Lady Nara Wilber smiled from her lovely, heart-shaped face. Surrounded by men at the extravagant ball, she laughed heartily through another boring story about a hunt.
“Believe it or not, I got the boar,” the man said, thoroughly proud of himself.
Nara looked across the room at her father, Lawrence Wilber, the Earl of Whitehall. He would have been proud of her for maintaining the attention. In truth, the attention was the only thing Nara enjoyed about these balls. Having a reputation as one of the most beautiful debutantes in London, Nara did not mind seeing the evidence of that in the men fawning over her.
“Lady Wilber, if you enjoyed his tale of the boar, you must hear about my adventures in the North, when I captured a fox,” said some other man with an equally bloated ego. Nara could not recall his title or name in that moment.
Still, she made every effort to appear interested, although she would much rather have been sitting at her desk, crafting another letter to Paul Cunningham, the handsome regiment soldier who had captured her heart nearly four months ago.
For a woman in her position, marriage to a regiment soldier would be absolute nonsense as far as her father was concerned. He would never allow it. Nara would be cast aside entirely. But what could she do? She had fallen in love.
Nara wondered how she could possibly let go of her hopes to be with him. She hoped that she would be able to ease her father into the idea of the marriage. Maybe, with time, she could convince him to let her marry Paul Cunningham. He would have to understand her heart in this matter.
“Lady Wilber?” the man prodded, clearly having been speaking to her when she long-since ceased to listen.
“Oh, forgive me, I thought my father was calling me over and I was distracted. How terribly rude of me! But you know how my father is. If he calls upon me, I have little choice but to go,” she said, hoping her father would serve as a reasonable excuse.
Unfortunately, it meant the man told the tale again and Nara had to focus and listen this time. By the end of the evening, no matter how much attention she had received, no matter how beautiful she was made to feel; she was ready to depart.
The coachman opened the door to the coach and Nara climbed in with her mother and father behind her. Her mother was a quiet woman who always appeared to make herself smaller. Her father, however, was a grand personality who demanded attention. There was something in his expression once they were all inside the coach which left her anxious.
“Nara, my dear, I have excellent news,” he said.
“What sort of news, Papa? You look as if you have just plotted some very grand scheme,” Nara replied.
“Indeed, I have! You see, while you were dancing and charming the men and enjoying yourself, I was arranging for something very important, my dear. Can you guess what it was?” he asked, all his teeth showing in his grin.
But Nara shook her head, a smile on her face even though she did not feel true excitement.
“Your marriage, my dear!” he exclaimed.
Nara’s heart was still for a moment before the thumping began to take off with speed. Her breathing grew shallow, her expression fell flat and then to despair.
“Wh-what did you say?”
“I arranged your marriage. I am sure that you are excited. I can hardly wait for Lord Alcott to introduce you to his son. He was not at the ball this evening, but he will come around soon, I am sure,” he said.
Nara was shocked, but the despair was creeping inside her at an alarming rate.
Married? She was going to be married to some nobleman. What about Paul? She had never even had a chance to speak with her father about him. What could she do? How could she stop this from happening?
Desperate and alarmed, Nara tried to come up with a plan. She would have to do something. It was impossible to let this happen when she wanted to marry Paul more than anything.
She knew that her father would be especially against the marriage now. If she and Paul really did try to have a future together, her father would surely put an end to it. She would have no choice but to run away with him if they were going to be together. Nothing else would work.
But would Paul do that? Would he sweep her away? She felt sure that he would be he also had obligations and her father could make his life miserable if they were discovered.
The next day, Lord Duncan Alcott came around. He would one day by the Earl of Wister. He was a decent enough man, but boring like the others. He cared about business more than anything else. And he was not ugly; his eyes were a nice shade of green, but there was little else she found exceptionally attractive about him.
In all, he was a perfectly average man. He was nothing at all like her sweet, sweet Paul Cunningham, a man brave enough to fight for his country and gentle enough to woo even a woman as shallow as Nara, who did not believe she deserved him.
After meeting with Lord Alcott, Nara rushed to her room and wrote a letter to Paul, begging him to take her away, to marry her and rescue her from this terrible plight. She cried over the last few letters she had received from him, knowing she would have to leave this one in their secret hiding place.
She could not marry Lord Alcott. She would not. She would run away with Paul and everything would be exactly as it was meant to be. She would be happy and live the life to which she had always belonged.
Lady Ivy Alcott folded up the letter she had just written as she walked past the edge of the estate grounds with her lady’s maid. Her dark blonde hair fell around her freckled face and to the small of her back, loose and free.
“You keep doing that,” Blythe said.
“You keep fiddling with the paper, folding and unfolding and then folding again. Are you anxious?” Blythe asked.
Ivy glanced at Blythe, her maid and friend alike. Despite Blythe’s firebrand personality, she had her red hair in a severe bun, tight on the top of her head. It was not the height of fashion by any means, but it was what Ivy’s mother demanded. And nobody said no to Lady Nara.
“I suppose I am, just a bit,” Ivy replied as they entered the small woods on the grounds.
“What do you have to be nervous about? There is nothing wrong with what you are doing. Think about it. It is a very clever idea, after all. You have just entered society, and yet your mother does not allow you to attend any balls or socialise with anyone very much. How else might you find a friend but by the chance of fate?” Blythe asked.
That was precisely Ivy’s thought. Still, as she brought this paper out, hopeful of the outcome, she recognised that it was probably foolish.
“More than likely, this letter of introduction is going to do nothing but wind up soaked from the next bout of rain,” Ivy said.
“Perhaps, but you never know. It is in the perfect location, just along the edge of the road. It is hidden enough to not be seen by just anyone, and yet open enough to be seen by those who are observant. I think it is a splendid idea,” Blythe said, as encouraging as ever.
Still, Ivy felt a surge of insecurity in her grand idea. There was a part of her that wondered why she had ever even considered it to be an option and thought she had clearly made an error in judgment, believing that this was a good idea at all. Nevertheless, she hoped that she would be able to find some sort of solace through her plan.
Leaving a letter in the opening of a tree may have seemed like a girlish dream, but it was the sort of romantic notion she had seen work time after time in the books that she loved. If ever there was a way to hope for a future of love and excitement, this was it. Ivy was determined that she would be able to enjoy her life and this was one way she could do it.
She could try to find the romance.
Of course, if nothing else, she could even find a friend of another sort. It did not have to be a romance, although that was her intention and her hope. If she could find just anyone with whom she could interact, she would be happy.
Blythe was her dearest friend, but Blythe was also the only person she had in her life. Ivy knew no one else. Her mother kept such a tight strain on her that it was nearly impossible to meet anyone.
Although her father occasionally reasoned with her mother to allow her to attend a ball, he was hardly ever present. Lord Duncan Alcott, the Earl of Wister, was an important man with a great many places to be and things to do. He hardly had time to remain at the house or the energy to argue with her mother.
“To be honest, Blythe I have the strangest feeling that this may actually work to find a new friend. I feel foolish for thinking it, after all it is likely to be carried away by a bird and used for nesting, but something within me believes that it just has to work,” Ivy confessed.
“Then leave the letter. The worst that can happen is that no one ever sees it,” Blythe said.
Ivy nodded, agreeing with that point.
They reached the tree soon enough, the early summer sun casting a glow around the immense base of it. There, right at eye level, was the deep notch, a perfect spot for placing a letter.
Ivy set the folded paper inside, swallowing against her nerves. She wasn’t sure why she felt so intensely anxious, but there was a sense within her that this was truly going to make a difference in her life.
“Well, I suppose that is all there is to it,” Ivy said with a sigh.
“Indeed, it is. Come, let us go back to the house. I do not wish for your mother to think that we are dallying,” Blythe said.
Ivy sighed and followed her maid. With one final glance at the tree, her heart leapt, full of hope.
“He really thought that such a thing was acceptable?” Blythe asked with a laugh.
Ivy nodded, pulling her cloak further around her shoulders and shaking as a chill ran down her spine. It was a bit foolish to be coming out when the threat of snow hung in the air, but she was desperate to leave the house for a while. Her mother had been unbearable since the ball a few nights before.
“Indeed, he did. He told me that if I do not marry him, I shall be a spinster. Can you believe it? A spinster! In the middle of the dance, I thought that I might easily run from him, I was so appalled. My mother and father would have been shocked. What sort of man is he to make such a suggestion? I have only turned eighteen three months ago, and it was one of my first balls,” she said.
“Such a shame that you did not attend more during the height of the season,” Blythe said.
“Yes, well, you know how my mother feels about it,” Ivy said.
They both grew quiet after that. Her first season had come and gone without consequence. Ivy had only been allowed to attend two balls and her mother insisted they leave early from both. For the rest of the season, her mother attended without her and without Ivy’s father who had been in Italy for most of the season, importing a variety of goods.
He had only just returned in time for this event and insisted that Ivy must attend if she was going to find a husband. Of course, Ivy had her suspicions as to why her mother always kept her at home. She certainly did not seem to like the attention Ivy received whenever they went out.
“Oh!” Blythe exclaimed, suddenly, breaking them both from their thoughts. Ivy jumped a little, shocked by the unexpected sound.
“What is it?”
“Forgive me, but I only just remembered about the tree,” Blythe said.
“Tree?” Ivy asked.
“Yes, you recall. In the spring, remember? You left a note in the tree just before you became ill and your mother kept you inside for the month,” Blythe said.
The memory sparked in Ivy. How could she have forgotten? She had placed a letter in the tree near the main road and checked it regularly for a month or two.
The last time she had looked must have been just before she had slipped on the banks of the lake and caught a chill. It was so inconsequential to her now, but Ivy realised that her mother’s insistence upon her remaining indoors had caused her to forget something which had been of great importance.
“I remember. My goodness, how could I ever have forgotten? Blythe, you are a genius. Thank you for recalling that day. I wish I had not forgotten about it. What a shame! I am sure that there is nothing there now. It has been nearly six months since I first placed the letter,” Ivy said.
“Nothing ever came of it?” Blythe asked.
“Not from the last I checked. But that was before I became ill. What did I write in there, anyway?” Ivy asked rhetorically with a laugh.
“I never read it. But you should see if it is still there. You never know, you may be inspired to rewrite it and put it back or even find another place where someone is more likely to spot it,” Blythe suggested.
“Yes, maybe so. I do wonder if it is still there,” Ivy said, quickening her step and heading in the direction of the tree.
They walked with a renewed determination and reached the tree quickly. Ivy was shocked to spot the paper still in the tree, even from a distance. It was in better shape than she had anticipated.
When she reached into the notch and pulled the paper out, she smirked at her own silliness for placing it there at all.
But when Ivy unfolded the paper, she was shocked to discover that the handwriting was not her own.
Her heart began to pound as she stared at the words, clearly written by a man. Her eyes did not read it, only look on in shock.
“Ivy? What is it?” Blythe asked.
She glanced up at Blythe before looking back at the paper.
“It…it is not my letter,” she said.
Blythe gasped in delight and clapped her hands together.
“You mean someone responded?” she asked.
“It appears so,” Ivy replied softly.
“What does it say?”
At last, Ivy began to read the letter, wanted an answer to that question very badly.
Dear Miss Ivy,
I thank you for the wondrous discovery of your letter. It brought me immense joy as I was out on one of my walks. I must confess that I did not anticipate the joy that it brought me to find something so lovely as I went about my day.
I am sure you must be wondering what sort of man this is who might respond to you. I can assure you that I am no strange wanderer, nor an old fellow with impure intentions. Rather, I very much enjoyed your letter a great deal and find that I am curious to know more about you.
What a clever idea it was! Putting a letter in a tree and hoping that someone might stumble upon it? Such a lovely mind, you must have. Honestly, it makes me curious to learn more about that mind. You know, there are times when a man might be curious about a woman’s reasons for her actions, but in this, I am simply delighted that you made the choice to do this.
If you are happy to share more about yourself, I would like to learn what sort of woman you are. You mentioned in your letter that you enjoy reading. I do as well. I would love to know what books and authors you favour.
What else entertains you? Are you fond of the theatre or riding or something else entirely? If you are comfortable sharing with me, I should like to know.
Perhaps we may continue in corresponding.
Your new friend,
Blythe craned her neck to look over Ivy’s shoulder.
“Miss Ivy?” she asked.
“I simply signed my name. I did not give my surname or title. Just Ivy,” she replied.
“What else does it say?”
“He seems like quite a gentleman. Birch is his name. He seems quite well educated and romantic as well. He wishes to know more about me. He asked questions and said that he also loves to read,” Ivy explained, her heart racing. Although she was eager and excited, the shock of it kept her somewhat calm.
“How marvellous, Ivy! You must reply to him at once. I have no doubt in my mind that this is the reason you felt moved to write that letter. You see? Fate held you in her hands. It was all for this moment,” Blythe declared.
“Yes, perhaps it was. I am astonished that this has happened at all,” Ivy said.
“I do like his name. I knew a young man named Birch once. Oh, and Lord Birch Endall, was he not a distance relation of yours?” Blythe said.
“Yes, he was a cousin of my grandfather. Anyway, I am not sure what to do now. This letter is dated two months ago. Do you think he has continued checking to see if I have replied?” Ivy asked.
Blythe grinned mischievously and tilted her head.
“There is only one way to find out.”
Birch Caldwell rubbed at his sharp jaw with his wrist. His hands were dirty, covered in leather polish as black as the curls which frames his face.
Although he focused on the shoes he was crafting, his thoughts had returned to all of his longings and hopes for the future.
In Birch’s ideal world, he would meet the young woman who had placed the letter in the tree, and they would fall in love. He would open his shop in the middle of London, using the skills his uncle had taught him here at the shoe shop he now worked in. He would become one of the greatest cobblers in all of England.
Soon enough, he would marry the young woman and they would have a large family that he could provide for. His children would go to a grand school, much like the one he had attended as a young boy, back when his father was a professor there before he passed away.
And, of course, his wife would be healthy through all her births. She and the children would not suffer the fate his mother had when she and his baby sister were lost during childbirth.
Birch swallowed and focused on the shoes in his hands. He needed to stop daydreaming. The baroness who was waiting for this pair would not be pleased if he made a mistake because he was distracted.
Unable to do that very thing, Birch sighed and set down the shoe. He quickly stood and snuck into the back room. His uncle and cousin were out but would be back soon. While he was alone, he unfolded the letter and began reading through it.
To the friendly stranger who happens upon this letter,
I wish you well. It is my eager hope that you would stumble upon this letter on a fine day, a day when you may need a little bit more brightening and joy.
My name is Ivy. I am a young woman who enjoys going for walks and reading wonderful books. I adore this world in which we live and have great hopes and dreams for a splendid future. Although I may not be quite what others expect of me, I do have a good heart and I can assure you that I am a friendly soul.
It is my greatest hope that, through the writing of this letter, I shall find a friend, someone kind and good with whom I might engage. I would love for you to respond with a note about yourself, something to tell me who you are, if you are reading this.
Until we read again,
Birch couldn’t help but smile, imagining who this young woman might be. Was she shy and gentle or boisterous and exuberant? Was she as kind and romantic as she appeared through these letters? Or was she nothing like this at all? Was she someone he might not care for as much as he expected through the reading of these words?
It hardly seemed to matter now. It had been months with no response. His own letter was still just sitting there in the tree when he had checked two weeks ago. He might as well just take the letter out of there and move on.
Or maybe he would find that a response had finally come. Either way, it was best that he return to the tree and find out.
“What are you doing in here?” Clark asked, popping his head into the back room.
Birch looked up at his cousin with wide, guilty eyes.
“Oh, sorry. I was just…” he trailed off, trying to find an excuse.
“What is it you have there? Is that a letter? From whom?” Clark asked, eagerly.
Birch sighed. “Well, that is the question.”
“What do you mean?”
He didn’t want to hand over the letter but decided he might as well. Clark was his greatest confidant and it only made sense to let him have a look. After all, this was important to Birch. It was best that he allow Clark to know what was on his mind regarding the letter. And yet…somehow, he was not quite ready.
“It is nothing. Just a reminder to myself about the shoes. I was worried because the baroness has rather wide feet and I wanted to be sure that I recalled the measurements correctly but left my notes in here. Anyway, did you find everything you needed from town?” he asked.
Clark’s eyes flashed with suspicion for only a moment before resigning to acceptance.
“Indeed, we did. Everything. Father has the new mallet he was hoping for, which is quite a good thing,” Clark said.
“It really is. Every time I use the other, I worry that the metal will break off the wood and smash my feet. I’m glad that he found a decent one,” Birch replied.
“As am I. Now, tell me, how are the shoes coming along? You know, having the baroness as one of our customers is a particularly good thing indeed. My father is thrilled. He told me that you are the only man who could satisfy her demands when it comes to shoes and I am inclined to agree with him. Honestly, that woman is not exactly pleasant, but you managed to woo her into feeling that she might actually like what we have to offer,” Clark laughed.
“All I did was show her my work. It was nothing, really. Anyway, you ought to know that I have learned it all from your father just as you have. I take no credit for that,” Birch said.
“We shall remind you of that when the day comes that you have your grand shop in the centre of London. Believe me, we are not going to let you forget us,” Clark teased.
“I could never. But I also find myself wondering if that day will ever come. Each time I believe I have found the customer who will speak of me to his or her friends, I realise that they have simply forgotten about me until the next time they need a pair of their own,” Birch said.
“One day, that will change. But until then, you need to keep living your life, Birch. There is no reason to end up stuck in the back room all the time just because you need to fit wide feet. You have a talent. You ought to see if Father will allow you to make a couple of stylish and grand pairs to put in the window, something to show off your skill,” Clark said.
Birch shrugged, wondering if his uncle would allow him to do that, to experiment with new styles. Leather was costly enough that it hardly seemed worthwhile, but it could potentially drive in more customers. He would have to ask.
“The woman you marry is going to be truly fortunate to have a husband who can design and create such lovely shoes. She shall be the envy of all her friends,” Clark said.
“As will yours. Now, we had best work hard to find such women,” Birch laughed.
“Indeed, we must. What of the baroness? Does she have any eligible daughters?” Clark asked, taking a seat and leaning back, interlacing his fingers behind his head.
“To my knowledge, she has a son, hardly in the double digits. Perhaps she has a sister or a cousin,” Birch remarked with a grin.
Although they enjoyed teasing one another about these things, there was certainly no chance that a cobbler would ever wind up marrying someone of any real consequence in society like a baroness. Still, Birch found himself not entirely caring. He was far more intrigued by the young woman from the letter.
He wondered if he would ever have a chance to meet her or get to know her. All over again, he determined that he would have to make his way back to the tree after work. He would go and find out if there was any hope. After this, if she had not come, he would give up. He would not bother to return. He might even take back his letter just to remove any lingering trace of hope. After all, hope was a cruel thing.
“Birch! Clark!” came the shout of Birch’s uncle.
“Oh, goodness, we have stayed in here too long,” Birch said.
“Yes, he is going to be annoyed that we are not minding the shop,” Clark said, on his feet in an instant and rushing out of the little office.
Birch was on his heels and came out into the shop to find his uncle trying to carry in a pallet of leather.
“There is more in the cart. Make yourselves useful,” his uncle instructed.
Birch took the pallet directly from his uncle, who then rubbed at the base of his spine. He was getting on in years and Birch could not bear to think of him being in any real pain. After all, he had been like a father to Birch, taking him in after his mother passed away.
In many ways, he was the only reason Birch had managed to get along after that. Without a mother and father, he had felt so alone in the world. He had been a boy of just fourteen and had not known what to do aside from apprenticing with his uncle and growing closer to Clark. Since Clark’s own mother had also long-since passed away, the three men were their only family.
And now, the only thing they could think to do was work hard to expand their efforts with the shoe shop. Somehow, despite the aspirations Clark’s father had for him to become a professor, this suited him far better.
His own father had been a fairly wealthy man, although he had no formal title or position in society. Birch’s mother and uncle had not been from such affluence, but his father had never been one to count people out due to their status in life.
This was one of the things that others had loved most about him. He was a good man with a good heart. Birch hoped that he would be able to emulate that even now and his uncle had raised him well to do so.
He lugged another pallet of leather inside and then got back to work on the shoes for the baroness. She came in later that day, having been promised they would be ready. Indeed, they were.
“Good heavens, these are the loveliest, most comfortable shoes I have ever worn,” she said, looking at how well they suited her feet. She was a small woman with a delicate frame and the shoes would certainly be noticed—or so Birch hoped.
“I am glad that you like them,” he said.
“Oh, I truly do. They are lovely. Now, you must be sure that I am going to tell all my friends about you,” she promised.
His customers were always making such promises. Fulfilling those promises, however, was a less common practice.
“Thank you, your ladyship. I am most grateful,” he said.
“Well, you may rest assured that you are soon to get a grand influx of women from high society through your shop. Now, how much do I still owe you?” she asked, kindly.
Birch humbly told her the cost and she paid with a smile on her face.
At the end of the day, his uncle and cousin were closing-up shop, ready to head back to the house.
“I shall meet you there. I feel like going for a walk,” he said.
“Very well,” his uncle replied. “We shall see you after.”
Birch gave them a nod and then departed from them, making his way to the main road where he hoped to find a certain tree.
“Forever Yours, My Lady” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Lady Ivy Alcott is a hopelessly romantic soul, longing for her fairytale love. However, when she is thrown into an unwanted betrothal, she feels terrified of never being able to fulfil her secret dreams. Everything is about to change though when she decides to take her chances and place a letter in the notch of a tree in hopes of someone finding it one day. Fortune smiles on her, when a mysterious person replies in writing, making her heart skip a beat. Not only that, but when she unexpectedly runs into him, it feels like a chance at true love may finally be within reach. There is only one problem though; the charming gentleman would never be approved by her family due to his lower social class. Will Ivy dare to confront her own family for the sake of her powerful feelings?
Birch Caldwell is a well-educated young man, whose life has taken a very tragic turn. Working as a talented shoemaker that struggles to get by in life, he hopes that one day his fate will eventually change. When he finds a letter hidden in the opening of a tree, he realises that this just might be the gateway to what has been missing in his life; true love. When he finally meets in person the affectionate woman that stole his mind with her beautiful letters, he is also enchanted by her ethereal beauty. Everything will fall apart though when he finds out about Ivy’s courtship against her will. Will Birch find the way to escape from his ill fate and find refuge in Ivy’s heart? Will he be courageous enough to fight for the love that has finally made him feel alive?
When Birch and Ivy’s letters turn into a real-life fairytale, they know they are destined to be together, despite the societal rules that tend to tear them apart. While their feelings of affection are growing with each passing day, Ivy’s family will not tolerate their union and will do everything in their power to keep the two soulmates away from each other. Amidst these trials, will Ivy and Birch find a way to defy society’s restrictions and fully immerse in the sweet romance that came to life through their tender written words? Or will their common hopes and dreams go up in smoke before they come to life?
“Forever Yours, My Lady” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.