Lady Abigail Price let out a long sigh as her embroidery slipped from between her fingers. She hadn’t looked at her project, let alone worked on it for at least the last twenty minutes. Instead, she found her mind wandering while she watched out the window. There was little to be seen from its view of the side garden in the late afternoon light, but that didn’t stop her from finding it more interesting than her needlework.
“What would your nurse say if she could see you now,” Lady Penelope Maidstone mused, not lifting her own eyes from her sample.
Lady Abigail turned to her dearest friend with a deep rouge in her cheeks. Quickly she bent down and retrieved the lost hoop-bound fabric with its minimal stitches. She stared at it a few moments, trying to remember what she had planned for this particular pillow cover. Finally, giving up, she set it back in the basket next to the couch.
“I can’t concentrate on such intricate work today,” Lady Abigail declared.
“Clearly,” Lady Penelope said with a giggle.
Penelope rested her own work in the folds of her lemon cotton walking dress. Soft yellow always looked so good on her.
Penelope’s skin was the perfect shade of warm cream. Others might have looked washed out in such a dress, but Penelope was true to her Mediterranean roots that came from her Sicilian grandmother.
Like her grandmother, Lady Penelope also had hair as black as the night that was often not cooperative in taking curls. Her eyes were such a dark shade of brown they often looked black themselves.
Though Lady Abigail found all these physical traits worthy of admiration and envy, not every member of the ton would agree with that assertion.
“I suppose it’s the news of the ball that has got you so distracted,” Lady Penelope divulged.
“Not just the ball,” Lady Abigail replied, relaxing back into the chaise cushion.
“It is the sudden and unexpected return of the mysterious Marquess of Penrith that seems to keep me from thinking of anything else.” Lady Abigail sighed deeply.
The two ladies had spoken of Lord Penrith as the ‘mysterious marquess’ for the past nine years. Though since she was thirteen, Lady Abigail had been set to marry the lord, she had never once met the man.
It was infuriating to Abigail to know one’s future for almost a decade, yet never really have any particular information on it.
“We don’t know for certain that he has returned,” Penelope suggested. “Perhaps that is just an elabouration on this rumour of a ball.”
“I don’t think it’s an elabouration at all. In fact, my mother has been at her wits’ end, making sure all four of us ladies have new dresses at the ready for when the invitation comes. According to Mother anyway, there is only one reason that the Duke of Rochester would host an extravagant private ball right at the start of the season.”
“And that is?” Penelope asked, setting her embroidery in the basket.
It was clear with possible new information in one of the most favourite subjects to wonder on, neither of them would be getting much more embroidery done today.
“To announce the return of the Duke’s son. The man who is the ruler of all my future happiness yet I still know nothing about it,” Lady Abigail spoke with a slightly dramatic air.
“We do know some things about him,” Penelope said quickly to ease her friend’s dramatic agitation. “We know his name is Clark Monroe. We know that he is the Marquess of Penrith. You also saw that portrait of him once at the duke’s country estate.”
“That was three years ago, and to be honest, the painter wasn’t the best. I mean, aside from a boyish figure with brown hair, not much could be discovered from it.”
“Well, we must also know that he has a passion for agriculture or wild country since he has stayed so long at his uncle’s plantation in the colonies.”
“Or that he has a great passion for avoiding his betrothed,” Lady Abigail mumbled.
“I would have expected you to be more excited about finally meeting him. All these years, we have talked and wondered about the man that would become your husband. But now you look so distressed and sad over the prospect of finally putting a face to the man.”
“Of course, I am distressed. I had no say in choosing him. It was all fine to muse here the two of us, but now he is about to be a real creature. What if he is horrible? What if he is a rake? Or worse, what if he is dull.”
“You suppose dull is worse than a rake?” Penelope asked with a chuckle.
“Of course. If he is void of personality, I will be stuck with him always by my side boring me and annoying me. At least if he is a rake, he will have some charm to him.”
“Sometimes, I think your mind doesn’t work quite right, Abby,” Penelope replied with a roll of her eyes. “You should count yourself lucky. You are to be a duchess! Who cares what his personality is like? If you don’t agree with each other, you certainly have the means never to step foot in the same house at the same time ever again.”
“Well, only after I give him an heir,” Abigail amended.
“Yes, I suppose that would be bad luck if he is dull,” Penelope agreed. “But at least everyone who has ever spoken of Lord Penrith has called him handsome. Sure no one has seen him these years passed, but I dare say a charming, well-liked lad of twenty-two could not change so much physically by twenty-seven.”
“Spoken of is all I know of the man.” Lady Abigail sighed deeply. “Shouldn’t I, at the very least, be allowed to meet him, get to know him for myself before being forced into an engagement with him?”
“I fear that is a lot to ask for,” Lady Penelope replied mournfully.
“But why is it? I am not asking for such outlandish things as love and romance. I am not so simple to think that such a thing could ever be possible for the likes of me.”
“Nor I either,” Lady Penelope countered. “I may not have had my engagement planned out for me, but you can be sure that my father has no desire to marry off his daughter to a man he finds wanting.”
“It’s times like these I really envy those of lower station,” Lady Abigail grumbled. “At least they may marry for love.”
“And struggle to survive their whole lives long. No, thank you. I am not one for manual labour,” Lady Penelope said with a wrinkle of her nose.
“I don’t think I would mind it much,” Abigail responded offhandedly.
“Only because you have never done it!”
“That’s not true. When I was young, I spent time in the kitchen with the cook. I rather liked the baking part. Maybe I would make a good baker. I could open my own shops with bread and little sweets and marry a man I love.”
“I think you have had your nose in far too many romantic novels. You have lost touch with reality. And watching the cook while sneaking strawberries is not at all the same as doing the work,” Penelope finished.
“It wasn’t easy to do it without getting caught, you know,” Abigail mumbled sardonically.
“That’s it; it’s been confirmed,” Lady Margate announced, bursting into the parlour. “Oh, Lady Penelope, you’re here too. Well, just as well, you can spread the news to your mother.”
“What news is that, Mother?” Abigail asked.
Abigail scooted over on her cushion to make room for her mother to sit next to her. It wasn’t a huge parlour but still a respectable size for a London house. There was just enough room for two chez, a couch, a small serving table between them, the grated hearth, and a small card table in the corner with four wooden seats.
The room could scarcely fit Abigail’s whole family, let alone added guests. Luckily Abigail’s eldest brother had taken up his own lodging for the season.
Lady Margate hadn’t been entirely happy to have her son on his own. It didn’t matter that John Price, Viscount Heartcourt, was twenty-three years old and well past the age to make it out on his own.
She would have rather liked to continue to influence his life as he, too, was not yet married.
Abigail had always been close to her eldest sibling, being only ten months apart, and knew that he was desperate to get out independently.
Lord Heartcourt had no intention of marrying anytime soon and rather enjoyed his seasons with the ton as a free gentleman. Abigail would have never called him a decadent, at least not to his face, but she knew well enough he enjoyed giving attention to many of the ladies of the ton.
Now that he was outside his parents’ views, he was much more free and social than ever. It also made Abigail’s home life a lot more boring. Lord Heartcourt and Abigail had grown-up partners in crime.
Without him around, she was resolved to spend time with her two youngest sisters Maryann and Ruth, the eldest being nine years younger than her.
It was for this reason that as soon as they had arrived in town, Abigail had called on her friend Penelope and spent almost all her free time in her best friend’s company.
“I have it on very good authority that Lord Penrith was spotted last week in Liverpool exiting the Santa Bathsheba.”
“You already announced that,” Lady Abigail informed her mother.
“Yes, I know.” Lady Margate made a shooing motion with her hands at her daughter.
Both girls smiled at her action. Lady Margate was positively spun up today. Her added news must have been very good.
Lady Margate looked very much like all her daughters. They all shared the same dark blonde hair, blue-green eyes, and petite body frame. However, Lady Margate’s age was starting to show greatly. Having her youngest child when she was well in her forties had taken a significant toll on the woman.
Deep lines ran horizontally across her brow and crinkled at her eyes. Though her hair was still mostly it’s blonde colour, she had a distinct strip of grey that ran through. At first, she had considered powdering her hair to hide it, but as it was no longer fashionable, she was settled to having the grey stripe partially covered by ringlets that lay heavy on that side of her face.
Though she always seemed to be frazzled with stress when it came to her children’s future, she was, for the most part, a jolly woman. Abigail was sure that she had more memories of her mother playing alongside her as a child than most other ladies of their distinction.
“I have it on very good authority that not only is Lord Penrith in the country, but he is also right here in London. I have just come from calling on your aunt— that’s Lady Jane Price Jackson—” Lady Margate added for clarification in Penelope’s direction. “While I was there, Esmerelda— that’s Lady Jackson’s daughter—had just come from Hyde Park. Esmerelda says that she is one hundred per cent sure that a particularly handsome gentleman riding a fine chestnut mare was none other than Lord Penrith himself.”
“Did she really see him, though, Mother? I mean, we both know that Esmerelda can exaggerate from time to time.”
“Well, no, she didn’t see him with her own eyes. Only she was told of his presence by Lady Marigold.”
Both Penelope and Abigail instantly rolled their eyes. If any one lady of the ton could be considered a gossiping lark desperate to improve her position, it was Marigold.
“You should be glad that Esmerelda didn’t meet the marquess herself. If Lord Penrith’s eyes caught a great beauty like your cousin, we could quite possibly lose your arrangement.”
“I’m not sure I would be sad for it,” Abigail retorted.
“Bite your tongue! You should be grateful that your father was able to secure this arrangement for you. It is only because the Duke and Lord Margate happen to both have a love for fine horses that they grew their acquaintance enough to secure you this chance.”
Abigail dramatically bit her tongue. Penelope did her best to stifle a giggle by promptly popping a biscuit in her mouth.
“Be grateful that some good has come from your father’s overly expensive hobby,” Lady Margate mumbled to herself.
It was no secret in the Price house that the family was larger in size and had a patriarch with a passion for draining money into horseflesh. Neither of which provided a lot of security.
“I still don’t think you should get your hopes up over something that Esmerelda heard from Lady Marigold.” Abigail turned the conversation quickly from one of her mother’s tirades on Lord Margate’s financial choices.
“Well, if you don’t believe that, perhaps you will believe the fact that a note was just hand-delivered from the Duke of Rochester to your father.”
This did get both ladies’ attention.
Leaning forward in her seat, Abigail blurted, “What does it say?”
“I don’t know. Your father hasn’t come out of his office. I would guess that it is to inform your father of the impending ball and ensure that the contract in place still holds.
“I expect we will get a formal invitation in the post very shortly. And you best be ready for it,” Lady Margate added in an admonishing tone, “for the moment it comes, we are off to Mayfair to get you a new gown and all the trimmings.”
“We don’t have to go to so much trouble, Mother,” Abigail tried to insist.
“Nonsense, you must be the finest dressed at the ball so that Lord Penrith can’t take his eyes away from you.”
“Or trade you out for Esmerelda.” Penelope giggled.
Abigail couldn’t help joining in with the laughter.
“That’s not funny,” Lady Margate warned though with a smile on her own lips.
Penelope was so close to the Price family that she was almost another daughter to Lady Margate.
“It’s just all so ridiculous,” Abigail explained to her mother. “Next, you’ll be telling me I am required to prance around the dance hall at the ball and let the marquess inspect my teeth.
If Lord Penrith had any care for what I looked like or even getting to know the person beneath my facade, I don’t think he would have run away to the colonies the same year I came out in society or stay away as long as he possibly could.”
“You don’t know that is the reason he went away at all. He is to be the future Duke of Rochester. It makes sense that he would spend time helping his uncle with his plantation.”
Abigail gave a humph of disagreement but didn’t press the subject. The fact was, however, she was pretty sure that not only was Lord Penrith similarly unhappy with an arranged engagement, but using all tools at his disposal to avoid Abigail at every turn.
The Marquess of Penrith, Clark Monroe, took in a long drag of the early spring air. It reeked of burning coal and gutters despite the fact he was trotting along a green path in Hyde Park. He did his best to resolve himself to the fact that London was his present home.
After living five years on his uncle’s plantation in the Carolina colony, Lord Penrith had experienced so much open, untamed wilderness, he wasn’t sure he would ever feel at ease in a city again.
If it had been in his power, Lord Penrith would have continued to oversee his uncle’s plantation for the rest of his life. Unlike Penrith, who had wholeheartedly embraced the wilds of the colonies, his uncle, Lord Bertrand Monroe, preferred to keep to his London house. Rarely had Lord Bertrand even visited Crabtree Abbey, the duke’s country estate, in the north country once he was old enough to make it out independently.
Lord Penrith had boarded a ship as fast as he could at the age of twenty-two the moment he learned that the lady contracted to be his wife would be coming out in society. He had no desire whatsoever to meet, interact, or even consider her a person worth mentioning.
In fact, he had hoped that not only would his departure from the country delay their encounter, but perhaps ruin it altogether. The woman had five seasons, after all, to attach herself to someone else.
The fact that she had clearly waited for him to return and go through with this ridiculous forced arrangement told Penrith all he needed to know about the lady. Obviously, she was just like all the other fashionable women of the ton. She had waited this long to attach herself to her family’s name and fortune.
He wasn’t so thick in the head not to realize that his future title, Duke of Rochester, didn’t have an effect on those around him. It certainly had affected him all his life. But he had absolutely no desire to marry a simpering weak-minded lady chomping at the bit to be a duchess.
“I bet you missed it here?” Lord Wayneright suggested.
Fredrick Brown, the Marquess of Wayneright and Penrith’s best friend, had mistakenly construed his exhalation for comfort in familiar surroundings.
“Not at all, actually. If I had it my way, I would be taking the first ship back to the colonies.”
“Come now. I know you must have missed something about home. Certainly, the ladies must be easier on the eyes here,” Lord Wayneright coaxed.
His attention momentarily left the current conversation as his eyes followed a pair of ladies strolling with preambles overhead.
“You are the only one I’ve missed,” Penrith responded with a sarcastic grin.
“Yes, well, now you’re back, and I can introduce you to all the fun you’ve missed these past few years. I have rather devilish plans in mind for the two of us,” Wayneright responded excitedly.
Penrith expected if they both weren’t riding at the present with hands on the harness, Wayneright would have rubbed his hands greedily as he spoke.
“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to return to any of our past distractions. I am only here on my father’s orders for one reason, and one reason only.”
“Ah, so the old duke has finally forced you home to complete his alliance.” Wayneright chuckled gleefully at his friend’s pitiful situation.
“He threatened to take action against Uncle Bertrand if I didn’t return home. Said he would withhold Uncle Bertrand’s yearly allowance if I didn’t return home right away.”
“A bit underhanded,” Wayneright remarked. “But he has the plantation and seems to be doing just fine here. I see him all the time at Whites.”
“I am not one to talk about another man’s finances, though I can tell you I controlled the plantations for the last five years, and without that allowance from his elder brother, my father, he would have to make some serious life changes.”
“A harsh circumstance, to use your love for your uncle against you.”
“You know my father. He is not above any tactics when it comes to getting what he wants. Lord Margate has some of the finest Arabian racing horses in all of England. I’ve literally been traded for access to those damn beasts!”
“But why the rush now?” Wayneright asked as they turned and cantered on their own horse flesh down a more wooded path.
“I expect two reasons. The lady in question is nearing the end of marrying age, and Lord Margate was beginning to grow restless of promises made with no fruition. You see, Margate is wise enough not to give my father access to his prize mares until the deed is done.”
“And so you will marry the lady in question, and your father will get his livery producing the finest horses in all of England. I suppose there could be worse causes for an arranged marriage.”
Lord Penrith raised a chocolate brow to his best friend.
“Not that I can think of any at present,” Wyaneright amended quickly, “but I am sure they exist.”
Both gentlemen noticed a small gaggle of girls that had halted in their progression on the path and were whispering behind laced gloved hands. Lord Wayneright immediately recognized the most prominent of the group.
“Good afternoon, ladies, Lady Marigold,” he said, tipping the brim of his beaver fir riding hat.
Lord Penrith tipped his own likewise but had no desire to speak in turn. In fact, he pushed his horse to continue past them, though he could tell that Wayneright would have rather stopped and dismounted for a conversation.
“Oh, come on, Penny,” Wayneright said after catching up to his friend. “Just because you are already sold doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun. Lady Marigold is particularly vivacious.”
“I know Lady Marigold’s type well enough, and I have no interest in them. They are a thinly veiled, shallow-minded breed that seems to infect every single lady of the ton. All they think about are ribbons and judging each other. They look at me and see nothing but a future title and the social prestige it will hold to be connected to me. There is no truth in the words they use, only flattery and false friendship.”
“Well, did you ever consider that maybe I might enjoy a little false flattery from time to time?” Wayneright chuckled.
“Then I suppose you should have chosen a better riding companion.”
“You have changed much since last we saw each other,” Lord Wayneright took a severe tone.
“You’re right, I have. I am not that carefree pup I was when I ran away. I left to continue to enjoy life without having to be tied down to a silly girl. I wanted the freedom to use my connections to get whatever I wanted as we always did in the past.”
“The Americas changed this for you, though?” Wayneright encouraged Penrith to continue.
“Yes, for the first time, I met people who were willing to be honest with me. They were willing to tell me what they actually thought, to call me out if I was wrong or made a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, people still knew who I was, and being the plantation head did carry some respect and weight. It’s just that titles don’t matter quite as much there. I wasn’t free to do and say whatever I wanted without repercussions.
“It made me realize how little use I had been up until that point. How much of a waste my life had been. It showed me that I could feel satisfaction in working, directing, leading, producing. It also showed me the difference between real friends and vampires desperate to say anything to stay on my coattails.”
“And which kind do you suppose I am?” Wayneright said with a wide smile, sitting up straighter.
It was a useless question. Wayneright was honest and true to a fault. He had no qualms speaking his mind even if it wasn’t what was wanted. Unlike Penrith, he also had no qualms about enjoying the life of a lord that was given him.
“We both know I wouldn’t be here with you if I thought you a …”
“Sucking brainless monster?”
“Yes, something like that. Exactly what this future lady will be, I have no doubt.”
“You give Lady Abigail harsh judgement.”
“Do I?” Lord Penrith asked.
Up until this point, he had never once had a desire to learn a minute detail of the woman. In fact, he had made it his sole mission not even to know what she looked like. Now that he was edging ever nearer to his engagement, he had a sudden urge to pin down her faults in his mind before the interaction occurred.
“You must know her?” Penrith asked more than stated. “Tell me what she is like, and I will prove to you here and now that she is no better than those simpering sparrows we passed.”
“You are very quick to assume that there is something wrong with simpering sparrows. I assure you they have their purpose as well. For me, I only need to find the right simpering sparrow—one who will happily run the estate and leave me to enjoy my life for the most part.
Unfortunately, I know nothing of your Lady Abigail as we have never made acquaintance. If she is a twittering bird, or otherwise, I couldn’t say.”
“I have no doubt that she is. What woman wouldn’t have found a way out of the contract with a five-year opportunity unless she was desperate for the social prestige that comes with it?”
“Perhaps when you finally met her at this ball your parents are planning to put on for you, you will be pleasantly surprised. For all you know, you could even fall in love with her,” Wayneright gasped with false shock.
“Please, love is just what they peddle at the bookstores to keep the ladies entertained. You said it yourself; these simpering ladies have a purpose and nothing more. All the better if they do their job and leave us be to do ours. I just wish I could choose my own shackle as you can. You don’t know how lucky you are.”
“Yes, so lucky,” Wanyneright said in a monotone. “My father died at fifteen, leaving me to take care of my mother and younger brother. Binding me to my responsibilities before I even had a chance to experience the world.”
Overwhelming guilt flooded Penrith. It was a crass thing to say. Unlike Penrith and the duke, Wayneright had been very close to his father. Upon the late marquess’ death, Wayneright had been forced to leave the boarding school they both attended and return to his home. It was a hefty responsibility for a boy so young.
Penrith often considered his early admittance in adult responsibility was a key factor in his personality. He looked for enjoyment and laughter in most everything he did. Penrith expected he probably would have shaped up the same if such a serious weight had been placed on him so quickly.
“That was out of line, Wayneright. I apologize.”
Penrith studied his friend to see if his careless words had done real damage. The light reflecting off his strawberry blond hair nodded in acceptance of Penrith’s apology.
“You are right, though,” Wayneright broke the silence after a few moments of riding. “I, at least, have the freedom to choose my own companion. I’m sure I would hate an unknown lady being pushed on me just as you are. You should be allowed to pick a wife that is agreeable to your nature, not to your father’s livery.”
“Perhaps there is still a way for me to right this,” Lord Penrith realized as he sat straighter in his steed. “There is only one thing that my father values above his horses.”
“And what is that. Perhaps some sheep he has acquired?” Wayneright jested.
Penrith rolled his eyes. He was having a breakthrough moment here; there was no time for joking.
“His legacy,” Penrith pushed on. “My entire life, I have been reprimanded and chastened about not living up to my legacy by both my mother and father. They would never allow a lady to take on the Rochester name, to bear the next generation if she was in some way found wanting.”
“What are you suggesting? Ruin her reputation somehow?” Wayneright’s strawberry brows furrowed in distaste.
He may have been a man who enjoyed flirting with any of those simpering birds that might give him the time of day, not an easy thing with his prominent Irish features, but he never condoned doing immoral acts.
“Nothing like that,” Penrith reassured his friend.
He may have been desperate to free himself from the clutches of this marriage, but he was not without decorum. All those lectures and insistence on upholding the family name had never once gone on deaf ears. He knew that he had a responsibility to keep the values that had served his family for so many generations.
“What then, enquire around about her? Try to find someone who can tell you a previous transgression on her part. That is assuming she has one.”
“No,” Penrith mused to himself. He was still making this plan up as he went. “That, of course, would draw too much attention. I am sure my mother would have a fainting spell on the spot if she heard that I was enquiring into my future wife’s faults.”
They continued in silence for a few more minutes. Wayneright let his friend think. It might have been some time since they last saw each other, and undoubtedly they had both changed in those years, but there were still so many familiar things about Penrith.
He was still the strong, tall figure he had been in their youth, though now he did have thickening in the way of hard labour on a plantation. His fine coat didn’t seem to fit just right. Instead, it stretched against his arms and broad shoulders.
Wayneright made a mental note to tell his friend to get a new one fitted for the ball. Clearly, all these clothes had sat in his trunk for the last five years while away, and now they didn’t quite fit his sculpted frame.
“I will encounter her myself. It will be easy for me to distract any shortcomings, and then I will take that as proof to my father that her misgivings cost won’t be worth the horseflesh they supply.”
“So you will just call on her and ask her to list out all her faults to lay at your feet? And you think this will work? What woman would ever do such a thing, especially if she only has your title on her mind? She would never purger herself.”
“I may not use it very often anymore, but I still have access to that charm we used to use back in the day to get whatever we wanted.”
“Even still – which I might add, you might be slightly overconfident in that department. You were rather rude to that group of ladies back there. If she truly only cares about the prestige and title, she won’t give up anything to jeopardize that chance.”
“Perhaps she will if she doesn’t realize she is saying it to her betrothed,” Penrith responded.
His plan was unfolding before his mind. He kicked his horse to speed up.
“I must leave you now, my friend,” he said over his shoulder. “I have much to plan and very little time to do it in.”
“A Letter From Her Dear Marquess” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Lady Abigail Price is a hopelessly romantic soul and has always been dreaming of marrying her fairytale prince. When her parents announce that her marriage choice has been made already, she finds herself thrown into deep sorrow. However, her luck is about to change the fateful night he will meet her intendant unbeknownst his identity. Abigail is immediately drawn to him and when she discovers his name, a moment of happy bliss overflows her heart. However, her joy is quickly shattered when a great scandal that shames the Price name will cancel the betrothal and tear the couple apart. Will Abigail find the strength to defy everything and choose love over propriety? Or will she be doomed to live a loveless life?
Clark Monroe, Marquess of Penrith, has been doing everything in his power to avoid a future as the Duke of Rochester. The person he doesn’t want to cross paths with the most, is no one else than the woman his father is forcing him to marry. Against all odds, and when the time to meet his future bride comes, Clark is immediately charmed by her beauty. Little does he know, though, that the road to happiness will be full of obstacles, as an unforeseen event will threaten to take the beautiful woman he is falling for away from him. Will Lord Penrith convince Lady Abigail that there is something to the spark they felt that night? Could he make up for a calamitous scandal standing in his way and win the woman who stole his heart?
Abigail and Clark know what their heart is telling, but neither of their families will tolerate this union. However, as each passing day apart from each other feels like eternity, Abigail and Clark decide to fight for their love no matter what it takes. Will they find the way to make their two worlds one before the doors of happiness lock forever? WIll they manage to go against their families’ will and listen to their own hearts?
“A Letter From Her Dear Marquess” is a historical romance novel of approximately 60,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.