s stomach. But she had no choice, the party had commenced whether she was ready or not.

“Mr. Quentin Ashleigh, Miss Annabelle Ashleigh, this is my daughter Virginia. She has just returned from a lengthy trip visiting relatives.” Mrs. Mortimer performed the introductions then turned and flitted off to greet more new arrivals. Virginia caught a glimpse of her mother’s crossed fingers.

Virginia made small talk with the Ashleigh twins. He had intelligent brown eyes and curly russet hair, and his sister though not identical, had similar coloring. Virginia relaxed and the rock of dread melted away under the bright beam of the twins’ sparkling personalities.

“Miss Mortimer, your mother is a darling, she invited us for tonight when she heard we were newly settled in Beckston.” Annabelle’s curls jiggled along with her words.

“She is a sweet lady, if a daughter’s opinion counts.” Virginia replied, smiling. “Where in rural Beckston do you reside?”

“We just moved to Fairbrook Manor – just a mile or so east of here – my family’s owned it for decades. My sister and I had our fill of London for the time.”

“Yes, I’m somewhat familiar with Fairbrook. One mile out isn’t too inconvenient. For shopping and church and so forth.”

“Not inconvenient at all. I hear there’s to be dancing later, Miss Mortimer, may I have the first dance? Nothing like being first in line.” Quentin’s twinkly dark-blue eyes danced between teasing and sincere, producing a pleasing swirl of enticement affecting Virginia’s equanimity. Was he flirting?

“Certainly. By all means, let me find my dance card. I wasn’t prepared.”

As she walked off to locate the card, Virginia wanted to kick herself for sounding like such a dull pattern card of propriety. She needed balance. Balance between being a frivolous fool and a staunch starchbucket.

She didn’t get back to Quentin with her dance card prior to the time dinner was announced, because she was greeted by old friends every step of the way. For the promenade of precedence into the dining room, she was paired with her elderly vicar Mr. Cranston, a widower in his seventies. As they proceeded, he said, “So glad you’re back from your sojourn. A short visit away can do wonders for the appreciation of home, no?”

Caught by the vicar’s words, she was busy deciphering them, searching for hidden meaning, and didn’t realize until the last moment that she’d been seated next to Quentin. She quashed the spurt of interest that rose up in her, and applied her attention to the vicar on her left. Why then, did her right side feel so aware, so alive?

“Miss Mortimer?” A voice intruded on the one-sided conversation she was having, rather listening to, with the vicar. Mr. Cranston’s avocation involved everything to do with bees, and it appeared he planned to tell her all he knew – tonight, at the table.

So it was with relief that she excused herself from the apiarist, and turned toward Quentin Ashleigh. “If you’d like to ask me anything about bees, I can now answer.”

He chuckled, and laid his index finger against his temple. “Nothing at the moment, but I shall remember to ask, should I need your new-gained knowledge.”

Virginia enjoyed the low-key facetious humor with which he answered, and felt quite amicable toward the young man.

“I wonder, did you bring your dance card to the dining room? You never brought it back for me to sign. Am I too late for the first dance?”

“Oh, no. I promised it. I have the card right here.” She lifted the evening reticule, a small bead-embellished pouch that hung on her wrist. She extracted the card and handed it with its attached pencil, to Quentin.

He took it from her, stroked his chin, and said, “Perhaps you’ll allow me two dances? If that’s not too greedy?” The candlelight gleamed off his hair.

Boggled at the pleasant sensations flooding her at the fellow’s kind, friendly, flirtatiousness, she answered without overthinking. “Yes, and no.”

Confusion played across his face before it gave way to wry humor.

He gave a bark of laughter. “You are quite concise, Miss Mortimer. I like that.”

And she liked him. More and more the weeks in London felt like nothing but a bad dream. Back in the loving climate of Mortimer House, the broken spirit she’d brought home had been replaced by a new heart, ready to live again.

No one had even hinted at a breath of scandal about her. She’d dodged the broad-reaching brush of the gossips and society was none the wiser regarding her fall from moral purity. She let out a grateful relieved breath upon this thought, only to have her attentive tablemate inquire as to her state of mind.

“That was a prodigious breath – almost a sigh. Do tell.”

“Nothing, just breathing, if that’s quite all right.” She quirked a smile his way to soften the string of her abrupt rejoinder.

The lengthy meal ended, and the women departed for the drawing room, the men remaining in the dining room for brandy. When the time came for dancing, Quentin bowed in front of her and they sailed off to join a set of country dances The figures of the dances took them apart, and only allowed moments to converse.

“You are a lovely dancer, Miss Mortimer.” Spoken before he sailed down the line, away from her.

The next time their orbits collided, she answered. “And you are a fine dancer, as well, Mr. Ashleigh.”  They both chuckled at the gap between their brief interchanges, before being swept apart again.

***

 Greetings, dear readers! Any guesses on the outcome here? Will he turn out to be a cad, as well? Leave a comment, please 🙂 Susan Karsten

“A Proper Marriage” A Traditional Regency Reviewed by Vanessa Riley

I was introduced to Modern Regencies, you know the ones written by after Austen, Heyer and Veryan while in college. Nothing I liked more than to unwind with a witty, Regency with everything on the line in the story after calculus.

One novel, A Proper Marriage by Debbie Raleigh is one of my favorites. I reread it each year, at least once.A Proper Marriage

What’s not to love about A Proper Marriage. First, the hero and heroine are married, to each other. Not a marriage of convenience (those are great) or gun-induced wedding from a compromise, but an arranged marriage one year in between noted war scholar, Adam Drake and the formerly free-spirit, Adele Morrow.

Here’s Adam explaining to Vicar Humbly, the man who wed the two, the problem:

Adam winced in spite of himself. “No, I made very certain before we wed that she understood I would not tolerate the scandalous behavior of her parents,” he admitted. “I made a precise list of what I expected in my bride. I even chose her wardrobe to ensure she would not be an embarrassment when we arrived in London.”

“And Addy agreed to this list?” he (Humbly) at last demanded in carefully bland tones.

Adam waved a restless hand. “What choice did she have? Her parents had managed to squander their fortune years ago and only survived in the knowledge they would receive a settlement when Addy and I wed.”

“Ah.” The Vicar nodded in a knowing manner. “Well, you should be pleased. Addy has become a most proper lady.”

“Yes, I should be delighted,” Adam agreed grimly.

“But you are not?”

Adam polished off the brandy in a single gulp. He thought of the months with Addy in his home. No, he was not bloody well delighted.  No man would be delighted to possess a shadow that slipped from his grasp whenever he reached out to take hold.

“It is not pleasant to live with a woman who is clearly miserable,” he conceded with a pained grimace.

Second a smart but bored heroine:

Here’s Addy dealing with a rake.

Addy reached out to reclaim her fan. “I am sensible enough to know you are a reprehensible rake! If you wish to polish your fatal charms you should choose a more gullible victim.”

“You have it wrong,” he (Barclay, the rake) protested. “I have been felled by your beauty.”

She rolled her eyes heavenward, but before she could take him to task for his foolishness, a sudden shadow fell over her.

A familiar tingle of awareness rushed through her and slowly she turned to confront the glittering gaze of her husband.

Third, real arguments about cross-purposed souls with the richness of history, duty, and commitment that you don’t always find with unmarried couples.

He (Adam) had thoroughly ruined her evening and worse, he had wounded her pride with his blunt confession he did not trust her.

Dash it all. It had been uncomfortable enough living with Adam in a state of polite, frozen courtesy. She might have disliked guarding her every word and being abandoned for hours in this great tomb of a house, but at least she did not have to worry over sudden squabbles and sharp words that seemed to cut her very soul.

Through the vicar’s counseling, Addy and Adam manage to reconcile and even find love, with each other.  I adore this book so much, I even cut a trailer for it.

So, if you are looking for a good Regency to curl up with try this old Zebra Regency Romance, A Proper Marriage.