Way back in August, like many of you, I watched in horror as wildfires devastated the island of Maui - and I was proud as always with the way #Romancelandia leapt into action. Love for Maui isn't the only charity anthology raising funds to help rebuild this shattered community, but it's the one that includes one of my smaller novellas, Love Unbroken.
“Just once then,” Annette spoke before the pull of duty and earldom and the weight of
this day fell in around her like close, fetid air.
“I beg your pardon?” Lionel’s taut query hovered between their lips.
“Write me once. I’ll not reply at all. No one can make a scandal out of that,” she
whispered, hoped, offered with her sweetest smile.
A Sweet Story:
Inspired in no small part by my favourite romance novel of all time, Jane Austen's Persuasion, and you can read my take on the most recent adaptationof this Austen novel here. My hero, Lionel, is separated from his heroine, the Honourable Annette Ryehurst, by the great disparity in their stations in life. She is an earl's daughter, wheeras he is merely the son of the local vicar. A clever, prosperous vicar who is well on his way to becoming a celebrated academician, but a mere tenant of his patron Lord Ryehurst nonetheless.
Their story begins when both protagonists are fairly young, and Annette's father has just passed, leaving her not much more than a respectable dowry and valuable estate jewellery, as it's her distant cousin who is to inherit the estate.
Though Annette dreads leaving the only home she's ever known for London, her mother (the countess) is quite clear that the only way to regain their home is for Annette wed her father's heir, Lord Grantley - assuming he asks her. There must be no other suitor in her daughter's head.
A Hero's Return:
Lionel is Annette's dearest friend and it's only on the day of her father's funeral that he understands she'd like him to be more - but propriety dictates she wed well above any place in society he may attain. Both his uncle, and Lionel's own conscience, are clear on this but it by no means satisfies Annette.
Lionel finds himself longing to comfort her on this darkest of days, but before he gets the change, he's press-ganged into the navy. He manages to get word to Annette, but no more than a word. There's a war on after all and he siezes his opportunity to build a flourishing career. Gaining wealth, status, and reputation as a war hero, Lionel's future appears bright - until he's horribly wounded aiding his men during a shipboard fire.
Injured, and too proud to address his deeper, inner wounds, he arrives home after a decade abroad. Shunning society, but for his uncle, his business manager, and his former commanding officer, he can't bring himself to seek our his former crush. He can't bear to see the look on her face when she first lays eyes on his scars.
The Trials of a Lady:
Meanwhile, life hasn't been easy for Annette. Her father's few debts have grown manifestly worse over the years, due to her mother's gambling. It's all she can do to cover household costs. She refuses to dishonour her father by allowing anyone who deals with clan Ryehurst to be left out of pocket due to the countess's shenanigans. The family resides in a shameful part of London, and her mother insists they behave as though their finances were in order - even if this means cheating their tradesmen and lying to shop keepers, and indeed, all of society.
The life of an aristocratic pauper is a dismal one. When Annette realises her mother has lost her dowry, she begins taking a few small, defiant steps towards acting in her own interests. She even takes to shop work to repay the countess's debt - and finds, to her surprise, that she'd rather be busy in 'toil' as her mama puts it, than take tea with her cousin - who, after ten years of courting her, still cannot manage to come to the point.
A chance meeting (or was it?) with her former vicar has Annette wondering about his war-hero nephew. She also wonders why paper roses appear to cheer her solitude, and how she finds herself ferried to and from her place of work by a carriage each day, seated in company with the wily old vicar.
By the time the Christmas ball rolls around, Lionel's determined and Annette is ready...and this #holidayread is as sweet as they come.
That's right - it's not a steamy one but I love it as much as my other bookbabies. I hope you like it. It's available vai KU and wide release.