Friday, October 27, 2023

Have a sneak peek between the covers of Carolyn Hughes' compelling novel — The Merchant's Dilemma #HistoricalFiction #Medieval #BlogTour @writingcalliope @cathiedunn

The Merchant’s Dilemma

A Meonbridge Chronicles Companion Novel

by Carolyn Hughes

Publication Date: September 20th, 2023
Publisher: Riverdown Books
Pages: 232
Genre: Historical Fiction

1362. Winchester. Seven months ago, accused of bringing plague and death from Winchester, Bea Ward was hounded out of Meonbridge by her former friends and neighbours. Finding food and shelter where she could, she struggled to make her way back to Winchester again.

Yet, once she arrived, she wondered why she’d come.

For her former lover – the love of her life – Riccardo Marchaunt, had married a year ago. And she no longer had the strength to go back to her old life on the streets. Frail, destitute and homeless, she was reduced to begging. Then, in January, during a tumultuous and destructive storm, she found herself on Riccardo’s doorstep. She had no plan, beyond hoping he might help her, or at least provide a final resting place for her poor body.

When Bea awakes to find she’s lying in Riccardo’s bed once more, she’s thankful, thrilled, but mystified. But she soon learns that his wife died four months ago, along with their newborn son, and finds too that Riccardo loves her now as much as he ever did, and wants to make her his wife. But can he? And, even if he can, could she ever really be a proper merchant’s wife?

Riccardo could not have been more relieved to find Bea still alive, when he thought he had lost her forever. She had been close to death, but is now recovering her health. He adores her and wants her to be his wife. But how? His father would forbid such an “unfitting” match, on pain of denying him his inheritance. And what would his fellow merchants think of it? And their haughty wives?

Yet, Riccardo is determined that Bea will be his wife. He has to find a solution to his dilemma… With the help of his beloved mother, Emilia, and her close friend, Cecily, he hatches a plan to make it happen.

But even the best laid plans sometimes go awry. And the path of love never did run smooth…

The Merchant’s Dilemma is a companion novel to the main series of MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLES, and continues the story of Bea and Riccardo after the end of the fourth Chronicle, Children’s Fate. It is a little more romantic and light-hearted than the other Chronicles but, if you’ve enjoyed reading about the lives of the characters of Meonbridge, you will almost certainly enjoy reading The Merchant’s Dilemma too!

From Chapter 3

She’d claimed she was tired but, in truth, Bea was disheartened, and wanted to be alone to think. She undressed and lay down on the bed, pulling the sheet and coverlet up to her chest and folding her arms across the top of it. The spring weather was improving, and the weak afternoon sun shining through the window had already made the chamber a little warmer.

But even if her body was warm, a chill had crept into her heart.

Of course, she was thrilled when Riccardo said he wanted her to be his wife. “Our future together” he’d said, and for a few moments her heart had bubbled with excitement. But then he mentioned “obstacles”. Her elation turned to frustration when she learned it might be years before they could wed. Hadn’t she already waited long enough? As for Riccardo’s idea about her keeping hidden whenever someone came to the house, it was humiliating!

And what was Riccardo’s reason for the waiting and the hiding?

He didn’t want to upset his father. But he was perfectly willing to upset her!

The idea of living in the grand mansion Riccardo had described was agreeable, of course it was. The joyful picture he painted of his childhood there was just what she’d want for her own children. Yet, surely, they could have the same such happy life in some other house?

Why wasn’t he prepared to forget his father, to leave Winchester and start a new life somewhere else? It would be exciting. But when she said she’d be happy to leave, he dismissed it, saying it’d be too hard. Yet surely a man like Riccardo, a successful, well-respected and wealthy man, would have no trouble establishing himself again?

Yet he seemed unwilling even to try.

She’d turned her back on Meonbridge and her own family, in order to be with him. Why wouldn’t he do the same for her? 

Maybe he didn’t truly love her as he said he did…

After all, he’d said he loved her when he first brought her here to live with him. He’d made her think then he’d marry her, though he never actually said so.

She thought back to their earlier conversation, when she’d reminded him how she’d heard he was getting married. He’d obviously regretted not having told her earlier. But, even if he had, it wouldn’t have made it any easier to bear.

She’d frowned. ‘You promised to look after me, to set me up in my own little house and continue seeing me. But, only a few months later, you’d abandoned me.’

‘Oh, Bea, that’s a terrible word––’

‘But a true one. Then the pestilence came, and I left Winchester, expecting to find safety in Meonbridge…’

Riccardo had looked as miserable as she felt. ‘You must believe me when I say I have never forgiven myself for all that happened to you. But Katherine was so difficult, I simply could not find the time for you as well. I had hoped, with the rooms I left you, and the gift, you could somehow start again…’ He stared at his feet. ‘I am so sorry it did not work out that way.’

Yet, despite his seeming sorrow, he’d still gone on to tell her he couldn’t marry her because of his father…

She must have dozed a while, for she found herself waking from a dream of a grand house that looked much like the de Bohuns’ back in Meonbridge. It was surrounded by woods and fields, in which a bevy of young children ran together, and the air was filled with squeals and laughter. She felt a warmth inside as the dream began to fade, but moments later it had vanished altogether.

She let her waking mind then conjure such a house, with her and Riccardo standing hand in hand at the door, watching their brood of offspring play. It was a life that, years ago, she couldn’t even have imagined for herself or any children she might bear. But maybe it was possible now? Not yet, but in a while. And, after all, it might not be all that long, for Riccardo’s father was quite old…

Was it really too much for him to ask her to be patient? 

This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.

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Carolyn Hughes

CAROLYN HUGHES has lived much of her life in Hampshire. With a first degree in Classics and English, she started working life as a computer programmer, then a very new profession. But it was technical authoring that later proved her vocation, word-smithing for many different clients, including banks, an international hotel group and medical instruments manufacturers.

Although she wrote creatively on and off for most of her adult life, it was not until her children flew the nest that writing historical fiction took centre stage. But why historical fiction? Serendipity!

Seeking inspiration for what to write for her Creative Writing Masters, she discovered the handwritten draft, begun in her twenties, of a novel, set in 14th century rural England… Intrigued by the period and setting, she realised that, by writing a novel set in the period, she’d be able to both learn more about the medieval past and interpret it, which seemed like a thrilling thing to do. A few days later, the first Meonbridge Chronicle, Fortune’s Wheel, was under way.

Six published books later (with more to come), Carolyn does now think of herself as an Historical Novelist. And she wouldn’t have it any other way…

Carolyn has a Master’s in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.

You can connect with Carolyn through her website and social media.

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  1. Thank you so much, Cathie, for giving The Merchant's Dilemma an extra boost today, and for getting everyone else on board to host this blog tour. It's been great!

    1. Thank you, Carolyn. It's been a pleasure. We had a wonderful group of hosts.