My historical romance, HONOR, debuted September 1st. I have just released. “Where Honor Began,” the novelette that is a prequel to this first book in my “Quaker Brides” series. (See the cover to the left under MY NEWEST TITLE.)
Here’s an excerpt. (This novelette is on sale online for 99 cents. Sorry it’s not available in print as yet.)
She dropped to her knees beside his bed and gripped his limp hand with her bloodstained ones. She saw death in his eyes. Her pounding heart threatened to burst through her skin. How could events have led to this end? Two days earlier…
High Oaks Plantation
Her hands clasped together in her lap, Honor Penworthy sat in her place in the small sunlit morning room at the end of breakfast. A beribboned royal-blue velvet jeweler’s box sat in front of her. She’d have preferred a snake.
“Well, open it, child,” her grandfather urged gruffly. Why did he continue to test her like this? The intense scrutiny of the others at the table, not only her grandfather’s but her father’s and her cousin Darah’s, pressed in around her. Some quarrel lay between her father and her grandfather, unacknowledged but constant. This quarrel concerned her grandfather leaving the Society of Friends and joining the Episcopal Church when she was only a child. In some way this gift from grandfather was another visible part of their silent battle of wills which, it seemed, prompted her grandfather to tempt her to break her Quaker principles.
“Well, I’m opening mine,” Darah, a pretty brunette of sixteen, declared. She slipped off the pink satin ribbon and opened her box. “Oh, Mr. Charles,” she gasped. “Pearl earrings. How lovely.” Darah sprang up, setting her side curls bouncing, and hurried to hug Honor’s grandfather around the neck.
Honor heard the approach of hoofbeats on their drive at the front of the house. She must finish this embarrassing drama before anyone else witnessed it. She kept her gaze lowered and slipped the blue satin ribbon from her box and lifted the lid. A delicate necklace that matched Darah’s earrings lay nestled inside. She stared at the “gift” that wasn’t a gift. It was a sharp stick to poke at her father. She wished she could turn to her grandfather and ask him plainly why he always did this? Why must he stir the waters between himself and his son? Why must he place her in the middle?
Again, prompted by the sound of boots on the front porch and the brass knocker clapping, she took action. Mastering her feeling of betrayal, she gazed at her grandfather. “How very lovely, Grandfather.” Each word pierced her like a needle. “I thank thee for thinking of me, but thee knows that, as a Quaker, I never wear embellishments.”
As if he couldn’t have predicted the reply she always gave, he grumbled and glared at her from under his bushy gray eyebrows. “Foolishness. Just a bit of pearls.”
“I wish thee wouldn’t try Honor–” her father began.
Their silver-haired and liveried butler Thomas interrupted at just the right moment. “Master, two gentlemen, name of Carroll from Baltimore, are here to see you, sir. I have asked them to wait in your office.”
Honor could only be relieved at the interruption. Her stomach had tied itself into knots, and she couldn’t bear another icy staring contest between the two men she loved.
Rising, her grandfather hustled from the room. His sudden change of expression caught her just as he left. Grandfather appeared shocked and worried.
Honor looked across at her father, who was a foot taller than her grandfather, thin, and with thinning hair, now his expression drawn, his eyes troubled. “I’m sorry, daughter. He does this to jab more at me than thee.”
“Why?” she murmured, shutting the jeweler’s box.
“My compliments to the cook,” her father said to Thomas, ignoring Honor’s question. “I will be riding this morning but will be home by luncheon.”
Thomas nodded, turned, and pushed his way through the swinging door to the butler’s pantry.
Not meeting Honor’s gaze, her father nodded to both her and Darah and left, going out into the hall and walking swiftly to the rear door toward the stables, his boot steps echoing in the hallway. Would her father ever speak plainly and tell her what caused the trouble between him and Grandfather? Honor pushed the box across the table toward Darah. “Here. To match your earrings.” Here’s the necklace Grandfather knew you would be getting anyway.
Darah scowled but accepted the box. “I don’t know how you can be so rude. He brings you the most beautiful gifts every time he goes to the capital. Why not accept them?”
Honor sighed. It was useless to say, “Thee knows why—I am still a Friend.” Darah had gladly gone along to attend the Episcopal Church with Grandfather. Honor rose and turned toward the door to the hall.
“You should be more grateful.” Darah’s voice shook. “I’m an orphan, but you have a father and grandfather who love you.”
Honor turned back, startled. “Cousin, let it go. Didn’t thee want the necklace and earrings?”
Darah leaped to her feet. “I’m tired of getting what you don’t want.” Honor stared at her younger cousin’s sudden spurt of temper. Darah was the daughter of her mother’s sister.
“I fail to see why this upsets thee. Even though thee is not a Penworthy by blood, thee has been welcome here since being orphaned.” Why is thee so angry?
“It’s just not fair. I have nothing, and after your grandfather and then your father dies, you will inherit High Oaks.”
Disturbed by the outburst, Honor studied Darah. “Again, why does that concern thee? Does thee think to inherit instead of me?”
Before Darah could reply, Honor heard voices in the hall. One she easily recognized, her maid Royale. Honor hurried out of the dining room. In the hall, at the bottom of the staircase, she saw a stranger, a young good-looking dark-haired gentleman, boldly lifting Royale’s chin. Aghast at his effrontery, she covered the few steps to him. “May I help thee?” she asked in a tone that said “Unhand my maid.”
The stranger looked at her, actually let his eyes rove over her. Their gazes met almost at a level. He had what some called a weak chin.
She lifted her determined one, challenging him.
Finally he let his hand fall from Royale’s face. “We meet again. Kane Carroll of Baltimore. Your servant, Miss Honor.” He bowed with a flourish.
In contrast to custom, she did not curtsy in return. Quaker women did not curtsy, just as Quaker men never doffed their hats. But because of his forward behavior toward her maid, she did not want to offer her hand either. So she merely nodded. “Welcome to High Oaks.”
“Yes, welcome to High Oaks,” Darah parroted from just behind Honor. “I am Miss Darah Manning, Honor’s cousin.”
Kane Carroll performed another artful bow. “My pleasure, Miss Darah.” Then he looked at Honor. “I fear you do not remember making my acquaintance, Miss Honor. We met at the cotillion in Baltimore earlier this year. I could never forget your striking fair hair and complexion.”
With a jolt of remembrance, Honor recalled meeting him and that she hadn’t liked him. After she’d refused to dance, also according to Quaker custom, he’d tried to draw her into the darkened garden. She’d had to stomp on his toes to stop him. She recalled then that in doing so she’d torn the hem of her gown, and Royale had met her in the ladies’ withdrawing room to repair it. Had this man glimpsed her maid then?
“That was at my coming out,” Darah said, blushing.
“And a charming debutante you were, too,” Carroll said, smiling and bowing over Darah’s hand.
Royale remained where she was in obvious discomfort, her eyes lowered and her hands clasped.
“Thee may go about thy business, Royale,” Honor murmured, releasing her maid. Royale curtseyed and escaped toward the rear. Carroll’s gaze followed her as she left them.
This didn’t surprise Honor. Royale was beautiful. Light-skinned with a golden brown head of curls, she had also been blessed with unusual green eyes. The first time men saw her, most couldn’t stop themselves from staring. But rarely did any do more than look. This man had touched Royale. A warning bell sounded in Honor’s head. \
“What brings you to High Oaks?” Darah asked the question Honor most wanted answered.
“I’ve accompanied my grandfather, Major Bellamy Carroll. He is an old acquaintance of your grandfather, I believe.”
Honor sensed some undercurrent. This man’s visit presented some danger. She must investigate and find out who these Carrolls were and why they’d come. “Darah, why doesn’t thee show our guest around the garden? Everything is so lush right now, and it will be cooler out in the shade.”
Darah beamed. “Would you like to tour our gardens, sir?”
Carroll offered Darah his arm. “I’d be delighted. Won’t you join us, Miss Honor?”
“No, thee will excuse me. I have duties to attend to.” She wished she could shoo them away, far away. She must find Royale.
“Ah, yes, you are the lady of High Oaks, aren’t you?” He made the question sound insulting.
She merely nodded and watched them stroll out the front door and descend the steps toward the formal garden on the southern side of the house. She hurried toward the rear, seeking Royale. As she passed Grandfather’s office door, she heard the rumble of angry voices—not raised loud enough to be heard, but nevertheless worrying. Her grandfather and Kane Carroll’s grandfather were arguing, and evidently did not want to be overheard. She reached the rear of the house and went down the few steps to the kitchen garden on the way to the detached kitchen where Royale might have gone.
Just as Honor passed the first old oak, Royale stepped out of its shadow. “You got to help me.” Honor halted, her breath caught by the urgency in her maid’s voice. “What is it?”
“He say…that man say he come to buy me.”
So the story begins. To purchase, click cover. It’s on sale for 99 cents!–Lyn