Are you ready for a sneak peek at Mathilda? I'm so excited for you to read it.
Southampton, United Kingdom April 1912
Mathilda Weston giggled and pointed to the newspaper. “Here’s another one. Successful shopkeeper looking for a bride who can work sums and be mother to a young child.”
“That’s hilarious. He has to ask for a woman who can do sums? My, my, he set his standards high,” Mathilda’s older sister, Louise, rolled her eyes and set down her teacup.
“Not every woman can be as successful in marriage as you will be,” Mathilda said, momentarily slumping in her chair. She frowned while stirring a lump of sugar in her tea, watching the sweetness dissolve.
It had been a while since she’d had sugar in her tea. She and Louise barely had enough money to survive on. They couldn’t afford extravagances, even though growing up, they’d had as much sugar in their tea as they wanted. She wasn’t looking forward to going home.
Mathilda eyed the sugar cookies in front of her on a China plate with pink roses, then reached for one. “Do you think I’ll ever be, Lou?”
Louise raised a perfectly arched brow and replied, “Not if you don’t improve your posture and your attitude. Really, Mattie. You’d think you never had a governess.”
Mathilda straightened her spine and looked at the newspaper again, taking a tiny, ladylike nibble of her cookie. “This one is terribly amusing, Louise. I suspect it will make you laugh.”
“I doubt that,” Louise said, her face schooled in a haughty expression. Then her eyes twinkled. “Try me.”
“Wanted,” Mathilda read, “a wife who can skin a hog and pluck a chicken faster than I can.” She looked up just in time to see her sister’s tips twitch. “I almost made you smile!”
Louise leaned forward and looked at the paper. “Some of these are terribly sad. Look at this one.” Clearing her throat, she read, “I am young and have no fortune other than that of my good looks and disposition. In me you will find a loyal wife, should you treat me kindly.”
Mathilda sighed deeply. “Oh, that is sad. What kind of a woman would take out an advertisement to become a mail-order bride?”
The parlor door opened, and a hotel maid walked in. “Miss,” she said, dropping a curtsy to Louise. “Mr. Hillcock is here.”
“Thank you,” Louise said, and waved the maid away. She stood and looked at her reflection in the large mirror over the hotel suite’s mantle. Adjusting the ribbon at her throat, the last of her jewelry having been sold the year before, she turned this way and that, then nodded to her sister.
“I’ll show him in,” Mathilda said, rising from her seat. As she left, she noticed her sister taking a casual pose in one of the overstuffed chairs. Though Louise wouldn’t admit it, Mathilda knew her sister was nervous. Their jesting at the newspaper had merely been a diversion.
Mathilda was more than a little curious to let in Mr. Hillcock. This would be her first look at her sister’s husband to be. He was doing a business deal in Southampton, England, and had sent for Louise to be wed there, instead of their home in South Carolina. They’d be honeymooning on the Titanic, set to sail the following day. The wedding would be simple, done before embarking in the hotel room by a Justice of the Peace he knew.
Mathilda was terribly jealous. Not so much of the wedding, she knew it would be a rushed, unlavish affair, but for what came after. The ship!
The Titanic was the talk of every newspaper and person. It had been for months! She wished she could go along.
Though she was her sister’s chaperone until the wedding, once her sister married, Mathilda was to set off back home with a hired matron as a chaperone. It was going to be a long journey, coach each leg of it, and likely unexciting. No large ship for her, no new start to life. No rich husband.
Instead, there would be a quiet and crumbling home filled with dusty relics from the trips her father had taken while he was alive, empty halls, and trying to make their funds last until she was married to a wealthy man herself.
As she envisioned the house she and Louise had grown up in, she thought perhaps she’d go through and discard the more ghastly of the artifacts still there. Like the mummified…something, from a native tribe Father brought back excitedly. Perhaps she could even sell some of them.
Mathilda shivered. She was but a young girl at the time when the object was brought home and terrified her, but even now, as a young woman, she avoided that particular display in the house. The amusing thing is, their father didn’t even know what it was. Neither he nor his guide understood the language spoken by those who sold it to him. For all she knew, it could be a tree branch wrapped in cloth.
At her sister’s small cough, Mathilda startled and ended her musings, opening the outer door. A man looked up, and she couldn’t help but stare at him. Of average height, he was dressed in the latest London fashion in a medium gray suit, and his hat was casually tossed on the table near the door. “Hello,” she greeted. “Mr. Hillcock?”
A face too stern to be handsome bestowed upon her a cool expression. The dark eyes were sharp and pierced her in an uncomfortable way. “Yes. Louise or Mathilda?”
She answered, feeling uneasy. “Mathilda. Lou–Louise is in the parlor.”
With a nod, he strode past her. This was going to be her brother-in-law? Mathilda followed, and sat in a small chair on the opposite side of the room, a book in hand, while she pretended not to listen to him greet her sister. That was her job as chaperone, to be there for propriety’s sake, but she was also glad of it, for the chance to observe this first meeting.
Mr. Hillcock wasn’t what she imagined at all. How had her sister fallen in love with him? But then, Mathilda knew Louise wasn’t, not really. She didn’t even know him. Louise was in love with his wealth and the lifestyle that he was going to give her. Just like Mathilda would likely have to be one day too. It was a good match, their father’s lawyer assured Louise after bringing the proposal, and of course, a woman once twenty-five must be married, or else be a spinster!
Their inheritance was dwindling, and even with just one sister to support, funds would be meager, so Louise said yes. Love wasn’t in the equation. In fact, seeing Mr. Hillcock now, Mathilda felt confident that Louise would never have agreed, but for the fact that they were without any other way of survival.
Once Louise had accepted the proposal, arrangements had been made, a few short letters written between Louise and her future husband, and before long, they traveled to meet him. Mathilda had seen some of the letters. They were quite formal. There was no warmth or excitement in the tone of Mr. Hillcock.
Mathilda turned the page in her book, even though she hadn’t read it. One thing suddenly struck her. Not long ago, she and Louise had been making fun of the mail-order bride ads they had been reading, but really, Louise was almost one herself. She’d had practically no say in her future marriage. The lawyer had come to her with the suggestion, found the husband, and arranged everything. Would it be the same for her?
Mathilda stared at her book and tried to concentrate on the text, but the worries in her mind were too great. Her chest rose and fell with sudden labored breaths. What if her sister’s path was to be hers as well? Married to someone without any say or any hope for a future of her choosing? She didn’t want that. What kind of woman would willingly put herself into that sort of situation?
Forced laughter came from the other side of the room, and Mathilda looked up long enough to do a quick study of her sister’s face.
Louise’s smile wasn’t real. There was no happiness in her eyes. It was acceptance; trying to make the best of the situation. There was something else, but she wasn’t sure what.
Then it came to her at once. Desperate. That’s the kind of woman. The women in the newspaper, Mathilda, and Louise were not so different after all.
Not going to spoil it...but when Louise's book comes out in April, you're going to see just how cruel and terrible Mr. Hillcock is, and why Louise is so desperate to get her sister away. Where she runs to, is going to surprise you, because it's not just Louise with a secret she's trying to hide.
Ready to read all of Mathilda? Available Feb 13th, 2023. Preorder the eBook from Amazon by clicking this link. Or, stop by this link on the 13th, to get your paperback. She will also be available in large print.
Want to see all my books, including some upcoming ones I have not shared yet? Click here!
This year, I'm planning nine books to release. One is a non-fiction, and the rest will be sweet and clean romance in both historical and contemporary--two of them Christmas titles!
Keep an eye on my Facebook for sneak peeks of the covers and some excerpts.
From sisters escaping on the Titanic to a love story at the start of WWII, to a Christmas tree farm in flames, there are going to be some incredible adventures I can't wait to take you on!