Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Happy New Release Day!

I'm so happy to be posting today on the release say of Charming the Vicar's Daughter! This was such a fun story to write, introducing a new member of the extended Lumley family and the woman he falls for. Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing to win a copy of Charming the Vicar's Daughter!

What’s a gentleman to do when the local Widows’ League insists on a marriage over a simple misunderstanding? How does he honor his family name without damaging that of a vicar’s daughter?  For Neil Harrow, the journey to obtain a matched pair of horses for his new curricle has taken a wrong turn. While his uncle is not insisting Neil marry Rebecca Cookson, in his heart he knows it’s the thing to do.

Rebecca wants nothing to do with the popinjay who came to her aid, no matter how the situation appeared. The meddling old widows are a formidable opponent, but Rebecca will do everything in her power to avoid such an ill-suited match. As charming Mr. Harrow might be, Patience is determined to only marry a man she can love with all her heart.

An Excerpt:

March 1811
Bridgethorpe Village, Cheshire, England

Neil Harrow was ready to cross the final item off his checklist. Once his cousin found him the proper pair of carriage horses, Neil could journey to London. There awaited the curricle he’d ordered with red wheels and leather squabs, thus forming the need for said horses. He was beyond eager to take up residence in the rooms he’d leased in Albany house. 

His cousin, David Lumley, had other things on his mind. Neil had never seen him so distracted. Insisting they stop in the village before arriving at Bridgethorpe Manor, David had practically leaped from the carriage as it rolled to a halt in front of the vicar’s cottage. “I won’t be long,” he called out, slamming the carriage door behind him.

Neil shook his head, feeling no better than a servant in the way his cousin neglected to invite him to go along. Looking out the window at the village, he plucked at the seam of his gloves where the threads had worn thin. Now was as good a time as any to look for a new pair.

He opened the door and stepped out, grateful to be on unmoving ground after three days of travel from the Fernleigh Stud in Newmarket. They had slept in inns along the way, but those beds were never as comfortable as his at home. The air was crisp, clear, as if winter hadn’t fully given up despite the narcissus bulbs coming into bloom along the vicar’s walkway.

Neil walked up the road a short distance, grateful for the recent lack of rain that made for a dry road. The shops were on the main street, not far from the vicar’s cottage, and he soon had a new pair of riding gloves as well as some cotton evening gloves the proprietor assured him were all the rage in London. Taking his package, along with the sack of peppermint drops for his cousins, he began to walk back toward the carriage. As he strolled, he heard a voice from nearby. A sweet, cajoling, very feminine voice.

“Come, you minx. Be a dear and come into my arms.”

Neil paused, his attention fully engaged. He should leave the lovers to themselves, but the voice was like a siren’s call. She continued to utter small cooing sounds, each sound causing his imagination to summon the most delightful vision. Curiosity won out over the lovers’ need for privacy, and he stepped through a break in the hedgerow to take a closer look.

A ladder leaned against a bare black poplar tree, and the owner of that lovely voice stood high on its rungs, reaching into the branches. The object of her entreaty sat just beyond her reach. A brown tabby, its expression more bored than frightened, yawned and stretched out a single paw.

It wasn’t the scene he expected to find, to be sure.

The young woman’s boots were barely perched on the ladder rung, and her petticoat peeked beneath the hem of her skirts, delicate lace edging and all. “Minxy, come, kitty.”

She looked ready to topple the ladder. Neil’s gut tightened with each stretch of her arm, certain she would fall. He couldn’t stand there and allow that to happen. He approached the ladder. “Might I be of assistance?”

The slender young woman didn’t even deign to look his way. “Thank you, no, I’m not in need of help.” She reached up higher, fingers wiggling at the cat.

Rather than resting his eyes on her derriere, Neil studied her boots, which were even with his chest. Worn, but well made, they most likely didn’t belong to a servant. He looked around but saw no maid chaperoning the young lady. She must live in one of the nearby cottages. Her precarious, leaning perch concerned him. “It’s no trouble, I assure you. I can climb up there and bring him down.”

She didn’t budge. “Her. Minx is a she. And she doesn’t care for men.”

“Ah, forgive me.” He glanced at the cat, his lack of sleep making him rather silly at the moment. “My apologies, Miss Minx, for mistaking your sex. If you’ll come down, I shall buy you a saucer of cream.”

Now the lady pivoted, offering him a look that questioned his sanity. “I thank you for your offer, but I must insist you leave, or my cat will never come down.”

He couldn’t walk away from a woman standing on a ladder. Yet the cat looked comfortable enough to remain in place until summer. “Will you allow me to fetch a servant? A maid, perhaps, to climb the tree for you? Or a large footman to catch you when you fall?”

Her eyes no longer questioned his hold on reality. “Is this some manner of flirtation you employ? Your time is wasted on me. Be on your way.”

The boredom he’d sought to relieve melted away. Like the dish of sugarplums Cook kept from his reach when he was a boy, conversation with this young lady became too tempting to resist. “My time is mine to waste. I cannot be on my way until my cousin returns, so I might as well bide the moments here as anywhere.”

The girl squinted as she studied him. “Who is your cousin?”

“Mr. Lumley. His family lives nearby.”

“Ah, now I see who you are, and I understand. Will you badger me until I relent and let you play the gallant hero?”

Neil tipped his head at that news. Which of his cousins would be annoyingly persistent like that? Sam and Trey were both of an age to flirt with a young lady such as this, who appeared close to Neil’s twenty four years. Did either of them have an affection for her? She was more than pleasant to look upon, even with a frown marring her smooth peach-tinted skin. The brim of her beribboned hat shaded her eyes, but they were dark, like the curls framing her face. A beauty, she was. He suddenly needed to know if she was married. “I do not wish to badger you. Say the word and I shall summon your husband to play hero for you.”

Her expression went bland. "I do not seek a hero. I only with to be left to my own devices. Will you kindly be on your way?"

So, she was a worthy adversary, all the better. “I could not bear to later hear a young miss had died of a broken neck because no one had helped her fetch her kitten from a tree.”

She continued to gaze on him with no humor.

Available at: Amazon & Barnes and Noble


Tina Donahue said...

Great excerpt, Aileen! Congrats on your release. May you burn up the net with your sales. :)

Aileen said...

Thanks, Tina!

jean hart stewart said...

A fun excerpt. I love trapped heroes, they wiggle so deliciously!!!

Aileen Fish said...

Thanks Jean! Glad you liked it.