Here's a short sample out of my current work-in-progress from George's perspective!
The letter felt almost like it was burning a hole in my pocket. I’d already read it close to a dozen times and practically had it memorized. Miss Independent had asked Mr. Eligible for poetry, and I was quickly realizing that I had made the offer without thinking.
I didn’t know the first thing about poetry.
I had already gone through the entire study in our London townhouse and pulled every volume I recognized as poetry from the shelves, the stacks of books on my desk growing impressively tall and leaving me feeling progressively more overwhelmed. Did she expect me to attempt to write my own poetry? Or to demonstrate that I had a thorough knowledge of the greatest poets’ works? I had neither.
I picked up the oldest, shabbiest one of the bunch. Paradise Lost. Was it a first edition? It was difficult to tell, but it may well have been. I frowned and nodded, impressed at my ancestors. But owning a thing was different from understanding it.
I cracked the book open and skimmed through the first page or two before realizing that I had already completely lost the thread of the narrative in the mentioned names. I wrote down the names and references I did not recognize and tried to continue pushing through the work for another thirty minutes before I noticed my head had begun to ache.
“Teatime,” I muttered. I left the study to call for a tea tray and heard a bit of giggling coming from the sitting room. Anne must have guests.
An image of Miss Williams and her big round accusatory eyes slipped into my mind. Was she here now? I was still determined to prove her wrong–I certainly do care about Anne. We enjoyed an excellent camaraderie.
I hesitated for a mere second outside the door before I opened it, and the giggling abruptly ceased. Three sets of female eyes stared at me as I entered the room. Perhaps checking in on my sister wasn’t something I did as often as I ought to, given how foreign this felt.
Catching Miss William’s gaze with my own, I cleared my throat and bowed as the three ladies awkwardly stood up and dropped swift curtsys. “Jane. Miss Williams. Miss . . . er . . .” Blast! What was the other one’s name?
“Miss Marianne Cunningham, sir.”
“A pleasure,” I said quickly. “Please, do not let me disturb you. Anne, I wanted to ask if you’d like to take tea with me.”
She frowned, and a couple splotches of heightened color appeared on her cheeks. “Oh. I . . . very well. Is something wrong?” she asked. Fiend seize it, Miss Williams was right. She looks like she’s seen a ghost. I ground my teeth lightly, biting back the bitter taste of being proven wrong.
I marked the slight tension in Anne’s shoulders, the worry in her face, and the sudden formality in her tone. Each observation sliced like a knife. I sighed.
“No. I only wanted to spend a bit of time with my only sister,” I said, forcing a cheerfulness I didn’t feel.
“Oh, I . . .” She glanced at her two friends. “Miss Williams, Miss Cunningham and I had all planned to take tea together. But perhaps . . . would you care to join us?”
I looked from my sister to her pretty friends and managed to coax a smile onto my face. “Thank you for the invitation. I would . . . be delighted.”
I tried to ignore the surprised stares they gave one another, but it was harder to ignore the mild explosion of hushed whispers as soon as I popped my head into the hallway to request that tea be brought to the sitting room.
They quieted as soon as I returned, and I pretended I hadn’t heard them.
A heavy silence fell, as awkward as any I’d ever felt, but I was determined to push past it. “Miss Williams,” I said. “I trust you have been well?”
“Well enough, sir,” she said. She looked at me curiously, but did not seem irritated, so I took that as a sign of success.
“And you, Miss Cunningham?”
“Very well, I thank you.” I had always noticed the large birthmark on her cheek, but hadn’t noticed when she’d changed from a gangly little girl into a young woman. She was a fetching young thing in her own way, just as my sister and Miss Williams were. None of them were little girls anymore–they all had grown into something shockingly like adult women. What did that make me?
My eyes strayed back to Miss Williams. They seemed to keep finding her. “I cannot remember–did you have a brother, Miss Williams?”
“I did. An elder brother, Wilford.”
“Wilford Williams?” I said with a smile. “What a name.”
“He died fifteen years ago.”
The smile fell from my face as I stumbled over an apology. The tea chose that moment to arrive, and I was grateful for the distraction from my faux pas.
“I know that the three of you have long been good friends,” I said. “But it has recently been . . . brought to my attention that I ought to know you and your goings on better, Anne.”
“Who has brought it to your attention?” she asked, and she seemed a little nervous. “What gossip have you heard about me?”
“No gossip,” I said quickly, holding up my hands. “I’ve only been chastised for not spending more time coming to know and care for you. I’ve been told I’m lax as a guardian.”
“Who would say such a thing to you?” Anne said in some dismay. “And what business is it of theirs?”
Oh, dear. I had not realized she’d get up-in-arms so quickly over this. My mouth felt dry as she glared at me, awaiting a response.
“I did,” Miss Williams said.
Here are the first ten pages of my current work-in-progress, which I'm hoping to have a finished draft of by May. If you are interested but have any difficulties reading the text posted in the images below, please feel free to comment on this post, send me an email, or message me on social media so that I can get you connected with these fun words I wrote. I will guarantee that this excerpt will be here on my blog for the next two weeks, but I make no promises beyond that! Enjoy!
Heads up: I think I just got "vished" or voice-phished for information about my published works. It most likely just means I'm due for an onslaught of unwanted spam calls, but it is also possible that some identity theft could be attempted. I am posting this for evidence in case someone tries to do something stupid with my name in the future. If anything does happen, I will address it as quickly as possible.
Ugh. I just want to think the best of people and give them the benefit of the doubt, and I wish there weren't so many amoral people out there willing to take advantage of that. Should've been more careful! Stay safe out there!
I'm sure most, if not all of you, are at least conceptually familiar by now with ChatGPT. If you have avoided reading any and all news sources for the last several months and this is the first you're hearing, ChatGPT is a nifty software that will take a writing prompt and run with it. A man "wrote" a novel using this software in ONE DAY. It'll do anything from obituaries to advertising copy.
Naturally, I was most curious to see if it could write decent romance! So I wrote a little prompt based on my current WIP. And here it is!
Prompt: "Write a romantic scene that takes place in Regency period London in which a bluestocking and a Corinthian finally realize that they have been secretly corresponding with one another for months."
Full ChatGPT response:
The sun had set over the city of London, casting a warm glow across the streets. In a small room on the top floor of a grand townhouse, a young woman sat at her desk, her quill scratching away on a piece of paper. She was dressed in a simple gown, her hair pulled back into a tight bun, and her eyes focused on the task at hand.
She was a bluestocking, a woman with a love of learning and books, and she spent most of her days poring over texts in her father's library. But tonight, she was writing a letter, a letter that she had been composing for months.
As she finished the final sentence, she sighed and set down her quill. She folded the paper carefully, sealing it with a dollop of wax, and then rose from her desk to cross the room to her window.
Looking out over the rooftops of London, she wondered what her correspondent was doing at that very moment. They had been writing to each other for months, sharing their thoughts and opinions on a variety of subjects. She had never met him in person, but she felt as though she knew him better than anyone else in the world.
Just then, there was a knock at her door, and her heart leapt in her chest. She knew who it was before she even opened the door.
Standing in the hallway was a tall, handsome man, his hair artfully tousled, and his clothing impeccably tailored. He was a Corinthian, a man of leisure and fashion, and he had been corresponding with the bluestocking for months, under a pseudonym.
As their eyes met, they both knew that their secret was out. The bluestocking felt a blush rise to her cheeks as she welcomed him into her room, and he took her hand in his, holding it gently.
For a moment, they stood there in silence, just looking at each other, and then he spoke.
"I know this must be a shock to you," he said. "But I couldn't help myself. Your letters were so fascinating, so full of wit and intelligence. I had to know more about the woman behind them."
The bluestocking smiled shyly. "And I, too, was curious about the man who could write with such passion and insight," she said.
They talked for hours, sharing stories about their lives and their interests. They laughed and teased each other, and as the night wore on, they grew closer and closer.
Finally, as the clock struck midnight, the Corinthian took the bluestocking's hand and kissed it gently.
"I know we've only just met," he said. "But I feel as though I've known you forever. Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
The bluestocking felt her heart skip a beat. She had never dreamed that this could be possible, that a man like this could fall in love with a woman like her.
But as she looked into his eyes, she knew that she had found her soulmate.
"Yes," she said. "I will."
And as they embraced, the bluestocking knew that she had found the one thing that she had been searching for all her life - love.
[End of transcript]
As you can see, ChatGPT has an impressive, even uncanny, ability to write correct, natural-sounding prose. I don't know what your expectations might have been, but it definitely exceeded mine! I was expecting it to be dull and lifeless and it was to some extent, but not to the extent I'd thought it would be.
I don't feel like novelist is one of the careers facing an imminent existential threat from the likes of ChatGPT, but it's certainly fun to play with the software in the meantime. What you do you think?
I know I've strayed onto a rather controversial topic here, but I've had race-blind casting on my mind for a while now. It's been employed everywhere from fantasy to historical romance in recent years and has changed character appearances from the way they were described in the source materials. I know many are against it, as the backlash against the trailer for Disney's upcoming remake of The Little Mermaid clearly demonstrates.
I, however, really like it. The first time I watched a show or adaptation with race-blind casting was a little jarring. At times it broke the immersion. But as I stopped to question why it did, and to ponder on the pros and cons of casting without regard to race, I realized that it does far more good than bad, especially when the actors are good fits for the characters they play.
There's a conversation about a 1960s-era holodeck program between Sisko and Kasidy, two people of color, in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that discusses the pros and cons particularly well. I agree with Sisko, but I ultimately take Kasidy's side, as Sisko eventually did, too.
SISKO: You want to know? You really want to know what my problem is? I'll tell you. Las Vegas nineteen sixty-two, that's my problem. In nineteen sixty-two, black people weren't very welcome there. Oh, sure they could be performers or janitors, but customers? Never.
KASIDY: Maybe that's the way it was in the real Vegas, but that is not the way it is at Vic's. I have never felt uncomfortable there and neither has Jake.
SISKO: But don't you see, that's the lie. In nineteen sixty-two, the Civil Rights movement was still in its infancy. It wasn't an easy time for our people and I'm not going to pretend that it was.
KASIDY: Baby, I know that Vic's isn't a totally accurate representation of the way things were, but it isn't meant to be. It shows us the way things could have been. The way they should've been.
SISKO: We cannot ignore the truth about the past.
KASIDY: Going to Vic's isn't going to make us forget who we are or where we came from. What it does is it reminds us that we're no longer bound by any limitations, except the ones we impose on ourselves.
I love Kasidy's succinct description--no limitations except for the ones we impose upon ourselves. I love history, and I love the Regency period. I love Jane Austen's works, and I love English society and culture, despite its imperfections. I like period-accurate representations . . . but I also like reading Regency romance novels. I hope you can see where I'm going here. I watch a fair amount of sci-fi and fantasy shows with my husband, and I have realized that Regency romance tends to be every bit as fictional as a good fantasy novel.
I know race-blind casting isn't period-accurate--everyone knows that. It's often not source-accurate, either, in the case of fantasy. But if I need to choose between visiting a historically-inaccurate world where talent and fit matters more than skin tone, or perfect historical accuracy . . . I'm going to choose the former! For one thing, period film adaptations are already historically inaccurate--there is nowhere near enough tooth decay. :-P
Besides, I don't pick up a Regency romance novel to educate myself about the time period. I pick it up to escape to another world and follow the cathartic ups and downs of an admirable, relatable heroine's journey through a bit of darkness and into the light. There is no need to exclude people of color from portraying and relating to this experience! Representation in this form of fiction is every bit as true to the spirit of the work as historically-accurate casting. We unquestionably need to heal our society's deep racial wounds, and one of the most painless and enjoyable ways to begin is to diversify the characters in the works of fiction that we already love!
I've already talked about how much I enjoyed Netflix's adaptation of Persuasion, but I was able to watch Mr. Malcolm's List and I really liked that one, too. It lacked a lot of the sizzle from the book--there were several very exciting smooches in the book and only one very tame kiss at the very end of the movie. But if that's your jam, I bet you'll really like it! I thought it was very well-cast. Mr. Malcolm was not my favorite because he was a bit stiff and formal, whereas the character in the book was vibrant and flirtatious. But that was a minor complaint, and his handsomeness made up for a lot of that! I can highly recommend both the book and movie to you clean Regency lovers--you'll love them!
As far as race-blind casting in other adaptations goes, I watched The Wheel of Time and The Rings of Power shows on Amazon and I enjoyed them both. The issues that I do have with the shows have nothing to do with the race-blind casting, and I could go more in depth on them, but since this is a Regency newsletter and not an all-purpose fiction newsletter, I digress. (But I do have to say I love Arondir's character in The Rings of Power! He's just a strong, solemn, handsome elf with some great fight choreography--what's not to like??)
My son is in school! *Cue sigh of relief*
I feel a little guilty for being so happy about school starting, because I love him so much, but he is hard to keep up with! It is nice to finally be getting into a routine where I can begin to feel on top of things again.
Naturally, the moment school starts I get a cold that wipes me out--it's like I've been holding it in for a time when I could finally rest up a little. I have been working on Beatrice and Lord Peter's story, but I've been looking to the future and I have some manuscripts I've mostly finished that I would like to submit by the end of the year.
The first is Medicine for Mandie, the third book in the Finding Home series that features the lovable, mouthy maid from Anything for You, My Lady and A Stage for Harriet. The other one is Surviving the Earl of Thetford, which has far more action and adventure than my other books, as Thetford's heirs attempt a daring rescue across the channel during wartime. Yikes!
If either of those sound appealing to you and if you are willing to read an UNPUBLISHED, non-final draft and give me feedback, let me know! It's always helpful to have a few more pairs of eyes on my work. And to any fellow authors in my list, I might even be willing to do a swap or two. :)
Happy back-to-school! To any students in my list, soak up that learning and enjoy the structured scheduled times to see friends every day! To all those who work in education, BLESS YOU! To any parents of students, enjoy the relative quiet and I hope that all your productivity dreams come true! To those uninvolved in school, carry on. You are doing great.
P.S. Go ahead and message me on Instagram if you or someone you know loves writing book reviews online! I have a limited number of ebook review copies of Green as Grass available to download and would like to prioritize giving them to those eager to get the word out. :)
"It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address."
You've Got Mail is a classic chick flick for good reason, and this quote is too true! I love fall in part because of school. I've always liked school, and that became especially true in college. There's something utterly exhilarating about the new beginning represented by a new school year. It's an opportunity to reinvent yourself (if such an intervention is desired), to start fresh, to get a running start into your best efforts. It's also nice that it's less hot and muggy, and I'm certainly not averse to pumpkin spice, even though some folks overdo it now and then.
This year, though, I'm largely excited because my school-age kid has been making me crazy and my preschooler is very excited to start school. I am looking forward to having more writing/editing/submitting/publishing time!!! I'm hoping to have an announcement or two by the end of the year. This involuntary sabbatical from writing has been nice in some ways, but I'm excited to get going again.
Did you ever have a secret crush when you were younger? One that you were so embarrassed by that you never even told your best friends about it? I had one. And I got so tongue-tied around him that I could not even speak to the guy. Me! Star of school plays, an unabashed choir geek, solo singer, and cheeky flirt! I did not dare to even attempt to be his friend. We had multiple classes together every year and I probably conversed with him for a grand total of fifteen minutes throughout all four years of high school.
How does this relate to my work-in-progress? Well, what would happen if I used one of my favorite Regency tropes--the marriage of convenience--and threw a relatable heroine in with HER super-embarrassing "high school" crush?? That was the thought experiment that started this WIP. Where would you want a story like that to go? What outrageous, hilarious, or swoon-worthy places could we take it? The first several pages' worth of the story are pasted below. What do you think?
May 24, 1810
“You’re going to accept him, aren’t you?” her mother asked.
Beatrice looked out the window at the impossibly cheerful floral scene in their front garden. The bright pink rhododendrons formed a sharp contrast to her current mood. “It doesn’t appear I have much of a choice.”
Mrs. Saynsberry did not answer for a long moment. “I am sorry, dear. I know that your sister’s scandal was not your fault and it isn’t fair you need to suffer for it. But let us focus on the positive, shall we? Mr. Dixon is a kind young man, and he is a great friend of your father’s.”
Mr. Dixon appeared in Beatrice’s mind. He was of an outrageous height and his eyes were always open just a little too wide, giving him a permanent look of mild shock. She grimaced and closed her eyes. Being physically attracted to her husband was something of a luxury that she couldn’t afford right now.
“He is a good man,” Beatrice admitted. “But he is regrettably dull.”
“He does not lack intelligence.”
“Depending on what sort of intelligence you are speaking of.” Beatrice could not quite bite back her response.
Beatrice’s mother heaved a weary sigh. “Beatrice . . .”
Her insides squirmed within her. “I am sorry, Mother. I was not clear before. If he offers for me, I will accept him. I recognize that he is a decent person and I have precious few other options right now. He will treat me with respect and I’ll have a household of my own. My happiness is about as secure with him as it would be with anyone else.”
Mrs. Saynsberry seemed heartened by this. “And perhaps you two may grow more affectionate toward one another, given enough time.”
A great deal of time . . . Beatrice thought to herself, but forced herself to quietly smile at her mother. She took a deep breath. It was time to grow up and leave her petulance behind her along with the schoolroom. Her sister’s imprudent marriage to a carpenter without her parents’ permission had made her happy enough, but there were already starting to be whispers and titters behind the hands of the members of the congregation at church. Beatrice could not safely remain single for much longer. It was even worse for Mr. Saynsberry than it was for Beatrice–a vicar ought not to indulge in gossip, and could do precious little to defend himself or his daughters from ugly rumors.
Mr. Dixon rounded the corner and started up the walkway to the parsonage. Beatrice took a deep breath in through her nose and out through her mouth, standing in preparation to welcome her future-husband into the parlor. She tried not to notice the odd sort of springing gait of his long legs and how they made him look like a grasshopper.
After what seemed both an age and an instant, Mr. Dixon was introduced into the parlor by the housekeeper and bowed, his features even more stiff than usual.
Mrs. Saynsberry welcomed him warmly. “Mr. Dixon, it is good of you to come. Shall I send for some tea?” she stood as if to leave the room for this little errand, but Mr. Dixon stopped her.
“No, thank you, ma’am, for my visit must be brief.”
Beatrice’s mother still did not sit down. “I understand. Would you prefer a private audience with Miss Saynsberry, sir?”
“That will not be necessary, ma’am. I merely wanted to express my condolences on the loss of your elder daughter . . .” Beatrice frowned at this. It wasn’t as though her sister had died, after all, but Mr. Dixon continued on. “. . . And in the reduction of prospects your younger daughter will suffer as a result.”
Beatrice’s stomach dropped. Her hands and feet felt like ice, and she very nearly shivered. A proposal would have been bad enough, but mere condolences? Her breaths began coming a little more quickly than before, despite her best efforts.
“She only needs one good prospect, sir,” Mrs. Saynsberry said quickly. “One good, understanding young man.”
Beatrice closed her eyes. Her mother’s desperate efforts only added a humiliating heat to her paralyzing discomfort.
“And I wish you luck in finding one, ma’am,” Mr. Dixon said shortly. “But for now I fear I must bid you good day. I again express my most heartfelt condolences.”
He bowed, and Beatrice barely managed to bend her stiff knees enough for a curtsy before he disappeared back out the parlor door. The entire encounter could not have lasted longer than half a minute, but Beatrice was reeling.
Mrs. Saynsberry took a deep, shaking breath and hurried from the room, leaving Beatrice very much alone. She sat back down on the sofa, bringing her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around them. If her mother’s emotions were such that she needed to leave rather than comfort to Beatrice, she knew her situation was even more dire than they had begun to fear.
Mr. Dixon was certainly not her first choice. He had awkwardly sought her out at every local assembly for years, but had not dared pursue a courtship until only a few weeks ago, when Lucy had gone off to visit their aunt in Bath and had used the opportunity to become overly familiar with a carpenter who had been installing shelves in the library. The rest of their courtship and secret elopement was history, and was already becoming gossip fodder from Bath to Swindon, rapidly spreading beyond their own modest acquaintance.
Angry tears stung at Beatrice’s eyelids and she covered her face with a couch cushion to unleash a frustrated groan. If even the staid and respectable village attorney, a good friend of her father’s, weren’t willing to offer for her, who would be?
Lord Peter Augustus Mead, Viscount of Elcombe and heir to the Earldom of Beaufort, was a single man of large fortune, and he was in want of a wife.
He blew air out through his lips as he scowled at the household ledgers in front of him. He had been too long in London. Nearly two years had passed since he had been settled at Overton Manor, his family’s seat, and things had already gotten somewhat out of hand since his parents had begun spending all of their time in Bath the year before.
Several servants had left their positions, having little or no work to do, the tenants were growing irritable, and even he could tell that the decor in his old family home was several decades out of date. What he needed was a wife. He hadn’t been looking for marriage during his seasons in Town–he’d been having far too much fun to bother with that–but perhaps he ought to have been. The estate’s coffers were healthy enough, but without a bit of economy and a woman’s touch managing the home, the home and tenant affairs had suffered.
His parents had never said anything against his London bachelor lifestyle and habits and his quarterly allowance had remained generous, but after seeing one too many friends do poorly at the faro tables and suffer accordingly, he had been somewhat anxious to see that his future affairs were in order. Given the way the estate was limping along, it was a good thing he had returned when he had.
A soft knock sounded at the door and Mrs. Haddon entered. “Tea, Lord Peter?”
The old housekeeper had known him since he was a child, and he could not help but smile. “Yes, of course. Thank you.”
She smiled in response as she arranged the tea things on the desk for him.
Lord Peter leaned back in his seat and stretched, giving an almighty yawn. “How long have I been at it, Mrs. Haddon? It can’t be afternoon already.”
“It is, my lord. Nearly four. I figured you might be in need of a bit of refreshment.”
Peter nodded. “Thoughtful of you. May I ask . . . what do you think most needs doing around here? You know–to bring the estate around and back where it ought to be.”
Mrs. Haddon pursed her lips in thought, and Peter could tell that she was searching her mind for a tactful response.
He continued. “I know that my parents were not known as the most . . . gracious hosts, I suppose you could say.”
“They were not accustomed to much entertaining,” the housekeeper agreed with a nod. “If you plan to change that, now that your father expects you to see to the estate’s affairs on your own, I could recommend several changes. However . . .”
“Yes?” he pressed, pushing her reticence aside like a bothersome curtain.
“Well, if it’s isn’t too bold of me, my Lord, many of these decisions would ideally be made by the lady of the house.”
Peter took a sip of his tea, nodding slowly. “You’re absolutely right.” As I thought. A wife, a wife . . . his mind flipped through the faces of the ladies of his acquaintance in Town like so many playing cards. There were several that had seemed interested in him, and he mentally riffled through these, closing his eyes. Fortune hunter, title-seeker, notorious flirt, proud as a peacock . . . he opened his eyes and shook his head. His own mother was very little like any of the women he tended to meet in town. She was soft-spoken and gentle–she listened before she spoke and she cared little for fashion or fortunes. She was one of the most contented people he knew, and he felt a sense of calm pass over him just thinking about her. He wasn’t sure if he’d ever be able to find a similar sense of peace with any of the young ladies of his acquaintance.
“Did you need anything else, my lord?”
He glanced back up at Mrs. Haddon, surprised out of his reverie. “I . . . no. Thank you again.”
Mrs. Haddon bobbed a curtsy and swept out of the room. She likely had much to attend to and he barely knew half of it. He sighed again, leaning back in his chair and staring at the ceiling, his hands supporting the back of his head.
His father was one of his favorite sources of advice, but he was a terrible correspondent, and Peter had little desire to travel all the way to Bath for an audience with his unusual father. The next best thing, he decided, was the vicar. Mr. Saynsberry had been a loyal friend to the family and a trusted counselor for as long as he could remember.
Peter took a last swig of his tea and slipped his arms back into his jacket. It was already too warm to wear one when unnecessary, and he’d already grown accustomed to wandering the manor in his shirtsleeves–yet another symptom of his bachelorhood that Mrs. Haddon and the other servants likely balked at. He smiled at the thought and hurried to his rooms to have his valet see to his appearance before he left the house.
Beatrice’s eyes hungrily traced the lines she had drawn on the page. The strong nose, the chiseled cheekbones, the piercing, thoughtful eyes. At least, she had tried very hard to make them piercing and thoughtful, but no matter how hard she tried, her drawings paled in comparison to the glory that was the reality of Lord Peter. Lord Peter Brimhall, heir of the Marquess of Kingston, was a vision of perfect beauty and grace.
And oh, how she hated him.
As she flopped backward onto the soft, mossy green grass beneath her, the sun warming her eyelids until she saw red, she tried to imagine that she was something wonderful. The sort of beauty that would inspire artists with far more talent than she had. That would inspire rich, handsome men to offer for her despite her unfortunate circumstances.
Her neatly-pinned hair had gotten mussed from the afternoon’s activities, and she hoped it was in a beautiful way–like one of those romantic, windswept paintings of charming peasants in the French countryside. But she more likely looked like Mrs. Phelps, an elderly woman who’d fallen asleep on one of the pews during a dull sermon one Sunday. She had awakened when the organ began playing the closing hymn and had stood and greeted the congregation with all the placid dignity of one who clearly did not notice her hair looked ridiculous.
Surely Beatrice’s hairstyle was already ruined. She would need to fix it before supper anyway. So what was the harm if she . . .
With a mischievous smile, Beatrice pulled pins from her hair until her long, pale reddish brown locks rested around her shoulders. With her eyes closed and her hair softly fluttering in the spring breeze, it was far easier to pretend that she was irresistibly lovely. Surely anyone happening by could not possibly help but fall in love with her–even the stubbornly uninterested Lord Peter. She’d been attempting–and failing, if she were honest with herself–not to like him for as long as she could remember.
“Bea? Is that you?”
Beatrice could feel her cheeks burn, but remained as still as a stone while she deliberated what she ought to do. It was bad enough she had been caught with her hair down by a man, but he sounded rather like an old man. She wrinkled her nose and sighed.
She glanced up to see her family’s gardener, Norman Jenkins, watching her curiously.
“Yes, Norman,” she finally said, snatching at the loose tufts of her dignity and pulling them about her like a cape. “Did you need something?”
“Not exactly, miss. Only I was about to trim the shrubs just yonder. Hate to disturb you while I work.”
Whatever silly spell she’d been trying to cast on herself with her daydreams disappeared and she forced a smile. “Of course. I am sorry to be a bother.”
Beatrice gathered her things, her arms full of books and her soft, cream-colored picnic blanket slung over her shoulder. She took a deep breath of the last of the season’s apple blossoms and closed her eyes, allowing a final daydream to overtake her before returning to the house. She could hear hoofbeats in the distance and pretended that Lord Peter himself were charging up the lane on his black horse, his thick, tawny hair tousled by the breeze and the gaze of his intense blue eyes riveted on her. He’d climb off his mount, walk directly to her, and say–
“Ah, Miss Beatrice. I hope I find you well? Do you know if your father is in?”
The voice was unfamiliar.
Lord Peter. Beatrice’s eyes snapped open to see Lord Peter standing there in the flesh, holding the reins of his horse and watching her expectantly.
She blinked. He was so much taller than she remembered. He towered at least seven or eight inches over her and she had to tilt her chin to meet his eyes. She hadn’t seen him in years and was chagrined to realize that he had only grown more handsome since the last time they had met at a local assembly. She scowled before she could help herself, but a moment later he cleared his throat and raised his eyebrows.
“Oh!” she said, forcing a polite, neutral expression onto her face, “yes, my father is in. He ought to be in his study. Mrs. Milner can show you in.”
Lord Peter smiled politely and gave a half bow of acknowledgement, tipping his hat. “And my horse?”
Beatrice glanced about, eager to end the awkward encounter as swiftly as possible, and when their groom did not readily present himself, she offered to take the reins.
“I can take your horse to the stables. Mr. Greene ought to be there.”
“Oh, I can take him there. I hate to trouble you.”
“‘Tis no trouble!” she said quickly, eager to make an escape.
Lord Peter smiled again, politely bobbed his head, and turned to walk into the house, leaving Beatrice with a leather strap in her sweaty hands and a pounding heart trying to jolt itself right out of her chest.
To be continued . . .
I finally got a new WIP (work-in-progress) started! And for the first time in a LONG time, I started writing today (hence, I'm getting my newsletter out late) and did not want to stop. Even now, I've got this little itch to return to my completely imperfect little manuscript because it's MINE, and the characters are starting to come to life, and I want I find out what happens next!
I also just read the book Trying, by Kobi Yamada, to my kindergartener and it spoke to my soul. Here's the excerpt that hit me hardest:
"I had tried, and I had failed. Now he was asking me to try again? What good would that do? I had already proven I couldn't do it.
"But if I was honest, I wanted to believe I could.
"So, even though I worried that I wasn't good enough, I decided to try again."
Trying, writing, reaching, discovering . . . is a wonderful feeling, and it helps make up for the feelings of failure I have when I saw that negative review for Green as Grass. Every negative review is disheartening, but because of how Amazon's metrics work, a negative review right at the outset can be devastating! It essentially buries the book before it can get off the ground, so that's been very discouraging.
If any of you have had the opportunity to read Green as Grass, I hope you'll consider leaving a review on Amazon to help offset the negative reviews. The general etiquette, when it comes to supporting small-time authors, is "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all." I was once contacted by a reviewer who did not enjoy Harriet and did not wish to review it. She offered to mail it back to me! I was a little disheartened, but I was also touched by her thoughtful response. I have tried to follow her example ever since. Just because a book isn't good for you doesn't mean it isn't good for someone else.
I have some distressing publishing news, and we're all getting over the lingering remnants of a COVID epidemic at our house, but there are still SO MANY things to be glad about!
Happy things first, it was recently my birthday (yes, it was a happy one--I am so spoiled!) and I'm pregnant and looking forward to a hearty, healthy baby #3 in June! So that's the good news.
The bad news is that my book babies, including Medicine for Mandie and Fortune and Folly, both of which are currently in development, are going to need to wait an indefinite period of time because my publisher has decided to stop publishing . . . fiction. Just all fiction. No more fiction. (I know, I know . . . I think it's a little crazy too!!) So I'll need to find a new publishing home for my books after Green as Grass releases!
As inconvenient as all that is, it is DOABLE.
I believe, with the uncertain direction of the Finding Home series at the present moment, I'll pivot toward working on another Regency manuscript of mine in a different series for the time being. Surviving the Earl of Thetford has been placed on the backburner for a while now, and it really deserves better! Cracking it open and looking through it has been exhilarating ("I wrote this?? Wow, this is actually really good . . .") and I'm looking forward to submitting it to a new publisher within the next few months.
As always, I'll keep all my newsletter subscribers (and perhaps a little later, my blog readers, if any exist) updated. :)
Cheers, and happy winter! (Are you jealous of our snow??)
who am I?
My name is Mary-Celeste, but my friends call me M.C. I am a writer, wife, mother, amateur gardener, sourdough bread baker, n00b video gamer, Austen enthusiast, tabletop gamer, Trekkie, and generally cheerful human being. I write Regency romances and I post about it here (among other things). Thanks for stopping by!