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It is a simple trick—Elizabeth Mary will take the place of her older sister Mary Elizabeth. She will marry the Lord Edward Hinchcliffe, pretending to be Mary. He will never discover the plot…Mary can then do what she promises, enter a Convent.
Only, the best laid plans often go astray and Elizabeth Mary finds the deception leads her into terrible danger. The Lord Hinchcliffe is no fool and he is a stern taskmaster who prides honesty above all virtues.
Elizabeth Mary was confused. Had she misheard her sister, Mary Elizabeth? The wind was rattling against the shutters. A bolt must have come lose for it jiggled and clattered. The smoke was blown down the chimney, bringing with it clouds of acrid soot. Shrugging deeper into her fur lined cloak, Elizabeth, or Bess as everyone called her, asked her sister, “What did you say, Mary?”
“I implore you to help me.” Mary trembled visibly. She crossed the room and came alongside her sister and uncharacteristically threw her arms around the taller but younger girl. “I cannot marry this man. I cannot marry any man!”
“But before his death, Father arranged it. You agreed, Mary; you seemed pleased.”
“Oh, my dear, what else could I say to my dying father? Could I let him slip from this life worrying that his two daughters were unsettled? My dear, Bess, please try to understand. The idea of marriage terrifies me. I must enter a convent. It is what I have always desired.”
Her sister had always been a strange and secretive girl. They were two very different girls; that much Bess had understood since she had been able to walk across a room, but she had never imagined that Mary yearned for the convent walls. Her sister had never even hinted at wishing to take that path. The very idea of entering such an establishment filled Bess with horror. It would be, to her, like being buried alive. The regimentation of bells would, she was certain, drive her insane. She did pray quite sincerely, but never more than twice a day.
“Perhaps he will understand, the lord, I mean, if you send word…”
“He will never understand, Bess. He covets our home, Bess, this rich land. Men are greedy devils. Power and land is all they crave. Why do you imagine he was so eager to marry a girl he has not even seen? All he is interested in is gaining Abbotswood. Even Father told me that he was very keen to have the house and the land, for it is so different from his own.”
“He does not seem too bad,” Bess suggested, trying to soothe her sister. “Did he not say that I could stay here?”
“Aye, Father made that agreement, but only until you marry and I’ll wager he will have a husband picked out for you even now. He will not wish you to be biding too long here; I tell you I think he has great plans for the estate.”
“I wouldn’t have to say yes to any old man he chooses for me,” Bess said determinedly, jutting out her chin. She would not take just any man, on that she was positive.
“You think not. Oh, my dear, there are ways and means. You are a mere woman; he will not care what you wish. If he wishes you to marry, believe me you will marry. Can you not see this is the only way? We will both gain something from it.”
What would I gain? I don’t want to marry the Lord Hinchcliffe, Mary. I am too young and…”
“Bess, if only you understood how I feel. I am so afraid of so many things,” Mary said, showing to Bess an emotional side that Bess had never witnessed in her sister before. Mary had always been very quiet, saying little and certainly expressing no deep feelings on any matter, so different from her younger sister who was always on the brink of some sweeping tide of emotion.
“But he may be kind. Father said he was not unreasonable.”
“Not unreasonable? Bess, what does that mean? I will tell you since you cannot answer; it means he will be quite affable as long as he gets his own way. It was ever thus with men.”
Bess went and sat on a wooden trunk away from the billowing clouds of soot; she could taste the soot now in the back of her throat. They should have gone to sit in the upper solar where there was a basket of fire instead of this ornate fireplace that allowed the wind to invade it.
What her sister was proposing was not only very wrong, it was ludicrous. They would never get away with it. She said as much to Mary when her sister came and sat next to her.
5 Stars! “The Substitute Bride has an exquisite plot. I could not put this story down. I stayed up and savored every word. The characters came to life on the pages. Bess was naïve, yet intelligent, beautiful, and kind. Edward was a contradiction-- cold and harsh, yet warm and loving. The intimate scenes were enticing without being crude. Fans of romance will not want to miss The Substitute Bride.” Reviewed by Anne Boling for ReviewYourBook.com
5 Blue Ribbons! “Margaret Blake’s novel THE SUBSTITUTE BRIDE brings a unique flair to historical storylines that readers will relish. Bess and Edward don’t exactly seem like an ideal couple at first but it soon becomes obvious that they balance each other out perfectly. Bess’s naivety and inner strength in the face of Edward’s stringent attitude provide plenty of memorable scenes to keep you immersed in the story. I really empathized with Bess as she agonized over what Edward’s reaction would be if he ever found out about the deception. Now if you’re wondering about Beth’s sister’s real story, well, you’ll just have to pick up a copy to find out the story behind her ‘fear’ of marriage.” Reviewed by Chrissy Dionne, Romance Junkies Reviews
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
No. of Pages: 290
Paper Weight (lb): 12.5
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