In my next book, The Firstborn, I stumble into the lives of two sisters. The older of the two, Sophia, has had to pick up the slack of caring for her younger sibling, Lucy, after the death of their parents. They’ve now lost everything of their former life. Their home, income, and all while dealing with the grief of losing two family members.
And then Lucy finds herself with child, without a husband, and with the eyes of their entire hometown glaring down at them through shades of scandal.
Sophia does what she thinks she must. She finds a new home for them, a home where they won’t be known. She takes on the guise of a widow, and raises her sister’s son as her own.
Simple enough, right?
Of course not. There wouldn’t be a story to tell if everything had tied itself up so neatly.
Lucy finds herself too young, still reeling from her parents’ deaths to care for her child, and so is too quick to leave her son to Sophia’s care. So when a certain Lord Haughton comes calling, claiming to be the child’s uncle and making demands left and right about the boy’s care, Sophia balks at the threatened loss of control over her own life… and the life of her nephew.
Even worse for her is the fear that her nephew will be taken away from her entirely. A woman in nineteenth century England had a frightening lack of rights, and a member of the peerage, and one with the funds to see things done, would’ve had no difficulty swooping in to take a little boy from a woman deemed unfit (i.e. poor) to raise him.
But Sophia is not the type to back down without a fight. And at the end of the day, more than anything, it is her love for her nephew that fuels her resolve to remain a part of his life.
“It does not make a whit of sense,” Sophia said, as she began to crumple the edge of the letter between her fingers. “Six weeks ago, he came here ready to settle a large sum of money on us in exchange for our silence, ensuring that no one would ever discover George’s connection to his great and illustrious family. And now he’s inviting us to his home, to mingle with his sister and make banal conversation about the weather over tea and light refreshments?” She shook her head. “I simply cannot fathom what has worked this supposed alteration in his behavior.”
Lady Rutledge slipped a bracelet from her wrist and held it out to George, who crawled quickly over to her side and babbled excitedly as she dropped the bauble into his grasp. “You suspect all is not as it seems?”
“Well, I certainly don’t believe he was visited by angels on the road to Damascus. I simply…” She exhaled heavily as her shoulders slumped forward in a most unladylike manner. “George has been in my care for his entire life. Even when Lucy was still here, she never… She always treated him as a burden. And I do understand how she could think such a thing. Children are not easy creatures to care for. They are maddening and exhausting and consume your entire life in a frightening amount of time. But even so…” She closed eyes that had suddenly become watery. “I don’t want to lose him.”
For a moment, there was nothing but the jangle of Lady Rutledge’s bracelet and the satisfied sounds of George as he attempted to shove the sapphire concoction—along with a great deal of his fist—into his mouth.
“And you believe Lord Haughton will take him from you?”
Sophia blinked several times and looked across at Lady Rutledge. “I don’t know. A part of me wants to think he’ll spirit George away forever as soon as I enter his home. But another part of me—a much smaller part, I must admit—hopes that he is truly penitent and wishes to…I don’t know, create some sort of compromise that will benefit George.”
“One in which you don’t lose access to him,” Lady Rutledge pointed out.
As George crawled his way towards her part of the drawing room, Sophia reached down and removed the bracelet from between his teeth. When he began to fuss, she merely tickled him under his arm until his cries turned to damp-cheeked giggles. “Or that involves him lording his control over me with a few coins,” she said, her fingers lightly teasing George’s plump chin.
“More than a few coins, if your description of his offer was accurate.”
“Quite accurate,” Sophia said, her eyebrows raised at the memory. “Perhaps it was foolish of me to turn him down, but I could not like the idea that I was somehow being purchased, like a horse or a bolt of silk.”
A moment of silence passed between them, apart from the steady thump of George’s knees and hands as he crawled across the floor.
And so Sophia finds herself dealing with someone very much like herself, someone who has been trying to keep tabs on the behavior of a younger sibling, trying to clean up the mess of their mistakes – and all while making a few mistakes of their own.
Sophia was thrill to write, a character I would very much love to meet in real life (and preferably have on my side during a fight).
The Firstborn will be available for purchase in paperback and ebook from several major retailers on May 9th, 2017.