"As a fan of the incredible Jane Austen ... this novella was a real treat for me to read. The author does a wonderful job with descriptions, such as when she describes Emily's first ball as a kaleidoscope of colors as the couples dance the night away." Amy Lignor
"Love by Secrets is a sweet, bite-size love story. ... I really liked the time period the book was set in. It reminded me of Pride & Prejudice in that regard." Jackie Miller
Emily placed her hand on her father’s arm. With her mother on his other side, they entered the ballroom together.
Candles lit up the room. There was a dazzling, oversized, crystal chandelier in the center of the ballroom, and a dozen wall sconces scattered around the room. Musicians played a lovely tune. Couples danced in the center of the ballroom, and the swirl of silk dresses was like one of Sir David Brewster’s kaleidoscopes; dazzling the eyes with color.
“Oh, Papa, it’s so beautiful, isn’t it?” Emily whispered.
Mr. Stanton patted his daughter’s hand. “Indeed it is.”
Before they had gotten too far into the room, they ran into Miss Mia Gardner standing at the edge of the dance floor.
“Good evening, Miss Gardner,” Mr. Stanton said.
Mia curtsied. “Good evening, Mr. Stanton, Mrs. Stanton.” She turned to her best friend. “Emily, I’m so glad you’re finally here.”
“Did I miss anything?”
Mia whispered in her ear.
Emily giggled. She let go of her father’s arm. “Papa, may I take your leave?”
Mr. Stanton nodded. “Of course, Emily. Miss Gardner, a pleasure to see you this evening.” He bowed to the young woman.
Mia curtsied. “Thank you, Mr. Stanton.”
The two young women hurried over to the nearest alcove to confer in private, and away from prying eyes.
“Let me see it,” Emily demanded.
Mia held out her dance card for her friend’s inspection. Neatly scribbled were the names of six young men: the handsome Mr. Connor Preston being the first name, and the reserved Mr. Charles Giles rounding out her dance partners. “Can you believe it? Mr. Preston wants to dance with me?”
“Of course he does. Why wouldn’t he? You look beautiful tonight,” Emily said.
Mia gave her friend a sad smile. She was not a beauty, but had a sweet disposition. She was from a good family; not wealthy, but comfortable on 2,000 pounds per annum. With four children, however, there was hardly any extra to go around. Nineteen-year-old Mia had already been through one season without a marriage proposal. Would she land a husband this season? Or would she wait season after season for that elusive marriage proposal?
“Thank you, Emily. You are a dear friend to say such sweet things.”
Compared to her friend, there was no doubt that Emily would have her pick of suitors. She was the prettiest girl in the room
Emily grasped Mia’s hand. “I know you’ll find someone this season.”
The two young women were huddled together on the bench. They did not notice Lady Tisbury approaching, with two gentlemen in her wake, until their shadows fell over them.
“Good evening, Miss Gardner, Miss Stanton,” Lady Tisbury said.
Both Mia and Emily looked up, and immediately stood.
“Lady Tisbury, a pleasure to see you again,” Mia said as she curtsied.
“Good evening, Lady Tisbury,” Emily said. “Thank you for your kind invitation to attend this evening.” She curtsied.
“It is my pleasure. I would like to present Mr. Connor Preston and Mr. Ethan Richardson.”
The young women curtsied to the gentlemen.
Lady Tisbury swept her arm out toward Mia. “Gentlemen, you both are acquainted with Miss Mia Gardner. She has been a frequent guest of mine.”
Lady Tisbury nodded in Emily’s direction. “Gentlemen, this is Miss Emily Stanton.”
Both Connor and Ethan bowed, first to Mia and then to Emily. “Miss Gardner. It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Stanton,” they said in unison.
Emily watched them both. Connor had black hair, neatly trimmed at his shirt collar, and intense, blue eyes. He looked dashing in his smartly cut jacket. Ethan had blond hair and deep-brown eyes. He wore a serious countenance, and seemed rather dull next to his gregarious friend.
“Lady Tisbury, thank you for your kind introduction to Miss Stanton,” Ethan said.
Lady Tisbury nodded. “I’ll leave you now. She leaned toward her nephew, Ethan, and whispered, “Please speak with me later. It is Colby again.”
Ethan bowed. “Yes, of course, Lady Tisbury.”
When Lady Tisbury had departed, Connor turned his attention to Mia. “Miss Gardner, may I have that dance now?”
“Yes, uh, of course, Mr. Preston,” Mia stammered, suddenly flustered by the handsome, young man.
“Miss Stanton, may I sign your dance card?” Ethan asked.
Emily took her dance card out of her reticule, and handed it to Ethan. “Thank you, Mr. Richardson. I would enjoy that.”
Ethan signed the card. Before he could give it back to Emily, Connor reached for it.
“My turn,” Conner said, with a twinkle in his eye. He signed the dance card, and handed it back to her. He turned his attention back to Mia and offered his arm. “Shall we, Miss Gardner?”
Mia took Connor’s offered arm, and he led her out to the dance floor.
“Would you care to dance, Miss Stanton?” Ethan asked.
“I would love to.” Emily took his arm, and they proceeded to the dance floor. They stood opposite Connor and Mia, waiting for the couples to line up for the quadrille dance. The dance was announced, and the music started. The women curtsied, and the men bowed.
Emily met Ethan’s hand, and they circled one another. “Don’t you just love to dance Mr. Richardson?” she asked.
Ethan looked up into Emily’s blue eyes. He opened his mouth to speak, but he did not have a chance to answer her question before they parted once again.
The dance continued. Emily and Mia crossed paths. Emily was now paired with Connor. He winked at her and her eyes widened in surprise. When their hands met, a shiver of delight went down her spine. By the time the dance ended, Emily wanted nothing more than to dance again with the handsome Mr. Preston.
The men bowed to the ladies, and Mia and Emily turned to leave the floor.
Connor held his arm out to Emily. “Miss Stanton, I believe you owe me a dance. Shall we partake in the next dance as well?”
“Thank you, Mr. Preston; I would be delighted,” Emily said.
Ethan stepped next to Mia, and he escorted her off the dance floor.
For the rest of the evening, Emily thought about the dashing Mr. Preston. He was charming and witty, and she floated around the dance floor with a smile that lit up her beautiful face.
“Oh, Nesmith, you should have seen the room. It was so beautiful. Mia and I danced almost every dance.”
“Whom did you dance with?” Nesmith helped Emily out of her dress.
“With almost every gentleman in the room; but I danced twice with Mr. Connor Preston,” Emily said. “He’s so handsome. I think he likes me.”
“Did he say so?”
“No; but he winked at me, and we danced two dances together.”
“Miss Emily, don’t get your hopes up. Men love dancing with pretty girls. When he comes to see your father, then you’ll know he’s serious.”
“Oh, Nesmith, don’t be harsh. You weren’t there. I just know he likes me.”
“If you say so,” Nesmith said, a frown creasing her face. The older woman combed out Emily’s hair and helped her into her nightgown. “Do you need anything else?”
“No, thank you Nesmith.”
“Good night, Miss Emily.” Nesmith left the room, and hurried down the hall to attend to Mrs. Stanton.
Emily grabbed her evening reticule. She brought the candle over to the bed, and set it down on the table. She climbed up into bed, snuggling into the soft, feather pillows. She pulled her dance card out to look at Connor’s name again, and a slip of paper fell out. “What’s this?”
She unfolded the note. Her eyes widened as she read it.
I have eyes for only one
In the sea of colorful silks
With eyes of blue
And a smile that
Gladdens my heart
You are my Bright Star
“A love letter. Oh, Mr. Preston; I knew you liked me.” Emily hugged the slip of paper to her breast.
LOVE BY SECRETS, .99