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Will Lydia ever find love? At six and twenty, Lydia Hathaway has endured years of heartbreak, longing for a love that never came.
Her deceased father's foolhardiness has left her family bankrupt, and Lydia is eventually left with no alternative but to take a position as the governess to Susan Ashcroft of Danbury Park in Surrey. Anxious for peace, Lydia rambles early one morning across the muddy wilds of the Ashcroft estate, where she has a most unimaginable encounter with the notorious Lord Conner Denton.
- Pages: 359
About the Author
Miss Lydia Hathaway was violently catapulted into darkness before she opened her eyes and found herself sprawled upon the ground, gazing up at the blurred visage of a man. Too stunned to speak or move, she presented no opposition when he slipped his arms beneath her and lifted her into the clearing as if she were a mere trifling.
After laying her onto a scant stretch of grass, he continued to cradle her shoulders in the bend of his arm and lifted errant strands of hair from her eyes. “Miss, I am so dreadfully sorry. I did not see you!”
“Sir?” Lydia managed as she blinked, trying to focus on his face.
“Are you injured?” he implored, but received no immediate answer.
As the haze cleared, she became cognizant but speechless at finding herself in the arms of a beautiful, flesh-and-blood man, so handsome beyond what is decent that she wondered if her anguish and longings had at last driven her mad. Propelled into full consciousness by the remembrance of her collision with his horse, she perched herself upright, dizzy but determined, and answered nervously, “S–Sir, I am only a little stunned, and it is I who must apologize. The shrubbery blocked my view.” Shocked to find her dress well up above her knees, she drew her bare feet and legs with speed beneath the cover of her frock.“Please allow me to escort you home,” he said with obvious concern.
Considering how poorly such events would reflect on her character if her employers, the Ashcrofts, were to know, Lydia decided at all costs not to reveal her identity or to allow this man to walk her back to Danbury. “No, indeed, I am not hurt in the least,” she said, pretending her head did not throb.
“Madam, I cannot leave you here alone after such an accident and remain any sort of gentleman. You must permit me to see you home.”
“I thank you, sir, but I must insist on finding my own way home. You needn’t reproach yourself for leaving me. I am quite capable of returning by the same way I came.” She had to remind herself not to stare like a schoolgirl at his handsome face.
“Then you must allow me to send someone to come for you.”
Fear of this incident reaching the Ashcrofts escalated with his continued insistence on helping her. “I a–am most truly obliged, sir, but as you see, I am well and unharmed,” Lydia replied, wobbling to a stand.
His eyes dropped to her bare feet peeking out beneath her gown, and the grin of high amusement that lit up his eyes made her heart skip a beat. She had never met such a striking man, and not just perfect in every line of his face and turn of his form but who emanated such a confident demeanor and powerful presence. Gentle and warm, but strong.
“And will you be walking home barefoot?” he asked with a laughing grin.
She tugged her frock downward in an attempt to hide her feet and answered, “No. I . . . left my boots and stockings on the other side of the stream.”
“And just what was so important on this side of the stream that you wedged your way through those bushes?” He studied her blushing face as if looking for proof of her sanity.
“You see, I was out walking and wanted to reach the sheep.” Her eyes moved in the direction of the sheep grazing contentedly in the middle of the pasture.
In emphatic tones of disbelief he cast a sideways glance at her. “You came through there and across the stream to see the sheep?”
“Yes, exactly so.” Lydia surmised by his intense glare of incredulity that he thought her not in full possession of her wits.
“Since I am refused the privilege of escorting you home, wherever home may be, may I at least retrieve your boots and stockings for you?”
“Yes, thank you. I would be most grateful for your assistance in that regard. And if you would also be so kind as to bring my bonnet. I tied it to a tree limb above my boots.”
The mention of her bonnet drew his eyes to the disheveled arrangement of her hair. Stepping very close, he reached up and extracted three or four leaves from the tangle on top of her head. “Yes, I will get it as well.” He removed his coat, tossed it across his saddle, and pushed with little effort through the undergrowth and across the stream to find her things.
The sensation of his light touch upon her hair had quickened her pulse. Lydia raised her hands to her cheeks to feel if they were blushing, and finding them generously warm only served to make them pinker. Her fingers shot up to explore the condition of her coiffure and discovered the shocking disarray of her thick locks. She prayed this gentleman was not a close acquaintance of the Ashcrofts.
The movement of the bushes signaled his return. “Your things, madam,” he said as he handed them to her. “And may I also leave my card with you. I would at least appreciate a note in the post letting me know you arrived home safely.” He put on his coat, then from his pocket retrieved a card and handed it to her.
In horror she read his name aloud. “Lord Connor Denton?” She flashed her eyes up at him. “It cannot be. Are you the Lord Denton in the House of Lords?”
“You have heard of me?”
“Who has not heard of you?”
“Then I hope, Miss—” He paused, clearly waiting for her to offer her name.
“Your lordship, I am much too embarrassed to tell you who I am. Please, I beg you to keep our . . . accidental meeting . . . to yourself.” She looked up at him with pleading eyes.“I give you my promise as a gentleman. And as to my reputation, I hope you will not give credence to everything you read. Now, if I can be of no further service, I am at this moment due in London and must be underway.”
“Yes. Thank you.”
With ease he mounted his horse and took off across the clearing at a canter. Lydia stood a long moment as if still under the spell of his teasing eyes and heart-melting smile. A warm shiver spread over her as she remembered the feel of his arms around her when he had lifted her from the thick undergrowth. She shook her head at these silly thoughts and seated herself on a nearby rock to brush off her feet.
Lord Denton had often appeared in the newspapers, especially in the gossip columns, which followed him with insatiable interest and painted him as a “rabble-rousing, power-seeking, skirt-chasing politician.” She could well believe such a scurrilous report after this chance encounter. Apprehension that he was not an honorable man who would keep today’s events secret awakened Lydia to the hour and made her anxious to reach her room without being discovered. She slipped on her stockings, boots, and bonnet with some speed, then trekked back through the pasture to where a stone bridge over the stream enabled her easy passage back to Danbury.
Furious at the cruel turn of fate that had crossed her path with Lord Denton’s, Lydia paced before the expansive windows of her new bedchamber. If he were to relate her behavior to the Ashcrofts, she might find herself the object of a sore chastisement and warned away from such eccentricity, or worse yet, sent home in shame. Because of her brief connection with a person well known for questionable morals, her own character could be called into question. Early-morning romps had been her habit at home, where prying eyes were never on hand to observe her disregard for silly rules of proper behavior.
Great tears pooled along the lower lids of her eyes. Coming here had been her idea, but now she wondered how she could bear this final marker of an irreversible doom. Was this all there would ever be to her life? Stop being such a wretched malcontent! Lydia censured herself, having always prided herself on her steadiness and strength in the face of adversity. The clock on the fireplace mantle showed she still must occupy an interminable hour until breakfast, and desperate for some occupation, she retrieved her novel and sat down at the desk to read, but an unrelenting flow of tears distorted the words. This was not the future she had dreamed of, and yet she could not bear the thought that her independence and disregard for propriety might deny her family the needed benefits of her employment
With arms folded, Lydia pressed one hand to her chest as if to stop the ache. Her pained eyes looked out across the beauty beyond her windows, where a magnificent expanse of green lawns and meadows stretched to scattered hills and woodlands. Earlier, a sudden desire to run from her new obligations had gripped her and sent her out into that sprawling freedom. Would she now have to answer for it? Dash it all, how dare Lord Denton come flying along on his horse as she had stepped from the bushes!
Fortunately, anger easily replaces hurt in a pinch and served her no less well in this moment. Lydia refused to be taken down by the morning’s events and removed her spoiled frock with the ferocity of a she-tiger. Once dressed in another gown and tidied in appearance, she retrieved a worn, leather bag from her wardrobe and withdrew her new journal, the tangible symbol of a future waiting to be lived. A cushioned chair situated in front of a very low window beckoned her. She settled into its downy cushions, opened the cover, and penned her name across the middle of the first page. With gentle deliberation she turned to the next page and paused. The first words must be chosen with care, for in some future year they would reincarnate these distant memories. Her deep brown eyes narrowed and focused upon a single spot as she searched herself for the right words and a fitting prologue to the new life she had begun.
A meditation of her probable future carried her thoughts first into her past. How different today might have been had her father not invested a substantial portion of their fortune into an unprofitable venture overseas. Her family’s demise into relative poverty had been a bitter truth to accept, for after her father’s passing, they had been left to shift for themselves on a meager living rather than the abundance and even the extravagance to which they were once accustomed.
A heavy sadness pressed on Lydia’s heart as she revisited her father’s death. Hardly had he been cold in his grave before the debtors’ wagons came to carry away every item on their family property that might turn a profit to absolve their debts. By the grace of God, the calamity did not necessitate the sale of their estate, a grand manor in Twyford near Winchester. Though servants were few and chores were many, her dear mother had neither shirked her duty to her children nor refused to face their grievous circumstances. But the necessity of providing a further education for Lydia’s brothers, Joseph and William, now brought a heavier burden than the family income possessed the means of bearing, and financial demands, which had so far been defrayed, loomed with ever-increasing foreboding on the horizon. Unable to run any longer from this terrible reality, Lydia had at last resolved to go out into the world and take a position as a governess, thus providing her family with the needed financial assistance and removing from her mother the burden of supporting her.
Lydia pressed her lips together and resolved to be grateful for her new employment in the Ashcroft home. Her heart begged to grieve over her descent into the governess trade and the rapid approach of spinsterhood, but looking around at her opulent surroundings and fortunate circumstances, she chastised herself for bemoaning her lot. Though in possession of every other merit that long since might have secured her a desirable husband, her lack of a dowry had ended more than one man’s passionate attentions. However, here at Danbury Park she wanted for nothing, and servants waited upon her in every need as if she were a member of the family.
At last ready to begin, Lydia dipped her pen into the polished silver inkwell on a table near her chair and with conviction laid down a fitting preamble to later entries: I cannot turn back the hands of time nor undo the past, but all the energy I have thrown into pain, I must now throw into life, whatever it may bring.A glance up at the clock sent her scurrying to hide her journal and go down to breakfast. Her new charge, Susan, a stunning beauty with fair blonde hair and aquamarine eyes, greeted her as she entered the breakfast room.
“Good morning, Miss Hathaway. I have been beside myself this half hour waiting for you to come down. Since you are only just arrived, Mama says we may visit the Tenneys today instead of starting my lessons.”
Susan seated herself across from Lydia and flung her napkin across her lap as if she were subduing a fish trying to escape. “I can hardly tell you how dreary it is to always need a chaperone, but at least now that you are come, I shall be able to go anywhere I please. I thought it would be wonderful to at last be finished with school, but I have been so dreadfully bored. Oh, that we had more gentlemen in the country just now, but they are mostly all off to town for the Season. Papa will not take us until May. How shall I endure his edicts?”
In consequence of her family’s financial ruin, Lydia had never enjoyed the privilege of attending a Season in London, and she brightened at the prospect. Though the marauding bands of bachelors would never cast their discriminating attentions to the likes of a mere governess, the plethora of diversions to be savored conjured the hope of sampling adventures she had never known. Indeed, the prospect helped her look with greater favor on her situation.
Once finished with breakfast, Susan excused herself to change, freeing Lydia to take a stroll in the gardens. The sunlight shone with the bright clarity of morning. Birds, geese, and ducks quacked and twittered gaily about the pond. While waiting for Susan, Lydia poised herself on a perfectly placed bench overlooking the water. Not more than ten minutes had passed when a voice startled her from her reverie.
“Miss Hathaway, may I join you?” Susan’s brother Charles stood at her side.
“Of course. I would be glad of your company,” she answered and sat up straighter. He was quite a well-looking man, not exceptionally handsome, but pleasant to look at. His warm voice and broad smile invited her to think his friendship desirable.
“I hope you slept well,” he said as he seated himself next to her. “New surroundings can sometimes unsettle one.”
“I must agree with you in that, Mr. Ashcroft, but yesterday was sufficiently long and tiring that I could hardly have stayed awake. I think I should not have noticed if my bed had been of straw, but the room is the most beautiful I have ever slept in. I think I shall always sleep well in such a room.”
“I have to tell you, I think you are exactly the influence Susan needs. I love my sister, but she is frequently unguarded in her manners and language. I perceive you have the temperament and wisdom to be of great use to her.”
“I thank you for your compliments, sir. She is a beautiful, spirited girl with all the natural dreams she ought to have for her future. She speaks as she finds, and she responds as her heart tells her. Such openness and honesty are refreshing in many ways.”
“You have just now proven my point, Miss Hathaway—that you are quite the right person for my sister. We all pray she will allow herself to be guided by you.” Charles smiled as his eyes studied Lydia’s face.
“I pray so too, Mr. Ashcroft. I hope she will allow me to be a friend.” Lydia looked over at him, and his eyes met hers in an exchanged look of understanding.
Susan approached them at a near run across the lawn. “Miss Hathaway, a servant has just brought an invitation from Lady Tenney requesting that we join them for lunch. It is now nearly ten, and Mama wants for you to see the rest of the house and discuss a schedule for my lessons before we leave. We will not be ready if we do not begin now.”
“Then I am ready,” Lydia answered.
Mr. Ashcroft rose and extended his hand to her to help her up, and the three of them walked back to the house.
A delightful new Regency voice!
by Joyce - reviewed on August 15, 2011
"Lydia", by Wanda Luce, is a delightful new entry to the Regency world of romance. Ms Luce’s prose is flowing and poetic, capturing the voice of the Regency age in a way I have seen others attempt but fail to achieve quite so fully. The romance between the two main characters, Lydia and Lord Denton, evolves in a charming way. Each encounter between them left me touched and smiling and rooting for their eventual union. The author’s research is meticulous, but never boring. Whether visiting the ruins of an old castle, showing us the inner-workings of Parliament, bantering in a bookshop over such Regency titles as “The Fascinating Lives of England’s Rodents”, or the older generation teasing the younger generation over the popularity of a contemporary love song (“William and Mary”), the historical details are never presented as lecture, but woven intricately into the story through the eyes of the characters. But Ms Luce does not neglect that essential element for a romance: strong emotion, both the internal turmoil of the characters and the physical touches of passion, though never crossing a line that would make a reader of sweet romances uncomfortable. As much as I loved this story and the writing style, I did stumble a bit in two places. Although the story started off with a very strong scene of the hero and heroine’s first meeting, I felt it regressed a bit too much after that into “telling” over “showing” for the majority of the first three chapters. My love for the prose style kept me reading, however, and round about Chapter 4, things began to pick up considerably as Lydia and Denton’s encounters took on new life through more dialogue and action. I regret to say I also stumbled a bit with the ending. Things wound up just a bit too quickly and neatly for me, leaving me thinking that perhaps they might have resolved their issues just a little bit sooner. There were a few strong touches in the conclusion, especially in the epilogue, but I personally would like to have seen the characters have to fight just a little harder before they ultimately wound up together. That being said, I was sufficiently entranced with Ms Luce’s writing style and ability to present appealing characters that I will definitely be reading more from this author, just as soon as she has more books to read! Here’s a link where you can read the words to and listen to the melody of the song “William and Mary”, if you’d like: http://www.contemplator.com/england/will... (Yes, I Googled it, because I’m weird that way.)
Pass on this one.
by Customer - reviewed on September 26, 2012
The book starts off promising enough, at least the first chapter does. Lydia is one of the most annoying characters I have ever been introduced to through literature. As in most romances there are misconceptions and misunderstandings that help to move the plot along. Unfortunately, our heroine Lydia is almost always on the verge of tears and crying throughout the book because of these. It's not what you look for in a heroine. I'm glad I was able to get this one at the library and could readily return it.
It was so interesting I couldn't put it down.
by Margaret - reviewed on June 30, 2011
The book, Lydia, by Wanda Luce was a very good read. It was so good that I didn't want to put the book down for two days. I just had to find out if Lydia was able to capture the heart of her hero. The book was well-written. Wanda has mastered the art of writing in the language of that era (the 1800's in England). She demonstrates knowledge of the history and geography of the region and she describes it well. Wanda has done a great job with her first book. I wish her the best on her next book. I am looking forward to it!
Excellent writing, compelling love story.
by Kelly - reviewed on December 29, 2011
Governess, Lydia, falls for Lord Denton, but it is a love fraught with despair. In a society of lords and ladies, he could never, if he even loved her, act on his feelings for her. Reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice, Wanda Luce weaves a beautiful love story, with dialogue so authentic I felt as if the author had lived in that era. I loved this book and didn’t want to put it down. My daughter is now 175 pages into it and loving it, too!