Because I love free samples (the "look inside the book" feature is the best thing Amazon's ever done), below is Chapter One of Lady, in Waiting.
I hope you enjoy the beginning of Margaery's story, and if you're so inclined, you can check out the rest here.
If my father hadn’t lost his head, my life would be very different. In point of fact, he did not lose his head; it was severed from his body with three strokes of an ax.
I should know. I was there.
One day I was a happy child, the center of a loving family, and the next my father was dragged from the house, accused of treason, and executed. My family left England, and I grew to womanhood far from home.
With such uncertain beginnings, a young woman might find herself capable of anything. She might wish to escape her situation so badly that she proposes marriage to a man she’s just met, thinking it will give her some measure of control over her life.
Less than a week after our wedding, my husband left for England. My grandmother and I followed on the next ship.
We had been out of England eighteen years, during which time Winterset had become Robin Lewis’s home. It was one of the reasons I married him. When he first appeared at our isolated home in Normandy, I resented his presence, but I quickly realized he was a solution, not another problem: he was more acceptable than the men put forward by my mother and her husband, and if I married him, my grandmother could return to her beloved estate.
Tall and bony, with red hair gone thin in the back and a decided way about him, Robin was not my dream husband, but then I’d never dreamed of marriage. I knew only the sort of man I did not want, and if Mama had her way, those men would soon be lining up in the lane, eager to claim my inheritance.
Family money aside, most men wouldn’t consider me a prize. While I was young, and looked well enough, I had been raised away from society and my manners showed it. I read books that young ladies did not read. My opinions were strong, and I had been known to raise my voice in company and interrupt my betters.
Such behavior was not cherished by my mother, and my stepfather found me troublesome in the extreme. He tried various methods to break my will, and I ran away to my grandparents after one incident, having forced a stable lad to swap clothes so I could travel unnoticed.
After close questioning, my grandfather declined to return me to their care. With my grandfather, I could live as I pleased—within reason. After his death, Grand-mère deflected my mother’s marital plans until I made one of my own. Then she fell in with my scheme, deeming it no worse than theirs, and possibly—when she realized we would return to England—far better.
Robin was the one who balked. He claimed to be too old and set in his ways, and that I would not be happy. I bribed him with Winterset, and a promise not to disturb the peaceful life he’d built there. I was an heiress, I blithely assured him, and could make a new marriage when he died of old age.
But I didn’t want that. I didn’t know Robin well—he did not allow himself to be easily known—but I liked him. In time, I thought we could learn to care for each other.
When the coach stopped, Grand-mère peered through the window, a gloved hand at her throat. “Do you remember any of it, Margaery?”
I remembered the tall limestone gate through which we had just passed, the gate where I had been playing the day my father was taken. “I think so. A bit.”
“Hmm.” She sounded doubtful.
The cart with our belongings stopped behind us, and Leon climbed down, glancing around the empty courtyard. “Should I knock, madame?”
Before he could raise the knocker, the round-topped door swung open and a young maidservant appeared. Her mouth fell open when Grand-mère informed her we had come to stay, but she ushered us inside, seating us at the hall table and bringing cups of ale. “The master is away from home.” She twisted her apron in reddened hands. “I will send a boy for Fowler. He’ll know what is to be done.”
Grand-mère inspected the pewter cup—for quality or cleanliness? “Fowler is still here?”
“He’s been here since before I was born, m’lady.”
“Fowler was my husband’s steward,” she said. “This was my house.”
She sat with a cushion at her back while I paced the floor. The fire thawed the chill from my flesh but did nothing for the icy sliver of worry in my heart. Why was Robin not here to welcome us?
Nearly an hour passed before Fowler burst into the hall, tearing off his cap at the sight of my grandmother. “Welcome back, my lady.”
“Thank you, Fowler. It is good to be home.” She put a hand on my shoulder. “Do you not recognize my granddaughter?”
A hasty bow in my direction. “Little Mistress Margaery, welcome.”
“The girl said Master Lewis is away.” Grand-mère was never one to hide her displeasure. “When will he return?”
Fowler’s face, weathered by decades of outdoor work, grew pale at her question. “I’m not certain,” he muttered. “He was called to London.”
I’d never been to London. Couldn’t he have waited a few more days?
“Well, that is a shame. He promised to be here.” She glanced at me. Stop fidgeting, child.
He rocked on his heels. “As I said, it was unexpected.”
I looked around and saw little evidence my husband had ever been here. “How long has he been gone?”
“Nine days. We hope to hear something soon.”
“I would hope so,” Grand-mère said crisply. “I have come all this way to deliver his bride.”
Fowler choked. “Master Lewis has taken a wife?”
“He has.” I nearly curtsied, remembering just in time that he was a servant. “Little Mistress Margaery is now Mistress Lewis.”
As Leon and the Winterset servants emptied the cart, the hall filled with our things: chests of clothes; small furnishings; crates of silver and pewter plate; wall hangings; the great bed Grand-mère brought from Winterset to France and back again.
When we found our possessions in her old room and not one of the smaller chambers, the maid explained simply, “The master sleeps in the corner chamber. They say he likes to hear the sea.”
“He will soon change,” Grand-mère told her. “That chamber is too small for a married couple, but it will suit me well enough.”
While she rested, I explored the rest of the house and found it surprisingly familiar. Wandering its rooms, I recalled the carved overmantel in the hall and the triple mullioned windows in the room which had been my grandfather’s office and was now Robin’s library. I lingered there, trying to get a sense of my husband from his books. There were volumes in English, French, German, and Latin. Histories and religious texts abounded, but there was also philosophy, literature, and even some verse. My fingers hovered over a slim book of Wyatt’s poems, but it was not my place to borrow his books without asking.
Much was the same, and yet much was different, because when we left, the furnishings went with us, and Grand-mère had returned with only the best pieces, on the assumption that Robin had furnished the house.
He had, but it was an odd assortment. A few carved chests, an exceptional convex mirror in the hall, some painted wall hangings. Most of the furniture was plain, serviceable stuff. It apparently suited him, but my grandmother’s disappointment was palpable.
“Will you send for more of your things?”
“It would cost too much,” she said. “But I did think, as an officer of the court, that Master Lewis would have more refined tastes.”
Robin hadn’t been an officer of the court when he took the house, and he didn’t strike me as the sort who cared about his surroundings so long as his basic needs were met.
I peeked into his bedchamber, remembering it as the room where I’d slept between my parents. The maid was right: the murmur of the sea was audible through the closed shutters. I sat on the edge of the green-curtained bed and imagined my possessions fitted in with his, and smiled.
I would not mind starting my married life in this room.
Post a Comment