Off the Barbary Coast; 1799.
It was the end of first dogwatch at sea, the afternoon light fading into evening, when the men of the Earl’s Promise sighted sails on the eastern horizon. The sails elicited mild interest at first, then concern, then a real fear as the sails made for their frigate, steady and unrelenting.
“I told you this voyage was continuing apace, and that’s ne’er a good sign,” one sailor grumbled to another. “The sky was so fair and the wind so steady, they’ve had us on our knees taking to the decks with holystone the passage has been so easy.”
“Since when is a spot of good luck a bad thing?” the other sailor answered, but both men looked frightened.
The tall, sturdy captain waiting at the front of the ship beneath the unfurled flat of the Royal Navy heard the grumbling, and he knew that, despite the superstition, the men were right. Oncoming sails at such a speed gave him a misgiving, and so close to the Barbary coast … it could only mean one thing.
He called back for his lieutenant, who appeared at his side in an instant, tall and slim and young, with the bright eyes of a man eager to prove himself.
“Lieutenant Fitzroy, put the men into place at once and draw up at a diagonal to their approach. If they’re pirates, as I suspect, we’ll give them a mouthful of our broadsides before they get close enough to do any damage.”
“Aye, aye, Captain Egerton.”
The lieutenant spun around and began barking orders across the deck. The men jumped to, running here and there about their tasks. Lines were drawn in, sails adjusted, and below decks the soldiers could be heard rolling the creaking canons into place. Captain Egerton opened his spyglass and peered through it at the enemy. They were near enough now that he could see the shapes of men running about in a fevered action that matched that of his own sailors aboard the ship. At the prow of the approaching vessel, a man stood facing the captain, too little sea separating their intense stares. He was dressed in ballooning trousers with a wide band of leather around the waist and a bare chest tattooed with some indiscernible design. His face was quite dark, his skin brown and heavy, and his eyes hidden beneath the shadow of the turban about his head.
The captain put his spyglass away and called out to the deck.
“Do you think the smoking lamp has been lit that you dawdle so?” he bellowed, wishing he could put the sense of urgency he now felt into the hearts of his men. “They’re pirates, clear as day, and they’re headed here to slice us limb from limb and take the orders we were to deliver to the bottom of the ocean. Men, to arms! Hold your fire until my command.”
He could see it in the faces of his soldiers; real fear. The Barbary pirates were legendary in these parts and had even gone so far as to open all-out war with the American colonies and then too with the French and the Spanish. They were ruthless; relentless, and often their prisoners spent a lifetime lost in the slaving fields of North Africa. It was enough to make men fight tooth and nail for their survival, and that is what Captain Egerton needed.
Far more quickly than he would have wished, Egerton saw the pirate ship drawing up alongside and heard the clamour of bloodthirsty men eager for the kill. Lieutenant Fitzroy was at his side as the ships drew beside one another, and he had the faintest of smiles on his face.
“What is it, man?” Captain Egerton asked. “Do you laugh in the face of certain death?”
“Death is certain for everyone, not just us hapless sailors,” the lieutenant answered, “but not, I think, so certain for us today.”
Captain Egerton didn’t have time to enquire further after this rather cryptic statement, for the pirate captain’s voice came bellowing over the waves in heavily accented English.
“You will pull over to be boarded at once.”
“We fly the flag of the Royal Navy,” Captain Egerton called back at the top of his voice. “You have no right to demand to board us either now or in the future. In truth, we have jurisdiction over this trading path, and I demand to know your purpose.”
There was a long silence, and then there arose on the pirate ship a loud, screaming call, much like the cackling of wild animals. There was a flashing in the fading evening light of swords and other sharp implements, and suddenly through the air came the distinctive whistling of grappling hooks launching towards the Earl’s Promise.
“Watch ahead!” the captain called to his men.
The first few hooks fell harmlessly into the sea, but the next were close enough to catch and hold. All sailors knew how hopeless it was to try to remove such a hook when the full weight of a ship and crew were against it, but the lieutenant set men at once to sawing at the great cables to break their own ship free. These poor sailors, however, were targeted most cruelly by the archers and sharpshooters on the other deck, and three fell in the space of a minute.
“To arms!” Captain Egerton called.
There was the slapping of ladders bridging from the pirate ship to the frigate, and then small brown men began scampering across and onto their prey scimitars drawn. It looked to be a bloody battle indeed, for Captain Egerton knew that aside from bayoneting skills, his men were woefully untrained in sword-fighting, something that the Barbary pirates excelled in.
It was just then that he turned and saw Lieutenant Fitzroy had gone from his side. He looked all around but could see the man nowhere amid the battle that had started below. His deck was awash with the enemy, and destruction was imminent—why then would such a decorated, brave young officer choose this moment to flee the scene? It was a credit to Fitzroy that Egerton didn’t even consider desertion for a moment: he knew that his officer would never indulge in such cowardice, but still the man’s disappearance troubled him.
Still, he couldn’t dwell long on the other man’s absence; the very real and present danger was too pressing. He drew his sword and took on a pirate that had run at him with a long, curved sword, parrying off the other man’s blows until, at last, his own sword found a sheath in the man’s innards. No sooner had one enemy been vanquished but there were more at hand, a few of Captain Egerton’s more forward-thinking sailors had tipped the ladders into the sea, at no small cost to their own lives, and for the moment there were fewer pirates on the Earl’s Promise than sailors, but when the ladders were once again deployed, the odds would change distinctly in the enemy’s favour.
It was at this precise moment of crisis that Captain Egerton at last spotted his missing lieutenant, scurrying, of all places, along the deck of the enemy ship. He had loosed himself of his official uniform and was wearing only his trousers and flowing undershirt—not a complete disguise, but enough to keep him from being directly targeted until the carnage had died down enough for the pirates to inspect their troops. He had a line tied mysteriously around his waist, and he was coming up from below deck: running.
He reached the prow of the enemy ship and quite suddenly unsheathed his sword, holding it out to the pirate captain who, surprised by a solitary enemy soldier on his decks, called for back-up at once.
“Fitzroy!” Captain Egerton called across the small expanse of water between the two ships. “What are you doing, man?” He could only imagine that the brave young lieutenant had somehow thought that by killing the captain he would sacrifice his own life to save his ship, but Captain Egerton knew enough of these pirates to know that they would continue on for blood until the last of the Englishmen had died on their curved swords or been carried away.
At first, he thought that Lieutenant Fitzroy meant to engage the pirate captain in battle, but in the next moment the tall, slim man leapt up upon the rocking edge of the ship’s rail, helping his balance by holding onto a line on the pirate ship, but still pitching and tossing terribly with the force of the fighting all around.
Only then did Captain Egerton see that the line around Fitzgroy’s waist was tied to his own ship, not the pirate ship. Just as he began to grasp some manner of a plan, Fitzroy bent at the waist, said something indiscernible but seemingly dignified to the astonished pirate king, and then leapt towards his own ship. The line was a bit too long, and so as he sailed through the air, the returning British lieutenant was forced to lift his legs precariously to clear the rail of his own ship; when he’d done so he sawed himself free of the rope and dropped to the deck with his knife out, ready to fight whatever pirates were left behind. All this would have been explained later, but at the time, Captain Egerton saw none of it—his eyes were fixed instead where the eyes of everyone, even the pirates, on his ship were fixed; on the explosion radiating from the ship near at hand. It was a furious thing to behold. Only moments after Fitzroy’s feet had leapt from the edge of the pirate ship, the whole craft shuddered as if a great creature in the sea below had leapt up to seize it in its jaws. Then bright flames of fire began to lick out all around, and splintered wood came out of the base of the ship.
“Quick!” Lieutenant Fitzroy, who’d had the benefit of knowing something of his own plan beforehand, called to his men. “Release the grapple lines, or we’ll go down with her!”
The sailors fought to free themselves, this time unhindered by the former sharpshooters, who were now running about the pirate deck in a state of disarray, and in a matter of minutes, the lines had dropped uselessly into the sea and the Earl’s Promise was taking off unhindered from the sinking, shuddering, splintering form of the pirate ship behind them. She sailed a safe distance off and then waited, watching the destruction, as the few pirates who’d been left standing on the royal navy frigate were, one by one, taken into custody.
It was here, as the dust cleared and Captain Egerton’s orders of resolution were at last being carried out; when stock had been taken of the wounded and the damage to the ship, that Lieutenant Fitzroy was at last found leaning against a mast nursing a shattered lower leg.
“Right so,” he said as Captain Egerton approached. “I couldn’t quite manage the landing as I imagined. Things like this always go better in your head, don’t they?”
“Things like this always go better when you run them past your superior officer first,” Captain Egerton said soberly. He frowned at the leg. “Broken?”
“I’d warrant.” Lieutenant Fitzroy smiled wanly. “Come now, Captain Egerton, you know you would have forbidden me from doing it if I’d told you the full plan.”
“And why would I have had reason to doubt a foolhardy bit of nonsense that saw my most important officer flying into the face of the enemy with a barrel of explosives and a match?” Captain Egerton raised his eyebrow. “And let us not forget your intelligent plan of flying like a cursed elf through the air to escape the blast.”
The lieutenant laughed, but his face greyed a bit. “Aye, and my leg will be scolding me more than you for days to come.”
Captain Egerton found himself moved, and he knelt down by the man’s side. “Whatever men say about this day,” he said quietly, “I will know that you risked everything to save us, and I will not forget it.”
“What, are you going to promise me wealth and happiness in the return to England?” The lieutenant laughed. “I’m afraid I already have that: a pretty wife and a handsome lad growing up in the fields of England. You have only to get this cripple back to see them, and I will be restored to bliss.”
“I have a lass waiting at home too.” Captain Egerton smiled. “And a daughter; bless her. I would be honoured to have her one day married to a man with mettle like yours.” With a surge of pride he thought of his little girl, so pretty and winsome. “In fact, after the service you have paid me and your country today, I can as good as promise you that, if your boy desires it, he can have my little Elsie for his own when he comes of age.”
The lieutenant winced. “Be careful not to promise what you might regret, honourable Captain.”
“My only regret,” Captain Egerton answered, “is that I have nothing more to give.”
“Quite the correspondence today, Mrs Fitzroy,” Laura said with a little curtsy and bob, holding out the customary silver tray to Eleanor. She was dressed in the uniform of the house; crisp, starched blue muslin with an apron tied stiffly over the top. “The mail-boy said the bag weighed his cart down dreadfully.”
Eleanor still wasn’t used to being called “Mrs Fitzroy,” even after two years of marriage. The name made her feel like somebody else; a stranger whom she didn’t particularly want to know, and rattling around in her husband’s great estate, alone most days and surrounded by people she didn’t know when society did remember her presence, did nothing to make her feel herself.
She looked outside and saw that the spring rain had begun falling more ferociously against the windows, and it wrapped around her like a blanket, cutting her off.
“I’m surprised the lad was able to take the post in this weather,” she said. It wasn’t a comment that required a response, and so Laura, of course, remained silent. That was the strange thing about having one’s own servants; even though you were always surrounded by people, you were still quite alone. The rules of society and morals surrounding proper behaviour kept the staff at arm’s length from the mistress of the house, not that Eleanor would have it any other way because she prized rules, appreciated that they, unlike people, were reliable not to change and never to leave.
She had been sitting at her dressing table when the maid came in, and she stood now to retrieve the letters. There were six, and she recognized the handwriting on at least two of them; her mother and, yes, there was Kitty’s haphazard handwriting. Well, at least they haven’t forgotten me.
“Thank you, Laura. Please lay tea for me in the parlour at the top of the hour. I’ll take it there after I finish my correspondence.” It still felt strange, ordering about a household all on her own, as though she was still nine years old, playing house beneath the willow at her parents’ estate.
The maid left, and for a moment, Eleanor let her mind drift away from the envelopes in her hands, the things she had to do, the duties she must fulfil yet again in never-ending tedium, and she let her mind go back to that day, all those years ago, when she’d first heard what her future was to become.
“Elsie, my love,” her father’s voice was soft and gentle, like the sea. Eleanor had heard that her father was revered as a great captain in the Royal Navy, but to her, he was never the tempest; he was always the calm, the sunrise over smooth water, the excitement of foreign lands. He was home, a rare occurrence indeed, and he came to sit beside her in the gardens where the overhanging branches of an oak housed a fine little swing and stout branches for climbing. Eleanor hadn’t climbed those branches in years, just as she hadn’t gone by Elsie in years, not since her mother had told her that both things were girlish and not the hallmarks of a true lady. Eleanor wanted to be a true lady more than anything; to fit smoothly into the perfect life she saw reflected all around her. Marry, have children, host parties—it was all part of a magnificent dance that she had been on the outskirts of too long. Now, seventeen years old, with red hair that had finally deepened into an attractive auburn and grey eyes that the looking glass told her were subtle but inviting, she knew her moment had come. It was on this topic that her father had come to speak, but not in the way that she had expected.
“Yes, Papa.” She pushed her feet against the soft turf, propelling herself backwards in the swing slightly and then releasing herself in a delicate forward pendulum of movement: refined, not overeager; appropriate.
“I would like to talk to you about your future; about marriage.”
Her feet dropped to the ground to halt the passage of the swing, and she turned eager, nervous eyes in her father’s direction. “Yes?” Had someone come to speak to her father?
“You know of my history with Lieutenant Laurence Fitzroy, of course.”
This again. “Yes, Father.” The story of that fateful day off the Barbary coast; the pirates, the act of valour, and the explanation for Laurence Fitzroy’s debilitating limp had often graced their dinner conversation, as had the little joke the men had long shared about marrying their children off to each other as a way to commemorate the connection between the two men and link their families in friendship. If her father meant to tease her about such things again, Eleanor meant to take it as gracefully as possible and turn her face towards more happy climes, for in truth, she had hardly spoken to the young man in question, who lived a good two days’ ride away from her father’s estate, and on the short occasions when they had met she had been unimpressed. He was not so very tall, rather unpredictable, and hardly willing to sit two whole minutes in proper conversation.
“I’d like you to consider young Miles Fitzroy as a romantic prospect, my dear. I know you’ve hardly met, but I think you would be well-suited, and you know how fond I am of his father.”
“Yes, Papa. He saved your life.” She smiled indulgently, hardly thinking that he was serious; meaning to attach her forever to this man she barely knew, a man that she had never had any reason whatsoever to like. “I’m sure you’re very grateful to him.”
The captain came over and knelt down in front of his little girl, reaching out a hand to gently take hers in his own. To Eleanor’s fright, she saw that his eyes were serious; not a hint of teasing in those dark depths.
“Elsie, I meant what I said all those years. I’m not just grateful to him—I wish to honour him forever by offering his son the thing that is most precious to me. I would not consider it if the boy had turned out to be boorish or a lout, but he has a remarkable endowment as well as a career in the East India Company ahead of him, and he’s kind and honourable as far as I can tell.”
Eleanor blinked, realizing for the first time how far her father was willing to take this little hope he’d always harboured of the two children joining together in matrimony.
“But, Papa …” she ventured carefully, not wanting to come across as frantic or dramatic, two things that her father found quite unsavoury, “I don’t understand … you would have me marry forever this gentleman that I hardly know? He may well be a suitable match, and perhaps he is honourable as well, but I would have to move so far away from you and Mama; I would have to leave everyone I know, I don’t even …” she paused, but her father guessed the rest of her sentence.
“If you’re going to protest that you don’t have marked affection for the gentleman,” he said soberly, “then I would urge you to reconsider your motivations. Not everything is epistolary novels and the like. Some things are primogeniture and honour and a respectable lineage.”
Eleanor blushed suddenly and lowered her gaze. She hated to disappoint her father; hated above all else for him to think her the sort of girl who would shrink from her rightful duty, and she wasn’t like those lasses who took one look at Blake’s poems and then decided that all care and comfort should be thrown to the wind for bluestocking quips and an expansion of their own interests. No, she understood loyalty to family, and she understood marrying for propriety’s sake; at least, she understood these things in theory. In practice, she shrank away from the thought of being with that thin, pale young man she’d seen twice before at social gatherings with his eyes looking faraway and his manners nearly as distant.
Eleanor blinked away the memory of that sunlit garden and the first realization she’d truly registered that her father’s plans for her life were going to set aside forever all her girlish ideas of marrying for love. How silly she had been to giggle about such things with Kitty under the willow tree; to talk endlessly about how handsome and wonderful their husbands were going to be, when in reality, Eleanor had none of the glamour and enchantment of true love. She had an empty house and an empty life.
She reached over and pulled Kitty’s letter out of the envelope. It was written, as all Kitty’s letters were written, with galloping, over-eager handwriting. Eleanor had practiced her own stately penmanship endlessly as a little girl, desperate to impress her father with her letters to him while he was at sea; even more desperate to show her mother that she had attained to the level of a fine lady, but Kitty had always been more relaxed about such things. Perhaps it had worked out for her in the end, for here in the letter was all the joyous news Eleanor had been both hoping for and dreading.
“My dearest friend,” the letter began, as they always did, “you will not believe the good luck I have had—and no, this has nothing to do with that tailored pelisse I bought in London last month; don’t be so dreadfully materialistic—as much as I want to drag out the telling of it, I shall be as direct as I can manage and spare you my usual remunerations. Oliver and I are engaged at last. Yes, I ought still to call him Mr Garvey; my mother is always saying so, but I do so love his given name … don’t you? He arranged everything with the inheritance and his father in due time, and then assured his situation with me after our time in Bath last weekend with my parents. We came out of the Assembly Rooms, and you must know that I’d already suspected, but then he put the question to me as simply as if we were discussing the price of mutton in the square, which you know, I never do on principle. Of course, that may not sound quite as romantic to your lovely ears, but I trust you will allow that I am very happy, and all other detestables can fall by the wayside in the face of such delight.”
The letter was signed with a rather over-elegant, “Miss Katherine Swire” and annotated with a “soon to be Mrs Garvey” penned coyly atop the signature. Eleanor smiled sadly, folded the letter, and tucked it into the little basket where she kept all the things that required her attention and response. She looked around the room, resting her eyes and centring her thoughts. Kitty talked to her so openly because Kitty thought she was just as happy, or at least would be just as happy when her husband was back at home. He’d left his new little wife behind in a gorgeous gilded cage. The room where she sat was evidence enough of the fact: high vaulted ceilings such as could be found all about the great house, enormous windows, elegant and exotic decorations, more rooms than Eleanor could keep account of, and sprawling grounds all about. She herself was sitting in a morning dressing gown that was made of gorgeous silk and trimmed with fine lace, finer than she ever would have imagined for herself, but she still felt quite empty. She stifled the pang of jealousy that crept into her heart after reading Kitty’s delighted words. In the face of such delight. And she didn’t know what that kind of delight was.
In the end, she’d agreed to marry Miles Fitzroy, sometime in the future when the two were older and wiser and, hopefully, after his first tour with the East India Company. In a secret part of her heart, Eleanor knew that she had put all these precautions in hoping that the illustrious Miles Fitzroy would think better of the arrangement during his absence and set her free from her responsibility. Then, one day, all of a sudden, things had changed.
It started when Eleanor’s father had come down with what looked to be an illness of the lungs. He was sent home on temporary leave, but after a few weeks had passed without result and, on the contrary, with a deepening of the rattling cough in his chest and a weakening of his usually strong physique, the doctors began to get genuinely concerned. It was in this state that he called Eleanor to his side. She could still remember the conversation as though it had occurred yesterday instead of two years ago. Her father, laying in the bed with his head propped up on goose down pillows; her mother, standing nearby and sniffing into a handkerchief; the way her father’s wind-roughened hands, so strong in battle and on the high seas, had looked weak and helpless laying palms down on the coverlet next to him.
“My dearest daughter,” he had said, his voice scratchy and thin. “Come closer.”
“What is it, Papa?” She could still remember the fear she’d felt; the uncertainty. Even with a father who she rarely saw due to his career in the royal navy, Eleanor had learned to love her kind, honourable father with all her heart. “You sound a bit better today.”
“That’s hardly true,” he had said with a weak laugh that led at once into a vicious coughing fit. When he had, at last, gained control of his breathing, he spoke in quiet, short sentences. “I want to speak with you about Miles Fitzroy.”
“I know, Father,” she had said, thinking that he had forgotten their earlier conversations on the subject in his illness and delirium. She took his hand in hers. “I promise that when his first tour is over, and he is quite ready, I will marry him as I have promised.”
“No,” he had said hoarsely, desperately. “No, I am not long for this world.”
“Papa, don’t speak that way.”
“It is no good for me to pretend otherwise, and I have affairs to set in order. It is my desire to see this singular promise I made to Lieutenant Fitzroy all those years ago fulfilled now, in my presence, before I die.”
“Would you now deny me this one ask in the hour of my death, child?”
And so she had promised him, tears streaming down her cheeks. Then there were frantic letters sent, a confusing time convincing the parson to perform the marriage without the customary reading of the bans, the arrival of Miles Fitzroy with his face exactly as hollow and pale as Eleanor had remembered, and a brief, hurried wedding at the foot of her father’s sickbed. There was such a whirlwind of emotion, solemnity with an affair that should have been joyful; smiles when in Eleanor’s heart she wanted to weep, and mostly, the feeling that everything was very strange, even her groom. There was nothing normal to cling to. There wasn’t even time for all the little trappings of marriage that girls normally clung to: Eleanor wore an old dinner gown her mother had trimmed with seed pearls, and she had her auburn hair in a simple twist against the nape of her neck. Miles hardly looked at her during the ceremony, and when he did, his fine eyes flitted away before they really found a place to rest. At the end of the ceremony, Eleanor leaned over and kissed her father’s fevered brow; Miles stepped forward and took his hand gently.
That night, a time that should have been reserved for joyful, tentative consummation of marriage, had been a cold one. The couple parted ways at Eleanor’s door, and she spent her first night as a married woman asleep alone in her bed. It was the way these things were done sometimes, she told herself as she hugged the coverlet close and wept silently into the feathers. She tried to tell herself that she would be alright, that she was crying for her father, but beneath the shell of propriety she had built up around her heart Eleanor knew that wasn’t true—she was crying for the dream of love that had been lost.
Miles Fitzroy left a day later. He dressed up in his crisp navy uniform, kissed Eleanor neatly on the top of her hand, and then, with a few proper phrases that she couldn’t now remember, he had climbed onto his mount and disappeared down the lane. Eleanor couldn’t remember much about him at all; not that she had known much to begin with, but what bothered her the most was that outside of a basic idea cast by stylized paintings about the grand Fitzroy mansion, she had very little idea what her husband even looked like anymore. She couldn’t think of his face, not unless she walked downstairs and stood beneath the painting of him standing with a hunting party, and even that was such a bare approximation of Miles’ demeanour that she had to squint to even get a glimpse of his true nature.
She sighed and stood now from her writing desk to walk to the window. It overlooked the gorgeously-kept gardens in the distance, and if she peered very carefully through the fringe of woods, she could just make out the modest manor house where Lieutenant Laurence Fitzroy had retired to on the event of his son’s marriage. She felt silly, moving into this grand estate all on her own while the great owner of the house went to live at a distance, but she knew that it was the way things were done in this part of England, and besides that, the elder Mr Fitzroy was still commissioned in the navy, and a widower to add to it—he had little reason to come home, even to the small manor house on the hill. She was sad about it, for while she knew the man’s son very little, she did have some affection for his father, who tried to visit her when he could and had the sparkle of mischief buried deep in his ageing blue eyes. Miles was his only child, and as Eleanor now lived far from her own mother and friends from back home—for her father had passed away mere days after her wedding—she felt sorely the lack of family and community.
She shook her head as though to clear it.
“This is dangerously close to self-pity, my love,” she said to herself, copying the phrase that her mother used to say to her when she was a little girl nursing sadness over her father’s absence. “You’ve hands and a brain; you should keep yourself busy.”
With that thought bolstering her for the moment, Eleanor was nearly ready to quit her chambers in search of the freshly-laid tea in the parlour when her eyes fell on the smattering of letters and she noticed, amid the few from her mother and friends from home and of course Kitty’s message, there was an unusual missive wrapped in brown paper and besotted by a more sturdy seal than was England’s wont.
She walked over and pulled it out, turning it over with interest. It was addressed to “Mrs Eleanor Fitzroy” and looked quite official—perhaps an invitation of some sort, but then again it was penned on a rather garish brown paper, quite practical for postal travel, perhaps, but hardly the thing a fine lady of the county would use to invite someone to a ball or dinner party. She opened it, eager to examine the contents, and was shocked to see the signature at the bottom of the page: Mr Miles Fitzroy. In the two years that Miles had been gone, the pair had exchanged exactly one letter each. He had written to say that he was safely in India, and she had responded to say that she was established at his estate; neither letter had been very detailed, and neither writer seemed to feel it necessary to embellish with turns of phrase or commentary on what had passed between them during the marriage ceremony. Now, she saw that this letter held to the same rigid standard, written simply; only a few lines in total.
“Mrs Eleanor Fitzroy,” it began in a formal tone, “I am writing on the occasion of my imminent return from our trading post in India. I will be leaving on a frigate marked for English shores in a matter of days, and though I wish to give you some warning with this missive, I imagine it only precedes my return by a few weeks. If all goes well, I will likely be stopping along the return route for a brief bit of business off the coast of Africa, but aside from that, I cannot give you a more exact return date. Please make the house ready as you will, and I look forward to our meeting in the future.”
She read it twice over, looking for any hint of affection or love, and when she found none, she felt a pang of loneliness followed almost at once by a sensation that she had been rather silly to hope for anything bordering on emotion from the gentleman. He had never shown such feeling before, during, or after their marriage. Why it should suddenly arise now would have been a question indeed; and even if it had, Eleanor admitted to herself, it was not as though she would have been in a position to return that affection in any proper way.
She realized with a blush that her thoughts had been unrolling while she was twisting the letter in her hands nervously, and she quickly smoothed it out again and made her way down to the kitchen. It was with her as it had always been with her mother; no time to think about what would happen when Miles Fitzroy returned home and declared himself master of the house—she must distract herself with preparation, food, sending word to her mother and to Lieutenant Fitzroy himself; airing out Miles’ old chambers that had been covered over with clothes and drapes for two years now, preparing another stall in the stable—everything that she needed to focus on instead of the one thing that was haunting her every step: that the man who would be walking in that door would be a stranger.
“Bride for the Sake of Duty” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Eleanor has wished for true love ever since she was a little girl, but she has no other choice but to marry a man she knows nothing about, due to her father’s definite will. To make matters worse, her new husband leaves right after their nuptials on his first trip overseas. After two years of loneliness, Miles returns and he’s even more handsome than she remembers, but he still remains a complete stranger to her. Could she ever grow feelings for him after all this time? Will she eventually get the one thing she has always dreamt of?
Miles Fitzroy craves adventure but he has to get wed to honour his father’s wishes. His wife may be breathtaking, but he has no time to get to know her before he leaves for India. Now that he is finally back home, he finds himself longing for something other than the sea. He realizes that it might be the journey of falling in love that has been missing from his life. Could he ever choose the warmth of his beautiful wife over the exciting life of an adventurer?
Two strangers are bound together forever, but it won’t be easy to create a genuine bond after their long separation. A string of mishaps and adventures that follow can either bring them together forever or tear them apart for good. Will Eleanor get her wish for a true, heart-melting romance? Will Miles finally find a place to call home in Eleanor’s eyes?
“Bride for the Sake of Duty” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.