Valentine Countdown Blitz Day 4

For as long as she can remember, Bethany Swafford has loved reading books. That love of words extended to writing as she grew older and when it became more difficult to find a 'clean' book, she determined to write her own. Among her favorite authors are Jane Austen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Georgette Heyer.

When she doesn't have pen to paper (or fingertips to laptop keyboard), she can generally be found with a book in hand.

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Twenty-year-old Diana Forester, a country-bred young woman, fears that her inexperience and uncertainties have discouraged the charming Mr. John Richfield. 

On arriving back home from London, she learns that he has already arrived, ready to continue their acquaintance and explore whether they are suited for each other. 

If Diana thought that deciding her future marriage mate was difficult in London, courting takes on a whole new aspect when Diana's younger siblings become involved. She finds herself dealing with her own feelings, her sister, her younger brother, jealous members of a house party, a jilted suitor, and a highwayman as she falls in love with the charming Mr. Richfield.


Mr. Richfield remained by my side and turned the pages at my nod. I didn’t tell him I knew every note and word by heart. An exhalation of relief left my lips once I finished. The gathered party applauded politely, Mr. Richfield the loudest of all.
            “Another, Miss Forester?” he asked. He reached for the sheet music to display it for me.
            Shaking my head, I left the seat for another, eager young lady to take. “Oh, no. I think I have displayed my meager talent enough for one evening.”
            Chuckling, Mr. Richfield showed me to a seat and then fetched a cup of tea for me. He sat beside me as music filled the room. “Miss Forester, you were lying to me,” he said, leaning closer so that I could hear him.
            “I don’t think that’s true.”
            “As you wish. You implied you were only adequate at the pianoforte, and yet you played exquisitely.”
            I raised my eyebrow. “I do believe you are trying to flatter me, sir.”
            “What reason would I have to do that?” he asked, raising his own eyebrow at me.
Blushing, I dropped my gaze to my cup. There was only one reason a girl would think any gentleman would be paying any attention to her, but perhaps I was overthinking the matter. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” Mr. Richfield said quickly as I sought to find something to say. “Perhaps you would prefer to talk about the latest gossip?”
A few older members of the group glanced over at me, and I felt my cheeks flush even more. In my horror at the thought of having to maintain the senseless gossip commonly spoken of, I had spoken a trifle louder than necessary. I forced a swift, polite smile and they returned to their conversations.
Why was I constantly embarrassing myself in front of Mr. Richfield?
“Quite honestly, Mr. Richfield, I have no desire to listen to stories that are told merely to spread scandal,” I said in a much lower tone. “I do not know those involved, and it could well be that matters have been greatly exaggerated with each person who repeats it. I want no part in that.”
“Good,” Mr. Richfield said with a smile, seeming not to have noticed I had, just moments before, drawn the attention of others with my improper exclamation. “I suspected you shared my feelings on the matter. However, I had to make sure.”
“A test, sir?”
“Do you mind?”
            I considered the question for a moment. “No,” I said slowly, careful to keep my voice low. “But it is hardly fair of you to do something like that to me.”
            “I promise not to do it again,” Mr. Richfield said, gazing at me in a suddenly serious manner. He seemed to hesitate. “Miss Forester, if I were to find my way to your family’s home, would I find a welcome?”
            My breath caught in my throat. “My home?”
            Mr. Richfield nodded. “With your permission, I’d like to meet and speak to your father.”

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