The room felt cold. It never had before but then, his father’s presence had always brought with it some sense of warmth, a presence that was sorely missed and heavily absent. A gregarious and fully rounded character, The Earl of Arundel had left large shoes to fill and he had no idea if he had the ability to do it. It was now his room, yet it did not seem right, for he did not feel as though he belonged here. Being suddenly elevated to heir of the estate, it had been an unexpected jump in his status and under the circumstances, an entirely unwanted predicament.
Isaac Montgomery dropped heavily onto the end of his father’s bed – it is your bed now – and sighed deeply, the empty space around him almost suffocating in its silence. He could not fault the pastor, for the funeral service had been respectful and moving. By the number of those in attendance, it was evident his father had been well respected in the town and surrounding areas and yet, Isaac had felt like a complete stranger there.
Perhaps it felt that way because he had been away so long, perhaps it was deeper than that, but it mattered little at this moment, for the oppressive weight of what lay before him, shrouded him like a coat of chain mail. This was never his future, for it was always thought that with his father’s death, the title would fall immediately to his older brother, Charles.
Charles Montgomery, the responsible one. Charles the older brother who knew how to diplomatically assuage others to his way of thinking and who emulated their father in nearly all of his dealings, for he had been so desperate to be just like him and to receive his approval. A sibling who could not be more opposite than himself in every single way possible, for the life of a title and the idea of sitting with such responsibility, did little for him.
Isaac had sought adventure and travel, hence the reason the army had appealed to him. With all the thrilling and vivid stories he had heard growing up, he could hardly wait to be of age, to escape the normality of life and see all the world had to offer.
Excitement satisfied his competitive character, and in that vein, he had always sought to better himself. Working his way through the ranks, though it had been reported that his demeanour could be a little rash, he had achieved the rank of Colonel and would still be stationed if it had not been for the catastrophically dire circumstances that had befallen their family over the last few months.
His father had taken ill some time ago and being so far away, Isaac had attempted to remain optimistic for there was little he could do to help. However, letters sent by his mother reporting on his father’s deterioration, had slowly chipped away at his hope. Several physicians had attended to him and given their opinions, and tonics and medicines were administered in an attempt to stay the decline, but all to no avail. With the news of each failing try, Isaac had slowly been forced to come to terms with the inevitable.
Of course, the Countess of Arundel had not purposefully attempted to quash his optimism, but being a woman who, pragmatic in her ways, had the ability to see things so clinically, she had been straight to the point in her writing.
Whilst he could not be present at home with his responsibilities as a colonel, Isaac imagined that Charles was being readied to take his place as Earl of Arundel. Their mother would have seen to the practicality of preparation, even though her heart would have been breaking with the demise of her beloved husband. Charles would, of course, be the perfect choice, for he was level-headed and mature in his dealings, and yet, destiny had had its own plan, for Charles would never receive his title.
When Isaac had been requested at the Brigadiers quarters, he could not have imagined what he was about to hear, but by the man’s expression, Isaac worried that he had been summoned because of his father. Instead, having requested him to be seated, the Brigadier told him news he could never have expected.
Charles had been on a hunt. As he and his party had been riding through the marshes, his horse had inadvertently disturbed a flock of birds, leading to his horse rearing violently and throwing him. It had been a cruel twist of fate, for had the horse not panicked, Charles would still be alive, but that had not been the case. It had not been the fall that had killed Charles, but the horse trampling him in its fear.
Seven weeks after Charles’ funeral, his father took his last breath, and suddenly, Isaac Montgomery’s life completely changed. He would not return to the army. His days of excitement and adventure were handed to another as his life as he knew it, dissolved before his eyes. Suddenly, everything he knew of his world spun on an axle he had no control over. A responsibility that he had never thought possible, was suddenly bestowed upon him, for he now was the new, Earl of Arundel.
In two seemingly short months, he had not only inherited an entire estate consisting of Arundel Castle and the surrounding grounds, but he had also become guardian to his younger sister of only fourteen. Amelia had taken the entire situation in the worst possible way which, given the relationship between herself and her father, came as no surprise to anyone in the household. They had been extremely close and bad enough that she had lost her brother in such a tragic way, but to lose her father at such a delicate age, had sent her into a spiral of despair.
Ordinarily, a bright, young and happy child, her usual cheerful sparkle had been doused since the funeral. Turning in on herself, she had been isolated and almost out of reach. He and his mother had discussed ways to try to coax her from her dark dejection, yet, nothing they had attempted so far, had worked. It was worrying to say the least, primarily, as he had no experience of dealing with such a young person where death and grief were concerned, but more than that, there was no way that he could possibly replace their father.
The oppression of the situation weighed heavily upon him as he sat in silence. How had all this responsibility suddenly been thrust upon his shoulders? It was too much and he had little clue to even know where to begin. There had already been meetings with legal advisors with regards to the estate, and there were more decisions to be made that he had no knowledge of. Whilst Charles may have been coached and being made ready to take their father’s place, Isaac had had no such assistance. Now, with the grief shrouding the entire castle, it would be left to him, to deal with it all.
A knock on the bedroom door brought him from his overwhelm, and looking up, he watched as his mother walked into the room. Her clothes hung a little on her from the stress and worry of the past few weeks, and her usual glowing skin appeared to be pulled tight across her cheekbones, only emphasising the dark circles under her tired eyes.
Glancing whimsically around the room, she sighed heavily before moving towards him and, pausing for a long second, eventually sat beside him on the end of the bed.
‘It is difficult coming in here,’ she said quietly. ‘Knowing your father will never return.’
‘I can choose another room, mother. It is not that we do not have enough to spare,’ Isaac offered.
‘No, no. This is your room now. I will just have to get used to it. It is just that I have not come in here since your father’s passing. It feels a little strange.’
‘Yes. I know exactly what you mean. I do not feel I belong here.’
‘Well, that is irrelevant now, Isaac, for it is your duty whether you feel you belong or not. There is much still to be done. There are papers and documents to be signed and meetings yet to be had. Henry will probably come to visit in the next week, he has all the legal papers for you to look at.’
‘Can it not wait?’ Isaac frowned, the overwhelm suddenly returning. ‘Father is hardly cold.’
‘No, Isaac. It cannot wait. It needs to be addressed at some point and it may as well be now as any other time. Putting it off will only make it more difficult.’
‘I have enough to be thinking about, mother,’ he retorted, feeling stress and anger rising within him. ‘I am suddenly to just step into this position with no notion of what is expected of me, not to mention, dealing with all the decisions, and then there is Amelia to think about.’
‘I know the situation is overwhelming, Isaac. I cannot imagine what it is like to have to come back to face it all. There is little that can be done about it now, we must just carry on. Someone must take the reins and it is you who must step into that responsibility.’
‘I never wanted this.’
‘And do you think I did?’ she glared at him harshly.
Of course, he did not. His mother had lost both a husband and a son in a matter of months, and suddenly, he felt guilt for voicing his feelings. Sighing deeply, Isaac could not find any words of comfort and so remained silent, and for a long moment, neither of them spoke.
‘Isaac,’ his mother began. ‘I do not expect you to know all that you will need to know to run the estate. Before Charles’ accident, I had been showing him the way, knowing that your father would not be with us long. I will do just the same for you. I am still here, and I will help you make the transition. Once you understand the full responsibilities, you can take it on for yourself but for now, if you wish, I will help you manage what needs to be done.’
Isaac knew he would not be able to do it without her, and so nodded in agreement. ‘Yes, I would be grateful of your assistance, mother. Thank you.’
‘Good, now to more pressing matters of the present. I do not know what we will do with Amelia. Her silent resignation is worrisome and I am beginning to fear for her mental well-being. Your assistance in this matter would be helpful to her.’
‘How can I help her if I do not know what will bring her from her grief? We have already tried, and nothing appears to have worked. Honestly, I just do not know what to do.’
‘Well, we must try and help her together. There is a huge hole in her soul now your father is gone. They would read together and make-up fantastical stories, something they shared between just the two of them. Sometimes, I felt quite left out,’ she smiled sadly. ‘I realise, you have been away for some time but perhaps if you were to get to know her again, maybe the stories of your adventures would hold her attention and distract her from her grief.’
‘Of course. I will certainly try,’ Isaac agreed. ‘I have many stories to tell her.’
His mother sighed deeply, and then hesitated, taking a moment before she spoke again. Isaac knew there was something more on her mind that she wished to voice, but evidently, it appeared difficult for her to put into words, but eventually she began again.
‘It is not just Amelia that needs to heal, Isaac. You too, have lost your brother and your father. And whilst I understand the pressure you feel under with the weight of your new responsibilities, my desire is that you heal as well. Grief is a natural reaction to loss, but it would be pleasant to see you both smile again,’ she placed her hand tenderly on his and gazed at him gently.
‘Well,’ she suddenly stood and looked down upon him, ‘I will leave you now to your own thoughts, for I interrupted your solitude.’
Quietly, she closed the heavy door on her departure and as Isaac glared at it, he thought about her last statement. It was important to help Amelia, she was young and at an age that could sorely affect her. Not yet mature enough to deal with loss alone, she would indeed need both his and their mother’s help. But he was not young. He had seen death and experienced loss in war. His mother could not realise his resilience for she had been here, protected in Arundel Castle, with no idea what the battlefield looked like.
They would concentrate on Amelia, for it was she who would need the most assistance. Isaac would take care of himself, he had been doing it for some time now and he was made of a stronger character than his mother gave him credit for.
Marianne Finch pushed the bicycle along the cobbled road. Her legs now felt so heavy, it was near as if lumps of lead had been tied about them. There were only four more deliveries of bread to do, and then at least, she could return to the bakery. Of course, she would not be so exhausted if she had not been on her feet all morning, baking the bread to begin with, but a living had to be made and needs must.
She and her father had a business to run, and since her mother’s passing a few years ago, times were difficult enough. So difficult, in fact, that they could no longer afford a delivery boy, hence the reason she was currently trudging down the street, wishing all her bread had been delivered and she was back at the bakery already.
Yet, she had been a little vague with her father where the deliveries had been concerned. Instead of him worrying about the finances of the business, for he concerned himself enough and his health had not been the best of late, she had neglected to mention the lack of funds to hire a bakery boy. Rather than add more worry, she had told him that she liked doing the deliveries as it gave her some escape from the flour filled bakery and a little fresh air in her lungs.
It was only a little white lie and besides, whilst she travelled through the streets from one house to the next, she used the things she saw on her journey to give her ideas. Her passion was writing and Marianne loved to write novels in any time she had spare. Her wish was that she would make her living from her writing one day, even if that dream appeared to be a far distant hope for now.
Having the fortune to be blessed with a very well-educated mother, for her grandfather had been a lawyer, she had taught Marianne to read and write from a very young age. It had been in her youth that her love for writing had started, and over the years, she had already written many stories. Fervent in her endeavour, she was determined that her life would not be spent baking bread.
On her deliveries, she passed people on the street and observed their behaviour, she overheard muttered conversations and listened to the way they spoke to each other, she noticed the sounds and what went on around her, and as her mind worked on her ideas, she thought of ways in which she could weave the things she observed, into her novels.
It was not the lack of creativity that Marianne suffered with. It was, in fact, having too many wonderful ideas and not having the time to write them all, for her mind overflowed with concepts and notions that would make rather fabulous stories.
Yet, for now, she had little choice but to put most of her time and her energy into helping her father run the bakery. Without the business, they would not only starve, but have nowhere to live as the rooms above the bakery also served as their home.
Pushing through her exhaustion, she continued on to the next house, and as she turned the corner onto the street, heard her name being called.
Marianne turned to see Jacob Rutley trotting across the street to meet her. Internally, she rolled her eyes, for the man was near obsessed with her, and yet, having been involved with the family for so long, she felt obliged to show him politeness.
Jacob trained as a lawyer under her grandfather, and now, practicing law in his own right, was often to be found hanging around the bakery. Marianne always showed him the respect she ought as, apart from the age difference between them, for Marianne was only nineteen years old and Jacob was near at his thirty-fifth year, he had long been attached to the family.
‘Hello, Jacob,’ she attempted an honest smile with difficulty.
Falling in step beside her, he gazed at her intently. ‘You look quite done, Marianne. You should not be attempting to do the deliveries as well as all the other work at the bakery. You will make yourself ill.’
‘I am afraid I have little choice, Jacob. There is no point baking the bread if I cannot get it to my customers who wish to buy it.’
‘What happened to the bakery boy?’
‘I am afraid we had to let him go.’
‘But why?’ Jacob frowned.
Marianne sighed heavily. ‘If I tell you, you must promise not to relay it to father.’
‘Of course not.’
‘The simple truth is, we can no longer afford to pay him. I am doing this to keep the business afloat, for without it, we will be at the mercy of who knows what.’
‘Are things really that bad?’
‘Unfortunately, yes they are. But I will not give up. Papa needs his medicines, and we need a roof over our heads.’
‘Then let me at least help you with your deliveries, Marianne. You look as though you are about to collapse.’
‘I am fine, Jacob. Thank you.’
‘Why do you have to be so stubborn?’ he near sulked.
It was highly unbecoming for a man of his age, yet Marianne did not comment on it. Instead, she stood by her resolve, for she could not bear the thought of having him by her side for the rest of the time it would take her to deliver her parcels.
‘It is not stubbornness, Jacob. It is the principle. You may be available to help me today, but I will have to do it again tomorrow, so it makes little odds.’
‘So, your reasoning is that, because I would not be able to help you tomorrow, I should not help you today? Marianne, that is nonsensical.’
‘Perhaps to you. But to me, it makes perfect sense,’ Marianne said firmly.
‘Fine,’ he spoke a little harshly. ‘I suppose I should leave you to your deliveries then. Goodbye, Marianne.’
Marianne nearly chuckled to herself as she watched him depart and cross the street in a sulk. Perhaps, because he was a man, he thought he ought to always get his own way. Or maybe, it was just that he could not leave her alone. She had mentioned his constant arrivals at the bakery several times to her father, who had attempted in his diplomacy, to placate her, but if she had her way she would near ban him altogether. For a man of near thirty-five, he could be rather childish.
It was nearly an hour later when Marianne finally arrived back at the bakery. Propping the bicycle against the wall at the rear of the house, she wandered into the kitchens and smiled broadly when she noticed Fanny Hill kneading dough on the counter.
‘Marianne,’ Fanny grinned, her face smeared with flour. ‘You have been ages.’
‘Yes, well,’ Marianne spoke a little breathlessly, ‘unfortunately, my bicycle is not pulled by a horse.’
Fanny giggled, as she always seemed to do, for she was such a happy person and had a wonderful energy of joy about her. Whilst they were not sister’s by blood, they were as close as any sisters could be and had been dear friends from very small. Being neighbours in the town, and Fanny’s father being the local milliner, their families had been involved and closely knit for many years.
‘Sit there for a moment, and catch your breath. You do look utterly exhausted.’
‘I think I will, but only for a minute, for there is lots to do.’
‘Yes, you are probably right, but you cannot do it if you have collapsed on the floor, can you? I am getting the next batch ready, you have time to take a break. Anyway, if you stay put for more than a second, I can tell you the latest gossip.’
‘Oh no,’ Marianne groaned. ‘You know I do not care for such drivel, Fanny.’
‘Maybe not, but this is not so much drivel as it is local news.’
‘So, it is gossip, then?’ Marianne sighed, but smiled at her friend’s attempt to dress it up as something it was not.
‘Apparently,’ Fanny continued as though Marianne had not spoken ‘the new Earl of Arundel has arrived. It was so terrible, that poor family losing so much so quickly, but the new earl is the youngest son and had to leave the army to come and run the estate. He was a colonel, so I hear.’
‘It is sad that the countess lost a son and a husband so quickly, but really Fanny, such news hardly affects us working class people. It is hardly as though any decisions they make in the castle affect us directly.’
Fanny looked over at her and frowned. ‘What is the matter with you, Marianne? I was only trying to tell you.’
Marianne looked at her dear friend and realised she had offended her with her dismissive tone.
‘Oh, Fanny, I am sorry. It is not you. I am just tired and besides, I met Jacob Rutley on my deliveries and the man drives me quite mad.’
‘Oh, well, that explains a lot,’ Fanny nodded vigorously. ‘He truly is besotted with you. I do not know why you just do not send him away for good. I have seen leeches that would not have such a strong hold.’
Marianne could not help but smile, but still felt annoyed at the situation.
‘You know why. Do you not think if I could get away with it, I would?’
Fanny sighed and nodded, for Marianne had told her many times of the connection with the family and she knew well her reasons for tolerating the man.
It was not that he was repulsive in appearance, for Jacob, in his own way, was indeed handsome. In fact, Marianne may well have been flattered by his attentions had they been a little less oppressive and not nearly smothered her. But the simple fact of the matter was, Jacob tried too hard, and instead of accepting Marianne’s gentle hints of rebuttal, he acted in the way of a small child, with his sulking and brooding.
She had noted plenty of men like him before. Pushy, demanding and assuming that as a man, they ought to receive what they desire. Some of them were even customers at the bakery, and frankly, the way they spoke to both her and their wives could be utterly distasteful. That was not the kind of man Marianne would want for a husband, for it was obvious in a relationship of that sort, that her own thoughts and dreams and feelings would be easily dismissed.
No, if she could not find a suitable character who could allow her to be her creative and expressive self, she would rather end up as a spinster. Unmarried, perhaps, but at least free to live a life she would be satisfied with. Besides, without a husband and all the responsibilities of a family, she would have more time to write.
As the day drew to a close, Fanny and Marianne, washed and packed all their tools and trays away ready for another day of work tomorrow. Marianne glanced at the clock and suddenly realised the time.
‘Oh, I must rush. I have to get to the apothecary before he closes.’
‘I am sure he will not mind if you pay him tomorrow, Marianne.’
‘No, I cannot test his generosity. Mr. Phillips has already given me an extension to pay for father’s medicine, Fanny, I must pay him this evening. My hands are still full of flour, would you please put those coins in my reticule and I will quickly clean myself up.’
Marianne locked up the bakery and Fanny said her goodbyes, promising she would come back and help out again tomorrow. The sun had already set, and Marianne now worried she would miss catching the apothecary before he locked up his own shop.
Rushing through the quiet streets, she pushed her tired legs to go a little faster, for if she could just make it, she would be relieved that she was not behind on the payment. She could not think about her father not having his medicines when he needed them.
Rounding the corner, she pushed on with the purse held tightly to her body, for she was only a couple of streets away. Suddenly, a swift movement caught the corner of her eye and before she realised what was happening, a man stepped out of an alley to her left, near frightening her half to death. His face was mostly covered with some sort of scarf, and it took only a split second, but the glint of his knife, is all that she noticed. He did not speak, but wielding the knife close to her face, he grabbed at her purse and attempted aggressively, to yank it from her grasp.
‘Get off me!’ Marianne screamed. ‘Let go, let go.’
There were no thoughts going through her mind as panic rose within her, for the fear was overwhelming and filled her mind and body. She could only react to his attack and attempt to avoid being seriously hurt. Marianne continued to struggle, trying to push him away whilst keeping a tight hold on her bag, but even without her exhaustion, he was much stronger than she.
Gruffly, the man demanded that she give him the bag of coins, and at the same time, shoved the knife even nearer to her face, causing Marianne to cry out again in terror. But at that same moment, a hand suddenly came upon her attackers shoulder, and he was yanked backwards by what appeared, in the near darkness, to be another man who had come to her rescue.
Marianne could do nothing but watch as the two men struggled, her glare staying keenly on the knife, for she was terrified that her rescuer might be stabbed in front of her very eyes.
As the two men fought, it appeared, to begin with, that her rescuer may actually have been about to overcome the robber, but then, the thief turned suddenly, catching the other man off guard. In the struggle, the thief pushed him backwards with such force that he wheeled straight into Marianne, knocking them both to the ground.
With the impact of the fall, and the shock to her body, the bag of coins was knocked from her grasp and fell to the ground a little distance away. As the rescuer struggled to right himself and clamber to his feet, the robber grabbed the bag of coins and ran down the street at speed. Her rescuer had once again, swiftly found his footing and leaving her slumped on the ground in utter despair, ran after him and gave chase, until suddenly, they had both rounded a corner and were out of sight.
Marianne could do nothing but sit there for a whole minute, completely traumatised and in shock. Her heart thumped aggressively against her chest, her body shook and she panted for breath as the terror very slowly, dissipated.
After taking a little more time to recover, she realised, she could hardly stay sitting there in the middle of the street in the dark, and though her legs felt like jelly, she eventually pushed herself to her feet using the rough, stone wall beside her to brace her still shaking body.
Standing there bewildered, she suddenly became angry with herself, for the realisation of what she had lost, eventually dawned on her. How could she have let this happen? Why had she not listened to Fanny and waited until tomorrow to go to the apothecary in the daytime?
‘You stupid, stupid fool,’ she muttered belligerently to herself. ‘Now you have lost all the money and how are you going to pay for father’s medicine? What an idiot you are. You should have come earlier in the day, in the safety of light. Now what are you to do? How will you tell father you have lost all that money? You are such an imbecile…’
‘Are you alright?’
The strange voice behind her, penetrated her ramblings, and as Marianne suddenly stopped and turned, her rescuer was standing there on the path beside her, frowning at her intently with obvious concern.
“A Novelist for the Wounded Earl” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
For as long as Marianne Finch can remember, her cherished dream has been to become a novelist. Yet, this dream is turned into an elusive goal, as she has to support her ill father and keep their bakery business from failing. However, all of a sudden, a fateful encounter with the new Earl of Arundel sets her life on a completely different course. Her exquisite storytelling talent will prompt the dashing Earl to hire Marianne, for the purpose of helping his sister overcome her grief of their family loss. Delighted, Marianne accepts, but she soon realizes that her heart does not only yearn for her books anymore… Will she dare to even think of being with her dreamy Earl or will she get lost in a settled miserable life?
Isaac Montgomery was never meant to be an Earl, but when an accident took his older brother’s life, he had no other option than to inherit his title. With his wounds still open, he was forced to take a responsibility he neither desired nor was ready for. Yet, when he unexpectedly encounters the gifted Marianne his scars will slowly start healing and an unbreakable bond will start being built. But his mother will never allow this relationship to flourish and she will try to separate them by all means. Will Isaac manage to overcome his pain and fight for Marianne’s heart, or he will allow his mother’s view, authority, and duty to determine his future?
While Marianne and Isaac’s different worlds collide, their very own love story seems to unfold before them. As time goes by, the spirited novelist will conquer the heart of the brooding Earl and together they will turn their sorrow into deep heart-warming feelings for each other. However, right when the time to confess their emotions comes, challenging circumstances will put their only chance to find true love at risk; their undeniable connection will cause the malice of another suitor, who will do anything to satisfy his obsession. Will this cunning man’s tricks manage to poison Marianne and Isaak’s happiness? Will their broken hearts ever become a whole or are they doomed to live the rest of their lives apart?
“A Novelist for the Wounded Earl” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.