I’ve been working on the opening scenes of the sequel to Bounds of Decorum (title TBA). It’s the first time I’ve written the opening to a Regency-based novel without using a Pride & Prejudice character, so it feels very different. The main characters in this are Mary, Georgiana, and new characters Thomas and James, who are brothers.
The story begins with Mary:
Mary stopped half-way up the hill to catch her breath. She would not have had to do that a few years ago, but since becoming a young lady, her stamina was no longer what it was. It was tiresome at times as well, though she was truly grateful for the fate that had brought her to this station. Her life was much easier, but sometimes she missed the freedom of her old life. There had always been work to be done then, work without end, but there had not been anyone watching her every minute of the day to see if she made some sort of slip, nor anyone correcting her speech or deportment, and she had not needed to be careful with every word she spoke. That was what had led her to escape today, dressed in her oldest, most worn dress – still finer than anything she had worn during her first fourteen years – with a borrowed servant’s cloak instead of her spencer. She hoped the owner would not come looking for it before she was able to return it. She also hoped that no one would catch a glimpse of her outside without her bonnet and gloves. She had left them by a tree, and would reclaim them before she returned with no one the wiser. But nobody was likely to see her this far out into the moor, away from the roads and dwellings surrounding Pemberley. Not even the shepherds came up this far. The sparse grass would not maintain a flock.
No sooner had the thought crossed her mind than she glimpsed a white, woolly shape beside a gorse bush. But something was not right; the ewe was neither grazing nor resting in the normal manner, but lying on her side, her legs extended. Mary hurried over to her, and the ewe raised her head weakly to look at her.
“Poor thing! Whatever is the matter?” But it was obvious from her rotund belly and distended udder exactly what the problem was. Mary dropped to her knees beside her and laid her hand on her wooly side. Definitely quite firm, and as she waited, she felt a contraction rippling. It had been three years since she had so much as touched a sheep, but her hands still remembered.
A few pages later we meet Thomas:
Thomas Aldencourt, Marquis of Hartington, was not looking forward to the task at hand. He was certain he would find Miss Georgiana Darcy to be as lovely, accomplished, rich, and boring as any other lady of the ton, though he supposed that she could hardly be counted as part of the ton, given how little she travelled to London. That was probably just as well; after their marriage, he could spend his time in town, and she would be content on his estate in Derbyshire and no trouble to him. His father would have the Darcy alliance he so badly wanted, plus Miss Darcy’s thirty thousand pounds to enrich his coffers. There was nothing wrong with the plan, except that he had no desire to marry at all. He enjoyed being a sought-after match for the young ladies. Balls were never dull when the ladies were all angling to catch his attention, and that would stop once he was engaged. He most especially did not wish to waste several months paying court to Miss Darcy, convincing her he was smitten with her so-called charms and that her future happiness was dependent on him. Why, oh why, had his father decided that he needed to win the hand of one of the few young ladies in England who cared about marrying for love? The Darcys were all eccentric that way. Her brother had been the same, marrying far below him to follow his heart. Thomas hoped fervently that his sons would not inherit this foolish romantic streak from their mother.
Scowling, he turned his fine bay from the road. What he needed was a decidedly ungentlemanly gallop over the moors. It would clear his mind before reaching Pemberley. He spurred Prometheus to his fastest gait, trusting the horse to navigate the uneven ground. The speed made his heart pound.
The wind whistled through his hair as he topped one of the steep hills, almost drowning out the unexpected sound of a girl’s voice hailing him. Annoyed at the interruption, he pulled back hard on the reins. Prometheus came to a quick halt, but expressed his displeasure by pawing the ground. Thomas looked around for the source of the voice.
She was standing by a gorse bush, waving her hands to attract his attention. A sheep lay at her feet, looking somehow odd. He trotted over to her and said impatiently, “Did you call me?” Now that he was closer, he could see fine bones and fair skin rising over a peasant’s cloak.
So, what do you think? Will Thomas put his foot in it? Will Georgiana like her new admirer? Will Abigail ever come up with a title? (The answers are Probably, Yes, and Probably Not). I love this part of a story, where there are so many possible directions to go, and the characters haven’t yet told me what they have in mind.
Meantime, there’s still a couple of days to enter the giveaway for three autographed copies of my books at Austenfest, not to mention other Jane Austen related books. Thanks to Marilyn Brant for hosting it!