This blog is to keep my readers updated about my forthcoming historical romance books and to tell you a little bit about the history behind each one. I hope you enjoy reading it and feel free to comment.
Elizabethans: The Viscount's Divorce
Grace and her new
bridegroom looked so happy on their wedding day. They could barely take their
eyes off each other, causing Helen to look back wistfully on her own wedding
day. She could never have that day again and she regretted that she did not
have what this young couple had. She had never met the man she was to wed, he
was a stranger, a fearsome stranger.
Her bridegroom had
built himself a reputation for ruthlessness throughout the county and although
Helen was content to marry him, as it would mean she would be away from her
tyrannical father, she feared him as well. All she knew of him was rumour and
hearsay, none of which was appealing, but she would do her best to appease him.
It was a long time
after that day before she realised he was the not the man he was reputed to be
and he captured her heart very early in the marriage.
Grace wore the pale
blue wedding gown that had been Christine’s and it sparkled with little
sapphires, her blonde hair cascaded down her back in waves and curls and caught
the light from the candlelit church. It was a glorious day, or would have been
had Helen’s husband made the effort to mend the rift with his brother. But
despite Helen’s pleading, he was too proud to apologise and admit he had been
in the wrong.
It was late autumn,
but still the sun shone for Grace and her Viscount Jason, still the rain stayed
away and the wind kept its counsel.
It was a glorious
day, if one could ignore the deliberate way Michael and Christine sat at the
other end of the long table from James and Helen, but she doubted any of the
guests noticed the pointed way they avoided speaking to each other.
The family had stayed
in Essex longer than they normally would this year, as Christine’s baby had
come in the early autumn and Michael thought Melford Hall would be a better
venue for his sister’s wedding than the London house.
It was cold here,
beside the sea, and Helen was glad when the guests had all gone and she could
prepare to move to London for the winter. The house was already furnished, so
at least they did not have to carry all their belongings with them like many
noble households and now she was sorting through her winter clothes, trying to
decide which gowns she would need and which could remain here at Melford Manor.
That was when James
came into her bedchamber and stood for a moment eyeing the boxes she had out on
the bed, ready to receive her winter clothing.
“We will not be
going to London for the winter, Helen,” he said. “We will be staying here, at
the Manor House.”
up and frowned at him. She should have expected this, but for some odd reason
she had not. She thought he would have made friends with Michael by this time.
The argument was
caused by Michael’s mistake in thinking his wife had left him for a lover, only
to learn she had, in fact, been abducted. But James had had a lot to say about
it; he had insulted Christine and refused to admit, even now, that he had been
Helen was delighted
to have her sister-in-law home, as they had always been friends and she never
believed for one moment that she had been unfaithful to Michael. But James was
making it very difficult for her to show her support. She had never gone
against his wishes, had always been the compliant and obedient wife, and she
had no wish to go against him now.
recovered from the birth of her son, who was born four weeks early. It was but six
weeks till yuletide and Helen wanted to spend it with Christine, her best
friend. Besides, the children loved to play together and her sons had seen
nothing of little Lisa since the quarrel.
Their houses were
less than a mile apart and occupied the same estate, Michael’s estate, but
still the brothers avoided each other. Helen visited when James was out, but it
was time to heal the breach for all their sakes.
“It will be very
cold here, James,” she replied. “You know how cold it gets, right next to the
sea. The London house has smaller rooms and is snuggled between other
buildings. Why would you want to stay here?”
“The London house
is Michael’s, not mine. He has not seen fit to invite us.”
She almost voiced
the thought that this house in which they lived was also Michael’s, but that
did not keep James from occupying it on a permanent basis. She bit back the
“Since when did he need
to invite us?”
“Helen, you know we
have quarrelled. You know we have spoken not a civil word since he ordered me
out of the Hall, even after I went to help him with Carstairs. You know I
cannot simply assume we will be wintering in London with him.”
apologise. You know you were in the wrong.”
“I have apologised,
but he has still made no move toward mending the situation.”
Helen shook her
apologised to Michael, yes, but not to Christine and she is the one you
James scowled. She
was right, of course, but he was still not convinced he had been wrong about
his brother’s wife. He was a man who found it difficult to admit his own
mistakes. He had apologised to Michael for the harsh things he said, but only
because he did not want a bad atmosphere between them. It did not work. Michael
would never forgive him until he made his apologies to Christine as well, and
he was not sure he was capable of that.
James held that a
woman’s morals should be without blemish and was quick to condemn when Michael
believed his wife had been unfaithful to him. To be honest, he had never been
all that fond of Michael’s wife. He thought her far too outspoken; she never
shied away from voicing her opinions, even if they did disagree with those of her
husband, and James found that unsettling. Helen was fond of her and he was
always afraid that Christine might influence his own wife.
“I am still not
convinced of her innocence,” he muttered.
“Then you are a
fool!” Helen said, her voice rising. “Anybody can see she loves Michael. The
fact that she is prepared to forgive him for abandoning her to that madman should
tell you that much.”
James took a step
back. It seemed he was right; Christine was proving to be a bad influence on
Helen, despite him telling his wife to stay away from her. It occurred to him
then that perhaps she had not obeyed that particular command.
He had absolutely
no idea that Helen obeyed him only when it suited her.
“Helen! Please do
not shout at me.”
The astonishment in
James’ voice made her smile. Never, since the day they had met, had she been
anything other than the devoted wife, but these last few weeks since Michael
got his own wife back, she had been less than patient with him.
He looked so
dumbfounded, her heart melted. She moved closer to him and stepped into his
arms, put her own around his waist and reached up to kiss his lips.
“Michael is likely
just as unhappy about the situation as you are,” she told him. “Talk to him,
please, but be prepared to put your doubts aside. Christine is my friend, and I
want to spend my winter with her. What about Christmas? How will we celebrate
the Lord’s birth if you two are not speaking and where will that leave poor
John? Stuck in the middle?”
“But if we stay
here, you can visit your father more than once a month and you will not have to
stay the night.”
She caught her
“I am not sure I want
to visit him more than once a month, James.”
“I have been
thinking about that.”
“I have neglected
you over the past years, staying home while you visited him just because I do
not like him or agree with his politics and his wild notions on religion. I
think I should accompany you in the future.”
Helen eyes opened
wider and she stiffened as she shook her head. She could see it did not go
“What about the
boys?” She said. “I do not want my father filling their young minds with his venom.
He would be happy if Mary Tudor still reigned, if she had dragged us all back
to the papist church.”
suspiciously. Although Helen never took their sons with her on her visits to
their grandfather, she surely did not suppose their father cared for them while
she was away. That was what they had nurses for.
Still, her words
produced a new thought.
look after them,” he said. “If I make up with her.”
He leaned down from
his great height and kissed her gently, an affectionate gesture she was
unaccustomed to seeing from him, although it was not unwelcome.
Was this to be the
price of his healing the breach, of his admitting to Christine he had been
wrong? That she would have to give up her one monthly escape, the one or two days
when she could spend a few hours away from James’ watchful gaze?
And how would she
stop him? He could not be allowed to accompany her; that was out of the
question. He could not be allowed to find out where she really went on her
visits to her father’s estate.
“No, James,” she
said at last. “I mean, yes, you should make up with her, you should tell her
you were wrong, if only for Michael’s sake. But you have no need to go with me
to visit my father. I know you despise him and he feels the same about you. I
dislike him myself, but he is my responsibility, not yours.”
“That is my point,
my darling. Your responsibilities are mine; I have been selfish in not
recognising that before.”
“James, I would
rather you were selfish than to behave like Michael and make such a mess of
His eyes met hers
for a moment, then he smiled.
“Really? I thought
you rather admired him.”
“Admired him? How
should I admire a man who could not see that his wife loved him? How should I
admire someone who did not kill the man he believed to be her lover? You would
not have done that, would you?”
“I hope not. But he
acted out of love for her; I am not sure I love you enough for that. I mean, I
do but I know I would never let you go. My love is far too selfish.”
astonished. James had never spoken of love before; he seemed to think itunmanly.
“You do not love me
enough?” She replied. “Does that mean you love me a little?”
He looked at her
sharply, then saw her playful grin and returned it with a rare grin of his own.
“I do love you,
Helen,” he said. “I am sorry I have never told you that before, but all this
business with Michael and Christine has made me realise I should show you the affection
I feel. I hope I have always shown you respect at least.”
“You have and I
love you for it. But you are not Michael and I do not want you to be. I love
you, James, not him. Now, will you go and see Christine, talk to her, so we can
all move back to London for the winter?”
James dressed in
his thickest doublet, put on his fur hat and flung his fur lined cloak about
his shoulders. Helen was right; it was cold here in the winter and it would be
even colder before too long. He did not relish staying here for the colder
months and it would be a miserable yuletide without his family around him. John
would certainly want to go with Michael and Helen would not be happy. For that
matter, the children would miss out as well. They loved all the excitement, the
special treats and the music.
Privately, he knew
he could never make Helen unhappy. He did lose his temper more easily than his
brother though, and it was that temper which made him threaten violence he
would never carry out or condone.
Michael had believed
his wife to be in love with another man and he had let her go to him, because
he thought it would make her happy. He was wrong, as it happens, but James
would never have done that in the first place. He loved Helen, but she was his
and she would remain his.
Her father had
wanted the match with James for curious reasons, reasons he had never really
understood, but he had grown to care for her very easily and he would kill any
man who tried to take her from him.
Now he rode towards
Melford Hall, the huge new mansion his brother had built when he became Earl of
Melford, and he knew his mission would be one of the hardest he had ever
He said some
terrible things, both about Christine and to her face. He thought she had
betrayed his brother, thought her a whore and now it seems they were all wrong.
He was hoping the situation would simply blow itself out and things would
return to normal, and it might well do so given time. But there was no time and
if it meant having the family back together as it always was, then he would
have to smother his pride and admit to his brother’s wife that he had been
Michael must have
been watching his approach from the window, because the door opened just as
James drew rein and his brother stood waiting, his arms folded. He looked ready
for a further quarrel and James could hardly blame him for that.
He dismounted as
the stable boy came running to take the reins and lead his horse away for a rub
“Michael,” he said.
“I am glad to find you have not yet left for London.”
“James. If you have
come to hurl further insults at my wife, be aware your offensive remarks will
not be tolerated.”
James moved toward
the house and stopped in front of his brother.
“I have come to
apologise to Christine, to tell her I was wrong and beg her forgiveness.”
“You need not look
at me like that,” he went on. “It is stupid for us to be estranged like this,
Michael. It is unfair to Helen, who misses Christine, and it is unfair to the
“Was this Helen’s
James would never admit that he had come here at his wife’s bidding, but he did
not suppose he was fooling anyone, definitely not Michael. “I was wrong; I said
some despicable things and I regret them. I want us to be friends again. Can I please
just once, then reached out and gathered his brother into his arms.
In the small
sitting room, Christine sat beside the fire, her breast exposed to the suckling
babe. She glanced up when the two men entered, surprised that Michael had
allowed his brother entry. Perhaps they had made friends; she certainly hoped
began but he stopped halfway across the room.
He did not feel
comfortable in getting too close while she fed the baby. It was a sight he was
unused to seeing, as he had used the services of wet nurses for his own two
babies. He was not sure he approved of a countess feeding her own child like
this, and now as he tried to avert his gaze, he wondered if Helen had wanted to
do this. Was this something else he had kept from her without a thought for her
He had not even
asked her, had he? As soon as she told him she was with child, he had begun the
search for a suitable wet nurse. He had simply assumed it was what happened.
But no, she would have told him if she wanted to feed her sons herself. He was
sure she would.
replied. “It is good to see you here.”
breathed a sigh of relief and sat in the chair on the opposite side of the
great hearth. “I am so pleased to hear you say so. I said some harsh words to
you, and I hope you will accept my apology.”
She smiled, nodded
in that gracious manner which had captured his brother’s heart.
“Of course,” she
said. “I am delighted to hear you say it. Michael has been quite distressed by
the rift between you.”
He glanced up at
Michael, where he stood beside his wife’s chair.
“He has?” He said.
“I too have felt the distance between us uncomfortable. Will you forgive me?”
“You spoke only on
Michael’s behalf. I know that, so does he. Let us forget it now.”
James’ gaze was
drawn to the suckling babe and he stood up, feeling embarrassed.
“Should you not be
doing that in the nursery?” He asked.
“It is too cold,”
Mention of it being
cold was a good enough reason to change the subject.
“That is what I
wanted to talk to you about,” James remarked. “Will Helen and I still be
welcome to join you in London?”
Michael showed him
one of his warm smiles.
“You would be, of
course, but we will not be going to London, James. We will be staying here,
certainly until after twelfth night.”
“There is plague in
London. I will not risk my family.”
That was what they were calling it now, the filthy pestilence which had killed
so many people two hundred years ago. It had never completely left England; the
occasional outbreak still showed itself periodically and it was a deadly
“Yes. It is said
the outbreak is small and centred around the city area, but I do not want to
take any chances. Little Michael is still not strong.”
Little Michael. James had objected to the babe having that
name; that was something else he regretted, that he had doubted the child was
of his brother’s making. But, damn it! If Michael was not such a placid and
complacent soul, he would never have felt compelled to act on his behalf.
James was relieved
when Christine tucked her breast back into her bodice and held the two halves
together. He got to his feet to lean forward and kiss her forehead.
“Helen will be
pleased. She will not have to stay the night with her father if we stay here as
it is not so far to travel.”
“Perhaps she would
like to spend the night,” Christine said. “Have you considered that?”
No, he had not
considered that. Neither had he considered that Michael’s wife would be telling
him how his own wife felt. This woman had always had the power to make him
angry; little wonder he had been so outspoken about what he believed to be her
“I am sure she does
not,” he answered.“She would tell me if
that were the case.”
interrupted. “Let us leave Christine in peace and go to my office. I need to
speak to you about John. He has got it into his head to leave Melford and seek
his fortune in the capital.”