Skip to main content

Excerpt - A CONSTANT HEART by Siri Mitchell

Captain's Log, Stardate 10.06.2008

A Constant Heart
by
Siri Mitchell


In a world of wealth, power, and privilege...love is the only forbidden luxury.

“Trust was a valuable commodity at court. Traded by everyone, but possessed by no one. Its rarity was surpassed only by love. Love implied commitment and how could any of us commit ourselves to any but the Queen? Love implied singularity and how could any of us benefit another if our affections were bound to one in exclusivity? Love was never looked for and rarely found. When it was, it always ended badly.”

In Queen Elizabeth’s court where men and women willingly trade virtue for power, is it possible for Marget to obtain her heart’s desire or is the promise of love only an illusion?

A riveting glimpse into Queen Elizabeth's Court...

Born with the face of an angel, Marget Barnardsen is blessed. Her father is a knight, and now she is to be married to the Earl of Lytham. Her destiny is guaranteed ... at least, it would seem so. But when her introduction to court goes awry and Queen Elizabeth despises her, Marget fears she's lost her husband forever. Desperate to win him back, she'll do whatever it takes to discover how she failed and capture again the love of a man bound to the queen.

Excerpt of chapter one:



Chapter 1


But how could he not like you?"

"He is an earl, Joan!"

"And you, Marget, are to be his countess."

The Midsummer Day sun was hot and absent any breeze. We were sitting on a log at the marsh's edge, our skirts drawn up to our knees, caps resting on the ground beside us. The marsh birds would warn us of any intruder, but there were unlikely to be any wanderers this festive day. We had slipped away from the city's merriment to ponder my rapidly approaching marriage.

In several short months I was to exchange my life as a knight's daughter for life as a countess. That thought still had the power to drain the blood from my face as if January's salt-laden winds were whipping in from the Wash, stealing my breath as they continued on their way.

"Think you. For how many years now have you trained for this?"

"Twelve." It had begun at the age of five. If I whispered the number it was only because, of a sudden, I did not wish for the training to end.

"And now you can ... what are all those things you can do? 'Tis been some time since I heard your father recite them all at my father's tavern."

"He has been busy."

"Aye. The pride of our fair city. The noble merchant-turned-landowner. He has been turning himself in circles, sending hither and thither across the kingdom to catch you a husband. You should be rejoicing at his success."

"But what if—"

"What if what? What if you cannot please him?" Joan's voice was rising, as if my worries were trifles too small to warrant her attentions. "Do you not know a dozen ways to dance? Can you not sing like a songbird? In how many languages can you read? And how many stitches can you work upon a canvas? How can you fail to please him, Marget?"

"If only I could meet him ..."

Joan shrugged. "And what good would that do anyone?"

"What if he is ... aged?"

"Then you will spend less time in bed and more time in delighting yourself with ... all the means of a countess at your disposal."

I could not keep a blush from spreading through my cheeks. "But his first wife—"

"The marriage was annulled. Is that not what you told me?"

"Aye. 'Tis true."

"Then she was no wife to him at all."

"But what if—"

"What if horses could fly? Would that not be marvelous? What if the Queen herself were to trade places with me? Would that not be grand?"

I grabbed her arm and made her stop. Made her turn toward me. "Truly. What if I cannot please him?"

"Are you meaning to ask me if you are to play the role of your mother?"

My fingers tightened around her arm.

"He will not be your father, Marget. You will please him. He will stay in your bed. Is that what vexes you?"

I could not bring myself to nod, but Joan knew me almost better than I knew myself.

"Hear me: there is nothing in you that could make him cast you off."

"But—"

"Hush you. Last time I noticed, earls were still men." She said it as if that settled everything. As if there were no reason for the worries that churned in my belly.

"But—"

"And last time I looked, Marget, you still had the face of an angel." Her gaze softened before she continued on. " 'Tis nothing like my own."

Her words asked for no comment and none was needed. We both knew the truth, had known it since we became friends. God had doled out looks to me with a generous hand, while he had been overly judicious with Joan. Her eyes seemed perpetually tired; her mouth drooped constantly in apparent fatigue. She hunched at the shoulders as if expecting a blow at any moment. Her strengths were abundant—loyalty, honesty, good humor—but they registered not upon her person. My poor, sweet Joan was less than plain. But it seemed not to matter to her one whit. She had always been my protector. I had assumed she always would be. But fate had decreed that in a few short weeks I would be embarking upon a new life without her. And at that moment, that seemed the worst part of the impending change.

"Come." Joan bent to pick up our caps and then took my hand, pulled me from the log, and began to run toward the city's walls, toward the bonfires and the singing and the dancing.

I could do naught but follow.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

It was enough to drive a man mad!

Any nobleman worth his title could write poetry. That was what my tutor had taught me long ago. That was what I had always believed. But then came Philip Sidney and Edmund Spenser, and now rumors of some person named Shakespeare. They had ruined it for us all. It was no longer acceptable to just dash out a sonnet. One must employ mythology and politics, and work for days to cultivate allusions aplenty.

But now, all I needed was a rhyme for carriage.

Her Majesty's comportment, her carriage, could be compared to ... Bah! It had been at the edge of my mind the entire forenoon. Carriage ... carnage.

Nay.

Carriage ... cleavage.

There was no hope for it. It would come. I could feel it, but I might as well do something else, something more productive, until it did. Why did poetry have to require so much work? I was replacing the quill in the inkwell when a knock sounded upon the door, and then it opened forthwith.

It was Nicholas. He was carrying something in his hand. "For you, my lord." He straightened from a bow and extended a document toward me. "From the east, my lord."

The east. Perhaps ... I made quick work in breaking the seal, but then found my eyes could not deal so deftly with the words contained inside. If only my hands would stop shaking.

I spread it on the desk before me but still could not focus on the words long enough to read them. Pushing away from the desk, I gestured Nicholas toward the paper. "Read it."

"My lord." He stood beside the desk and took the letter into his hands. " 'Tis dated King's Lynn this twenty-second day of June. 'To Simon St. Aubin, most gracious lord, Earl of Lytham, I humbly take my pen in hand to—' "

"Aye, aye. Does he accept the terms or not?"

"It seems, my lord that ..."

"An aye or nay will suffice."

"If you could find the patience to allow me the opportunity to simply—"

"You vex me."

Nicholas's lips twitched into the briefest of smiles. "If you would rather have the reading of it, my lord?"

"Nay! And may the devil take you."

"Then ... it would seem as if ..."

"Aye?"

Nicholas held up a finger to stay my words. If he had not been my most trusted friend, I would not have forborne the insolence, but he was my Gentleman of the Horse. And I had marked him as mine in my younger days. Had it not been for my youth's ill temper and the sharp end of a stick, he would now be absent a star of a scar that marred his left cheek.

"What say you?" I asked again.

Using that same finger, he reached down and slid it beneath a line of text. And then, finally, he lifted his eyes to mine. "Aye. After all of that, in the very last phrase, he agrees. You shall have the hand of his daughter in marriage."

"Thank heaven!"

"Congratulations, my lord. It is my fondest hope that the young lady will bring you nothing but happiness."

I looked at him. Though his mien revealed nothing but innocence, I knew him too well. "You mean to say, as opposed to the first young lady?"

Nicholas merely stood there.

I frowned as I regained my desk and removed my quill from the inkpot. "The young lady is of no importance."

"I beg to argue, my lord."

"You have never begged for anything in your life, Nicholas." I looked up just in time to see him hide a smile by tucking his chin into his chest.

"Be that as it may, that young lady shall soon become your countess."

"Aye. 'Tis the manner in which these things generally occur."

"A countess who will represent you. A countess who may bear you an heir."

I put the quill back into the inkpot and turned to look at him. "Pray, be plain."

"As a knight's daughter, her only wish will be to please you. You must not punish her for another's mistakes, my lord."

"Do you think me some cruel tyrant?"

"Nay, my lord. But it was you who said she was of no importance."

"Relatively speaking, Nicholas. 'Tis her dowry that I am after. Her knight-father's riches will allow me to regain Holleystone. If there is anything to rejoice over, 'tis that fact. You and I shall both be going home. 'Tis for that God is to be praised."

After being sold to pay for another's destitution—my brother's, the former earl—Holleystone was once again to be held by its rightful owners. And never again would it leave the family's possession.

Coaxing the lease of my other estate, Brustleigh Hall, from the Queen had been a victory, but the return of Holleystone would be a triumph. It was a shame I would have to marry for that pleasure, but the return of Holleystone was worth any tribulation. Surely the girl could not be so bad as my first wife, Elinor. I gathered those thoughts before they could gallop away from me. Though I had taken Elinor to wife, Parliament had recently annulled that marriage and so, in fact, I had no wife. Had never had. But the Act of Parliament that had expunged a marriage had failed to obliterate the memories ... that the face of an angel could hide a heart so duplicitous ... that beauty could be so deceitful.

It still cost me to think of the ways, all the very many ways, in which she had betrayed me. Though I had tried everything I knew to mend the wound, each thought of Elinor pulled at the edges, threatening to start it bleeding once more. And now I was to bind myself to another woman.

At least this one was just a knight's daughter. Surely I would not be expected to keep her long at court. Just as soon as I was able I would hide the horse-faced young girl away at Holleystone. Would that I could send her to Brustleigh and keep Holleystone for myself, but it seemed it could not be helped.

If Holleystone was personal, a family wrong to be righted, then Brustleigh was for the Queen. The renovations were nearly complete, and with what would be left of the girl's dowry, the remaining work could be finished sooner rather than later. And when it was, I would persuade Her Majesty to visit. With that sign of preference, along with some small sign of the Queen's preferment, then I could finally be first among her courtiers.

Nicholas cleared his throat, a sure sign that I had been ignoring him. "The young lady, my lord."

"What of her?"

"You will not neglect her, my lord?"

"Certainly not! Luck's chosen vessel must be looked after ..."

My thoughts turned toward all the ways in which I might, very soon, become lucky. I might be selected to receive a venerable Garter Knighthood. I might be asked to take a seat on Her Majesty's Privy Council. I might be given another estate or even a chance to purchase a monopoly.

Nicholas coughed.

"What is it?"

"The gifts, my lord."

"The gifts?"

"If you are to be married in several months, then I have only several months to attend to the preparations, my lord. First among them, the gifts."

"What gifts?"

"For the betrothal, my lord. And the morning after."

"Morning after what?"

"Your wedding, you great dunce!"

I waved him away. "Choose something you deem adequate. And since you concern yourself with the girl's welfare, take the gift there yourself."

I am certain he thought I did not see him shake his head over my words; I did. But I could not care. Fortune had finally smiled upon me. My ship had turned its sails toward home. That I would soon be married and have some girl by my side as I sailed could hardly matter.

Marriage.

That was it! Carriage, marriage. Her Majesty's carriage could be compared to a marriage of ... grace and virtue? Of grace and ... beauty? Grace and something. Why did poetry have to come in fits and starts? My only hope was that the more I practiced, the more I wrote, the easier it would become.

As Nicholas left the room, I reviewed the portions of the sonnet I had already written. I had been writing on the subject of Her Majesty, but as I contemplated my future, I decided to write instead about Fair Fortune.

I put the one sonnet to the side and began anew.

Popular Posts

Year of the Dog serial novel

About Year of the Dog : A month or two ago, I remembered an old manuscript I had completed but which hadn’t sold. It was a contemporary romance meant for Zondervan, titled Year of the Dog . The book had gone into the pipeline and I even got another title ( Bad Dog ) and a cover for it, but eventually my editor at the time decided she didn’t want to publish it, for various reasons. She instead requested a romantic suspense, and so I cannibalized some of the characters from Year of the Dog and thrust them into the next book I wrote, which was Protection for Hire . Honestly, I didn’t take a lot from Year of the Dog to put in Protection for Hire , aside from character names and a few relationship ties. I was originally thinking I’d post Year of the Dog as-is on my blog as a free read, but then it occurred to me that I could revamp it into a romantic suspense and change the setting to Hawaii. It would work out perfectly as (yet another) prequel to the Warubozu series and introduce

No Cold Bums toilet seat cover

Captain's Log, Stardate 08.22.2008 I actually wrote out my pattern! I was getting a lot of hits on my infamous toilet seat cover , and I wanted to make a new one with “improvements,” so I paid attention and wrote things down as I made the new one. This was originally based off the Potty Mouth toilet cover , but I altered it to fit over the seat instead of the lid. Yarn: any worsted weight yarn, about 120 yards (this is a really tight number, I used exactly 118 yards. My suggestion is to make sure you have about 130 yards.) I suggest using acrylic yarn because you’re going to be washing this often. Needle: I used US 8, but you can use whatever needle size is recommended by the yarn you’re using. Gauge: Not that important. Mine was 4 sts/1 inch in garter stitch. 6 buttons (I used some leftover shell buttons I had in my stash) tapestry needle Crochet hook (optional) Cover: Using a provisional cast on, cast on 12 stitches. Work in garter st until liner measures

A new tier in my Patreon

I started my Patreon for my fans and for people who didn’t want to buy my books on Kindle. My patrons get each new ebook 2-3 weeks early for only $3 (which is usually the newsletter-only price), and they only get charged when I release a book, not every month. At the moment, I’m releasing my Christian historical romantic suspense series, Lady Wynwood’s Spies. But after I finish that series, I’ll be releasing my Christian contemporary romantic suspense series, the Warubozu Spa Chronicles, and those in my Patreon will be able to get those books early, too. I just added a new $1.00 tier for fans who would prefer to read my books in Kindle Unlimited or buy the Kindle ebook, but just want to support me. Click here to read more about my Patreon. Thank you so much for reading my books!

Year of the Dog serial novel, chapter 9

I’m posting a Humorous Christian Romantic Suspense serial novel here on my blog! Year of the Dog is a (second) prequel to my Warubozu Spa Chronicles series. Year of the Dog serial novel by Camy Tang Marisol Mutou, a professional dog trainer, is having a bad year. While renovating her new dog kenneling and training facility, she needs to move in with her disapproving family, who have always made her feel inadequate—according to them, a job requiring her to be covered in dog hair and slobber is an embarrassment to the family. She convinces her ex-boyfriend to take her dog for a few months … but discovers that his brother is the irate security expert whose car she accidentally rear-ended a few weeks earlier. Ashwin Keitou has enough problems. His aunt has just shown up on his doorstep, expecting to move in with him, and he can’t say no because he owes her everything—after his mother walked out on them, Aunt Nell took in Ashwin and his brother and raised them in a loving Chri

Grace Livingston Hill romances free to read online

I wanted to update my old post on Grace Livingston Hill romances because now there are tons more options for you to be able to read her books for free online! I’m a huge Grace Livingston Hill fan. Granted, not all her books resonate with me, but there are a few that I absolutely love, like The Enchanted Barn and Crimson Roses . And the best part is that she wrote over 100 books and I haven’t yet read them all! When I have time, I like to dive into a new GLH novel. I like the fact that most of them are romances, and I especially appreciate that they all have strong Christian themes. Occasionally the Christian content is a little heavy-handed for my taste, but it’s so interesting to see what the Christian faith was like in the early part of the 20th century. These books are often Cinderella-type stories or A Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett) type stories, which I love. And the best part is that they’re all set in the early 1900s, so the time period is absolutely fasci

Follow Camy on BookBub

Follow my author profile on BookBub! You’ll get an email from BookBub whenever I have a new ebook release and when my books are ever featured there. Click here to go to my Camille Elliot page on BookBub.

ひとり寿司第28章パート2

「ひとり寿司」をブログに連載します! ひとり寿司 寿司シリーズの第一作 キャミー・タング 西島美幸 訳 スポーツ狂のレックス・坂井 —— いとこのマリコが数ヶ月後に結婚することにより、「いとこの中で一番年上の独身女性」という内輪の肩書を「勝ち取る」ことについては、あまり気にしていない。コントロールフリークの祖母を無視するのは容易だ —— しかし、祖母は最終通告を出した —— マリコの結婚式までにデート相手を見つけなければ、無慈悲な祖母は、レックスがコーチをしている女子バレーボールチームへの資金供給を切ると言う。 ダグアウトにいる選手全員とデートに出かけるほど絶望的なわけではない。レックスは、バイブルスタディで読んだ「エペソの手紙」をもとに「最高の男性」の条件の厳しいリストを作った。バレーボールではいつも勝つ —— ゲームを有利に進めれば、必ず成功するはずだ。 そのとき兄は、クリスチャンではなく、アスリートでもなく、一見何の魅力もないエイデンを彼女に引き合わせる。 エイデンは、クリスチャンではないという理由で離れていったトリッシュという女の子から受けた痛手から立ち直ろうとしている。そして、レックスが(1)彼に全く興味がないこと、(2)クリスチャンであること、(3)トリッシュのいとこであることを知る。あの狂った家族とまた付き合うのはごめんだ。まして、偽善的なクリスチャンの女の子など、お断り。彼はマゾヒストじゃない。 レックスは時間がなくなってきた。いくら頑張っても、いい人は現れない。それに、どこへ行ってもエイデンに遭遇する。あのリストはどんどん長くなっていくばかり —— 過去に掲載済みのストーリーのリンクはこちらです。 *** キッチンテーブルの上にごちゃごちゃと置かれている食べ物を見つけた。フルーツが入ったお皿は、すでに子供たちがめちゃくちゃにしていたが、新鮮なマグロの刺身は、巻き寿司の隣にきれいに並んでいた。天ぷら鍋から取り出したばかりのもち粉チキンは、まだ湯気が立っていて、祖母の自家製たくあんが、その隣の小皿に置かれている。 「わあ、叔母さんか誰かが、エビの天ぷら作ったんだわ」トリッシュはエビの天ぷらを紙皿に取った。 レックスはお皿をつかんだ。ここに来た唯一の理由。祖母ですら、美味しい日本食を食べていると

A List of my Free Blog Reads

Curious about what my writing is like? Here’s a list of all my free books and the free short stories, novellas, and novels that you can read here on my blog. I’ll update this post as I add more free reads. Christian Humorous Romantic Suspense: Year of the Dog (Warubozu Spa Chronicles series, Prequel novel) (Currently being posted monthly on my blog as a serial novel) Marisol Mutou, a professional dog trainer, finally has a chance to buy a facility for her business, but her world is upended when she must move in with her disapproving family, who have always made her feel inadequate. When she stumbles upon a three-year-old missing persons case, security expert Ashwin Keitou, whose car she accidentally rear-ended a few weeks earlier, is tasked with protecting her. However, danger begins to circle around them from people who want the past to remain there. Can they shed light on the secrets moving in the shadows? Christian Romantic Suspense: Necessary Proof (Sonoma series #4.1, n

Just another day at youth group

My Christian contemporary romance, Single Sashimi , includes some of the wilder tales from my and my husband’s stints as youth staff workers at our church. The Steven character in the book is actually the same Steven who’s the associate pastor and youth group leader at our church now, since I wrote Single Sashimi when he was still in youth group. :) He’s a young man in his late twenties (maybe early thirties?), and he’s full of great ideas and lots of energy. On one particular Saturday, my husband and I were at youth group as usual. Steven had bought a tug of war rope—the really long, thick kind that looks like it belongs on a sea trawler. The opening game for the kids was, of course, tug of war. Then we came indoors for a three-song worship set. After worship, we usually split up into Junior High and High School for lessons, but this time Steven had an idea: “Okay guys, we’re going to have a tug of war--staff versus kids. If you guys win, we’ll ditch the lesson and go out t

One-Skein Pyrenees Scarf knitting pattern

I got into using antique patterns when I was making the scarf my hero wears in my Regency romance, The Spinster’s Christmas . I wanted to do another pattern which I think was in use in the Regency period, the Pyrenees Knit Scarf on pages 36-38 of The Lady's Assistant for Executing Useful and Fancy Designs in Knitting, Netting, and Crochet Work, volume 1, by Jane Gaugain, published in 1840. She is thought to be the first person to use knitting abbreviations, at least in a published book, although they are not the same abbreviations used today (our modern abbreviations were standardized by Weldon’s Practical Needlework in 1906). Since the book is out of copyright, you can download a free PDF copy of the book at Archive.org. I found this to be a fascinating look at knitting around the time of Jane Austen’s later years. Although the book was published in 1840, many of the patterns were in use and passed down by word of mouth many years before that, so it’s possible these are