I’m delighted to be sharing an extract today from Love and Lavender, a Regency romance, for my stop on the blog tour.
First here’s what the book is about…
Title: Love and Lavender: A Mayfield Family Romance (Book 4)
Series: Proper Romance
Author: Josi S. Kilpack
Genre: Historical Romance, Regency Romance, Inspirational Fiction
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing (November 2, 2021)
Length: (320) pages
Format: Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook
Tour Dates: November 1-28, 2021
Hazel Stillman is a woman of rare independence and limited opportunities. Born with a clubbed foot, she was sent away as a child and, knowing her disability means a marriage is unlikely, she devoted herself to scholarship and education.
Now working as a teacher in an elite private girls’ school, she is content with the way her story has unfolded. When her uncle Elliott Mayfield presents her with the prospect of a substantial inheritance if she marries, Hazel is offended. What kind of decent man would marry for her money? Besides, she loves her freedom as a professional, respected woman. When she hears rumors of the school possibly being sold, however, she knows she must consider all her options.
Duncan Penhale has a brilliant mind and thrives on order and process. He does not expect to marry because he likes his solitary life, shared only with his beloved cat. When Elliott Mayfield, his guardian’s brother, presents him with an inheritance if he marries a woman of social standing, Duncan finds it intrusive. However, with the inheritance, he could purchase the building in which he worksand run his own firm. It would take an impressive and intellectual woman to understand and love him, quirks and all.
Hazel and Duncan believe they have found a solution to both of their problems: marry one another, receive their inheritances, and then part ways to enjoy their individual paths. But when Uncle Mayfield stipulates that they must live together as husband and wife for one year before receiving their inheritances, Hazel and Duncan reluctantly agree. Over time, their marriage of convenience becomes much more appealing than they had anticipated. At the end of the full year, will they go their separate ways or could an unlikely marriage have found unsuspecting love?
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Now for the extract…
Once Betsy had left, Hazel removed Harry’s letter from the drawer, broke the seal, took a breath, and braced herself.
The letter was an . . . apology. Not only for the inappropriate request for funds he’d made last year, but for all the years he’d not done right by her—financially and personally. He explained that he’d made a mess of everything in London but had learned great lessons. He promised her he would do better and be the brother she deserved him to be. The final paragraph was particularly humble:
I have great admiration for you and the way you have risen to the challenges life has given you, Hazel. I hope to prove that we have more of those virtues in com-mon than either of us have believed and that one day you will be proud to be the person who has known me best and longest. My sincere love and appreciation,
Best and longest.
Despite all the times Harry had irritated and angered her, she knew her brother in ways that others never could. The same people who had expected nothing of Hazel had expected every-thing of Harry. He had been expected to possess every virtue and ability from the time they were both small. When Harry executed anything with less than perfect proficiency, their father had lashed out with verbal attacks that cut Harry to the core. He was the son, the heir, but Father had only ever seen Harry for what he should be, not for what he actually was.
Mother would dote on Harry to make up for Father’s mean-ness, and then Father would turn on her for making Harry soft. Hazel had seen very little of this dynamic before being sent away to school, but it had not been difficult to put the pieces together when she came home and watched how the relationships played out firsthand.
At some point, about when they were fourteen years old, Harry had stopped trying to please their unpleasable father and had instead sought only to please himself. When Harry started getting into trouble at school, Hazel had known it came from a place of needing attention and control—trying to fill the holes left over from their childhood.
She’d done the same thing in a different way: studying harder than anyone, setting herself apart any way she could, besting Harry in matters of education in hopes that her parents would see some worth in their crippled oldest child. Her efforts had given her success in the academic world but had not filled those holes any more than Harry’s dissipation had filled his. She had come to accept that nothing would fill those gaps, and she’d made her peace.
Though her sympathy for Harry was deep, it extended only so far. He was a grown man, with more opportunity than most people—male or female—could ever hope for. Rather than use his advantages, he had squandered the security intended for all three of the Stillman children. Hannah had married beneath her and, from what Hazel could pick out from her younger sister’s sporadic and carefully worded letters, was now trapped in an un-happy life she could not leave.
Over the years, Hazel had learned about therapies for disabilities like hers, including braces that adjusted the twisted tendons and ligaments over time. There was even a surgeon in Berlin who could reset some of the bones to improve her ability to properly bear weight on the bottom of her foot. There was no time or money to pursue such possibilities, however, because she was financially responsible for herself.
Harry’s course had set her own. And although his letter demonstrated that he had suffered for his choices, it seemed likely to Hazel that someone had—once again—come along to help him out of the mess he’d made, thus instigating this apology. The same way school administrators had given him “one more chance” a dozen times. The way Mother had coddled him. The way Uncle Elliott had paid off his debts. Yet, even with all those benefits, Harry had still wasted the profits from Falconridge and years of his life and, far as Hazel knew, had never cared for anyone but himself.
It seemed Harry had landed on his perfectly formed feet the way he always had, and though she accepted his apology and was touched by his expressed admiration of her accomplishments, nothing in their shared history gave her reason to believe he would actually become the person his letter said he wanted to become. She would not lose sleep worrying about his ability to achieve his proposed restoration.
Josi S. Kilpack has written more than thirty novels, a cookbook, and several novellas. She is a four-time Whitney award winner, including Best Novel 2015 for Lord Fenton’s Folly, and has been a Utah Best of State winner for Fiction. Josi loves to bake, sleep, eat, read, travel, and watch TV–none of which she gets to do as much as she would like. She writes contemporary fiction under the pen name Jessica Pack.
Josi has four children and lives in Northern Utah.
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