So, how has your 2020 been so far?
What a question to ask, isn’t it? When we were busy making our New Years resolutions, back what feels like a lifetime ago, could anyone have imagined we would be in the position we are now? We are facing a worldwide pandemic, unprecedented interruptions to our daily lives, and economic upheaval on every side. Every day seems to bring a new challenge and unforeseen circumstances we would never have dreamed of just months ago. And yet here we are, taking it one day at a time.
My little corner of the world has been as affected by this as much as anyone else’s. I am now working from home full time, going to church online and taking karate classes by Zoom. I’m learning new technologies and dealing with two new office mates (the furry type) who are anything but considerate when I’m on a conference call!
But there have been blessings as well. My family is all safe and healthy. Our son is living with us again until his school can reopen. I have had time to connect with old and new friends in ways I didn’t before. My house is cleaner than it has been in many years! And I have had time to break out some of my old recipes and think about other hobbies that went by the wayside while our children were growing up. Yes, there are some things that I will about this time when it is over.
One of the best things from the last five weeks has been my newest book, Margaret of Milton. I sent it off to my editor amidst news of lock downs and quarantines. Waiting for it to come back was a distinct pleasure every day, something to look forward to and to take my mind off the outside world. Now here we are, five weeks later, and it is almost time to launch!
So first, let’s do the cover reveal! Then I’ll have an excerpt and, finally, a giveaway!
Do you like it? I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it! I hope you like it too.
Margaret of Milton is a North and South variation. In this story Margaret Hale loses her father unexpectedly and must marry the man she refused months earlier- the same man who has said no longer cares for her. At the same time John Thornton is compelled by his sense of honor to offer his name and a home to the woman he believes is in love with another man. How will our couple find their way to happiness and love in a union born of obligation?
If you’re thinking that this sounds suspiciously like an entire sub genre of Pride and Prejudice fan fiction, you’re right! North and South has some close parallels to Jane Austen’s most popular novel. If you’re curious about the similarities between the two novels, here are some links for further reading.
In the following excerpt Thornton and Margaret, not yet married, meet unexpectedly at the post office. Thornton questions Margaret about a deceit he knows she carried out, while Margaret tries to defend herself without betraying the person she lied to protect. Misunderstandings abound throughout this story!
“Mr. Thornton, I am grateful for the way you protected my reputation during the inquest. I know what you must believe of me. However, I wish you would not jump to conclusions. I must ask you not to judge on appearances.”
Thornton frowned, but Margaret continued speaking. “I am guilty of deceit but nothing more. I have done nothing I am ashamed of, and nothing I would not do again.”
Thornton’s anger rose. “I thought you had better character than that,” he said fiercely. “I never expected to hear a lie from you, of all people!”
His voice had risen along with his intensity, and his words carried farther than he intended. The heavyset woman who had nearly knocked Margaret down earlier turned around to look askance between her and Thornton. When neither Margaret nor Thornton answered her unspoken questions, she shook her head doubtfully and turned to face the front once more.
Thornton waited until she faced completely forward before speaking again, keeping his voice more controlled this time. “I do not understand how you can admit to behavior that endangered your reputation and yet insist that you did no wrong.”
“If you knew the circumstances I do not believe you would condemn me.” Margaret lifted her chin stubbornly.
“I wish I knew the circumstances. I wish you could bring yourself to confide them to me.”
“I cannot do that without betraying another person’s secret!”
“Does this other person’s secret mean that much to you? Is another man worth the sacrifice of your character?”
Margaret lifted her beautiful, reproachful eyes to his, but she said nothing. Instead she turned away from him, letting the proud set of her shoulders answer for her. Thornton knew he had struck a nerve. He decided to push further, stepping fractionally closer to her. “Was the man on the platform the same person who was at your house the day I tried to call?”
Margaret raised her face again at those words, and this time there was unmistakable alarm in her wide eyes and parted lips. Thornton knew his guess was correct. “Never mind,” he added, with just a hint of bitterness. “I know you will not tell me.”
The line moved just then, and Margaret was relieved to turn her back on Thornton as she took a step forward. Their conversation was becoming too intense, too personal. She heard him step behind her and sensed his presence very near, close enough to touch. “Margaret,” she heard, in a voice just barely above a whisper. It was so soft that she wondered if he had actually murmured her name or if the sound had come from her own active imagination. She could almost feel his breath on her ear. “Margaret, dearest Margaret. I may be uncouth and hard, but I would never have led you into any falsehood for my sake.”
Margaret stifled a gasp. She would have given a great deal at that moment to look behind her and see if Thornton had actually spoken. Perhaps his passion for her had not died. Perhaps it lay just underneath the surface, a dormant seed, waiting for some unknown touch of nature to bring it forth once again. Or perhaps it was all in her mind. Her heart fluttered involuntarily to think that, in spite of everything, this stern man might still hold her dear.
Nothing further was said between them until they reached the front of the line. The heavyset matron in front of Margaret stepped up to the counter, leaving a little space between her and Margaret, and Margaret finally turned to partially face Thornton.
“Mr. Thornton, despite the disagreements between us I would ask you a favor. Since mother’s death my father has been quite cast down. He avoids company and has few visitors. Sometimes he goes almost an entire day speaking only to me. You are nearly the only friend he has in Milton. Would it be too much to ask you to consider calling on him as you used to?”
Thornton considered her words, looking down thoughtfully at her upturned face. “I might consider it, if my work schedule permits.”
“It would mean a great deal if, for my father’s sake, you could agree to forget what has passed between us. If you wish I could even arrange to be out of the house when you call.”
Thornton shook his head. “That will not be necessary, Miss Hale. I would never impose myself on you if my presence would make you uncomfortable.”
“My feelings are not important in this situation, Mr. Thornton. The only thing that matters is lifting my father’s spirits.”
Thornton’s heart warmed at her words. Her selfless attitude was one of the things that he admired so much in this woman. “Your feelings matter to me, Miss Hale, as do those of your father. If you are absolutely certain that my presence would not be a burden to you, I will come to lessons once again.”
Margaret smiled gratefully. She had not expected such an easy capitulation.
“Perhaps,” Thornton added carefully, “perhaps you might also see fit to join us in our discussions of Greek philosophy from time to time.”
Margaret’s smile grew wider as her starry eyes gazed up at him, and Thornton nearly forgot to breathe. “I would like that- very much.”
“Then you can expect to see me this evening, Miss Hale, if you will be home.” He bowed slightly.
Margaret gave a nod of assent and faced forward again, leaving Thornton nearly overcome. He could scarcely believe what had just passed between them. Had Margaret really invited him to come to Crampton? Had he just agreed? Who would he be calling on- Margaret’s father or on Margaret herself? It might very well be both! He had no idea how to explain the situation even to himself, and he could not imagine what his mother would say when she found out. But he had now given his word, and he would honor it. He would call on the Hale family in their home this very evening! He only wished that it was already nighttime.
The heavyset woman finished her business at the counter and the clerk called Margaret forward. Margaret asked if there were any letters for the Hale family and Thornton noted that she received a thick missive addressed to her and her father in a feminine hand. No doubt it was one of their relatives, perhaps from an overseas location, judging by the exotic postage in one corner. Margaret’s face was alight with pleasure as she tucked it into the pocket of her heavy shawl.
Then Thornton saw her remove a letter from her reticule and place it on the counter in front of the clerk. “I would like to post this letter, please. What will the cost be?”
The clerk eyed the address, squinting to make it out. “How far is it going, miss?”
“It is going to Spain.”
The clerk picked up the envelope in his hand, peering at it from under thick brows. “Can’t hardly read the direction.”
“I am sending it to Cadiz,” said Margaret patiently. “What postage must be paid?”
“Have to weigh it first.” The clerk indicated the scale next to him but did not place the letter on it. He squinted at the writing even more. “We don’t get many letters headed for that country through here. What be the name on it?”
“What does it matter?” Margaret answered, now a trifle annoyed. “All I need to know is the postage due.”
“If I can’t make the name out, then how do you expect them Spaniards to?” Thornton thought the man was making a feeble joke, but Margaret suddenly looked worried instead of amused.
“Please just tell me the amount I must pay,” she said, with a quick glance in Thornton’s direction. He frowned as a quick suspicion rose in his mind. Margaret looked away from Thornton again and leaned over the counter to say something to the clerk in a hushed voice.
“Begging your pardon, miss,” the clerk answered more respectfully. “I meant no disrespect. Let me see how much this weighs.”
Margaret did not glance back again as she counted out the amount the clerk named. Without looking at Thornton she turned away from the counter and swept out the door, her skirts trailing grandly behind her. Thornton stared darkly after her, his lip curling in disdain. He knew without being told that Margaret was still protecting the man from the train platform, her lover, the gentleman from Cadiz.
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt! Please comment for a chance to win the paperback version of this story!!! Three winners will be picked, and the contest will end at 10PM EST on Friday, May 1st. Good luck to everyone!