Happy Valentine’s Day!

All the Countess of Harleigh mysteries have just a touch of romance and in the next book, love is definitely in the air! It’s February 1900 and Frances and George are getting married! A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder doesn’t release until June 28th, but in honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d post an excerpt from the book below. Hope you enjoy it!

Family, like a rich dessert, is a treat best enjoyed in small portions. One may love it and want to indulge in great quantities, but too much of either can lead to such a noxious experience one might be prompted to avoid it—or them—forever.

Well. Perhaps that’s just my family.

My mother invaded—I mean arrived at my home four months ago for my sister’s wedding, then stayed on to plan mine. Since that time, I’d gone from considering elopement to contemplating a move to the Outer Hebrides, but since the Gaelic language eluded me, I stayed home and endured the invasion—I mean visit for four months. Four. Long. Months.

The single refuge left to me were my thoughts. Daydreaming had become my escape. It might appear that I was enjoying breakfast with Mother and Aunt Hetty while they reviewed the final—please let it be the final—list of wedding details, but in my head, I was in the church, saying my vows.

I smiled. The dream would be a reality in a little more than twenty-four hours.

I Frances Helena do take thee, George—

“Ahem!”

And just like that, the dining room came back into focus. The altar transformed into the table, draped with a white cloth and littered with handwritten notes and forgotten breakfast plates. The candles that had glowed in my daydream were replaced with the gas chandelier, and the choir turned into rattling china as Mrs. Thompson, my housekeeper, brought in fresh plates.

The reverend’s voice was replaced with my mother’s.

“Do you intend to drink that coffee, Frances, or simply admire it?”

It took another moment before her ice blue stare came into focus. “I beg your pardon?”

“You’ve been gazing into that cup for at least ten minutes now and haven’t heard a word I’ve said.”

That was rather the point.

She drew her brows together. “What’s wrong with you?”

Where to begin? I had a house full of relatives. My mother was organizing my wedding like a military campaign, while I attempted to coordinate a move to my new home during the coldest February in my recollection. And now I’d been distracted from a lovely daydream. Of course, I could tell her none of that.

“Nothing’s wrong.” I pasted on a smile. “What were you saying?”

“I’ve just heard from the florist.” She tossed a note card onto the table. “He can’t manage the pure white roses for the wedding. Now what am I to do?”

I shuddered to think. It was quite possible that poor florist’s head would roll.

Aunt Hetty sought refuge behind the morning paper. I took a long drink of my coffee for fortification. “If they’re the pinkish color, they should be just fine,” I offered. “Rose is wearing pink.” Rose was my eight-year-old daughter and only attendant. She was also the one person Mother didn’t argue with. To her, Rose could do no wrong.

She sighed and sank back into her chair. “I can’t risk the flowers being the wrong shade of white. I’ll have to call at the shop and have a look at them myself.” She gave me a pointed look. “That means I shan’t be able to accompany you to your dress fitting.”

Somewhere in the heavens, a choir of angels sang.

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