The carriage jostled harshly to the side, sending her volume to the floor in a tumble. This could only mean one thing. They had just turned onto the long drive. A lock of marmalade coloured hair tumbled down into her periphery. A smile pulled at her lips as she peered at the familiar trees with pink blossoms. She was here again. She had finally returned to Bamburgh House.
This was the very moment that Miss Ada Halifax had been dreaming of for the last few days. Bamburgh House belonged to her lovely and caring aunt and uncle, Phillipa Forbes and Colonel Robert Forbes, respectively. The journey from London to Bamburgh House had been long and boring. It was typical of any travelling one endured to arrive in the county of Northumberland. The carriage pulled to a stop right before the front entryway. Ada could no longer contain her bubbling excitement over the last few days. She opened the door of the carriage and climbed out.
An older woman opened the door to Bamburgh House and squealed softly with delight. She was dressed in a more casual dress than Ada, but Ada didn’t mind in the slightest. That was another reason Bamburgh House brought joy to Ada: it was a respite from the magnified eyes of the ton in London. Ada embraced her aunt and felt the wave of comfort crest upon her.
“Oh my dear sweet Ada, it is so lovely that you arrived, finally,” Aunt Phillipa said, still holding Ada close to her.
“Now, Mrs. Forbes, don’t squash her before I have a chance to greet her,” a boisterous and cheery-toned voice sounded behind the hugging pain. Phillipa tutted and released her niece. Ada turned to find the Colonel with arms open and a smile that would warm the coldest winters.
“Uncle,” Ada said sweetly, finding her place in Colonel Forbes’ welcoming arms.
“Welcome, sweet niece. Bamburgh House is happy for your return and extended stay,” Colonel Forbes said, releasing one arm from Ada and presenting the front of the estate. “How were your travels? No problems, I hope,” he asked as the trio began to walk towards the home.
“They were uneventful and dreadfully boring, Uncle. But being with you both back at Bamburgh House has made it more than worth it. I am so excited to be spending the off-season here with you both. Do you know how long it has been since my last residence?” Ada inquired as they entered the foyer of the house.
“Seven years ago, if I remember correctly,” Colonel Forbes replied. “Yes, it must’ve been because of…” He trailed off, sheepishly looking at his wife. Ada followed his gaze to find Phillipa softening her aged features.
“That unfortunate situation with Charlotte. Speaking of which, what news do you bring us of your dear sister, Ada?” Phillipa asked, leading Ada through the foyer.
“Lady Digby is very happy with her Lord Husband,” Ada informed her aunt, taking in the new furnishings since her last visit.
“That is wonderful to hear. Charlotte is such a sweet girl and was so fortunate to find a husband that is a good man. Unlike some others who were courting her.” Ada’s ears perked at the level of venom in her aunt’s reference to Charlotte’s scandal. It was something the family didn’t like discussing, and even Ada didn’t know all the details.
“A distant memory given her love-struck husband doting on her endlessly. I assure you,” Ada quipped with a smile. Since her debut into society, Ada had found herself wishing for what Charlotte and Lord Fredrick Digby had. She was twenty years old now, with a lacklustre first season behind her. Though Ada was ignorant of the mysterious details of Charlotte’s scandal, she knew she wanted the same end result. A loving husband to kiss and make her smile with the greatest of ease. At least, that is how it was to be around Charlotte and Fredrick.
Her uncle opened the doors to their tea room with a dramatic flair. The smell of freshly baked sweets saturated the air. She took a long drag of the nostalgic scent and opened her eyes wide. A glance to find Phillipa’s sly smile was all the evidence she needed. They had prepared her a feast of her favourites for teatime.
“Aunt Phillipa, you didn’t have to go to such trouble.” Ada rushed towards the tea spread, finding ginger biscuits, petit fours and clotted cream for fresh scones.
“Nonsense. This is a celebration. Nothing less than the best would do for you, my dear,” Colonel Forbes explained, with an arm wrapped lovingly around his wife’s waist. Ada looked at them and felt her heart swell with the desire to be loved even more. More than the delectable treats awaiting her, that was what she longed for most, a love like what her aunt and uncle shared.
“Well, the spread serves two purposes. One being her shocked and delighted expression, and two, it won’t just be us for tea this afternoon,” Phillipa said with a wink. Ada looked at her aunt curiously. Phillipa was always up to something. What could it be this time? Her uncle released his wife and crossed the room to deliver a farewell kiss to Ada’s forehead.
“Sadly, this is where I must leave you two. I have urgent military business to attend to,” he explained, patting Ada’s hand.
She gripped his palm and asked, “Will we see you at supper?” She was shocked by the tone of desperation in her words. After such a long journey, just being in the same house as her uncle didn’t seem enough or fair. He gave her a nod and a smile, giving her hand a reassuring squeeze.
“Of course, my little orange. You shall be seated right next to me. Now, relax and enjoy the tea your aunt has laid out,” Colonel Forbes said, giving a soft, tender kiss to Ada’s hand before taking his leave.
Just as her uncle slipped out of the tearoom, a footman enter. He cleared his throat before announcing, “Miss Mariah Goodwin.” Ada rushed back towards the door and watched as her old friend entered. Mariah’s face brightened when greeting Ada. It had been such a long time since either had seen each other. Ada pulled Mariah into her gleeful hug. The pair twirled while in their embrace, their excitement not able to be contained. They pulled back by just a fraction to inspect the other.
“Oh Ada, you have blossomed into a proper woman, but I’d recognise those fiery curls anywhere. I’ve never met another soul with such rare colouring,” Mariah gushed. Ada felt her cheek crimson at the compliment.
“You are too kind, old friend. For amongst the pair of us, it’s you who have truly blossomed into a beauty,” Ada examined.
It was true. Mariah had light brown hair that expertly caught the light of whatever room she was in. The hypnotic blue eyes she had when she was younger had evolved into priceless sapphires. Mariah had always had one thing Ada found lacking in herself, a confidence of some kind. Mariah’s beautiful features were only exaggerated by the air of confidence she had about her. Ada was much shyer and timid in comparison to the brightness of Mariah.
“Nonsense, you will have the local gentlemen eating out of these pristine gloves in no time at all,” Mariah commented as she took one of Ada’s gloved hands and led her towards the sofa near the tea set. “I cannot wait to tell you of the social events that I have planned for us,” Mariah continued, plopping down onto the cushions.
“Goodness Mariah, allow the poor pet to get her bearings before throwing her to the wolves,” Phillipa commented as she began pouring the tea and arranging a few sweets on a plate for Ada. Mariah just waved a hand towards Phillipa, all in good humour. That was the other talent Mariah had that Ada found herself lacking. Mariah was able to speak with anyone, regardless of age or status, like a friend, with no one taking offence.
“I am doing my duty as a good friend. Ada herself penned me of her lacklustre London season in her letters,” Mariah commented, scanning the assortment of sweet delights.
“It was my first season,” Ada commented before taking a drink of her tea. She needed time to gather what she should say next. “Many debutants view their first season as their introduction to the ton. There is always next season,” Ada added, feeling confident in her response.
“That is why you must practise while you are here, Ada. Now that you are out on the marriage mart, you mustn’t let your skills to snag a gentleman gather rust in the off-season. I already have an assortment of balls and garden parties scheduled, bursting with eligible gentlemen,” Mariah explained before taking a bite of a scone. Ada looked at her aunt, silently pleading for assistance. “They’re desperate for some feminine attention and we shall provide enough for everyone, twofold.”
Ada blushed at the insinuation that she would be as shameless in flirting as Mariah, but kept the thought to herself. While Mariah fell into a monologue of the upcoming balls, Ada found herself reflecting upon the plans. She was looking forward to the time away from London society. The whirlwind of the season had left her frayed and a little disappointed. Even though she knew the chances were small, she had hoped to find a suitable gentleman to marry. Her thoughts turned over what Mariah had said. Does the search for a husband never end until one is married?
While she had thought her time in Northumberland would be calm and restorative, it appeared that Mariah had a different course of action in mind. Ada found Mariah’s enthusiasm seeping into her timid self. Perhaps this is exactly what was needed for Ada. She did long for a great love and a bit of adventure to find it, didn’t she? The footman entered once again and announced a second visitor,
“Lord Cecil Drummond, wishing to call on Miss Ada Halifax, Mistress Forbes.”
“Well, do show the gentleman in, please,” Phillipa told the footman, standing from her seat. Her hands made quick work of smoothing out her skits, even if she was more casually dressed. She strode towards the door, waiting to receive Cecil. Mariah shot Ada a bemused look.
“What was that she said about throwing you to the wolves? At least I didn’t summon one to teatime,” Mariah said, taking a final drink and a bite of her tea and cake. “It’s just as well. I’m expected by my mother to assist in some embroidery.” Ada reached out and gripped Mariah’s wrist with a touch too much force.
“Please don’t go, Mariah. I’ve only just arrived and can’t face Cecil without a buffer,” Ada pleaded to her friend. Mariah patted Ada’s hand and said, “Fear not, Ada. The first thing on our social agenda is a grand ball, with much better prospects than Cecil Drummond. I shall accompany you to it in a few days. Surely, you can last one teatime till then?” Ada nodded that she would try her best, and released Mariah to take her leave. She watched as her friend made it to the doors, pausing for a moment in the hall. Mariah executed a flawless curtsey.
“Cecil, what a pleasant surprise,” Phillipa cooed. Lord Cecil Drummond stepped into the room, giving a proper bow to her aunt and Ada. He had a smile about his features and Ada felt her hand needing to busy themselves.
“I was out for a walk when I saw a carriage being unloaded in your drive. I heard Miss Halifax was expected soon, but didn’t know it was today. Oh my, am I intruding?” Cecil asked, looking over at the tea set and assortment of sweets.
“Not at all, we’re just sitting down to a welcoming tea for Ada. You must join us,” Phillipa said, taking the young man’s arm and leading him to a chair near Ada. Ada rose and gave the best curtsey she could manage. Her legs were incredibly stiff and tired after such a long journey. Cecil bowed before taking his seat.
“You look well, Miss Halifax, especially after such a journey,” Cecil remarked, unbuttoning the last remaining button of his jacket.
“Thank you, Mr. Drummond, that is very kind of you. While the trip was long, it was most worth it to be back in Northumberland and in Bamburgh House,” Ada explained with a smile.
It had been a long time since she had last seen Cecil. He was about average height and build, with brown hair and brown eyes. An amenable looking man to be sure, but what he lacked in physical appearance; he more than compensated for it with his wit. His mind and humour were razor sharp, with a charm just as disarming. The acting Lord Drummond had been friends with Colonel Forbes since their days in the military. So much so, Lord Drummond helped Ada’s uncle secure Bamburgh House. It just happened to be neighbouring the Drummond estate.
“Ada has just finished her debut social season in London. Were you able to attend any social events, Lord Drummond? Do you take your tea black or white?” Phillipa interrupted Ada’s train of thought, bringing her attention back to entertaining their guest.
“Black with lemon, if you please. I was not able to attend the London season this year. There was important business my father employed me to handle. Did you enjoy your debut, Miss Halifax?” Cecil asked, taking his tea from Phillipa. Ada looked at him from across the table between them. Cecil was five years her senior, four and twenty years old, a proper gentleman. The way his eyes moved about her, examining her closely, made her nervous.
“It was educational, to be sure. I’m looking forward to the change of pace which only the country can provide,” Ada said with a smile. She had been around enough eligible gentlemen to know that look. The look that told the world that they were smitten, enthralled by a lady of their desire. Cecil had that look upon his features.
“I’m sure you will find that the country is most agreeable to your visit,” Cecil said, lifting his cup in salute. He drained the rest of his tea and stood. Ada and Phillipa stood as well. “Lady Halifax, it was a pleasure to make your acquaintance again. Thank you for allowing me to call on her this afternoon. Welcome back to Northumberland,” Cecil said, stretching out his hand. Ada took it and curtseyed.
“Likewise, Lord Drummond, I’m sure we will see each other during my visit,” Ada said, bringing her hand back to its twin. She watched as her aunt escorted Cecil out of the room. She knew Phillipa was ecstatic that Cecil had followed her scheming and called on Ada. Cecil was a kind man and would make some gentle lady a happy wife.
“Ada, my little orange, you have snared Lord Drummond already. I predict you shall have a proposal within the month,” Phillipa said, clapping with glee. Cecil would make an excellent husband, but not for Ada. She desired the love that her parents, Charlotte and uncle and aunt had. A passionate love she would and could not find in Cecil Drummond.
Night had fallen on the village of Essington. In the residence of Theodore Newton, Teddy, to his friends and family, a fire blazed in one of the sitting rooms. The glow of which caught the amber quality of the brandy being poured into the snifters nearby. A man of light blonde hair with a boyish grin stoppered the bottle of brandy, satisfied with the amount dispensed. He carried away the two glasses back to the chairs near the fire in the chimney, rejoining his companion.
There, seated in one of the plush and comfortable chairs, was Lord Harry Mitford. His brown hair was tousled and his appearance was nothing short of dishevelled. His shirt was unbuttoned, exposing the smattering of chest hair he had. He just stared into the flames of the fire, only breaking when Teddy approached.
“Come now, Harry, you look so serious. Don’t sour our reunion and the brandy with such a forlorn face.” Teddy instructed his old friend, handing him one of the brandies. Harry racked a hand through his already wild hair and sat up, accepting the brandy. He couldn’t be sure which number this was, and perhaps he was past the point of caring.
“I’ve barely been in Northumberland for a few hours and you have already gotten me drunker than I’ve been in years,” Harry toasted Teddy before taking a less than elegant sip of the liquor. The bite of the alcohol stung his tongue, but it was worth it for what came next. The warmth that seeped through his chest and stomach to the rest of him was heaven. It was an indulgence he hadn’t allowed himself in some time. But here, with a good and loyal friend, no time would be better.
“Good God, man, how the mighty have fallen. There was a time not too long ago that you would have drunk me into oblivion. What could have rattled such a gentleman so deeply?” Teddy asked, flopping into the chair opposite of Harry. A bit of his brandy sloshed out of his snifter and splashed onto the rug. He swore his disdain, but returned his gaze to his friend.
“I’d need much more brandy for that. All that matters is that I am here with great company and away from crowds of people who know me, or think they know me,” Harry said, draining the last of the liquid. He wanted to disappear, even if it had to be into a bottle. It was all he had wanted for the last seven years. “It will be nice for no one to know me here,” he added, examining the crystal of the glass in the firelight.
“Harry, I’ve known you for a long time, most of my life, in fact. You’re the best man I know. Why would you wish for no one to know you? What happened?” Harry looked from the glass to his friend. Teddy had perched his glass on a nearby table. Now, he was sitting forward on the edge of the chair, looking intently at Harry. Harry gave a sigh and knew that his friend deserved the truth. He was, after all, a guest of Teddy’s.
“Pour me another brandy and I will tell you,” Harry replied, waving the empty glass towards Teddy. His friend took the glass and retired it to the same table atop which Teddy had set his own glass. Harry’s brows furrowed in disappointment.
“I think this matter would best be discussed without more aid from drink,” Teddy said. Harry flopped back into his hair and wiped a hand down his face. Fine, if Teddy wanted him to pour his heart and soul of what has haunted him for the last seven years, he would. It was high time someone was just as miserable as him.
“Seven years ago, I was caught in the midst of a scandal, the cloud of which has overcast my life since. An engagement was brokered between my family and Lord Halifax’s eldest daughter, Charlotte. We had met a few times at social events. It was her debut season. We were but so young. She was eighteen, barely out of the schoolroom. I was twenty, still wet behind the ears. Five whole times did the both of us socialise during the time of the engagement,” Harry explained, holding up his hand, all five digits splayed out for Teddy.
“Was there any passion between you?” Teddy asked, sitting back in his chair.
“Christ no,” Harry blasphemed, then cleared his throat. “It wasn’t as if she was ugly or dull. She was pretty and well-mannered, all the things that a gentle-born lady ought to be. But there just wasn’t any…” Harry trailed off, trying to find the words. The wood in the fireplace cracked, sending a fury of sparks into the shaft. Harry held out his hand towards the fire and found the missing word, “Spark.”
“Very clever Harry,” Teddy mused. His friend’s pun pulled a deep chuckle from his chest. “So there weren’t any sparks. Most marriages are made on much less than a lack of sparks.”
“It’s not like I was the only one that felt so. Even though we’d only spent a handful of engagements together, I knew Miss Charlotte felt the same as I. She didn’t love me, but she loved her family. So much so she would sacrifice a marriage of love for one of familial duty, just as I was prepared to do.”
“So what went awry? If you both were willing and knowledgeable of the arrangement your marriage would be, why are you now seven and twenty and unmarried?”
“Because, as swiftly as the wind changes, the Halifax family called off the engagement. When I went to inquire as to their reasoning, Lord Halifax and his wife only said that serious allegations about my character had come to light. They accused me of keeping frequent company with fallen women.”
“That is complete nonsense. In all the time that we had known each other, never have you once solicited the services of a woman of the night.” Harry couldn’t help but just to nod his agreement.
“Alas, the ton is like a forest and rumours are kindling. Before I had a chance to survey the fallout of the scandal, it had reached what seemed like every ear in London. My reputation as a gentleman was forever marred by the scandal and has followed me every day since.” Harry looked into the dying fire, noticing the pile of ash gathering below the grate. His life and the ashes were one and the same. He turned his gaze back to Teddy, only to find him holding out his glass of brandy, offering it to Harry. Harry took it and nodded his thanks.
“It seems strange that such a respected family would turn you away without giving any reason for it. Do you think they fabricated the whole scandal as a way to free Charlotte from her obligation?” Teddy asked, returning to his chair. This is what Harry feared most about confiding his scandal to Teddy. His friend was always thinking, though wouldn’t surmise it from how much of a rake he acts. Harry took a deep breath before tossing back the last of the brandy, summoning his courage for the next chapter in the tale.
“The sad part is that I believe I do. You see, my mother, God rest her soul, was a very pious and Christian woman. She was always a very active member in the community, especially in service to the church. Whether it be shielding waifs against the cold with fresh blankets or feeding a family that had fallen on hard times, she was there to lend a helping hand. I never knew why, but she seemed to have a fondness for helping a ‘lady of the night.’ She saw them as women who needed the most help and really wanted a life in God’s grace.”
“So as part of her mission in leading fallen women away from their life of sin, she would visit the pleasure houses and speak with the working girls. She offered to set them up in a household or get them honest and good employment. Sometimes she would take things to give them, making sure they had warm clothes and fresh linen, which would mean I was brought along as a pack mule of sorts. I didn’t resent her for needing my help. I was more than happy to give it. After a few visits, the women started to recognize me and began chatting with me. Some even became friends of mine.” Harry ended, thinking back on the memories of the women and how they always commented on him growing up to be rugged and handsome.
“So because of your mother’s good deeds, you were a frequent visitor to brothels,” Teddy chimed in, breaking Harry from his trance of nostalgic memories.
“Yes, but never once did I solicit their services. It was merely just to rehabilitate them out of the profession, if they wanted to. Perhaps the Halifax family got wind of this and they mistook it for me being a good customer rather than a good Samaritan. Regardless, they drew their own conclusions, and the damage was done.”
“Given that your mother died six months before the season, I imagine she could not come to your aid,” Teddy said. Harry chuckled, realising his friend must’ve been very drunk indeed.
“Quiet right. The engagement was planned and arranged between Lord Halifax and my father. Who, by the by, was out of the country on urgent business and couldn’t be reached either.”
“So you were left alone in Mayfair without anyone who could clear your name of the scandal? I’m sorry Harry, had I not been away, I would have come to your aid. Have you tried to explain all of this to the Halifax family?”
“Of course, I tried, Teddy. They completely cut me off and ignored me any time I tried to call on an audience with them. It got so bad that their staff wouldn’t even let me enter. Interesting how the ton turns on you and the manner they value so highly are thrown out the window when they deem you unacceptable. Are you sure you’re out of brandy already?”
“Yes, I am sure. Don’t try to change the subject; what happened next?” Teddy inquired.
“I admitted defeat. There was no point swimming upstream. I returned home and shuttered myself in. When my father returned, he gave me a right earful. He told me to ‘be a man and pick myself up. There are plenty of fish in the sea. You just need to carry on and find a wife.’ Now, seven years later and not one engagement amongst them.”
“So you haven’t seen Charlotte or her family since the scandal?”
“No, luckily it didn’t require much effort. They live in Nottinghamshire and I live in Lincolnshire. Not a lot of opportunity to have our paths cross. Dash it all, Teddy, all this soliloquy has sobered me up,” Harry said, shifting his is chair.
The dying light of the fire was dancing across his features. A silence hung between them. Harry had always hated silences, especially in such large rooms. It was something he associated with his mother being gone from this world. Even after all these years, he remembered how every room she was in seemed to sing with life and joy. He supposed he would have to get used to the silence in his life. Without a wife or children, the silence was the only constant he had come to know. Suddenly, Teddy shot out of his chair and chair and exclaimed,
“Harry, I know exactly what you need to cheer yourself up.” Harry looked to find that devilish smile of Teddy’s curls up the corner of his mouth. That smile was all too familiar to Harry, and he knew that whatever Teddy was concocting in his mind; it would only lead to trouble. Before Harry could begin to voice his opposition to Teddy’s idea, his friend strode across the room towards a cabinet. When he returned, he had a new bottle of brandy uncorked.
“You cheeky bastard, you were holding out on me. Go on, pour me another,” Harry told Teddy, getting up from his chair.
“Only after you hear my ingenious plan,” Teddy replied, holding the bottle behind him and away from Harry’s reach. Harry rolled his eyes and agreed to hear it. “No one knows that you’ve entered the county. You only just arrived past dusk. Why don’t you assume an alias? That way you can enjoy the company of the people without worrying about the cloud of your scandal.”
Harry was quiet as he thought over Teddy’s proposal. It was ridiculous and something only boys in the schoolyard would ever conceive of actually doing. But as the seconds ticked by, he found himself coming around to the idea. With a smile on his face and a sudden lightness on his shoulders. Harry held out his empty glass to Teddy before saying,
“We will have to think of a name for me.” Teddy’s eyes brightened, and he gave a generous pour of the fresh brandy to Harry.
“What about Lord Tenby? Harry Tenby to keep it familiar when people call you by it,” Teddy remarked, pouring himself a fresh glass of brandy as well.
“Lord Tenby of York. I must say. I do like the sound of that in all honesty.” Harry said, tasting the title. Lord Harry Tenby of York, it did have a nice ring to it. He held up his glass and toasted his new name, even if it was only temporary. Teddy clicked his glass to the new name, and they both moved about the room, floating on air, impressed with their ingenuity.
“There is a ball fast approaching. Perhaps Lord Tenby will be the gossip amongst a flock of young and eligible ladies,” Teddy remarked, winking to Harry. Harry drank from his glass and only shook his head before landing back in his vacant chair.
“None, that would entice me… or rather, Lord Tenby, to be sure. I have a feeling that he is not the marrying type, but a bachelor of sorts. He merely just wants to enjoy the party and company Northumberland has to offer,” Harry spoke. For the first time in seven years, Harry went to bed that night excited for what the following day would bring. Or rather, what it would bring for Lord Tenby of York.
“Romancing the Wrong Sister” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
After a less than successful first season on the marriage mart, Ada Halifax is looking forward to unwinding from the rituals of the ton and seeks respite in the peaceful county of Northumberland. However, her plans for relaxation are quickly derailed when she meets the enigmatic and captivating Lord Henry. Despite his scandalous past, Ada can not resist the burning passion he ignites within her. Will she succumb to his seduction, even if it means risking her reputation and future?
A young debutant looking for passionate love. A shunned bachelor looking for anything but. A dance that changes everything…
Henry Mitford, a shunned bachelor tormented by a scandal, seeks refuge in a secluded northern town to escape the disapproving glares of the ton. In a bid to evade further scrutiny, he assumes a new identity, but his plan is derailed when he meets the scandalous Ada Halifax. Despite his best efforts to avoid temptation, he finds himself entangled into a dangerous game of seduction, forcing him to confront the ghosts of his past before they can destroy his chance at happiness with Ada.
Will he be able to resist her irresistible allure, or will he fall under her spell?
After a fateful dance, Ada and Henry are irreversibly drawn to each other, sparking a desire that neither of them can resist. When secrets from the past come to light though, they find themselves confronted with an impossible decision. Will they conform to societal expectations or will they risk it all to turn their sizzling passion into an everlasting love? Can they bridge the gap between their two worlds and create a future together, or will their differences tear them apart?
“Romancing the Wrong Sister” is a historical romance novel of approximately 60,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.
One thought on “Romancing the Wrong Sister (Preview)”
Hello there, my dearest readers! I hope you enjoyed this little treat and can’t wait to read the rest of this fiery romance! I will be waiting for your first impressions here. Thank you! 📚❤️🔥