The Spinster's Christmas, but after I posted it all, I took down from my blog all but the first 3 chapters. It is the first book in my Lady Wynwood series.
A Regency romantic mystery
Miranda Belmoore has never felt attuned to the rest of society. Her family has never understood her blunt speech and unwillingness to bow to conventional strictures, and so they have always made her feel that there is something wrong with her. Now as a poor relation in her cousin’s house, she makes plans to escape a life of drudgery and disdain from her own family members.
Naval Captain Gerard Foremont is having difficulty adjusting to life back on land, frustrated that his career has been cut short by his severely injured knee. Guilt haunts him as he sees the strain his long convalescence has had upon his parents. As they spend Christmastide with the Belmoores, he wants to help fulfill his mother’s wish to have her orphaned niece come to stay with them.
However, an enemy has infiltrated the family party, bent on revenge and determined that Twelfth Night will end in someone’s death …
Start reading here.
“Ellie will be happy to see you, ma’am,” Miranda said to his mother. “She was asking after you all this week, wondering when you would arrive.”
The mention of the six-year-old made his mother smile. “We so enjoyed her visit in the summer. It quite lifted my spirits.”
Her joyful tone contrasted with her peevishness with her own son, and Gerard looked away. But he could not fault her. An orphaned grand-niece was surely better company than an invalid sailor.
This past summer, Ellie had been sent to visit her mother’s relations at Foremont Court. Because Gerard’s mother loved children, she’d begged Ellie’s grandfather to extend the visit to a full eight weeks. At the time, Gerard had still been in the hospital in London, recovering from the cannonball that had exploded the deck beneath his feet, driving splintered wood into his knee.
Only when Gerard had been about to return home was his mother forced to give up Ellie and let her go back to the household of Sir Cecil, her father’s cousin. Ellie’s paternal grandfather had not felt adequate to raise a young girl after her father had been killed on the Peninsula and her mother had died in childbirth only a few months later, so Ellie had been living with Cecil’s family above eight months now.
“How is Ellie?” Gerard’s mother asked Miranda.
Miranda hesitated before answering. “She was in high spirits in the weeks after she returned from your home, but since then, she has become quieter. It is difficult for her, since Cecil’s two younger boys are away at school most of the year, and only his two older daughters are at home. They are more likely to want to talk about gowns and fripperies than romp about with Ellie.”
“She has no playmates in the neighborhood?” Gerard asked.
Miranda said carefully, “Cecil is fastidious about the company his family keeps.”
Gerard frowned. Cecil apparently hadn’t changed in the years since they’d all played together. He was likely too proud to want to associate with any families of insufficiently high birth.
“Ellie enjoyed playing with our neighbors’ children. There was a veritable herd of children that galloped into our drawing room for tea and biscuits every morning,” his mother said with a laugh.
Because unlike Cecil, Gerard’s family had good relationships with all their neighbors, who had many young children below the age of ten.
“I worry that she is lonely,” Miranda said.
“You mustn’t worry,” Gerard said. “After Twelfth Night, we plan to take Ellie home with us to stay.”
He caught a flash of green as she raised her head, and her mouth fell open. “You do?”
“We should enjoy having Ellie with us ever so much,” his mother said. “The idea would never have come into our heads if we had not met Lady Wynwood in London a month ago. It was she who suggested it. She had recently spoken to her cousin Edward—Ellie’s grandfather—and he had mentioned that Ellie was feeling low.”
“Laura thought Ellie would enjoy a change of scenery,” his father said, “with the added benefit of having a girl around the house to cheer Mary up.” He patted his wife’s hand.
“It will not occupy too much of your time with Gerard to have Ellie at home?” Miranda had always been rather blunt, but the artless way she said it made it obvious that she was concerned about him.
Gerard had had enough of pity from his family and neighbors in the past few months, but somehow Miranda’s concern did not upset him. “I am well on the mend. In fact, I insisted we convince Uncle Edward to allow us to take Ellie.”
“Uncle Edward agreed to it?” Miranda asked. “Cecil’s house is but ten miles from his own.”
“And Foremont Court is merely twelve in the other direction,” his father said. “Ellie will be able to see her grandfather as often as she wishes.”
“Does Cecil know of this plan?” Miranda asked. Gerard wondered if anyone besides himself could hear the wary edge to her voice.
“Not yet,” his father said.
“I can’t imagine why he should make a fuss at having a dependent taken off his hands,” his mother said. “Cecil may be the tenth Baronet Belmoore, but Edward is Cecil’s uncle and Ellie’s grandfather.”
“And both of Ellie’s grandfathers agree,” Gerard’s father said, “for not only Edward, but also my brother have written their consent.”
“It would be better by far for Ellie to remove to your home,” Miranda agreed.
At this point, the coach turned onto the stretch of drive that led up to the front of Wintrell Hall. The trees lining the drive were bare, but snow had not yet fallen, and the lawn in front of the house was a pale ash-green color. In contrast, on the east side of the house, the bushes peeking over the top of the stone garden wall were a startling orange-brown, waving in the wind that swept down the valley and swirled around the house.
Next blog post: Chapter 1c
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