‘Answer the question Katherine. Are you or are you not a Lady?’
Katie sighed heavily, a despondency shrouding her attempts to dispute her father’s wishes. She knew his reproof was of a more serious nature when he called her by her full name.
‘Yes indeed!’ He barked. ‘Lady Katherine Ennis, daughter of Lord Easton E Ennis,’ he continued, talking proudly of himself in the third person as he paced the large study. ‘And you will do as I ask.’
‘What you are asking is not fair.’
‘Fair?’ He spun to face her as he spoke. The loose jowls wobbled and the rising crimson on his cheeks betrayed the appearance of calm. ‘What is this fairness that you speak of? Are you not settled in a grand palatial home, does your wardrobe not burst with the most exquisite gowns?’ He gesticulated grandly in the general direction of their surroundings. ‘You want for nothing, and I will not see you a spinster. No indeed. Lord Sutton is a good match.’
But he was not a good match, not to Katherine. Though, at the grand age of 21 years, she understood her father’s concerns of spinsterhood, even if she did not agree with his way of solving them. He and her mother were desperate to have her married off. If Katie had her own way, she would spend the next twenty years travelling the globe. But, it would appear, she would not be getting her own way. Not if her father had anything to do with it.
‘Perhaps,’ she began, tentatively, ‘if I would be permitted to travel to London for the season, I would be able to secure myself a suitable husband. You know father, how much I would love to travel, and perhaps,’ she continued, ‘I would have found a suitor already if I had been permitted to travel on previous seasons.’
If only he would concede. London had been a place she had yearned to visit since she was a child of 11 years. Hearing people gossip excitedly about the fine time they had in town had piqued her interest. It sounded such an exciting place full of exciting people. A far cry from her country home. Unlike other ladies, the vivacious talk of gentlemen and of meeting future companions, had never held her interest.
That would not be her main desire, however; the visit would kill two birds. First and foremost, it would satiate her need for adventure—of exploring and seeking all those places of which she had read as a young girl and so desperately wanted to see with her own eyes. The fire of freedom burned deep within her belly even now, as she battled against societal norms.
Marriage was, of course, inevitable. Her father was determined to see to that, but did it really have to be so soon? Had she not yet time to venture and see some of the world before being tied to such duties as would be expected from a wife?
‘A suitable husband?!’ Her father’s indignant tone cut through her rambling thoughts. ‘And how many suitable men are to pass through these doors before you acquiesce to any?’
His words stilled her for he was not wrong. There had been a few, but none of them fitting for her. She was not as strikingly beautiful as some of her friends and other young women within her mother’s circle, but nor was she plain. Maintaining her slender figure with plenty or gambols through the country and exercise, she was acceptably handsome. Unlike the parade of men who had made their propositions.
Aesthetics would not so much have bothered her, if the advances had been from any man who challenged her intellectually, and could move her forward in her search for expansion of the mind and meaningful existence. Or brought with them, the promise of adventure and exploration.
‘Oh papa, you cannot imagine any of them really appropriate. Captain Carlton was a naval officer on his way to war, would you have me widowed before I could provide him a child? Mr Bennett, the clergyman, was utterly boring. You yourself struggled to maintain countenance in his presence.’
Her father inclined his head in slight agreement.
‘And Mr Hennessy had three wives. Three. Would you have me matched with such a man? And, I would not be speaking falsely if I were to state, that the widowed Lord Stapleton, who was nearly twice my age, was only looking for a mother to raise his three young children. He required a governess more than a wife.’
Her father, now staring out of the window onto the sprawling gardens that surrounded Spencer Manor, remained silent for several minutes. The soft skin of his balding crown, reflected the sunlight that entered the room and with his large hands clasped firmly behind his back, he stood tall and proud. Doubting she would move him, Katie had to try one last time.
‘Papa, please. I know your feelings toward Lord Sutton, he is a good and kindly gentleman, and a dear family friend. But Papa, I would much prefer to marry for love.’ She stiffened as he turned swiftly to glare at her.
‘Love! What fanciful drivel you speak of Katherine. Do you think I married your mother out of love? Surely you cannot be that naïve? I know very well, you are not. You are well versed in how matchings are made, and love has little to do with it. Lord William Sutton is a good neighbour and a good match and you will learn to understand that you have to make the best of things.’
‘I will not hear another word of protest from you child. I have already made up my mind. I will announce the engagement in the coming week and you will commence arrangements for the wedding.’
He turned abruptly once again to the window, coldly facing his back to her. The discussion was over. Katie could do little else but mutter a small agreement and leave his study with a heart as heavy as a millstone.
She was to be bound, caged like a tiger pacing up and down in a confinement of societal expectations. Trapped, with no power to change her circumstances. Conform to tradition that held little regard for what she may desire, what her heart truly yearned for. The powerlessness of her situation was almost overwhelming.
Leaving the house and entering the terrace outside, she moved into the gardens with a thousand thoughts craning for her attention. It was not a good match at all. Not that Lord Sutton was a man of a terrible disposition, in fact; he was quite the opposite.
Softly spoken and gentle of countenance, he was a pleasurable and agreeable person. But unlike herself, there was to be found no fire in him. In fact, she thought, he would be more suited to her dear, genteel younger sister than to herself.
Worrisome as it was, Katie recalled her dear friend, Emma, whose recent marriage of only last year had taken her far south so as they could only converse by letter.
Emma, with a spirit much like her own, had also been mismatched and Katie could not but notice in her writing, how her adventurous yearning appeared to be depleting by the month. Conforming to the sedate and placid expectations of her husband and his family, of whom she was now surrounded, it would seem her life was being bled from her very being. The thought sent a physical shiver through Katie’s body. That that may be her fate for the future, was truly terrifying.
But what was she to do? Her father was a proud and determined man. He loved her dearly but his strictness had only inspired her to defy him. In this regard though, she would have no choice. Her father’s patience was waning thin and if she refused, he may disown her completely, and then where would she be?
No, she would have to marry Lord Sutton and suffer her lot. Of course, she would have no ally in her mother. She, like her father, was just as eager to marry her off, even if her happiness were lost with the arrangement. Perhaps she would learn to love him. Perhaps her heart would warm to the arrangement after time as sometimes happened in these situations. It was the only glimmer of hope she could find.
Attempting to console herself, Katie turned to find her sister approaching. Melinda, being of only 18 years, was a sweet and obedient child, but unlike Katie, her younger sister was timid and shy. Qualities that had attracted several suitors to her, but, for her own reasons, Melinda had not been tempted by them. Like her sister, her dark curls framed her delicate pale face, and her thin muslin gown pulled against her slender frame.
‘Oh Katie, why are you so disposed to sadness?’
Consumed in her own thoughts, Katie had not realised how her face betrayed the dire straits of her situation, but in her sister, she had always found a solid confidante and sympathiser. They were and had always been close, with so few years between them. Sharing their thoughts and desires over the years had tied their sibling knot tight.
‘My dear Mel, what am I to do.’ Katie sighed forlornly. Her heart felt so heavy, it was an effort even to take steps forward as they commenced to walk in the garden. Linking her arm into her sister’s, Mel encouraged Katie to confide her worries.
‘I am to marry.’
‘Surely then, this is a time for happy giddiness. Why are you so depressed and do tell me, who is the lucky suitor?’
Mel stopped dead, jolting Katie to a stop beside her. Katie glanced down at her, for she was a couple of inches taller, and frowned.
‘Lord Sutton? Our neighbour?’ Mel looked perturbed which only confused Katie.
‘Yes. Do you know of any other?’ Her dry reply was meant for light relief, but Mel did not acknowledge it.
‘But,’ Mel began uncertainly, ‘you do not love him, do you?’
‘Of course not. And that is the reason for my state. It would appear,’ Katie went on, ‘that father does not care for my wants and needs, only that I am to be married off and got rid of.’
‘Oh Katie, he does not.’
‘I tried to talk him out of it only an hour earlier. I even suggested going to London to find someone more suitable, but he would not concede. He went on and on about the propositions that I have already turned down, and I tried to tell him that there were valid reasons. It made little difference. He has made up his mind. And we both know what that means.’
Mel nodded but said nothing.
‘He will announce the engagement imminently and I am to commence arrangements for the wedding. Oh Mel, what am I to do?’
‘When is the wedding?’
‘That, I do not know. I have not yet spoken to Lord Sutton or received his proposal, but I would imagine father would want it before Christmas.’
‘But it is only November.’
‘I know.’ Katie’s sigh nearly overwhelmed her.
If she could find a way out of this, she would, if she could run away, she would, but then, how could she possibly support herself? Having no skills to speak of, she would be destitute; and knowing her father’s stubborn and strict disposition, she feared he would cut her off without a second thought.
There appeared no other choice. Marriage was imminent. Marriage to a man she did not love, nor whom loved her. She was to be miserable for the rest of her life and powerless to stop it.
Captain Robert Barkley, laughing heartily at one of his men as he relayed a joke, was suddenly distracted. Sitting around a table at an inn where they were lodging, the men enjoyed the tankards before them, now relieved to be home.
A messenger had entered the room, glanced around and asked for him by name.
‘I am Captain Barkley.’ He replied, motioning the messenger over.
‘A missive for you sir.’
The Captain paid the messenger and stood, moving away from the group of men, who continued loudly, to entertain themselves.
The militia were now settled in York having returned from battle in America, exhausted and war torn. They had fought long and hard, and whilst some of their comrades did not return in the condition in which they had left, some injured, some no longer living; the remainder of the regiment were grateful to be back in their homeland.
Noticing the seal was from his family home, he tore at it and at the same time, retreated upstairs to his room. Lowering himself to a chair near the window, he read the letter intently.
My dear Robert,
I hope this letter finds you well, for I can barely think of you injured. My hand is shaking and my heart so very heavy as I write. I send terrible news and beg that you return home to Kent immediately for I am frightened and do not know what to do. Our darling brother, George, is dead. The Duke fell from his horse and, according to the physician, his neck was broken on impact.
Oh Robert, what are we to do? There is but more abysmal news. Whilst you have been absent in war, George entangled himself into terrible debt at the gambling tables and I am now ashamed to say, mortgaged the house.
We are to be homeless. If we cannot pay off the debt in three months, Winfield Manor will be auctioned. We will lose everything. Please come home my dear Robert and swiftly, for I cannot deal with this alone and am lost as to how we can prevent this.
I leave you, your loving sister,
Robert, quite motionless, glared at the letter, stunned and reeling as a torrent of emotions attacked him simultaneously. First and foremost, an immediate disbelief, followed swiftly by a rational balance. He was captain of a regiment and not prone to whimsical thought, after all. And yet, his stomach clenched and a bile rose in his throat.
Whilst he and his older brother were not particularly close, there being a large gap in years, his death was still a shock and it pained him; but he hardly had time to think about his grief but for the immediacy of the situation regarding Winfield Manor.
His army commission barely paid for his horse, his room and board. What was to become of his sister and himself if the house were to be auctioned? And last, and at this moment, least important, he was next in line for the Dukedom. A title he had not thought would be bestowed on him for many years, if at all had George produced a son.
Placing the letter on the stand beside him, he straightened himself and took a deep breath. Poor George, the thought of him dying alone speared him. No matter what the physician had stated, who knew how long he had lain there, still living. It may be supposed, being at war, that one grows accustomed to death, but that had never been Robert’s experience.
A critical thinker by nature, he would first find a way to save their home. All other concerns would need to be curbed for the interim. Having no idea on how he would go about it, he refused to let mania overtake him. He would now need to take charge of the situation; Alison would be depending on it. It was all very well, being heroic and gallant on the battlefield, but if he could not be there for his own family, of what use was it?
I must leave immediately.
Glancing back at the letter, he suddenly wondered how his poor sister must be managing at this moment. At 16 years old, she would not have the sense of what was to be done, and, he imagined, would be quite beside herself both in grief and overwhelm for their future. He must obtain leave from his commander to return to Kent. Under the circumstances, he knew the request would be more a formality, and he had no doubt that leave would be granted.
‘Captain Barkley Sir, it is so good to have you home.’ Kitty gushed as she gathered his top coat and hat in the large hallway of Winfield Manor.
Kitty was their housemaid; a gentle woman of fifty or so, who had taken good care of him and the family for many years. More so him after the tragic death of his parents.
‘But I am so sorry for your loss, Sir. I cannot even begin to imagine…’
‘Thank you, Kitty. Yes, I would have preferred my return to be on much pleasanter terms. Are you well?’
‘As well as expected Sir,’ she nodded solemnly, ‘Duchess Maria Stanhope-Barkley is waiting for you in the drawing room.’
‘Oh.’ His surprise was not lost on Kitty as she eyed him with sympathy.
‘Yes Sir, she arrived yesterday.’
‘I will go to her directly.’
‘I will bring some tea, Sir.’
‘Thank you, Kitty.’
On entering the drawing room, Robert noted the stout, proud woman stood looking out onto the terrace, dressed entirely in black. The typical mourning dress for her nephew as she was a woman of great scruples. His aunt turned abruptly as he entered the room, the tip of her cane clacking the wooden flooring as she took a step forward.
Robert moved towards her, and bowed perfunctorily, before kissing her on both cheeks.
‘Are you well Your Grace?’
‘Do I look well?’ She barked, gesturing to her attire. ‘I have travelled far to see you and grieve the death of my nephew. I am beside myself with woe and there is much to discuss. The decision has been made, Alison needs someone here to take care of things, so I will stay for as long as I am needed.’
Robert was not aware she had been invited, but he was not surprised. The Dowager did not wait for others to ask before imposing her opinions or herself, on others. However, under the circumstances, her suggestion was practical if not rather presumptuous. Practical she had always been, if not more than a little aloof.
‘Thank you for gracing us with your presence.’ Robert replied a little tightly. ‘Where is Alison?’
‘Lady Alison is napping.’ The older woman said with little affection. ‘This has all been too much for her. And now, it is up to you to untangle this mess. You are the man of the house now Robert. Had you been here, who knows, the situation may have been quite different.’
Robert felt a little affronted at her derogatory tone. This ‘mess’ was not his doing after all, and frankly, his brother falling and breaking his neck was as inconvenient to him as it was to his brother. He had not been Georges’ keeper and even had he been here, he doubted he could have controlled his brothers’ fancies.
Kitty knocked and entered, pushing open the heavy door whilst balancing a tray of tea, biscuits and cake against her small frame. The conversation halted until she again, curtseying, left the room, having poured the tea.
Whilst the Duchess sat, Robert remained standing. He was not inclined for tea at present, and a restless energy at both the situation and her presence ran through him.
‘So,’ his aunt demanded, ‘what do you propose to do?’
‘Your Grace, I understand that you are perturbed…’
‘Perturbed! Perturbed! My dear boy, you have absolutely no idea how pathetic that word is in describing how I am feeling at this very instant.’ Her voice now elevated and harsh, gave Robert a clue how she may be feeling.
‘This is a disaster! An absolute disaster and nothing less. And you, you stand there, taking no responsibility at all. Is it to be left to me to rescue this family once again?’
‘I take no responsibility at all, as I am not responsible,’ Robert defended, ‘it is not I who have created this dilemma. I have been away for some time, fighting for my country.’
‘Do not talk to me of what I know already,’ she reprimanded, ‘do you think me a fool?’
‘Not at all, Your Grace.’
‘You are here now and this disaster needs to be curtailed immediately. And why, pray tell me, have you not yet produced an heir to carry on my brother’s lineage and keep it from fizzling into non-existence?’
‘I am afraid, fighting a war takes up a lot of my time, finding time to court between battles, can be a little difficult.’ Robert turned slightly away to hide a smile.
‘Don’t pertain to use your wittiness with me young man. I am well aware of your shenanigans this past while. And being away to war is as good an excuse as any.’
If she only knew the pain and horror he had witnessed—the smell of death constant in his nostrils, of wading through rivers of blood, the countless sleepless nights waking from the screams in his nightmares—she may have a different view. But he would not enlighten her; not now, and not ever. These things were barely discussed between men, never mind amongst the delicate sensibilities of the female sex.
The war had been hard and he had lost many a good man. Many others had returned home badly injured, if alive at all. In all of it, his luck had run beside him, having scars that would eventually heal and no damage that would be lasting. Well, apart from the sights that one could never forget, even over a hundred lifetimes. But that was the price of war. A commitment he had taken upon himself, even though he could not have known what truly lay before him.
The conversation of an heir resumed once again at dinner. Alison had been wakened and was over-joyed to see her brother home, safe and unharmed. She relied on him heavily now, at such a young age, not knowing what was to be done for the best.
The servants left the room and they ate for a while in silence at the long table, but the Duchess was not to tolerate the silence for any length of time.
‘You must find a woman to marry and produce an heir as soon as possible.’ She demanded.
Alison looked across the table to her brother, concerned at the matriarch’s demands. His sister’s adoration for him had always been obvious, and it had pained her immensely when he had informed her, he was going away to war. Her fear of never seeing him again almost crushed him as he witnessed the terror in her eyes, but he left with a promise that he would return to her whole. He was glad he had been able to keep that promise, but he could never have imagined the circumstances of his return and the situation the family now found themselves in.
Now the man of the house: it was left to him to take charge of all their affairs, to provide a home for Alison and preserve the manor if he could at all manage it. He was surprised then, when Alison interjected into the conversation.
‘Your Grace, it should not be left to Robert alone to hold this responsibility. I am old enough now to search for a husband. I can marry and secure a husband with wealth.’
The Duchess nearly snorted in derision of the suggestion.
‘Are you such a fool that you do not know how the world works? That would not help at all. We live in a patriarchy child, you would take on the name of your husband, the Barkley name would not be continued with your being wedded. Your children would take on his lineage.’
Robert glared at his aunt. The Dowager she may be, but to intimidate and humiliate Alison in such a way was completely unnecessary.
‘I hardly think Alison needs reminded of that fact, Your Grace. She is well educated in how the world works.’ He exclaimed tersely.
Alison shrunk a little at his tone, but the Duchess was not affected one bit. Her haughtiness and high regard for herself was certainly not becoming but then, he thought, she did not care what others thought of her one jot. Only that she be heard and obeyed.
‘Well, then surely,’ Alison continued meekly, ‘I ought to look for a husband now before we are put out on the streets and I have no reputation to find any sort of a decent suitor.’
At this last remark, the Duchess seemed to take an even heavier umbrage. Slamming her silverware on the table, she turned her glare to Robert.
‘Enough of this nonsense! I will not hear of it.’
Alison again shrank into her chair, dropping her gaze and looking intently at the china dish of soup before her. Robert, determined not to allow the woman to intimidate him in his own home, held her stare and did not drop it.
‘I will do my duty for the sake of your father and the continuance of his family name. If you marry a suitable woman, I will assure you that Winfield Manor will be saved from auction. But it is on the provision that you marry, and marry soon Robert, and produce an heir as soon as is viable.’
‘You ask that I just go out and choose a wife when I am only returned from America. I hardly have any acquaintances that I have kept in touch with.’
‘If you will struggle Robert, I have someone in mind who will suit you very well.’
‘I would rather go back to war.’ Robert muttered.
‘I beg your pardon? Speak up for heaven’s sake.’
‘I feel, Your Grace, that you ask too much of me. I must return to the regiment as soon as possible. I have only been relieved due to the death of George.’
‘And what of the manor?’ She glared at him.
‘I will concede that may be a problem, but under the circumstances, I will see if I can raise a loan to pay off the debt. I have a few months yet before it is due in full.’
The Duchess eyed him scornfully. Evident that he was not about to acquiesce to her demands, she was more than appalled.
‘You would put yourself in debt before getting married?’
‘I will do what needs to be done.’
‘Well for heaven’s sake, do not follow in your brother’s footsteps. Stay away from the gambling tables. It is a slippery slope that one cannot so easily free themselves and climb back from. Had he never seen a deck of cards; this would not now be thrust upon you.’
Now alone in his brother’s study—it is your study now, he thought – Robert mulled over all the older woman had had to say, and was positively livid. She could well congratulate herself on humiliating his sister, attempting to beat him into submission, and speaking ill of his dead brother all in the same evening.
It was at no surprise ti him that she was not often invited to Winfield Manor while his father and mother were still alive.. A cantankerous woman who held her own opinion in such high regard, as to completely discount the feelings or opinions of all around her; he knew his father would not have tolerated his own sister willingly.
That being said, they were in quite a mess. No thanks to George. A mess that lay solely at his feet, and other than her suggestion of marrying and producing an heir as though he were going to the market to obtain one, he would have to figure out a plan to raise the money, to secure the manor at least.
How he was going to do that, he had no idea. Having nothing of capital to wager, it was unlikely that he would be able to raise such a sum that would relieve them, but his pride would not allow him to consider the other option before him.
War, in its own way, was easy. There was direction, an action, a means to an end. A mission to accomplish and steps to accomplish it. Life outside of war Robert did not find so easy, particularly when it came to love and women. The thought of settling down was almost repellent.
Maybe it had been watching his own parents. The sacrifices they had made, the rules they had followed to appease what was expected. For whilst they respected each other, they were most certainly not in love, and he doubted they ever had been. Why would one put themselves through that—to tie oneself down for a lifetime with someone one did not love?
Robert sat quietly by the fire in a large wing-backed chair staring into the flames, the brandy in his short glass barely touched. He spent most of the evening mulling over the issue at hand, and indeed getting nowhere near to a conclusion on either solution.
Katie had been in poor form since her father had decided on her union with Lord Sutton. Tomorrow, he would announce their engagement, probably in the evening after the fox hunt her father had arranged. The feeling of helplessness grew ever more potent within her.
Her maid, Grace, had already heard the rumours and had made an attempt to cheer her disposition that morning.
‘Lord Sutton seems like a lovely gentleman Lady Katherine.’ She said, arranging Katie’s hair.
‘He is.’ Katie agreed, for how could she not.
It was the truth. But the truth did not make the match sufficient for her. She had wanted adventure her whole life, and the idea of freedom as she grew older was the only light that had held her hope. She had always felt that —once she reached an age where she could travel—she would be able to explore the world and see all the things she had read about in the many books that lined the walls of her father’s extensive library.
Certainly, her imagination had taken her to those places as she had been huddled in the window seat, reading and dreamily gazing outside, waiting for the day that she could see them herself. And as she gained in age, she was certain that her wishes would become a reality. But now, how could that be so?
Marriage brought with it, responsibilities. Of entertaining and visiting and being an aid to her husband. None of which would allow her the opportunity of exploratory adventure and expansion of her mind. Nor could they make her remotely happy, even if her husband-to-be were the most handsome prince in all the kingdom.
Having excused herself after breakfast, Katie found herself in the library once more. Softly tracing the spines of the books, she remembered that she had spent so many joyful years reading. The fantasies of flight, swashbuckling pirates and damsels in distress; though as she had aged, she had preferred reading about the women who had a much stronger disposition and were able to save themselves.
Whilst their governess had imported the required education and the manners expected from them, the proper etiquette and deportment, Katie had found an entirely different education in the library. One of less duty and more expression.
The likes of Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, who, being the daughter of Alfred the Great, believed a knowledge of literacy encouraged piety. Using her ability in critical thinking by carefully planning her defences, she had defeated the Vikings at the Battle of Chester and formed allies with Irish mercenaries to defend her kingdom.
Or Marie de France, who popularised chivalry and the power of women through her writing. And even though her poetry challenged the Church on women being the weaker sex, Marie’s concepts were popular within the aristocracy of both France and England. Her poetry frequently elevated and featured strong women to direct their own fate, which always gave Katie hope, even though, by doing so, the women contrarily could be destroyed by their resistance to the patriarchy.
At times, Katie had often wondered how such books had found themselves into her fathers’ library, but as it was so extensive, she could only imagine it had been passed down through generations—books being added through the years, and who knew of the feelings of her ancestors.
Selecting a book to read, Katie wandered up the grand staircase and headed towards her favourite spot. A window seat with soft cushions, a place of peace and quiet that overlooked the beautiful garden and the maze hedge.
Pulling her shawl around her before she sat, she glanced out into the garden and suddenly stilled. It took a second before what she saw before her truly registered, but eventually, bringing her hand to her throat she breathed out. ‘Oh, my goodness.’
Her sister, Melinda, and Lord William Sutton were standing so very close to each other, their hands in a soft embrace and gazing longingly into each other’s eyes. There was not a doubt in Katie’s mind. They were deeply in love; it was painfully obvious. She wondered how long their secret affection had been going on.
Believing that they could not be seen in the maze hedge, it was probable they met there often. A place they could secretly spend time together without raising suspicions of Lord or Lady Ennis.
Katie suddenly remembered Melinda’s reaction to the news of her forthcoming engagement. Her look of despair and the jolting stop as they walked in the gardens. Poor Melinda. But why had she not confessed her love for Lord Sutton to her? Katie thought they shared everything.
Perhaps, Lord Sutton had sworn her to secrecy, and that her love for him was so great, she could not willingly break the vow. Whatever the reason, it mattered little now, for she had witnessed it with her own eyes.
What was she to do? Should she tell Mel that she knew? For she could certainly not marry the man that her younger sister was in love with, or he her. She could tell her mother. That would break off the announcement and engagement, but Melinda would be humiliated and disgraced. Katie could not contemplate doing such a vulgar thing to her sister, and to use her sister to release her own freedom, would be too cruel. What then, was she to do?
Katie found Lady Francine Ennis at her needlework in the drawing room. Thankfully, her father was not in the vicinity, likely tucked away in his study where he enjoyed his privacy and quiet. Perhaps if she were to explain to her mother; if her mother could understand how desperately unhappy this union would make her. Maybe, her mother could manage to persuade her father to change his mind. It seemed it may be a long shot, but she had to try.
‘Mother, I need desperately to talk to you.’
Lady Ennis raised a brow in anticipation, a look of knowing on what the desperation was about. Gently, she lay her needlework down and turned to give her daughter her full attention, though her gaze was one of toleration, rather than empathy.
Katie paced rather than sat. Agitated energy would not allow her to rest.
‘I cannot marry Lord Sutton. I will not do it.’
‘You can and you will,’ her mother replied calmly, ‘honestly Katie, I do not know what has gotten into you. He is a good man, and it is a good match.’
‘You cannot make me do this, surely mother?’
‘It is settled. You no longer have any say in the matter. We have let you take liberties long enough Katherine. There have been many suitors that have asked for your hand, but you, with your pious air, thinking always, that you are better than everyone else, have refused them.’
‘I do not think I am better than anyone else.’ Katie defended, ‘I…’
‘You what? Want a knight in shining armour? Need him to be so tall and so broad and with blood still dripping from his sword.’ Her mother smirked.
‘Well, you spend all your time reading those whimsical novels, I am hardly surprised. But it is about time you woke up to the reality of the situation and begin acting like a Lady. For that is who and what you are. There are no knights in shining armour. There is however, Lord Sutton who may well be a gentle soul, but is a good man and will take care of you and provide for you well.’
‘But I do not love him.’
‘Love him?’ Her mother almost yelped. ‘What is this you speak of. My good Lord Katie, we do not marry for love, we marry for security and provision. Do you think I loved your father when we married? Surely, I hardly knew the man, except that he had an income of £10,000 a year.’
‘I will not be auctioned off to the highest bidder!’
Lady Ennis took a long breath in and looked sympathetically at her daughter.
‘I remember once upon time I had your spirit Katie. I wanted the world to be different, I wanted freedom. When I first met your father, all I could see was pomp and pride. A man who would secure a wife for his betterment, but eventually, I succumbed, realising that this is how society continues. And you will do the same. It is just the way it is.’
Katie then, in the most unladylike fashion, flopped onto a chair opposite her mother. ‘It is so unfair. Does a woman have no rights or say in her future at all?’
‘Lord Sutton is a good choice. You will be close by so you can see your sister anytime you wish and visit upon us. But the truth of the matter is my dear, unless some sort of miracle appears on the doorstep, your engagement will be announced the morrow and you will marry Lord Sutton by the end of hunting season.’
“The Captain of a Lady’s Heart” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Lady Katherine Ennis is a rebellious and unusual soul for her era, aching for freedom and adventure in her life instead of a conventional marital life. When she is forced by her dominating parents to marry a man she doesn’t love, she desperately tries to escape from this doomed fate. Everything changes though the moment she is bravely saved by a dashing Captain after being in a horse accident. From that moment on, Katherine starts thinking that this gentleman could be the salvation she has been looking for and comes up with a deceptive plan of a staged marriage. However, as her pretense of love for the Captain soon turns into reality, could Katherine find the courage to admit the depth of her feelings? Or will her fear to reveal the truth, destroy a fulfilling future with her soulmate?
Captain Robert Barkley’s freedom has been overshadowed by the debt that his deceased brother left in his wake, risking the future of his recently inherited dukedom. Even though marriage has never been something he yearned for, he knows it’s the only way to save his Manor and preserve his legacy. When a marriage of convenience to a beautiful lady is suddenly on the cards, he thinks that his luck has finally changed for the better. Yet, in the course of time, he finds himself drawn to her ethereal beauty and captivated by her gracious personality. However, he has promised her freedom and knows that he cannot break his word, regardless of the pain that losing her would cause him. Will Robert succeed in claiming an untamed lady’s heart? Could he ever manage to pay off the dreadful debt and take the leap of real love at the same time?
In a story of unspoken truths, Katherine and Robert realise they are unable to deny the pure love that has grown between them. However, the road to happiness is full of obstacles, with two domineering families insisting upon their own loveless wishes. Will Katherine and Robert face their fears and find a way to turn their two worlds into one, against all odds? Or will they crumble under the constant external pressure and lose their only chance at a magical romance?
“The Captain of a Lady’s Heart” is a historical romance novel of approximately 60,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.