First impressions on WIP Wednesday

I’m just finishing the short story to go out with my next newsletter, so I thought I’d choose something from that for my WIP Wednesday.

Give me an excerpt that tells me what one of your characters thought about another the first time they met.

My story is called A Gentleman Honours His Debts, and starts when the Earl of Bridgethorne takes passage on the ship where his bride has been hiding since she ran away a week after their marriage. This excerpt is a bit of backstory.

Leticia Fanshaw was one of three wallflowers Dickon danced with that first evening at the Bellowes house party. He’d almost passed her by; her discomfort when they were introduced rousing his pity but dousing any potential interest. This year, unlike the previous five, he had a stronger motive than the pleasures of the dance for his exercises on the dance floor. This year, he was in the market for a bride.

Not that he intended for any of Society’s matchmakers to know that, and fortunately his reputation helped keep his new motives secret. All the haut ton knew the Earl of Bridgethorne enjoyed dancing, and his skill made even the most awkward of partners look graceful. And he was kind, dancing with at least three of four of the least popular maidens at every event, as well as matrons, widows, and the more popular debutantes. Never more than one dance with each partner at any one event, a restriction that limited speculation about his marital intentions, and made courtship slightly harder now those intentions had changed.

Still, five years of conversation while standing out in line dances had given Dickon some definite views about the kind of bride he wanted. Not too proud, or too absorbed in her own beauty, which disqualified most of those to whom his fellows were drawn. Not foolish or inane or passionately fixated on an interest he did not share. He would have to converse with his wife, at least occasionally. Indeed, he hoped that, if he chose well, they might become friends. And, while he did not require physical perfection, he would, of course, have to be sufficiently attracted to the lady to do his duty by his title and estate, since an heir was the whole purpose of the exercise.

Five years of conversation had convinced him that the gem he sought was probably hidden among the wallflowers. Not an antidote, or a shy nervous creature afraid of men. But a woman whose intelligence and character had frightened off the fools who fell in love with the transitory sparkle of Society’s annual stars.

So when Miss Fanshaw blushed, stammered, and dropped her fan, he almost made his bow and his excuses, touching his hostess on her arm in the prearranged signal to present him to the next group. But was that fear in the look the young lady shot sideways to the aunt and uncle who were sponsoring her? And surely he imagined the menace in her uncle’s responding glare?

“If you would excuse us, Lord Bridgethorne and I…”

Dickon ruthlessly interrupted Lady Bellowes. How she would roast him later! “May I have the honour of a dance, Miss Fanshaw.”


Spotlight on The Bride Price

I first read The Bride Price on Wattpad, following each episode and waiting impatiently for the next. Quenby has updated and polished , and I’m looking forward to reading it again now that it is published. It is a tale of ruination and recovery, of a fall from grace that opens the way to joy, of long hidden love finally rewarded. I loved it.

The Bride Price

To save her family from scandal, Emily Collicott must marry.

Ruined in her first season in London, she is given no choice but to wed her father’s pick for a husband, or be cast out from her home. Emily agrees to marry William Hazlitt, a man she hardly knows. But William remembers her. Growing up as a tenant on her father’s estate, he admired her from afar, their lives kept separate first by class, and then by loss.

Emily seeks to begin a new life with this quiet man to whom she finds herself wedded. But the scandal she escaped in London soon finds her again, the very man who destroyed her reputation threatening to tear down the happiness she’s found with her new husband. To keep from losing everything, she must either make a deal with a devil… or learn how to defeat one.

Amazon ♦ Amazon (UK) ♦ Amazon (Canada)


It did not take long for Emily to learn of her lowered status among the members of London society, many of whom had welcomed her into their homes only days before. Josephine relayed the gossip, much of which had to be amended throughout the day as another round of afternoon teas were concluded or a new report passed through the lower quarters of the house.

“Scandal is like a living, breathing thing,” Josephine informed her near the end of her second day in seclusion. “It grows and it changes, acquiring new features and discarding old ones as quickly as one changes a hat. Today, you might be viewed by some as nothing more than a naive young girl who was set loose on London without proper tutelage or guidance. By tomorrow, you could be the Whore of Babylon, come to destroy us all.”

By the beginning of the third day, Emily was made aware of the prevailing opinion currently soaring through every drawing room and traded over every breakfast table.

“A fortune hunter,” Josephine had told her, getting directly to the point without a hint of delay. “Come to London with the sole intention of trapping a wealthy husband, by any means necessary.”

Emily nodded. If she had been in another person’s place, hearing such salacious gossip from every corner, this would most likely be the easiest theory to believe. “So everyone thinks—”

“—that you sought out Marbley, hoping to be caught in a situation, of sorts.”

“Which I was,” Emily pointed out.

“And thus forcing him to make an offer for you. Except—”

“—he didn’t make an offer,” Emily finished for her. “Instead, he left me to bear the brunt of their condemnation.”

“While he is applauded and celebrated for having made an apparent escape.” Josephine twisted her mouth into an expression of displeasure. “If I were a man, I would call him out. A bullet in his shoulder would serve him very well, I believe.”

“Only his shoulder?” Emily looked up with some surprise.

“Oh, I wouldn’t wish to make a martyr out of him,” she replied, and pulled at a thread that had escaped from the edge of her sleeve. “But a nice, lingering wound would do. Perhaps something disfiguring.”

“The tip of his nose,” Emily chimed in, buoyed along by the sparkle of humor in her friend’s voice.

“Or maybe a chunk of ear,” Josephine said, all mock seriousness. “Only superficial injuries, of course.”

But the levity of that moment had faded too quickly, and Emily once again receded into a depression. Not from any sorrow at her own predicament or because of the opinions of those members of society with whom she was hardly acquainted, but rather from the feeling of absolute helplessness that threatened to overwhelm her.

She was a gentlewoman, and so raised to expect a life devoid of struggle and exertion. She’d been given no training for anything beyond embroidery, music, a vague smattering of French, and composing lengthy letters that covered such fascinating topics as the weather and inquiries about one’s health. And now. . .

Now she was a pariah. Her chances of making a fortunate match had been reduced to nothing. And so she was trapped, a prisoner to her own gentility and the infuriating fact that she’d been born a female.

Meet Quenby Olson

Quenby Olson lives in Central Pennsylvania where she writes, homeschools, glares at baskets of unfolded laundry, and chases the cat off the kitchen counters. After training to be a ballet dancer, she turned towards her love of fiction, penning everything from romance to fantasy, historical to mystery. She spends her days with her husband and children, who do nothing to dampen her love of the outdoors, immersing herself in historical minutiae, and staying up late to watch old episodes of Doctor Who.

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Starting on WIP Wednesday

Where is the beginning? Lewis Carroll had his king advise “Begin at the beginning, and go on till you get to the end, then stop.” As a storyteller, Carroll knew what hard advice that is to follow, for a story, a chapter, or even a letter.

Where to begin? I’ve heard advice to start anywhere, and find the beginning later. I’ve even started, I thought, way too early and written my way to the beginning. But for the most part, I can’t really get going on a story till the start feels right. 

Show me the start of your story or one of your chapters. I’m showing you the beginning of a story I’m writing for my newsletter subscribers. It’ll go out with the newsletter in July.

Dickon watched his wife clambering around the rigging, torn between demanding that she descend to the safety of the deck, and continuing to enjoy the sight from the shadows of the accessway.

It weighted the scales that, if she knew he was aboard, he’d lose the advantage of surprise and possible also his wife.  He needed to keep his identity secret until they were far enough from land that she couldn’t run again.

If he was to save his marriage—and, after talking to the enquiry agent, he half thought it might be desirable—he must first talk to his runaway bride.

She swung with confidence from rope to rope, her form masked but not obscured by the shapeless canvas trousers and smock she wore. Surely no one on the ship thought the Captain’s second mate was a man? 

She’d put on weight in the six months since he last saw her, and lost the haunted, harried look that had set his teeth on edge. Until he learned the reason for it on the night he tried to bed her, five days into their marriage. The night before she ran away.



Tea with Becky


The Duchess of Haverford rose and crossed the room to greet her visitor with a kiss to the cheek.

“Becky, my dear, thank you for making the time to see me.”

Lady Overton returned the embrace, real affection in her eyes as she smiled at the older woman. “It is kind of you to invite me, Your Grace.”

“Call me Aunt Eleanor, please, as you did when I stayed with you after little Isabelle’s birth. Is she well, my dear? Have you brought her and her sisters to London?”

Becky confirmed that she had, while taking the seat that the duchess indicated. For several minutes, they discussed the children, as Her Grace busied herself at the tea service that stood ready on its own ornate cart beside her preferred seat. Once she had presented Becky with a cup and a plate with a selection of finely crafted pastries, she poured her own tea and chose a single pastry.

“And Lord Overton,” she asked. “Is he fully recovered?”

Becky was not surprised the duchess knew of Overton’s accident. She sometimes thought that Her Grace knew everything, and certainly she had more reason than most to interest herself in anything that affected Becky’s youngest daughter. “He has headaches from time to time, Aunt Eleanor, but fewer than before. The doctor says he will have no long-term ill effects.”

Her Grace beamed, putting her cup into its saucer and back on the table before her. “Excellent. I was concerned when Aldridge mentioned Overton’s concerns about guardianship of the little girls, but he is just taking sensible precautions.”

Becky set down her own cup, her face carefully blank. “The marquis mentioned it to you, Ma’am?”

“Yes. And he has an idea that might just answer your husband’s need. But I have told him that I must speak with you before I give it my support. Will you hear me out, Becky?”

Becky nodded, cautiously. Another outrageous scheme by Aldridge? Whatever might it be, when he knew perfectly well that neither she nor Hugh would consider… But no, Her Grace would not be involved in anything of that sort.

“If we are to be fair, my dear Becky, we must agree that his last plot on your behalf was highly successful,” the duchess pointed out, which was perfectly true.

“Beyond expectations,” she agreed.


She was a fallen woman; could they help her land on her feet?

A Baron for BeckyBecky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde — the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man. Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?

The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn’t want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.

When Aldridge surprises them with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.

See more about A Baron for Becky, buy links, and links to the first chapters.


The Duchess of Haverford has taken a hand in Rebecca Overton’s life a number of times, the most significant covered in A Baron for Becky. The following extract is about one of them:

While Aldridge visited his Mama to explain what they wanted, Hugh went cap, and purse, in hand to Doctor’s Commons to arrange a special licence.

It took longer than he’d hoped, and a lucky encounter with a friend from university, to be admitted to the Archbishop’s presence, but two days later, he had his licence. It was in his pocket, and Becky at his side, when they waited on Her Grace, summoned by a scented note delivered by the hand of a liveried footman.

Hugh had been in the heir’s wing many times, and at Haverford, the family seat, when he was a boy. He had never entered Haverford House by the main door. Designed to impress, the approach sat back from the road, admittance through a gatekeeper. They were paraded through the paved courtyard by another liveried servant to the stairs between pillars that stretched three stories to the pediment above.

Inside, the ducal glory continued; a marbled entrance chamber the height of the house that would make a ballroom in any lesser mansion, with majestic flights of stairs rising on either side and curving to meet, only to split again in a symphony of wood and stone. Grenford ancestors were everywhere, twice as large as life, painted on canvas and moulded from stone, cold eyes examining petitioners and finding them all unworthy.

Aldridge met them in the entrance chamber, and led them up the first flight of stairs and down a sumptuously carpeted hall that was elegantly papered above richly carved panels. Four men could have walked arm-in-arm down the middle, never touching the furniture and art lining both walls, between highly-polished doors.

Busts on marble pedestals alternated with delicate gilded tables and seats upholstered in the Haverford green, scarlet and gold, many embroidered with the unicorn and phoenix from the Haverford coat of arms. The art in gilded frames that hung both walls showed more Grenford ancestors, interspersed with favourite animals, scenes from the Bible, and retellings of Greek legends. The ornately painted ceiling boasted flowers, leaves, and decorative swirls, the many colours highlighted in gilding.

Here and there, an open door gave them a view into one large chamber after another, each room richer than the last. At intervals, curtained arches led to more halls, more stairs.

Hugh was openly gawping, and Becky drew closer to him, as if for protection.

“A bit over the top, don’t you think?” he whispered to her, and was rewarded with a quick, nervous, smile.

The duchess received them in a sitting room that, if rich and elegant, was at least more human in scale.

She offered a cheek to Aldridge for a kiss, and a hand to Hugh. Becky held back.

“Come, my dear,” she coaxed. “Mrs Winstanley, is it not? Soon to be Baroness Overton. You shall kiss me, my dear, and I shall be godmother to your child, since I cannot claim the closer title.”

Hugh relaxed, then. Her Grace would champion them for her grandchild’s sake. He took the offered chair, and Aldridge leant against the mantelpiece. The duchess ignored them both to focus on Becky.

She insisted on Becky sitting beside her.

“Are you keeping well, my dear? Are you eating?”

“Yes, Your Grace.” Becky’s voice was so quiet Hugh had to lean forward to hear.

“You must eat several times a day, dear. More as the baby takes up more room…” she trailed off as Becky blushed scarlet. “And when do you expect the little one to arrive?”

“At Yuletide, Ma’am. Or perhaps early January.”

“What of sleep, Mrs Winstanley? Are you able to rest in the afternoons?” She turned to Hugh. “An afternoon rest is most efficacious for women who are increasing, Lord Overton. I will expect you to keep her in bed in the afternoon.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Hugh replied, blushing in his turn.

The duchess silenced her sniggering son with a raised eyebrow.


Disagreements on WIP Wednesday

lady in snow broughtonI nearly forgot to post my work in progress Wednesday post! Does it still count if it is Thursday in a fair part of our spinning world?

Today’s topic is the conflict that stops our romance story from being over before it even begins! Have you ever read a story that went: they met, loved at first sight, married with the blessings of all their family and friends, and lived peaceful and prosperous lives? All very nice for the participants, but not at all exciting!

My sample comes from the made-to-order story I am writing for the person who won my cat day story. My heroine has just found her husband holding the body of her pet cat, and has leapt to an immediate conclusion.

A gasp behind him told him he was no longer alone; a voice he knew, a scent he would recognise till the day he died even if he never smelled it again, composed of the herbs she strewed among her clothes, the flower oils she used to scent her soap, and something that was ineffably Callie.

He turned to meet blazing blue-green eyes in a white face. “Imp! You brute, Magnus! What have you done?”

“I just found her, Callie. She must have been trying to bring the kitten home.”

The name just slipped out. She had told him that first day, after he had interrupted her wedding and proposed himself as groom, that no-one called her Callie anymore. So he honoured her wish, and called her Caroline. But in his heart, she would always be Callie.


We interrupt this programme for a cuteness overdose

white-kittenI’ve sent the last story of Hand-Turned Tales off to the beta readers, and received the first feedback, which gives me sufficient confidence to finally announce a date!

My new permafree sampler book (three short stories and a novella), Hand-Turned Tales will be published as an ebook on 16 December, and as a print book with a price set for cost recovery as soon after as can be managed. Click on the link above to read about the four stories.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on another made-to-order story, written for the winner of the Cat Day giveaway. She wanted a wounded or disabled hero, a pretty heroine, and arranged marriage, and a cat named Angel. Here’s how it starts:

Magnus and the Christmas Angel

Imp was not in the house. She had not been accidentally shut in the cellars or the attic or any of the dozen unused bedrooms, frozen in a state of readiness for guests who never came.

The children of the Fenchurch Abbey estate had searched high and low, and brought a score of cats for Callie to inspect, hoping to win the reward.

None of them were Imp.

She was not in the stables, or the dairy, or any of the sheds or other outbuildings. Callie had questioned all the servants who had cottages near the main house, and none of them had somehow acquired an elegant, imperious, elderly, and very pregnant black cat.

Or not so pregnant now. Imp had gone missing four weeks ago. Somewhere, she had nested and produced her litter. Somewhere—and half an hour ago, Callie had suddenly had an idea about where. They had not lived at Blessings for more than a year, and Imp had birthed two litters since then, her latest at Fenchurch Abbey (in Magnus’s dressing room on his cravats). But perhaps she had returned to the place that had been home for most of her life?

Callie shivered, and pulled her shawl further forward over her head. She had run impetuously from the house without first checking the weather, and without telling her maid where she was going, thinking she would not be long.

The clouds had looked ominous, but her childhood home was only a brisk walk away; she could be there, find her cat, and be back well before dark. She was not a fool. She wore a rain cape, and it never snowed this far south as early as Christmas Eve. Except, it seemed, this year.

Perhaps it would remain a few stray flakes, melting before they reached the ground, but the sky was black and heavy, and she feared she would not make it back to Fenchurch Abbey before the snow began in earnest.

The servants would fret if she stayed at Blessings overnight. Magnus would neither know nor care. He had spent more time in London than at the Abbey since their wedding. Proving his identity so he could take up his title, he said. This was true, but avoiding his unwanted wife was doubtless also on his list of reasons.