The Courtship of Lord Blackhurst by @reginajeffers is a Stress Busting Festival pick #regency #books
Title: The Courtship of Lord Blackhurst
Author: Regina Jeffers
Genre: Regency romance; clean romance; historical fiction
What happens when a lady falls in love, not with her betrothed, but rather with his cousin?
Miss Priscilla Keenan has been promised to the Marquess of Blackhurst since her birth. The problem is: She has never laid eyes upon the man. So, when Blackhurst sends his cousin to York to assist Priscilla in readying Blackhurst’s home estate for the marquess’s return from his service in India, it is only natural for Priscilla to ask Mr. Alden something of the marquess’s disposition. Yet, those conversations lead Cilla onto a different path, one where she presents her heart to the wrong gentleman. How can she and Alden find happiness together when the world means to keep them apart? Inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Courtship of Miles Standish,” this tale wants for nothing, especially not a happy ending, which it has, but that ending is not what the reader anticipates.
“After you have had your midday meal,” she told Audrey, Ellis, and Janie, the three maids hired to assist her, “we will take a survey of this music room.”
When she was younger, she would sometimes sneak into the abbey just to have a look around. There were so many wonderful pieces of art and sculptures thereabouts, and Cilla loved simply to curl up on one of the dust-covered chairs and study the artwork, while she made notations of melodies to accompany each piece. The works served as her inspiration. It was perhaps on her third or fourth visit to the abbey that she had discovered the music room. Her hands had itched to play the pianoforte, but she had resisted the urge to do so, knowing someone might hear her and demand to know why she had entered the Blackhurst property without permission. Little did she know, at the time, this would be her future home. She was glad today that she would have a legitimate excuse to view the ornate instrument, perhaps even taking a few moments to play a short composition she had rolling around in her head.
“Shall I bring you a tray, miss?” Janie asked.
Cilla’s eyes remained on the instrument. Distractedly, she responded, “Bring it when you return. I am in no hurry.”
“Yes, miss. Enjoy your time to rest for a few minutes. You’ve worked most diligently,” Audrey added.
Cilla smiled at the girls. “I plan to test out Lord Blackhurst’s pianoforte.”
“You play, miss?”
“My late mother loved music as dearly as she loved my father. She made certain each of her children could play an instrument.” Cilla did not say the words aloud, but she thought, As I pray I will be allowed to do so with my own children. Catching the ache of loneliness seeping into her chest, she shooed the maids from the room so she might explore the space alone.
With the maids’ exit, Cilla made her way about the room, admiring the carved frame of a harp, which had two broken strings, but she strummed the remaining ones, picking out a simple tune. “Even without all its strings, the instrument is excellent, or perhaps it is the room that speaks of perfection,” she murmured. She could imagine herself spending countless hours within. “At least, this is something I can love about the future marriage to which I have been committed.”
Leaving the harp behind, she began a more complete examination of the room, which she had belatedly realized had been specifically designed to create a musical experience. The room’s location, near the rear of the house, would prevent the noise of a busy household from interfering with a musical performance. Draperies not only hung at the windows, but also covered one of the walls. Persian rugs of various sizes were scattered about the floor, sometimes layered with rugs made of wool supporting an instrument, while several large plants and upholstered chairs and settees dotted the rim of the room.
One corner held a bookshelf, containing books of various sizes. A floral printed wallpaper covered the wall surrounding the arched entrance, and a fabric-covered folded screen sat opposite the book shelf in another corner.
“Someone certainly knew what he was doing,” she said as she crossed to one of the windows to draw back the drapes to allow light into the space. A smattering of dust filled the air about her, and she batted away the dust motes floating before her eyes. She turned for a second look at the room, now draped in sunlight. “I could spend my days practicing and not be disturbed.”
With a sigh of satisfaction she had yet to know since assuming the task of arranging his lordship’s household, Cilla sat at the instrument and positioned her fingers upon the keys. Although the pianoforte, like the harp, could do with a good tuning, within minutes, she was lost in the music, swaying on the bench, allowing the melody to carry her to another place—a place only she knew. Soon she was switching from a piece by Mozart to one she had been working on for several months—one with which she had yet to know fulfillment.
Over and over again, she played the prelude, changing the phrasing—adding a different chord here and there—dropping a half note she once thought essential.
So engrossed with the process, she failed to hear the faint sound of a footfall behind her. When she finally realized she was no longer alone in the room, it was too late not to gasp, as she spun around to gape at the handsomest man her eyes had ever beheld.
“Oh, botheration!” She clapped a hand over her mouth, as she blushed thoroughly. “You startled me, sir! I did not hear you come in. May I assist you?”
What could only be called an arrogant lift of his eyebrow rose in obvious disapproval. “Perhaps it is I who should assist you,” he said in exacting tones.
Her eyes could not deny her private desire to take in the change in the man’s countenance. Eyes, the color of the vault of the heavens, assessed her appearance, and Cilla instinctively reached for her riot of curls, many of which had worked free of the pins supposedly holding them in place. For all her customary bravado, she found herself stammering, “Although . . . although I appreciate your offer, you are not dressed as a servant. The house maids shall return shortly. Then, we will see to the room. I am certain Lord Blackhurst would object to your varying from whatever occupation you have been employed to do.”
The gentleman’s lack of a smile validated his disapproval. “Despite being impressed by your aptitude upon the instrument,” he chastised, “I doubt Lord Blackhurst would provide his consent for a maid to take it upon herself to use his family’s pianoforte for her own pleasure.”
“A maid?” Cilla inclined her head in an equally unfavorable gesture. “You think I am one of his lordship’s maids? You think I play no better than one without any training? I am more than just a bit offended, sir.”
Although he was the most intriguing man she had ever encountered, she suddenly wondered if he had simply wandered in, without anyone knowing. Was he supposed to be in the abbey? Brazenly, she lifted her chin and spoke in her best “lady of the manor” voice. “Mayhap you should explain your purpose in being in Lord Blackhurst’s home, sir.”
He matched her cynical look with his own amusement. “I am prepared to ask the same of you,” he said in even tones.
What’s your favorite way to combat stress?
I have found, over the years, that there is a certain satisfaction in pulling weeds from my flower beds. Pulling them up by the roots. Shaking off the dirt. There is a certain sweet satisfaction in saying “Gotcha.” I have convinced myself this activity is also good exercise. In fact, a Purdue University article says, “According to the AARP activity calculator, a 175-pound person [which I am not] can burn around 180 calories per half hour through activities such as raking, planting, weeding and pruning.” Moreover, while I am down on my knees, communing with nature in a most primal manner, some of my best story lines becoming clearer in my head.
Why is your featured book a stress busting read?
Reading, as a whole is an excellent means to bust stress, for the act itself allows the reader to enter another “world” that distracts the reader from the stress in his or hers. Reading romance, in general, is an awesome exercise. Sure, romance readers know the ending before they reach it. Yet, the ending is not the story. Each story is different. How the author manages to take his or her reader on the journey is different. “The Courtship of Lord Blackhurst” provides a satisfying ending after taking our happy couple through more than a little angst. It provides an emotional journey and the necessary happy sigh at the end.
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Runs May 1 – 31, 2021.
Drawing will be held on June 1, 2021.
Regina Jeffers is an award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency, historical mysteries, and contemporary novels. Living outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, she is a retired English teacher and an often sought after consultant for media literacy and language arts, who spends her “down time” pulling weeds from her flower beds and spoiling her “grand joys.”
Social Media Links:
Every Woman Dreams (Blog) https://reginajeffers.wordpress.com
Austen Authors (Blog) http://austenauthors.net
YouTube Interview https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzgjdUigkkU