Linda McLaughlin joins the blog today with her Regency Romance. Read down to the end for Linda’s special romance tip!
Lady Elinor’s Escape
Lady Elinor Ashworth always longed for adventure, but when she runs away from her abusive aunt, she finds more than she bargained for. Elinor fears her aunt who is irrational and dangerous, threatening Elinor and anyone she associates with. When she encounters an inquisitive gentleman, she accepts his help, but fearing for his safety, hides her identity by pretending to be a seamstress. She resists his every attempt to draw her out, all the while fighting her attraction to him.
There are too many women in barrister Stephen Chaplin’s life, but he has never been able to turn his back on a damsel in distress. The younger son of a baronet is a rescuer of troubled females, an unusual vocation fueled by guilt over his failure to save the woman he loved from her brutal husband. He cannot help falling in love with his secretive seamstress, but to his dismay, the truth of her background reveals Stephen as the ineligible party.
As the scene starts, Elinor has run away from her abusive aunt who hit her the day before. She meets Stephen Chaplin at a nearby inn.
“Excuse me, madam, but I could not help overhearing you say that you must leave for London immediately. Allow me to introduce myself. Stephen Chaplin, Esquire, at your service.”
Elinor turned to face the gentleman who had suddenly appeared. She stared at him through a haze of black, taking advantage of her veil to get a closer look at this tall, dark-haired, seemingly well bred gentleman. He was above average height, with finely chiseled features, and while he could not, strictly speaking, be deemed handsome, there was something in the intense scrutiny of his light brown eyes that drew her to him. By the cut of his bottle green Superfine coat, which emphasized his broad shoulders, but was not so tight as to hamper movement, and his casually tied neckcloth, she surmised he was no society dandy.
“How do you do?” she said politely, extending one black-gloved hand.
“Fine, thank you.”
As he took her hand and bowed over it, Elinor savored the warmth of his touch for a moment. It had been a long time since someone had touched her out of kindness. Suddenly realizing she was clutching his hand, she withdrew hers. He studied her, his gaze seeming to penetrate the veil, and she could only stand like the veriest lump under his scrutiny.
“I beg your pardon, madam, but what did you say your name was?”
“Eli—” Elinor broke off and feigned a cough, panic bubbling up inside. Her name. Dear heavens, she needed a new name. If she told him who she was, he would never agree to take her to Mimi. She stared down at the gentleman’s yellow nankeen trousers and shiny brown boots. “Brown,” she stammered. “Ellie Brown.”
“Mrs. Brown, may I offer my assistance? I’m heading for London myself and would be pleased to convey you as far as Chippenham, where you may pick up another stage coach.”
Relief flooded through her at his offer, but could she trust him? No proper young lady rides in a closed carriage with a gentleman who is not related to her. The words of her governess rang in her ears. “I do not think—”
“Of course, you are cautious,” he interrupted smoothly. “Any genteel lady would hesitate to trust a strange gentleman.”
“But I am not a lady,” she blurted. If Aunt Sarah learned that a ‘lady’ had been here, she would know where to look for her. “I am merely a seamstress.”
“Really,” he drawled, doubt evident in his tone.
“Yes, I have a position awaiting me in London.” She was surprised, and a bit uncomfortable, at how easily the lies flowed from her lips, but they were necessary.
“Then you had best accept my offer, lest your position go to someone else. Miss Wainwright can vouch for me. We traveled here together from London. Nancy,” he called out. “Over here.”
A young serving woman who was obviously in the family way approached them. “What can I do fer ye, Mr. Chaplin?”
“I have offered to convey Mrs. Brown to London, but she is not sure I can be trusted.”
Nancy giggled. “Oh, ma’am, ye’ve naught to fear. Mr. Chaplin’s the finest gentleman I’ve ever met. And we gets quite a few gents here at the Horse and Cart.”
“Yes, I expect you do.” And not all of them honorable, Elinor thought with a glance at Miss Wainwright’s belly.
Elinor pondered her choices. It was either Stephen Chaplin in a closed carriage or back to Aunt Sarah’s cottage where, at best, she would be locked in her bedroom after today’s escapade. And at worst…
She remembered Aunt Sarah’s pistol and promptly made up her mind. Stephen Chaplin was undoubtedly the lesser of two evils.
“Very well, sir, I accept your escort.”
“Would you care for some breakfast first?”
The inn was warm and she’d like nothing better than to settle near the fire and break her fast. Her stomach felt like it was stuck to her backbone, but she shook her head, afraid to stay a moment longer.
Scant minutes later, Mr. Chaplin led her outside to a closed traveling carriage standing in the inn yard. He must be a gentleman of some means, she mused, to have his own carriage. He supervised the loading of their luggage then held out his hand to help her into the carriage. As she stepped up, the wind caught her veil and blew it upwards. For a second she had a clear glimpse of his startled face.
He had seen the bruise.
Here’s my tip to add romance to your love life:
For some couples, Valentine’s Day used to mean an expensive candlelit dinner with wine and flowers on the table. But in these days of the coronavirus pandemic, indoor dining can be in short supply.
Why not plan a romantic dinner at home? Light the candles, pour the wine, and if you don’t feel like cooking, order takeout and serve it on the good china!
Afterwards, curl up in front of the fireplace, if you have one, and snuggle together.
And another tip: Valentine’s Day can be any day of the year when you’re in love.
About the Author
Linda McLaughlin grew up with a love of history fostered by her paternal grandmother and an incurable case of wanderlust inherited from her father. She has traveled extensively within the United States and has visited Mexico, Canada, Australia, Europe and Iceland. She now lives near the ocean in Orange County, California.
Linda writes historical and Regency romance under her real name and spicier romance under the pseudonym Lyndi Lamont.
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Great excerpt, and great romantic tip, Linda. Thank you for joining us today!