Moving the courtship along on WIP Wednesday

I’m writing romance, which means courtship. Even if the relationship gets off to a rocky start or hits a rocky middle, courtship has to come into it, or there’s no romance and no story.

So this week, I’m asking for a scene that shows a crucial step in the courtship. It could be a step forward, or a step back. You decide. But something that changes the relationship. Mine is the proposal scene from House of Thorns. It is still at the all dialogue stage, and will probably change on the redraft, but here it is, raw, awkward, and as is.

“Miss Neatham, the Rector came to tell me that the village has been talking.”

“I expected it. When do you wish us to move out? I can put my weight on my ankle again.”

“I do not wish you to move out, though I will move into the village for a couple of weeks.”

“But your work… A couple of weeks… What can you mean?”

“I am doing this wrong. Look, Miss Neatham. Rosabel. Would you do me the very great honour of becoming my wife?”

“Your wife?”

“It will protect you and your father, and it would suit me very well, too. I need a wife, as these past few days have shown me. Someone to look after my house and make it into a home. I have never been more comfortable. I like having you around.

And it isn’t just that. You would be an asset to my dealings. I need to entertain from time to time, and you would show to advantage with the people with whom I do business. You are a lady to the fingertips, Rosa, and the people who buy my houses would like that.

Also, I need a child. A daughter would be best, because my great aunt’s property must be left to a girl, but we could try again if we had a son, and an heir would be rather a nice thing, I think. I had thought of adopting, but a child needs a mother, and that means a wife.”

“But… I am thirty-six.”

“I am forty-three. Which means we are both still capable of having a child.”

“Surely there are younger women with better connections…”

“I don’t want them. Silly ninnies. No conversation. I like you, Rosa. I like spending time with you.”

“Well, thank you.”

“I don’t want… Rosa, you deserve to have choices, and you won’t have them in this village. If you won’t marry me, will you let me find you and your father a house somewhere away from here, where you can live life without your aunt’s history following you?”

“You know about my aunt?”

“The Rector told me.”

“And you still want to marry me?”

“You are not your aunt, and very few families lack a skeleton or two in their closet. Marry me, Rosa. I will try to be a good husband.”

“You could find a better wife.”

“I’ve tried. And one Marriage Mart was enough. I’m never going back. If you won’t have me I’ll dwindle into a lonely old man.”

“I cannot help but feel that I benefit most from this arrangement.”

“The benefits are two way. You get a home and respectability. I get a home and all the things we have listed.”

“We have no guarantee that I am fertile.”

“That would be true no matter who I married.”

[goes away to think]

“Yes, Mr Gavenor.”

“Then you had better call me Bear. Or Hugh, if you prefer. My great aunt used to call me Hugh.”

“Hugh, then. Thank you, Hugh. I shall try to be a good wife.”

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