"I just finished reading Heyerwood in two days and thoroughly enjoyed it! What a warm Cinderella story. Wow………my only criticism is it ended too soon!!!!!!! I want 200 more pages. I want a sequel! I really, really had a wonderful time with your book. I’m waiting for the sequel"
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HEYERWOOD: A Novel
By Lauren Gilbert
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Lauren Gilbert
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSwathed in deepest black mourning, Catherine stared out of the window with unseeing eyes. If she had seen it, she would have felt the drab grey day to be appropriate for the occasion. Due to the recent death of her husband, the Earl of Heyerwood, she could not go out into her own garden without draping herself in black veils, so the absence of sunshine relieved her of any desire to leave the shelter of her house. "My house," she thought fiercely, "MINE!" Curled in a chair by the window, she brooded about the chain of events leading her to her present circumstances, events in which she herself had had little or no input. The only thing she had to do was get through the next few days with her resolve unshaken. She had already taken steps to ensure support in the event her strength faltered.
Catherine read again the letter from her solicitor. Her husband's will was quite clear, if unusual. Since he had died childless, had no male heir to succeed him, and no entail to consider, his property was entirely his to do with as he chose. He had chosen to leave everything to her outright, to do with as she pleased. More than that, he had even taken steps to bestow his title on her, to pass on to her heirs, should she have any. A most unusual step, it had taken him a great deal of work, including obtaining a special remainder from the king, but he had succeeded. She had not looked for such consideration; indeed she would not have been surprised had she been left with the merest competence. The solicitor indicated that he would be with her, to discuss the estate in detail, within a few days. In fact, she expected him to arrive this day. His presence would make the interview she anticipated with dread much easier. There was no one whose presence she desired less than the man she had to see tomorrow: her father.
The door opened and the smiling face of Mary, her aunt and companion, peeped around the door. "There you are, my dear. I am come to tell you that tea is ready. I am sure you must be dying of thirst. It is such a cold, gloomy day, and tea will be just the thing. Shall you come to the drawing room, or would you prefer that it be served here, in your boudoir?" "I will join you in the drawing room. I was just coming anyway; I find I've had enough of my own company for one day. I hope you are comfortably settled. Do you need anything?" "Oh my dear!" exclaimed Mary. "That beautiful room is so cozy, and I could not possibly want for anything. When I consider where I was, and my circumstances, just a few months ago, I dare swear I could weep for joy! Never was anything so timely as your request for my company. I only hope I can be of use to you in your time of need." Catherine smiled affectionately and replied, "Aunt Mary, I am the fortunate one. I have such urgent need for your presence and support. You, of all people know my circumstances and my present need. You, my father's sister!" The smile vanished from Mary's pleasant countenance, and, as she and Catherine entered the drawing room, she said with gravity, "Indeed, yes. While one must always be respectful of the head of one's family, there is no denying that Gerard is most.... unnatural in his lack of feeling. While I had hoped, I really did not expect him to exert himself for me, but his treatment of you! His callous disregard for .... but enough of that. I will help you in any way I can. When do you expect my brother's arrival?" "Sometime tomorrow. Hopefully, he will not want to stay when he sees that his errand is fruitless, but I know he will not give up tamely."
As the ladies sat before the fire and sipped their tea, a gig pulled up before the door. A loud knock proclaimed a visitor. As Catherine and Mary looked toward the door, the butler announced, "Mr. Stuart has arrived, Lady Heyerwood." "Please show him in immediately, Howard, and see that his room is ready. Mr. Stuart will be with us for a few days, I hope." They continued their tea, discussing the weather idly. Mr. Stuart approached, bowed deeply, and said "Lady Heyerwood, Madam St. Clair, I hope I find you well." Catherine inclined her head and said, "Mr. Stuart, pray be seated and do have some tea. It is so cold today, is it not? I hope your journey was not too uncomfortable." "Fortunately, there was no snow or ice on the roads, and few other travelers. I have brought copies of your late husband's will, the estate accounts, and the investiture of your title to go over with you at your leisure." "I trust, Mr. Stuart, that the original documents are safely bestowed?" "Indeed, my lady, everything is safely locked in a vault." "Thank you, Mr. Stuart. I have no wish to start our business discussions with you so newly arrived. However, I must tell you that your presence and support will be of the greatest necessity to me tomorrow. A most painful interview will take place, and I hope I can count on your loyalty to my late husband's wishes." "How is this, my lady? I particularly desired any creditors or persons with affairs to settle to contact me directly, not to trouble your ladyship! I do not understand ..."
Catherine said desperately, "My father is coming tomorrow, and will expect to be placed in charge of my person and property. This must and will not be! I am of age, and my late husband's intent and desires are clear. However, my father will try to browbeat me or trick me into giving him control. I rely on my dear aunt Mary's presence, and yours, to help me withstand his machinations for the first time in my life. Painful as it is to acknowledge, I have never been anything to my father but a commodity he could use for gain. You, of all people, you who drew up my marriage contract, know how little care and concern he has for me. I will not return to that ... that state of bondage again!" Appalled, Mr. Stuart responded, "My dear Lady Heyerwood, you may rely on me completely. If you wish, I can send him to the right-about without your seeing him at all. After all, he received a generous settlement at your marriage. He has no valid right to expect anything further. You are of legal age, and your husband's will establishes your complete control over your property. Your father cannot reasonably demand...." "Reasonably! My father concerns himself only with his own needs and desires. Reason has no bearing. For my own self-respect, I must needs deal with this situation myself, so far as I am able. Having the support of my aunt and you, a well-respected solicitor, will be of the greatest value to me. And now, sir, I am persuaded you would like to get settled and to rest after your journey. We dine at seven o'clock. The butler, Howard, shall be at your disposal if you need anything." Mr. Stuart rose, bowed and said "Thank you for your consideration, Lady Heyerwood. Until later." Quietly, he left the room.
Catherine rose herself, and walked to the window. "Aunt Mary, I beg you will not leave my side tomorrow, until my father leaves this house. I do not, under any circumstance, wish to be alone with him. "Indeed not, my dear. I shall not leave you unattended." "Thank you! I must go to my room now, to make ready for dinner." With that, Catherine gathered her skirts and fled to her boudoir.
Chapter TwoFive years previously, the Honorable Catherine St John, daughter of Gerald, Viscount Stanton and his wife Mathilde, was five-and-twenty, and considered herself upon the shelf. Although she had been out since making her curtsey to the queen at age eighteen, and had had many offers, her father had refused them all. He made no secret of the fact that she was, in fact, for sale to the highest bidder and, so far, either the funds or the status had been inadequate to tempt him to approve a match. She did not fully understand what her father wanted; she only knew that her own feelings were not to be considered. She had, in fact, received an offer of marriage a few years earlier from a young man for whom she had felt a decided tendre. Her father had refused the offer. Violently angered by her tears and pleading, he had struck her several times and locked her in her room for a month. Since that time, she had taken care to stay out of her father's way as much as possible. His cold grey eyes, eyes that showed no emotion but calculation, horrified her.
Small, slender yet rounded in the appropriate places, Catherine's appearance was considered pleasing. She wore her shining brown hair in the feathery curls made popular by Lady Caroline Lamb, and delicate muslins became her slim figure admirably. After her first season, she was able to leave off white and pastel colours and wear the deep greens and yellows that set off her green eyes and creamy complexion to admiration. While not an accredited beauty, Catherine was held to be very taking. Being well born, with a decent marriage portion, she attracted a great deal of attention on the Marriage Mart. She met David Lovell, Earl of Heyerwood, at a ball at Lady Sefton's house. He skillfully detached her from a group of young people and swept her into a dance. She did not know what to make of him. He did not actually look at her; his eyes were busily gazing around the room. His shirt points were so high and so stiffly starched, he could scarcely bend his head, which made conversation difficult as he was quite tall. The top of her head barely cleared his shoulder. When the dance ended, the earl thanked her and abandoned her where she stood. Flushed with mortification, Catherine left the floor and went at once to her mother's side.
The next day, her father informed her that he had received an offer of marriage for her from the Earl of Heyerwood, and that he had accepted it. The contract was already being drawn. Stunned, she said, "The Earl of....? The man who abandoned me on the floor last night? I was ready to sink! Why would he make an offer for me? I don't know him, and he certainly didn't seem interested in me at all." Lord Stanton roared, "WHY is none of your business, miss! He made the offer, I'm satisfied, and you'll marry him if I have to drag you to the altar myself! Go to your room. Soon enough for you to appear when the engagement is announced, and there's an end to it!" Trembling in fear and in sudden rage, she stood her ground. "Father, I am of age. I don't want to marry a stranger, and a forced marriage isn't legal! At least, let me be acquainted with him before a final decision is made." Enraged, her father grabbed her and struck her full in the mouth, splitting her lip and knocking her to the floor. As her head hit a chair leg, she heard him screaming in incoherent rage. Then she blacked out. She woke up in her bed, with a pounding headache. She rang for her maid. After several minutes, she heard someone in the hall, and a key turned in the lock. She had been locked in! Catherine was shocked. The housekeeper, accompanied by her mother, came in with a tea tray. "That's all, Martha." said the viscountess. The housekeeper left, locking the door behind her. "Am I a prisoner now, Mama?" asked Catherine. Her mother looked at her blankly from strangely faded eyes. "Catherine, you know your father will not tolerate question. I'm afraid you have no real alternative but to marry where your father chooses." "Mama, please, please help me!" "Help you? How can I, when I've never been able to help myself?" replied her mother hopelessly. "Marriage will at least get you out of your father's control." "Yes, but it will put me in the hands of strangers." Catherine said bitterly. "Have I no rights? Forced marriages are not legal!" "No, Catherine, you have no rights. If you refuse, your father can legally cast you out without a penny or imprison you in your room or even send you to a hospital for the insane. You know your father, Catherine." Appalled and terrified, Catherine agreed to the engagement. To her dismay, the wedding was to be held quietly, within a few days.
The Earl of Heyerwood called at the house. Bowing over her hand, he said "Your servant, ma'am. Deeply grateful you accepted. Do my best to make you happy." He dropped her hand and, after tossing a small box into her lap, took a seat without waiting for an invitation. Taken aback, she opened the box and, to her surprise and dismay, found a betrothal ring of some magnificence. Set in heavy gold, the center stone, a topaz of glowing honey color, was surrounded by diamonds. She slid it onto her finger and was surprised to find that it fit her perfectly. "Thank you, sir. I neither expected nor desired such a token from you. Surely it seems a bit unnecessary?" He glanced at her with indifference, and replied "Family tradition. The ring is always presented to the bride-to-be. At least, topaz suits you." She sat across from him and attempted to engage him in conversation to no avail. He did not look at her again, just sat staring into the fire. She took the opportunity to study him. An extremely tall, thin man, his face was worn and his dark eyes deeply shadowed, as if exhausted. He was again dressed in an extreme fashion, with outlandishly high shirt points and a brightly-patterned waistcoat, and with what appeared to be paint on his face.
They did not meet again until their wedding, which was held in a side chapel at St. George's. She wore a satin gown of deep ivory trimmed with pearls, enhanced by the pearl necklace and earrings given to her by her mother on the way to the church, the only touch of colour being the glowing topaz on her finger. With tears in her eyes, the viscountess said, "Try to make your own happiness, Catherine." All of a sudden, the wedding was over, and she was almost running down the isle, her hand on her new husband's arm, trying to keep pace with his long stride. They got into his carriage and drove away, not even staying for the wedding breakfast, for which Catherine could only be grateful, as she had neither the heart nor the stomach for such a public display. As they rode along, the earl either stared out the window or slept. Catherine was, for all intents and purposes, alone with her thoughts. "Make your own happiness." Mathilde had said. "How could one do that with no control of one's own destiny?" she thought bitterly. On the second day of the journey, still having no idea of their destination, she turned desperately to the earl. "My lord, please talk to me. We are husband and wife now. I would ask some questions. Pray, my lord, do me the courtesy of answering them!" David opened his eyes and looked at her with some surprise, saying with indifference, "By all means, madam, ask and, if I can, I will answer."
"Where are we going?" asked Catherine. "Why, to my country seat in Somerset, Heyerwood Manor. Pretty enough place, between Bath and Bridgewater, near the water. Nothing nearby except the village, but close enough to the main road." Emboldened by his civil response, she asked, "Why did you ask for me, sir? I am passable but not an accredited beauty, and my portion is at best adequate." He leaned back in his seat and looked at her with boredom. "Frankly, ma'am, you are the only respectable female I could get, and I was the only one with a title grand enough who was willing to meet your father's price." Shocked, she could only stare at him for a moment. "Why were you driven to buy the first respectable female you could?" she finally whispered. Sardonically, he looked at her. "In a nutshell, you are lending me countenance in exchange for my title and money. Your father gained a title for his daughter that he thinks he can boast of and a tidy fortune of his own. You need not worry that I will bother you in any way; you will be free to make Heyerwood Manor your own, and to spend as much blunt as you wish. I neither expect nor wish an heir; some families should die out, and mine is one of them. We all gain, even you. From what I've seen of your father, you will be better off with me, such as I am. I will visit you often enough to satisfy convention. Otherwise, I will pursue ... ah, my own amusements, as usual. You may do as you wish, as long as you do not foist a brat on me. It'll be good to have someone at hand, to see to the estate." Silenced, she withdrew her gaze and stared out the window as the continued to drive on.
Excerpted from HEYERWOOD: A Novel by Lauren Gilbert Copyright © 2011 by Lauren Gilbert. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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