Henry handed her up into his curricle before climbing up next to her. “You are certain you do not mind being seen in public with me?” He had surprised himself by worrying a great deal, as he tossed and turned on his bed last night, about how she would be viewed by the ton if it appeared he was courting her. He had not courted a lady for any noble purposes in the past. He had feigned honorable intentions, but he had only one thing in mind — capturing the affections of the young lady as far as she would allow him to capture them and her. He had never been serious in his pursuit of any lady, and that is what the ton knew. They did not know that he was a man on a mission to change his ways.
Constance smiled and shook her head while a nervous flutter took up residence in her belly. She had discussed with her aunt what the gossips might say, but her aunt had assured her that with a brother such as Trefor and Connie’s own exemplary behavior, there would be little on which the wagging tongues would be able to build their stories, save, of course, for Henry’s previous behaviour. However, Aunt Gwladys had insisted that his new behaviour and respectable ways would soon over shine all that.
“I had only wished for you to tell me my errors and help me figure out how to overcome them. I did not mean for you to become so actively involved in my education.”
“It is one drive, and I am confident not many will take notice of me.” Constance was not certain if she was attempting to reassure him or herself. “And it they do, they know my brother.”
Henry nodded slowly. Trefor Linton was known for being upstanding. He never gambled to excess nor was he given to drinking or flirting. “I dare say they will notice me and, therefore, you,” Henry cautioned. “It might be best if we just retired to the drawing room, and you wrote me a list of things to do and things to avoid.”
She tipped her head and studied the set of his jaw. There was a muscle that was twitching. He seemed genuinely nervous about where they were and what they were doing.
“You are not afraid to be seen with me, are you?” she teased, causing him to cast a surprised glance her direction.
The twinkle in her eye and the way her lips puckered as she attempted to keep from smiling caused him to draw a quick breath as he reminded himself of whose sister Constance was. No matter how fetching she might look, he was not to indulge his appreciation of her.
“I am not afraid to be seen with you, but I am rather worried about your being seen with me. I am not the best catch of the season.” He glanced her way again. She was smiling broadly.
“Not yet, but you will be,” she said with a laugh. Then turning more serious, she asked quietly, “You are genuinely concerned about my reputation?”
“I am.” He gave her a crooked smile. “And not just because your brother promised to run me through if I damaged it. You deserve to make a good match, and I should wish to run myself through if I were the cause of your not being able to make one.”
“It is one drive,” she assured him.
He shook his head. “And one musical, and one trip to the theater, and one ball, and one whatever other thing your aunt thinks I need to experience before I am deemed worthy to be on my way.”
“All will be well. We shall weather the whispers together.” She smoothed her skirts and turned her eyes toward the road. “I do enjoy your company.”
“You are far too good.” He saw a smile pull at the corner of her mouth, and he could imagine the sparkle that was likely in her sapphire blue eyes.
“Yes, I am, but then, that is why you chose me,” she replied.
So begins a collaboration between Constance Linton and Henry Crawford. One intent upon learning the ways of a respectable gent, and the other equally as intent up on seeing her student succeed. With both parties working toward a common goal, it would seem a rather open and shut case.
But change is not normally all that neat and tidy.
Change requires effort, and change can only become more than a desire when it is tested. It is not in the quiet, peaceful moments when all is going well when change is apparent. It’s fairly simple to act a part when nobody is questioning if your demeanor is genuine or merely a facade. However, when the clouds gather and the road becomes rutted and muddy, that is when change shines forth like a beacon for all to see.
So it is in this story.
As this story begins, Henry Crawford has already endured his pivotal changing moment of failure. He was tested in Mansfield Park and found wanting. When he is faced with either taking care of things at his estate as he had told Fanny he would or staying in town to attend a party as his sister suggests, he chooses to satisfy his curiosity and so begins his downfall. The change that he had begun to affect while attempting to court and win Fanny was either merely a facade or rooted in shallow soil and not yet strong enough to withstand a test. No matter the reason, the result was the same. Henry’s change was not of an enduring nature.
However, as is often the case, failure can be the very thing that instigates success, and in Henry’s case, as I have written it, failure — painful, agonizing failure — has become the catalyst for his eventual redemption.
In the excerpt above, we can see that Henry’s change is more than a facade. He has spent time worrying about Constance’s reputation if she is seen with him. He knows how he is viewed by society, and he would rather take a different path to achieving what he wishes than put her at risk. This means that he is putting someone else’s needs before his own desires, and that marks an important internal change in him.
This does not mean that facing any opposition that arises, whether from within or without, will be done easily, but it does mean that those roots of change are not sitting in shallow soil.
And testing will come.
The remainder of the drive to his home was spent in remonstrating himself and pointing out his weaknesses. So effective was his self-deprecation that by the time he had entered his own library, he wished only for a large bottle of fiery liquid — the fierier, the better — to burn from his memory the image of lips parted slightly, wide blue eyes watching him as he spoke, and breasts rising and falling as her breathing slowed and deepened. She was not a lonely wife or a bored widow. She was an innocent — a respectable, virtuous lady. He crumpled the list she had given him and tossed it into the fire. It would be better for one and all if he once again locked up his heart and went back to pleasing himself as his uncle taught him.
It is at this moment when Henry will be required to make a choice. And really, that’s what change boils down to in its simplest form — choice, one solitary choice, made by you and no one else, after another.
What does Henry decide? And how does this decision affect his path to happily ever after? I’m not saying. You’ll have to read the book to find out. 🙂
If you would like to be entered to win the one ebook copy of Henry: To Prove Himself Worthy that I am giving away, be sure to leave a comment below.
Giveaway closes at 11:59 PM EST on Tuesday, September 5, 2017.