Why 'The Duke's Proposal' means so much to me.
'The Duke's Proposal' will always be a significant title for me. My very first book, 'The Unconventional Miss Walters', published in 2005 is special in the same way. 'The Duke's Proposal' is the first new title for over two years. I was beginning to think I would never get back into that wonderful feeling a writer has when they are in the middle of the book. I have spent the past 18 months putting up my long backlist on Amazon – this requires a lot of rewriting and editing but the characters and story are already there.
I needed to write the next part of my WW2 book Barbara's War as I had several enquiries from readers as to when it was going to be published . I'd originally said it would be out October 2013. I thought it would be easier for me to start with a Regency as I've written so many of them. 'The Duke's Proposal' is the result and I'm thrilled with it.
Writing this was exactly what I needed to get my head back into creating – I'm now a quarter of the way into the second part of Barbara's War. I love it when I can spend every waking moment living the lives of my characters. I had begun to think I had lost this ability, but now I know I haven't.
Here is an extract from the first chapter – Lydia Richmond is thrilled because a cavalry Regiment has just moved into the area. She intends to enjoy the company of the officers and considers that there's no need for a season in Town:
Less than twenty minutes later
Lydia was on her way home delighted to have found an exact match for the
forget-me-nots sewn to her ball gown. She nodded and smiled at several acquaintances
that didn’t stop to pass the time of day. Fortunately the gaggle of girls and
moved elsewhere, no doubt to discuss at length the arrival of the regiment.
Usually she chatted to Jenny
when they were out together, but today she wished to mull over something that
had been said to her earlier. When she had denied speaking to the duke, she had
told a falsehood. His grace visited at least once a week, usually to impart
some local news to her mother or offer advice on her investments. Although she
was usually present, she rarely spoke directly to him herself.
He was nearer her mother’s age
than hers, and although scrupulously polite and unfailingly charming, she found
him unnerving and difficult to converse with. He was – he was a formidable man.
He stood more than two yards high and his shoulders were extremely broad. He
wore his dark hair short, an uncompromising style which suited his demeanour.
He treated her more as a child than a woman grown and she was grateful for
this. Being teased and talked down to meant she was not expected to join in the
conversation and thus show her ignorance of adult matters.
Her lips curved as she recalled
the last time they had met. He had ridden over on his latest acquisition, a
magnificent bay stallion, and had invited her to give an opinion on the animal.
She had been about to go inside after a brisk walk around the lake. Her face
had been hot, her hem mired and her boots muddy – hardly an appealing sight.
She had mumbled something complimentary and scuttled in like a frightened
rabbit. His laughter had followed her and she didn’t blame him one jot for
finding her a figure of fun.
On her return she ran upstairs
to remove her gloves and bonnet and replace her walking boots with indoor
slippers before hurrying down to the drawing room to share the exciting news.
She burst in only to find her mother was not alone.
The duke stood and greeted her
affectionately. “Miss Richmond, what a delightful surprise. I understood from
her ladyship that you had gone to the village.” His expression was bland but
she could see amusement dancing in his eyes.
“I am back now, your grace…” She
faltered and her cheeks suffused with colour. Why was it she always sounded
like a pea goose when speaking to him?
“Indeed you are, my dear, and
looking quite delightful too.” He raised an eyebrow and glanced at a sofa
reminding her etiquette demanded he remain on his feet until she was seated.
Drat the man!
Ignoring his comment she dropped
beside her mother intending to tell her the good news. “Mama, you will never
guess what I was told in the village.”
“Lydia, my love, your news must
wait. We have far more pressing matters to discuss.”
What could possibly be more
important than the arrival of the cavalry regiment? She bit back her pert reply
and tried to look interested. “Yes, Mama, what is it you wish to tell me that
also involves our guest?”
She risked a glance in his
direction and wished she hadn’t. He was not impressed by her comment.
“The duke’s sister, Lady
Margaret Dunwoody, has offered to bring you out. Is that not kind of her? With
your dear papa so recently deceased I cannot face the hustle and bustle of Town
at the moment, so without this help you would not get your season at all.”
“Thank you, sir, I do appreciate
Lady Margaret offering to sponsor me in March. However, I have no wish to leave
my mother to gad about in London. Having attended several informal parties this
summer, I believe that I can be considered out
Who was the more astonished by
her statement was hard to tell. Her mother was rendered speechless and the
duke’s eyes widened in shock. He recovered first.
“Stuff and nonsense! Lady
Richmond will manage perfectly well in your absence as well you know. All young
ladies want to have a season in Town. You are no different—”
Lydia was on her feet incensed
by his assumption that he knew her motives. “I beg your pardon, your grace, but
I disagree. You have no right to dictate my movements for you are not a member
of my family.” She glared at him and he glared right back. “Lord Richmond is
arriving next week to take up his responsibilities as head of the household and
my legal guardian. It is to him that I shall defer and not to—”
A choking sound coming from the
sofa gave her pause. Her mother was about to explode. Lydia had never seen her
parent so angry. Not waiting for the tirade to descend on her head she headed
rapidly for the open door. Her heart was hammering against her ribs. She could
scarcely breathe. What could have possessed her to speak so intemperately?
Mama would have her return if
she could find her. Therefore she would not go to her apartment but hide in the
maze until the coast was clear. She hurtled through the house and out through
the garden-room and on to the terrace that ran around the south side of the
I hope you enjoyed this extract enough to want to read the rest.
Fenella J Miller
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