Sufficient Encouragement‘s companion story, Renewed Hope, released the other day. It follows the romances of Darcy’s cousins: Viscount Arlington, Richard Fitzwilliam, and Anne de Bourgh, a surprising Caroline Bingley, and original characters Lady Belinda Crenshaw and Jacob Truman. Each of them face the issue of fighting for love.
In my last post about Renewed Hope, I shared excerpts regarding Arlington and Richard (who are totally swoon-worthy). Today, I’d like to share the original characters, Belinda and Truman.
Belinda is recovering from the loss of her first love, a sea captain who recently died. Truman is Richard’s valet and served with him in the army. He is also the descendant of a freed slave and has never gotten over a broken engagement called off, he believes, due to his poor prospects.
Belinda broke the kiss that was little more than a mere whisper of touched flesh. Somewhere in her chest, she felt a wild thumping, but it could not be her heart. Her heart had shattered with Seth’s death. That possibility terrified her more than the actions she just took. Belinda ran to the other side of the room and behind a settee just as her mother came in.
“Colonel Fitzwilliam, how nice to see you!”
Belinda turned accusatory eyes on him. Instead of acknowledging what happened in any way, he merely bowed at her mother. Belinda took note of how his muscles flexed under his attire. Now, it made sense. Of course, he was not the pampered eldest son. He was the Earl of Matlock’s younger son, celebrated war hero just back from the Continent.
And that was really all she knew about him.
That and that his lips were impossibly soft, his arms incredibly strong, and she would never tire of the look of surprise in his eyes after she had kissed him.
“I came to see if Lady Belinda recovered from her headache. I was sorry she took ill last night.”
Ah, there was the perfectly formal apology he should have started their encounter with. Belinda took a deep breath and sat on the settee. His eyes never left hers. “As you see, Colonel. I am recovered.” She tossed her curls a little. Hoping the insanity that caused her to kiss him would be just as easily shrugged off.
“Yes, then I will leave you,” he stood to leave.
“Oh, it is such a nice day out. Perhaps you would like a stroll in the garden? Belinda loves walking out there.”
“My lady?” he asked and held out his arm.
Resigned, she took it and allowed him to lead her to the garden. As soon as they were away from her mother, Belinda released his arm.
“Colonel,” she began.
“Richard,” he interrupted.
“Excuse me? I cannot call you by your Christian name.”
“Because it would break propriety?”
He said nothing but his raised eyebrow told her his thoughts. He must now think her a loose woman since she threw herself at him and kissed him mere minutes ago. Opening her mouth, tart words ready to drip from her tongue like a sword cutting flesh, she closed it when she saw a twinkle of amusement enter his eyes. She had misjudged him several times in their short acquaintance. Perhaps he did not mean to insult her, and it was merely her own feelings of guilt prickling her conscience.
“Have I confused you again?”
Ooh! He was having too much fun at her expense.
“Oh, no. I am not confused. I, at least, know my own name.”
“I did not claim to be Arlington. You inferred it.”
“Yes, but only because my parents are desperate for me to marry him!” By the way the Colonel’s right eye twitched, she thought her arrow landed too close to the mark. She had aimed to graze, not wound. “Forgive me.”
Richard began dressing and handed Truman articles of clothing to put aside appropriately. After several minutes of silence, Richard spoke. “I had an additional errand today, and that is what I was referring to as ruining. Again. You are a man of the world, Truman. I would welcome your insight.”
“I would not call myself thusly, however, I will gladly assist you in any way.”
“Have you ever been in love?”
The question startled Truman so much, he dropped the cufflinks he was attempting to put away. Truman had heard Richard’s story of a young lady who had done him wrong. However, Truman was less forthcoming than his friend. “A long time ago.”
“It’s easy to guess it ended badly.”
“Indeed. I was mistaken in her affections.”
“That is because women can have no sincere affection.”
“Do you really believe that? Or are you merely angry the one before did not have sincere affection for you?”
“It was not merely Lucy’s betrayal that has shaped my opinion. Through the years, I have seen ladies court wealth and titles above seeking the affections from honourable gentlemen they believe are lesser.”
“I tend to agree with you. However, ladies have much less freedom than gentlemen. They are beholden to their families and even after marriage have little means to independence. Many might settle for contentment instead of risking family disapproval for their heart’s desire. Fortune is relative. There’s no guarantee on it. One wastrel head of the family might dissipate it all. One poor investment might ruin a family.”
“Are you justifying a lady’s pursuit of money at all costs?”
“No. When my love broke our engagement, she said it was out of concern for family approval. Indeed, we already knew her family would disapprove on some extent, and so we planned an elopement. On the eve of the departure, she chose to break our understanding entirely. She said she could not bear to lose her family in such a way.”
Richard grunted. “That may be sensible, but I think if two people are truly in love they would not wait on sense.”
“Could there be lasting happiness without sense?”
Love seems to have missed its mark the first time around. Let’s hope they have better luck the second time! I’m offering a giveaway of one ebook copy of Renewed Hope. Please comment below to enter. Giveaway ends Wednesday, July 26.
If you’d like to go ahead and purchase, the ebook is available here. Print will follow in a few days, available on Amazon.