This is a story I started a while back but never finished. I'm hoping that some feedback will encourage me to write again on it. I only have two chapters written so far, and I'm not sure I'll continue it. Please let me know what you think! I promise it will be better than my summary.
The story is a fairly typical historical romance, and I realized shortly after I began writing it that the plot is almost exactly like that of the movie "Pearl Harbor,"except set during the Crimean War, so please forgive the similarities, as they were not intentional! The story is not so much about the love story as it is about the emotional complexities of love, loss, grief, renewed hope and life's biggest decisions. Will Lucy, who has spent a year mourning her lost love and has finally begun to move on, choose her new love, or the man she thought she lost? Well, I guess you'll just have to see!
It was a glorious day; the sun was shining brightly, the grass had turned from dull winter-brown to vibrant green and the blades were growing taller every day. The very first flowers of the season were beginning to bloom, and every color imaginable covered the countryside . The trees swayed with a gentle breeze, their limbs laden with newly-budded leaves; the birds sang a sweet melody, the croaking frogs and buzzing insects their chorus. It was nature announcing that spring was upon England at last.
Lucy Harper took in a deep breath of the aromatic air, a small smile playing around her mouth as she exhaled. Her long skirts whispered against the grass as she strolled along the main road that ran in front of her family's country estate. It was a perfect day for a walk, and not a soul was in sight.
Reaching into a pocket, she drew out a letter. Her smile widened as she unfolded it; she had read it so often in the weeks since she received it that she had it memorized, but that did not stop her from reading it again. She wandered slowly along the road, engrossed in her letter without a care for the world around her, until there came from over the hill the sound of a carriage and horse.
"Miss Harper!" called a familiar voice.
Lucy blinked and looked up. The two-wheeled chaise was over the hill now, and seated on the driver's seat was Mrs. Talbot, a neighbor and a friend of her mother's. At her signal, the single horse slowed and stopped.
"Mrs. Talbot. A pleasure to see you," Lucy said, shading her eyes from the sun to look up at the older woman.
"What are you doing out, and without a bonnet and shawl? Climb up, dear, I'll take you back home."
"Thank you, but it's a lovely day. I can walk back."
"Nonsense – won't you come visit with this poor old lady? Have some tea, at least. Then you can resume your walk." She smiled kindly down at her.
Lucy didn't argue further. Tucking the letter back into her pocket, she helped herself up onto the carriage seat. She knew Mrs. Talbot would insist.
"Is the letter from a suitor?" Mrs. Talbot asked with a cheeky smile as she flicked the reins and they set off again, the horse's hooves clattering noisily on the hard-packed dirt road.
Lucy smiled as she watched the fields of wildflowers pass. "Mrs. Talbot, surely you know by now I have no suitor. Mother would have told you the instant she found out."
"Oh, your mother doesn't know everything, I daresay." Mrs. Talbot smiled over at her.
They rounded a bend in the road and Harcourt Place came into view. It was a handsome brick house, the gardens and hedges surrounding it already flourishing due to the early coming of spring. The carriage shuddered and jerked when they entered the freshly-graveled drive and juddered to a halt in front of the door. A footman stepped out to take the reins of the horse, and another helped Lucy down from the carriage, then turned to help Mrs. Talbot.
"Oh, dear me, I do think I'm getting too old for this thing," Mrs. Talbot said when she'd finally managed to get down. "Riding for too long makes my whole body ache. Do make sure you never get old, Miss Harper."
When they entered the house it was to find Lucy's mother arranging a bouquet of hyacinth in the foyer.
"Hester, I didn't expect you!" Mrs. Harper said in surprise when she turned to see her friend in the doorway.
"Well, I didn't plan on it, but I was passing through and didn't think you'd forgive me for not visiting."
"Come sit down, Mrs. Talbot," Lucy said, taking the older woman's arm and leading her into the sitting room. Mrs. Talbot, who was small and frail and had rheumatic joints, tried to insist she needed no help, but let Lucy lead her to a sofa anyway.
When tea had been brought and they were all settled comfortably, Mrs. Talbot sighed and set down her teacup.
"As I was saying, Vivian, I was passing through. I've just come from paying my respects to poor Mrs. Sutherland."
Lucy, who had been staring thoughtfully out the window, looked around. "Mrs. Sutherland?" she repeated, puzzled. "What has happened?"
"Oh, dear, you haven't heard?" Mrs. Talbot looked surprised. "I thought everyone in Hampshire knew by now."
"Knew what?" Mrs. Harper asked eagerly. Lucy's hand tightened on her teacup. Realizing it was shaking and her tea was in danger of spilling out, she set it on the table. Folding her shaking hands together in her lap, she looked up at Mrs. Talbot.
"Do tell us," she said. Her throat felt very dry.
Mrs. Talbot sighed again. "I do hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Mrs. Sutherland received a letter some time ago from Colonel Langdon. Her son, Lieutenant Colonel Sutherland, died in February at the battle of – what was it? Europa? Eutaporia?"
"Eupatoria," Mrs. Harper supplied knowledgeably.
Lucy heard no more. Her chest felt constricted, as if her corset had been laced too tight. She tried to take a deep breath, but it seemed the air had been sucked out of the room. The voices of her mother and Mrs. Talbot were muffled, distant, her ears filled with a strange ringing.
Standing abruptly and nearly tripping over her skirts, Lucy breathlessly said, "Forgive me, I must be excused."
"Are you well, Lucy? You look pale," Mrs. Harper said, looking concerned as she stood and reached out a hand to her daughter.
"I – I need fresh air. I'm not feeling well." Without waiting for a response, Lucy made her way out of the room and through the foyer. When she reached the door she wrenched it open and stepped back out into the bright April sunshine.
She was still gasping for air. One hand resting on her heaving chest, she stumbled around the side of the house, out of sight of the sitting room. Once safe under the shade of a tree, she rested against the brick wall of the house and sank to her knees, her voluminous skirts spreading out around her. Only then did she let the hot tears fall.