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.
For the better part of the last ten minutes, Gerard had been staring up Cecil’s hairy nostril. It was most unpleasant, but Cecil had kept his nose upturned during their entire discussion here in the library, which had taken place directly after dinner. Gerard wondered that Cecil didn’t get a crick in his neck from looking down at all the world. Or perhaps Cecil simply had extraordinarily large nostrils.
“I assure you it is no hardship for Eleanor to continue her stay here,” Sir Cecil said, playing with a pretentiously large silver paperweight upon his desk. “She is firmly fixed in our home. Indeed, the entire neighborhood is aware of it and approves.”
Ah, now Gerard understood. Cecil would never admit it, but he did not want it known that he had “cast out“ a little girl dependent upon him, especially because he obviously had the means to continue to keep her. It might reflect poorly upon his reputation, which was not otherwise known for its generosity.
“Surely you would not object to such a small sacrifice on your part for my mother’s health and happiness?” Gerard asked.
Cecil blinked rapidly, unable to think of a suitable response.
Gerard’s father turned to Mr. Belmoore, Ellie’s grandfather, who sat in an overstuffed chair. “Mary has always loved children, and they love her. She has always wanted a girl.”
“In addition to her most excellent son,” Gerard added with a grin. Mr. Belmoore returned it, but Cecil sniffed.
“We have the added advantage of more children Ellie’s age in our neighborhood than there are around Wintrell Hall,” Gerard’s father said.
Seeing Cecil’s brows draw low, Gerard added, “I assure you they are all of good family.”
Cecil said nothing, obviously thinking better of calling the statement into question because it would be insulting to Gerard’s father.
“Cecil, you recall I expressed some concern on that head a few months ago,” Mr. Belmoore said to his nephew. “John is perfectly right. Ellie would have more playmates if she were to go with him. She has been lonely and of low spirits since her mother died.” Mr. Belmoore reached over to clap Gerard on the shoulder. “My only real concern, dear boy, is your health.”
“I’m strong as an ox. Don’t let the cane fool you. Come, I’ll wrestle you, and you’ll see.”
Mr. Belmoore laughed. “I don’t doubt your enthusiasm, but I simply wish to be assured that you are recovered enough to have a lively young girl underfoot.”
“I have improved considerably, or I would not have put forward this scheme.”
“Are you … completely recovered?” Mr. Belmoore asked.
Gerard knew what he was asking. “The doctor tells me that I shall walk with this cane for many months yet, perhaps years. But a full recovery is entirely within my grasp.”
“Years?” Cecil said. “And what manner of accidents may befall a child? That cane is downright dangerous.”
“I hardly intend to bat at her like a cricket pitch,” Gerard protested.
“No one is accusing you of anything of the sort,” Mr. Belmoore said, “but Gerard, I speak from experience when I say that a young girl Ellie’s age can be dangerously unpredictable, especially for a man with difficulties getting about.” He took his walking stick from where it leaned against his chair and tapped his left foot. “My gout has its good and bad days, but after Edmund died in action and Beth and Ellie came to stay with me, I had any number of accidents. Ellie likes to run, and will often run into things like legs, even when she does not intend to do so.”
Yes, Gerard had seen Ellie running about earlier this evening before their dinner in the nursery, darting here and there. She and the other children had not sat down to behave themselves until Miranda had arrived in the room half an hour later, restoring order.
But he disliked the caution in Mr. Belmoore’s tone. Gerard was a sailor who had fought, and he’d had enough of being treated like a porcelain figurine or a gouty old man. “I assure you, sir, I will have no difficulties with Ellie. I quite look forward to playing with her.” The memory of the nursery also reminded him of his promise to Miranda, and he turned to his father. “Sir, I have not had opportunity to speak to you of this, but I thought we might take Miranda with us, if only for a few months, to assist Mother with Ellie.”
His father looked thoughtful. “That may be a good plan, although you will need to persuade your mother. And obtain Cecil’s permission, naturally.” He inclined his head toward Cecil.
Cecil frowned. “It matters not to me what happens to Miranda.”
His tone made Gerard’s teeth grind together.
Cecil continued, “However, Felicity had hoped to send the girl to her cousin’s home after Twelfth Night. They have lost yet another nursery-maid.”
Gerard had expected Cecil to object to losing his unpaid servant, but this unexpected need of his wife’s close relation would perhaps take precedence over Gerard’s family.
“Cecil, you must order your household as you think best,” Mr. Belmoore said. “As for Ellie, I have decided she will go to the Foremonts at the end of the Christmas celebrations.”
“Thank you, sir.” As Gerard shook Mr. Belmoore’s hand, he determined to spend every moment that he could playing with Ellie within sight of her grandfather, to show him that his injury was not affected in the slightest by having a child about. Regardless, he would need Ellie to become accustomed to him. She had been shy when he’d introduced himself in the nursery earlier.
He desperately hoped that having Ellie’s company would improve his mother’s temperament, which was wearing on both himself and his father. He had brought such difficulties to them because of his injury, and he only wanted to make his mother happy again.
Next blog post: Chapter 3b
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