A Lord’s Elixir of Love (Preview)


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Chapter One

Anne Wiese took in the sight of the grey Derbyshire countryside as she tossed the second bucket of the morning out the window. The rain from the previous evening had seeped inside through the leaking beams and was making a mess of the cottage interior. Anne heaved a great sigh as she leaned out of the window and peered up into the rafters. She decided that she would have to get back up onto the roof whenever she could next find the time and try to patch the holes again. In the meantime, she could only hope that the weak English sun could dry the cottage out enough. Her mother had several clients due to collect their wares over the next few days, and it was not favourable to invite them into a damp home, especially when it was their role to cure ailments.

“Anne, dear, would you please replace the kitchen pot?” Molly Wiese called from inside.

“Yes, mother.” Anne returned to their menial sitting area and set the larger, now empty bucket down beneath a steady drip. The familiar plonk, plonk, plonk started up immediately. It was a sound that the two of them had become well acquainted with over the past few nights.

“Have you switched out the buckets in the bedroom?” her mother asked her through the wall. Anne could hear her bustling about on the other side, clanging pots together and pulverising vegetables, and God knew what else.

“Yes,” Anne replied with volume. She leaned further in the direction of the doorway to ensure that Molly could hear her. “They were only half full, so I do not think the beams are as damaged in there.”

Her mother paused the banging long enough to simply respond, “That is something of a relief, at least.”

It was, but it still did not fix the rest of the property. Not having as bad of a leak in one room hardly did anything to remedy the very bad leaks in the others. This front sitting room, which was the cottage entrance, was almost entirely out of action. Whenever the Wiese women chanced to have someone attend the house, the only room that was open to the visitors was the kitchen. Not only was it the largest and best-lit room in the house, but it only had one leak, which was against the wall and thankfully not able to hinder much else. It was a lucky break since it was where their livelihood was stored.

Moving into the kitchen, Anne scooped up the full pot and threw its contents swiftly out the window before returning it to its station. The drip had steadied some, but it would still be a while before the last of the water would make its way through. Nearing the end of spring, Anne hoped that the upcoming summer would be more forgiving than the past winter had been. Though the two women had seen an influx of customers come by since plenty of produce was in bloom, the uncertainty was never too far off. If they could get enough funds together to set about repairing the house, that would be the most ideal.

Turning, Anne saw her mother by the larder, clearly engrossed in searching for something among her potions and produce. Molly had the wide cupboard doors open and stood with her hands on her hips. Her tattered apron was smeared with flour and flecks of dried dough from the bread she had made the previous evening. The sight of Anne’s mother standing there caused her to reflect on her own somewhat dishevelled appearance: where he mother was seemingly covered in a fine dusting of flour; her apron was stuck through with grass and bracken and seeds from outside. She made a second mental note to find the time to wash by the river again today – if, of course, she could find the time.

Molly gave a sudden, exasperated sigh. She began muttering under her breath, too low and fast for Anne to comprehend.

After a moment, Anne piped up, eyeing the greying woman. “Have you lost something?”

Her mother’s brows were knitted together, and her tongue was pressed between her teeth. “I fear I might have.”

Anne went to her and peered into the cupboard’s depths over her shoulder. The cabinet was stocked with a whole manner of herbs and botanicals alongside their store of edible vegetables from the garden. Amongst the colour were dried bundles of lavender and chamomile, as well as a jar of fresh dandelions. There was also fresh oregano, sage, and sweet basil, an assortment of wild mushrooms, and, of course, wild garlic. A whole stream of other colourful blossoms and fragrant seeds sat amidst the meticulously organised pantry, ready to be ground or brewed, or charred – whatever the remedy called for. Yet, despite the fullness of it all, Anne’s mother was still looking on with that tense expression.

The young woman sighed at her. “What do you need, mother?”

“A rarity,” she replied, her lower lip twisted in her teeth. She often chewed her lower lip when she was frustrated. “It appears that I am completely out of whitebeam berries. Oh, what a bother! Why must it always be the thing I do not have to be the very thing I need? This ointment will not be as potent without them.”

Anne contemplated for a moment, rubbing her narrow at her chin. It had barely been a week since she had set out to forage, but she could not remember if she had encountered this particular plant. “Are they difficult to find?”

“Not difficult as such,” Molly replied, still staring into the cupboard as if hoping that the berries would appear if she looked hard enough. “But the trees are particularly uncommon. They are a finicky thing, those whitebeams – their season is temperamental at best. They are hard to predict.”

As were so many of the wild plants around them. Anne knew that they were lucky to be located in a relatively central part of the country and on a trade route at that. Not only did it make selling their wares a little easier, but it meant that they did have merchant associates who could deliver them items from the north and south. Her mother was well-versed in much of the native botany and had made her living because of it, but if she claimed this plant was difficult to find, Anne knew that it did certainly promise to be troublesome. Molly was not often one to exaggerate since so much of their work depended on accuracy.

Her mother pulled away from the shelves and began bustling about the counter. The kitchen was relatively tidy, as much as it could be given the compact space. This was the cottage’s largest room since it was where both women spent most of their time. The bench space was taken up with jars and pots and plates and vases of a whole manner of fresh and dried flowers, picked vegetables, and seeds ready to be roasted or ground.

“What does this whitebeam berry do?” Anne asked, pulling some loose stalks from the threads of her apron.

As she worked on grinding some dried bay leaves, a smile broke out across Molly’s lined face. “The berries of a whitebeam are said to possess properties that attract a man.”

Anne glanced at her mother, taking in her coy expression. She could feel a similar sort of smile break out across her lips, and try as she might to stifle it before her mother noticed, she simply could not.

“Ah, I catch that gleam in your eyes, my dear!”

Anne felt that creeping crimson seep into her cheeks. She swatted at her mother, and the older woman danced away, pestle in hand. Anne crossed her arms over her small chest like a child; her lower lip pushed out in a pout. She tried to be quick, but her mother had always been quicker. With just the two of them alone together, nothing was secret for long. There was no hiding anything from Molly Wiese.

She pointed the stone tool at her bashful daughter. “Now, now, do not get excited about it, Annie. It is all a little nonsensical if I am entirely honest with you. So many of those balms and ointments are rooted in superstition. This is no recipe of mine. Mark my words.”

“But, mother,” Anne wailed, pulling herself to the opposite side of the counter and facing off against her. She gripped the floured bench beneath her fingertips and leaned over it. “You would never sell anything if it were purely superstition. You always say that to do so would be a violation of an herbalist’s moral code.”

Her mother smiled wickedly. “A code I stand by. Well, I must admit that this ointment is coveted by many women. It will probably be our best-selling item for this season. I suppose it must have some redeeming qualities about it.”

“So,” Anne said, trying her best to sound nonchalant as she leaned away and against the wall behind her. The corners of her mouth quirked. “How does it work?”

“It tints the lips,” was the simple reply, said with a shrug of the shoulders. Her mother wasn’t looking at her now, and her long hair was hiding her expression. “The scent of flowers, the colour of berries, and the healing properties of herbs…it is a valuable concoction.”

Anne turned to the window overlooking the forest beyond. The sight was a tangle of trees of all shapes, sizes, and colours amidst a wash of green, yellow and pink foliage. What wonders lay beyond this window and in that great wild continued to amaze and fascinate Anne. Could an ointment really do that? Attract a man? If it were true – and it certainly seemed the case if clients were asking her mother after it – what other advantages lay at Anne’s doorstep? The possibilities could be endless!

She heard her mother tsk tsk behind her. “Where has your mind wandered, my dear?” Then, more teasingly, she added, “Could it be that my daughter is looking to get wed?”

Anne whirled from the window. “Mother!”

Her mother darted away from the counter as Anne pursued her, both giggling like children. Anne threw her arms around her mother’s middle and pulled her in tight. Breathless, she rested her head in the crook of Molly’s neck, her soft grey hair forming a makeshift pillow as they stood by the back door together, looking out on the dim day.

“You know that I am perfectly fine without a man,” Anne said into her mother’s ear. “I do not need ointments or balms; what use would I have for them?”

Her mother sighed beneath her. “Oh, Annie. You are so young; you do not know what you are talking about.”

“But I do, mother.” She came around to face her, taking in the woman’s deep-set hazel eyes – so much the same colour as the forest they both loved so dearly. “I have known all my life. I intend to be a midwife, just as you are.”

The older woman placed her aged palms against her daughter’s soft cheeks, so pink and full. “I appreciate that, my darling Anne. You are my treasure. But – “

Anne put her hands over her mother’s. “There are not buts, Molly Wiese. I want always to be here to help you.”

Her mother heaved a great sigh. “You would be happier with a man.”

“What could a man give me that a life with you could not?” Anne demanded, releasing herself from the embrace and retreating a few paces. It was as she had just thought: they were two against the world and had been for many years. Anne had never known her father, but not because of any hidden agenda; she simply had never felt the need to wonder who else had been responsible for bringing her into this world. Why would she wonder about something she could not change when she was the happiest in the world by her mother’s side?

Her mother scoffed. “You are a flower embodied, my darling. A beauty like yours is wasted tucked away in this cottage.”

“Well,” Anne sniffed. “That is my decision to make, and as of right now, I am perfectly content tucked away in this cottage.”

Her mother appeared to grow solemn then, her shoulders slumped and her chin drawn to her chest. It was during these little moments that Anne’s heart quickened a pace; the fragility of her mother became apparent. She softened, going back to her with her arms outstretched.

“All is well,” she told her, taking those familiar shoulders in her hands. “I am happy here with you, mother. I always have been.” She offered the woman a smile. “Please do not fret over these things.”

“It is my duty to worry over you,” Molly sighed. “You are all I have in this world, Annie. And the world is a better place because you are in it. I only want what is best for you.”

She hugged her tight. “I have what is best for me right here.” The two women embraced for a long moment before finally separating. Anne tucked a strand of that long, grey hair behind her mother’s ear.

It really was just the two of them, and never could a thing be more right. Since she could walk and talk, Molly had been having her daughter assist in her preparations. When Anne was old enough to begin understanding and attending births, she was at her mother’s side to help. It was something they shared: the passion and ability to help bring new life into the world. To help others in whatever way they could. Anne did not need a life outside of the one she and her mother had curated over the years. Yes, it was tough, and perhaps life with a man would offer her something easier. But chaining herself to someone, following a path that was not meant to her…being a wife…it was not something she had ever been able to picture for herself.

“Well then,” Anne said after a time, at last stepping back to release her mother. “We’d best get this mane out of your face. Otherwise, every concoction you make will have essence of Wiese in it.”

Chuckling, Molly allowed her daughter to draw her into the sitting room and down onto one of the only two chairs occupying the space. Anne pulled a ribbon from her own apron’s pocket and set about braiding her mother’s long hair. Their form of silent appreciation was a ritual they had both enjoyed since Anne was little. Their hair was almost as long as one another’s, but Anne had already tied her strawberry blonde length up and away, knowing that she would have a full day of chores and repairs set out for her.

“It should be wonderful,” Molly said as Anne wove the ribbon through her mother’s fine hair. “We have been blessed with a bountiful season this year, and so there should be plenty of stock available for our regular buyers. I am hoping, Anne, that we will be able to attract additional business this year. Word is spreading!”

She smiled down at her mother as she kept weaving. “That is all your doing. People have heard about your tonics and cures and have been telling their friends. I am certain that, after the last one – that fancy lady with the large bosom and ivory skirt, do you remember her? – we were the talk of London’s finest soiree!”

“Whoever said gossip never does one favours was clearly misinformed,” Molly agreed with a hearty chuckle. “That woman sold me out of every rose I had left in stock!”

“In every colour, too,” Anne said, giggling at the memory. “There would have been no hiding that from her husband.”

Molly’s shoulders shook with laughter. “I do not believe he was her husband at that point, but I am sure that after the effort she went to, she would certainly be now.” She took a breath as the quiet settled around the two of them once more. After a moment, Molly said, “If I can complete a batch of this ointment, perhaps we might finally break into the noble market.” She sighed for a moment. “If we were to do that, we could finally afford to fix the house up a little.”

Finishing up her braid, Anne took in the room around her. It was dark, not just due to the lack of light outside but also because the small windows were so washed in gunk from the dirty fireplace that any light that did linger outside struggled to break through the grime. The room was lit using gas lights as well, but only during the evening when this room was in use. The entire cottage sat on a single level, with the two Wiese women sharing a single room out the back, strategically positioned behind the fireplace for warmth. Between the overall dankness from the lack of sunlight and the leaking beams and the small space, and not a single ounce of help from anyone outside the two of them, there was so much to be done to this house.

Molly swivelled in her chair and looked up at her daughter. “Thank you, Annie.” She tenderly touched the intricate braid that is now coiled around her crown.

“You look like royalty,” Anne told her with a smile. She dusted off her hands, and the two headed back into the kitchen again. Anne went straight to the coatrack at the back door to retrieve her coat and bonnet without pausing.

“Where are you going?” her mother asked, frowning by the larder again.

“To hunt for those pesky whitebeams, of course. Later, we will make the best love potion the country has ever known. Come market day, every person from Derby to Dartford will be lined up at the Wiese Women’s stall to get their hands on it.”

Her mother folded her arms and leaned against the wall, that coy smile on her face once more. “We will have the whole country falling in love with one another.”

“Oh, we could end wars with this,” Anne declared with a casual wave of her hand. “As long as it puts us in a big, beautiful house.”

“Let the age of love begin.”

Anne fastens her bonnet under her chin. “Alright then, I had best set off now before the rain comes down again. I will try and find some more field mushrooms as well.”

Molly caught her arm by the door. “Make sure they are field mushrooms and not inky mushrooms. Remember what happened last time you mixed the two of them up?”

Anne could not help but chuckle at the memory. “Honestly, mother, I think I did that man a favour by sending him ill. He was about to marry into the worst family in the whole village.”

Her mother tightened her grip, but Anne caught a glimmer of humour in her expression. “Still, he was not particularly happy when he returned.”

Anne put a hand to her heart. “I vow to return with whitebeam berries and field mushrooms only. I promise not to bring anything toxic into this house again.”

Just then, a distant rumble of thunder sounded over the fields. It was still far off, but Anne was going to have to hurry if she wanted to be back in time before the next downpour. Menacing clouds loomed on the horizon, and even though there was still a spatter of blue amongst the grey, she knew that the sky could be as deceitful as inky mushrooms.

“I had better hurry,” Anne said. She leaned over to peck a kiss on her mother’s cheek.

“Take care not to fall,” Molly called to her daughter as Anne began down the back path towards the woods. “The land will be slick from the weather, so ensure your footing is steady before you continue.”

“I know!” Anne called over her shoulder with a backwards wave. She hiked her coat up over the narrow ditch that made the Wiese property’s official border and disappeared into the trees beyond.

“A Lord’s Elixir of Love” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Anne Wiese lives out her days in happiness at the edge of the woods. Following in the footsteps of her mother, she spends her days gathering botanicals from the lush forests surrounding their cottage home. When a simple trip to collect some berries goes awry, she finds herself thrust into disaster. Clinging to life, she is rescued at the very last moment by a handsome lord. Anne is enchanted by his gentle nature and kind heart, and the two start an unlikely friendship, defying the standards of society. Little did she know that this charming young man would soon make her heart skip a beat… When she discovers that her gracious beau has a secret that threatens to drive them apart forever, will disappointment overpower her growing feelings?

Lord Henry Townshend wishes he was anything but a Marquess. Having lived in the shadow of his domineering father for his entire life, he finds himself pining for a life without worries. When he rescues a strange woman from certain death, he is enraptured not just by her astonishing beauty, but her intelligence and compassion. The dazzling woman is unlike anyone he has ever met and, for the first time in his life, he feels that love may be on the cards for him. However, the more Henry falls in love with her, the more he realises he has no other option than to keep his real identity a secret. Even if he knows that their lives are worlds apart, will he finally decide that his own feelings are more important than what society demands?

Anne and Henry are caught in a web of lies and what starts out as an innocent romance takes on a darker tone. While struggling with their hearts’ desires, they navigate the waters of deception, the high society ton, and the power of true love. To make matters worse, when Anne discovers Henry’s lies, she feels that everything is crashing down. Will the ill-fated couple find a way through the obstacles that insist on keeping them apart? Or will this socially forbidden love be lost before Anne and Henry fulfill their wildest dream for a true, heart-melting romance?

“A Lord’s Elixir of Love” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

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

2 thoughts on “A Lord’s Elixir of Love (Preview)”

  1. I enjoyed the story very much. One thing that is confusing is that when James and Catronia’s first child was born, that Douglass and Mary were not married. In the extended epilogue it states that they married 6 months after James. And when their child was born it was supposed to be a year after Douglass and Mary were married but James and Catronia had three children when their child was born.

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