Dread filled Eleanor Windsor’s heart and shone through her deep brown eyes when she saw the house so near at hand. She didn’t want to go home. She wanted to stay outside and enjoy the fresh air, and the way the breeze blew through her wheat-colored hair. She wanted to remain free and unfettered, away from all the frustrations and exhaustions of the world which bound her.
She had very little desire to have to be inside again, not when there was so much to enjoy out here. But her aunt and uncle were always getting angry at her for spending so much time outside and for drawing attention to herself.
Even as she walked past them, the neighbors stared at her as if she were a ghost of a girl, something to be wary of. They behaved as though she was a monster or a witch because she was not frightened by them or their gossip. She did not care for the things society demanded of a young woman, but rather rejected any notion that she had to be different from being exactly who she was.
Indeed, Ellie was unbothered. She was just eager to enjoy being outside and indulging in her need for the freedom it offered. It was easier to focus on what made her happy then on the things which she had to ignore.
Despite everything, despite her life as an orphan, being raised by her rather unwilling aunt and uncle had offered both a freedom and a prison for her. They hated that she was always going outside and the fact that she didn’t mind being a little bit strange. But they also did not monitor her the way they monitored their own daughter, Katherine.
Ellie had freedoms which Katherine might never know, just as much as she was disregarded by her aunt and uncle.
She reached the house, larger than most others in the area, and took a deep breath. She had to go in and there was no escaping that reality. Still, Ellie had to work her way up to entering the home. First, she took a few deep breaths and then she reminded herself that this was not the end. She would be able to go back outside another time. Soon enough, she would return, and she did not have to fear or fret otherwise.
At last, her feet entered through the doorway and it took only a moment before her Aunt Glenda grasped her wrist and ushered her quickly inside.
“What are you doing, Ellie? My goodness, have you no sense of propriety?” she asked.
“What did I do now?” Ellie asked, trying not to be as whiny as she felt. There was always something her aunt was angry about, always something worthy of her complaints. No matter how much Ellie tried to appease her, there was always a reason for her to grumble against Ellie’s very nature and ways.
“You are not even wearing shoes,” her aunt said, gesturing to her feet.
Ellie looked down and had to use self-control not to shrug in nonchalance. She hated shoes, but she saw that her feet were quite dirty. She always washed them, so what did it matter? Why should she worry about it when there really wasn’t a problem? All it took was a few minutes to get them clean again.
“I will go out and rinse them off if you would like,” she said.
“Outside? Goodness, no! You have already been seen outside, looking like a ragamuffin. You think I want the neighbors to see you again? And for them to see you washing your feet? Ellie, you are supposed to be a young woman, not an animal,” her aunt said.
Ellie bit the inside of her cheek, trying to push past the insult.
“Now, I want you to tiptoe out to the back garden and wash your feet there. And next time, wear shoes. I care not if you dislike them. You look like an utter fool walking around barefoot. Do you know how dirty the ground is?” her aunt asked, launching into another tirade before Ellie could actually go and clean her feet.
After a few more minutes of listening to her aunt’s frustrations, Ellie tiptoed out back as instructed, leaving as little mess as possible on the floor of the house, and went to the back garden. She preferred it out here anyway and was relieved to get to come back outside for a few minutes.
But upon sitting down to clean her feet, the back door opened again in a swift motion.
“What are you doing?” her aunt insisted, angry once more.
“You told me to wash my feet,” Ellie reminded her. She could not comprehend what else she was meant to do or how she could best change to please her aunt when she was doing precisely as she had been told and it was still not enough. The frustration was thick within her chest.
“Not while sitting down! You are getting your dress dirty. Good heavens, child, have you no gratitude at all for everything we have sacrificed to provide for you? Truly, sometimes I wonder if you are deeply ungrateful or just deeply foolish,” her aunt said.
Ellie stood up and her aunt left before she was able to say another word to try and convince Aunt Glenda that she very much appreciated them for raising her. True, they tended to suffocate her from her interests, but they had been willing to take her in when she had no one else and she truly tried to be thankful for that.
Once she had finished washing her feet, Ellie went back inside. Now, her aunt was in a completely new flurry of frustration.
“Eleanor, sit down,” she ordered.
“What is it? Has something new happened?” Ellie asked.
“Yes, indeed. Mrs. Carruthers just came by,” she said.
Ellie tried not to grimace. Mrs. Carruthers was the worst gossip of the whole village they lived in, just outside of London. If Mrs. Carruthers had been bothered by something, everyone would hear of it.
“What did she have to say?” Ellie asked.
“Her son saw you outside, Ellie. You ought to be ashamed. The last thing we need is for Wendell Carruthers to think poorly of you,” she said.
“I cannot see why that would matter. What does Wendell Carruthers have to do with anything?” she asked.
Aunt Glenda looked at Ellie as if she was a madwoman, someone who had absolutely no understanding of the world around her.
“You cannot be serious,” her aunt said.
Ellie stared at her, trying to figure out what she had done wrong. But her aunt simply shook her head and turned away from her.
“There is nothing I can do with this child! Goodness, someone please come and handle her for me,” she called out as she left the room.
Ellie sighed, aware that she had done something improper, although she could not figure out what it was. She chose to retreat to her room as an escape from her angry aunt, deciding that her small closet of a room was a better alternative than staying out in the open to be berated for some unknown offense.
Katherine stuck her head out into the hall and hissed for Ellie’s attention as she passed by. Ellie turned to her, wishing that Katherine hadn’t been aware of her presence. As much as she loved her cousin, Ellie just wanted to be alone.
“Come here,” Katherine urged.
Ellie obeyed and followed Katherine to her grand bedroom, with a four-poster bed and lavish silk blankets. The room was warm and it smelled like a meadow, so different from the humid air of Ellie’s closet.
“I heard Mother yelling at you,” Katherine said, moving to the bed and laying on her side, facing Ellie.
Ellie sat next to her, leaning against the headboard and sighing.
“I never seem to be able to do what she wants,” Ellie said.
“I know. She is frustrating. You just have to understand that she is not the kind of person who understands depth of any sort. I mean, do not get me wrong, I do not understand you either, Ellie, but at least I know you well enough to know that you are a good woman, even if you do have some peculiar habits,” Katherine said.
“Am I really so peculiar? What is wrong with the fact that I like to be outside and to have a bit of freedom? How does that make me so strange that I can bring shame to your family?” she asked.
“First of all, they are not my family alone. Remember that they are yours as well. I know that it may not always seem that way, but Mother does love you and she knows that you are her niece. She is just…she is very much a believer in the rules of society,” Katherine said. She tried to justify her mother, but Ellie could see that it was hard for her. Katherine and Ellie were quite close, and Katherine had made it clear that she did not approve of how her mother treated Ellie.
“I know,” Ellie replied, glumly. “And those rules do not allow me to leave the home.”
“That is hardly true, but those rules do restrict you on things such as getting dirty and being wild. You are too free when you go out and about. You must have some sort of need for people to see the best of you,” Katherine said.
“What is the best of me?” Ellie asked.
“For instance, when they see you running around barefoot, they believe that you are too poor for shoes. This is embarrassing for Mother and Father, who have provided you with those comforts,” Katherine said.
Even though it made sense and Ellie understood what Katherine was saying, she didn’t like it. She wished that they would just leave her alone and let her be herself.
“All right, I can understand that. But why is Aunt Glenda so upset about me being seen by Wendell Carruthers? I know that his mother is a terrible gossip, but everyone already knows what I am like. Is it really such a shock to them?” she asked.
“Oh, Ellie, do not be so foolish. Mother is angry because she wants you to marry Mr. Carruthers,” Katherine said.
Ellie’s eyes widened in surprise. She had never expected that. Marry Mr. Carruthers? Why? What reason had caused her aunt to choose him of all the men in the world? There was nothing special about him.
“You cannot be serious,” she said.
“I am. Frightfully so. She has heard that his mother wants him to marry quickly and that they would likely be willing to let him marry you. I suspect that when Mrs. Carruthers came to share her concerns about him seeing you barefoot, Mother was nervous that they might be less receptive to the arrangement than they had previously shared,” Katherine said.
“But I was never told about this arrangement or asked if I have any interest in Mr. Carruthers. This is positively uncomfortable for me,” she said.
“Yes, well, if you think my mother cares about your comfort, you are not so understanding of her as you may think,” Katherine said.
Ellie knew very well what sort of woman her aunt was, but the fact that she had decided to marry Ellie off to this man who meant nothing at all to her was something else entirely. Since when was this an acceptable thing to do? Why would her aunt try to force her into this union when she thought Ellie was so ill-equipped for proper society anyway?
Perhaps, that was going to be her rescue in the midst of it all. Maybe the fact that she was so strange would cause Wendell to lose interest in her and she would have the freedom to escape this nonsensical arrangement.
“Is it formal?” she asked Katherine, wondering whether or not the arrangement was finalized.
“No, certainly not. Mother would have told you if it had been. That is why she is so worried. There is still a chance that Mrs. Carruthers may refuse to allow it to pass. You need to be ready, however. It is certainly possible that she is going to spring it upon you soon and you shall have no choice but to marry Mr. Carruthers at that point,” Katherine said.
Ellie winced. What did Mr. Carruthers think about that? Certainly, he had very little interest in her, as the strange young woman whom everyone believed her to be.
No matter what people were trying to push upon her, Ellie didn’t want to have to spend her days stuck inside as a kept woman the way so many were. She could not believe that her life was meant for that.
Her own mother and father had enjoyed adventures with one another, going outside and seeing the world around them. They had breathed in the fresh air and indulged in days of walking and riding and hiking.
Ellie wanted these same things for her life. She wanted to feed the animals which came her way, something her aunt utterly detested to see her do. She wanted to dream of a larger life outside of her closet bedroom.
That day would come, she believed. It had to. There was no chance that she would be content to wile away her days indoors like every other young woman who lived and breathed courtship and dresses.
If Mr. Carruthers couldn’t see who Ellie truly was, he was not the man for her. She only needed to make her aunt understand that.
Lord Jonathan Cornwall, the Third Duke of Danby may have held a title and great wealth, but there was nothing which could prevent him from sinking further into his chair as his mother scolded him for the hundredth time. Despite being a grown man and having the world before him, he was still just her son.
“You made such an error and now it cannot be undone. Even at the next ball, she shall not dance with you because she is unlikely to forgive you,” his mother said.
Jonathan sighed, watching his mother with deep, blue eyes. She was always fretting about his behavior and his lack of interest in finding the right society woman to marry. No matter how much he tried to explain to her why he did not care for them, she would not hear it. She was always judging him for being too lazy with women and not making the best of himself to entice them.
“Mother, please. I do not love Lady Tibbins,” he said. It ought to have been a simple thing to say, and she should have left him alone about it. Jonathan could not understand why his mother continued to turn this issue into something larger with every woman he rejected.
Still, his mother would always find a new young lady of society to try and convince him to court. He was never happy with their vapid behaviors but his mother couldn’t understand that. She came from a generation where women had more depth to them, but they were not aware that they had raised their daughters to be so spoiled.
“That is because you do not know her. And how must you get to know her? By dancing with her. You ought to know that by now, Jonathan. If you wish to find the right sort of wife, you must dance with her at a ball. I am certain that you shall find her. Honestly, what were you thinking? You did not even ask her to dance? Did you speak with her at all?” his mother questioned.
“I did not because I did not wish to, Mother. You never told me that I must dance with her, so why would I have done so? I have no care for her,” he said.
“You ought to have just known, Jonathan. Honestly, do I really have to tell you every woman you are meant to dance with and have an interest in? How can you not have figured it out by yourself?” she asked.
“Mother, you are asking the wrong question. The question is how could I possibly have figured it out myself? You did not tell me that you had suddenly decided that I am supposed to marry this woman. When did you choose her for me?” he asked, challenging her.
It was infuriating. His mother was always angry at him for not courting this woman or that. She always seemed to have someone in mind and she was always mad at him for not knowing it instinctively.
Jonathan didn’t like the women he met at balls. He didn’t like the young women of society who always had some silly thing to say and inevitably gossiped about another young lady. It was a constant battle of women trying to prove that they were better or more desirable than others and it was the last thing Jonathan wanted to listen to.
Yet, his mother hardly seemed to care. She was far more determined to marry him off than to ensure that he was marrying the right sort of woman. She didn’t mind if he had to wed someone he disliked or who was not at all the right sort of lady for him.
“I wish you had danced with her,” his mother said again. She was going on and on about this, even if Jonathan had already given her good reason as to why he had no intention of dancing with her, not the previous night and not at any future balls which were coming up in the season.
“Mother, Lady Tibbins has no interest in me either. She is boring and shallow, and she thinks that I am boring and odd. Why must I try to entertain her good graces when I truly see nothing which may happen between us? If she dislikes me and I dislike her, why are you trying to encourage a relationship?” he asked.
“Because you ought to at least try with her. You may find that you like her very much and she will most assuredly come to like you as well. Why wouldn’t she? The two of you could be very happy together if you only made the effort,” she said.
Jonathan sighed. He was used to his mother trying to interfere in his life, but this was just too much. She couldn’t see that he was not happy with this arrangement and that he believed himself deserving of something entirely different.
His mother was a good woman who wanted what was best for him and he had to acknowledge that. It was just that what she believed to be best was far different from what he believed it to be, and that frustrated him a great deal.
“Mother, I have done all that I can, but I cannot force myself to love someone in whom I see very little heart. She may be the right sort of woman for some men, but she is not the right woman for me. I am very sorry to disappoint you, but you have to understand that I cannot force myself to believe something when I do not feel it. I cannot force myself to love someone who is simply not the right woman for me,” he said.
“I just want you to be happy and I want you to marry. You need to find a wife soon so that you can have a full life. You need to have children quickly, Jonathan. I do not like the fact that you are waiting all this time, and I do wish to have grandchildren, you know,” she said.
“Yes, Mother, I know, but I am not going to marry a woman I do not love just to give you grandchildren. Do you really want to have them when I have no care at all for their mother? Do you think that I ought to force Lady Tibbins into marriage when she does not want it any more than I do?” he asked her again, trying as hard as he could to remain patient when he was incredibly frustrated that she would not listen to him.
Jonathan had grown accustomed to this by now, but that didn’t change how desperate he was to leave it behind. His mother was always going out of her way to guilt him, especially since his father passed away. She would remind him, time and time again, that he was the one who had a duty to maintain the good name of the family. He had to keep their reputation spotless for the sake of his father.
Although there was a lot at stake for the Cornwall family, Jonathan was confident that he would succeed in doing everything that his mother truly wanted. He would give her what she hoped for, so long as she was willing to let him live his life without constantly interfering and forcing him into marriage with a woman he disliked.
He could give her grandchildren, give her a daughter-in-law, give her the excitement of family. But he could not abide to give her anything which might force him to compromise his greater hopes.
He dreamt of a woman who would truly love him, one who could appreciate the world and enjoy it with him. Jonathan did not want a wife who was a painted doll, ever sitting in the drawing room, pretending to stitch when she was really just sipping tea and gossiping.
“Mother, forgive me, but I must depart. I have to go and see Simon,” he said, realizing that it was getting later than he had planned to leave. Desperate to see his friend and have a chance to discuss matters, Jonathan rushed out as quickly as he could.
By the time he reached the home of his dear friend, Simon Potts, Duke of Rand, Jonathan was overwhelmed. He continually hung his head, and his blonde hair fell forward into his eyes. He kept having to brush it back with his hand in order to keep it fashionably out of his face.
Simon, he knew, would tease him about it. But, ultimately, the two were as brothers. They were close enough that Jonathan didn’t mind when Simon mocked him. It was very nearly a compliment much of the time.
“Goodness, what has happened to you?” Simon asked.
“Why must you ask such a question? You know that I am not like you. I am not always in such a perfect state,” he said, teasing Simon.
“Perfect? Hmm. I am quite glad that you think so. I do find myself to be rather exceptional, but I was not aware that you agreed on that point. I do think that, perhaps, you give me too much credit. But if you insist upon showering me with favor, I shall not refute it,” Simon said, grinning arrogantly, although Jonathan knew that it was in jest.
The two burst into laughter. They had always enjoyed humoring one another and were akin to brothers in how they laughed and mocked one another with ease and immediate forgiveness. There had never been a time when Jonathan did not know with utmost certainty that he could trust Simon with his very life.
“Shall we ride?” Simon asked.
“Nothing would please me more,” he said, meaning it with all his heart. Nothing was more freeing and more of a relief to Jonathan than the opportunity to ride his steed.
“You are certainly dressed for the occasion,” Simon said.
Jonathan looked down at his riding clothes. They were already dirty from having ridden to Simon’s home, but it was rare that anyone saw Jonathan outside of dirty riding clothes unless he was at a ball or other formal affair. He never thought it necessary to dress for anything different.
They rode the horses through creeks and forests, through water and dirt and dust and leaves. It was messy, but it was freeing.
Jonathan grinned as he and Simon raced one another, each trying to best the other and be the winner. But he knew, without a doubt, that Simon was going to lose. No one was a better rider than Jonathan. He was proud of his abilities and prouder of the fact that he didn’t have to try. When it came to animals, he knew precisely what he was doing and how he could get on his way with ease.
When Simon would start to gain on him, nearing the point where they were even, Jonathan would just race harder and his steed knew exactly what to do. They were unified, the two of them. Jonathan had been riding him for years.
They continued on for nearly two hours before returning to Simon’s estate and going inside for lunch and tea.
“I shall never best you,” Simon said, shaking his head.
“Perhaps not in riding, but I do think you are my superior in many other areas. You know that I hate to admit that, but how can I deny it?” Jonathan asked.
“I suppose that is true. For instance, I am far better with women than you shall ever be,” Simon said with a laugh.
Jonathan shrugged. He had come to see his friend so that he could get away from talk of women.
“What is it? Did I say something wrong?” Simon asked.
“You are fine. You mustn’t worry about it. It is only that my mother has decided to come after me on the point of women. She wants me to marry Lady Tibbins now,” he said.
“Oh, good heavens. You did tell her, didn’t you, that Lady Tibbins is frightfully full and extremely in love with her own reflection?” Simon asked.
“I certainly did. She thinks that I have not given her sufficient opportunity to show me what she is really like,” he said.
“I shall tell you what she is like. She is exactly what she appears to be. Boring and shallow.”
“Yes, well, it hardly matters. I have no qualms with finding love, but I am in no rush. I would rather find the right woman than just marry anyone,” Jonathan said.
“Spoken well! I wish that I could have your patience. Truth be told, I am very eager to marry. I do not know if I shall ever find the right woman, but I must try I suppose,” Simon said.
“Of course you must. We both shall find the right women in time, but it is better to be patient than to be unhappy, is it not?” Jonathan asked.
“Yes, yes, I know. I shall try, although I cannot say that I am going to succeed,” Simon said.
“Well, that is better than nothing. We can do it, you and I, but we must keep at bay those women who are not right for us,” Jonathan declared.
However, Jonathan felt certain that he would never meet the right woman. He would simply have to continue hoping. If he did meet the right woman, though, would she come at the right time? What if he was already married off to some woman whom his mother had chosen for him?
There were a great many anxieties he felt when he thought about it, but Jonathan was determined to push past those feelings. He had to look to the future with hope. Even if that hope seemed foolish.
“The Duke’s Blooming Love” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
All Ellie Windsor wants in life is to walk barefoot, enjoy the peace and beauty of mother nature and spend time with animals. As bad luck would have it though, the orphaned young woman lives with her aunt and uncle who absolutely detest this natural way of living. Thankfully, Ellie still has her precious refuge to hide away in, the cottage that she lived in with her beloved parents before they passed away. Her happiness is even further challenged, when her aunt threatens her with an unwanted marriage that puts her own dreams in jeopardy. Yet, in an unexpected twist of faith, a mysterious and handsome man appears, making Ellie wonder if she can still hold on to hope and know true love. Will Ellie escape the grim future her aunt has planned for her and claim the man her heart had always waited for?
Lord Jonathan Cornwall, the Third Duke of Danby, can hardly bear to be pestered by his overbearing mother who is desperate to see him married. Out of sheer desperation, he frequently rides out in the woods, in an effort to find his much needed inner peace. While riding in his most casual clothes, Jonathan stumbles one day upon a dreamy cottage and a charming young woman. As he gets to know the spirited Ellie, he holds onto the secret of his identity, worried that she would not accept his companionship if she knew the truth. As his profound feelings for her deepen into sparkling love, he knows that he has to tell her the truth. Will he manage to redeem himself for all the lies and win Ellie’s trust about them being a match made in heaven?
Right when the two soulmates discover an everlasting connection between them, they have to face the heartbreaking reality that everyone else is against them. From Ellie’s aunt who has arranged another match, to Jonathan’s mother who insists that he must only marry for wealth and status, no ally seems to be in sight. Torn between their growing love and the hopelessness around them, they soon realise not only the lack of support, but also the sheer adversity on every side. Will the depth of their romance manage to overcome the endless obstacles and guide them towards their happily ever after? Or will they find themselves lost in the wilderness of the threatening shadows, away from the final destination of eternal love?
“The Duke’s Blooming Love” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.