An Improper Situation on First Sight Saturday
Welcome to Sydney Jane Baily who shares a first meeting from her 5-star historical romance An Improper Situation. Sydney is giving away a free eBook to a lucky commenter so make sure to let us know you were here. Read on for the setup and the excerpt.
SET UP: I like to begin my stories as close to the hero and heroine meeting as possible.
In An Improper Situation, they meet on page two. Charlotte Sanborn, 24 years old, has been on her own since age 14 when her parents passed away from cholera. She looked after her younger brother, who has since moved away, supporting herself as a writer. Her mother’s family is from Boston, but after her mother married her father and moved to Colorado, they lost touch with the eastern branch. As the novel begins, Charlotte is at her desk in Spring City, CO, working on an article; she’s interrupted by the arrival of Reed Malloy, a lawyer from Boston, MA. He is fulfilling his duties as executor of a will and bringing her two young cousins to live with her. For Charlotte, this is an unwelcome surprise.
EXCERPT: Charlotte heard the wagon wheels and the horse’s hooves from where she sat at her desk and raised her head, a frown crossing her otherwise clear features.
“Blazes!” she exclaimed. She was not expecting anyone. Except for Sarah Cuthins, the doctor’s wife, Charlotte and her neighbors weren’t, well, neighborly enough with each other for an uninvited visit. And she could tell just by listening that it wasn’t Sarah’s buggy coming down the road.
She couldn’t see the wagon even if she tried to look out the window, as books were piled high in front of it. Books were, in fact, the dominant feature in the study—on history, modern and ancient languages, classical architecture, mathematics, even oceanology, entomology, and geology. And in the middle of them all, Charlotte sat at her large desk, strewn with papers and with a faded globe perched precariously on one corner.
She lifted her fingers from the keyboard of her typewriter. The invention itself was over a decade old, but her machine—the one extravagant purchase she’d made that year—was new. Anything that took her from it was of great annoyance.
Standing up, she absentmindedly tucked behind her ear one strand of hair that seemed to shimmer with all the colors of autumn. Then she reconsidered and twisted the rest of her waist-length hair up in a loose knot. It wasn’t tidy, but it was better than going to the door all undone, she thought.
The wagon was obviously stopping at her door, so she had no choice but to greet its passengers. Lord, she hoped no one wanted coffee. For that matter, she hoped no one wanted anything, as the kitchen was as bare of food as she was of hospitality and time for interruptions.
Charlotte crossed the well-worn yellow and blue rug, automatically stepping over the small hole in the floorboard as she strode into the hall. It was cluttered with her shoes, coat, umbrella, and various knickknacks, though she didn’t even notice the comfortable mess.
When a sharp knock resounded from the other side of the door, startlingly loud in the silence, she froze. Then she took a deep breath.
“Coming.” Charlotte hoped she didn’t sound as irritated as she felt. No one respected other people’s deadlines! She yanked open the door and then nearly slammed it shut with surprise. Instead, she stepped back with a murmured, “Oh, my!”
Before her was a tall, dark-haired man with the most piercing blue eyes she’d ever seen, dressed in a well-fitted suit of the neatest charcoal stripe. However, what caused her disconcertion was not his devilish good looks alone, but the two young children standing on either side of him.
The little girl, with two blond braids, was holding the man’s hand while the little boy, who had hair remarkably similar in color to Charlotte’s own and who barely came above the man’s knee, simply clutched the man’s well-tailored pant leg, causing a severe pucker.
“I understand this is the Sanborn homestead.”
His voice brought her attention back to him. She looked up dazedly, her own sparkling green eyes blinking at the late spring sunlight behind him. Perhaps the whole apparition of handsome man and small children might just disappear if she willed it.
“I am Charlotte Sanborn.” Automatically, she stuck out her right hand to the stranger.
He looked at her hand, his face surprised.
Now she looked stunned. “How on earth . . . ?” she began. No one except the few people in Spring City who cared to find out knew that she was “Charles” Sanborn, the acclaimed writer.
“Excuse me,” he added, “I thought you would be older. That is, I’m delighted to meet you.” A smile crossed his features for the first time, and he took her extended hand in his free one, and with a firm grasp, shook it.
Charlotte felt a shock of warmth and strength and realized it had been a long while since she’d touched someone else’s skin.
“It is an honor and a pleasure,” he continued. “I’ve read much of your work.” His voice was as warm as his hand, and she flushed.
Charlotte was used to praise, having been hailed as a voice of her time for the past few years by the editors with whom she had contact; she was successful in her own uncelebrated and quiet way—of course under the guise of her pseudonym.
However, knowing that this man had sat down with her work in his hands caused her to feel strangely exposed.
“Well, thank you,” she said and stopped. She was waiting. He was waiting. The children were waiting but less patiently. The little boy tugged on the man’s pant leg.
“Are we goin’ in?” he asked, looking not at Charlotte but up at the tall man, who gave him a smile that stirred Charlotte’s sentiment.
“Oh, I am sorry,” she murmured, still thinking of the man’s genuine smile. “Where are my manners?” The little girl just stared at her as if she was wondering the very same thing, and Charlotte quickly moved aside to let them enter. She felt for all the world as if she had suddenly stepped out of her own life. A few moments ago, she would never have imagined a man and two children standing in her entryway.
“I am sorry to barge in on you, Miss Sanborn,” he began, as his eyes took in the untidiness and the disrepair in one quick glance, “but once we arrived in Spring City, I discovered, of course, that there was no telephone system in place as yet.”
They must be from the east, she concluded. “I think it will be a while yet before those of us in Colorado have the benefits of Mr. Bell’s invention.” Having exhausted that topic, she waited again for him to explain himself.
END OF EXCERPT
If I hadn’t read the setup I would be wondering who this wayfaring stranger could be and how he found Charlotte and what he wants? If you are curious about this story as I am, An Improper Situation is available at most ebook vendors (linked below) and also in print from the Amazon link.