Hard to believe that in just a few hours, we’ll be ringing in a new year. Looking back at where was this time last year to where I am now, well … let’s just say there’s quite a bit of change and upheaval in my life.
This time last year, I was burned out, focused solely on putting one foot in front of the other, barely able to get through my day. Writing seemed a thing of the past, no matter what plans I put in my calendar. Then, in March, I was informed my job would be ending as of the end of April.
Best damn thing that could have happened to me.
I’m still pulling long days, especially in the last few weeks as I’ve readied The Accidental Viscountess for publication. But I’m working for myself, doing what I always said I would do “someday”: writing full-time. It’s not easy and I have to be more disciplined about how I spend my time (and money), but the sheer joy of these last eight months has been indescribable. If there is any way you can spend time doing what you love, go for it. You will be happier for it, which means you will be kinder to those you love.
As in years past, I’ve done planning for the year ahead. This time, though, I’m much more hopeful things won’t be derailed because this is my day job now. The Accidental Viscountess releases a week from today (buy links and excerpt below), and To Lure a Lord, the second book in the “Just a Touch of Scandal” series, is currently scheduled for June 2020, with the third book following in the fall.
So, welcome to 2020. This morning, the leader of my meditation class asked us to inhale “possibilities” and exhale “fear,” saying our possibilities should be stronger than our fears. It’s a new year and a new beginning, the slate wiped clean in many ways, waiting for us to write our fate on it. What are you going to write?
Spinster and poor relation Dorothea Hindley is in London for one reason: to help launch her cousin into society, something that would be a great deal easier if Dorothea’s aunt hadn’t revived a long-standing feud with the mother of a viscount. The best Dorothea can expect for herself is a dreary marriage to a vicar. But in trying to keep her family from becoming the laughingstocks of London, Dorothea finds a surprising ally in the viscount himself.
Martin Drayton, Viscount Abernathy, can’t afford the distraction of the ancient feud his mother insists on reviving. King George III lies mad at Windsor Castle and Martin is involved in supporting the Prince of Wales’ cause in the Regency Bill. But when he enlists Dorothea’s help to cool the flames of the feud, their undeniable attraction simply adds fuel to the fire.
Marrying a viscount never entered Dorothea’s head. But a moonlit kiss could lead to a scandal neither of them can afford. Can the accidental viscountess and her unexpected husband get their families to stop feuding long enough to save both the monarchy and their marriage?
“You appear puzzled, sir.”
Dorothea watched him with an amused expression. Here was an opportunity to speak to at least one of the Wilmont clan. “Have I been insulted or no?”
She chuckled. “If you must ask, there is your answer.”
Her expression was sympathetic, as if she understood his quandary. That sympathy caused him to push on to his purpose. “I wish to offer apologies for my sister’s behavior.”
“Which you are not responsible for.”
“Also to ask if there is anything I might do to ease this feud,” he finished, attempting to ignore her interruption.
“Is Lady Abernathy willing to let the feud drop?”
“No,” he admitted with some reluctance.
A regretful smile crossed full lips. “Then I see little hope my aunt will be willing to make any effort. You do realize this began before either of us were born.”
Her words did not sound encouraging, but he had to acknowledge the truth of them. “Something to do with their season. Ridiculous some triviality should provoke such acid response years later.”
A frown crossed her face, her eyes dropping as she plucked at the cover of her notebook. “This may seem ridiculous to you, but a season is one of the few times a woman has the chance at some control over her destiny. She can encourage or discourage gentlemen, try to exert influence over who will be her husband. If either Lady Wilmont or Lady Abernathy felt those chances interfered with by the other, they might well nurture such a grudge across the years.”
A perspective he’d not considered. Still, given his parents had enjoyed a happy marriage, might his mother be the one to sin against her rival?
“Ballrooms are battlefields, my lord.”
The humor was back in her voice, her gaze meeting his without the missish demureness most unmarried ladies affected. Her attention, though, wavered every so often, watching something else in the room. Most likely keeping an eye out for Lady Wilmont. Given her plainer dress, Martin wagered she was a poor relation who earned her keep by doing small tasks and being useful. Which meant she lived on the Wilmonts’ charity, needing their continued good will if she wished to retain her situation.
“My lord, I hope your sister does not feel too badly about her outburst. I fear Lady Wilmont did her best to provoke it.”
Sometimes poor relations proved surprising. “I did not suggest Lady Wilmont did anything wrong.”
“Because you are too much of a gentleman to do so. I was present, remember? I’m afraid both parties were at fault.” Dorothea leaned forward. “I briefly considered fainting to end the scene.”
Martin stifled a laugh. “Why did you not try this heroic measure?”
“Your sister spoke before I had fully steeled my resolve. I wish I had, though. My actions would be of less interest to certain parties than hers.”
She wrinkled her nose and Martin found himself again intrigued. This was no pale-faced companion content for what crumbs might fall. Dorothea had both wit and intelligence. It was surprising no gentlemen sought her company, even if only for the amusement of her conversation.
The music ended, sparking a general exodus from the dance floor. Which meant Miss Wilmont would be returning. Which meant Lady Wilmont would be forced to rejoin Dorothea to supervise her daughter’s next choice of partner.
Dorothea took a half-step toward him, closer than truly proper. “I urge you not to try my aunt tonight, sir,” she said, her voice quiet enough the words would not carry beyond them two. “She is vexed from the encounter with Lady Abernathy, among other things. An attempt to force conversation would not go well.”