Speaking of firsts, this one is the first book in my Ladies in Waiting series from Harlequin’s Love Inspired Historicals. The idea for this series came to me while I was reading another author’s book. One of her wealthy female characters had a companion, a dowdy old woman who lived in the shadows of this other woman’s life. I began to wonder about the lives of these companions and came up with three ideas. I began with the wealthy ladies, three friends who had grown up together. Then I figured out who would make the best companion for each of them. Of course my heroines would have to be pretty young ladies. Next, I decided on the handsome young heroes who would fit each story. Next, I sent the idea off to my editor, and she gave me the okay to write the series. I recently finished the second book, A Suitable Wife, which will be released in December 2012, and I’m currently working on the third book, yet to be titled.
Here’s the back cover copy for A Proper Companion:
She has nothing left but faith…
With her father’s death, Anna Newfield loses everything—her home, her inheritance, and her future. Her only bit of good fortune is a job offer from wounded major Edmond Grenville, whose mother requires a companion. The Dowager Lady Greystone is a cruel employer, but Anna can enjoy Edmond’s company, even if she knows the aristocratic war hero can never return her love.
Even amid the glittering ballrooms of London, nothing glows brighter for Edmond than Anna’s gentle courage. Loving her means going against his family’s rigid command. Yet how can he walk away when his heart may have found its true companion?
And now, here’s Chapter One:
Blandon, Shropshire, England
Amid the sea of somberly dressed mourners entering the vicarage, Anna spied a flash of crimson, and her grief lifted for the first time since Papá’s death three days ago.
A closer look at the uniformed cavalry officer sent her emotions plunging again, for he was not Peter. But how foolish to think her brother could have returned for their father’s funeral when he was an ocean away fighting the Americans. This soldier must have come to honor Papá. This wounded soldier, for the young man of perhaps five and twenty years leaned on a cane and his red-coated companion’s arm. Anna lifted a silent prayer that the officer’s affliction was not too severe.
The parishioners approached where she stood, each person offering a word of comfort or a memory of Papá, warming Anna’s heart. Papá had been much-loved, and many in his congregation would miss him as much as she. In his honor, generous neighbors had brought sprays of aromatic sage and fragrant geraniums from their autumn gardens to freshen the air in the house. The pleasant scents vied with the odors of hardworking villagers who had taken time from their harvest labors to pay their respects.
Anna bent down to kiss a small boy, and her eyes fell on the gleaming black boots of the next person in line. She straightened and found herself gazing up into the dark brown eyes of the wounded soldier.
“Miss Newfield.” The tall officer bent over his cane, and his pallid countenance raised her concern, as did the scent of some pungent medicine she could not identify. “I am Edmond Grenville. Please accept my condolences for your loss.” At his elbow stood his companion, whose eyes were filled with worry.
She extended her black-gloved hand, glancing briefly at the stars on the officer’s golden epaulettes which designated his rank. Peter had taken such pride in teaching her how to distinguish one officer from another. “I thank you for coming, Major Grenville. Did you know my father?”
He winced slightly and breathed out a labored sigh.
“Should you be seated, sir?” Anna waved a hand toward a nearby chair, wishing she could sit down, as well, for although it was only late morning, the weariness of the day had already begun to settle into her.
He shook his head. “No, madam, on both counts.” He inhaled deeply. “I knew of your father.”
Anna’s heart lifted. “Ah. I did not know his reputation extended beyond Blandon.” She offered a smile, but saw only pain in his clouded eyes.
“Very far, miss. To America, in fact.” He glanced at his aide. The younger man nodded. “Your brother, Lieutenant Newfield—” His voice broke, and he cleared his throat impatiently.
Anna’s heart seemed to stop, and her ears hummed, blocking out the sounds around her. “Yes,” she managed to murmur. “Please continue. My brother?”
The major shuddered, perhaps to shake away his weakness, for he stood taller, almost at attention. “I regret to inform you that Lieutenant Peter Newfield was wounded in battle.” His words came in a rush. “To be more precise, dear lady, he saved my life, and in the process took the sword blow meant for me. After the battle, his remains were not found, and therefore he has been declared missing.”
The room seemed to spin. The paneled walls closed around her. Tiny bursts of air fanned her face. Anna sat and blinked her burning eyes. Forced herself to breathe. What would Mamá do in this situation? Or Papá? Was Peter even now with their parents in the Savior’s presence? Was she now truly alone?
Somewhere at the edges of her mind, she heard the cry of Job: The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord. She grasped this lifeline like a drowning person. Blessed be the name of the Lord. This would be her hymn, her anthem, no matter what other sorrows befell her.
Friends hovered near. The major sat beside her and patted her hand.
“Dear Miss Newfield—”
“I thank you, sir.” Her own voice sounded far away. “For bringing word.” A tendril of hope threaded through her thoughts. “Missing, you say?”
“Unfortunately, yes.” The officer leaned toward her. “You must know that I had no idea your father had died. I came to bring him word of Newfield and—”
“Missing. That means there is hope he is alive.”
Major Grenville’s expression softened, and he spoke as if addressing a child. “You must understand . . .” He sat back and shook his head. “Perhaps you need not know of such things.” He returned a warm gaze to her and squeezed her hand. “We will hope, madam. We will hope.”
The strength of his grip surprised Anna, as did the high color now flooding his pale face. He seemed to be making a great effort to console her, and she longed to return the kindness. “Major, the ladies of Blandon have prepared a funeral nuncheon. Will you and your companion partake?”
His brow furrowed, but his companion’s face brightened. “’Twould be good to have a bite before we embark on the rest of our journey, sir.”
The major eyed his aide. “I agree, Matthews. And I thank you, Miss Newfield. Your brother often spoke of your kind nature. I see it was not merely fraternal pride.” His well-formed face, framed by natural chestnut curls, relaxed into a soft smile.
A wave of understanding swept through Anna. Peter had risked his life to save this friend, and that knitted to him her in a way she could not describe.
Copyright © 2012 by Harlequin Enterprises. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Ent. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks of Harlequin and/or its affiliated companies, used under license.
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