I released my tenth book last week. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it was one of the hardest writing experiences yet as we moved 3 times in less than a year and my son’s social delays became more evident. Thanks to the tireless efforts of my friends and family encouraging me, my beta readers and my editor, the final product was worth it all. I had a good outline for this story when I started it, but every story has surprises. One of the big ones, for me, in this one was that it needed to become a series.
The story of Darcy and Elizabeth’s courtship and early days of marriage exists entirely in Sufficient Encouragement. There’s no cliffhanger with their relationship. However, the minor characters of their family and friends simply begged for stories of their own. You can read excerpts of Sufficient Encouragement on several sites by following my blog tour. Today, I’m sharing excerpts of the next installment of the When Love Blooms series, coming in July.
James Fitzwilliam, Viscount Arlington and eldest son of the fourth Earl of Matlock, almost leaped out of his seat when the crowd at the King’s Theatre applauded. His eyes flew open, and the undeniable truth descended. He had fallen asleep!
“Are you ill, Arlie?” The blonde beauty next to him asked. “You fell asleep again.”
“Perfectly well,” he said. Only his companion was no longer listening as a tall, handsome man entered his box. Arlington recognized the gentleman, Lucas Hopewell, an acquaintance of his who had recently inherited a vast fortune. Sophia had eyes only for the younger—and seemingly more virile—man. Blast it if he was going to lose another mistress.
“Come, Miss Smith, you had claimed not to feel well,” Arlington said as Hopewell approached.
“If you are feeling unwell, then I will not delay you. It would be a crime to deny the stage your talent and beauty.” Arlington waited for the normal rage to emerge, but it did not come. He simply was not that interested in Sophia…or the last several mistresses he had.
“Oh, you are too kind,” she said with fluttering eyes. “I am in perfect health. It was his lordship,” she attempted to whisper,” that is fighting a cold, I believe.”
Not a cold, utter exhaustion at life. Boredom. And fatigue…it was as though his four and thirty years finally caught up with him after a decade of raucous living.
“Then I will bid you good night. Unless that is…Arlington would allow me the honour of escorting Miss Smith home.”
Arlington considered the situation for a moment. He had no exclusivity rights with Sophia. If Hopewell wanted a bite of the unimaginative, ignorant aspiring actress he discovered in a milliner’s shop, he was welcome to her. On Sophia’s side, he could little blame her.
Hopewell had no title but was an independent man of means. Arlington had learned ten years ago there seemed to be only one lady who could be interested in him despite wealth and titles. He had thought himself unable to give up his allowance and marry her as he wished. How did he repay her love and devotion? By having Claire banished to a damp cottage on the coast of Kent and dying of a fever. Now, he lived off investments of his own—refusing Matlock money—and it certainly was insufficient to buy women like Sophia the jewels they craved.
“As you please,” Arlington replied at last and said his goodbyes.
As he left the opera house, he noted the expression of interest of many of the ladies of Quality looking for lovers. They might condemn Sophia, but they traded their virtue for pleasure and money just as much as Sophia and her kind did. Then, there was the sort his brother had briefly been engaged to. They threw themselves at him for his name. Faithless creatures, the lot of them! No amount of begging from his mother to meet Lady Belinda Crenshaw—much accomplished, divinely beautiful and with twenty thousand pounds—could convince him to make marry any more than he would consent to marry his cousin Anne. Their arranged marriage was the beginnings of all his problems.
Richard scowled in the mirror as he awaited his valet’s return. His brother, James, and Darcy had hightailed it off to Hertfordshire, leaving Richard alone against his mother’s machinations. Why Darcy suddenly wanted James at his side Richard knew not. He was Georgiana’s other guardian, and Darcy had spent the better part of a decade avoiding James. But then, James could come and go as he pleased and Richard was bound to a soldier’s life. He had returned last summer from a third deployment to the Continent, and another one was possible.
He examined himself. The uniform covered up his scars and the jovial smile he plastered on his face masked the pain he felt at seeing friends and brothers in arms die on bloody battlefields. And all for what? He had not felt some great duty compel him to fight. Not like other men like his valet, Truman. Nor had he sought glory. He was intended for the church and a rash decision at after the betrayal of a woman sent him fighting Boney as soon as the short-lived Treaty of Amiens was broken.
No sound emitted from his lips but in his black, ugly heart he laughed. He had proved quite a good soldier, quite adept at taking life. To imagine he was capable of helping lead others to an eternal one was beyond ridiculous. It must have been that flaw in him that sent the lovely Julia longing for the arms of the first man she laid eyes on after recognizing the mistake she made in accepting his proposal. Fortunately for Richard, that man had been his brother. While the ton may think he was a rake, James, at least, had the honour to rebuff the lady’s advances and alert Richard. But then, James had been wiser about women than Richard. Now, they both had learned and had it on good authority there was only a handful of decent women on the earth: their mother, their deceased Aunt Anne, their cousins Anne and Georgiana and the only woman who had captured James’ heart, Claire du Val.
“Here is a fresh one, sir,” the voice of Richard’s valet, Jacob Truman, broke his musings and handed him a cravat. “You should quit thinking about her. It will do you no favours this evening,” Truman murmured while studying Richard’s face in the mirror.
Richard did not need to ask who Truman meant or how he had known. The men had served together for half a decade. When Richard found Truman, he was the beaten batman of a cruel colonel who found fault with everything Truman did simply for the color of his skin. The fact that Truman was twice his size and could have had a successful career alongside Gentleman Jackson should have alarmed Colonel Fitzhaven. That Truman did not fight back spoke to his superior character. It was easy enough for Richard to secure Truman’s transfer. Since then, the men had become like brothers and had seen hell together.
Finishing his cravat, Richard shrugged on his jacket. “I intend to leave as early as possible tonight, but if somehow I am prevented do not stay up. I am quite capable of dressing and undressing. Ridiculous that after all we have seen on the battlefield we now have to pretend as though I cannot tie a knot. Then again, perhaps we have been fighting Boney so long because the noblemen lead the military, and they are actually that inept.”
Truman tsked. “It is the way of the world.”
“With any luck, it will not be the way of ours for much longer. Have you thought more about what you will do when your contract is up?”
Truman’s eyes took on a vacant stare. “There is not much of a life for me other than a soldier’s.”
“There is your father’s store,” Richard pushed.
“Far too gentle for the likes of me,” the other man shook his head.
Richard understood the man’s true feelings. Returning to his home and circulating with the people he had once known was impossible for a man still running from the memories of a woman who had done him wrong. Which is precisely why Richard dreaded this evening. The Countess of Matlock was on the hunt to see her sons and nephew married. As Richard boarded the carriage with his parents to attend a dinner at Lord and Lady Crenshaw’s and heard them extol the virtues of the daughter and heiress, Lady Belinda, Richard acknowledged he might rather face another battalion of Frenchies than try to live in polite society with insipid debutantes and cunning widows flung at him. But then, the French could only maim his body and women were a vast deal more dangerous. If he had a heart left, he would be concerned.
Are you half in love already with them already? Mr. Truman also has a story worth telling. The heroines? The captivating Lady Belinda Crenshaw, Miss Anne de Bourgh and a rather surprising Caroline Bingley.
About the When Love Blooms Series
“Love is like a flower, for it is well worth the toil to cultivate it.” She shrugged her shoulders, “Love is beautiful.”
Take a stroll in the garden of love and enjoy the unique blooms of the intersecting lives of the Bennet, Darcy, Fitzwilliam, de Bourgh and Bingley families. Sufficient Encouragement follows Darcy and Elizabeth as they fight to save their love from an unexpected frost while Jane and Bingley’s love grows strong roots. The companion story, Renewed Hope, adds depth to the bouquet with the love stories of Darcy’s cousins and Miss Bingley. The third book in the series, Extraordinary Devotion, follows Darcy and Elizabeth’s marriage while their younger sisters experience a London Season.
Renewed Hope blurb
Sometimes love needs a second chance.
Told against the backdrop of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy’s timeless love story, Renewed Hope continues the story of Sufficient Encouragement through the eyes of three couples experiencing love for the second time.
James Fitzwilliam may be the Viscount Arlington, but ten years ago he walked away from money and prestige to marry a servant girl against his family’s wishes. Unexpectedly, she died, and he has spent the time since trying to forget his loss. At last determining to marry with no hope of love, he settles on his cousin Anne de Bourgh – the very lady he cast aside years earlier.
Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam is a celebrated war hero and has loved only one woman. Her plot to use him to entrap his brother, the heir of a wealthy and powerful earl, crushed him in ways even battle could not. Years have passed, but the wounds remain. He knows better than to trust a lady again but is defenseless against the captivating Lady Belinda Crenshaw. Instead of proving faithless, she proves constant to the naval captain she loved who died at sea mere months ago. As Richard attempts to convince Lady Belinda to love again, his plans for retirement disappear.
Caroline Bingley has not always been mercenary and title grasping. Once upon a time, she was a naïve girl who fancied herself in love with a shopkeeper’s son with poor prospects due to the colour of his skin. When war broke out with France, he chose to prove his patriotism just as Caroline recognized her family would grieve over the match. Breaking the engagement nearly destroyed them both. Meeting Jacob Truman again could be the answer to all their dreams or their worst nightmares.
Sufficient Encouragement is available as ebook on the vendors below. Print should come soon. To read excerpts, follow the link to my blog. Renewed Hope is now available for pre-order for Kindle.