Joshua Aldridge walked briskly down the road, eager to enter the assembly hall for the public ball. On either side were brick buildings, their windows void of light. It was just as well, for everyone in the village was on their way to the hall, where there would be dancing, music, and a scrumptious supper in which everyone was duty-bound to make a contribution.
Joshua met his father at the door, straightening his brown coat before they stepped inside. Already the place sounded as if it were packed to the brim, the music floating out through the open windows. Attending the ball was not only a way to socialise, but it was necessary to forge business relationships that would help their merchant company grow. His father looked worried, lowering his voice as Joshua approached. “Where have you been, Son?”
“I had to go back and change my cravat. My other one had a spot on it.” Joshua joined his father on the steps, taking a deep breath of fresh air before they plunged into the warmth and excitement of the large room.
The assembly hall was crowded, with all the tables and chairs pushed back against the walls to afford more room for dancing. Ladies and gentlemen were dancing in a line down the centre of the room, their faces rosy from the exertion and, possibly, from the fact they were dancing with a sweetheart. Joshua sighed, beaming from ear to ear as he walked into the room. He looked forward to these public balls. They seemed to be so much more relaxed than private ones, the air of joviality making him forget the staunch expectations the world placed on him. As the son of the town’s most famous and successful merchant, he had some very large shoes to fill—when the time came.
For now, he was content to work under his father, learning all he could. There was plenty of time to take life more seriously.
Joshua spotted one of his friends standing on the other side of the room, sipping sherry and, no doubt, looking for the most beautiful girls in the room with which to dance. Joshua left his father at the door where several other older men were chatting about all things politics, economy, and horse racing.
Joshua wove his way through the crowd, feeling more like he was being tossed by the waves in the open sea. Of course, it was not as unpleasant a sensation as being cast overboard, he surmised. His friend finally saw him when he was several yards off, raising his hand in greeting.
“Joshua! Hullo, old fellow. We were just having a drink. Will you join us?”
Joshua nodded in the affirmative, and soon he had a glass in hand and was sipping it slowly. “Well, Jeffrey, have you found all the eligible young maidens with whom you will toy this evening?” he teased.
Jeffrey held his hand over his heart and gave a look of mock consternation. “I do not toy with the fairer sex, my good man. I simply want to show them a good time until they come to their senses and realise I am not the man for them. It is I who pushes them into the arms of far more appropriate young men than I.”
Joshua screwed up his brow, laughing at his friend. “So, you argue that you are actually helping all these young ladies find suitable husbands…by showing them an unsuitable match?”
“Precisely,” Jeffrey said, eliciting another laugh from Joshua. “You, on the other hand, are perfect marriage material. My friend, we must find you a suitable partner to dance with. Take Miss Amy Semple.” He pointed to the other side of the room at a tall brunette, her eyes roving over the men standing on the edges of the room. She looked as if she were willing just one of them to come over and speak with her and perhaps, if she were lucky, to ask her to dance.
Joshua shook his head slightly. “I do not wish to seem rude, but she is very tall and gangly, is she not?”
“Yes, however, you are a good four inches taller than she, so there will be no loss of honour on your part.”
“I do not think I have ever seen a woman so tall,” Joshua went on. He could not take his eyes off the girl who stood almost a head above her smaller counterparts.
“Oh, never mind. Let us continue.” Jeffrey looked about the room once more and alighted on a young blonde angel standing by the doors. “Now there is a woman—a rare jewel among the sows—”
Joshua elbowed him sharply in the ribs before going any further with his simile. “Hold your tongue. Someone might hear you and be offended, and then where will we be?”
Jeffrey laughed, bowing slightly at the waist. “I beg your pardon, good sir. I forgot who I was speaking to for a moment. But tell me, which lady would you prefer, if you could have your choice of the lot?”
Joshua stood still for a moment, taking his time to look around the boisterous room. It was difficult to really get a good glimpse of anyone. The crowd was constantly moving, with those dancing in the centre of the room and the rest of the company weaving through the people to visit buffet tables or find friends to chat with.
However, Joshua’s gaze was soon captivated by a young woman with the most beautiful auburn hair he had ever seen. She had just entered the room, looking resplendent in a white silk gown. Her eyes flashed about the room, and for a split second, their eyes met. Joshua felt the noise and bustle of the room fade into the background.
“Her,” Joshua said simply after a long pause. Jeffrey turned to him, looking out over the crowd with confusion.
Joshua turned slightly and pointed toward the girl, hoping that she would not be able to see. “Her. Who is she? Do you know?”
Jeffrey followed his gaze, and a slow, mischievous smile crept over his face. “Miss Eleanor Spencer? Ahh, you do have good taste. She is the daughter of George Spencer, a banker. He has no title, but they are very rich, as you can see from their attire.”
Joshua had barely paid attention but, upon closer inspection, saw that Miss Spencer was indeed dressed in much better clothing than most of those in attendance. He did not care about that, however. “I must meet her,” he said, never once taking his eyes off of her. She came further into the room, followed by an older man and woman and a younger girl. They made their way over to the buffet table, and each picked up a glass of punch.
“I can introduce you if you like. My father has dealings with Mr Spencer, and we have been among the same company several times.”
Joshua took Jeffrey’s arm and propelled him forward before his friend even had a chance to answer. “Yes, please,” he replied. They wove through the crowd, and all the while, Joshua tried to settle the wild racing of his heart. Miss Spencer was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen in his young life. What if he was making a mistake? What if she did not like him?
There was little time to second-guess his decision to charge in and have introductions made, for Jeffrey broke from him and went over to Mr Spencer and his family first. They talked a second before he turned and motioned Joshua forward.
“Mr Spencer, may I present my good friend, Mr Joshua Aldridge? He is the best fellow I know—always doing the right thing and the hardest worker you are likely to meet.” Jeffrey slapped him on the back good-naturedly. “Joshua, this is Mr Spencer.”
Mr Spencer smiled congenially, something Joshua had not expected since he was a banker. He turned and introduced the rest of his family. “We are pleased to meet you, Mr Aldridge. My wife, Mrs Spencer, and my daughters, Miss Eleanor Spencer and Miss Harriet Spencer.”
The ladies curtsied in turn, but he only had eyes for Eleanor. “It is I who is honoured, sir.” There was a slight pause, and he cleared his throat before plunging ahead. In truth, he had not really planned out what he would say, his words bubbling out in a pell-mell before he could stop them. “I wonder if I might ask Miss Spencer for the next dance, sir?”
Mr Spencer smiled, shooting an amused glance at his daughter. “By all means—ask her yourself, my good man. My daughters are both overjoyed to dance whenever an opportunity presents itself.”
Joshua gulped, suddenly more nervous than he had ever been before. He bowed again to Miss Spencer, their gazes locked. “Miss Spencer, may I have the honour of the next dance?”
She smiled, a slight blush creeping into her cheeks. “I should be delighted, sir.”
It was a lucky thing, for the dance was coming to a close, and the next one would soon be starting. Miss Spencer set down her glass of punch and took his arm. Tingles raced up his arm where her hand rested, exploding through the rest of his body. She trembled slightly as they took their places on the dance floor, and he let go of her hand.
The music started, and they began to move through the slower dance, her movements graceful and serene. She looked like a lady of the realm, so poised and elegant. Indeed, he might have mistaken her for a princess if he had not known her name.
Joshua silently berated himself. He should think of something to say to her. “Tell me, Miss Spencer, is your family new to the area? I do not believe I have seen you about the village.”
“We have recently moved from London. My father is a banker there, and he thought it would be nice to have a place away from town where we might all enjoy the fresh air and quieter village life during the winter months.” Miss Spencer’s bright green eyes sparkled, drawing him deeper under her spell. “Have you lived here long, Mr Aldridge?”
“Nearly all my life, yes. My father owns a merchant company here.”
“How very fascinating. Have you ever been on one of his expeditions with him? I always thought the merchant’s life to be so adventurous, all those foreign places gathering exotic products to bring home to England.”
Joshua was starting to relax with Miss Spencer now that they had a chance to talk. She was not aloof or superior in her manner, which he was glad of. “Yes, I have. Indeed, I am due to accompany him to India in a few years when I have learned the business side of the venture. I have been to France, though. And Spain, once. I love the freedom that my father’s occupation brings.”
“It sounds terribly exciting. I would like to travel someday.” Miss Spencer smiled up at him as they stepped close to each other and then stepped away. He grasped her hands as they did the steps two more times and then began to weave around the other couples.
“Perhaps someday you will. It is a shame that some people never venture more than a few miles from their doorposts. I want to see everything the world has to offer.” Joshua grasped her right hand, and another couple joined their quadrille as they turned around in a circle. They halted and then went the other direction before breaking off in pairs again and starting the whole process again.
“I will, unfortunately, end as you say. If my mother has her way, I will spend my days embroidering in a stuffy drawing room or playing the pianoforte.”
“Oh? And why is that?”
Miss Spencer sighed. “My mother has very grand designs on who I should marry. This will be my first summer out in society, and I think she will think it a great failure if I am not married by the end of it.” She flashed him a smile that melted his heart. “However, I have loftier plans than what she has imagined for me.”
Joshua’s heart swelled. But there was also jealousy that took over his senses, even though he knew he had no right to feel that way. He had only known Miss Spencer for a matter of minutes. Already, he knew she should marry none other than himself.
Eighteen-year-old Eleanor Spencer hopped down from her father’s carriage, her heart racing as she looked up at the candlelit windows of the lavish home. This night may well be the turning point in her young life. For months, she had been trying to convince Joshua to speak to her father for his permission for them to marry, and tonight was the night.
She spotted Joshua and his father walking into the ballroom, and she lifted her hand to wave while her father helped her sister and mother out of the coach. “Hurry, Harriet,” she said, too impatient to wait.
Harriet took her arm, and they started toward the house together. “It was very nice of Mr Hammond to invite us to the party. And even more so to invite Mr Aldridge and his son. Did you have anything to do with it?”
Eleanor smiled, looking over her shoulder at her parents as they made their way slowly to the front door. “I may have asked Jane Hammond if she could put in a good word with her father. It is so important that tonight goes well, Harriet. What do you think Papa will say?”
Harriet could not answer as they had come to the front door and were soon walking through the foyer, waiting in line to greet their hosts.
“Mr Hammond, Mrs Hammond. How good of you to invite us this evening,” Eleanor said as they came up to the front of the line.
Mr Hammond extended his hand, shook hers warmly, and then moved on to Harriet. He was a jovial, good-natured man who had been their neighbour for several years. “We would not have been able to hold a ball without you and your parents in attendance tonight, Miss Spencer.” He paused, looking over her head to try and find her parents. “Indeed, where are they? I hope they are not ill?”
“On the contrary. I believe they got waylaid at the door. But they should be coming through the line at any moment, Mr Hammond.” Eleanor smiled up at him, his cheeks rosy from the growing warmth in the room as dozens of people filed in to fill the house.
“Well, we are glad that you could all come. It is truly an honour whenever you and your sister grace our home.” Mr Hammond looked through the doorway toward the ballroom. “I believe Jane is waiting for you within.”
Eleanor curtsied and grabbed Harriet’s hand. “Thank you, sir.” She smiled, pulling Harriet through the doorway and into the ballroom. The room seemed to tingle with excitement, laughter, and music mixing to create a joyful atmosphere. “Oh, I do love a ball. Don’t you, Harriet?”
Eleanor scanned the room, looking for her friend Jane. Harriet rolled her eyes but smiled, nonetheless. “You think everything is wonderful lately. I think it is only because you are in love with Joshua, but—”
Eleanor yanked on her arm, trying to get her to be quiet. “Not so loudly, Harriet,” she scolded. “Joshua says he will speak with Papa tonight if he has a chance. And I must make sure he has that chance. Mama is determined to marry me off to some rich earl or duke if she can arrange it.”
Harriet lowered her voice. “I am sorry. I do not know why there has to be so much secrecy. Surely Papa and Mama know how you feel about Joshua? You two have been inseparable ever since you met three years ago.” They had to back up against the wall as a group of younger girls passed by on their way to the buffet tables on the far side of the room.
Suddenly, Joshua appeared at her side, laughing as he startled her. “Hello, ladies. You both look beautiful, as usual.”
Eleanor held a hand over her heart. “You frightened me, Joshua,” she whispered, laughing despite herself. “Where have you been?”
He laughed. “I have been waiting in that corner of the room for you to come in. And may I say, your presence only brightened the room from where I stood.” He lowered his voice, leaning closer to her ear. “Shall we dance?”
Eleanor beamed up at him and nodded. ‘Of course. However, only one dance until you speak with Papa. I want our future settled as quickly as possible.”
“In due time,” he said and took her arm, leading her toward the dance floor. “You do not mind if I borrow your sister for a moment, do you, Harriet?”
“Not at all. I shall assume my usual position as the wallflower.” Harriet raised her hand as they walked away. Harriet was content to watch the proceedings from the side of the room. She never liked to dance or flirt or do any of the things that the other debutantes did. Indeed, Eleanor was convinced she would stay single forever if her parents would allow it. Which, of course, they would not.
Eleanor would have to worry about her sister later, for Joshua pulled her onto the dance floor. They were soon dancing down the line of couples to a lively tune. Their cheeks grew rosy-red with warmth, and their laughter rang out, mixing with the rest of the young couples.
When the dance was over, he offered her his arm. They went out onto the patio to get a breath of fresh air, as many other couples were already doing. They joined a group of their friends and were soon chatting gaily.
“I hear that the militia will be travelling through in a few weeks. It seems we are in for a glorious summer,” Jane Hammond was saying as they came up to the group. When Jane saw Eleanor, she reached out her hand for her, and Eleanor walked around the group to stand next to her. Jane lowered her voice, linking her arm through hers. “And perhaps we will have a wedding to look forward to?” she added with a whisper. Eleanor glanced at Joshua, who had followed her with his eyes.
Eleanor gave a short laugh, shushing her friend. “Quiet. He has not had the chance to speak to my father yet, but he will do so tonight.”
“It is about time, Eleanor. He has been promising to speak with him for weeks.”
Eleanor hung her head, and the pair of them walked away from the group for a moment. “He is nervous. And who would not be? However, I feel Papa will be just. I have a sizeable dowry, and Joshua will soon be running his father’s shipping company, if Mr Aldridge is true to his word of wanting to retire. Joshua has the business sense to grow the merchant company far more than his father ever dreamed of doing.”
Jane tsked. “Is that fair to Mr Aldridge? Indeed, he is the one who built the merchant company up from nothing.”
“I do not mean to say that he has done a poor job of managing the company. I only meant to say that Joshua will grow it even more.” She glanced over her shoulder as they strolled along the terrace. Joshua was talking animatedly with one of his friends—business, no doubt. He was very young, but he had already been on several shipping ventures and helped his father make astronomical returns on their investments. “He is going to be a very important man someday.”
“Not to mention wealthy,” Jane put in dryly.
Eleanor nudged her gently, mocking displeasure. “That is not why I want to marry him!”
She and Jane shared another laugh and started back toward their group. “I would never dream of implying that, my dear friend. However, such a revelation in your father’s ear cannot hurt your cause.” She winked, and they rejoined their party.
The evening seemed to fly by, and after a supper of the most scrumptious food, Eleanor and Joshua went to have one more dance. She wished she could dance with only him for the rest of the evening, but to dance with the same gentleman more than twice was tantamount to a proposal. They had to be careful until they received her father’s blessing.
Just such an opportunity presented itself just after midnight as people started to stroll about the lantern-lit gardens. The older folk would sit down to chat in the various downstairs rooms of the house so that the musicians might have a bite to eat before the dancing recommenced. Eleanor spotted her parents going into the drawing room to visit with their friends.
She pulled Joshua aside, lowering her voice to a harsh whisper. “Here is a good time, Joshua. Go and speak with my father. I am sure Mr Hammond would not mind if you stepped into the library for a moment.”
Joshua glanced in the direction of her parents and started to make an excuse, but Eleanor quickly cut him off. “No, Joshua. It must be tonight. There is already talk of finding me a match by the end of the summer. Do you want to lose your chance?”
“Of course, not, but—” Joshua again tried to make excuses, but Eleanor pushed him toward her father. She raised her hand and started walking toward her parents. “Papa!” she called, and he turned to her with a curious smile.
“Yes, dearest. What is it?”
“Papa, Joshua should like a word, if you please,” Eleanor said, smiling mischievously at Joshua. Joshua cleared his throat, straightening his jacket.
Her father, oblivious as to what Joshua could have to say, turned to him. “Oh? And what can I do for you, my boy?”
Eleanor shook her head. “In private, Papa.” She reached for his hand, drawing him away from her mother. “The library would be perfect, I think. Don’t you, Joshua?”
“Yes, yes. If you are agreeable, sir?”
Her father gave her a questioning smile but started to follow Joshua anyway. “You are being very cryptic, my dear,” he whispered. “What is going on?”
Eleanor leaned toward his ear. “You will soon know, Papa. Only remember that my happiness hangs in the balance.”
She watched them go out of the ballroom and disappear around the corner. However, her curiosity was more than she could bear, and after a few minutes, she decided to follow them.
“Where are you going?” Harriet whispered harshly, following her. “Papa will not like it if you do not let them be.”
Eleanor waved her off, remaining firmly on her course. “Nonsense. They will not even know that I am there.” Harriet was not as brave as she halted in the doorway of the ballroom.
Eleanor made her way down the hall, creeping toward the library. When she neared the entrance to the library, she slowed, listening for voices. Her heart raced as she inched closer to the door and soon picked up her father’s voice. A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. Tonight, her fate as the new Mrs Joshua Aldridge would be sealed.
Joshua followed Mr Spencer into the library, his heart racing. He wiped his palms on his trousers, doing his best to put on a calm front, but he was sure Eleanor’s father could hear his heartbeat.
“Now, what is all this about, Mr Aldridge?” Mr Spencer looked back at him, the darkened library making his face look even more severe.
“Sir, I want to speak to you about your daughter—”
“My daughter? So formal?” Mr Spencer came back toward him, clapping him on the shoulder. “Our two families are friends and have been for several years. Indeed, I have known your father for quite some time. Why not leave off with this ceremony, and tell me what it is you want?”
Joshua swallowed, nodding. “Very well. Of course, sir. I-I would like to ask you…That is, I would like to ask your permission to marry your daughter.”
Joshua held his breath as Mr Spencer’s face fell. The older man sighed heavily and turned away. “I see. I was afraid of this.” He walked over to the window, motioning out. “Look at them, so lost in the excitement of the evening.”
Joining him at the window, Joshua followed to where he pointed. Several young couples strolled about the garden together, their paths lit by lanterns. Chaperones trailed behind each of them to make sure nothing untoward happened. Joshua wished he could be doing the same with Eleanor at that moment.
“Why were you afraid that I would ask for Eleanor’s hand, sir? If it is a matter of money—”
“No, it is not the money,” Mr Spencer said. He glanced over at Joshua with a guilty look and looked down at the floor. “I cannot give you permission, my boy.”
The words fell on Joshua’s ears like a ton of bricks. His chest constricted, and dizziness overcame him for a moment. “May I…May I ask why then, sir?”
“My wife has other plans for Eleanor. Perhaps it was wrong of me to allow your friendship to go on as long as it has. I hope that Eleanor has made you no promises, as, of course, she has not the power to give such promises.”
Joshua could barely speak. “No, we have made no vow, sir. I wanted to speak with you first,” he said, hardly above a whisper.
“I am sorry, lad.”
Joshua nodded, saying nothing. He could not trust himself to speak without humiliating himself or saying something he would regret later. Mr Spencer sighed once more.
“I hope that our families might remain friends?” Mr Spencer asked as he walked back toward the door of the library.
It took some restraint to not snap at the older man. He cleared his throat, unable to meet his gaze. “Of course,” he said softly. Mr Spencer nodded sadly and started out of the room.
When Mr Spencer had gone, Joshua turned on his heel and strode toward the double doors and out onto the patio. Home sucked in a breath of fresh, cool air, trying to make sense of what had just happened.
Of course, he had been nervous to ask before now, since Eleanor had been so young. Even with the years of waiting for her to come of age, he had never dreamed that Mr Spencer would actually say no. What was he to do? How would Eleanor react when he told her?
Footsteps sounded behind him, and he hoped it was Mr Spencer coming back to tell him that he had made a mistake. However, Eleanor’s silhouette emerged from the darkness of the library door.
“Joshua?” Her soft voice shook ever so slightly, and he drew in a deep breath, steeling himself against the pain he was about to inflict. “Is everything all right?” she asked.
“I am afraid not, my love. Your father will not give us his blessing.”
Eleanor rushed to his side, her face crumpling. He could make out her features plainly now, washed in silvery moonlight. This should have been a happy occasion, but now he regretted that he had come to the party at all.
“What? Why?!” she exclaimed, joining him at the stone railing of the patio. “What reason did he give?”
“He says your mother has other plans for you,” he replied with a derisive laugh. “I think it has more to do with my prospects.”
Eleanor shook her head, seemingly just as dumbfounded as he was. “I will not accept this. I do not care what plans my mother has for me. I am eighteen—they cannot make me marry against my will. And I will marry you or no one,” she added softly. She touched his arm, nudging him softly. He looked over at her, the pain in his heart almost too much to bear. He looked up at the star-studded sky and sighed, trying to hold back his tears of frustration and disappointment.
“You cannot go against your family’s wishes, Eleanor. No doubt they have a very eligible, not to mention wealthy, nobleman picked out for you. Your father is a banker and highly regarded in elevated society. You are their best chance for raising their status. Just think what it would mean for the future of the Spencers if you were to marry an earl or even a duke?” He knew he was causing her pain, and for that, he was sorry. But the bitterness welling up inside him made him say things aloud that he knew he should keep to himself. He raked a hand through his hair. “Perhaps if I was rich—if I had a title, the situation would be different.”
Eleanor gripped his arm, willing him to face her. He had never seen such a look of determination in her gaze. “Do not think that, Joshua. My parents love you like the son they never had. I know they do.”
“Your father may well harbour such feelings, but your mother has never made an effort to mask her feelings about me. She tolerates me, nothing more. I think now we will see what is truly in her heart.” Joshua offered her his arm, trying to make the mood a little lighter. “Come, let us stroll with the other couples and enjoy our one last evening together.”
Eleanor stopped, jerking her hand away from his arm. Tears sprang to her eyes, and Joshua could have kicked himself for being so flippant with his words. “Do not say that!” she lamented. “I cannot bear to think of this being our last night together. I will not accept this, I tell you!”
Eleanor straightened, her face set. She started toward the library doors, but Joshua caught her hand before she could disappear, perhaps making an even bigger mess than they were already in.
“Do not go against your father, Eleanor. Not here. It will only make matters worse. No, we must think. We must find a way to change their minds.” Joshua pulled her gently away from the library door, tucking her hand into the crook of his arm. “Come, let us find Harriet, and we will all have a chat about things.”
“I do not want to go in there and risk seeing my parents. I feel they have betrayed me as Judas did Jesus on the night of his crucifixion.”
Joshua gave a tight laugh. “It is not quite as bad as that.”
“How so? I thought they loved me!” Eleanor exclaimed. She halted just before they were about to walk down the patio steps and into the garden. He had wanted Harriet along as a chaperone, but several other couples were about. They would be safe enough for the time being. And he could not blame her for not wanting to see her parents at this juncture.
Joshua froze after climbing down the first step, waiting for her to say what was on her mind. Looking up into her face, she seemed to be fighting a war within her mind. “If you were to kiss me now, my father would have to let us marry,” she whispered.
Catching his breath, he stilled. Her green eyes sparkled in the torchlight glowing from the side of the patio railing. Wisps of auburn hair blew in the slight breeze, and he thought she had never looked as beautiful as she did now. He hung his head. “I will not have you by dishonourable means, Eleanor. I respect your father, and while I do not like his decision, I will abide by it. That is, until I can find a means of changing his mind. You do not want to begin our life together with a scandal hanging over our heads, do you?”
Eleanor sucked in a breath, biting her bottom lip. “I am sorry. Of course, you are a man of honour, and to ask you to go against your principles is wrong. I am just so desperate—” Her voice broke, and he took her hand. He drew her down the steps, and they approached one of the fountains that were well lit and had several people milling about. However, they did not join in with any of the conversations, keeping to themselves as much as possible.
“I know how you feel, Eleanor. I feel the same way, of course. Your father seemed caught in the middle of wanting to please your mother and you. Perhaps you can prevail upon him to change his mind?” Joshua felt slightly caddish for asking it of her. His pride made him think that he should be the one to speak with Mr Spencer. However, Eleanor and her father were so close. They always had been, ever since he had known the family. Indeed, Eleanor could charm the birds out of the trees if she wished, in his opinion. She may be the only one able to change her father’s mind.
“I will speak with him as soon as we return home. This very night,” she said vehemently. “My mother oversteps her bounds with this.”
They were interrupted when one of Joshua’s friends came over and asked if they would want to go for a stroll with them about the garden. Joshua nodded, and they followed his friend, a young lady on his arm. They spoke softly, laughing now and again as they walked down the gravel-covered walkway. Joshua and Eleanor remained stony silent, however. There was too much emotion roiling around in him to offer much by way of scintillating conversation.
After several minutes of this, Eleanor glanced up at him, a worried look on her face. “What if I cannot prevail upon my father? What if I fail? What will we do then?”
“There is nothing to be gained from worrying, Eleanor. We shall have to take things as they come. All I know for sure is that I love you. I have from the moment I met you, and I will continue in that love until the day I die.” They stopped on the path, facing each other. Tears streamed down her cheeks, and he was tempted for a moment to take her in his arms and kiss her. He had thought about what it would be like to kiss her often enough. He hung his head, taking a step back from her.
Eleanor let her hands fall to her sides. “And I love you, Joshua. I promise I will never love another for the rest of my life. No matter what my parents might try to force me into, my heart will always be yours.”
Warmth spread through his whole body at her words. Their vow had been born out of disappointment and desperation, but it was no less sweet to him. He sighed, offering her a small smile. “Well then, I see no reason to let hope falter.”
“How can you be so sure that this will work out in our favour?”
“I am not sure of anything. But I have to hold onto hope, Eleanor. Life without hope would be too unbearable a thing.”
“When Her Suitor Sails Away” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Eleanor Spencer, daughter of a wealthy banker, knows exactly what she wants from her life; to become the wife of Joshua Aldridge, a handsome and kind merchant and love of her life. While her mother doesn’t approve of the match, Eleanor’s father seems to be welcoming the young man with open arms. However, when Joshua decides to formally ask for Eleanor’s hand, her father’s answer astounds them all, with Eleanor falling into pieces…
Will Eleanor manage to change her father’s mind, who is swayed by her mother’s demands?
Desperate and shattered, Joshua sets off for Calcutta to open a new trade for his father’s company, as he thinks this is the only way to win over Eleanor’s family. Little did he know that when his ship goes down after a violent storm, he would wake up in India with amnesia…
What will happen when Joshua finally returns to England and finds that his love is betrothed to a familiar figure?
When years later, Joshua and Eleanor meet again, the powerful connection between them is still alive. As Joshua’s memory slightly returns, he has to decide whether to return to India or stay and fight for his only true love. Will Eleanor and Joshua heal their scars and go against those who do not tolerate their union? Or will the past heartaches and unforeseen storms be too much to bear?
“When Her Suitor Sails Away” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.