Since the death of her mother, Abigail Blakeslee has lost all desire to become a debutante and enter Society. But now, foregoing her first Season has brought an unwanted invitation to join her aunt and cousins for a summer at Timpton House, the large estate of the Stanton family. Reluctantly accepting, Abigail is thrust into the vexing world of social propriety and matchmaking she had hoped to avoid. More vexing still is her cousin’s suitor, the young Timpton heir—Edwin Stanton. Moody and distant at times, remarkably endearing at others, Edwin seems a puzzle she can never solve, but can never quite put away. Bet then, Abigail has her own secret to hide—her own mystery to conceal. Perhaps such puzzles are better left unsolved, or perhaps love can find a solution.
The library was filled with books, and it reminded me of the one at Easton Manor with overstuffed shelves, large windows, and numerous seats for reading. I grabbed a thin book off a nearby shelf and held it in my hand. I traced my finger over the title, The Tempest. It had been sometime since I’d picked up a book. Mother taught me to read and had given me the joy of new worlds and unforgettable stories. I’d spent countless afternoons tucked in a chair in our library, unable to stop reading; but when Mother died, I found little delight in anything, including the things she’d taught me to love.
“Have you read it?” Edwin asked peering over my shoulder.
“Of course!” I answered placing it back on the shelf.
“And I presume you enjoyed it?”
“Very much. I admit I am easily satisfied by a happy ending.” I kept my eyes searching the books, having little desire to receive the look of censure awaiting me.
“The Shakespeare writings I enjoy most are those that end well—Twelfth Night, Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Taming of the Shrew—the ones where love is victorious.”
“A common ideal among ladies, I believe, and the reason his comedies are so popular.”
I turned towards him, “Life has enough of tragedy and grief, is there something wrong with finding satisfaction in love and happy endings?”
“There is,” he said. “The harm is believing in something that isn’t real, Miss Blakeslee.” He stepped closer, and my feet faltered. “Love only brings misery. To think otherwise is foolish. You just declared life is full of tragedy—”
“And that is why love is needed!” “And that is what love causes!”
Neither of us moved and I could feel his warm breath on me. It was only then I realized how close we stood, my neck craning to look up at him, but I had no desire to move away. “You do not understand love then,” I whispered.
The resentment in his gaze caught me by surprise. “And you do?”
“Yes! Love has saved me.” His eyes searched mine, “The love I know has the power to lift and to heal, to see past weakness and turn it to strength.”
“Love is fickle and will fail you.”
“Never.” I said shaking my head as tears stung my vision. “I do not know what counterfeit you describe but the love I have found is faithful and unconditional.” He said nothing and after a moment his eyes drifted from mine in contemplation. After taking a deep breath he looked down at me again. He wore the stern expression I knew so well and took a step backward.
“I hope you are correct in your judgment,” he said with a brisk nod. “Thank you for telling me.”
As he turned from me I wanted to call out to him, but I was too confused to contrive a response. I followed him to the study in a daze. Edwin positioned himself near the desk with his eyes cast to the floor as Diana glanced between us bewildered.
“How is it you’ve found something to quarrel about already? You were in there less than five minutes! Perhaps I should take on the role of mediator instead of chaperon for the two of you.” Neither Edwin nor I smiled. “This will not do! What was the disagreement this time?”
“There was not a disagreement,” Edwin said. “Well, at least that is not what caused the discontent.” Curious what the cause had been I glanced in his direction, anxious for him to finish. A knock interrupted his revelation. Diana shot to her feet and reached out her arm towards me, “We will go out the library.”
Edwin blocked our retreat, “You are fine to leave out the study door.” He shifted his gaze at the repeated knock, “Come in!”
The butler opened the door, his eyes gliding over Diana and me,
“The Slytons are here to see you, Mr. Stanton.”
“Show them in.”
The Slytons? I was familiar with the name, but surely they were not the same as I had known. My heart picked up pace regardless of what I told myself. The door opened again and a tall, wiry lady and a shorter, burly man stepped through the door. They were older and somehow uglier, but it was them. My knees nearly gave out, and I tightened my hold on Diana’s arm for support.
“Mr. and Mrs. Slyton, I am pleased you finally agreed to make the trip to Timpton. This is my sister, Mrs. Ellis, and our friend, Miss Abigail Blakeslee.”
Mrs. Slyton nodded in our direction but abruptly turned her attention back to Edwin. “With such a gracious offer, how could we resist?” Her scratchy voice brought a slew of memories that made my body tremble.
I cautiously turned to find Mr. Slyton inspecting me through squinted eyes. Did he recognize me? I hadn’t seen him since I was a little girl, and I hoped the years had done their job adequately enough to disguise me. I lifted my chin, attempting to appear unaffected by his presence and was relieved when Mr. Slyton turned towards Diana, appraising her with the same disgusting grimace he’d given me.
I looked to Edwin and found him returning my gaze, a peculiar expression on his features. Edwin moved to my side and placed a firm hand around my waist, guiding me to the door. My ears were ringing, and I was confident he said something to me, but I couldn’t be sure.
As we walked from the study, his touch retracted, and Diana took his place directing me back down the corridor. I was uncertain where I was being led and soon found myself seated in a distantly familiar room.
“Bring refreshment at once!” Diana’s voice echoed through my mind.
My head was spinning, and I rested it against the chair as my vision faded into blackness.
Ooh, I really enjoyed this story! It definitely had a Pride and Prejudice sort of feel for me with the brooding hero, the passionate and intelligent heroine and plenty of misunderstand and judgements on both sides.
Abigail is so easy to love. Honestly, she is kind, compassionate and freely herself even when it goes against what is "proper". She is a defender of people and exceptionally loyal. See? What's not to love?
I love how this story unfolded. Insight came little by little as I came to know the characters more and more. It was perfect. By the end I really felt like a movie had just played out in my mind and in my heart. The build up to the romantic, sigh worthy ending was fantastic. I'm sighing just thinking about it!
You can pick this book up FREE today only. How awesome is that?! Happy reading, everyone!
Content: mention of abuse, kissing
- I read a complimentary copy but have since picked up my own copy.
Author Jess Heileman In kindergarten, Jess won a first prize ribbon for her original creation Pigs in Wigs. It was a solid storyline: there was this pig that wore a wig--and it rhymed. Not impressed? Neither were her children when shown the very masterpiece that influenced her to become an author. "You won a ribbon for that?" Yes. Yes, she did. Thankfully, life has since exposed her to a thorough education with its share of awards and accolades--and, more importantly, to the trials and human experiences that form the heart of a storyteller and the substance of great stories. Besides her love of writing, Jess is an avid reader, shameless people observer, international café loiterer, and partially retired photographer. She loves being a mother to five amazing humans and a wife to the greatest man she knows.