In my stories, I quite often have a rival for the position of beloved. Usually one that the hero or heroine would not consider, and often a villain or villainess. It adds a certain something to contrast my innocent heroine with a nasty harpy, or my honourable hero with a wicked deceiver.
Lots of authors do the same, from what I’ve observed, so today, I’d love to see a snippet of a scene with someone who is NOT the one.
Mine is from House of Thorns. My hero is seeking help for the lady who has injured her ankle at his house, going to the only two people he knows in the village: the man who acts as steward for the property he has purchased, and the man’s sister.
“I am not here about Miss Neatham’s housing, though she must find her new accommodations very poor after Rose Cottage. Could you not find her anything more suitable?”
“In an instant, if she can afford to pay. She has no income, Gavenor, and will not be able to afford the place she is in for long.”
“Pride is cold comfort when the roof leaks.” The new voice was redolent with satisfaction. This would be Pelman’s sister. No fairy this one — rather, a hearty country-woman with the undefinable resemblance to a well-bred horse that seemed to characterise the type.
“Livia. Allow me to present Mr Gavenor, the gentleman who has purchased the Hurley estate. Gavenor, my sister.”
Bear bowed. “Charmed, Miss Pelman.”
She simpered. “Mr Gavenor, how delightful that you have joined our little community.” She prattled on about the paucity of social equals and the joys of a visit to Liverpool, not far distant across the Mersey.
That was a prime attraction of the estate. Many of those making their fortunes in Liverpool’s shipping and woollen industries would want to a country place to mark their arrival in the netherworld between their middle class origins and the upper classes who would never accept them. And Thorne Hall was ideally suited, though not if your interests were in London. The new Baron Hurley was a London man to the bone, and had been glad to get rid of the place. Bear had paid a price that would make him money even if he had to raze the ruin to the ground and start again.
Miss Pelman was attempting to dig into his plans. He ignored the hints; time enough for her to disapprove when they were accomplished.
“You may be able to help me, Miss Pelman,” he said.
“Pelman told me you have need of a housekeeper, Mr Gavenor, and I would be willing to fill the position. On a temporary basis, as a favour. You understand that I would need maids to do the actual work, of course.”
“I do not need a housekeeper, Miss Pelman. Though it is kind of you to consider it.”
“Oh? Then you have someone?”
“I have my manservant. No, Miss Pelman, that was not the favour. I…” He stopped to consider his words before he put himself and Miss Neatham in the suds. “I happened to chance on a Miss Neatham, who has twisted her ankle and is unable to return to her home tonight. I offered to check on her elderly father, and found him in some distress. Can you recommend a neighbour who might be willing to look after him for the night, until Miss Neatham is able to make appropriate arrangements?” There. That was all true enough without giving this witch some scandal to hold on to.
But it didn’t satisfy.
“Miss Neatham? Rosabel Neatham? Where is she staying? Who is she staying with?”
“A cottager has taken her in,” Bear said. “Terrible weather to be out in, too. The lady is fortunate she was close to somewhere dry.”
“Lady! Well some might call her a lady, I suppose.”
“Mr Neatham, Miss Pelman?”
“I suppose Mrs Able might oblige. She does sick bed nursing and laying out and the like. I shall give you a note. No. Better. Wait for me to get my cape and I shall take you.”
“Thank you. I won’t ask you to come out in this rain. A note and directions, and I shall manage perfectly.”
“Not at all, my dear Mr Gavenor. Why, we are neighbours now, and one must help ones neighbours. I insist.”