It has been two years since I last published a North & South novel. While my heart remained with John and Margaret, their story took its time to develop. I am delighted to announce that it is finally close!
I have become something of a hermit lately, spending every waking minute at the laptop and missing out on all the fun books and audiobooks I have waiting in my queue. I’m wrapping up a grisly slash-and-dash round of editing, then the manuscript goes off to some of the sharpest eyes I know of for some final checks, and likely a much-needed dose of reality.
Meanwhile, Janet Taylor has been working hard on an absolute stunner of a cover. I say this every time, but this is my new favourite of all the covers she has designed for me! I can’t wait to reveal it, as well as the official blurb on her blog More Agreeably Engaged. Don’t forget to stop by her blog on August 1 to check it out!
Until then, I’ll leave you with another short excerpt from the book. It’s back to the editing boards for me, so I will catch you all soon!
Excerpt from Chapter Two
Margaret did eventually take John’s—or rather their—carriage to her old house. The experience of commanding her own driver was novel enough. It was more eerie still to make her way up the steps which had been her home for a year and a half, knowing that yesterday’s indifferent ceremony had changed everything for her.
In truth, she would much rather not be facing her dismantled house again so soon, but that cold grey door was simply less intimidating than the available company in her new home. She did not like shouldering this task on her own, but more daunting still was the request she would have had to make of the man who had unwillingly obligated himself to her. No, far better to let him to his work than to remind him of the weight of the duties he had assumed!
With a long breath, she put her hand to the knocker, fearful of what the opening door would reveal. The harmony of her old home was far greater to Margaret’s sentimental heart than the sum of fondly remembered trinkets and baubles. This had been her mother’s last home. Here was the last place where her touch could be felt, and now, it must all be broken up. Margaret’s eyes threatened that familiar hot, prickling sensation as Dixon opened the door to her.
“Oh, it’s you, Miss! I feared it’d be the landlord.”
Margaret smiled, not even bothering to correct Dixon’s old form of address. “No, and you shall not see the landlord, Dixon. Mr Thornton has the matter in hand.”
Dixon peered around Margaret’s shoulder to the waiting carriage. “Well, that’s fine enough, then!” She took the privileged bride’s cape and bonnet at the door, her fond gaze searching her young mistress for any symptoms of either contentment or distress.
Margaret was not insensible to Dixon’s scrutiny. “I am well, Dixon.”
Dixon harrumphed, a little embarrassed at being caught staring, and led the way to the upstairs sitting room. Margaret suppressed a quiet smile, but it vanished when she entered the room which had once been her mother’s domain.
Everything was in shambles. Dixon had been busy, and the room was nothing at all as Margaret would have chosen to remember it. They had boxed her mother’s clothing long ago, but now even her little portrait frames and mementos were unceremoniously swept from sight. Though still cluttered, the chamber was already barren.
“Oh, Dixon!” she breathed hoarsely. “I do not think I can do this!”
Dixon heaved a weary sigh. It was likely as hard on her as it was on Margaret, but the old serving woman had not the luxury of an advantageous marriage to lift her from her grief. All was on her broad shoulders, but she would bear up, as she ways did. “There, now, Miss,” she soothed. “We’ll have this settled soon enough.”
Margaret sniffed, glancing about the room with sorrow. “Mr Thornton says we need not hurry.”
Dixon pouted and turned to wrap a little silver bell for packing. She made no reply, but her opinion was plain.
Margaret stiffened. “Dixon, I can see you still disapprove, but I will not have you speaking ill of Mr Thornton. He has been very good to us.”
“Oh, yes,” Dixon muttered bitterly. “I’d warrant he has. Caught himself a lady, he has, and now he must think himself quite the gentleman.”
“Dixon!” Margaret’s ire flashed. “I will not allow you to disrespect my husband. If you continue to speak so, I will dismiss you immediately!”
Dixon turned slowly, her expression all astonishment. She stared, as if trying to determine if Margaret were in earnest. “Beg your pardon, Miss.”
“I am a married woman, Dixon,” Margaret reminded her, a dangerous edge to her voice which she had never used with Dixon.
“Ma’am,” Dixon corrected herself. Her face quivered in confused agitation as she turned to her task again.
Margaret remained frozen to her place, her arms crossed over her breast as a shield against the cruelties of her new trials. She was terrified herself at this path, and could have wished for Dixon’s encouragement just now. “Dixon, I hope you may come to understand my reasons….”
Dixon looked back up, her face growing red again. “I thought you were set on going to Corfu,” she grumbled accusingly. “I wouldn’t see you go to Cadiz and be converted, but why not go to your cousin? She’d’ve had you, to be sure!”
Margaret narrowed her eyes. “I preferred to remain here, Dixon. I do not need to justify myself to you. I had sufficient inducement to stay, and that is all.”
Chastised again, Dixon turned back to the tray of curios and trinkets. She said not another word for three full hours.