To Woo a Lady

A marriage of convenience.  A sailor separated from the sea.  An ill-advised wager.  A spinster at her last prayer.  A long-abandoned manor.  A snob who must learn to look twice.From the flush of first love to an unexpected second chance, from the wilds of Upper Canada and the splendours of the Continent to the ballrooms of the ton: Six ladies will discover their hearts, and six gentlemen will learn what it takes to Woo a Lady.

Praise for To Woo a Lady

Even though you know how the class system works and what is allowed and what is not, how do you tell your heart not to fall in love? Ms. Hatton has written a series of short stories covering Regency England and the historical standards and expectations that existed then. Each story is different, offering different circumstances and different challenges. Each solution is unique and interesting. I especially liked how she made her characters vulnerable, yet strong. There are no wilting wallflowers here. The women know what they want (or think they do) and they are willing to work to get it. The men are strong, stubborn and even a bit understanding about the women’s expectations and the realities of the times and world they live in.The author’s storylines are believable, enjoyable to read, and take you to a world of time past, with all its warts and pimples as well as beautiful homes and good times at public functions. It’s not all peaches and cream, but it’s real.

Ms. Hatton offers you a young lady who can have the man she was hoping for since she now has sizeable dowry – but now she’s not sure she wants him… Or, two that they marry to secure their future but never planned on falling in love. There are several more, but the one I thought was the most fun was the young man who bets he can get married in two weeks to whomever his friends pick. This one has the most interesting ending.

All of Ms. Hatton’s stories are well paced and fun to read. She does an excellent job of depicting the arrogance and ego of the day as well as how little choice or chance young women had for a love match marriage. Her stories will make you smile.

~ Aloe, Long and Short Reviews


 

Set in the days of Jane Austen, a collection of 6 short stories:

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Lady Ellen Spencer comes into an inheritance of a country estate as well as a sizable dowry. She is elated when the most sought-after bachelor of the Season offers for her hand. Yet, a farmer’s son makes her heart race.


“Erin E. M. Hatton uses brief but revealing phases making this an irresistible story.  This collection of Regency stories can be enjoyed again and again—a delightful addition to one’s book shelf.”

Camellia
Long and Short Reviews


“I have felt like this before,” he said with a wistful smile.  “When I first met your mother, I could hardly sleep.”

Ellen looked at him in surprise.  He rarely spoke of Mother, and he had never hinted until now whether their marriage was one of love or of convenience.

“I shall make no secret.  Several young men have called on me to ask if they might court you,” Father said, and smiled weakly.  For the first time, Ellen realized that he was as reluctant to let her go as she was eager to marry.  “If I must give you away, then tell me who your favourite is – who is it that robs you of sleep – so that I may discourage the others and pave the way for the one you love.”

Ellen stared at him for a moment, her mind in a whirl of confusion.  Her favourite, he had said – well, that was Charles Findley, no question.  But the one who robbed her of sleep?  That was Roderick Benton, and there was no way around it.  If she dreamed of him like this, did that mean she loved him?


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For Jack Ramsey, the sea is all he knows.  But when he is posted to a naval establishment in the wilds of Upper Canada, he sees the attractions of the land – in the person of the commandant’s pretty daughter, Laura Wescott.


Then she turned to go and Jack wanted to call her back, to restrain her.  But she wasn’t his hired woman that he could order her about.  He felt suddenly bereft as she opened the door to leave –  almost the same as the aching longing he felt for the sea.  That surprised him, like the sharp report of sudden cannon fire out of the sea mists.

Just as she was about to disappear from his view, she stepped back in and turned to him.

“What is your name?” A quizzical frown crossed her pretty features.

“Jack,” he said, surprised.  “Jack Ramsey.”

“Pleased to know it.” With a little smile, she left.

Jack leaned on the counter, watching through the window as she crossed the yard with steps as graceful as a dancer’s, and went into the house.  He gazed at the empty yard for a long time after that, hoping perchance for a glimpse of her form through the windows of the house.

Then he shook his head and returned to his work.  It wouldn’t be well for him to forget his place.  As the daughter of a captain, Miss Wescott was unattainable.  Marriage certainly not an option. To seduce her otherwise would spell evil consequences for him.  He had to forget her.

But kept from the arms of the sea, with no other prospect in view, and Miss Wescott right across the yard, it would be hard not to think of her.


 

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Isabella Temple and Evan Porter are in a predicament.  Only by marrying can they secure their inheritances.  A marriage of convenience seems the logical solution, but neither of them bargain on falling in love.


Bella sat, smoothing her skirts twice before she spoke.  “I wouldn’t be coming to you if I weren’t in dire straits,” she said.

“I’m flattered,” he said with a wry smile.

“No, no,” she protested, wringing her hands.  “What I mean is I wouldn’t be so forward, but as it is . . .” She looked wretched.

“Please, go ahead,” he said in a more kindly tone, smiling in encouragement.

“If I don’t produce an heir, I stand to lose everything.” She  kept her eyes carefully downcast.  “And I know your father has threatened you with the same predicament, should you not marry.  So I propose we wed each other – with a few provisos, of course,” she added, seeing him open his mouth in protest.  He snapped his mouth shut, curious.
“I would make you a good wife, with a rich fortune and fine reputation.  And you needn’t worry that I’d be bothersome.  I am quite happy to be exiled to Jericho once we have an heir.”

“I must admit,” he said,  “it is a surprisingly tempting offer.”  He regarded her for a long moment, and though she didn’t look at him, she flushed deeply as though she felt his eyes linger.  It was true, she would make a good wife, and not just for her money and status.  She was beautiful, with her heart-shaped face, mobile, soft mouth, and sweet honey-coloured curls.   Even after they’d got their heir, he would still be happy to parade around Town with her on his arm.

It was true she was a fine catch – if a trifle eccentric.  He’d always taken her for a bit of a bluestocking, always buried in books.  And then there was this unconventional proposal – he certainly had never thought he’d find a wife this way.  But she was right.  She needed him, and he her.  It was the perfect solution to both their dilemmas.

“Well, it sounds like a regular Smithfield bargain.  But I’ll agree to it.”

Her face brightened and she met his eyes with a glint of relief and mischief.  “That’s well enough to call it such,” she said.  “But if it’s to be a Smithfield bargain, you can be the bull.”


 

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Longing for music, Elisa Fairburn ventures into a long-abandoned manor to play an old Broadwood grand.  She never imagines the manor’s reclusive owner, Sebastian Whitcombe, is listening, awakened from a secret grief.


She pictured the music in her mind’s eye, set her hands in place, counted the rhythm in her head, and began to play.  It was one of her favourite pieces, and she lost herself in the music.  She was so enthralled, in fact, that at first she didn’t notice the strange, rhythmic noise behind her.  But then, as she played, she became aware of a muted sound, a creak, and a rustle of leaves.  It seemed to go in rhythm with her playing, which was why it had escaped her notice before.  But it was certainly something independent of the song.

Her heart quickened, though she dared not stop playing.  She tried to look out of the corner of her eye without turning her head.  It was just her imagination, she tried to tell herself.  But she couldn’t forget what Lily had told her about the ghost.  Her breath came short as she played, she made a mistake, but kept on, clumsily.  Out of the corner of her eye she saw a faint shadow on the wall – she swore she did.  No, there it was, a creak that was just a little too loud, too out of place to be coincidental.  She lifted her hands abruptly from the keyboard and whirled on the bench.

He stood in the middle of the room, looking as surprised as she felt, with his eyes darting side to side as though looking for cover.  He looked a proper ghost – dressed in a ragged and greyed shirt that must have been very fine at one time, and a pair of doeskin breeches, barefoot and bareheaded, with rough-cut hair that hung in a wild halo around his face, so fair a blond as to be almost white.  His face was gaunt and pale, his cheeks frosted with stubble that sparked like silver in the sunlight.  His eyes were pale blue, sunken with dark smudges.  He would have been a handsome man, once, before he was ravaged by time and misery.


 
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When spinster Louisa Strickland is thrown on the mercy of the world by her ne’er-do-well brother, she takes up a position as companion for 15-year-old Sophia Havenden on a grand tour of the Continent.  She plans to focus on her work, but Sophia’s handsome and secretive widower father captures her attention.


Sophia slept most of the way to Paris, as well, with her head bouncing on Louisa’s shoulder for a time before she gently laid the girl’s head in her lap.  She was a lady almost grown, with a budding figure and pretty face, hair dressed in ringlets on her crown.  And yet, she still seemed such a child, with her cheeks flushed in sleep and the wisps of hair that sprang up at the nape of her neck.  She slept like a child, too, unruffled by the jolts and jerks of the carriage as it lurched over the washed-out roads.

Louisa had no such blessing.  She gazed out the window of the coach, watching the quaint countryside roll by.  She was exhausted after the crossing, and lulled by the swaying of the carriage, but still she could not sleep.  She envied Sophia her ease, yet pitied her, too.

She couldn’t help it when she looked at this fresh young thing, imagining the trials before her, after the idyllic travels abroad.  To be thrust into Society’s scrutiny, ruffled and frilled, accomplished to the hilt, where a single misstep could cost a future – Louisa didn’t have to imagine it, for she remembered it well.  How would this little dove fare among the wolves?  Could she be hard enough to take their scorn and jealousy?  Could she be wise enough to see through their schemes?  Above all, could she guard her heart?  Louisa hoped she could impart some of the wisdom of age and experience to this girl before she faced her debut.

“You’ve taken to her well,” came a calm observation from the other side of the carriage.  Louisa turned to Colonel Havenden, startled to realize she had been stroking Sophia’s hair absently as she had been thinking.  She snatched her hand away.  The Colonel smiled.  “No, no, I’m glad.  She was never very affectionate with her governess, though I can’t blame her, having known the woman.  There has been a void in her life since her mother’s passing.”

“Were they very close?” She tried to imagine what Emily Havenden had been like.  She had seen the lady’s portrait, but knew as well as any that looks had very little bearing on what a person was actually like.

“As close as mother and daughter can be,” the Colonel said with a wistful smile.  “Emily doted on her – but never spoiled her, mind.  She was a wise and kind mother.  Our daughter resembles her in more than looks.  Sophia can make anyone attach to her – I suppose it came from Emily.  But she herself attaches to others reluctantly.  I resigned my commission as soon as Emily died, but I fear I can’t replace her.”

“Neither can I,” Louisa warned gently.

“I wouldn’t think it,” he said.  “But it would help if she could have a female companion to give her the womanly love I cannot.”

“That I can do,” she said with a smile, glancing down at the sleeping girl in her lap.

“That is all I can ask,” the Colonel said.  “With my gratitude.”

He smiled down at his daughter, then looked out the window again.  Watching his regal bearing and chiselled profile, with the dappled sun playing on his silver-frosted dark hair, she caught her breath.  She rather thought Sophia’s gift of attaching people came from her father.


 
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Oliver Darby is confident of his ability to woo a wife.  So confident, he makes a wager to woo the highly eligible – and notoriously choosy – Charlotte Ainsworth in a mere fourteen days.  Through his failures and successes, he discovers that love can spring from the unlikeliest of places.


“I confess my surprise to find we are required to dance together twice,” Charlotte said amiably as they executed the complex steps.  “Perhaps the Patronesses see something we do not.”

“Who are we to deny the wisdom of the great aristocracy of the ton?” he said with a smile.  “Besides, it would be wise to speak only for yourself. I can at least imagine what the Patronesses see.”

To his consternation, Charlotte didn’t so much as blush, but tilted her small chin up and laughed.  “A great flatterer. I daresay I didn’t think to find that in you, Mr. Darby.  Your reputation suggests you aren’t one for the ladies.”

“Well, you do know where reputations come from,” Oliver said with a slight grimace.

“And where’s that, Mr. Darby?” she asked, giving him her hand for the next step.

“Idle gossip and misheard rumours.  I shouldn’t think you’d give much credence to those, given the reputation they’ve slapped on you.”

“Exactly what might that be?” Charlotte asked, not faltering in her footwork, though her voice took on an icy undertone beneath its pleasant melody.  Belatedly, Oliver realized his mistake.

“Well, I . . . that is, your discriminating tastes in a husband,” he managed to salvage himself, “have given rise to the idea that you are, er . . .”

“Destined for spinsterhood?” she supplied with a dangerous smile.  “A man-hater?”

“That’s not to say I believe the rumours,” he said by way of apology.

“I daresay not,” she said, still smiling, “Else why would you risk dancing with me.”

“There, you see?  I’m here, aren’t I?” he said, feeling a little out of his depth.  His palms were sweaty inside his gloves.

“For now,” she said simply.  She fixed him with a warning glance.  “For now.”