Please welcome my guest, Jude Knight.
Jude is one of the fabulous authors of the Bluestocking Belles, a group of historical romance authors who publish an annual collection of stories. Jude is sharing from her novella, A Dream Come True, one of the stories in this year’s Storm & Shelter, A Bluestocking Belles Collection With Friends, available for pre-order at only 99 cents!
When I started to think about a story set in a storm in a village on the coast of Suffolk, I already had a character in mind. Theo Conroy had appeared in To Wed a Proper Lady, where her tendency to travel sickness had been a necessary plot device to send my heroine off to London in a closed carriage with two bachelors.
My characters, even the most minor ones, come with their own background, and so I knew more about Theo than her delicate stomach. “Hythe fidgeted while Felicity found her shawl and Theo tidied the dressing table, folded down the sheets on the bed, and lifted the pillow then looked at Hythe and replaced it. Even though Hythe was Sophia’s brother, Theo had been raised in a vicarage and would not lay out her ladies’ night rails with a man in the room.”
Getting Theo to the village was easy enough. I consulted with the other authors and learned that Sherry Ewing had a convenient shipwreck in her story. I put the Earl of Hythe and his sister Felicity on the ship, with Theo as Felicity’s maid. Of course, that meant poor Theo arrived seasick.
Now. What sort of a hero might first meet his heroine when she was sick as a dog?
Storm & Shelter
When a storm blows off the North Sea and slams into the village of Fenwick on Sea, the villagers prepare for the inevitable: shipwreck, flood, land slips, and stranded travelers. The Queen’s Barque Inn quickly fills with the injured, the devious, and the lonely—lords, ladies, and simple folk; spies, pirates, and smugglers all trapped together. Intrigue crackles through the village, and passion lights up the hotel.
The tempest that batters Barnaby Somerville’s village is the latest but not the least of his challenges.
Vicar to a remote parish, he stretches his tiny stipend to adopt his orphaned niece and nephew and his time to offer medical care as well as spiritual. A wife is a dream he cannot afford.
But the storm sweeps into his life a surprising temptation—a charming young woman who lavishes her gentle care upon his wards—and him.
God knows, he will forever be richer for having known her, even if he must let her go.
Barney lingered over showing Miss Conroy the church, reluctant to see her leave. She exclaimed over the very features of the church he liked best, and laughed when he tried a couple of feeble jests. She asked after Annie and Daniel, too. Before long, he found himself telling her about his sister. “Louisa was nine years my elder, and was a little mother to me before I went to school. She left home when I was ten, and we lost touch until only a few months ago. She had been widowed for a second time, and was already suffering the malady that killed her.”
Miss Conroy didn’t need to know that their father had kept him from receiving Louisa’s letters, even instructing the school to burn them unopened. The Reverend Mr. Matthias Somerville had no wish for his rebellious daughter to influence the son he was raising in his own image.
“My father was—is—very conscious of appearances and reputation,” he said. His father believed that the orders of society had been ordained by God, with royalty and peers of the realm at the top, Matthias Somerville and others like him a few rungs lower, and most of the rest of the population born to serve. He had never understood the burning sense of injustice that drove his daughter to campaign for better working conditions, rights for women, and the abolition of slavery.
“Mine, too,” Miss Conroy said, and a few questions soon had her sharing her stories of growing up in a vicarage in the midlands, the middle daughter of five. From the sound of it, her father was clinging on to gentry status by a fingernail, a poor country parson with insufficient connections or influence to gain a living of his own, and therefore stuck with working in place of a wealthier minister with more than one parish, or with interests outside of his calling and the money to pay someone else to carry out parish obligations on his behalf.
Much like Barney, in fact, but at least he looked after one of his father’s livings, and would probably inherit it when his father was gone. Provided he married the bride his father chose for him. Provided his father didn’t dismiss him for the crime of taking in Daniel and Annabelle.
If Barney had to leave Fenwick on Sea, he was unlikely to find another post as a cleric. He would have to find other employment to support his wards. As if she could read his mind, Miss Conroy asked, “What made you decide to become ordained, Mr. Somerville?”
“My father always assumed I would follow in his footsteps,” Barney explained. An earl’s grandson, his father had a small allowance as well as several livings. But the allowance would die with Barney’s father. All he had to leave his son was his influence with his own patrons so that Barney could become vicar after him.
Not that Barney had wanted, at first, to be ordained. “My greatest joy as a boy was following the physician around while he visited the sick. Indeed, I thought of being a physician myself.”
But that was only a small part of the story. He wanted Miss Conroy to know the truth. He had only known her for a couple of days, but long enough. In another time and place, if he had a secure living that was not dependent on the goodwill of a man without any, she was the woman above all others that he might have courted.
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3kgRmLG
Apple Books: https://apple.co/3lZYHja
About Jude Knight, in her own words:
I write historical fiction with a large helping of romance, a splash of Regency, and a twist of suspense. I then try to figure out how to slot the story into a genre category. I’m mad keen on history, enjoy what happens to people in the crucible of a passionate relationship, and love to use a good mystery and some real danger as mechanisms to torture my characters.
If you like what I do, I’d love you to spread the word. Dip your toe into my world with one of my lunch-time reads collections or a novella, or dive into a novel. And let me know what you think.
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Jude-Knight/e/B00RG3SG7I
Alina here: A Dream Come True is just one of several fabulous stories in Storm & Shelter (including my own, The Comtesse of Midnight)! In addition to Jude and me, the other authors include Bluestocking Belles Sherry Ewing, Caroline Warfield, Rue Allyn, Cerise DeLand, and bestselling guest authors Mary Lancaster and Grace Burrowes.