Unequally yoked? Love across the boundaries on WIP Wednesday

brakespearew-youngloversDo you have a pair of star-crossed lovers? If so, what makes their union impossible? Different classes? Different races? Different faiths? Feuding families? Warring countries?

Today on Work-in-progress Wednesday, I’m looking for excerpts in which characters show the chasm they must bridge before they can be with their loved one. My piece is from my story in the Belles 2016 holiday box set.

Ah. Here was his goddess, approaching across a generous entrance hall that appeared at first glance to be full of people, though in truth he counted eight, not including the pair blocking his way inside.

“Felicity, you put me to the blush.” She turned from her sister to address the girl in spectacles. “Allow me to present Lord Elfingham, Miss Ellison.” Then she regarded him with wary eyes. “Have you come for the house party, Lord Elfingham?”

James gathered the wits that had scattered at Lady Sophia’s approach and told his tale of a lame horse and the need for shelter until he could diagnose and fix the problem. The other ladies and gentlemen stopped their work of hanging ribbons, garlands, and wreaths from every available vantage point, and gathered around to be introduced to the scandalous barbarian suddenly in their midst.

James smiled, nodded, and exchanged pleasantries, moving farther into the hall, his back prickling as he found himself surrounded by these polite strangers.

“There is a horse in the forecourt, and it will not move. Odd looking beast. Small head and too long in the back. And one blue eye! Whoever heard of a horse with blue eyes?”

James turned toward the voice at the door, and met the eyes of Nathan Belvoir, Earl of Hythe.

For all his youth—Hythe was three years Sophia’s junior and seven years younger than James—he was head of the Belvoir family, and James would prefer to have his blessing to court the man’s sister. From the hostility in young earl’s blue eyes, it would not be forthcoming.

“My horse,” James explained mildly. “Seistan.”

“The horse is lame, Hythe,” Lady Felicity told her brother, “so Lord Elfingham cannot travel on tonight.” She turned to the young woman in spectacles who had entered behind Hythe. “Will you inform the duchess, Cedrica?” The girl nodded and went back outside.

“He cannot stay here, either,” Hythe declared, his brows almost meeting as he frowned. “You should have stopped in the village, Winderfield, or whatever your name should be. The duchess will not want your sort mixing with her guests.”

James schooled his face to show no reaction. At least two insults in as many sentences: the denial of his title and his legitimacy, and the “your sort” comment. Sophia would doubtless be displeased if he challenged Hythe, or simply punched him.

Or punched Wesley Winderfield, who was grinning like a loon at Hythe’s elbow. Weasel Winderfield was some sort of a distant cousin and had been heir presumptive to the Duke of Winshire after the untimely deaths of the duke’s three sons one after the other, and then of his eldest son’s heir, his only known grandson. Weasel was most disappointed when Winshire’s third son proved to be not nearly as dead as reported, the inconvenience of his return compounded by the tribe of offspring he presented to his father when he arrived in England.

Weasel’s presence here was unfortunate but not unexpected. He was an acolyte of the man most determined to prove James a bastard: the man who owned this house, the Duke of Haverford.


6 thoughts on “Unequally yoked? Love across the boundaries on WIP Wednesday

  1. Poor James! Although I’m guessing he will get his chance to avenge the insults in due course. (I certainly hope so!)

    My offering is below. It’s from the short story I finished this morning, “The Arabian”. The POV character, Stokes, you’ve never met before, but you’ll be glad I’m sure to see our old friend John. It’s set in Gibraltar in 1822, when John was Governor, and this scene shows the moment when Stokes (one of John’s secretaries) realises he and John have something in common — they are divided from their true loves, but by very different obstacles.

    Comments welcome — this is hot off the press!


    Chatham returned to the papers. Stokes decided it was high time he stopped talking and waited for Chatham to finish. To his surprise the Governor looked up after a handful of documents. He peered at Stokes as though trying to remember something, then said, ‘You came out in the spring to relieve Major Marshall, did you not? From Horseguards.’

    ‘Yes, my lord.’

    ‘I heard you are to be married upon your return to England?’

    A strange tingle raced up Stokes’s spine at the words, as it always did when Sophia came to the forefront of his thoughts. ‘I am. To Miss Blake. She is a vicar’s daughter.’

    Chatham looked at him for a moment, an unfathomable look in his eyes. Then he smiled, and Stokes realised how little he had seen the Governor bestow smiles on anyone. Polite lip-curves reeled out for purposes of diplomacy and official relations, yes; but proper, genuine smiles – they were much rarer. ‘Then I am grateful for your services here. It cannot be easy coming so far away when you have someone waiting for you at home.’

    Stokes could not disagree, and only a few days previously just the thought of Sophia would have been enough to reduce him to a homesick wreck. Her portrait around his neck lay against his chest like a weight; instinctively he put a hand to where it lay, resting his fingers against the lapel of his plain civilian coat. Then he saw something he had never noticed before. On the wall behind Chatham’s desk, so low down it was barely visible, and swallowed up among the many engravings of the Bay and the surrounding area, was a tiny miniature of a woman. She had a fresh complexion and bright blue eyes under powdered hair and an enormous hat; she gazed out of the frame with a mysterious smile. Stokes knew immediately who it was, and the pang of pity that lanced through him took him by surprise. Like Chatham, he had wanted nothing more ever since arriving than to climb aboard the first available ship and leave Gibraltar for good. But whereas he had Sophia eagerly awaiting his return, Chatham would never see his wife again.

    For a moment Stokes fancied there was an extra presence in the room, bending over Chatham as he sat at his desk, arms resting lightly on his shoulders. The impression was so strong Stokes could almost see her, and feel the power of Chatham’s loss surging through the room like electricity. He clearly saw the pain behind Chatham’s detachment, indelibly etched into the older man’s features, and wondered why he had never seen it before; wondered, too, how he had missed the fact that Chatham longed for his lost love as much as he did himself.

  2. How about pre-existing marriage? That can be a hard barrier to overcome. This is from The Renegade Wife:

    We. The word hung between them. She couldn’t look away. They stood for a long time in the narrow hallway before he closed the space between them. He moved so gradually that she didn’t realize it until his mouth was inches from hers, his warmth surrounded her, and his eyes searched hers. She couldn’t say if his eyes searched for permission; she couldn’t think at all. There was only awareness of the man, his warmth, and his bedroom door feet away.
    The kiss came gently, a touch, a caress. She let herself feel it, starved for tenderness, and she breathed in his scent—pine and wood smoke. Her hands slid up his rough shirt, around his neck, and into the hair that hung to his collar.
    Long fingers cupped her head, and he deepened the kiss softly, gently, without force. She opened gladly.
    When he began to unbutton her dress, she stiffened and put her hands on his chest to push him away. Perhaps it was the sensation of cold. Perhaps it was the intrusion. Perhaps reason simply asserted itself. Meggy didn’t know what brought her to her senses. She had forgotten much for a few moments, but one fact came to her clearly.
    “I’m married, Rand! Fergus may be a poor excuse for a human being, but he’s still my husband. Nothing changes that.”
    She almost wept when he responded immediately, with respect and concern. He stood back, but he reached out a hand to caress her cheek.
    “I’m sorry, Meggy. You deserve better.” He let his hand drop, moved farther away, and smiled crookedly. “It’s the night and the exhaustion. Things will be back to normal in the morning.” He turned and shut the door to his bedroom firmly behind him.
    Alone in the hall, cold and bereft, her whole body shook.


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