By 1 May, I need to have finished the first draft of my novella for the Bluestocking Belles’ next holiday box set. I’ve made a start, posted below. The story (The Bluestocking and the Barbarian) features a hero whose very existence, let alone his courtship, is a scandal to the English ton.
So post me an excerpt about scandal, and share with us all.
“Limp,” James Winderfield said to his horse. “Limp, my lovely, my treasure, my Jewel of the Mountains.”
Seistan obeyed his master’s hand signals, and limped heavily as they turned through the gates of the manor, and began the long trek along the dyke that led between extensive water gardens to where Lady Sophia Belvoir was attending a house party.
In his mind, James was measuring his reasons for being here against his reasons for staying away.
His father had commanded him to marry before his grandfather the duke died of the disease that consumed him, and Lady Sophia was the other half of his soul. He had felt the connection on his third day in England, when they first met, and nothing since had changed his mind. Surely he was not imagining that she felt it too?
On the other hand, Lady Sophia’s brother had threatened to beat him like a dog if he approached either of the Belvoir ladies. The house was owned by his father’s greatest enemy: the man who was challenging James’ legitimacy in the House of Lords. The party would be full of aristocrats and their hangers on, ignoring him until they found out whether he was a future duke or merely the half-breed bastard of one. And Lady Sophia had told him that neither she nor her sister Felicity wished to speak to him.
Her eyes spoke for her, though, finding him as soon as he entered a room, and following him until he left. Blue-grey eyes that veiled themselves when he caught them watching, in the longest soft brown lashes he had ever seen. She was not, as these English measured things, a beauty: her arched nose and firm chin too definite for their pale standards, her frame too long and too slender. They preferred dolls, like her sister, and Sophia was no doll.
The family needed him to marry a strong woman, one with family ties to half the peerage of this land they somehow belonged to, though he had first seen it four months ago; one who was English beyond question and English nobility to her fingertips.
James needed to marry Sophia. When their eyes first met, as he handed her the child he’d rescued from the path of a racing curricle, the shock of their connection had nearly knocked him from his horse. Him. Who had been riding before he was weaned! And then to find she had all the connections his family could desire! Surely their love was fated?
The house came into view—a great brick edifice rising four stories above the gardens, and glittering with windows. Nothing could be less like the mountain eerie in which he had been raised, but he squared his shoulders and kept walking, soothing Seisten who reacted to his master’s hesitation with a nervous sideways shuffle.
“Hush, my Wind of the North. We belong here, now. What can they do, after all?”
Beat him and cast him out, but from what he’d heard of the Duchess of Haverford, that was unlikely to happen.
“It is, after all,” he reminded his horse with a brief laugh, “the season of goodwill.”
The stables were off to one side, on a separate island to the main house. At the fork in the carriage way, James hesitated, tempted to take Seistan and see him cared for before chancing his luck at the house. If they invited him in, he would need to leave his horse to the servants while he consolidated his position.
But if they turned him away, he might need to remove himself at speed, Seistan’s limp disappearing as fast as it appeared. Besides, in the Turkenstan mountains as in England, one did not treat a private home as a caravanserai. He must be sure of his welcome before he took advantage of their stables.