A Lady Defying All for Love (Preview)


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A Letter to the Public on Recent Rumours of a Baron’s Ill Deeds

June 10th, 1810; No. 7, Vol. 78

We invite you, dear reader, to peruse the following disturbing, but not altogether surprising, facts about a certain Baron Baldwin, well known in his own London circles and even amongst certain merchant people who would otherwise not move in the circles of a formerly respected lord and businessman such as himself.

Our object in the publication of the following story is the speaking of plain truth, which we see as both a duty and a privilege, considering the circumstances at hand. Perhaps the story we tell is not so new to you after all—we have found that triumph of the truth often happens in whispered parlours before it even reaches the written page—but regardless, we proceed.

This very Baron, a man who previously held a place of high esteem in the government and society alike, has been caught, as it were, in any number of frivolous, and, it appears, at times criminal schemes. You may deem such matters to be merely the expected course of men embroiled in the workings of public government, but the good editors here at The Herald beg to differ. Hear our case, and determine whether or not you think this Baron to be as blameless as he would make himself out to be.

This very Lord Baldwin, a member of the Fitzgerald family and thereby sullying a formerly-respected name in the county, has always been a passionate politician and outspoken member of the House of Lords. Now, we lay at his doorstep another crime entirely. An anonymous man in his employ, who will, for the source’s safety, remain unnamed, has accused him openly of misusing his wealth in scurrilous schemes and bribing fellow politicians and laymen to vote in alignment with his own scandalous schemes in the House of Lords. This anonymous source also states that his employer bought silence from opposing parties and took money that belonged to the betterment of the people for his own personal gain.

Now that you have heard the charges, we lay his fate at the feet of the people. I’m certain that public houses and elegant parlours are where the real war will wage against this unseemly fellow. Close your doors to him and his, and be not caught up in his schemes.

Wherein the Baron Baldwin’s Defence is Questionable

June 17th, 1810; No. 7, Vol. 79

We invite contributors to the opinion section of our fine publication to please refrain from submitting more of the particular brand of inflammatory article that you have thus engaged in. While we are all incensed by this further evidence that yet another member of respected society has fallen, we do not have room in our accounts of gallantry, pleasure, and scandal to publish all your responses. It will give our readers some satisfaction to note that the Baron’s attempts at denying these rumours have been met with cold shoulders by almost all in his immediate sphere.

It seems that when you make your name going against people in the government and holding shocking views on prioritizing the poor at the expense of those who have earned their living fairly, you tend to reap the results of that behaviour. We are not to cast judgement here at The Herald, but if we were to see Lord Baldwin, we would say simply: “too little, too late.”

Baldwin and Family Flee London after Scurrilous Rumours

June 24th, 1810; No. 7, Vol. 80

There is a saying amongst those in the constabulary that fleeing the law is an almost certain sign of guilt, and we have no reason to think otherwise in the case of Lord Baldwin, his wife, his son, and his daughter all quitting London after a few weeks of failed attempts to deny the rumours of corruption and maleficence on his part.

We have heard from friends that the young Miss Fitzgerald, Lord Baldwin’s daughter, was only a few months from coming out in London society when he quit the scene, and we can only presume that the shame of bearing up under public scrutiny while holding the position of being such a one’s daughter helped to influence the flight.

We, your dutiful press, have asked around about the whereabouts of the family, but as of yet the closest response we could get was from a former disgruntled maid who had been let go from the family’s employ. She said that she thought they retreated to the country, although with the whole of England at our fingertips, we’re not certain how precise a bit of information that really is.

As devastating as it always is to watch a member of the public scene fall so terribly from grace, we offer up our little Herald as the main avenue through which you may gain further information about the disgraced Baron, should he ever choose to show his face again in this city.

Chapter One

The morning was full of birdsong. Eliza Steele threw back her head and breathed deep of the warm summer air, all aglow with morning light and the tell-tale signs of damp spring finally fading away into the few dry months that England had to offer. She was walking along the familiar worn path behind the post office, soon to turn northward through the centre of the village and across town on her weekly mission—the basket looped over one arm heavy with fruits and bread.

It was mornings like this that made her feel light and full of life. The main road through the little village of Bibury was a familiar trail for Eliza, who had grown up on the outskirts of the River Coln since she was a little girl. She was well acquainted with all the little buildings and establishments that had been there since she could remember. There was the tea room at the opposite end of the street—the most modern of all the buildings, and yet still it had been there since she was a little girl—the blacksmith on the corner near the livery; the inn, the baker, and the milliner who had set up across the street from the dressmaker with the express intent of stealing the other woman’s ribbon-buying clientele. There had been a good deal of argument about that particular choice, and Eliza’s father, the town parson, had been at the centre of the dispute more often than he would have liked.

“Eliza, love,” he always said after these long, extended arguments, “I sometimes think it is good to think of others and not only because of the Good Lord’s teachings, but also because it’s purely practical if you do so. If only Mrs Ellis—” who was the milliner, “—hadn’t insisted upon setting up quite so near to Mrs Partridge—“ who was the dressmaker. “Or if she’d amended her wares somewhat, perhaps there would have been a bit more ease for Bibury as a result.”

Eliza didn’t understand exactly what he was saying, but secretly she could not bring herself to share his sentiment. The little feud added just the sort of colour she loved to the quiet little town along the river, and she looked forward to the bickering sounds of Mrs Ellis and Mrs Partridge almost as much as she looked forward to the scent of fresh-baked bread from the bakery. Today, she could hear them as she rounded the bend in the cobbled street and left the river to march past the Bibury church and primary school.

“I’m not saying that it’s in poor taste,” Mrs Partridge was saying with a sniff, “but I’m not saying you’d find the likes of that hat in London, either.”

The two women were standing outside their respective shops, calling out to each other across the street as though all the town was judge and jury to their dispute. Mrs Partridge was a particularly tall and thin woman with a pointed nose and beady dark eyes, something that always made Eliza smile to herself and think how awfully apt the name “Partridge” was for one so bird-like and pecked. Mrs Ellis, on the other hand, was rather short and squat, as though their heavenly maker, in designing one of the women, had to take into effect the physique of the other to obtain just the right level of contrast. Mrs Ellis had lost all the bloom of youth, but Eliza thought that when she smiled, sometimes, there was a hint of the girl still there in her features. Mrs Partridge had driven the girl out of her own face years ago. Mrs Ellis put her hands on her hips and frowned.

“Much good you’re doing talking about London, as if you’d ever really been there.”

“Live in Bibury and not go to London!” Mrs Partridge raised her arms in frustration. “As if that were even possible. It’s only a day’s journey. You talk as though I were a country bumpkin and you the finest queen in the land.”

“If I were queen in the land, I wouldn’t be thinking of you or of Bibury, that’s for certain.” Mrs Ellis’ hands left her hips and waved about in the air as if she already was royalty and, as her first decree, had determined to banish the likes of Mrs Partridge from the land. “You’ll remember that it was not I that brought this argument up between us. I am a lady. I am only trying to run a good and decent business, and there is technically room in every woman’s wardrobe for both our services.”

“Now you’re taking the high road.” Mrs Partridge turned to go in. “You cast the first stone by opening your shop in the first place.” Then she caught sight of Eliza, and her face changed in an instant. The beady dark eyes looked suddenly a bit mischievous, and the thin form straightened to wave a hello to the girl. “Why, there’s the young Miss Steele coming right now.”

It seemed to be enough of an excuse for a momentary truce, for Mrs Ellis let the girlishness back into her features long enough to wave as well, and add a little curtsy atop it all. “What a pretty little thing,” Mrs Ellis said, to nobody in particular. Then, raising her voice shrilly, she directed her tone towards Eliza. “Good morning, Miss Steele.”

“Good morning to you both!” Eliza raised her hand in greeting as she passed both women. “I heard you have new ribbons in, Miss Ellis, and Mrs Partridge—I really will have to stop by later to see those mother of pearl buttons.”

Both women seemed placated and, smiling kindly in her direction, took themselves back inside their respective businesses to tend to the day’s business. Next up was the bakery, and though Eliza already had a basket full of fresh-baked bread and fruit, she ducked in all the same under the low striped awning. The shopfront was very small; most of the small building being taken up with a large oven and several workplaces for kneading. The baker, a Mr Thompson with a round belly that spoke well of his business and twinkling blue eyes and a shock of hair that was just beginning to grey at the tips, looked up with a start of alarm at first, and then delight.

“Whew. There you are, Miss Steele. I thought for a quick minute that my delivery boy had returned already, and I’ve not yet finished with the packaging to send him out again. The lad makes such a ruckus around the place if I don’t keep him occupied. I’m sure you understand.”

Eliza, who did not, indeed, understand, nodded all the same. That was the done thing in Bibury—nod and smile and make light conversation, even if a strictly impolite person would not think there was anything to nod at. “I’ve come for one of your sweet pasties. I’m headed over to the Widow Ashbrook’s today, and I know they’re her favourite.”

The baker emerged from where he’d been filling sacks in the back of the room and surveyed his display case with a self-satisfied smile. “The Widow Ashbrook, is it? Well, you should tell her to come in and get one herself one of these days. She’s a fine lady indeed, though circumstances may have landed her on the poorer side of the county.”

Mr Thompson could work wonders with a bit of dough, but he didn’t have the social acuity to know what would seem insulting. Eliza understood this and tried to modulate her tone in response.

“She’s a dear friend of mine.”

“Right so, and she hasn’t lost her looks with age.”

Eliza forced a smile. “Or her intellect. She’s very thoughtful and wise.”

“Ten to one,” he said, not finishing the saying. He’d got distracted looking through the case for the perfect pasty, which he eventually presented to Eliza with a proud little bow. “Will that do, lass?”

“It will. I think Mrs Ashbrook will enjoy it.”

“I wonder at the grieving period these days,” the baker mused, almost to himself, but just loud enough that Eliza felt obligated to stand still a moment and hear him out. “When did Mr Ashbrook pass away?”

“I think the funeral was six months ago Sunday,” Eliza said slowly, not sure where Mr Thompson was going with this.

“I grieved just such a time when I lost my Annie,” he went on, “but that was a few years ago now, and time heals all wounds.”

Ah. Eliza pursed her lips together a little too firmly. Mr Thompson, it seemed, was ready to join the long line of men in the county awaiting the end of Mrs Helen Ashbrook’s mourning period so they could step in and offer her a comfortable home in return for the privilege of having her fine eyes at their table.

“Mrs Ashbrook was fond of her husband,” she said, a little curtly. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she grieves a good deal longer than six months.” With that, she handed over the required money and bid the flustered baker a good day.

The postman was unloading packages from a wagon when she walked by his little shop, and a group of women who helped with the auxiliary had gathered nearby under the shade of a tree to get a glimpse of the packages and gossip about where they were going. One of these women, an older woman from the village over who seemed to prefer the Bibury church to her own, broke free of the crowd and hurried to Eliza’s side as she passed.

“Miss Steele, how lovely to find you out and about on this beautiful morning.”

“And the same to you, Mrs Brown.”

“I thought to enquire after the health of your father, Mrs Steele. Do you know that when he was preaching on the Good Samaritan from the pulpit last week I thought I glimpsed just a bit of redness around his nose, and I heard—“ a pause here for added impact, “—a sniff.”

“A sniff?” Eliza had learned after years as a clergyman’s daughter, not to let even a note of sarcasm into her tone. “Do tell.”

“I’m just worried that our minister is not tending to his own health. You know what they say about the shepherd—let him not neglect himself so much in the service of his flock that he falls ill and faces the wolf a weakened man.”

This was a saying Eliza had never heard before, and one she very much suspected had been invented by Mrs Brown herself. It had none of the pith of a good English colloquialism, and it had all of the wordiness and vaguely biblical imagery that she associated with Mrs Brown.

“I shall take good care of him,” she said after a moment’s pause.

“But you, all alone, taking care of your father?” The woman clucked. “It’s a pity, with you being so young and having no motherly influence.”

“But I’m fully nineteen years of age,” Eliza protested kindly, “and ever since I was a girl I’ve had women—such as yourself, Mrs Brown—making certain that I am well cared for and on the path to what is good and right. I can’t feel that I’m lacking anything, not when I have women such as yourselves to give me guidance.”

Mrs Brown blushed with pleasure at being singled out and drew closer, laying her gloved hand on Eliza’s bare arm.

“Then perhaps I can tell you that I overheard in Ablington the other day that it is simply not the done thing for a young girl to go walking by herself in public. She must have an escort. And I know it’s a warm day, but are you certain your father would want you walking about in short sleeves as though it were a public ball?”

Eliza hid a smile. Perhaps to some people such criticism would have been a trial, but she had known these women all her life, and she knew that they meant only kindness with their comments. When she’d put on the mint green gown with the short sleeves and the white edging that day, in fact, she’d known that at least one comment would be sure to come her way and she’d persisted nonetheless because the Widow Ashbrook loved green and this dress in particular always made her smile.

“My dear Mrs Brown, what additional good would an escort give me? I’ve already spoken to three people, and I’ve hardly walked twenty paces through town.” Eliza patted the gentle hand lying on her arm. “This tight-knit little community is all the escort I could ask for.”

Mrs Brown seemed more than placated by this little speech; she seemed downright delighted. “Well,” she said pertly. “It is a sunny day, and I daresay long sleeves would be oppressive in any length of walk. Where are you walking, by the way?”

“To Mrs Ashbrook’s.”

“Oh, that poor woman. I’ve wondered that she’s been able to show herself at church quite so often as she has done. When my husband died I was holed up in the bedroom for months weeping.”

Eliza smiled tenderly. “I remember.” She couldn’t help thinking how the baker wished the widow to recover from her sadness faster, and Mrs Brown wished the whole thing slowed up a bit. It was the way in a small town—everyone had an opinion about everything, and the best way to go forward with it all was to hold one’s head high regarding what you truly cared about and try not to fret about all the little things that wouldn’t matter in the end.

She bid the woman farewell and walked on by the grocery. She caught a glimpse of herself in the polished storefront window and put up her free hand almost automatically to brush back a tendril of her curling blonde hair. The colour was fine enough—like gold honey, some people said—but it had a good deal more curl than was easy to keep tamed, especially after a morning walk. Curls were always springing free of the good and proper bun Eliza attempted to pin into place every morning, and then the little tendrils would drag along her neck or down around her forehead in a most unseemly fashion that women like Mrs Brown called “romantic” and “peasant-like.” For a town of peasants, “peasant-like” was not a compliment.

Eliza had grown quite quickly as a little girl, and for one whole year when she was thirteen she’d been the tallest child in the town. Then, quite suddenly, she stopped. She was now one of the more petite girls in the town, and if it wasn’t for a very striking set of blue eyes and the general feeling that she looked on you with kindness when others might see flaws, she might not have been noticed at all at the community dances or in the town at large. As it was, for a reason no one could put their finger on, she was considered “a very pretty girl,” and the town was willing enough to accept such a thing as fact.

At the inn, Eliza took a swift step sideways onto the little path that ran behind the establishment and down the way to a small cottage nestled between the trees at the edge of the Coln. It was a sweet enough spot, although a little run down and in need of repair. There were two little lambs in a pen out front, and the stoop had a yellow cat stretched out on it beneath a curling vine. Before Mr Ashbrook had passed away the house had belonged to a young family just starting out in the village. The husband had moved on to the smithy shortly before Mr Ashbrook’s death, and it seemed only fair to give the Widow Ashbrook the house as a place to rest and recuperate. The fact that her own home had to be repossessed by the lender after Mr Ashbrook’s death was a fact that the rest of the village chose kindly to ignore.

Chapter Two

The Widow Ashbrook, as Baker Thompson had so coarsely pointed out, was still a very fine looking woman. Though age had stolen a bit of lustre from her skin and replaced it with a wealth of wrinkles around her eyes and mouth, she still carried herself with more than average posture, had sparkling dark eyes with girlish youth, and had a wealth of auburn hair that looked bright red in the right light. There was a pale river of grey along the right side of that hair now—grey that had perhaps been there before Mr Ashbrook’s death, but was almost certainly established now that he’d been gone.

She opened the door on the first knock, and then, when Eliza looked surprised, blushed like a girl. “I was watching you from the window,” she said in sheepish explanation, as though eagerly awaiting guests was a character flaw. Eliza found it endearing.

“I’m glad,” she teased, “for I don’t know if I have the energy to raise my hand for another knock, not after bearing the weight of this sweet pasty all the way from the baker’s.” At this, she presented the pasty as though it were a grand prize and watched with amusement as the Widow Ashbrook put her fingers to her mouth like a little girl. There are some people that you can be over dramatic with in your presentation, and they are few and far between—Helen Ashbrook happened to be one of them. She treated everything with the weight that it deserved.

“Delightful!” she exclaimed. “I shall put the kettle on, and we may share it.”

“I meant for you to have it for yourself.” Eliza risked a glance around the room and saw that, as clean and tidy as it was, things were still fairly sparse. The cupboards on the wall alongside the fireplace looked even sparser than the last time she’d visited. She vowed quietly to bring preserves and vegetables from the larder next visit; perhaps a wheel of cheese, too.

“Nonsense. Things are always so much more delicious when you share them.” The older woman’s back was turned to Eliza, and Eliza saw her wrinkled hand shake for a moment on the handle of the kettle before she put it over the flame.

Eliza came and sat beside her on one of the low stools by the fire. “Are you thinking of Mr Ashbrook?”

“Henry always was one for splitting things, even when it was perfectly unnecessary. I told him once that the whole of the garden was overflowing with tomatoes, and yet he insisted that we cut each in half and eat it together before moving on to the next one. It was silly, for he took his with salt and I took mine with sugar.” She gave a weak little laugh and then fell silent.

Eliza reached out and took her hand. It was a motion that would have been considered scandalous in some high society circles, but here in the comfort of the little cottage it was kindness and kindness alone. “I know you miss him,” she said softly, hoping that Mr Thompson would hold his tongue just a bit longer.

“I do, but it gets easier.” The older woman sat up a bit and took the basket from Eliza. She forced a smile and a bit of uncalled for cheer and reached under the wicker lid. “Now, let’s see what delights you’ve found for me today.” She pulled out to two loaves of country French bread and the berries the cook had fetched from the back quarter the day before, followed closely by cinnamon buns and some of the shipment of oranges that had come in yesterday to the parsonage. “Beautiful!” she exclaimed, smelling one of the bread loaves with undisguised delight. “You spoil me.”

“It’s impossible to spoil someone of your temperament,” Eliza answered with a gentle smile. “Papa always says so.”

“Yes, how is your father?” The Widow Ashbrook looked up with a light of kindness in her eyes. She and the local parson had become fast friends in the last few months. “Tell him I’m sorry I haven’t yet finished the little book of sermons he gave me to read. I meant to, but I got distracted with a volume of poetry instead.” She leaned close and winked. “Don’t tell him that last bit.”

“Remember, I’m his daughter. I’ve grown up watching him get distracted by volume’s of poetry,” Eliza answered with a grin. “If he was truly appalled by such behaviour, I could just as quickly cry hypocrite.”

In truth, Parson Steele had given his daughter instructions to ask after the widow’s health and children. He was worried about her, living out here by the river all by herself. The widow’s two sons were both now grown and had moved away out of the village to their own destinies. They’d left their mother behind, and though Eliza understood some lives were better lived free of parents, she couldn’t imagine how that could be the case in this instance.

“Actually,” she said, picking at the fringe of an afghan that adorned the chair upon which she sat, “Father did ask after the health of your sons. How are they doing?”

“Oh fine, fine.” The older woman busied herself with the whistling teapot, pulling it off from its hook and pouring the warm water over some loose leaves of tea. “I just had a letter a fortnight ago from William. He’s got two little boys of his own now, up Hereford way. He says they’re fine, strong lads. The eldest is already learning to read, I hear, and the youngest is toddling about quite well and happy.”

“And Elliot?”

“Married, actually.” A shadow of sadness crossed the widow’s face. “I was sorry to have missed that event, but they’re both such big city people now in Northampton that they couldn’t move the whole wedding party out to the country for the sake of a silly old woman.”

“Married! Elliot?” Eliza couldn’t help smiling. She’d never much liked the boy when they’d grown up together along the River Coln. Elliot Ashbrook was not fond of any of the pastimes that Parson Steele considered good and healthy for a young girl—running and playing in the fields behind the primary school; hiding in the river reeds, or sneaking into the back of one of the bakeries and licking sweeties in return for helping the baker carry in his sacks of flour. All such activities meant getting dirty, and Elliot Ashbrook was a fastidious little boy who grew into a fastidious young man who always had his shirts ironed just so and his hair swept back from his face in fine dark coils.

“Yes, he found a girl during his studies at university, and word is that she’s a pretty little thing with a fine family and a reputable background. I’m glad to hear of it. Other than you, dear, there just aren’t many other girls in these parts. I wasn’t sure that he’d find anyone when at last he decided not to go after you.”

“At last he decided” made it sound as if Elliot had ever considered Eliza a worthy prospect—which he had not. Once he told her, when they were in that youthful age between childhood and adulthood, that to marry her would be to shackle himself to Bibury forever, and all he ever wanted was to be free. Eliza didn’t share this feeling at all. The community at Bibury was freedom to her, and she would have sooner gone across the channel to France than leave the busybodies in town square for a marriage in Northampton.

“Well, I’m glad they’re happy,” she said quietly. “I’m sure a wedding between two such sophisticated people was a sight to behold.”

“That’s what I heard. I read of it in the Northampton papers. It came about only a month after my Henry’s death, though, and it wouldn’t have been proper for me to attend.”

So that’s why Eliza was only just hearing about it now. Not only was it improper for a widow to attend a wedding so soon after her husband’s death, but it was even more improper for a son to have his wedding during the time of mourning. Eliza could see the shame in the widow’s face, however, and she kept these thoughts to herself.

“I’ve thought of going to Northampton for a bit of shopping,” she said, though it was a good deal further than London. “Perhaps you would accompany me one of these days. I would need a chaperone, as you can well imagine.”

The widow leaned forward and patted Eliza’s hand again, smiling. “You’re a good little lass—do you know that? Kind and thoughtful and careful of a woman’s dignity. Perhaps we can make such a trip one day, but in the meantime, I’m at peace. My boys are healthy lads, and I know that when they miss me they will come back to Bibury to visit the little cottage by the river.”

She handed Eliza a little cup of steaming tea with milk, and for a time the two women sat side by side and sipped in silence. When a spade of time had passed, the widow spoke again.

“Have you thought about your own prospects, my dear? I don’t mean to be a busy-body—I know half the town thinks of you as their personal project—but I’ve been curious about it ever since you came to see me after my Henry’s death. You’re a kind little lass, and a pretty thing as well. I would have thought to see you turning away suitors right and left, but it seems that Bibury has no one that will yet catch your eye.”

Eliza blushed at the widow’s direct question, and had it been from Mrs Brown or Mrs Partridge, she would have waved it away with some diverting comment; a joke or a tender kindness that would make the question disappear in a wave of teasing and laughter. As it was, she could only be honest with the widow, who sat across from her with wise, quiet eyes, and the kind of heart that you couldn’t help being vulnerable with.

“Bibury is a small place,” she said simply, “and as you well know, we don’t get a lot of new people in these parts. Father suggested I go to London for the season, but I don’t care for such things. And besides, what am I to tell some young lad who asks me to dance? That I’m the daughter of a clergyman and I desire nothing more than to return to my backwater little town and live out my days in peace? No, there isn’t a man in England who would find that attractive—a man that wasn’t already taken, that is.”

For that was the truth of it. In these parts, the people that wanted to get married and stay in Bibury fell in love early, and they fell in love young. Girls were fourteen or fifteen years old when the young boys in their school pulled over from the harvest and expressed an interest. As the parson’s daughter, Eliza had managed to stay above such youthful flirtations, but now that she was nineteen years old, all the young men her age had already found their little dutiful wives and hurried off to country cottages to start their families.

“So you’ve no suitors?”

“None, but being a single woman in Bibury is not so bad,” Eliza said quietly. It was mostly true. She’d been happy in the small town for many years, and she rarely felt the sting of loneliness. It was only on very dark, clear nights, when the moon was so high above that it burst through her casement and woke her, that she thought about how dearly she would like to share that moon with somebody, or occasionally when she attended the little weddings in the villages in and around Bibury, dancing with brides and grooms a few years younger than herself, that she wondered if life had passed her by. She’d tried not to dwell on it, for her father always said that there was more to life than marriage. He’d lived out his words, too. When her mother had died years ago, Eliza was only nine years old, and the parson resisted every attempt to marry him off to some other woman in town who could raise the poor, motherless child.

“Eliza and I are quite alright,” he’d said. “She’s a good sensible girl, and I’m not afraid to ask for advice if I stumble upon something I don’t understand in the raising.”

For the most part, he’d been right. They’d got along well enough in the small stone parsonage with their cook and the maid that tended to the house during the week. They even had a driver on part-time hire from the livery in town, and all in all found themselves very well situated. Eliza knew she could stay with her father as long as she needed, and she tried to think of this as only a good thing; she tried not to wish too much for what the other married women in town had.

“Besides,” she said to the widow now, “I would feel badly for any potential suitor who would have to wade through my father’s strict opinions on morals and justice to get at my hand. You know Papa: his standards are high for any young man seeking a wife—imagine what they would be for the suitor in the case of his own daughter! I can only imagine what he would wish the man to be: a scholar and a student, but strong enough to keep me safe; a kind man, but a firm one; a humble man, but a confident one. And you know how strict he is about adhering to the codes of God and man.”

“It is because of those morals and standards that your father’s parish is so successful in bringing God’s love and harmony to every last person in the village,” the widow said with a smile. “Everyone attends church and hears what is spoken from the pulpit, and thus when disputes happen in town, there is a mutual knowledge and benefit to draw from.”

“I’m glad to hear you speak so of him,” Eliza said. She loved her father dearly, and she truly did enjoy hearing other people praise him, but secretly she wondered if it wouldn’t be better if he let down his guard just a bit. As it lay in the tiny village of Bibury, she was free to go where she pleased, but she knew that was because she was always under the watchful eye of the villagers and therefore a representative responsible for upholding her father’s holy virtues. At the moment, it made little difference, but she could only imagine what would happen if matters of the heart really did come into fruition at last.

“A Lady Defying All for Love” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Eliza Steele is the only daughter of a respected clergyman in a quiet English town. Her life has always been simple and peaceful until, one day, a new family moves to town and her world is about to get upside down. After she realizes she has started falling for the new family’s eldest son, things will inevitably get more complicated than ever. When she finds out that the newcomers are hiding something, will she find the courage to get to the bottom of the mystery, and the compassion to handle what she finds lying there?

Benedict Flynn is the eldest son of a highly respected family. When his father, a particularly outspoken member of the House of Lords, gets accused of having widely misused his wealth, Benedict’s family doesn’t really have a choice…Disappearing from London’s social scene seems to be the only way to protect themselves from the malicious rumours. However, when a past acquaintance finds out about them, Benedict needs to take immediate action to preserve his family’s reputation. Will he be brave enough to share his secret with the charming lady he meets in town, and ask for her help? And will he dare to admit his feelings for her?

Eliza and Benedict soon find themselves in the middle of a web of scandal and confusion; a situation they could have never imagined. Will the chemistry between them be strong enough to help them fight anything that comes into their way? Will Eliza find the strength to defy everything in the name of love?

“A Lady Defying All for Love” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

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12 thoughts on “A Lady Defying All for Love (Preview)”

  1. Seems as though this story will have many intriguing possibilities! Already I can see the drama of a small village and newcomers will be interesting. Looking forward to the whole shebang!

  2. I am interested in the outcome for these characters already and wondering how their lives will play out.

  3. Interesting to say the least. Can’t wait to read the story in its entirety and see how the story develops.

  4. I thought the storyline in the preview was well written and it had suspense along with interesting characters. Can’t wait to read the rest of the book.

  5. Love the story thus far. The intrigue sounds interesting and likely to only get more so!! I would love to get an ARC if there are any still available and read this. thx

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