The Most Unpredicted Match (Preview)

Chapter One

Tabitha twirled in front of her full-length mirror, admiring her dress for the wedding. With all the preparations for her sister’s upcoming nuptials, it was a miracle that Mrs Beauchamp remembered that Tabitha had requested a new dress for the special occasion.

“Do you like it, dear?” Mrs Beauchamp enquired. “I think the saffron looks lovely against your colouring.”

“It’s beautiful, Mama,” Tabitha enthused. “The colour is perfect, and I adore the details along the hem, sleeves, and waist.”

The intricate embroidery in red, black, and white was striking against the yellowish-orange dress, but Tabitha worried about what Cecilia might say about the garment. Her sister didn’t want anyone to overshadow her on her wedding day, but that was ridiculous because no one could ever do that. No matter how prettily they dressed, Cecilia was far too beautiful to have Tabitha or anyone else look better than her. It simply wasn’t possible. Still, the woman might have something to say once she saw Tabitha’s dress.

“What is it, dear?” Mrs Beauchamp asked. “Your face suddenly changed from rapturous delight to concern.”

Tabitha gnawed on her lower lip as she laid the dress on the bed. “I do not wish to upset Cecilia. What if she thinks the dress is not acceptable for her wedding?”

“That is nonsense, dear,” her mother chided. “Cecilia will not begrudge you a lovely dress when she has the most beautiful gown to wear. Besides, this colour is not one of her favourites as it does not look good with her fair colouring.”

Tabitha nodded, feeling a little more assured about the dress, but it still remained to be seen what Cecilia would say once she saw it. The woman had insisted that Tabitha show her what she wished to wear to the wedding so she could decide whether it was appropriate for her big day. Cecilia’s friends had received the same lecture and had already presented their dresses only to have the woman uninvite them to the wedding because she believed they wanted to outshine her. It was odd that someone who knew she was beautiful could be so insecure about such things, but that was simply Cecilia’s way.

“When will Jonathan arrive, Mama?” Tabitha asked as she stored her dress away in the armoire. “The wedding is merely a few weeks away.”

“He’ll arrive a few days before the wedding, dear,” Mrs Beauchamp replied. “There is no need for him to come any earlier. He has a sickly grandmother to mind, so we cannot expect him to give up more of his time.”

“I suppose so,” Tabitha said. “I just hope he isn’t delayed by the coming spring showers. It always tends to rain heavily around this time of the year.”

“I doubt it, dear,” the older woman assured, rising from bed. “I must get on with the preparations, or nothing will ever get done around here. A mother’s work is never done until both her daughters are happily married.”

Tabitha grinned. “That will be some time yet for me, Mama. I am but seventeen!”

“Yes, I suppose so,” Mrs Beauchamp said, patting Tabitha’s cheeks. “It is just as well that there is a gap between you and your sister, or I might have more on my plate than I can handle! This wedding has put a little strain on my nerves.”

Cecilia’s demands had kept everyone on the edge of their seats since the wedding was announced last year just before Christmas. Cecilia had been particular about the flowers she wanted, the menu for the wedding breakfast, her list of new clothing to take into her marriage, and so much more. It was customary for the bride to choose her wedding day and have the rest organised without her opinion, but no one had been able to say no, least of all Jonathan, who was keen to give Cecilia everything she could possibly want. Mr Beauchamp had refused the money Jonathan had wished to provide him with towards the wedding, stating it was a father’s responsibility to send his daughter off in the best possible fashion. However, Tabitha wished her father had pocketed his pride and taken the money because Cecilia’s extravagant demands were putting a sizeable dent in the family coffers.

Mrs Beauchamp left the room after a reminder that Tabitha needed to practice on the pianoforte for at least an hour before running off with her friends. Tabitha wasn’t particularly fond of the pianoforte, but she played it well enough to please most people. She loved singing the most and often indulged in the activity while going about her day. Her father had dubbed her their very own nightingale and often had her sing to him whenever he had a headache or wished to rest his mind. It had become a little game between them to make up her own song and time when he would fall asleep. Her best time so far had been fifteen minutes, but Tabitha hoped to bring it down to ten minutes someday. After a quick look in the mirror for flyaway hairs, she skipped downstairs to the drawing room for her hour-long practice on the pianoforte. Tabitha wanted to get it done soon to meet her friends at their usual spot and sit under the large tree at St Nicholas to share stories and discuss the wedding.

The upcoming event was currently the highlight of Steventon and perhaps the entire county of Hampshire and would likely be the talk of their sleepy little village for years to come. Reverend Lloyd would, of course, marry Cecilia and Jonathan as he had baptised them as babies, but the reverend of Jonathan’s parish would bless the union upon their arrival in Derbyshire. Jonathan’s grandmother had insisted on the blessing as her way of being part of the wedding since she was too ill to travel nearly two hundred miles to Hampshire. Tabitha had hoped to meet her soon-to-be brother-in-law’s grandmother and younger sister as the girl was only two years younger than her and had been disappointed to know that neither of them would accompany Jonathan. She had expected to make friends with the young woman, but perhaps there would be another opportunity when the family visited Cecilia after her honeymoon.

“Tabby!” Cecilia called from the parlour room door.

Startled, Tabitha paused outside the drawing room and leaned back. “Yes?”

She hadn’t known Cecilia had returned from her visit to one of her friends and was surprised to see her back so early. Cecilia usually spent the entire day out and about as she believed it a chore to remain at home. Tabitha couldn’t understand her sister’s aversion to spending time with the family, but she had also given up questioning her sister’s motives and behaviour. Cecilia was different from most people and wasn’t in the habit of answering to anyone except Mr Beauchamp. Both girls had a healthy fear of their father that kept them from getting into any mischief, although Tabitha couldn’t honestly say she didn’t occasionally get herself into sticky situations at times. Most did not welcome her tendency to question people when they were clearly wrong, but wrong was wrong, and right was right in Tabitha’s eyes. There shouldn’t be any grey areas to the truth, and she didn’t care who was in the wrong. If a person thought themselves old enough to lie, then they indeed were old enough to live with the consequences, namely her exposure of their deception.

“I need you to run an errand for me,” Cecilia said, leaning her shoulder against the door frame.

“I have my pianoforte lesson right now,” Tabitha replied. “Can you not ask one of the maids?”

“You’re refusing me?” Cecilia asked, astonished.

“Mama told me to practice before meeting my friends,” Tabitha explained.

Cecilia rolled her eyes. “I suppose you can do it after your lesson. I need you to take a note to Rachel. It’s on your way to the parsonage, isn’t it? That’s where you and your friends usually meet.”

Tabitha didn’t particularly like Rachel. A few months ago, Rachel had made a vile comment about Tabitha being more in love with Jonathan than Cecilia. Her sister had laughed off the statement, but Tabitha had seethed for days to come.

“Mary can take the note if you need it done now,” said Tabitha.

“No, absolutely not,” Cecilia refused. “That maid will take a peek at the note, and I certainly do not want that.”

Cecilia’s words left her wondering what was in the note that made her sister ask her instead of one of the servants to run the errand. Cecilia always seemed up to something these days, but Tabitha assumed it had to do with the wedding.

“Very well,” she told her sister. “I’ll collect it on my way out.”

“Good,” the older woman replied and disappeared back into the parlour.

Tabitha pursed her lips slightly. Cecilia had not bothered to say thank you, but that wasn’t entirely unusual of her. Shrugging her shoulders, Tabitha entered the drawing room and smoothed her dress before taking a seat at the instrument. Mrs Beauchamp had even left a sheet of music for Tabitha to practice, much to her displeasure, but upon closer look, she found it was a cheerful tune for a well-known country dance. There wouldn’t be any dancing at the celebratory wedding breakfast, which Tabitha found foolish. Dancing brought one such pleasure that it should be included in all occasions except funerals. However, it might do the mourners a world of good to lighten their mood with a spot of dancing to celebrate the deceased’s life rather than bewail their passing on. Death was an inevitable part of life, yet people spent their entire lives trying to avoid it. Perhaps it was the unknown that people feared, but Tabitha was sure she would go to heaven and didn’t have any fears of the afterlife. That didn’t mean that she wanted to leave her current life too soon, but she certainly wouldn’t be frightened when the time came to move on.

Stretching her fingers halfway through her practice, Tabitha left her chair and walked around the room to give her legs a little exercise. Sitting in one place for too long was cumbersome, especially when she wasn’t one to sit still. It had caused her problems in the schoolroom, so Tabitha had learned to curb her need to move her body, but it was no longer such a chore since her mother had taken over the rest of her schooling last year.

Returning to her seat, Tabitha paused as she heard voices outside the room and quickly recognised them as her mother and sister. They were talking about inviting someone to dinner tomorrow evening, and by the sound of Cecilia’s eager voice, she really wanted the family to meet this person. Tiptoeing to the open door, Tabitha peeked her head around to listen to the rest of the conversation. Her mother and sister were already moving away, but Tabitha managed to catch the tail end of their conversation.

“Mr Bridgton is a lovely man, Mama,” Cecilia raved. “I never thought he would come this way, but his militia has come through Hampshire and will stay for a week before moving on to Somerset.”

The women’s voices died away, leaving Tabitha intrigued by their guest. The man had evidently made an impression on her sister, and for that alone, Tabitha wished to meet him. It wasn’t often that Cecilia showed any interest in someone, and if Tabitha really thought about it, she couldn’t recall her sister being this excited about Jonathan. In fact, they hadn’t known about him until they received a visit from him months after Cecilia had left London after the Season. It took everyone by surprise when he asked to court Cecilia, but the family quickly fell in love with his quick-witted ways and respect for them.

Leaving the door, Tabitha returned to the pianoforte and finished the rest of her practice session with her mind on their guest.

***

The following evening came sooner than Tabitha expected, and it seemed that Cecilia’s excitement had grown. Her sister was more anxious to meet the officer than she was about the wedding preparations! Despite giving a long list of what she wanted at her wedding, Cecilia was rarely home to discuss her special day and didn’t appear thrilled when their mother engaged her in wedding conversation. In fact, Cecilia had all but ceased to talk about her wedding or her fiancé, annoying Tabitha. She was getting married to a wonderful man who was not only part of the upper class but also wealthy and had a vast estate in Buxton, Derbyshire. Tabitha had enjoyed listening to Jonathan talk about his home and childhood during his visits to their house and had absorbed all the information like a sponge. She had imagined the willow tree by the stream, his sister demanding to be carried everywhere, and the terrible news of his parents’ deaths. Tabitha had felt Jonathan’s pain as though it were her own and had even shed a few tears that she had hidden away in the shadows cast by the candles during the evenings. Cecilia had not appeared as affected by Jonathan’s stories, making her wonder if her sister loved Jonathan as much as he loved her.

“Why are you just sitting about?” Cecilia snapped, walking into the parlour. “Alistair will be here any moment now.”

Puzzled, Tabitha frowned. “But sitting here is what I always do before dinner.”

“Maybe you should go to your room and let the adults speak. I cannot have your childish questions annoying Alistair as they do Jonathan. I will not permit it.”

“But Jonathan has never protested my questions,” said Tabitha, dismayed by her sister’s words.

Cecilia lifted a fair eyebrow. “Jonathan? Since when do you refer to him as Jonathan?”

Tabitha blushed and looked down. “He will soon be my brother-in-law. I thought it only right that I call him by his Christian name rather than be so formal.”

“You thought wrong,” said Cecilia, anger entering her voice. “You will address him as Mr Cromwell, and that is my final word.”

“Even when you’re married?”

Cecilia’s face grew mottled with anger. “Especially then! Do not make a nuisance of yourself when Alistair arrives, and I do not want ever to hear you talk about Jonathan again.”

Tabitha dropped her jaw in surprise. “But why? Can I not speak about my own brother-in-law?”

“He is not your brother-in-law yet,” said Cecilia.

“But he will be,” Tabitha insisted.

Cecilia’s eyes quickly narrowed. “Who are you to argue with me? Have you forgotten your place, Tabby?”

“I’m sorry,” Tabitha immediately apologised, stammering slightly.

She had never argued with her sister this much and was worried Cecilia would scold her or tell their parents. It was just infuriating to have someone tell her that she couldn’t be informal with her brother-in-law when Jonathan already affectionately called her his younger sister. Worse still was Cecilia’s odd anger associated with her upcoming marriage to him. If she didn’t know any better, Tabitha would think her sister didn’t want to get married to Jonathan. Of course, that was pure nonsense.

“It seems that you have learned to talk back, little sister,” Cecilia said, tilting her head to the side. “I wonder where you suddenly received the courage to do so? Have you ceased to respect me?”

Tabitha’s eyes flew open. “Not at all! I did not mean to be so argumentative, Ceci.”

The woman gave a cry of disgust. “Do not call me that. It’s childish, and you are apparently no longer a child. How old are you now, Tabby?”

“Seventeen.”

“Seventeen?” Cecilia repeated, studying Tabitha from the top of her head to the tip of her shoes. “I didn’t realise you had matured so much. No wonder you were brave enough to challenge me.”

It didn’t surprise Tabitha that her sister didn’t remember her age. Cecilia had been indifferent towards her for much of her life, but Tabitha had not taken that to heart. They were four years apart, after all, and had nothing in common to connect them besides having the same parents. Tabitha simply admired her beautiful and charming sister from afar and took great pleasure in speaking about her to others. Not everyone had a sister like Cecilia, and many were envious of Tabitha for being the woman’s sister. It was a point of pride to have a sister as well-known and liked by everyone except a few who were simply jealous of her.

Cecilia didn’t say anything else as she left the room, her rose perfume trailing behind her. Tabitha wasn’t too fond of the scent and preferred jasmine, but perhaps she should change it once Cecilia left the family home. After all, she would become the eldest daughter in the house, and Tabitha associated the rose perfume with maturity and charm. She would never be like Cecilia, but it wouldn’t hurt to imitate her in some aspects.

Not wishing to anger her sister anymore, Tabitha left the room and climbed the stairs to the library for a bit of reading before dinner time. She had left a pressed flower between the pages of a book she had started reading yesterday to keep her place so she could easily return to it. Jonathan had given her the flower after one of his walks with Cecilia, and rather than let it go to waste, Tabitha had dried it and pressed it onto a little paper to keep its shape. Now, she used it all the time, and whenever she looked at it, was reminded of Jonathan’s kindness. Not that she needed any reminding, but the little gift was a link to the man she admired and respected so much. Tabitha could see no wrong in Jonathan and hoped her sister would realise how special she was to be marrying a man like him.

Tabitha was eventually called back to the parlour when Mr Bridgton arrived, surprising her. She expected her sister to be annoyed with her upon entering the room, but she only smiled sweetly and introduced her to the officer. The man stood up, revealing his neat form in his militia uniform. He was handsome with inky black hair, grey eyes, and a strong chin, but he was nothing compared to Jonathan’s golden curls and bright blue eyes.

“Alistair, this is my little sister, Tabitha,” Cecilia said.

The man bowed, earning him a curtsy from Tabitha. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Tabitha.”

“Thank you, sir,” Tabitha replied, not returning the compliment.

While she wasn’t one to judge anyone when she first met them, Tabitha felt disturbed around the officer. He was handsome, polite, and well-spoken, but something about him didn’t feel right. Everyone moved to the dining room, with Alistair being asked several questions about his family, life in the militia, and his plans for the future. It was this particular question that had Tabitha listening carefully.

“Well, I certainly hope to marry,” Alistair said with a laugh. “I hope it is sooner rather than later. I understand that you are soon to be married, Miss Beauchamp?”

Cecilia giggled a little as her cheeks turned bright pink. “Yes. It’s just a matter of weeks.”

“I do not think I have offered my congratulations, so I offer them to you now,” said Alistair. “The man you marry is a lucky man indeed.”

Tabitha didn’t like the man’s last comment, but it wasn’t out of the ordinary. Perhaps it was the look in his eyes while he said it that left her disconcerted or the way her sister kept blushing. She didn’t know of any men who had been able to do that, and that included Jonathan.

“How long will you stay in Hampshire, Mr Bridgton?” Mr Beauchamp questioned.

“At first, I thought it would be one week before moving on to Somerset,” the officer replied, “but our stay here seems indefinite for the time being. It will give me time to explore the area a little more.”

Alistair’s eyes darted to Cecilia as he said this, making the woman blush a darker pink and look down at her cheesecake. Tabitha caught this interaction with narrowed eyes, but her parents seemed none the wiser.

“Shall we make our way to the drawing room?” Mrs Beauchamp announced once everyone had returned their dessert forks to their plates.

Alistair was only too ready to take Cecilia’s arm and escort her to the room while Tabitha trailed behind them, observing the pair. They were far too familiar with each other for her liking, and Cecilia seemed more at ease with the officer than she did when she was with Jonathan. Perhaps she was reading too much into the situation, but Cecilia’s actions were enough to make anyone wonder. It would be good once Mr Alistair Bridgton left, but he had said his militia would remain indefinitely in Hampshire. Tabitha hoped Jonathan would come quickly and put the overly-familiar officer in his place if that were the situation.

***

“Doesn’t the man have anywhere else to eat?” Tabitha grumbled to herself several evenings later.

Mr Alistair Bridgton had become a familiar guest in the Beauchamp home, even winning the approval of Tabitha’s parents. She didn’t know what was so wonderful about the officer and would sooner see the back of his head for good. Pulling a brush through her hair, she curled her lips in distaste as she contemplated yet another evening in the officer’s presence.

“Miss?” Mary called from the doorway.

“I suppose you’re here to tell me Mr Bridgton has arrived, and I should go down and greet him?” Tabitha asked.

Mary gave a slight smile. “Yes, Miss Tabitha.”

“It’s a shame I cannot use the excuse of a headache this time,” said Tabitha with a sigh.

She had used that on several occasions until her mother caught on and forbade her from avoiding their guest. It didn’t seem to matter that Alistair was Cecilia’s guest because it was every Beauchamp’s responsibility to make a guest feel welcome in their home.

“I’ll let madam know you’ll be down soon, miss,” Mary said with a bow and left the room.

Tabitha was tempted to take her time, but her mother wouldn’t like that and would see right through her behaviour. Plaiting her hair and winding it up before securing it with two combs, Tabitha pulled out a few of her natural curls to fall on either side of her face. Happy with her appearance, she left her room and marched to the parlour.

“How wonderful to see you again, Miss Tabitha,” said Alistair when she entered the room. “You look lovelier each time I visit.”

The man’s compliment was as dry as an old bone, and she was saved having to say anything when her sister spoke.

“Tabby is certainly growing into a beautiful young woman,” said Cecilia, although there was no warmth in her words.

Tabitha frowned a little, sensing a little jealousy from her sister. Bewildered by the thought, Tabitha brushed it aside with an inward laugh. Cecilia had nothing to be jealous of when it came to physical beauty. She was by far the best-looking woman for miles around. Dinner came and went with the usual type of conversation that Tabitha avoided by keeping her mouth filled with food. It deterred anyone from seeking answers from her, especially when posed by Alistair. It may seem unfair to treat the man with polite dislike, but Tabitha couldn’t help it. She just didn’t like him and couldn’t wait for him to leave.

“Do you mind if I take a walk in your garden?” Alistair asked after dinner. “I have yet to see the famous Hampshire garden.”

“Of course, Mr Bridgton,” Mrs Beauchamp replied. “You need only go through these doors,” she said, pointing at the drawing room double doors.

“Thank you, madam,” the man said, rising to his feet.

Tabitha watched him leave the room, turning back slightly and looking over his shoulder at Cecilia before heading out.

“I promised Alistair I would show him Grandmother’s necklace,” Cecilia announced, getting up. “He is interested in anything from the fifteenth century and was intrigued when I said Grandmother’s necklace was from that period.”

Cecilia rushed out of the room before their parents could say anything, leaving them surprised. The minutes ticked by as they waited for Alistair and Cecilia to appear.

“Perhaps she is still trying to find the necklace,” Mr Beauchamp suggested. “Why don’t you help her, Tabitha?”

Cecilia would likely not appreciate Tabitha’s help, but she nodded anyway. “Yes, Papa.”

Tabitha climbed the steps quickly to her sister’s room and found no one inside. Puzzled, she walked further into the heavily-scented room and looked around, calling out to her sister. No one answered. She looked out of the window not because she thought her sister had jumped from it, but to say without a doubt that she had looked everywhere. Tabitha caught the glint of yellow hair below and was amazed to realise it was her sister. Cecilia had said she was looking for a necklace, and Tabitha was confident it wasn’t outside. Cecilia had no reason to be outside, but perhaps something had happened that forced her to leave the house. Rather than report back to her parents, Tabitha went back downstairs and out through the back door to where she had seen her sister. No one was about, so she moved further away from the door and neared the garden, surprised when she heard voices. None of the servants would be in the garden at this time of the night, but Alistair had asked to take a walk around the dimly lit area. Assuming that Alistair was either talking to himself or her father had stepped outside to call him back to the drawing room, Tabitha thought to return to the house, but something made her stop. The second voice wasn’t male, but female. Tramping lightly on the crisp grass, Tabitha crept forward, nearly stumbling when she found her sister and the officer with their heads close together. She didn’t think twice as she called out to her sister.

“Cecilia!” she hissed. “What are you doing?”

The pair jumped apart guiltily before Alistair pasted on a smile, but the likes of him would not fool Tabitha.

“Have you also come for a walk?” he asked. “Miss Beauchamp was kind enough to call me inside.”

“I do not believe that,” said Tabitha. “What would Jonathan say, Ceci?”

“Oh, hold your tongue!” Cecilia snapped. “I have warned you in the past to keep your foolish nose out of my affairs, but you do not seem to listen. It is not any of your concern what Jonathan will say or think about anything, so I suggest you run along and not say a word of this to our parents. There is no need to alarm them over nothing.”

“But—” Tabitha protested, confident that she had stumbled on something wrong.

“But nothing,” Cecilia interrupted. “Go back to the house, Tabitha.”

“Do not be so harsh with her,” said Alistair. “She is just a child.”

Tabitha wanted to yell at the officer and tell him she didn’t need his help, but she wisely kept quiet. Cecilia’s eyes had turned into slits, and her full mouth was curled with anger. There was no telling what she would do in this state.

“Do not defend her, Alistair,” Cecilia argued. “She needs to be put in her place. I suggest you go up to your room and stay there,” her sister said, pointing her slender finger at Tabitha. “I’ll tell Mama and Papa that you’re feeling a little ill and need some rest. Go now.”

Somewhat embarrassed but more so enraged on Jonathan’s behalf, Tabitha turned away and went back to the house, not stopping even when Mary called out to her. Kicking her shoes off, she slid into bed and covered her head before weeping out her frustration. Tabitha eventually fell asleep with a troubled heart and a headache— there was no reason to fake or lie about it this time.

Chapter Two

Several Weeks Later

Jonathan gazed outside his carriage, barely listening to what his friend was saying. His mind was too occupied with thoughts about the woman he would marry in a few days. It didn’t matter that it had rained for most of the week or that his carriage wheel had come off midway through their journey. He cared about getting to his bride and bringing her home as his wife.

“I think I shall stop speaking to you,” Owen said, drawing Jonathan’s attention. “Why invite me on this trip if you are going to ignore everything I say?”

Jonathan’s cheeks turned a faint pink as he smiled. “I do not mean to ignore you, Owen. I’m simply …”

“In love,” Owen finished for him, shaking his head. “I still cannot believe you are getting married soon. We both made a pact that we would wait until thirty, so I was flabbergasted when you announced your intentions to marry Miss Beauchamp. I did not think you made a great match, but I suppose I was wrong.”

“Cecilia is the perfect woman for me,” said Jonathan. “She is beautiful, intelligent, charming, and loves her family. I always said that I wanted a family-oriented woman, and I found that in her.”

Owen shrugged. “I haven’t seen her interact with her family, so I’ll have to take your word for it.”

Jonathan frowned, picking up on the disapproving note in his friend’s voice. “Do you still not like her? Cecilia did apologise for causing you trouble.”

Owen shrugged again and adjusted his waistcoat, saying nothing. He and Cecilia had briefly argued when she had accused him of cheating at a game of cards. Jonathan still couldn’t understand why she did it, but Owen was convinced it was because of her annoyance that he didn’t think her good enough. Cecilia had owned up to her mistake once Owen was cleared of the accusation and given a heartfelt apology, but her words had done nothing to appease the man. Jonathan had considered not bringing his friend along for the wedding, but he could think of no one else to be with him on that special day. Owen and Jonathan were childhood friends who had stuck by each other through every weather possible, including the sudden loss of their parents. Owen would be the only family with Jonathan on his wedding day since his grandmother and sister couldn’t attend. Jonathan hoped Cecilia and Owen could set aside their differences before the wedding for all their sakes as he didn’t want his wife and best friend arguing over unnecessary situations.

“Promise you will at least attempt to get to know her better,” Jonathan implored.

“I found out all I needed to know in London,” Owen replied. “You forget she was there for over two months, which is more than enough time to know a person. I would say that you need longer, but you seem convinced that she is the woman you must marry. You even asked Grandmother for your mother’s ring.”

Many years ago, Jonathan’s mother had made him promise that he would give this ring to the woman who made him happy, and that was Cecilia. His grandmother had kept the ring soon after her daughter-in-law died, but now it sat in Jonathan’s pocket. He wasn’t going to give it to Cecilia during the ceremony but the day before the wedding to follow the tradition of the Cromwells who had come before him. The next time Jonathan would see her would be in the chapel, but the giving of the ring would mark their first vow to each other. Jonathan had always thought it quite silly until he met Cecilia; now, he couldn’t wait for the moment they would exchange their own heartfelt vows to love each other forever. The romantic streak in the Cromwell men had started the tradition, and everyone was convinced it was the only way a couple would remain happily married for as long as the good Lord gave them breath. To break the tradition would mean doom for the married couple, which Jonathan was keen not to let happen.

Taking the ring out of his pocket, Jonathan removed it from its sack and held it up to the bit of afternoon sun streaming into the carriage. It was over five hundred years old and had been worn by countless Cromwell brides through the ages. His father’s brother, an earl, was supposed to get the ring from their mother, but Uncle Charles had not been particularly fond of the tradition, namely as he had married his wife to increase his wealth and not for love. It was no wonder the couple were miserable and seemed to hate each other. It didn’t make it any easier that Uncle Charles had fallen in love with a courtesan half his age and had tried to do away with his wife by hiring people to do the deed. Fortunately, their eldest son had come to hear about the assassination and stopped it from happening. It had been a considerable scandal once the rest of the family had come to hear about it, but they had managed to contain the information before reaching the ton. Jonathan’s father, however, had gladly taken it and given it to his bride the day before their wedding, marking their eternal union.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” said Jonathan. “William Cromwell had this made for his bride because she was rather a sickly woman, and he wanted something that would protect her.”

“How can a ring protect you?” Owen asked in disbelief.

“Medieval people believed that metals and gemstones provided medicinal and symbolic meaning for the wearer,” Jonathan explained. “Do you see how each gemstone is designed to touch the skin?”

Owen looked closely and nodded. “It’s definitely a well-made ring. There must be at least three different types of gemstones embedded in the gold band.”

“You’re right; there are three. The sapphires were thought to keep evil at bay, rubies were meant to purify the mind and body so William Cromwell’s bride could stop being so sick, and turquoise was supposed to provide general protection. Dragons were her favourite mystical creature, so he had the gemstones arranged to look like one.”

Another ring with a Christian symbol had been created to go with the ‘vow’ ring, but it had been lost some during the upheaval of The Battle Crécy. On their first wedding anniversary, Jonathan planned to give Cecilia a poesy ring of the same era with the inscription, You are my heart in Latin.

“Do you think Cecilia will like it?” Owen asked. “She doesn’t strike me as someone who appreciates tradition.”

“She will like this one,” Jonathan answered without hesitancy.

He had already given her a diamond ring on the day of their engagement, yet another Cromwell tradition. It seemed the family was full of traditions that Jonathan had never cared to think about, but being in love had shown him the merit of romantic gestures and ensuring a happy life.

“Very well,” said Owen with a sigh. “You have clearly made up your mind where this woman is concerned. I shall be happy for your sake since you have ignored all my warnings.”

“I understand you are concerned about me, but I know Cecilia better than you do,” Jonathan countered. “She’s a sweet woman with a big heart. You will soon see that once we meet her family.”

“I look forward to it,” Owen mumbled, sliding in his seat and lowering his hat over his eyes. “Wake me up when we reach Hampshire.”

They had yet another hour or two until they entered the county, but Jonathan could hardly wait. It had been love at first sight between him and Cecilia when they first met over a year ago in London. She had attended the London Season with an aunt as her chaperone and been a little older than most women entering their first Season. Jonathan had noticed her among a group of women before their eyes had met, and the breath had been knocked out of him. It had been natural to pursue her from that moment on and to follow her to Hampshire two months later to ask Mr Beauchamp for the right to court his daughter. Weeks later, Jonathan had known Cecilia was the only woman for him and sought her father’s blessing for an engagement. The man had been happy to give it and had promptly thrown an engagement party to celebrate the happy occasion. It seemed almost a lifetime since he presented Cecilia with the diamond ring, but now the time had finally come to make her his wife.

Putting the ring away, Jonathan returned to his earlier activity of staring outside the carriage and daydreaming about Cecilia. She was probably just as anxious to see him, so he had not given a date for his arrival. Jonathan wanted to see the look of surprise and delight on her face when he arrived at the Beauchamp home later this afternoon. He should stop at the house he had hired for him and Owen so they could both freshen up, but Jonathan didn’t have the patience for that. There was time enough for all that once he had seen his bride and made his daydreams a reality.


“The Most Unpredicted Match” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Tabitha Beauchamp’s life takes an unexpected turn when her older sister elopes with an officer, leaving behind a heartbroken groom and a looming scandal. Despite being young and unprepared for married life, Tabitha agrees to marry Jonathan for their families’ sake. Little did she know her bond with Jonathan would grow and she would soon find herself falling helplessly in love with him…

What will happen when her sister returns and threatens to undo everything?

Jonathan Cromwell sinks into despair when the woman he loves betrays him and runs off with another man. Marrying Cecilia’s younger sister is no consolation, but the fear of a scandal is enough for him to make Tabitha his wife. When he notices his wife’s unhappiness, he vows to do better by her, leading him to see her in a completely new light. However, when his first love re-enters his life, Jonathan finds himself torn between the woman he once loved and the one who has illuminated his heart and existence in a profound way…

Will he throw away everything he has built with Tabitha for a love that has expired, or will he finally devote his entire heart to a deserving woman?

Jonathan and Tabitha have to adjust to a life that neither of them expected. Tabitha still fears that he will never truly love her, and Jonathan carries guilt for taking away her freedom. These hurdles are intensified when Tabitha’s sister interferes in their marriage, making it harder to put the painful past behind them and move on towards a fulfilling future. Will Jonathan realise Tabitha is the face of true love and abandon the remains of a false one? Will their lives forever be tainted by how their relationship began, or can they finally look ahead and claim their own happily ever after?

“The Most Unpredicted Match” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!

9 thoughts on “The Most Unpredicted Match (Preview)”

  1. Bridget,
    Wow I read the preview and it was sensational!
    The love/hate relationship between the sisters is done so well.
    I can’t wait until the book releases so I can finish their story.
    When is the publishing date?

    Doreen.

  2. Tabitha and Jonathan did not have a great start
    for their marriage.
    Cecilia is a trouble maker.
    It apparent that she will be a problem.
    Cecilia can stand for her sister and Jonathan
    to be happy
    This is going to be a 5 star book.
    The cover is lovely.Such a beautiful gown!
    The lighting is lovely!

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