Untangling a Fateful Courtship (Preview)


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Caroline bent over the book that lay open on the table in front of her. She felt a curl of her thick, dark hair fall forward in front of her eyes and she reached to tuck it back behind her ear, still thinking deeply. The book was a treatise by John Locke. She was finding it so interesting to read his thoughts and ideas—so interesting, in fact, that she barely noticed the sound of her father getting up to open the window.

“Father!” She smiled at him, turning to where he sat and stretching her back. She felt it give a satisfying click. “Are you still checking the bills?”

He grinned. “Unfortunately. But you seem to be deeply involved in your studies—so much so that I think you barely heard me. Sorry to disturb.”

She stretched again, looking around. The library at Lindenwoods, their home, was very small, but extremely comprehensive. The book by Locke had arrived last week, posted specially from London. Caroline was so excited about it that she could barely look away.

“You didn’t disturb, Papa,” she said affectionately. “I need to rest for a moment—my back is going to become shaped to this seat if I don’t move about soon.”

Her father chuckled. His hair was white now, Caroline noted fondly, though he was barely sixty. His face was worn with years of hard work. The Templeton fortunes had grown considerably under her papa’s gifted competence, and she could see in his face the pride that this gave him. They were not a noble family, but he had established them firmly as part of the gentry—and had made them prosperous, too.

She looked around the library. It was a small room, but the shelves stretched from floor to ceiling on all sides. The long windows let golden light pour in, and they were covered with richly coloured cloth. Caroline turned back to her book, still lost in thought about the ideas she was reading. She was well-versed in the classics and mostly familiar with the work of the ancient philosophers, so she was absorbed in reading the work of a more recent thinker.

“Caroline! Sister! Look what just got sent to me! Papa! I can’t believe it!”

Caroline jumped, then turned as her sister came in. Four years her junior and just turned eighteen, Eliza was easily the most beautiful young girl Caroline had seen. She had pale curls, big blue eyes, and her neat oval-shaped face was pretty, with pale skin and cheeks that always flushed. Caroline felt that Eliza was far prettier than herself, though she didn’t begrudge her sister that—she loved her too much for envy. Besides, she looked quite a lot like her, but with a softer face, darker curls, and big brown eyes.

“What is it?” her father asked.

“A letter!” She ran to his desk, putting a piece of paper down on it. Caroline frowned as her father perused it, then passed it to her. She was going to start reading, but Eliza told her what it said before she had a chance to do so.

“It’s correspondence with our Aunt Matilda! I have been writing for ages, trying to convince her I need to make my debut in London. She finally wrote to invite me! I’m so excited to go for the Season.” She twirled around, her cream-coloured skirts fanning out with the motion.

Caroline smiled. Her sister—who was, she felt, at least as clever as herself—was entirely unalike Caroline herself. She loved to attend teas and balls, and designing dresses and riding were two of her main pursuits. She was practically jumping with excitement.

Caroline grinned, so pleased to see her delighted. “That sounds wonderful,” she said. “You’ll enjoy it so much, we might not see you until Lammastide.”

Eliza frowned. “But… you have to come with me, sister,” she said.

Caroline shook her head, instantly feeling nauseated. “I can’t bear London,” she said quickly. It wasn’t just the coach trip, the crowded streets, the pace of life. It was the ideology.

She hated the idea of cities; so many people flocked there only to live in poverty and be exploited by the rich, worked to death in workhouses and factories. She couldn’t bear to see so much wealth—the fancy houses, the shopping street—depend on the suffering of so many.

“Please, sister, don’t ask me to come. I hate it there.”

“But Caroline,” Eliza started, “you must! Aunt Matilda says you do, or she won’t let me go. Please! You have to come.”

Caroline was about to say something, to explain that Matilda would be able to chaperone her as well, if not better, than she herself, but Eliza whirled about and ran away. Caroline was sure her sister was close to tears as she ran up the hallway, and she felt terribly guilty.

She looked at her father, who shrugged.

“Caroline, you can’t refuse to go. Eliza has been wanting this for months. My sister has agreed to chaperone her, but she really does state that she can’t go unaccompanied by you.”

The thought of a trip to London made her feel ill. Eliza clearly wanted it—she had been writing to their aunt for months, Caroline knew that very well—but she couldn’t bear to compromise her principles.

“I can’t,” she murmured.

Her father frowned. “Caroline, I know you hate London. I admire you for your principles. You’re right that it’s a pit of repugnant exploitation, and that at best the members of the ton are shallow and unenlightened. But that doesn’t mean you must avoid them. In fact, I think nowhere could need you more. You could change them. Don’t fear their darkness—no darkness is so big that it isn’t able to be lit even by a small flame. And you are that flame, my daughter.”

Caroline stared. She wondered if she’d heard him right. Her father, a champion of the poor and equality himself, believed that she could change things?

“Papa…” She found it hard to talk. “You… you really mean that?”

He tilted his head. “I know you could. You are an extremely convincing writer, and possibly even more convincing face-to-face.”

Caroline shook herself. She could barely believe this was happening. Her father’s words meant more to her than anything she could imagine. She nodded. Her throat still felt tight with the strength of her emotion.

“Well, then,” he said. “I’m sure you’ll do as you think best.” He looked over at her and she nodded.

She had felt terrible for refusing her sister’s request. But her ideas were chief in her life, and she found it almost impossible to compromise them. She was glad, now, that she had a way to do both.

“I’ll say something to her,” she said, standing up and going to the door. He nodded.

She went out of the library and up the stairs. The hallway upstairs ended in the rooms where the family slept.

“Sister?” she called.

“Go away,” Eliza replied. Her voice was indistinct, partly because of the thick wood of the door on the room. “I’m not talking to someone who could be so horrid.”

“Eliza,” she said gently, “I’ll come. I was being foolish. I want to be your chaperone. Will you still have me along?”


The door burst open and Eliza ran out. She threw her arms around Caroline and almost knocked her off her feet in a big hug.

She giggled. It was so good, so surprising, to see her sister so instantly recovered that it made Caroline grin broadly. She hugged her sister tight against her. “I’m so glad.”

Eliza giggled and she looked up at Caroline. She was perhaps an inch and a half shorter. “I can’t wait,” she said. “We shall have to get dresses and pack and… oh! I can’t wait,” she repeated, face bright.

“I don’t even know what to wear,” Caroline confessed sincerely. She had long ago stopped keeping up with fashion—she wore darker colours, which suited her, and tended to stick to a higher oval neck and puffed sleeves, because she knew it looked good on her. If anything else was fashionable, she had no idea.

In answer, her sister took her hand and pulled her over to a large pile of publications from London, intended for young ladies, all featuring colour illustrations of the latest styles. Caroline grinned to herself as her sister wordlessly passed her a booklet.

She sat down and started to read. In a few days, they would be going to London, and she needed to have at least one truly fashionable piece in her collection.

Chapter One

Caroline looked up from the newspaper. She was sitting in the drawing room at Astley House, her aunt Mathilda’s London home. They had arrived in London about two hours ago, and after a refreshing nap, she felt ready for activity.

She looked up as her aunt came in, followed by her sister. The butler appeared a second later, as her aunt sat down at the table.

“Caroline! There you are. Why, it is grand to have two wonderful young nieces staying with me.” She gestured to the butler, who wheeled in a trolley of tea.

Caroline smiled. Her aunt was her father’s much-younger sister, a lively woman who appeared to be somewhere in her forties, though she must be fifty. Her thick chestnut-coloured hair was long and if there were grey streaks in it, the way she styled it made them seem unimportant. Age was not something one thought of when one looked at Aunt Mathilda, who was simply too much an individual for anyone to classify her by any measure.

“It’s nice to be here,” Caroline said. “Thank you for inviting us.”

Mathilda smiled at her. “I’m so glad! You’re both so welcome,” she added as Eliza thanked her again, as well. “It spoils me to have you both here.”

Caroline watched her aunt pour the tea. She was a favourite with both her nieces, to whom she had always had a strong connection. With Eliza, she could talk about fashion and society, while when she spoke with Caroline, they tended to discuss more serious topics. Mathilda was a highly educated woman and Caroline felt that she herself might not have dared to read the old philosophers if she hadn’t seen another woman who had.

She looked about the room. It was well-decorated—Aunt Mathilda had fine taste in all things, from dresses to tea sets. Right now, her aunt was wearing a muslin dress with green leaves in a small pattern, the sleeves a draped Renaissance style. Eliza, who sat beside her, was dressed in a white muslin gown with a low oval neckline and lace about the collar. The scene was genteel and lovely, and Caroline thought it truly wonderful to be here with two people she was so fond of. She only wished she could believe the whole of London so fortunate and comfortable.

“Aunt,” Eliza said haltingly, “since we’re here, might we perhaps attend the theatre? It’s such an important place to see people and to be observed to be at.” She tilted her head, seeming unsure as to whether Aunt Mathilda would answer her positively.

“Of course!” Mathilda smiled at her. “Yes, I plan for us to visit the theatre. But first, we should attend Almack’s, and there is a very important ball I feel we should attend tonight. Lady Wharton’s.”

“Oh!” Eliza almost squealed. She fondly embraced their aunt, who coloured faintly. Aunt Mathilda was a dear person and loved both giving and receiving hugs. Eliza was effusing with joy. “You got permission for us to go? Those are the most important London events! Aunt! You are superb.”

Mathilda blushed. “Now, niece,” she said gently, “I’m not that clever. It isn’t so difficult. I know Lady Wharton—she sometimes holds tea parties that I go to.” She was trying to be modest, but Caroline could see that Eliza’s joy touched her deeply.

“Aunt!” Eliza was clearly not quite able to believe her luck. “Why, it’s grand!” She sat down again, but Caroline could see from her flushed cheeks that she hadn’t yet calmed down.

“We shall attend the ball tomorrow,” her aunt said. “Almack’s opens for the Season three or four days from now, so of course we shall attend that also. And we will probably attend the theatre at some point in the next four weeks.”

Eliza was still astonished. “Why… thank you so much.”

Mathilda chuckled and reached for a slice of cake. Caroline took one also—she had felt sick in the coach for most of the long trip, and she was glad to be able to eat something now that they were settling in. The cake was packed with dried fruit and cinnamon, and it tasted deliciously rich and sticky.

“This is good,” she commented, but she was interrupted by Eliza, who was looking at her aunt with amazement once more.

“Aunt… Lady Wharton’s annual party… is that not where the duke of Eastridge goes?”

Her aunt frowned. “I’m sure he will be there. He attends all the high-society events.” She was about to say more, but Eliza was clearly bursting to say something else.

“Yes! He attends Lady Wharton’s annually! I remember reading that in the Gazette last year.” She grinned at her aunt delightedly. “I am so excited we can go, so I can meet him.”

Caroline smiled. Her sister was, quite easily, the loveliest young lady in London. And while their own father might be only of the gentry, not the nobility, she felt sure that would be no issue. Eliza was beautiful enough to make her own way in society. Whoever this duke was, Caroline had no idea, but clearly, he had won Eliza’s interest.

She thought he was a very fortunate duke for that.

“He’s the talk of the town,” her aunt agreed, pouring some tea. “Everybody in London interests themselves in what he is doing.”

Caroline could see how delighted her sister was, and she frowned to herself. Eliza was chatting with her aunt about the duke, discussing minute details like what he said last year at a tea party and the coffee house he frequented. Caroline coughed.

“Sister,” she said awkwardly, “you don’t have to like this fellow, you know. Maybe you should wait until you meet him before you form any opinion.”

Her sister frowned. “Why, sister? I know all the facts about him. He has eight thousand pounds a year as allowance, and he has a Landau.”

Caroline smiled. “Facts are not personality. He might be rich and have a good coach, but that tells you nothing. I know you have read all about him, but these lords are dangerous, some of them. You should make sure to get to know him first. Who knows what sort of reputation this man might really have, for all that he is titled?”

She wanted to add that the ton mostly consisted of reprobates, but her sister interrupted.

“I read the Gazette faithfully, and all the other press that comes out of London. I know all about the duke, and if he had a bad reputation, I’d be the first to know. He is spotless among the other nobles.” Eliza sniffed with the air of a person who has considerable knowledge speaking to someone who knew little.

Caroline sighed. She respected her sister. She thought Eliza had a fine mind, she just put it to odd use. She said carefully, “I’m sure you know best. I just do feel character is important.”

“If he is well looked-on, I don’t really care what I think of him.”

Caroline wanted to object, but their aunt changed the subject.

“Shall we go for a walk? I would dearly like to purchase something. I also need to get my wardrobe organised before the first event of the Season.”

Caroline decided it would be foolish to try and convince Eliza of anything. Clearly, she had her mind fixed on pursuing the duke—she’d been reading about him for months. Caroline hoped he wasn’t a bad character, but she decided that if her sister needed protecting, she would do best to speak to Mathilda. She had the best chance of being able to win Eliza’s trust without her sister thinking Caroline was trying to boss her.

“Let’s go!” Eliza agreed excitedly. “I can’t wait to see what the fashions are! And with a few well-chosen touches, even an unfashionable outfit can be brought up to date.”

“I quite agree,” Aunt Mathilda said briskly.

They all went to their rooms to dress. Caroline looked about, feeling at home already in the place. The bedroom was decorated with green velvet, the white wallpaper of flocked silk and the rug by the fireplace an Oriental one in greens. She had a writing desk that looked out on the street from a small window, and the table by the bed already hosted the book she was reading right now.

She was already wearing a dress suitable for wear in town—she had changed from the rumpled brown dress she wore in the coach to a cream-coloured one that she was pleased had won the approval of her sister. It was lacy and not the sort of thing she usually liked wearing, but to look like everyone else, at least for the first day in town, she was glad to have it. It would be uncomfortable for Eliza if they turned heads in a bad way, and she wanted to help her sister feel welcomed.

She tucked a strand of dark hair behind one ear. She was wearing a simple hairstyle—a bun on her head, curls framing her face on each side. Her pale skin showed up strongly against the dark brown of her hair, which was the colour of chocolate. Her eyes were slightly lighter, her lips a pale pink and full, like her mother’s lips were. She had only ever seen a portrait of Lady Adeline, her mother, but she could see in the mirror that she shared many of her traits.

“Come on,” she told herself. She should go downstairs. This was no time for sorrowful thoughts. She went downstairs to the hallway, where she was met by Eliza, who let out a delighted shriek.

“Why, Caroline! You look so lovely in that, and so modish.”

Caroline smiled. She was not about to spoil their first day in London by drawing negative attention. She hugged her sister fondly and they waited for their aunt to join them.

“Nieces!” Their aunt smiled. She was wearing a blue cloak as she came downstairs, the style extremely fashionable. She had a darker navy-blue gown underneath, and her hair hidden under a tall bonnet framed with white lace. “How pretty you both look! You are the loveliest in London, I declare it.”

Caroline blushed and she saw Eliza grin delightedly. She stepped aside for their aunt to come through the doors ahead of them, and then followed her down to where the coach waited. The sunshine was bright, the street sedate, and she was quite looking forward to their adventure in London.

“Untangling a Fateful Courtship” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Unlike her socially ambitious sister, for whom visiting London is a dream come true, the wise and dashing Caroline Templeton feels as though her stay there will be an absolute nightmare. Therefore, what she least expected upon arriving, was to be utterly enchanted by a handsome Duke. Little did she know that her own sister would also find in him a potential suitor…

Will Caroline let true love into her heart for the first time or will her sister’s intentions thwart her path to happiness?

James, Duke of Eastridge, is aware of his privileged position and strives to maintain it at all costs; thus, following his mother’s desire, he must find a suitable bride without any delay and forget all about love. As soon as he meets Caroline for the first time, he is awestruck, not only by her captivating beauty, but also by her intelligent, and unique personality. She is, however, a polar opposite of his mother’s vision of an ideal successor for her title.

Little did he know just how many sacrifices true love would require…

Even though Caroline and James soon discover the depth of their mutual love and admiration, they have to also confront the chaos that has taken root in their lives. Regardless of how undeniable their connection is, James’ mother and Caroline’s sister are determined to keep them apart. In the end, will their romance prove to be powerful enough to dispel the threats lurking around them?

“Untangling a Fateful Courtship” 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!

7 thoughts on “Untangling a Fateful Courtship (Preview)”

  1. Not bad! Certainly a good introduction to the heroine’s (Caroline’s) personality. At this point, we know very little about the gentleman who will become her romantic interest; however, that just puts us in the same place as the protagonist and her sister.

  2. Very interesting story.
    I like the characters portrayed.
    I like the cover of the book.
    It is nice to see a brunette instead of a blond.

  3. This preview immediately caught my attention. I can see it will be a lively novel full of intrigues of one type or another. Can’t wait to read the rest.

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