Alice's Arranged Marriage (Home for Christmas Book 1), page 1
Alice’s Arranged Marriage
Home for Christmas
Love Light Faith
Alice’s Arranged Marriage
Home for Christmas
Love Light Faith
Alice’s Arranged Marriage
Text Copyright © 2019 by Joyce Alec
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictionally. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.
First printing, 2019
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Alice’s Arranged Marriage
Home for Christmas
...a sweet, romantic journey spanning decades - even centuries - of holiday cheer.
There’s no better season than Christmas to look back with gratitude for all the family blessings and forward with anticipation to all the joy to come. A holiday romance or a surprise Christmas wedding that leads to a lifetime of happiness is an irresistible story for a true romantic. Add some snow, hot chocolate, and carols at the piano and you’ll fall in love again and again.
Second chances, mail order brides, marriages of convenience – this clean and wholesome series brings all this and so much more. Join our heroes and heroines from proper Regency England to the majestic Rocky Mountains as they find peace, true love, and inspiring Christmas spirit.
This multi-author Christmas series is brought to you by these best-selling authors:
Nineteenth Century, New York City
“Mama, are you quite sure about this?”
“Of course.” Mrs. Jones patted her daughter’s hand, put a bright smile on her face, and stepped forward, bringing Alice along with her. A knot formed in Alice’s stomach as she tried to smile at the other guests, knowing full well that there would be an immediate comment about her presence here this evening.
Sighing inwardly, Alice forced herself to do as her mother expected and began to look all about her for someone to talk to. Her head spun this way and that, her eyes roving across the room and wondering where she might go. There seemed to be a slight lull in conversation as she and her mother walked further into the room, as though every eye was on her, waiting for her to do or say something that they could then talk about amongst themselves. Heat crept into Alice’s cheeks as she held her head high. She was doing her best to fit in, but it seemed it was never good enough.
Her eyes narrowed just a little as a tall, thin man stepped forward from where he had been standing, greeting her with a bow. “Mr. Weston.” She did not much care for the gentleman, given that she knew him to be a source of gossip. “How are you this evening?” She did not curtsy nor greet him formally, even though she knew she ought to do so. He was not worthy of such a formality, she told herself, not missing the glittering looks of the two ladies standing just a little behind Mr. Weston. No doubt they would have noticed her failure and would be sure to tell everyone they knew about it. She would be ridiculed all over again.
“You are dancing this evening, I hope?” Mr. Weston asked, a small smile on his lips that did nothing to add any handsomeness to his sharp features. “I would like to—”
“I don’t think I will dance, no,” she interrupted, turning her head away and feeling the urge to walk away from Mr. Weston growing steadily. “Not this evening.”
Mr. Weston said nothing for a few moments and when she dared glance at him, Alice saw that his expression was one of both anger and mirth. Evidently, he found her to be more than a little ridiculous and that brought another flare of embarrassment to her cheeks.
“What a pity,” said another voice, making Alice glance to her left. One of the young ladies standing near Mr. Weston had detached herself from her friends and now was coming closer to him, as though to make it quite plain she was insulted on his behalf by Alice’s refusal. “You are aware, Miss Jones, that Mr. Weston is one of the finest dancers we have here in New York?”
Alice stiffened, disliking the sharp gleam in the young lady’s eyes. “Be that as it may,” she said, a trifle too firmly, “I do not wish to dance this evening with Mr. Weston. He will have to excuse me.”
The young lady trilled with laughter, putting one hand on Mr. Weston’s arm as if to assure him of her support. “You do realize, of course, just how rude you are being in refusing Mr. Weston without clear explanation?”
Alice lifted her chin, feeling the same, uncomfortable embarrassment begin to fill her. She had not wanted to come here this evening, but her mother had insisted. She always said that Alice was just as welcome at these gatherings of high society as any other, but Alice knew full well that she did not truly belong. There was a level of propriety that she could never quite reach, and so many rules about one’s conduct that she simply could not abide by them all.
“You will excuse me now,” she said, not waiting for the young lady or Mr. Weston to acknowledge her departure but spinning around on her heel and moving quickly away, her skirts billowing about her. She felt as though most of the room were watching her now, watching to see what mistake she would make next so that they might converse about it among themselves for the rest of the evening and, indeed, for the rest of the sennight. There was always something she had done wrong, always something she had said or done that was inappropriate or rude, and high society never hid any of what they thought or felt when it came to the Jones family.
Sighing heavily to herself, Alice moved quickly through the other guests, managing to accidentally elbow another lady in the ribs and, in turning to apologize, bringing her foot down on an older gentleman’s foot.
Her face was quite red by the time she reached the quiet safety of the corner of the room. The guests closed in together in front of her, shielding her from their sharp eyes and mocking words. Shame began to fill Alice as she pressed herself a little further into the shadows, wrapping her arms about herself and feeling a chill run over her skin. She never felt welcome here, not truly welcome, in any case. Yes, the invitations came in and yes, her mother and father were always eager for her to attend, but Alice knew that there was no joy in her heart when it came to events like this. If high society had been kinder to her, if they had been welcoming and more forgiving, then she might find an enjoyment in being a part of these events. But, as Alice well knew, this was not the place for her.
Sighing heavily, Alice pressed one hand against
But that still did not mean that everything was as wonderful as Alice had once believed it would be. Society, whilst ensuring that they always invited the Jones family to as many gatherings and events as they could, were still inclined to look down on them a little. They had not come into their wealth by having it passed down from one generation to the next, as so many of theirs had been, but had rather made it from trade. That in itself seemed to be a reason for society to look down on them, and Alice knew her lack of refinement only added to such things.
And, of course, one could not look back to where one had come from. Her family was much too wealthy now to ever return to the friends they had once had. Alice knew that her father had been and still was very generous toward those who had been their friends and neighbors when they had been poor, but there was still a divide between them, a vast chasm that could never be filled. There was no way back, and yet sometimes it seemed there was no way forward either.
“Champagne, my dear?”
She looked up to see her father coming toward her, a glass held out in front of him.
“Thank you, Papa,” she murmured, a little embarrassed to have been found hiding. “I hope that I did not—”
“A pleasant evening, isn’t it?” her father interrupted, gazing about the room as though this was all that mattered. “There will be music and dancing soon enough. Are you going to step out onto the floor with anyone?”
Alice hesitated, then shook her head. “No, Papa, I am not,” she answered quietly, seeing his expression drop to a frown. “I already told Mr. Weston that I would not dance with him and so I do not think that anyone else would now be eager to seek me out.”
Mr. Jones sighed heavily, then drained his glass. There was something in his eyes that she could not quite make out, looking all about the room as though he would be able to find the answer to some difficult problem that had been placed on his shoulders.
“I know you have been finding things a little trying,” he said sympathetically, glancing back at Alice with his dark green eyes, so similar in color to her own. “I guess I didn’t imagine that we would have such a difficult time fitting in with all these people.”
“You do not seem to have any particular difficulties at all,” she remarked quickly, knowing full well that her father had managed to find a group of gentlemen who had seemed quite content to have him join their ranks. “And Mama, too.” She looked all about her, finally spotting her mother standing fairly close to her, listening attentively to whatever it was that the lady beside her had to say. A small smile caught Alice’s lips, despite her frustrations and embarrassment. Her mother, quiet, demure, and quite beautiful still, seemed to have made an excellent impression. It was only Alice who remained entirely unrefined.
Her father sighed and patted Alice’s arm. “You must not think that it has been easy,” he said softly, reminding Alice that her parents had endured their own struggles. “Things have been difficult—but we want to make sure that you are finding a happiness that will last for the rest of your life.”
Alice frowned immediately, a line forming between her brows as she looked back steadily at her father. “For the rest of my life?” she repeated, not fully understanding what was being said. “Are you trying to tell me, Papa, that you want me to marry someone here?” She waved a hand at the crowd of guests, a look of disdain crossing her face. “I do not think that anyone here would be eager enough to—”
“I have met a viscount, who comes from near London somewhere,” her father interrupted, holding up one hand so as to stay her immediate protest. “Do not ask for the particulars, but he has informed me that a gentleman friend of his is most eager to make a match with someone who can bring him out of his current difficulties.”
Alice’s heart began to beat wildly in her chest as she stared up at her father, fully aware of what he meant and yet finding the idea more than a little preposterous. Surely her father could not intend for her to marry someone in England?
“You have a great fortune, Alice, and this gentleman seeks a wealthy wife. The viscount is making all of the arrangements. You will sail for England within the month.”
Alice’s mouth went dry as she blinked rapidly, trying to take in all that her father had said. She could not quite believe it, struggling to comprehend what he had meant by such a statement. The truth was in his words, but she still could not take it in. She was to sail to England to be married? Married to whom?
“I know this has come as something of a shock,” her father said gently, putting one hand on her arm as if to steady her. “But your mother and I think it’s for the best, Alice. You need to marry and settle and, unfortunately, you know as well as I that there isn’t a gentleman here who would even think of you that way.” His voice and expression were soft, as if to shield her from the sting of truth that came with his words. “They look down on you, Alice.”
“That is because I don’t—I mean, do not behave like I ought,” Alice interrupted, her voice quavering with the flood of emotion that wrapped over her heart. “You know that, Papa. Even though I’ve tried, I keep managing to make a fool of myself.” A faint terror seized her, making her heart thunder all the more furiously. “England is much stricter with that sort of thing, Papa. I can’t go there! They’ll only look down on me all the more!”
“Nonsense,” Mr. Jones said firmly, looking at her with a determined expression set on his face. “You will do very well indeed, Alice. You shall have a companion on the journey, of course, but you are to stay with the earl’s maternal aunt whilst the wedding preparations are made and your trousseau purchased.” He smiled at her reassuringly. “You know that your mother and I would like to come with you, but we have to stay here in New York. Once you are settled, however, we will, of course, come to visit you and your new husband.”
It seemed to be taking all of Alice’s energy simply to draw in one breath after the other. She could not speak, could not even find a way to form words in response to what her father had said. There was nothing she could say, she realized, for her father had made all of these arrangements without even a word to her about them. It was already planned out for her, already put in place for her to do. It was not her herself that the earl wanted. It was her vast fortune. Apparently her wealth was the only thing that he desired and, as such, the match had been made.
“There will be an elegance and a refinement to our family after your marriage,” her father told her, dropping his hand from her arm and smiling broadly at her as though all was now quite satisfactory and she ought to be jumping up and down on the spot with joy. “Your children will bear a title, Alice! You will be set up as a countess in England—and imagine what the reaction will be here when I tell them all that you have married so well!” He grinned at her, his eyes alight with a fresh hope that Alice could not bring herself to dash. “It has all worked out very well, hasn’t it?”
Struggling even to nod, A
She herself could not quite accept that what her father had told her would be her life, her future. To even consider herself as engaged was quite ridiculous, and yet her father’s agreement with this earl now meant that this was precisely what she was. She was engaged. Engaged to be married—and to an earl, no less.
“An earl,” she whispered, one hand now pressed to her beating heart as though it would quieten it a little. Her legs felt weak and she wanted to sit down heavily somewhere so that she might have the opportunity to take in this news.
She would be married—and soon, it seemed—to a poor earl who wanted nothing except her fortune. Alice supposed he was very poor indeed, if he was willing to engage himself to a lady he had never met and would not have a great deal of opportunity to get to know before their marriage. Was there no one in England whom he could marry? Or was there something wrong with his character that meant no one there would accept him?
Biting her lip, Alice signaled to a nearby servant and picked up another glass from his tray. Drinking it quickly, she set her shoulders and looked all about her again. This would no longer be her world, she realized. She would have no part here, would have nothing to do with the society in New York any longer. Having always felt as though she did not belong, Alice wondered if English society would be any different. Would they be more accepting of her? Or would they think less of her given that she had come from New York and was not English born and bred? The enormity of what was ahead began to settle on her mind, making her catch her breath as she realized what she was expected to do. She was not a timid creature by any means, but to realize that she had to step out of this world and set foot into an entirely new one all on her own was, in fact, a little overwhelming. English society, she knew, was very strict in its rules and regulations for one’s conduct, making Alice fear that she would make a very grave mistake which would turn all of society against her. Would she bring embarrassment to her family name, simply by being unaware of what was expected of her? Would the earl be ashamed of his betrothed when he realized that she did not know precisely how she was to behave? Fear began to claw at her heart and Alice leaned back heavily against the wall, feeling all the doubts begin to pile in against her mind, screaming at her that she would fail completely. If she was not accepted here, then what made her believe that the English ton would accept her over there?
JOYCE ALEC SERIES:
Other author's books:
- A Lady's Mystery: Regency Romance (Ladies, Love, and Mysteries)Alice's Arranged Marriage (Home for Christmas Book 1)An Earl's Redemption: Regency Romance (Brides of London)The Shadows: Regency Romance (Ladies, Love, and Mysteries)A Viscount to Remember: Regency Romance (Brides of London)Diamonds of the Marquess: Regency Romance (Season of Brides)The Viscount's Promise: Regency Romance (Weddings and Scandals)The Aristocrat's Charade: Regency Romance (Brides of London)Promise of the Earl: Regency Romance (Season of Brides)
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