Wednesday, August 24, 2016
A Chaotic Courtship
Title: A Chaotic Courtship
Author: Bethany Swafford
Genre: Historical Fiction
Twenty year old Diana Forester, a country bred young woman fears that her inexperience and uncertainties has driven Mr. John Richfield away. On arriving back home from London, she learns that he is already there, ready to continue their acquaintance. If Diana thought that it was difficult in London, courting takes on a whole new aspect when Diana's younger siblings become involved. She finds herself dealing with her own feelings, her sister, her younger brother, jealous members of a house party, a jilted suitor, and a highwayman as she falls in love with the charming Mr. Richfield.
For as long as she can remember, Bethany Swafford has loved reading books. That love of words extended to writing as she grew older and when it became more difficult to find a ‘clean’ book, she determined to write her own. Among her favorite authors is Jane Austen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Georgette Heyer. When she doesn’t have pen to paper (or fingertips to laptop keyboard), she can generally be found with a book in hand. In her spare time, Bethany reviews books for a book site called More Than A Review.
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“You recall I met a Mr. Richfield in London, shortly after I first arrived?”
“Yes, you mentioned him several times in your letters.”
Her tone was matter of fact, giving absolutely nothing away.
“Well...” I hesitated as I sought the right words. I rubbed my palms against my skirt. “At Aunt Forester’s last dinner party, Mr. Richfield asked for my permission to come speak to Father.”
For a moment, there was silence. “What was your answer?” Mother asked, as calm as ever.
I bit my lip and found I could no longer meet her gaze. “I fear I may have spoken without thinking.” Back when I had said the words, I had been surprised. Now though, I realized just how mistaken I had been. “I said it’s always pleasant to have someone new visit.”
“I see. Do you like him?”
Ah, there was the question. “I think so.” I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “He is respectable, at least as far as Uncle Forester could discover. No one ever had a word to say against him. I think he is a good man.”
“And yet, you don’t seem enthusiastic about marrying him.”
“I have only known him for a few weeks.” It felt good to be able to talk this out with my mother, now that the awkwardness of saying the words had passed. If anyone could help me untangle my feelings, it was her. “Is that enough time to know a person? You knew Papa your whole life before he proposed.”
Mother’s hand came over mine. “Diana, look at me.” I lifted my eyes to hers. “You are the only one who can make this decision. It is your right to refuse an offer you find distasteful. However, you need to understand it is not likely you will have the opportunity to travel again and meet other people.”
“I don’t find the offer distasteful. I just don’t think I know him well enough to accept his hand in marriage.” I sighed. “I wish I had had the time to know more of him.”
“Perhaps you will.”
I shook my head. That seemed an impossibility. “Mama, you didn’t see the look on his face when I pretended I didn’t understand. He was so disappointed. I acted as if I were a senseless, empty-headed child! What kind of man would pursue me in the face of that?”
“A man who would be understanding. Someone who would realize your shy nature.”
As soon as I pulled my hand away, I reached to pour myself some much-needed tea. “There are other, much prettier girls with better dowries than I,” I remarked, adding just the right amount of cream and sugar. “I doubt I will ever see him again.”
Of that I was quite certain. I’d had hours to consider the whole mess. I sipped my tea as I watched my mother’s face. Her smile was one I couldn’t quite understand. Why did she look so amused?
“Mr. Richfield is already here.”
“I thought you’d never get here!” Sarah said, ignoring my question completely as she spun to face me. I frowned at her as I put my outside garments away. She seemed highly agitated, a state which I had seldom seen her in. “Diana, I must speak with you!”
“About what?” I asked calmly.
Sarah took up pacing, and for a moment I believed she wasn’t going to continue with whatever she wanted to say. “You must listen to me for once in your life!” she finally said, as
though I had been disagreeable.
Sinking onto our bed, I tried to hide a smile. “Then come out and tell me what has you in such a state.”
“I think Mr. Richfield is the highwayman!”
My smile faded instantly as I stared at her. How had she come up with this ridiculous idea? “You what?” I asked in astonishment.
“There, I’ve said it!” Sarah collapsed into the chair at the dressing table. “I’ve considered the matter carefully, Diana, and as your sister, I could not let you become attached to such a black-hearted criminal!”
I couldn’t help but laugh in response to that absurd notion. “Blackhearted criminal? You cannot be serious, Sarah. I have never heard anything so outlandish. Have you been reading my novels?”
“Diana, I am being completely serious! Stop laughing!”
“How can I take you seriously when everything you say is utter nonsense? Why would you possibly think Mr. Richfield, a true gentleman if I’ve ever met one, is a common criminal?”
Sarah leaned forward, her eyes wide. “Don’t you remember what Aunt Forester said at dinner yesterday?” she asked, lowering her voice for some reason. She acted like she was about to disclose some deep secret to me, and I found myself leaning closer. “About the highwayman being around the Bath area?”
Thinking back, I did in fact remember the conversation and our aunt’s comment. “Yes, of course I remember. What about it?”
“Mr. Richfield was there!”
I failed to follow her line of reasoning. “I’m sure a great many people were in Bath at the same time, Sarah. Aunt and Uncle Forester, for example, were there for two months, I believe.”
Shaking her head, Sarah groaned. “Don’t be obtuse, Diana! You have to see the connection here. Mr. Richfield was in Bath when a highwayman terrorized innocent people. And now, he’s here, where a highwayman has mysteriously appeared to threaten our peaceful home!”