I don't update this blog very much, but it's a place I can share info about new releases! This is the first glance at chapter one of my new Regency novella. Her Sister's Suitor. The official release date is Monday 4/19, so keep your eyes peeled!
“I don’t believe we’ll be taking any more trips to London, my dear. At least, not for some time.”
Diana Gibbs hadn’t meant to overhear what Uncle Hubert was saying in his study, but the words made her freeze. With the door open a crack, she paused in the corridor, unable to keep from listening.
“What makes you say that?” came Aunt Susan’s voice.
“We’ll be fine for the rest of the year to continue as we are, but the trip took a larger sum than I had planned, and I don’t want to dip into the children’s dowries should we have any additional expenses.”
“Very well.” Aunt Susan sighed. “I thought for certain Diana and Helen could find themselves decent husbands, that the Season would do them good. They’re such good girls and I’d be sad to see them go, but they deserve to be happy and settled.”
“Yes, and I know Eloise and Miriam will miss them a great deal when they do someday marry. But until then, we must try to keep a balance. I don’t want to pull Alexander or Phillipa out of school.”
“No, of course not. We can hold off on any trips to London until Phillipa’s own come out.”
Diana’s shoulders sagged, her stomach turning sour. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Had the prolonged stay of Diana and her sister become a financial burden for her relatives, even threatening for her cousins? It made her want to pull down all the luggage still fresh from their trip back from London and leave that very instant. But that was impossible. She and Helen were entirely dependent on their aunt and uncle.
A chair stirred in the study, urging Diana to hurry up the stairs to her bedroom. Worrying her lip with her teeth, Diana wondered how much she should share with her sister. Helen didn’t need this added pressure to urge her into a hasty marriage. That’s what had found Diana so unhappily matched herself, only to have her husband die and leave her a poor widow at age twenty-three. She would not force that same fate on her sister.
In truth, Diana was lucky she had such obliging relations. When her aunt and uncle had gained guardianship of Helen, they had insisted Diana come along as well, after the carriage accident that claimed their parents, and the fatal illness that took Diana’s husband. Her aunt and uncle, The Franklins, were well-placed in society with a decently large estate, Bellstone, and a moderate amount of wealth. But their half a dozen children had to take priority, and Diana would not allow herself to be an additional expense for long. Her meager widow’s jointure from her marriage could not cover the living of both Diana and Helen, and Diana couldn’t return to her late husband’s family in shame. No, they would find another way to solve the problem.
When Diana opened the door to her bedroom, Helen was just as she left her, prostrate on the bed. “I see you’ve made great progress getting settled,” Diana said with a pointed smile.
“I’m still exhausted,” Helen exclaimed. “If I ever leave this bed again, it will be too soon!”
Diana opened the traveling trunk before looking up at her sister with a raised eyebrow. “Then I suppose we’ll have all your meals brought to the room? And you won’t be able to visit Mary Jackson anymore?”
Helen sat up quickly, wisps of brown hair falling into her eyes. “You know what I mean. For going out to dinners or dances. I’m grateful that Aunt and Uncle took us to London, but I can only hope we never have to go again.”
Diana felt the urge to laugh bitterly, knowing that wouldn’t be a problem any time soon, but she had to agree. While they were blessed to have the opportunity, neither of them enjoyed parading around London. Still, Diana was pleased Helen had at least been introduced into society. It was more than Diana could have managed on her own, and at least now Helen had an idea what was expected of her. Set to inherit seven thousand pounds, Helen couldn’t throw around her affections to just anyone.
Not that she ever would. Helen was far too practical and level-headed for such things. She preferred to spend her time alone, studying science, history, and philosophy, and had no problem keeping her feet firmly on the ground. She understood the logistics of the world around her, but perhaps not the demands of society, which would be needed to secure a proper husband. And if Diana had anything to say about it, that required he be wealthy in his own right, and of good moral standing. For she knew first-hand how a marriage could deteriorate without those two very important factors.
“If it were up to me,” Helen said, lounging on the bed while Diana unpacked their things, “I’d have my dowry already, so we wouldn’t have to depend on Uncle or wait for me to get married. You and I would split the money and have a house of our own, and the only guests we’d allow is Aunt and Uncle’s family, and Mary’s family. What would you say to that?”
“In this imaginary home of ours?” Diana said with a smirk. “It sounds lovely. I’ll not keep Mary or her brothers from visiting. Besides, who else would you talk to about these science books of yours?”
Helen grinned, reaching for the beautiful hardbound book on the nightstand. “This is better than any muslin gown Aunt Susan could have bought for me.” Then she sat up with excitement sparkling in her eyes. “Maybe we won’t have to go back to London at all. Perhaps there is a young man nearby who will have the perfect library, who wouldn’t have to go to any great lengths to persuade me into matrimony.”
“Yes, that would be ideal, wouldn’t it?” For more than just Helen. But of the men Diana knew in the area, none of them were worthy of her sister. Could anyone be?
Helen must have noticed her reserve, for she knitted her eyebrows. “And I wish you didn’t have to worry for me so. Are you sure there’s nothing we can do to hurry up the inheritance? It seems ridiculous for us to live off Uncle’s kindness when I have plenty enough for the both of us, only to be curtailed by some silly stipulation.”
“I know, dearest.” Diana had written to her late father’s solicitor while they were in London to ask if the will permitted an early allowance, but his reply confirmed it was impossible. Helen either needed to marry, or wait until her twenty-first birthday, to receive her dowry. Her lack of desire for society meant marriage was likely not the answer, but knowing Helen’s impatience, neither was waiting another four years.
A knock sounded at the bedroom door. “Come in,” Diana called.
Aunt Susan appeared, waving a letter around. “I have the very best news, my dears!” The sparkle of excitement in her eyes could only mean an invitation to another dinner party or a crowded ball, which Diana was certain Helen would be plotting for a way to escape.
“Do you remember the Rowley family? The elder Mr. Rowley was a solicitor for some of the wealthy families here in Mayford before he died, and his son, Lucas, was a playmate to Edward as a child.”
The name was vaguely familiar, summoning the memory of a boy with light shaggy hair, but Diana couldn’t envision a face. “I believe so.”
“Well, it seems one of the estates Mr. Rowley managed, Coverley Hall, has been left to his son. How miraculous. Lucas has been away studying the law for some time, but now that he’s returned to inherit, his mother is hosting a dinner at the estate in his honor.”
“How lucky for him,” Helen mumbled. Diana pressed her lips together to stifle a laugh.
“And best of all, they’ve invited us! Next Thursday evening, the three of us and your uncle. It will be so nice to be amongst friends again after the hustle and bustle of London. But it was lovely, wasn’t it?”
The word lovely was perhaps too generous, but Diana gave her a smile. “Indeed.”
“Well, take your rest, and I’ll send a servant when it’s time for dinner.” Aunt Susan paused to look around the bedroom. “Are you sure it’s not too drafty up here?”
A sliver of guilt cut through Diana’s stomach. “Please don’t worry yourself, Aunt. This room is perfectly suitable.” Regardless of the status of the guest room, Diana would feel better when she didn’t have to impose on her aunt’s kindness at all.
“Very well.” Aunt Susan smiled at the girls before leaving the room and closing the door behind her.
“Must we really go?” Helen mourned.
Diana moved to sit beside her sister. “Such invitations cannot be avoided forever. At least it can wait until next Thursday. Besides, what if this is the man with the expansive library you were talking about?”
Helen rolled her eyes, then moved to pull the pins from her hair. Diana would also need to change out of her traveling clothes and eventually dress for dinner, but the more she considered her own teasing words, the more she liked the sound of them. What little she remembered about Lucas Rowley was in a positive light. He had been good-natured as a child, and if he was still friends with her cousin, then he must be a person of decent moral standing. Perhaps he really could be a prospect for Helen. Diana trusted such a man would treat her sister respectably, and if he had inherited an estate, it likely came with a sum of money as well, which meant he wouldn’t need to depend on Helen’s dowry. Diana wouldn’t get her hopes up until after they’d reacquainted themselves at the dinner, but he just might be a perfect match for Helen.
If they formed an attachment and decided to marry, that would be one less worry for Aunt and Uncle. Then Diana could look for employment as a governess or a lady’s companion, and she could live the rest of her life as a poor widow. Which would suit her just fine, for she had no inclination to ever marry again.
Want to know what happens next? Coming soon to Amazon, so be sure to follow me on social media below, or join my newsletter for the announcement!