For the Love of Dreamy Ladies (Preview)


Grab my new series, "Regency Hearts Entwined", and get 2 FREE novels as a gift! Have a look here!


“And fetch a pat of butter, too, will you?” Mama called from the house door. Linnet, spinning around on the path to face her, nodded, a broad smile on her face.

“Yes, Mama! I will.”

She waved to her mother in the doorway of the cottage and, gathering her shawl around her shoulders, turned and walked down the path towards the road. Her heart was soaring. It was a warm, sunny, springtime day. The air was cool and fragrant, and the trail was muddy and damp. She could smell the distant scent of wildflowers borne in the fresh air. Their cottage was set a little back from the rest of the village, on the edge of the woodlands, separated by a big field.

As soon as she was more than ten paces from the house, Linnet began to run. Their cottage was not too far from the village. However, it was a good five minutes’ walk – for reasons not entirely understood to Linnet, since they were, after all, the village’s top bakery. Still, it offered an irresistible chance to run.

“Hurray!” Laughing, Linnet tucked her blonde hair back from her eyes and ran down the path.

The road led across the field, and the ground was muddy and clung to her shoes, making running a challenge that made her breath rasp in her throat and her heart pound, full of life.

When she was within shouting distance of the first row of houses, she slowed to a walk. She knew better than to let herself be chastened by Mrs. Halford at the millinery shop. The milliner seemed to take it upon herself to police the conduct of everyone in the village – especially Linnet, who she always said was a young lady and should have a better bearing. Linnet always smiled when she thought of that. She was unsure what bearing meant – not exactly – and she was no young lady.

“No…I’m me, and I can run and do whatever I like!”

She said it aloud and grinned to herself. She had no idea what life would mean for a young lady, but she guessed – from the rare occasion that she had seen fashionable young gentry wandering the village – that she would not be able to run, wipe her mouth with her hand, or wear her hair loose. She did all three, and worse, she reckoned. She couldn’t imagine those delicate young ladies climbing trees.

She smiled to herself and blinked, shading hazel eyes, and spotted the merchant’s shop on the hill. It was near the village entrance and provided the only place one could purchase anything – besides cloth – that was not produced by the villagers themselves. Here, one could buy spices, other exotic ingredients, and – notably – salt. It was to buy some salt that Linnet had come.

“Good morning, Mr. Hume,” she called through the door.

She waited. He hadn’t heard her yet, she reckoned. She paused, clearing her throat, and tried again.

“Mr. Hume?”

“Oh!” somebody shouted indoors. “Yes, I’m here. I’m coming…don’t shout at me. You’re not a captain of the King’s Guard.”

Linnet hid a grin. She knew Mr. Hume, who ran the merchant’s shop, well. She wasn’t afraid of his shouts because she knew he was just grumbling for show. After all, he’d been asleep in the sunshine. She waited while he went over to open up the front of the shop. Then she went inside.

“A pound of salt, please.”

“Little girl like you going to carry a pound?” he looked at her skeptically. “Want a basket?”

“I have a basket, Mr. Hume,” Linnet said patiently. “If you could put it here?” She held out the basket to him while he measured out a pound of salt and wrapped it in paper for her, bending the ends under so that it would not leak out. He placed it in her basket.

“You sure you can carry that?” he frowned.

“Quite sure, Mr. Hume,” Linnet assured.

She shifted the basket to her elbow, supported her hand with her right, and then passed him the coin. He took it and put it in the metal box where he kept his earning, then she hurried out, thanking him and waving over her shoulder.

She leaned back, looking about her. It was a glorious day. As soon as she had the butter, she intended to walk the long way around, spending as much time outside as possible. She ran down the hill to where the dairy farmer sold his milk and produce.

Her favorite part was when she walked back through the woods. She breathed in, basking in the sunshine that filtered through the leaves, smelling the fresh earth and dampness, and enjoying the peace and silence. Then she started a brisk trot.

“Whee!” she shouted, running down the slippery, muddy path. The basket thumped against her where it hung off her arm, her boots slipped, and her ears were full of the sound of her own feet, thudding against the soft soil of the path.

She slowed, her breath ragged in her throat, then walked on between the trees, enjoying the sunshine. The path led either right, which went straight to the cottage or left towards the road. Linnet went left, wanting to spend just a little longer out in the coolness and peace of the forest.

She paused and listened as she thought she heard the whicker of a horse. She tensed. It seemed strange to hear that noise here. Unless there was a cart on the road, it was rare to hear any such sound. She kept her eye out for carters coming along the track. It was not a dangerous stretch of road, but it paid to be careful – if naught else, a carter could push her off the road if he didn’t see her, and then she might be injured if she fell.

Linnet heard the sound again and peered across onto the road. She could see a coach stopped there. It was a large coach, dark wood with carvings supporting the lamps, and large wheels. More importantly – it was drawn by four fine coach horses, two bay, one black, and one white with gray marbling. She stared. Horses. Beautiful coach horses, like she sometimes saw if a coachman happened to stop at the inn. She wondered who could have left the coach there. It seemed abandoned. She watched but saw no sign of anybody, not even the coachman. Taking a breath, she tiptoed closer to investigate.

She stood there, watching for the owners or for the coachman to come back. Maybe he had delivered someone to the inn and was on his way back?

“Hey! There you are!” a strong voice said behind her. Before Linnet could stop them, a hand descended on her arm, clamping tight around the elbow and dragging her, irrefutably, towards the carriage.

Chapter One

Linnet drew in a breath to shout, but then she spun around and looked up. The person holding her wrist was a woman – an older woman, older than Linnet’s mother by quite a few years, she guessed. She felt fear change to confusion.

Why would a woman abduct her?

It made no sense, and in the pause, while Linnet tried to make sense of it, the woman spoke again.

“You look a real mess! We need to get you back at once. I’ve been searching the village, hunting everywhere for you! You had me worried, so you did. Now, in you get.”

“Um…” Linnet frowned. She stared up at the woman. She was wearing a pale-colored gown of thick linen with a cloak over the top of it in black wool. She had no bonnet covering her white hair but a starched white cap. Her eyes were brown and seemed kind, her mouth not unfriendly. Linnet had always had a good sense of whom she could trust and whom she couldn’t, and she saw no malice here.

“No arguing, now!” the woman said firmly. “You know I can never argue. And you did have me worried. Now, in you get, if you please. We need to hurry back at once.”

Linnet paused. The coach was before her, the door wide. The woman stood across from her, and she seemed to be asking rather than telling – Linnet sensed she was in a real hurry to get her back and frightened of what would happen if she didn’t. She was about to ask what all of this was about and explain that there could be no reason whatsoever for needing to get her back when the coachman walked up.

“We need to get back. I need to tend to the other horses – they need feeding, especially the young ones.”

That decided her. Where there were so many horses was precisely where she wanted to go. She looked at the shortish woman and at the weary-looking coachman, judged them no particular threat – she could outrun them, if in danger – and she got into the coach.

“Grand. There we are. Now, in I get. Oh, this is better.” The woman smiled at Linnet warmly. “Now we’ll make it in plenty of time.” She looked much calmer; her face settled into relaxed lines.

“Yes,” Linnet said, not sure what else to say. She had no idea what they needed to be in time for or anything about where they were going, and so she had nothing to say. She leaned back in the coach and looked around. It was remarkable. The seat beneath her was soft and padded with a cloth so fine and furry that it held the marks of her skirt where it had brushed across it. She knew it was velvet, but she’d never actually seen it close-to. She rested a hand on it.

She almost gasped at the feel of the soft cloth and the smell of leather mixing with a light floral oil she guessed must be perfume. It was luxurious inside there, and she couldn’t help staring at everything.

“Now, when we get back, you’ll have to get tidied up,” the woman with the kind eyes said gently but firmly. “I don’t even know how you managed to get your hair in such a mess.”

Linnet smiled. “I ran a bit.”

“You ran?” the woman’s eyes widened. Then the look in them softened, and she grinned. “I won’t tell. But you know you ought not to.”

Linnet nodded contritely. “Yes, I know.” She glanced up at the woman, who was still looking at her fondly. She wondered what was happening here.

I wonder how this mix-up could have occurred.

She put the thought aside as the coach turned right, rattling over stones, and then headed smoothly uphill. The horses had increased speed, and Linnet sensed from their eagerness that they must be close to wherever their home might be. She looked out of the window, watching the trees flash past.

So fast. I never dreamed of going anywhere so fast.

She was watching the trees speed away, mesmerized by the pace, when the woman cleared her throat.

“You seem tired. You should have some rest when we get back. The master will not be pleased if I tired you.”

Linnet frowned. Now she was worried. Whoever the master was, she didn’t much care to meet him. He sounded like a difficult sort, and she could see how afraid her companion seemed. She tried to plan her options for escape. She would have to tell this woman sometime that she had found the wrong girl. She decided to say something the moment they stopped. As she resolved herself, she glanced out of the window to see that they had passed through a tall fence.

“Here we are. Now, when we get back, you’re to go straight upstairs. I’ll come and help you tidy up as soon as I’ve taken a message to the stables.”

“Yes, very well,” Linnet murmured kindly. She was too busy looking out of the window to think of much else. The landscape had changed, the close-growing trees giving way to a view across vast fields. The grass was short and bright green, and Linnet thought it was a huge lawn. She stared down across to where trees grew in a line, and just in front of their sheltering wall grew hedges and rose bushes, and in amongst them benches, archways, and shrubs. She stared.

“Here we are,” the pale-dressed woman said, and Linnet was staring at something else – not the gardens, but a young girl, standing on the lawn.

The girl was wearing a blue dress and had long blonde hair, which was loosely styled in the front. Her face was an oval, but she had a pointed chin, and her eyes seemed wide, though she was too far away to see anything else about her face. Linnet was staring because it was like looking in a mirror. She shivered.

The girl looked like her!

For a moment, she had thought it was her, that some strange magic had reflected her onto the garden skyline, but wearing a blue dress and with ringlets instead of her messy waves and plain linen garb.

“Let’s get down, shall we, my Lady?” the woman said. Linnet barely heard her. She opened the door on a reflex, jumping down. She looked across the garden, unable to take her eyes off the young woman standing there. Without speaking, she walked across the lawn towards her.

The woman she had spotted was walking across the lawn towards them, seeming curious. When she got closer, Linnet gasped.

The woman had high cheekbones, and a wide mouth. Like Linnet. She also had hazel eyes, almost the same color as Linnet’s but slightly paler. She had fairer skin, and her hair shone a lighter shade of blonde, but in all other respects, it was like peering into a looking-glass. Linnet felt fear mix with shock mix with a kind of compelling delight that made her reach out her hand to touch the other girl. The other girl was staring at her, a horrified, confused expression on her face.

The other girl reached out her hand to Linnet. Their fingers touched.

“Who are you?” Linnet asked.

“Who are you?”

They stared at each other.

“You look just like me,” Linnet said. The fact that the woman was wearing a light muslin gown and a lace shawl paled into insignificance beside the considerable resemblance.

“It’s so strange,” the woman said. She was half-laughing, half-shocked. “I don’t know how this can be.”

“Me neither,” Linnet agreed. She heard footsteps behind her and turned. The woman with the soft brown eyes who had brought Linnet here was looking at both of them, and the expression in her eyes was one of such fear and sorrow that Linnet almost ran.

“Emma?” the girl in the blue dress whispered. “What is it?”

“My Lady, I am sorry. I…” The woman in the black cloak, whose name was Emma, put her hand over her face. She was trying not to cry. Linnet felt a surge of fear and compassion. The compassion was stronger than the fear, and the bond she felt to the young girl who looked just like her was more substantial than either emotion at that moment. She stayed where she was. While they stood, Emma composed herself.

“My Lady, please…come with me. And you,” she added to Linnet. “There is something both of you should know. I should pack after this…his Lordship will not forgive me.”

“No, Emma,” the woman in the blue dress said. “You aren’t going anywhere. I won’t let Henry tell you anything.”

“But we need to know,” Linnet said firmly.

The woman with the pale hair who resembled her so strongly looked at Linnet, surprised. She nodded.

“Yes. Thank you. We need to know. Shall we go inside?”

Linnet nodded and fell into step behind the girl who looked like her and Emma, who was calm now. She walked straight-backed, though her face was still a picture of concern. Linnet felt afraid, but her fear was nothing compared to her curiosity and the draw she felt to the hazel-eyed young lady who walked lightly along beside her.

“Emma…Henry won’t do anything.”

“Now, don’t fret about it, my Lady. I’ll find something to do, even if he does,” Emma said gently.

They walked on up the stairs and through the door. Linnet watched as the lady in the blue dress removed her shoes and slipped some soft slippers onto her feet. Emma paused to take off her cloak, hung it in a cupboard, then walked with the other woman up the steps. Having no shoes to change hers for, Linnet dusted her boots off as best she could on the step and hurried after them.

She looked at the stairs as they went up. They were stone, she thought, but the stone was white and marbled with almost orange streaks, and it was polished to a high sheen. Her boots sounded loud on it. She was relieved when they went on up more stairs covered with a blue mat. The air smelled slightly dusty, but the splendor around her was so absorbing and frightening that Linnet barely noticed. She had never been to such a big building before.

They went left and past a row of lamps bracketed to the wall at regular intervals, interspersed here and there with paintings in frames. Linnet barely noticed anything now – they were slowing, and her curiosity was getting the better of her. They reached a white-painted door, and the young lady went in, followed by Emma. Linnet went in last.

“Now,” Emma said. She shut the door and stood in front of it, addressing them. Linnet was too interested in whatever Emma had to say to pay much attention to her surroundings, though she noticed the air smelled sweet, like flowers.

“Emma…tell us, please,” the girl asked softly. Nonetheless, her voice was firm. Emma coughed softly.

“Lady Arabella…this story began a long time before your birth. I was a maid here then, working for your mother, Lady Nette. She and the Duke were such lovely people…but so sad. They had been wed for many years but seemed as though they could have no child. Henry was named the heir as a result, so that was all settled, and the Duke accepted that. But still, they wished for a child so dearly. I recall how your mother longed for a baby. And then, one day, news came from the village. A family was expecting two babes and without the means to care for them. The Duke was delighted, but he also needed complete concealment. He asked me about it and because they knew I knew their sadness, sent me to investigate. I spoke with the villagers, and an agreement was made. The first-born child would go to the Duke and his wife.”

“Emma…” Linnet said. She felt a dull horror in her chest. The village! A family with two children. She knew what was coming next without Emma saying anything, but she continued.

“I was sent a few months later. I went in the night, fetched the baby, and brought her here.”

“You brought her here?” the girl said. “To Mama?”

“Yes. I gave you to your mother, and you were raised here, my dearest. I was so happy, and so were your parents. I never went to the village on purpose, so I did not need to contemplate what I had done.”

“You took my mother’s child,” Linnet said flatly.

“I took you, Arabella,” Emma said, looking at the other woman. “You two are sisters. Identical sisters. I am so sorry.”

Linnet breathed. She looked across at the young girl. She felt – not anger, not shock, though they were there somewhere for the horrifying tale she’d heard – but overwhelming joy.

“You’re my sister,” she said.

Arabella looked at her. Hazel eyes soft, she stared at Linnet, and Linnet felt a strange feeling dawning inside her. It was huge as if a sunset had blazed through her chest, suffusing every inch of her with a powerful, enormous warmth that was an all-consuming love.

“Arabella,” Linnet whispered. She couldn’t speak. The emotions inside her were filling her throat, her chest, her body. A tear ran down her cheek.

“What is your name?”

Arabella’s voice was gentle. She was crying too. She took Linnet’s hand.

“Linnet,” Linnet said. She sniffed and smiled, tears running down her face. “I’m sorry. I can’t speak. This is…so odd.”

Arabella giggled. “I know!” she said. “I can’t believe it! And yet, I can. I always felt that I should have a sister. I don’t know how to explain it…like something was missing.” She was crying too, tears running down her pale cheeks. Linnet stepped closer.

Without planning it, the two embraced. Linnet felt the soft warmth of her sister, her arms tight around her, the scent of flowers in her nose. She held her and a strange fullness seemed to settle on her heart, as if an ache that had always been there, just out of notice, had finally stopped. She felt tears run down her cheeks. She didn’t make a sound. She held onto her sister, and her world settled into a new rightness.

After a long moment, Arabella stepped back. She was crying, too, her hazel eyes damp and running. She looked up at Emma.

“I don’t know what to say,” she said. “I can’t help but feel confused. And angry. How could you separate us? How could I have lived my whole life like this? In this place. This isn’t my home!”

Linnet felt her own eyes fill with fresh tears, this time because of how sad Arabella was. She hadn’t thought about that. She might have remained with their true parents, but Arabella had come here! She had been raised to believe these people were her mother and father, and now she was discovering everything she had believed was not fact. Linnet couldn’t even imagine how that felt.

“Hush, my Lady,” Emma said gently. “I wish I had never had to tell you. The Duke and Duchess made you their own, but what is more, they loved you. They loved you as their child. You loved them, too. They were your parents, my dearest. There is more than one way to give you life than to bear you. They shaped who you are. They nurtured your soul and helped you to grow into who you are. They loved you more than I could describe, and you were the light of their world. They were your parents, and you, their child.”

“Oh, Emma…” Arabella sniffed. “I do hope that is true.”

“It is, my Lady. I swear it. I never saw them happier than when they were with you. You changed their world, my dearest. You brought them so much happiness. I cannot describe it.”

“I’m glad,” Arabella whispered. “But…but this is all so strange. Forgive me, but I have to lie down a while.”

“Of course, my Lady,” Emma nodded. “Can I get you something? Tea, cake? A draft to help you sleep?”

“Nothing, Emma. My thanks,” Arabella said. Then she frowned. “Linnet? Sister, do you want aught?”

Linnet stared. She had to admit that, now that Arabella drew her attention to it, she was starving. She nodded wordlessly.

Arabella looked at Emma. “Please, fetch some tea, then. And those little cakes with ginger. They are my favorite.”

Linnet felt tears well up at that. This was her sister! Her identical sister and she didn’t even know what cake she liked! They had lost so much – every second of every day they could have had together. She didn’t know so much!

As soon as Emma had gone, Arabella gestured to Linnet. She was indicating she should sit on the bed. Linnet sat down. They stared at each other.

Arabella smiled, one corner of her pale lips lifting. Linnet smiled too.

Suddenly, they were both laughing and crying, clinging to each other wordlessly and then laughing and staring at each other. Linnet looked at their hands, lying beside each other on the coverlet.

“Our hands are the same!” Arabella giggled. “Look at them! You have the little finger like mine…the one with the slight bend, here,” she gestured.

“You’re right. The same, or almost the same. I have this big joint here,” Linnet said, pointing at her index finger, which was knotted with muscle. She ground the spices in the bakery with her right hand, and the muscles were far more developed.

“You do!” Arabella giggled. “And you have a mark there on your wrist.” She pointed.

“I fell out of a tree,” Linnet said.

They both looked at each other and started laughing. Arabella clapped with delight.

“You climb trees! Oh, that’s wonderful! I always wondered what that was like! Emma would never let me. She would never have forgiven me if I’d messed my dresses.”

They both laughed and then embraced again. So much to find out!

They were laughing and crying and then crying again, stopping to look at each other and then looking away. It was the most remarkable feeling Linnet had ever imagined. She was so happy and so full of emotions. Above all, though, was absolute and undivided delight at having found her sister.

“So,” Linnet said, then tensed as the door opened. Arabella chuckled.

“It’s only Emma with the tea! Emma! Bring it in, please.” She jumped up as Emma wheeled in a trolley that held a tea set and a plate full of delicious-smelling cakes. Linnet felt her stomach twist with hunger just looking.

As soon as Emma left, the two girls went to the trolley. Linnet watched as Arabella poured the tea, fascinated by everything, from the way her sister moved – so similar to herself, and so different in some small ways she couldn’t quite fathom – to the tea set and china plates, so fine and thin she almost expected them to shatter under the weight of the tea-cup.

“So,” Arabella said, handing her a tea cup. Her eyes shone. “Linnet…what is our mother like? Where do you live? Tell me everything!”

Linnet took a deep breath. How could she describe their mother? Especially to somebody who had never met her, but who doubtless craved small details about her? She considered it.

“She is strong,” Linnet said. “But, she is gentle. She looks like us, with a soft oval face, blue eyes, and soft and wavy hair. I don’t know where we got the pointy chin from.” She giggled. Her eyes were damp with tears.

“And our Papa?” Arabella asked.

“Well…he’s got big broad shoulders and a bigger grin. He used to have brown hair, but it’s going a bit thin.” She tried not to chuckle.

They both laughed. Linnet pushed her thoughts of anger aside for the moment. Her parents had done this – separated them – and she needed to know why. But she would talk to them later. For now, she just wanted to be happy.

“And where do you live?”

“Well…we live in a big cottage right on the edge of the woodlands. It’s about five minutes’ walk from the village. It has two floors and a big attic, and a thatched roof. It’s small but so warm and nice! The bakery is downstairs, and we sleep upstairs. It’s cozy in winter and cool in the summertime. And you can see the forest from my bedroom.”

Linnet tried to describe the house, watching Arabella’s face fill with wonderment. They ate cake and drank tea and talked and talked, sharing a lifetime of stories in a few hours. As the clock chimed, Linnet jumped.

“Is it five o’ clock already?” she looked at Arabella. “I should try to get word to my mother. Our mother.” She smiled at her sister.

“Yes, you should,” Arabella said. “We could send someone? I don’t want you to go.” She frowned. “I want you to meet Henry.”

“Well, I can come back,” Linnet said, and the more she thought about it, the more the idea became concrete in her mind. She would not leave Arabella here by herself…they had lived for so many years apart – twenty-two years! She didn’t know what to think – her parents had done this and never told her. She set her feelings on that account aside and took a deep breath. “I don’t want to leave, either.”

“And you shan’t!” Arabella said firmly. She grinned. “I want you to stay here, just for a while. I can’t bear to lose you yet, Linnet. I don’t want to be apart from you for a second.”

“Me neither,” Linnet said. She took her hands and looked into her eyes. “I’ll be back in an hour, I promise.”

“Good. I’ll be waiting for you to arrive.”

Chuckling, eyes wet with tears, they embraced. Arabella followed her down the steps into the hallway, and they stood at the door, just looking at each other.

Linnet still looked back as she ran down the path, eager to get back to her sister again and reluctant to leave her side even for a second.

“For the Love of Dreamy Ladies” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Linnet and Arabella Wallace spent twenty years of their lives apart, without knowing they had a twin sister. However, fate meant for them to find each other again and realise that, despite their identical looks, their social worlds could not be more dramatically different. Linnet spent her life in a small village, enjoying the wide fields and unfettered sky. On the other hand, Arabella has been raised as the only child of a duke and since his death, she has been cared for by an aloof distant relative. Linnet’s world turns upside down though, when she meets Arabella’s dashing guardian and her heart flutters for the first time. Could she really be falling this fast for a man as cold and detached as he seems? And what of Arabella, who has met somebody her guardian will only disapprove of?

Henry Garret is a man of few words, who has always taken his job of being guardian to the young debutant extremely seriously. That is, until his life is wonderfully enriched by the arrival of Linnet, whose kind soul makes his heart leap. He soon finds himself drawn into the story of the two girls, and captivated by the vibrantly free village girl. However, he cannot allow himself to be distracted by her magnetic beauty, as he should be focused on his duties of guardianship. Yet, the breathtaking Linnet will start haunting his dreams and make him think that a chance at love may be within reach at last… Will he finally break free from his own constrictions and admit his powerful feelings for her? To top things off, how will he react when he finds out that Arabella has also fallen deeply in love with a man under his nose?

Linnet and Henry come from two different worlds, but neither can deny their special connection for much longer. When a dangerous man makes himself known in the lives of the girls, Henry finds himself torn between his love for Linnet and his duty to Arabella. Will Henry cast aside his cold, rigid nature and confess his feelings to the woman he has come to care so deeply about? Will both Linnet and Arabella finally have a chance to discover the everlasting love they deserve?

“For the Love of Dreamy Ladies” 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!


Grab my new series, "Regency Hearts Entwined", and get 2 FREE novels as a gift! Have a look here!

One thought on “For the Love of Dreamy Ladies (Preview)”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *