Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Little Sneak Peek

I started a new novel. Actually I started it several months ago, but have not had much chance to work on it.  I wanted to try my hand at some historical fiction.  After I got over the scare one of my daughters gave me, (pointing out how hard it must be to get the language of historical fiction right) I embarked,

There is a local museum in Akron named Stan Hywet Hall.  It is a large Tudor home, built by the Sieberling family back in the early 1900s.  Frank A Seiberling founded the Goodyear Rubber and Tire Co.  in 1898.  Mr. Seiberling built this beautiful home on the west side of Akron (it was actually countryside back then) to be a summer home for his family.  I actually grew up in the shadow of Stan Hywet Hall and it has always had a special spot in my heart.  When I was young they used to host fireworks on The 4th of July.  That was discontinued late in the 1960's.  Today, however, they still host crafts shows, antique car shows, The Ohio Shakespeare Company and many other activities on the lawn and in the manor house.  Doug and I even attended a madrigal dinner there not to many years ago at Christmas.

I thought this wonderful house would serve well as the setting for a historical novel.  I have given the estate in this new story the name Montrose (also a local name, but with nothing of the charm of Stan Hywet).  And in a bold and daring move, decided I would post a snippet of the tale.

I would love to hear feedback.  I  appreciate honesty, not just platitudes, and kindness.  Keep in mind that this is a first draft, characters are not well formed as of yet, and there may be (most likely will be) many grammatical errors.  I will work through those as I do revisions down the line.

So with a deep breath.....here goes....

Cameron and his brother stayed close to the storefronts as they walked through town.  A gentle rain had fallen most of the night and the streets were muddy.  A splash from a passing carriage or trotting horse was likely, and most certainly unwelcome.  Despite the weather from the night before, the day had turned out fine, with bright sunshine and a soft breeze.  There was a slight chill in the air, a certain sign of the impending autumn.   All in all, it was a perfect way for Cameron to get out of the manor house and off the estate.  His parents encouraged his visits to town.  They saw the time Cameron spent there as a way to acquaint the people of the area with the heir of Montrose.
            Cameron and Brandon both made cursory bows to those they passed, offering pleasantries with many.  Brandon was much better at that than Cameron—the younger Montgomery boy having inherited their father’s more gregarious nature.  Cameron was more like his mother.  He loved books, and studying, and anything that promoted solitary endeavors.
            Just ahead the door of the milliner’s opened and out walked Miss Hilton, a large hat box in her hand.  She was just about to turn away from the brothers, which would have been preferable to Cameron, when Brandon called to her.
            “Miss Hilton,” he said.  She stopped, surprised to hear her name, and turned.  Her face lit with a smile at the sight of the two gentlemen.  But as her eyes met with Cameron’s, they lowered in a flattering blush.  He had to agree, she was as handsome a woman as could be found in Montbridge.  He should be pleased that his parents were promoting a marriage to an attractive woman.  He could do much worse.
            “What a pleasant surprise,” she said, directing her comments to Brandon.  “What brings the two of you into town?”
            “I’ve come to pick up a suit at the tailors.  Mother believes that before I go off to Cambridge, I need a complete new wardrobe.  Apparently my other suits are too juvenile for a future barrister or whatever I end up becoming.”
            It always amazed Cameron that there was never any bitterness in Brandon’s tone when he talked about needing a career.  It always seemed blatantly unfair to Cameron that he inherited it all, the estate and all its income, while Brandon would have to earn a living.  Oh, there would be some money to get him established, and even to purchase some property of his own, but nothing like what went to the first born.  How many times Cameron had wished they could trade places.  He would much rather be a self-made man, than a gentleman by inheritance.
            “Well, as you can see,” Elaina said as she held up her box, “I have been to purchase a new hat.  I saw it in the window last week, and my father was generous and indulged my sudden impulse for a new hat.”  She quickly opened the top of the box to show off the acquisition.
            “It’s perfect,” Brandon said, coaxing another genuine smile from the girl.  He reached out to take the box from her hands.  “You must model it for us.”
            Again she blushed.   “Oh, you don’t want to see me in it.”
            “Of course, we do!” Brandon said, then, with a nudge to his brother added, “Don’t we, Cameron.”
            “We would be delighted,” Cameron said, although his interest was minimal.  Elaina hesitated for a moment, and then with a tiny hop of excitement reached for the hat.
            “Okay, if you insist,” she said as she pulled it from the box.  The hat had a wide brim that was covered in tulle, lace, a large ribbon and even a feather sweeping up one side.  Elaina untied the bonnet she was wearing and placed the new hat gingerly upon her head, tying the ribbons under her chin.  With a small curtsey, she turned from side to side giving the brothers a chance to admire her new purchase.
            Brandon slipped the soft rope handle on the box over his arm and began to applaud.
            “It’s perfect,” he said.  “You are the picture of style and fashion.  There isn’t a girl in London who could outshine you.”
            She lowered her eyes, please with the compliment.  Slowly she raised her gaze to Cameron’s.  It was obvious she was interested in his opinion.
            He smiled. “My brother has not misspoken, Miss Hilton.  It is very lovely, just like the young woman wearing it.”
            She took a step back, again averting her eyes.  A slow smile spread across her mouth.  Yes, she was charming.
            Brandon handed the box to Cameron.  “Here,” he said, “You hold this and I will run into the tailor’s and get my suit while Miss Hilton switches hats again.”  He smiled at her and then departed down the street.
            “I must seem silly to you,” Elaina said as she quickly replaced her new hat for the old. 
            “Why would you assume that?” Cameron asked.
            “Wanting to show off a silly hat.  A hat is a hat, is it not?”
            Before he could answer, a woman’s plea from across the street caught their attention.  Both Cameron and Elaina turned their heads to the sound.   Mr. Walter, owner of the local mercantile, had a young girl, about the same age as Elaina, by the wrist.  She was pulling hard against him, desperate to get away.
            “Nora,” he hollered, “Send the boy for the constable.”  His wife appeared at the door a moment later.
            “Oh, dear, poor girl,” Elaina murmured.
            “Caught stealing— unfortunate,” Cameron said.
            “You should see if you could be of assistance,” Elaina said.
            Elaina nodded across the street.  “You should help her.”
            “She was caught stealing.  There is nothing I can do for her.”
            “You most certainly can.  You have influence, Mr. Montgomery. You could intervene, show her some mercy.”
            “Look at her,” Elaina said discreetly.  “She’s obviously come upon hard times.  It looks as though she hasn’t bathed in some time.  The hem of her skirt, it’s tattered and muddy.  You could help her.”  Elaina looked up with wide blue eyes and it occurred to Cameron that this was an indication of what was to come.  She would bat her eyes and ask some ridiculous request and he would have no option but to acquiesce.
            “I . . . I don’t know what—“
            “Go,” she said, nodding at the scene across the street.
            With a shake of his head, Cameron negotiated his way past puddles and horse dung to the other side of the street.
            “Please, please,” the girl pleaded, “I put the fruit back.  I promise, I won’t return.”
            “You certainly won’t,” Mr. Walter said.
            “Please,” she said again as she tried to tug her arm away.
            “Is there some assistance I can offer?” Cameron said, catching Mr. Walter off guard.
            “Oh . . .oh . . . Mr. Montgomery, how nice to see you.  Can I offer you something?  Nora!” the man hollered again for his wife.
            “I already sent Marcus,” she said coming again to the door.  “Oh, Mr. Montgomery, may I help you with something,” she added, seeing Cameron standing out in front of the store.
            “Here, woman, hold this girl while I help Mr. Montgomery.”  His wife scowled at him, but did as he asked.
            “No, no, I don’t need . . . I didn’t come here to make a purchase,” Cameron said. “Well, at least not for me.  I was wondering if I might pay for the item in question for this young lady.”  He glanced to the girl who was now struggling against Mrs. Walter’s grip.  She paused for a moment and looked up at Cameron in astonishment.  It was as if someone had stolen his breath when his eyes met with hers.  He was looking into the softest, most intriguing, brown eyes he had ever seen.
            “She was stealing from us,” Mr. Walter explained.
            “She must be hungry,” Cameron said without taking his eyes off the girl.
            “Well then, she should find herself some work like the rest of us, and pay for what she needs.  I don’t run a charity here.”
            Cameron forced himself to turn his attention back to Mr. Walter. “I understand that,” Cameron said.  “That’s why I offered to cover the cost of the items she needed.”
            “Mr. Montgomery, you can’t do that,” Mrs. Walter said.  “You start paying for these urchins and you’ll be drained of all your resources in a week.”
            Cameron smiled.  “Mrs. Walter, I am not offering to pay for every urchin on the street.  But as you can see . . .” he motioned to the girl, “She is obviously hungry.  Maybe if we fed her, then she could seek some employment and be able to pay herself the next time.”  He again looked into the girl’s eyes.  She had stopped struggling now and stood looking in wonder at the stranger who had come to her rescue.
            “Mr. Montgomery, your generosity is very magnanimous, but certainly we can’t allow thievery to go unpunished,” Mr. Walter argued.
            “The Constable is already on his way,” Mrs. Walter added.
            “I see,” Cameron said.  “Please—allow this young lady to select what few items she needs and add it to my family’s account.  When the constable comes, ask him—as a personal favor to me—if he would not take her down to St. Peter’s and ask the kind reverend if he would be able to find a place for her to stay and perhaps help her locate some employment.  I am certain he will be more than willing to help if you mention my name.”
            Mr. and Mrs. Walter stood speechless, uncertain how to respond.  It was clear to Cameron that they wanted to see the girl punished, but were reluctant to cross the Montgomery family.
            “Well,” Mr. Walter said with a hard swallow.  Before he could say anything else, Cameron pulled a coin from his pocket.
            “And please accept this,” Cameron said, “For your troubles.”
            Mr. Walter took the coin from Cameron’s outstretched hand.  “Certainly, sir.  I’m sure the constable will be accommodating.”
            “I’m sure he will be,” Cameron said.  He then turned to the girl and offered her a gentlemanly bow.
            “Thank you,” she whispered.
            Cameron didn’t stay to see that his instructions were carried out.  He knew they would be.  He again negotiated his way across the street to Elaina, and Brandon who had returned from the tailor’s and was waiting near the young lady’s side, grinning at his older brother.
            “Feeling philanthropic, Cameron?” Brandon asked, a glint of humor in his eye.
            “Just trying to please Miss Hilton,” he replied.
            “Oh?” Brandon turned to the young woman in surprise.
            “You just proved my point, Mr. Montgomery.”
            “And what point would that be?” Cameron asked.
            “That you have a heart.  I had heard rumors otherwise.”
            Cameron stood dumbfounded for a moment, as his brother burst into laughter.  Cameron regained his composure quickly and smiled.
            “You should never listen to the stories that my brother tells, Miss Hilton.”
            “I will remember that,” she said
            “And to show you how kind hearted I can really be, may I escort you to your father’s office,” he said, offering his arm.
            “Thank you, sir.  That truly is kind of you.”
            Elaina slipped her hand around the crook in Cameron’s arm.  Brandon offered his arm as well, and she happily obliged.  The three of them began their way down the street toward the offices of Charles Hilton, Esquire.    Before they turned the corner, Cameron glanced back to the mercantile just in time to see the constable arrive.  The young woman was watching him as well, much to Cameron’s pleasant surprise.

Let me know what you think!  Remember, it's a work in progress and has a long way to go to completion. :)


  1. More a question than comment. Was curious about the time period and location...it brings to mind the writings of Jane Austen. I am thinking about the same time period as the pride and the predjudice, setting england? I was surprised. I assumed you would be setting in Akron, in time house was first built. This is why YOU are the great creative writer, and I am humble fan. Mmmm. Looks like I better finish up my current project, so I am ready when needed ;)

  2. Thanks Donna. Yes it will be set in England...Stan Hywet was modeled after English Tudor homes, that's why I thought to use it. Not sure the exact time period...was thinking 1800's. I will assume from your question/comment that it's working...right?

  3. I think it's a great start! An intriguing story, interesting characters. I haven't studied the time period more than the required humanities course in college, and (gasp) I haven't read much Jane Austen or her contemporaries so I can't say much about the historical fiction elements. But I do want to keep reading and I trust you'll do enough research to appease the historical accuracy critics :)

  4. You got me curious, so I did some checking. P & P was considered to be set in the regency time period. 1811-1820. It was actually originally written in 1797, under another title, then revised into the story we love in 1813. I thought this interesting, I forget this was not a period piece for her, very much a current setting. I also was curious about the tudor style home, and found the homes Stan hywet was inspired by were built in the 1400's. One of them for sure is still in the family, so apparently those suckers were built to last... I really hope you keep me abreast of your progress. You have my interest. Love your time setting.

  5. I agree with Donna :) I got the setting just fine but I was unsure of the time period. That's something you can flush out over time though. Mentions of clothing, behavior, word choice, or even historical events that are happening at the time (think Downton Abby and the Titanic) can help place things. But please please please keep going! I'm intrigued! I think I see a love triangle brewing :)

    As a side note, one of my acting teachers said that when we act in classical or historical pieces often times actors get caught up in making sure that we get the culture and society right for the time period. But really, people back then are the same as people now, they just had different social restrictions. So make sure you don't have any wamby-pamby characters. People still fight for what they want, just in a different way. Love you mom! Keep going!

    Oh, and in the movie, can I be Elaina? I like the sound of her hat :)

  6. Hi April!
    This is a very visual opening. I can see the muddy streets and the horse carriages splashing by and the grimy woman struggling to pull away from Mr. Walter. I keep wondering about Ms. Hilton and Brandon, though. What do you have planned for them? I can sense a bit of a love triangle between the three, but for real conflict I was wondering if maybe they were plotting something truly subversive together. Perhaps Ms. Hilton and Brandon are secretly planning to con Cameron out of his inheritance? Cameron seems to be the golden child while Brandon is left catching the table scraps. Greed and jealousy can certainly be powerful motivations. Or maybe Cameron's kind-hearted helpfulness is really just a thin veneer that he uses to mask the fact that he's really a scoundrel who's planning to selfishly misuse his family's inheritance. You've got some really good material in this opening scene to work with and it will be interesting to see where this goes. Keep writing!

  7. Hi April! That must be your pretty name. :) I enjoyed very much your snippet of story. I love, love, love historical romance--any time period--they're all good. So I wasn't even worried yet about specifics. All I knew was that it was working. You give just enough here to let us see four characters that will probably be main characters: the two brothers, Miss Hilton, and the poor girl with the brown eyes. Yes, I think she'll be back simply because of that connection that happened between them. But, I need more. Hard to stop there and be satisfied. You have a smooth writing style, your own voice, and (so far) got your historical facts just fine. I love the house you've based this upon. Absolutely gorgeous. And will be able to inspire much great writing, I am quite positive. :) Keep up the great work, April. It's very nice. ~Ellise~