Julianna Rosa Gardener thought that the scene around her was absolutely perfect. She was standing by the pond that housed several trout that always kept the pond full and perfect for fishing. Wildflowers filled the area around the pond. And birds fluttered down from the trees that framed the clearing, like holding back the forest that surrounded them.
Julianna’s hands were resting in Richard’s. He was smiling down at her as they stood together at the water’s edge, simply enjoying the time together when they could just be themselves. Julianna’s heart was racing as she looked up into his brown eyes, as light as honey. His dark hair had been combed to the side and slicked down. He was absolutely handsome, much like he’d been all his life.
“I want to be with you forever,” Richard said softly. Julianna smiled in return. It was the words she’d been dying to hear ever since they were much younger, and she’d started to develop feelings for the future earl. Having been chosen as a playmate for the earl, along with a few others from the local area, she’d known Richard for some time.
“I feel the same way,” Julianna replied, her smile only growing as she finally confessed to how she’d been feeling for a long time. They’d been sneaking to this pond on the property of Richard’s family for almost two months now. It was the only safe place they could meet and not have to worry about being discovered. It didn’t take a genius to know that Richard’s parents wouldn’t approve of a match between a future earl and the daughter of a baron. Julianna was a country girl, having never set foot in town, where Richard would soon be heading to university to finish his training to one day manage large estates, servants, tenants, and a sea of wealth.
“Julianna, I don’t know how or when, but will you please marry me?” Richard asked. Julianna was surprised by his words. She didn’t think they could actually be together, but if Richard was willing to risk everything to marry her, who was she to say no to love?
“Yes, Richard. I would dearly love to be your wife,” Julianna said, her whole body filling with excitement at the possibility.
Richard leaned down and pressed his lips against Julianna’s. She became lost in the passionate kiss, her hands rising and settling on Richard’s shoulders as his hands came down to her waist. He pulled her closer as the kiss deepened, and Julianna wished she could kiss Richard freely for the rest of her life.
Julianna didn’t know how all of this could be possible, but she could feel Richard’s love for her in the passionate kiss. Their tongues rolled together, and Julianna knew she would never love another man like she loved Richard. They would have a family together and grow old in the countryside. It all seemed like a fairy-tale that she hoped would actually happen.
When Richard started to let his hands roam over her body, caressing her tenderly, she knew it was time to stop this madness before it got out of hand. She loved Richard but did not feel comfortable losing her innocence until they were lawfully married.
“I wish we could marry this very moment,” Richard said as she broke their kiss. She created space between them then and took Richard’s hands in hers.
“It would certainly be a miracle,” Julianna said, a bright smile on her face.
“I know that I will soon go to university, but the moment I am back, I want us to marry,” Richard said. “And if it can happen sooner, then it shall be done.” Julianna smiled, loving Richard’s attention. She was sixteen years old, and he just eighteen. They were still young, and anything was possible. But in the back of her mind, she couldn’t deny how tremendously hard it would be for them to marry and his parents not interfere.
“Richard, I have loved you for a long time,” Julianna said slowly. “I have been fond of you ever since we played together as children with Mr Fisher. And now that I have grown into womanhood, I long to be your wife and be with you as a wife is with her husband. Yet, we are from such different families.”
“Do you not believe that I am a man of my word, and that I truly love you?” Richard asked, seeming offended.
“No, Richard. I do not doubt you. I simply doubt your parents,” Julianna explained.
“I will ask your father’s permission to marry you. And, I shall invite you and your family to dinner with my parents. It will be a lovely affair, and no one will be able to doubt our love for one another. No one will be able to get in the way of our marrying,” Richard said, his confidence seeming to envelope her. Julianna didn’t want to say anything to discourage Richard, but deep in her heart she felt as though she already knew how their story was supposed to conclude. This would no doubt be a one-time love that she could only dream about lasting forever.
“It would be nice to dine with your parents,” Julianna at least agreed. “If you can make the arrangements, then I will attend with my parents and sister.”
“Good. Then, when we part, I shall return swiftly home and tell my parents that the Gardener family must come for dinner,” Richard said proudly.
“I look forward to the announcement,” Julianna said, squeezing his hands. Julianna knew that Richard had always been a big dreamer. Ever since they were little, he would tell all his friends the most wonderful stories of faraway places. He could read from a very young age and would recite everything he had learnt. It was one of the many things that had drawn Julianna to him. His imagination was pure genius, and she could listen to him talk all day.
“Julianna, I can see us married already,” Richard said, his smile full. “My parents will be pleased to see us marry. They have seen you at a few of the balls that have taken place in the area and will certainly remember your kind spirit.”
“I only wish we didn’t have to keep our relationship a secret,” Julianna said. “That if we had been honest about our attraction from the start then things could have progressed naturally.”
“I simply didn’t want my parents getting in the way,” Richard confessed. “If they had known that I had fallen in love with a country girl, I’m sure they would be bickering constantly.” Julianna smiled as Richard chuckled, but her smile didn’t quite reach her eyes. It was hard to be in love with Richard while also knowing that the chance of them actually marrying was very small. He was a future earl, after all, and his parents had always been quite overbearing.
“I must be going,” Julianna said after a little bit longer. “I love spending this time with you, but eventually Milly will discover that I am missing again. And she dearly hates to do chores on her own.”
“When we are married, you shall have your own staff to order about and will never have to worry about chores,” Richard said.
“I don’t mind caring for myself,” Julianna said, lowering her hands from his. “And we do have a small staff to help.”
“I know, Julianna. I just like the idea of us marrying and me being able to take care of not only you, but your family,” Richard said. “My father’s wealth has always been vast. When I inherit it all upon our marriage, I shall be wise to make good use of it and help those in need.”
“You’ve always been a kind man, Richard. When you are gone and at university, I hope you will remember your kindness when you learn all manor of business,” Julianna said. “But, for now, I must go.” She took a step away from him, never really liking when they needed to part.
“I will go and tell my parents,” Richard said. She wasn’t sure if he was trying to convince her, or himself. “I shall invite your family for dinner and ask your father’s permission to marry you in front of everyone.” Julianna just smiled and nodded, wondering what would actually happen.
Eventually, she forced herself to turn from Richard and made her way through the forest and down the lane to her father’s small manor. It was nothing compared to Wexford Manor, Richard’s childhood home. She had heard that his parents also had a townhouse that they could take up anytime they were in town. She’d never been to London but had dreamed of going and attending the opera or seeing all the shops with the latest fashions.
It was easy for Julianna to dream when she was with Richard. He made the future sound so exciting, as if anything was possible. But the closer she returned to her own home, the more reality set in. Crossing through the gate in the fence that framed the fields, Julianna knew she needed to get back to the house and help Milly, her older sister, with all the washing. They’d hung it out to dry that morning after doing the wash. And about now it would be time for them to fold and take it all inside.
“My goodness, there you are,” Milly said with a big, great huff as Julianna came in through the back lawn from the fields.
“Sorry, Milly. I went wandering off and took much longer than I should,” Julianna said by way of apology. Though Milly was her closest friend, she didn’t dare speak about Richard. After all, not even she believed that they could be together, and she knew for certain they loved each other very much. The passionate kiss told her everything she needed to know about Richard’s feelings. But it wasn’t his feelings that she doubted.
“You always have your head in the clouds,” Milly complained as she unpegged the clothes from the line and Julianna began to fold and place them in the baskets to be taken into the house.
“I wouldn’t say so,” Julianna said. “I just like to think, that is all.”
“That’s what I’m saying, Julianna. You spend too much time thinking and not enough time doing,” Milly complained.
“Well, I’m here now, helping with the washing,” Julianna said, wishing her father could afford a few maids to take care of the work. But with him out with the field workers each day, he rarely got to see the work that was left to Milly and Julianna.
“And once we finish with the washing, we have to help Mother with dinner,” Milly said. “Then we must practice our reading and writing before the sun goes down. It’s not as easy by candlelight. Plus, we shouldn’t be wasting the candles on learning things. That’s what the daytime is for.”
Milly had always been like a second mother to Julianna. She often kept a close watch on her and made sure she was staying in line with what had to be done and what was expected of her. She didn’t argue with Milly, knowing how much she simply carried on about everything, including her. She just kept right along with her older sister.
Yet, as she folded the washing, she couldn’t help but hope for a brighter future. She wanted Milly to marry well, especially if she was going to marry a future earl. Julianna liked the idea of Richard being able to care for her family as well, that their life might be easier and more than that of just a baron and his farmlands.
As Julianna made her way inside with the fresh basket of clean clothes to be taken to her and Milly’s room, the familiar house brought back to her many memories of a happy home and a joyful childhood. She might not have been born into a family as wealthy as Richard’s, but she knew her family loved her dearly and she’d always been provided with what she needed. Being Richard’s wife would be wonderful because she loved him. Yet, she had everything she needed right at home.
“Father! Mother!” Richard called as he walked down the main hallway of Wexford Manor. He’d just come in from outside and was eager to find his parents and tell them everything.
“We’re in here, darling,” called his mother from the drawing room. Richard followed the sound of his mother’s voice and stepped into the room to find his parents settled. His father was reading the newspaper, while his mother worked on her embroidery. She was very skilled at making all sorts of decorative cushions, and she seemed to enjoy it.
“Mother. Father,” Richard said, bowing to both of them to show his respect. “I know in a month’s time I will be headed to university to finish my studies in preparation to one day become Earl of Wexford. But I have been considering marriage.”
“Marriage? Really?” asked the countess as she set her embroidery aside. Likewise, Lord Frost folded and set his paper down to give his son his full attention.
“Yes, Mother. I have fallen madly in love with Miss Julianna Gardener. I wish to have her and her family invited over for dinner tomorrow evening,” Richard said. He watched as both his parents momentarily looked pleased to hear the news, but then they seemed to think about something.
“Is she the daughter of the Earl of Mackintosh?” Lord Frost asked.
“No, Father. She is the daughter of Baron Hulst. Lord Gardener. The man’s estate is adjacent to our own,” Richard explained.
“Why, that is the farmer, is it not?” Lady Frost asked, her voice a nervous rattle.
“Mother, the baron is not a farmer. His business is in textiles,” Richard said. He was starting to fear that this was not at all going as he planned. He wanted his parents to be happy for him. Not question his every word.
“Richard. I understand how fleeting love can be,” Lord Frost said in a matter-of-fact tone. “But marriage isn’t all about who you love. It’s about wealth and power. It would be more suitable for you to marry a woman of your station in order to keep up with the ranks of other prestigious families.”
“Father, there is more to life than just rank and title,” Richard said as he sat and faced his parents. He watched as they looked at one another and laughed.
“Darling, there is really nothing else to life than rank and title,” his mother expressed. “Everyone wants it, and we are fortunate enough to have both. Are you sure this young lady just doesn’t want the same?”
“I know Miss Gardener loves me for who I am and not just my future title,” Richard said very seriously. “I wouldn’t have asked her to marry me if I wasn’t sure.”
His mother gasped then as she covered her open mouth with her hand. She looked towards his father who was shaking his head.
“Richard, it is not proper to ask a young lady to marry you without first speaking to her own father, and to us,” Lord Frost said in a most serious voice. “You must understand how hard it is for us to approve such a match when we both know you deserve better.”
“Father, I deserve a woman who loves me, nothing more,” Richard said.
“Now, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s first have dinner with the family,” Lady Frost said, looking between her husband and her son. “No reason to lose our tempers just yet.”
“Thank you, Mother,” Richard said, nodding towards her. She looked pale but nodded in return.
“Richard, I’ve always been kind to those below us in rank,” his father said. “I will agree to this dinner, if only to prove a very important point.”
“And what point would that be?” Richard asked.
“That is something you will have to discover for yourself. However, I’m sure this point will be proven during the course of the dinner as we, of the upper class, dine with those who are far below us.”
Richard didn’t like the tone of voice his father was using, but he also didn’t want to start arguing with the man, either. He knew how stubborn his father could be, and the thought of going to university was the only thought of freedom that Richard had allowed himself to experience. That is until he decided that he couldn’t wait to marry Julianna before he went away.
“My dear, if you are thinking about marrying so young, why don’t you let me introduce you to several fine young ladies who would be suitable for you based on their upbringing. A young lady of status, raised in town would be a much better match than a country girl,” Lady Frost offered. Her voice was so caring and even-toned that Richard knew his mother was only trying to be helpful. But why couldn’t his parents believe him when he said that he was in love with Julianna?
“I couldn’t bear the idea of marrying a woman I didn’t love,” Richard admitted. “I know that it is a rare occurrence amongst people of rank, but I honestly believe that I have fallen in love with Miss Gardener, and she with me.”
“Love can be so cruel,” Lord Frost said. “Don’t you remember your readings? There is much tragedy where love is concerned.”
“But don’t the two of you love each other?” Richard pressed.
“Darling, I care about your father greatly,” Lady Frost was quick to say. “But this thing that books call true love is a fleeting fairy-tale. The young often chase after it only to learn that it does not exist.”
“Love can be a disguise for personal gain,” his father pointed out. “It would be best for you to have a long courtship with Miss Gardener before you offer to marry her. That way you could be sure it is love and not just a young lady trying to get a great fortune.”
“Father, I am sure. Surer than I have ever been in my life,” Richard said, wishing his words would get through to his parents. “And I truly would like your blessing on this matter. If I were to marry Miss Julianna and you two did not agree, I know you two would make our lives miserable.”
“Come now, Richard. You make us sound like heathens,” Lady Frost said, rolling her eyes.
“Mother, we both know how you and Father can not only be particular but also quite set in your ways. Any deviation from the norm often sets you two bickering, either with one another or with me,” Richard said, eyeing them both. “As your only child, I know you two well.”
“And as our only child, we expect you to make the best decisions in life,” Lord Frost said, his voice becoming stern once more. “You have your whole future to think about, Richard. You are young and still have much to learn about the proper order of things.”
“But I am not a child, Father. And I know what my heart wants,” Richard countered.
“Richard, darling. You will one day be Earl of Wexford. It is a great responsibility, and one you shouldn’t take lightly. A wife is one of the biggest decisions of your life. You shouldn’t be in a rush to make the decision so lightly,” Lady Frost said as though she was trying to teach him a proper lesson.
“Mother, I have thought about this for a long time,” Richard explained.
“Is this to mean that you’ve been seeing Miss Gardener for a long time?’ Lord Frost asked. Richard felt as though he’d been caught red-handed and tried hard to think of something convincing to say.
“I do call upon Miss Gardener often, yes,” Richard admitted.
“Then I suppose her parents are expecting such a proposal,” Lady Frost said with a long sigh. “You’ve been leading on this poor girl, and her family.”
“No, Mother. I have been perfectly honest with my intentions,” Richard said, hating how his mother always twisted his words.
“Richard, I truly wish you would have told us sooner. We could have helped you see reason at the beginning instead of you going this far,” Lord Frost said as he shook his head. They were acting as though he’d done something scandalous when all he was trying to do was explain that he was in love and was going to marry the woman that he did love. He just needed their blessing on the matter so he could protect Julianna from an overbearing life.
“I am going to write to the Gardener family and invite them for dinner,” Richard said as he then stood from his chair. “Mother. Father. I truly wish you would see how much I love Miss Julianna and wish to marry her as soon as a date can be arranged.” And with those words, Richard turned and left the drawing room right away.
He walked down the long hallway, the floors a polished marble that reflected his image. The hallway had been decorated with vases of freshly cut flowers from the garden. The vases rested on porcelain pedestals, filling his nose with the scent of their fragrance. As he neared the wooden staircase that would take him up towards his personal study, he glanced at the many portraits of family members he never had the chance to meet. The linage of the Wexford family was on clear display in the foyer, a sure sign of power and wealth.
However, to marry Julianna, he would gladly give it all away. Surely there was a distant cousin or some sort of relative that could inherit the earldom. Richard would then be free to live his life however he saw fit. He would marry Julianna, and they could even live in a small cottage on her father’s estate. Perhaps he would come to enjoy living a simpler life that Julianna got to experience with her family. They always seemed so happy together at social functions that perhaps he could really learn something from them.
As he made it to his study, he sat behind the mahogany desk and withdrew a sheet of writing paper. Everything about his personal study oozed wealth. From the desk, to his writing quill, to the landscape paintings hanging on the walls next to the shelves filled with books. There was much about his life that he enjoyed and was grateful for. But did it all really mean more to him than the love he felt for Julianna?
No, Richard was sure that he was in love with Julianna and that she loved him back. He would uphold his promise and marry her, regardless of what his parents thought or would try to do to him as he went through with this marriage. He would announce it tomorrow at dinner to her father, and then it would truly be official. He could even write a notice for the papers to be sent tomorrow so everyone in England would know that he was to be engaged and married to Miss Julianna Gardener.
But he wouldn’t do such a thing until he had her father’s blessing, and hopefully the blessing of his own parents. Perhaps after dinner they could discuss the matter again and they would finally see things from his perspective. One way or another, Richard knew that he would marry Julianna. No matter what.
“The Wicked Lord who Loved Her” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Julianna’s life flipped upside down when her scandalous affair with a Lord’s son, who promised to marry her, didn’t end up the way she expected. Their future was ruined when his parents forced him into an engagement with a young lady of status. But true love always finds its way, and Juliana soon finds herself trapped in a painful dilemma that will question her very values. In an unexpected twist of events Richard is willing to fight for their love once again. Will she give a second chance to the man of her dreams?
Richard Frost is a dazzling young man who enjoys the company of young Ladies. But, when he is forced to marry a wealthy woman, as society imposes, he has no choice but to succumb to his parents’ will. Luckily, when Richard’s fiancé finds out that his father’s gambling habits have ruined them, she calls off the engagement in an instant. Richard feels it is high time he won Julianna’s heart back, even though he knows he is playing with fire. When their paths cross once more, he is sure that nothing has changed, but reality proves him wrong. How far will he go in order to prove himself to the woman he loves and win her back?
Fate meant for them to find each other again, but Richard knows he has to fight a very difficult battle. Will Julianna let go of the pain and guilt that has swallowed her? A chance at love may finally be within reach for Richard and Julianna, as the sizzling passion still flares between them. With everyone and everything set against them, will they dare to give love a second chance?
“The Wicked Lord who Loved Her” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.