Tag Archive | Florida

A Home for Helena: Release Day is Here!

Home for Helena Cover 5-inches-2-20-16 copy

The Story Behind the Story

I wrote A Home for Helena and sent it out to my critique partners and beta readers around two years ago, but as with other projects, I put it aside in favor of working on new projects. Frankly, the initial first draft writing is much more exciting for me than making revisions. If I don’t have a deadline looming, I tend to leave past projects in limbo indefinitely. Fortunately, last year I got involved in three group projects with deadlines which forced me to actually finish things. Those were Lost and Found Lady (from Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles), The Third MacPherson Sister (Sweet Summer Kisses), and  The Ultimate Escape (Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem).

The Ultimate Escape, the story of Lady Pendleton’s eldest daughter escaping to the future, revived my determination to get A Home for Helena out to readers. Because The Ultimate Escape takes place five years before A Home for Helena—even though the latter was written first—it became Book 1 in The Lady P Chronicles, with Helena becoming Book 2. As for Book 3, I’ve got a few ideas mulling about, but I’d like to get some of my other unfinished projects out there too.

Want to know how Lady Pendleton evolved? Check out my post on Caroline Warfield’s blog:  http://ow.ly/ZTiNP

I really, really hate deadlines

I know I have to get started right away, but I don’t feel like it. I’ll just have another cup of coffee first. Let me finish this one episode of Dateline first, and then I’ll work on my project. OMG, I forgot to get my blog post up today! I really should take care of the credit card bill first,  then I’ll get started on the project. Is it time for lunch already? I’ll just take a little break for Facebook games and then I know for sure I’ll be ready to write. The phone rings and I realize I haven’t talked to this friend for several weeks. People are more important than things, right? Suze Orman always says so. OMG, is it 5:00 already? I’m too tired to write. I’ll just get up early tomorrow and write twice as much…

But I can’t get things finished without them!

As you can see, deadlines are a necessary evil. Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em. Well, I probably could live without ’em, but I’d be a certified couch potato and a has-been writer. And no, that’s not the way I want to live.

So I am learning to set deadlines for myself. And even though I don’t always meet them exactly on the nose, I do get things done, which wouldn’t be the case otherwise. I’ve also learned that having the cover done is a great motivator. Mari Christie, who created the cover for Helena has also done several others for me, including my two stories with Ellora’s Cave that revert back to me in a couple of weeks. Treasuring Theresa will be Book 1 of the  Hertfordshire Hoydens series and Book 2 will be Cherishing Charlotte, which is another unfinished project I hope to have completed by the end of the summer. And I still have several others after that, which will keep both Mari and me busy for the foreseeable future.

About A Home for Helena

After a wise woman suggests that she has been misplaced in time, Helena Lloyd travels back two hundred years in an attempt to find out where she belongs.

Widowed father James Walker has no intention of remarrying until he makes the acquaintance of his daughter’s lovely new governess.

Lady Pendleton, a time-traveling Regency lady herself, suspects that these two belong together. First, however, she must help Helena discover her true origins—and hopefully, a home where she belongs.

A Home for Helena is Book 2 of The Lady P Chronicles.

Book 1, The Ultimate Escape, originally published in the Bluestocking Belles’ anthology, Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem, will soon be available individually.

Amazon

$0.99 until April 5, then $2.99

Free on Kindle Unlimited

Excerpt

Newsome Grange

Kingswood, Kent

Later that morning

“Miss Dray is dead?”

James stared incredulously at Sir Henry, who, for once, was not wearing his normal easy-going expression. Instead, he leaned against the mantel of the fireplace of his study, studying the grate as though there were a fire blazing in it.

“Good God, what happened? Is Annabelle all right?”

“She’s fine, James.

Lady Sarah strolled through the doorway and into her husband’s arms. In spite of her words, she looked worn out. Strands of her blonde hair were falling out of her chignon, and he thought he saw the remains of tears on her cheeks.

“The girls are quite distressed, of course. They were fond of Miss Dray. As were we all,” she said with a glance at her husband, whose arm remained tightly clasped around her shoulders. “She was a dear thing, but very strict. The perfect governess. I don’t know how we shall go on without her.” Her voice broke and she buried her face on her husband’s chest.

“They found her in Abbey Wood,” Sir Henry explained. “Wednesday was her half-day, and when she didn’t return, we sent out a search party. No signs of foul play. The doctor says it was natural causes—her heart just gave out.”

His wife erupted in sobs again, and James decided he should find his daughter and leave the Newsomes to their grief, giving voice to that decision.

Lady Sarah turned to face him, accepting her husband’s handkerchief to dab her eyes with.

“Oh no, James, you needn’t do that. The nanny will manage until Mother can send us a replacement. Emily and Theodosia simply love having Annabelle around, and it will only distress them further if she leaves as well. And as for Colin, I’ve no doubt he thinks Annabelle’s his mother by now. She has a way with babies, it seems.”

James was not convinced. “Still, it takes time to find a governess.” He should know—the agency he’d consulted in London had yet to send him information on any potential candidates.

Sir Henry chuckled. “Have you met my mother-in-law?”

Lady Sarah smiled in spite of herself. “We sent an express requesting her aid. If I know her, she’ll come herself if she can’t find someone suitable to fill in until we find a permanent replacement.”

Sir Henry winked at him. “Perhaps she’ll bring along that pretty Miss Lloyd she has residing with her. I think she liked you well enough.” He chuckled. “Not looking for a husband, though. Or so she says.”

James frowned. He’d nearly succeeded in forcing the image of the forthright Miss Lloyd out of his mind, and now she had installed herself right back in again. If he were truthful with himself, he’d admit he wouldn’t be sorry to see her again. She was quite an eyeful.

It was really too bad he hadn’t been able to visit Violet while in London. It seemed her new protector demanded exclusivity, and he’d not been able to get past her burly butler. He hadn’t been near an attractive woman in ages, and this Miss Lloyd was proving strangely difficult to dismiss from his thoughts.

Lady Sarah looked thoughtful. “What do you know about this Miss Lloyd, Henry? Where did she come from? I don’t believe Mother has ever mentioned her before.”

Sir Henry grinned as he looked down at her. “She’s your mother, my dear. Surely you know by now how unpredictable she can be.”

Lady Sarah drew a deep breath. “I do know that. That’s precisely why I’m—concerned.”

James cleared his throat. “I appreciate your kindness in offering to keep my daughter, but you obviously have more than enough to deal with at present. If you would be so kind as to call her down… I can send for her things later.”

But the Newsomes wouldn’t hear of it. Lady Sarah was so vehement that he could see she was almost ready to burst into tears again, and after Sir Henry shook his head in warning, James visited his daughter briefly and left without her.

As he rode home, no matter how he fought it, his mind’s eye kept reverting to a pair of bright green eyes and the lovely face that went with them. Would he be seeing them again?

Susana’s March Events & Giveaways

A Home for Helena Rafflecopter: through March 31st

 http://www.susanaellis.com

Susana’s March Quiz: through March 31st

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Susana’s Newsletter Subscriber Drive: through March 31st

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A Home for Helena Release Party: March 29, 2016, 4:00-11:00 p.m. EDT

Guest authors • Prizes • Fabulous gowns • Swoonworthy heroes • Fun for everyone

https://www.facebook.com/events/534215620086552/

About Lady Pendleton

REAL LADY PLady Pendleton is a frequent guest of Susana’s in the 21st century, both in Toledo and Florida, where Susana splits her time. She began appearing in Susana’s blog, Susana’s Parlour, in 2013.

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Lady P in Florida and a Sneak Preview of “A Home For Helena”

Susana: Lady P has been having a wonderful time with me this winter in central Florida. She gets along well with my parents, especially my mother.

Susana's mother, Mrs. Ellis

Susana’s mother, Mrs. Ellis

Lady P: In many ways, Mrs. Ellis and I are kindred spirits. Why, she even looks like me when she puts on that navy bonnet with the crimson trim. She dotes on her grandchildren, as I do, of course, and I even helped her make the most darling little dresses and skirts for them, as well as a vest and trousers for the boy. Did you know that Susana’s sister has eleven children, nine of them girls? Goodness, I don’t know how she manages without any servants. My own daughter Sarah cannot manage her three even with a houseful of servants.

Susana: I don’t think that’s fair, your ladyship. Having your mother there to nitpick over everything you do can be nerve-wracking for anyone. Especially when your mother—or your houseguest—thinks everything should be done her way

Lady P: Well really, Susana, your housekeeping skills are sadly lacking, and you don’t even have the sense to feel remorseful about it. If you refuse to clean your house yourself, the very least you could do is hire someone else to do it.

Susana [shrugging]: Cleaning is a waste of time. It’ll only get dirty again, after all. Besides, I don’t care to have some stranger in my house while I’m busy writing and need to concentrate. Your banging around is about as much as I can stand. In any case, Romeo Roomba does a fabulous job cleaning the floors. All I have to do is push the “on” button and when he’s finished he returns to his charging station and turns himself off. What could be better?

Lady P

Lady P

Lady P [clucking her tongue]: What is the world coming to when you have to get a machine to do such a simple task for you? Why, in my day, the maids had to take up the rugs and beat the dust out of them.

Susana: Oh yes, I’m sure everything was done much better in the 19th century. No doubt you had to walk three miles to school every day, and you and your siblings used to fight over the gizzard when roast chicken was served.

Lady P: Well! I can see you’re not in a proper mood for a conversation. Perhaps I shall indulge myself with a dip in the bathing pool.

Susana: A wonderful idea, Lady P! The other residents always enjoy chatting with you. Why, when you left the other day, it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, and several people got up and left out of sheer boredom.

Following Lady P’s Departure

Susana [chuckling]: And they do get a kick out of seeing her in her outlandish bathing costume too. She couldn’t find a proper one here, of course, so she made one out my mother’s old capri pants and a belted T-shirt. She insists she can’t possibly be seen in a modern bathing suit, not even one with a skirt.

Anyway, in spite of all our bickering, Lady P has been assisting me with my current work-in-progress, A Home For Helena. The story is loosely based on a true story in which Lady P played a pivotal role. Of course, the names and details have been changed to protect the innocent—and the guilty, I suppose.

A Home For Helena

Helena and James

Helena and James

Helena Lloyd grew up in foster homes until she was finally adopted by a kind old lady who loved her and taught her how to live by example. When she died, she left Helena enough money to attend college and get her MBA. But Helena discovered the business world was not for her, so she tried a few other things. When the story starts, she has just quit her job as a nanny for a wealthy couple in London, but is being stalked by her former employer. She runs into a gypsy lady who tells her that she is a soul lost in the wrong era. Sounds crazy, but when she thinks about it, there seems to be a ring of truth in it. So she agrees to travel to the era she supposedly “belongs” in, which is Regency-era England.

Helena doesn’t know the first thing about the Regency era, but fortunately, the gypsy lady gives her the address of a prominent London lady who has done a bit of time traveling herself. You guessed it—my own Lady Pendleton!

While staying with Lady P, an urgent message arrives from Lady P’s daughter in Kent. The Newsomes are in desperate need of a governess, and at Lady P’s urging, Helena agrees to travel there and fill in until a permanent governess can be found.

That’s when she meets James Walker, a neighboring widower whose daughter Annabelle is temporarily lodging with the Newsomes. His first marriage was a disaster, and he’s not keen on remarrying, but since he can’t seem to manage his young daughter on his own, everyone is telling him to find a wife.

The Newsomes’ new governess is about as un-governess-like as you can get. She’s young and beautiful, wears stylish clothing, and her teaching methods are decidedly odd. Not to mention her manner of speech, which is nothing like any American he has ever met. She is also quite free with her opinions, and James could never bear to have a wife like that. Not that he’s interested in marrying her. His next wife will be quiet and biddable and content with what he can offer her.

But is that what he really wants?

Helena finds James Walker devastatingly handsome, but she’s not there to find a husband. She doubts that a modern woman could bear to live in a period where women lived completely under their husband’s control. And even if she could, surely the knowledge of her journey through time would send him running in the opposite direction.

Wouldn’t it?

Who were Helena’s parents and how did she end up two hundred years in the future? Will Helena and James be able to resolve their differences and live happily ever after?

And most of all, what role will Lady P play in the final showdown?

Tune in later this year when A Home For Helena hits the digital shelves

If you could travel through time, where would you go and why? Do you think you could make the decision to remain there permanently?

A Palm Tree Sort of Christmas: MFRW’s Home For the Holidays Hop

MFRW-HomeHolidays2013-btn

Click above to return to the hop!

The phrase “Home For the Holidays” conjures up an image of the family gathered around the fireplace at Grandma’s house eating turkey with all the trimmings, including Grandma’s date-filled cookies and orange bread. We children were all wound up about the treasures Santa had left us under the tree, and being spoiled by Grandma was the icing on the cake.

Grandma’s gone now, and the house is now occupied by my parents, but only in the summer months. Mom and Dad are snowbirds now, enjoying the warmer temperatures and decorated palm trees of central Florida. The icy cold of the north has begun to bother me as well, so I have now joined them in this cozy little retirement community. The Christmas lights are beautiful at night, and we still enjoy a hearty Christmas feast at the clubhouse, but it’s not quite the same.

I miss Grandma and the excitement of being with the extended family, but I don’t miss the ice and dirty slush and the cold drafts in my office in Ohio. I’ll be happy to return in the spring to enjoy the warmer weather, but “Home For the Holidays” for me involves decorated palm trees.

What does it mean for you?

About A Twelfth Night Tale

A wounded soldier and the girl next door find peace and love amidst a backdrop of rural Christmas traditions.

twelfthnighttale_4inchWithout dowries and the opportunity to meet eligible gentlemen, the five Barlow sisters stand little chance of making advantageous marriages. But when the eldest attracts the attention of a wealthy viscount, suddenly it seems as though Fate is smiling upon them.

Lucy knows that she owes it to her younger sisters to encourage Lord Bexley’s attentions, since marriage to a peer will secure their futures as well as hers. The man of her dreams has always looked like Andrew Livingston, her best friend’s brother. But he’s always treated her like a child, and, in any case, is betrothed to another. Perhaps the time has come to put away childhood dreams and accept reality…and Lord Bexley.

Andrew has returned from the Peninsula with more emotional scars to deal with than just the lame arm. Surprisingly, it’s his sister’s friend “Little Lucy” who shows him the way out of his melancholy. He can’t help noticing that Lucy’s grown up into a lovely young woman, but with an eligible viscount courting her, he’ll need a little Christmas magic to win her for himself.

Available

Ellora’s CaveAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboSonyARe

Susana is going all out to celebrate the release of A Twelfth Night Tale!

Besides the Grand Prize—a Giant Treasure Box—she is giving away a Twelfth Night Tale Christmas charm bracelet (silver-plated) for one random commenter on each of the twelve stops of the tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter for the Giant Treasure Box!

A Twelfth Night Tale Giant Treasure Box*

  • lovely gift box
  • A Twelfth Night Tale Christmas charm bracelet (silver-plated)
  • Father Christmas figurine
  • Three Wise Men figurine
  • Thomas Kinkade photo collage
  • Treasuring Theresa mug
  • Treasuring Theresa necklace
  • Treasuring Theresa keychain
  • two Christmas ornaments from Scotland (Mary Queen of Scots and fleur-de-lys)
  • two decks of Ellora’s Cave playing cards
  • two perfumed soaps from Scotland
  • fizzing bath salts from Scotland
  • Celtic pen from Scotland
  • “jeweled” soap
  • nail clipper keychain from London
  • stuffed toy bear

*In lieu of the treasure box, a winner from outside the U.S. will receive a gift card from the book retailer of their choice.

Susana Interviews Mrs. Barlow, the Mother of the Heroine of “A Twelfth Night Tale”

Susana is going all out to celebrate the release of A Twelfth Night Tale!

giant_treasure

Besides the Grand Prize—a Giant Treasure Box—she is giving away a Twelfth Night Tale Christmas charm bracelet (silver-plated) for one random commenter on each of the twelve stops of the tour.

Click here for the Rafflecopter for the Giant Treasure Box!

A Twelfth Night Tale Giant Treasure Box*

  • lovely gift box
  • A Twelfth Night Tale Christmas charm bracelet (silver-plated)
  • Father Christmas figurine
  • Three Wise Men figurine
  • Thomas Kinkade photo collage
  • Treasuring Theresa mug
  • Treasuring Theresa necklace
  • Treasuring Theresa keychain
  • two Christmas ornaments from Scotland (Mary Queen of Scots and fleur-de-lys)
  • two decks of Ellora’s Cave playing cards
  • two perfumed soaps from Scotland
  • fizzing bath salts from Scotland
  • Celtic pen from Scotland
  • “jeweled” soap
  • nail clipper keychain from London
  • stuffed toy bear

*In lieu of the treasure box, a winner from outside the U.S. will receive a gift card from the book retailer of their choice.

My time-traveling Regency lady, Lady Pendleton, came down with a stomach ailment and was unable to travel to Oxfordshire to complete the series of interviews she agreed to before returning to the 21st century. (Prior to that, however, she did manage to interview Jane Livingston, the hero’s sister, while they were both enjoying the Little Season in London.) And she somehow contrived to send Mrs. Barlow, Lucy’s mother, to me at my winter home in Florida for a brief interview. Someday I’m going to get her to tell me how she does these things. (And get her to take her back to Regency England with her—wouldn’t that be a historical researcher’s dream?)

Susana: Welcome to Florida, Mrs. Barlow. I hope you enjoy your stay. May I offer you some refreshments?

Mrs. Barlow: [looking around her in wonder] No thank you, Miss Ellis. My stomach is still a bit queasy from the journey.

Susana: Oh dear, I hope you are not coming down with the same ailment that has sidelined my friend Lady Pendleton.

Mrs. Barlow: Lady Pendleton? Oh yes, the…uh…woman who sent me here. She’s a bit…eccentric, is she not?

Susana: [hiding a smile] Indeed she is, Mrs. Barlow. But kindhearted and quite harmless, really.

Mrs. Barlow: [looking relieved] I’m glad to hear it, Miss Ellis. This is all quite a shock, you know. She said you wished to inquire about my daughter Lucy?

Susana: Er, yes. It’s research for a story I’m writing. I understand you have five daughters?

Mrs. Barlow: [Sighing] Indeed I do. Five daughters to marry off and no sons.

Susana: And Lucy is the eldest?

Mrs. Barlow: Yes, she is already eight and ten years of age and of an age to make her bow to Society, but unfortunately, her father and I have not the means to stake her. [Shaking her head] A house in London with servants is enormously expensive. We cannot even stand the cost of providing her with a suitable wardrobe. [Sighing] It is very sad, really. Lucy is a delightful girl who would be a splendid wife, but there are few eligible gentlemen here in Charlbury.

Susana: I understand the young man next door recently returned from service in the Peninsula. Livingston, I believe. Andrew Livingston. Could he be a prospect, do you think?

Mrs. Barlow: [Sighing deeply] No, unfortunately he’s betrothed to some London chit. Since before he took up his colors two years ago. I suppose they’ll be marrying posthoste now that he’s returned. A shame really, because Lucy has always had a tendre for him. The Livingstons are an unexceptionable family and quite well-to-heel, and it would be a great thing if Lucy were to be settled so near—but no, he’s never seen Lucy as anything but a child, and besides, he’s spoken for.

Susana: What a conundrum! Are there no other ways for young ladies to meet eligible gentlemen in the country?

Mrs. Barlow: Occasionally, someone’s cousin or nephew comes to town for a visit, but there are few eligibles in that lot. There are assemblies, of course. Oh, that reminds me. [Perking up] There was a quite agreeable viscount at the last assembly who seemed quite taken with Lucy. He danced twice with her. Perhaps he will come to call soon. Oh my, that would be a marvelous thing for my girls! To have their sister a viscountess who can sponsor them in London when the time comes! I must urge Lucy to encourage him!

Susana: Was she equally taken with him, then?

Mrs. Barlow: [shrugging] These things resolve themselves over time. I don’t believe she was repulsed by him. He looked well enough, for an older gentleman, and his manners were unexceptionable. It is said that he was a considerate husband to his late wife, and seems to be devoted to his three daughters.

Susana: Oh, he’s a widower. No doubt looking for a mother for his daughters.

Mrs. Barlow: And an heir, of course. He still needs a son to inherit, and Lucy is young enough to manage that.

Susana: [Doubtfully] I suppose so, and yet…one could wish a love match for her.

Mrs. Barlow: [Stiffening] Lucy is a practical girl, and not at all the sort to waste time dreaming of the impossible. She will make a wonderful wife and mother and take great pleasure in using her elevated circumstances to assist her sisters.

Susana: I’m sure she will, Mrs. Barlow. I did not mean to imply otherwise. Please forgive me if I offended you.

Mrs. Barlow: [Relaxing] Of course. I’m afraid this is a topic about which Mr. Barlow and I frequently cross swords. He says Lucy is still young and will find her own way. But he’s never been the most practical man, and I suspect he’d be just as glad to have all of them at home with us forever.

Susana: An indulgent father then. [Glances at the clock]. Oh dear, it’s almost time for our visit to end. I wonder if you’d like to take a walk around the park, Mrs. Barlow. It’s such a lovely day, and you might enjoy the flora and fauna here in central Florida. Perhaps we’ll even see an alligator in the lake.

Mrs. Barlow: An alligator! Goodness!

Susana: From a distance, of course. But there are palm trees and snake birds, and plenty of sun to warm you before you go back to chilly England

Mrs. Barlow: [shivering] Chilly indeed! The weather has been exceptionally cold this year. By all means, let us walk a bit in the sunshine.

And so ends the interview. It may interest you to know that the winter of 1813-1814, when A Twelfth Night Tale takes place, was one of the coldest on record, so much so that in February the Thames froze and a frost fair was held for four days, during which an elephant was led across the river under Blackfriars Bridge. 

About A Twelfth Night Tale

twelfthnighttale_4inchA wounded soldier and the girl next door find peace and love amidst a backdrop of rural Christmas traditions.

Without dowries and the opportunity to meet eligible gentlemen, the five Barlow sisters stand little chance of making advantageous marriages. But when the eldest attracts the attention of a wealthy viscount, suddenly it seems as though Fate is smiling upon them.

Lucy knows that she owes it to her younger sisters to encourage Lord Bexley’s attentions, since marriage to a peer will secure their futures as well as hers. The man of her dreams has always looked like Andrew Livingston, her best friend’s brother. But he’s always treated her like a child, and, in any case, is betrothed to another. Perhaps the time has come to put away childhood dreams and accept reality…and Lord Bexley.

Andrew has returned from the Peninsula with more emotional scars to deal with than just the lame arm. Surprisingly, it’s his sister’s friend “Little Lucy” who shows him the way out of his melancholy. He can’t help noticing that Lucy’s grown up into a lovely young woman, but with an eligible viscount courting her, he’ll need a little Christmas magic to win her for himself.

Available

Ellora’s CaveAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

Excerpt

Jane was chatty as usual, prattling on about the wedding, her latest letter from Theodore and the coming events for the Christmas holidays.

“We are expecting you all at our house for Christmas dinner as usual,” Lucy broke in. “Mama has a new recipe for plum pudding and she’s anxious to see what you think of it.”

The Livingstons had been guests of the Barlows for every Christmas dinner since Mrs. Livingston’s death. Jane and Andrew’s mother had been a wonderful hostess and a great advocate for the Yuletide traditions, and after she had passed away,

Mrs. Barlow had begun the practice of sharing the family Christmas with their good friends and neighbors. There was never a dull moment in a household with five such lively daughters as the Barlow girls, and the Livingstons were not allowed the luxury of brooding over the past during a time of year meant to be joyful.

“Yes indeed,” piped up Mr. Livingston. “Your mother sets a fine table and it’s always a pleasure to be among so many pretty young lasses, is it not, Andrew?”

“Most assuredly,” said Andrew, with an appreciative smile at Lucy. “If Miss Barlow here is any indication, the Barlow girls must be growing up quite agreeably.”

Lucy flushed. “You must come to the church tomorrow night for the Christmas Eve pageant,” she put forward. “My sisters and I are all in the play, and Jane will need an escort.”

Andrew raised his eyebrows. “You are all five in the play? I don’t recall so many females involved in the nativity.”

Lucy laughed. “I’m the director,” she said. “Laura plays the part of Mary, Lydia is one of the wise men, Louisa is a shepherd, and Lila is a camel.” She grinned. “The script originally called for domestic animals, but Lila being Lila, refused to settle for anything so mundane.”

“Who, then, is the Christ Child?” inquired Andrew after the laughter had subsided.

“Louisa’s cat, Beau,” Lucy told him. “We meant to use the Tadsens’ baby in the beginning, but he wouldn’t stay still and kept crying, so we tried several dogs and cats for the part, and Beau was the most cooperative.”

More smiles circled the table, and Andrew agreed that he would be pleased to escort Jane to the pageant.

“How could I possibly refuse? This production is certain to be the highlight of the county. You should accompany us, Papa,” he said, turning to his father.

“Perhaps I shall,” said Mr. Livingston.

Jane and Lucy excused themselves, leaving the two gentlemen to their port.

“Oh Lucy!” Jane said when they reached the drawing room. “I’ve had the most marvelous idea! Well, it was your doing, really.”

“Me? What did I do?” Lucy was mystified.

“You invited Andrew to the pageant! Brilliant thinking! He’s been holed up in his bedchamber like a grumpy bear for weeks now, even before Cecilia jilted him. We need to get him out of the house. Encourage him to meet other people and stop feeling sorry for himself.”

She gave Lucy a speculative look. “And now that I think about it, you would be the best person to do it. Cheer him up, I mean. I haven’t seen Andrew in such a lively frame of mind since…well, before he went off to war.”

Lucy was horrified…and hopeful. “You want me to be in charge of cheering up Andrew? Why not you? You are his sister.”

“I’ve tried everything I know, and it’s no use. You are with him for an hour and he’s laughed twice!” She grasped Lucy’s shoulder. “Look, I’m not asking you to marry Andrew or anything like that. All you have to do is come for visits, bring your sisters, persuade him to get out of the house, things like that. You can do that, can’t you? For my sake?”

“Well…” said Lucy doubtfully.

“You do like Andrew, don’t you? Want him to regain his spirits?”

“Of course.” That was the problem. She liked him far too much. It wouldn’t do to get her hopes up and then have them dashed to pieces.

“Then it’s settled.”

And in spite of everything, Lucy was glad that it was.

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