All he wanted was a kiss. What he got was so much more.
That is the tagline for Charles: To Discover His Purpose, my newest novel, which releases today.
A tagline is supposed to grab our attention as readers and draw us into finding out about the story. Hopefully, it has done its job, and you will continue reading further. 🙂 However, I will warn you from the start that this is going to be a longish post.
Let’s say that the tagline did its job, and we want to know more about the story. That’s where the story blurb or description comes into play. The job of a well-written book description is not to give you the plot in a nutshell. It should hint at what could happen in the story while making you care about the characters and tantalizing you into reading the book to find out exactly what happens.
Let’s take a look at the description for Charles: To Discover His Purpose, but let’s not just read it as you would on a product page or the back of a paperback. Instead, why don’t we read it in pieces with excerpts that illustrate from where that particular portion of the description is taken from in the book. This is why I said the post would be longish.
First, I must tell you that this story is the second in my Other Pens, Mansfield Park episodes which continue the life of Henry Crawford and those characters that share some part in his world after Mansfield Park ends. [This is also the story that is a mac and cheese story — both Austen-inspired and original — as I mentioned in last month’s post.]
Why do I want to tell you that going in? For one, the fact that this is the second book in a series is normally included in the closing paragraphs of the description which encourage a prospective reader to purchase, and I am not planning to share those paragraphs. And two, the first two excerpts that I will be sharing as we go through the description come from Henry: To Prove Himself Worthy because Charles’s story builds on the events of Henry’s story.
With all that in mind, I think we are ready to begin.
First, I will begin by introducing you to Charles Edwards, our hero.
Charles Edwards is no stranger to scandal. He lives an easy, carefree life, floating from one moment of pleasure to another. Or, at least, he did until one fateful night when two young ladies asked him to come to their aid.
Edwards strolled the paths of the garden seeking his quarry. How he had allowed himself to be talked into saving a friend from the clutches of a willing woman, he would never know. It was not as if he was the charitable sort. He smiled. There. Leaning against a tree in the shadows. It was not a lady in a blue dress, but it was the friend he needed to save. This mission should be over quickly. Then, he could be on his way back inside where he was certain a game of cards and some poor chap’s money were awaiting him.
“Crawford,” he called as he drew closer. “Are you alone?”
“As you can see,” Henry returned.
“Did you come out here with your sister?” Edwards took up a piece of tree trunk next to his friend and affected the same easy pose Henry wore.
“I came out here to avoid her,” Henry replied. “She has been at my heels all night.” He turned toward Edwards. “Why? Are you looking for her?”
Edwards shook his head. “No, I was looking for you and some lady in blue.”
“I beg your pardon?”
Edwards shrugged. “Linton’s sister and her friend Miss Barrett cornered me and persuaded me to help them find you and save you from having your reputation ruined by some lady in blue. Apparently, neither lady was concerned with my reputation being ruined.” He wore a wide grin.
There were several questions that Edwards’s explanation raised in Henry’s mind. But the most pressing one was —
“How, precisely, did they persuade you?” The question rumbled from Henry, for he knew that his friend was not known for bestowing favours without expecting one in return.
Edwards chuckled. “You nearly growled that as well as Linton would. I do believe you have left me to be the only disreputable one among our group.”
“How?” Henry rumbled again.
Edwards shrugged. “Miss Linton asked, and I obliged.”
“Just like that?”
Edwards blew out a breath. He had surprised himself with how easily he had capitulated to her request. He had thought to demand at least a kiss for his service ? not from Linton’s sister ? he did not have a death wish ? but from her friend. He smiled at the thought of those perfectly pink lips. Those were lips he wished to taste at some point.[from Henry: To Prove Himself Worthy]
Since then, Charles has been hiding from society until his injuries heal…
Henry scowled at Edwards. “You promised not to say anything about that.”
Edwards let out a short burst of laughter. “When Linton has you by the neck, you say what you have to say to retain your life.”[from Henry: To Prove Himself Worthy]
…which is what he was attempting to do when one of those ladies – the one with the kissable lips – re-enters his life.
Charles Edwards squinted into the late afternoon sun – it was an action that he could almost do without any discomfort. The swelling around his eye had subsided, and soon, the bruising would fade to a nasty yellow and then disappear. Until that happened, he would continue to take his rides by wandering from one street to the next rather than face the taunting and questioning looks he was guaranteed to receive in the parks.
While it was an excellent way to avoid censure from his peers, it was dashed boring trotting up and down streets without so much as a single friend with whom to converse. Had he earned his scars more gallantly, perhaps he would not feel the need to hide them. To have been injured in a boxing match or defense of some lady’s honor would make his bruises more of a badge than a blemish. However, since everyone in town had likely read that blasted article in the paper, the raised eyebrows from overprotective matrons and giggles from their charges would be unbearable. And then, there would be the gentlemen. He shook his head. Had he received a blackened eye from Trefor Linton for actually doing something inappropriate with Linton’s sister, Constance, his friends would just laugh and clap him on the shoulder before filling his glass with some libation at his club.
But, he had not been caught doing anything improper. In fact, it was much worse than just not being found dallying with a debutante. He had been attempting to be gallant. He would do his best not to be put in such a situation again! Honourable actions and favours to ladies who were offering none in return must be avoided, for they only led to broken noses, disgrace, and lonely rambles up less well-to-do streets.
Charles drew his horse to a stop just in front of a carriage that was standing at the ready to receive a lovely young woman. He had not bothered to take note of her since this was not the part of town where the finest flowers of the season resided.
“Miss Linton,” he said doffing his hat. “Is Crawford with you?” He nodded to the carriage.
“No,” Constance Linton replied with a smile, “though he very much wanted to be. It is just Evelyn and me.”
His brows furrowed. Evelyn? The name sounded familiar.
“Miss Barrett,” Constance clarified.
“Ah, Miss Barrett. Of course. How negligent of me to not remember.” How had he managed to forget her name? He certainly had not forgotten her perfectly pink lips or lithe figure…the same figure that was exiting the house to his left. She was perhaps the most enticing creature he had ever met and never sampled.
Miss Barrett’s lips formed such a wonderfully kissable o.
“Mr. Edwards,” she greeted with a small curtsey. “Are you here to visit Mrs. Verity and the children?”
His brows furrowed again. “Mrs. Who?”
“Verity,” Evelyn repeated. “She runs this home for children.” She motioned toward the house.
“I did not know this was a home for children.” His left brow rose in question. “Why are you here? None of these children are yours, I would assume.”
Her eyes grew wide, and she gasped. “We are not all as reprobate as you, Mr. Edwards.”
He leaned forward, nonchalantly admiring her look of utter indignation. “Then, what, pray tell, are proper young ladies such as yourself and Miss Linton doing here?”
“Charitable work. You do know what that is, do you not?”
He chuckled. Miss Barret was not the sort to shy away quietly to her corner and leave him be. He liked that. “I have heard the term.”[from Charles: To Discover His Purpose]
Side note: If you have read Two Days Before Christmas, you might recognize the name Mrs. Verity. This is, indeed, the same person, and it might be entirely possible that some of the characters from that book will make an appearance in this one. Entirely possible 😉 😉
Now that you know who Charles is, it is time to introduce you to Evelyn Barrett, our heroine.
Evelyn Barrett loves nothing better than assisting others. Therefore, when she is presented with the possibility of guiding a shiftless gentleman toward improving himself, she just can’t refuse. It should be an easy task. All she needs to do is sidestep his charm and ignore is good looks while pointing him in the right direction.
“I thought you might not be here tonight.” Constance wrapped her arm around Evelyn’s as they stood together at the edge of the ballroom.
“I was nearly forbidden,” Evelyn replied. “Mother was not pleased that I was civil to Mr. Edwards last night.”
Constance chuckled. “Civil?”
Evelyn shrugged. “Mother called it being overly friendly. I considered my actions appropriately civil.”
“You did not argue with her, did you?”
“I am here, am I not?”
“Then you did not argue?”
Evelyn shook her head. “I did not dare. It was not easy, I can assure you, but I remained silent and only nodded my agreement.”
Her mother had gone on and on about speaking to Mr. Edwards for a full ten minutes when they were in the carriage. Evelyn’s tongue was still tender from having held it between her teeth for that long. However, it was a small discomfort that could be overlooked if it kept her from being confined to home rather than here with Constance.
“She feared that someone saw us speaking in our box,” Evelyn added.
“That is possible,” Constance replied.
“He was sitting next to your brother, and I was not the only one to speak to him. I do not know why my mother must assume that one word spoken to Mr. Edwards will ruin me forever.” She shook her head.
“Do you like him?”
“What? No! Why should you think that?” Had everyone lost all sense when it came to Mr. Edwards?
“I was merely curious.”
Constance looked away. It was a sign to Evelyn that her friend was not being completely honest.
“Why are you curious?” Evelyn asked.
“Why are you trying to encourage him to take on a charity?”
Evelyn had been wondering that very thing herself. “I do not know,” she answered honestly. “Mother said that he is a ship without a mast, just floating along without purpose.” She turned to face her friend. “How can anyone – anyone – be content to live like that?”
Constance laughed. “You are not attempting to reform him, are you? Not everyone feels the same need you do to be involved in so many projects.”
“Not as much as you. I enjoy a project, but one at a time is enough for me. You, on the other hand, would be bored without at least three projects in progress and another two in waiting.”
It was true. Evelyn loved to be busy, and she relished the feeling of accomplishment she felt when she had bettered someone else’s life.
“Do not make him a project,” Constance whispered.
“You are a fine one to talk,” Evelyn muttered. Constance had taken on Mr. Crawford as a project, which was why she was now betrothed to the man. Evelyn, who had been considering saying more on the subject, snapped her mouth closed. Constance was probably right. Such a thing could be dangerous. “I do not intend to make him a project, I merely suggested he consider doing something with his life. I will do no more.”
Next, I need to tell you about some possible conflict.
However, Charles has no intention of taking Evelyn’s advice and then leaving her alone. A gentleman determined to claim a kiss from a lady must ingratiate himself with the lady. And that is where the trouble begins.
The next morning, Charles rose much earlier than was his normal wont. It was a task which had been made somewhat easier by having retired to his bed well before he would normally have sought its comfort. After leaving the ball, he had stopped at his club, played a few hands of cards, enjoyed more than was likely his proper share of port, and then, after shaking hands over some bet, the details of which utterly escaped him now, he had made his way home where he startled his servants and had to assure his man more than once that a physician did not need to be called.
“You wish to dress now?” His valet wore the same look of skepticism about his master’s health that he had worn last night.
Charles smirked and nodded. “Yes, Finley, I do. There is a young woman who must be charmed. However, she is not the sort to wait until some civilized hour or activity such as dinner or driving in the park to be worked upon.”
Finley visibly relaxed at the comment.
“She runs some sort of servant repository at Eiddwen House,” Charles continued.
“Miss Barrett?” Finley asked in surprise.
Charles splashed water on his face. “You know her?”
“Many do, sir. She helped my sister find a place in a good home.”
Charles’s brows furrowed as he handed the towel back to Finley. The man looked like he had more he wished to say but would not.
“What is it?” Charles asked.
His man shook his head. “It is nothing, sir. I am certain you know what you are about.”
“I am about charming a kiss from the lady.” He watched as a fleeting shadow passed across Finley’s face. “You think I should not?”
“I could not say, sir.”
“You can, and you will, or Miss Barrett can find you another place.”
Finley stopped midway between Charles’s bed and the wardrobe, with boots in one hand and a jacket in the other. “You will not send me packing if I speak freely?”
“No. I prefer you be direct with me.” He held up a hand as a thought occurred to him. Finley had only been with him the greater portion of a year now. “How did you get this position?”
The man’s smile was sheepish. “Someone at Eiddwen House had heard it was open, and so I applied.”
Charles crossed his arms. “So, you feel you owe Miss Barrett two good turns? One for your sister and one for yourself?”
“Something like that, sir.”
“And I am not a good turn?”
The man shook his head. “You tend to love a lady and then leave her, sir. Miss Barrett is too kind to be treated so. Other ladies might not be affected by such tactics, but Miss Barrett does not play games, sir.”
Charles glanced up from stuffing his shirt tales into his trousers. He was positive he had never seen a more concerned look on his man’s face – not even when Trefor Linton was pulling Charles from his bed and threatening his life if he did not marry Constance.
“She is pretty,” he said at last.
“Yes, sir, she is that, but she is also kind.”
It was true. She was downright beguiling and yet, from everything he had heard or seen of Miss Barrett, she was kind, and that was not always something that accompanied a pretty face during the season.
“You said I could speak freely?”
Finley handed Charles his left boot. “She deserves to be loved and kept safe. I should be very sorry to see her heart broken.”
With a final tug and a stamp of his foot, Charles’s boot was comfortably in place. “I have no intention of engaging her heart. I only wish to steal a kiss. Nothing more.”
Finley’s eyebrows rose as he handed the jacket to his master.
“You fear that I cannot do that without causing her harm.”
“She is so kind,” Finley replied.
“So, you have said.” Charles pulled his sleeves straight as Finley smoothed the back of the jacket. “I shall do my best to not cause her harm. I can promise no more than that. She is too tempting.”
His man sighed.
As the two spend time together, desires increase, affections are engaged, and Charles’s end goal shifts.
“She is very demanding.”
“Much like her mother?”
“Precisely,” he punctuated the word with his lifted cup. “But far more kissable.”
“Yet, you did not kiss her hand.”
“Strange thing that.” He shook his head. He still was not entirely certain why he had foregone such an opportunity. He had never hesitated to press his admiration of a lady in such a way. He shook his head again. She was different. He did not know why or how, but Miss Barrett was different. The same scheme as he always played would not work with her, nor – his brows rose – did he wish it to.
“As I was saying,” he began again, “I have promised to alert her if I hear of any quality positions for valets or groomsmen, and I am asking you to tell me if you hear of any. It is a good thing she is doing there at that house.” He turned back to the window. “Not a piece of money exchanges hands,” he added. “I am considering making a donation.”
There was a spitting and sputtering behind him.
“Yes, a donation,” he answered the shocked question that was drowning in Henry’s incorrectly swallowed tea. “I know I do not offer up my funds on anything easily, except a lark of a bet, but…” He turned toward Henry. “I believe I might actually be able to do some good. Me. How is that for a shocker? Charles Edwards, philanthropist.” He shrugged. “And it might well earn me that kiss I desire.”
Henry sighed. “It is a dangerous game, my friend,” he cautioned. “I know full well just how dangerous.”
Charles pushed the comment away mentally, attempting not to let it settle in his mind, but it was there, lounging at the edge of his consciousness. Why it should even remain for a moment in his thinking was odd. It was likely because it did not come unaccompanied. No, it brought with it the image of pursed lips and contained amusement in a pair of beautiful green eyes which had also shone with compassion and enthusiasm when Miss Barrett spoke of the work she was doing at Eiddwen House. And while he craved a taste of those lovely pursed lips more than he ever remembered craving anything else, there was a gnawing fear deep in his belly that such a taste would steal from her, and him, the animated beauty he had witnessed in her eyes.
And finally, I should leave you wondering about the outcome.
But will his scandalous past be the very thing which keeps him from achieving what he desires…
She tore the paper in half once, twice, three times before tossing it in the grate and crumbling the dried flower petals on top of it. What a fool she had been to think that he had changed.
…or will he find himself at the beginning of a new scheme and direction for his life?
“If, someday, I should be so fortunate as to earn your good opinion as well as your heart, you have only to tell me, and I will be yours for time and eternity”.
So how did I do? Did the description and excerpts pique your interest? I hope they did, but let me know in the comments, and be entered to win an eBook copy of BOTH Henry: To Prove Himself Worthy and Charles: To Discover His Purpose. Contest closes at 11:59 PM Eastern on Tuesday, September 4, 2018.
Charles: To Discover His Purpose is available in ebook now at your favourite retailer. The print version will be along shortly.