A Bittersweet Proposal
I am delighted with the cover for my latest book, A Bittersweet Proposal, due to be published by Robert Hale on the 28th June, and since it was selected to feature on the cover of Hale's latest catalogue I guess they must be happy with it too.
A while ago I posted an extract from the book, introducing you to my hero, Marc Rothwell, the new Earl of Broadstairs. This is how the reader first makes the acquaintance of his future wife, Harriet Aston.
The atmosphere was taut with expectancy as Harriet Aston totted up the endless column of figures for the third time.
'Have you discovered the discrepancy yet?' asked James anxiously.
'Shush, James!' scolded Charlotte, peeping at her exquisite profile in a nearby mirror and carefully patting a stray curl back into place. 'I am sure Harri will resolve the matter more quickly without interruptions from us.'
'Interruption does not signify, I am afraid, since I am quite unable to balance the books.' Harriet cast her quill aside with a defeated air. 'But there can be no further doubt that we are exceeding our income.'
'Oh, Harri dear, surely not?' cried Mrs Aston vaguely. 'And we have been so very careful recently. Not one luxury has passed the threshold and I am sure we could not have been more frugal.'
Harriet sighed. As always her mother had her head in the clouds and not the slightest notion of economy. 'Five dozen wax candles, Mama,' she chided gently. 'Did we not agree that wax is ruinously expensive and that tallow will serve our needs just as well?'
'But, Harri, tallow smokes quite shockingly and causes poor Thomas to wheeze until he can scarce draw breath. You know how he suffers so with his weak chest.'
Harriet's nine-year-old brother offered up a timely cough, his wan expression accompanied by a disproportionately mischievous grin. Harriet shook a finger at him but had the good sense not to pursue the subject of the candles, knowing it was a lost cause. Instead she looked with ill-disguised horror at the next account on her father's desk.
'Five yards of spider-gauze -'
'Ten would have better suited Charlotte's requirements but I was mindful of your instructions to economize,' Mrs Aston assured her daughter proudly.
Harriet's despair rendered her temporarily speechless.
'Ye gods!' she exclaimed, when she saw the next account. 'Flemish lace, Charlotte? Would not something less expensive have served?'
'You are being very mean-spirited!' cried Charlotte indignantly., 'If you had your way I would disgrace the family by going to Town dressed in nothing better than nankeen.'
'No, of course you must look your best, Charlotte, but you must realize that -'
'Besides,' continued Charlotte, openly admiring her countenance again as she fiddled with her golden curls, 'all your scoldings about extravagance are a waste of breath. I am sure to make a splendid match when I am seen about town, thus saving us all from the workhouse.' She swirled round, her beautiful face alive with animation. 'But in order to snare a rich husband I must give every appearance of being comfortably situated.'
'Indeed you must, my love,' agreed Mrs Aston, patting her daughter's hand.
'We all fervently hope that your plan will succeed,' said Harriet, losing patience and sounding more acerbic than she had intended. 'But in the meantime we must eat, and contrive to keep the business ope4rating if we wish to retain a roof over our heads. We must also find a way to send the boys to school before they run completely wild. Did you really need to order four new bonnets, Charlotte?' she queried, looking with dread at the outrageous total at the foot of the milliner's account.
'You are most unkind, Harri!' cried Charlotte, stamping her foot. 'It is very exhausting being expected to save the family single-handed, and the least you could do is be supportive.'
'Pray do not frown, darling,' cajoled Mrs Aston, 'it will leave a permanent crease on your lovely brow.'
'She is just jealous, Mama,' said the beauty, her scowl giving way to an angelic expression. 'She has no notion how tiresome it can be, being constantly admired for one's appearance.'
With competition from such a beauty how can it be Harriet who attracts Lord Rothwell's interest? To find out make sure you order a copy of A Bittersweet Proposal - ISBN 978 0 7090 8566 9 - from your local library. And remember all Hale books are available at discounted prices, postage and packing free, direct from www.halebooks.com.