An Inconvenient Grand Tour (Book One)
An Inconvenient Grand Tour (Book One)
- Purchase the eBook Instantly!
- Receive Download Link via Email
- Send to Preferred E-Reader and enjoy!
A desperate Victorian socialite fights to hide her family’s secrets, but there’s one man who knows too much: her brother’s annoying handsome best friend. A sweet historical romance with both friends-to-lovers and enemies-to-lovers vibes. You might need tissues to laugh as well as cry, but there's always a happily ever after. Pick up a e-book for your reader or an exclusive signed paperback for your collection today!
- Brother's Best Friend
- Marriage of Convenience
- Trapped Together
- Victorian Grand Tour Series
- Book 1 of 6
- 310 pages
Eleanor Barrington hovers on the edges of high society in the opulent world of Victorian England. Her desperate need to protect her family’s reputation means that a marriage of convenience is her only option. When her reckless father embarks on a tumultuous Grand Tour, she fears that long-buried secrets will emerge.
But it’s her brother’s charismatic best friend who worries her the most. As the younger son of an earl, Percy Hauxton cannot marry for love—but that doesn’t stop him from charming Eleanor at every turn.
With her carefully constructed world hanging by a thread, Eleanor’s growing feelings for Percy threaten to unravel her plans for a prudent marriage. Can she untangle the competing demands of love and duty before the family secrets ruin everything?
Intro to Chapter One
Intro to Chapter One
I’d been reduced to hiding in my own home. My sister-in-law, Georgiana, slept in the chamber nearest the stairs, where all the sound floated up from below.
I tiptoed down the hallway, past Matthew and Georgiana’s adjoining bedrooms. How much longer would the renovation of the Dunmore estate last? Past John’s empty bedchamber. It would be strange to have him return home from Cambridge today.
I was used to having Mama and Papa all to myself. Suddenly, Barrington Hall would be filled with family. I should love it.
But I wanted to find somewhere to be alone before facing so many people. Early morning was my best opportunity.
The candle flickered in the dim light as I crept down the winding marble staircase to the main floor of the house. Once I safely reached the entrance hall, I began to hum to myself.
A sleepy footman rested on a settee beneath the Rubens painting, his greying head drooping onto his chin. I nudged his foot gently and he startled awake.
“Could I get some candles in the music room?” I asked.
“Oh, it’s you, Lady Eleanor. I
thought it was Sims, gonna chop me head off for sleeping.”
“No, no, just light me a few lamps or candles, please,” I said. “No French Revolution today.”
“Back soon.” Joseph wandered off groggily.
I began preparing a list of scales and songs. Which pieces should I rehearse for the dinner party? I preferred to sing in private, so I desperately needed to practice a piece until I felt comfortable enough to sing in front of so many other people. Walter, now Lord Chelmsford, was finally out of mourning. Mama must have invited him. We’d missed two Seasons, and opportunities for me to meet eligible men were rare.
What would my friends be least likely to sing? What could I sing that he might like? I hummed a lively tune from The Magic Flute. Once I thought of Papageno’s duet with Papagena, it was hard to get it out of my head.
“Warm and light now.” Joseph
returned to his spot by the settee. “I suppose this means you’ll be wanting
some hot rolls or scones from Cook.”
“Thanks. You are my favorite
footman. Don’t tell the others. Bring a few rolls for yourself.” I moved across the entrance hall toward the music room, now warm with the glow of oil lamps and candles in sconces.
I checked the light outside the
window. Still pitch dark. I should have at least two hours to practice. If Georgiana doesn’t complain again. I rubbed my hands to warm my fingers and began to play scales. After scales, I began singing a country air to warm up my voice. Quietly. Nothing that would carry upstairs.
I lost track of time and must have begun to sing louder than realized. It was probably the Queen of the Night aria that did it. High notes require a great deal of power behind them, which I realized only after I heard shouting.
“Eleanor! Eleanor!” Mama’s voice rang through the entrance hall. I put my head down on the keyboard.
Mama marched into the music room. “Eleanor!” she demanded. “Georgiana was sleeping! We discussed this yesterday. And the day before. And last week. You simply cannot practice this early.”
“Matthew came storming into my chambers again,” Mama said. “Georgiana woke up early, so he woke up early, and now I’m awake. And you know how I feel about mornings.”
“I am sorry. But she sleeps so late. Why can’t they go back to Dunmore?” I said. “How long do renovations take?”
“Can’t you take a day off? Practice less?” She picked up my music and began putting it away. “Just until they’re gone. You rise so early.”
“Who is in charge here—Matthew or Papa?” I said. Matthew always took Georgiana’s side of every argument, and Papa had let Matthew make all the decisions since they moved in.
“I am. And I asked you to practice at a civilized hour,” Mama said. She ran a hand through her straw-colored hair.
“Seven o’clock is civilized for some people. But the dinner tonight!” I pleaded. “I’m not ready. Every time I try to play, Georgiana gets a headache. It’s been months since I could play. Stay and practice with me.”
Mama paused. I knew she couldn’t resist the chance to sing a duet with me.
“Eleanor Jane, I am serious,” she said, but her eyes flitted to the music scattered on top of the piano. She loved The Marriage of Figaro.
“Just one?” I could see her softening.
“I expect you ready to leave for the Maldons’ after breakfast.” Mama sighed. She ran her hands over my chestnut colored hair, so different from her own, and put her hand on my cheek. “Your singing will be fine enough for Mr. Hauxton. I wish we could sing together. I miss that, too.”
“My singing needs to be more than fine tonight, if the Chelmsfords are coming.” I paused. “The Maldons’?” Mama was trying to bribe me. To distract me. To soften the blow. I loved talking to Lucy and Rachel more than anything in the world, but I knew what would happen if I went. “I always talk so long when we go there. I lose track of time. Can we stay home, just this once?” I begged.
Mama glared at me. “No. You know how sensitive they are about slights. I can’t even serve a mushroom gravy when they eat with us, or they think I’m calling them cits. Ridiculous. Mushrooms are the finest addition to a gravy there is.”
Lucy and I had become friends when she had money and Papa was a humble vicar, so I had never thought of her as an upstart or a mere “citizen” instead of a member of the gentry. Others in our neighborhood viewed her father with disdain for purchasing so much land and trying to establish himself as a gentleman.
Joseph entered the room with a tray. A rush of warm bread smell filled the room. A small dish of jam rested next to clotted cream. “Breakfast for you, Lady Eleanor,” he said.
“And you’ve been bothering Cook again?” Mama asked. She paused. “What is that smell?”
“Strawberry jam, Lady Barrington. First of the summer,” Joseph said.
“No, no. Is there a hint of lemon? Is it in the scones or in the jam?” she asked.
“I wouldn’t know,” Joseph replied with a straight face.
I could tell he was trying not to laugh. We both knew what was coming next. Mama could never stay mad for long, if we could distract her.
“I must ask Cook. Enjoy the rolls and scones. Yes, Joseph, you may have my portion,” Mama said as she lifted the cloth and sniffed at the scones.
“Me?” Joseph put on an air of confusion. “That wouldn’t be proper.”
Mama replaced the cloth. “Pish. I know that you eat with Lady Eleanor in the mornings. I’ll be in the kitchen.” Mama hurried out of the room, muttering to herself. “Lemon. When did the strawberries ripen?”
Joseph set down the tray and broke a scone in two. He slathered fresh strawberry jam, still slightly runny, on the scone and put a dollop of cream on it. He offered me the first half.
I took a bite. The flaky scone melted in my mouth as I tasted the sweet and tangy jam.
“Help me. I need to practice, but the staircase takes this sound right up to Georgiana’s bedroom,” I said.
Joseph paused as he buttered a roll.
“There is another piano in your home. The maids complain about dusting somethin’ that never gets any use,” Joseph said.
“Where?” I picked up a knife and began to twirl it. If I could convince Mama to leave Lucy’s home a little earlier than usual, perhaps I could have an hour to practice after all.
“The ballroom. Sits there collectin’ dust.” Joseph gathered up the tray and cloths. “If you was to be so far away when your brother and his friend arrived, I might not be able to find you.”
I dropped the knife. Of course. How had I forgotten? Far away. I could close the doors, and no one would hear. If only Mama could be distracted.
“Perfect! But Mama will not cease until I am found,” I said. “We have heard so much about Mr. Hauxton, and she is anxious to meet him before he leaves for Europe with John. She only has one week to interrogate him, and she will expect me to assist her. I need a diversion.”
“It’s your father’s day to practice fencing. Still bothers him that he can’t win against a man so much older than him.” Joseph grinned.
“So, if you were to almost let him win today?” I asked. “Nearly, but not quite?”
“That might take a bit of
time,” Joseph said, “and I wouldn’t be around to know where you might be
hiding.” He grinned.
I loved his crooked smile. “And Mama would be far more embarrassed that Papa was missing when our guest arrives. Joseph, you are a genius. Please tell Cook to give you as many scones as you wish.”
“She already does,” Joseph said, and winked as he left the room.