Skip to content

Fun Friday–Getting Ready for the Twins*

Friday, June 5, 2009


At dear friend Ruth‘s suggestion, I’m going to spend the next few weeks giving y’all some insights into the conception and gestation of the Twins* as we all eagerly await their delivery due date.

      *Menu for Romance and Ransome’s Honor

Some of the topics I’ll be covering over the next fifteen to twenty days will be:

  • Story/character inspiration
  • Character casting process
  • Settings
  • Costuming
  • Research
  • Storyboards
  • Writing/revision process

I’ll probably also do another “Ask Any Question” day closer to the end of the month in which you’ll be encouraged to ask questions about anything I haven’t already covered to that point (and, as usual, you’re always welcome to post any questions in the comments at any time, but sometimes it’s just nice to have a focus on a time for those questions to all be asked/answered in one fell swoop).

To start with, I wanted to point you toward a couple of things that are already posted here on the blog. . .the first chapters!

© 2009 by Kaye Dacus

Chapter One

“Happy New Year!”

Her thirty-fourth New Year and still no kiss at the stroke of midnight… or any other day or time. Meredith Guidry stood in the doorway leading into Vue de Ciel—the cavernous sky-view event venue at the top of the tallest building in downtown Bonneterre, Louisiana—and swallowed back her longing as she watched hundreds of couples kiss.

A short burst of static over the earpiece startled her out of her regrets.

“Mere, we’re going to set up the coffee stations and dessert tables,” the executive chef’s rich, mellow voice filled her ear.
Click here to read more.

Now, over on the right-hand side, I have a link to where I posted Chapter One of Ransome’s Honor, but it doesn’t include the prologue. So today, for the first time, you’ll get the full prologue, which will be followed by a link to the first chapter. Hope you enjoy!

© 2009 by Kaye Dacus


Portsmouth, England
September 1802

“Julia, do stop fidgeting. One would think this evening were about you, not in honor of your father.”

Seventeen-year-old Julia Witherington immediately stilled her hands and clasped them in her lap. “I am sorry, Mama. I am excited for Papa to be announced for the first time as Sir Edward, and you as Lady Witherington.”

In the dim light of the carriage, the new crest on her father’s Royal Navy coat vied for attention with the gold braid and sparkling epaulets indicating his rank of captain. If the war had lasted a few months longer, his posting to admiral would have been confirmed.

But if the Peace of Amiens had not come when it did, Julia would still be on the sugar plantation in Jamaica, not on her way to a ball in Portsmouth. A ball at which she expected something momentous to occur. Something she’d dreamed of for the past seven years.

Julia twisted the fabric of her glove around her left thumb. They’d been in London this fortnight past for her father to receive his knighthood. “You are certain all of your former officers will be in attendance, Papa?” She pressed her cheek to the carriage window as the assembly hall came into view.

“Aye, Julia, as I have already confirmed twice. Why do you have so much interest in former officers of the Indomitable?”

She turned to gape at him, surprised. Was he merely pretending not to know? What else could his private conference with Lieutenant William Ransome have been about this afternoon? “I know I was only ten years old when you took us to Jamaica on the Indy, but even after seven years, I well remember how kind the officers—and midshipmen—were to me and Michael.” Her voice cracked on her brother’s name; and, as always, she sent up a quick prayer that somehow, somewhere, he was still alive. After two years, her heart still refused to believe him dead. Lost at sea simply meant lost. Not necessarily dead.

Mama gave her a reassuring smile. Thank goodness Mama did not keep her emotions hidden the way Papa did. But Julia had no cause to worry about her father’s dismissive attitude. William Ransome was one of her father’s favorite young officers, given the frequency with which his name appeared in her father’s letters. Papa had no doubt approved the match and given William his blessing.

The carriage rattled to a stop on the cobblestone drive of the assembly hall. Julia’s heart felt fit to burst through her stays. Tonight. She was certain. Tonight William would make his intentions known, and tomorrow the paper would carry the news of their engagement.

Walking sedately behind her parents and waiting to be announced proved a Herculean task, but Julia managed it—also managed not to look about the crowd with too much eagerness. William would come to her; she need not seek him out.

After the applause died away at her parents’ introduction, she followed them into the press of well-wishers. She jumped when a hand slipped through the crook of her elbow.

Susan Barstow, her closest acquaintance in Portsmouth, beamed up at Julia, blue eyes twinkling. “I am so happy you’ve returned, Julia. Portsmouth has been a positive bore without you. Later, you must tell me all about London. But first . . . I shall set your mind at ease and tell you he is here. He and my dear Collin have vanished into the card room with many of the other officers; but now your father is here, they should reappear, since the dancing will start soon.”

Even as Susan spoke, several young men in Royal Navy uniforms entered from a side door. Taller by several inches than Susan, Julia stood on her toes. There—speaking to her father. Julia moved through the forest of people to rejoin her parents, Susan trying to keep up with her.

She arrived just in time. Tall and slender, his brown hair falling onto his forehead in loose curls, Lieutenant William Ransome straightened from bowing in greeting to her mother. His vivid blue eyes, pale yet impossibly fathomless, met Julia’s. Anticipation of the event she foresaw this evening heated her cheeks. She controlled the size of her smile with enormous effort and bent her knees in a curtsey.

“Good evening, Lieutenant Ransome.”

“Good evening, Miss Witherington.” His baritone voice tickled her ears. “If you are not already engaged, might I request the honor of the first two dances?”

“I am not engaged. I would be honored.” She settled her hand atop his proffered arm. Turning to walk with him, she caught the dimple in her mother’s cheek, even as Lady Witherington curtseyed to a baron’s wife. Yes, Mama also suspected what this evening would bring.

Throughout the first dance, Julia could hardly keep her eyes off William. Even though his uniform coat showed a bit of wear at cuffs and collar, to her, he was the most resplendent officer in the hall. The intensity of his gaze outshone even the admirals’ uniforms.

As they awaited their turn to join in the complex figures of the allemande, Julia could not ignore the voices around her. The matrons made no attempt to hide their questioning of why someone of Sir Edward’s importance and wealth would allow his daughter to waste her affections on an officer who sent all his earnings home to support his family; an officer who depended on the charity of his friends to stay in Portsmouth; an officer who was clearly courting Julia for her thirty-thousand-pound dowry.

If William heard the malicious rumors, his face betrayed no reaction. Finally, they joined hands and took their part in the dance.

“You realize, Lieutenant,” Julia whispered, “that everyone will think you are not enjoying our dance if you continue on with so grave a countenance.”

The left side of his mouth twitched, and some of the tightness around his eyes eased. “And we would not want to be the subject of any gossip, would we, Miss Witherington?”

Ah. Now he seemed more himself. “You have yet to tell me how you kept yourself occupied while we were in London.”

“I mostly spent my time at the dockyard, trying to be useful.”

Her sympathy went out to him. To her mother’s dismay, Julia had not only involved herself in the running of the sugar plantation over the last several years, she had taken on the role of mistress, working with the steward and the overseer to manage the day-to-day operation. If someone were to tell her she would no longer be responsible for Tierra Dulce, that all her responsibility would be given to someone else, she would run quite mad with boredom.

“Is there any possibility of getting another ship? I am certain if there is anything my father can do…”

William’s dark brows flattened into a straight line, once again obscuring his thoughts. “Not unless he goes out and attacks a French ship and restarts the war. The peacetime Navy has no need for as many lieutenants as are currently made, and those with seniority get ships.” His expression eased slightly. “Your father has assured me he will see me assigned to a ship as soon as a posting is available.”

The music ended; William offered Julia his arm. “Will you take a turn about the garden with me? It grows quite warm in here.”

Julia took several calming breaths, trying to still her racing pulse. She nodded and took his arm. On the way to the doors, she spied Susan—who was taking her position for the next dance opposite William’s closest friend, Collin Yates. Susan’s eyes widened when she saw Julia on William’s arm. Julia nodded, and Susan bounced on her toes and clapped her hands.

Since the evening’s entertainment had just started, the garden was nearly deserted. William kept to the path, his stride slow but purposeful. Accustomed to his long silences, Julia took the time to calm herself so that she could answer him in as dignified a manner possible. She did not want to annoy him with an emotional outburst when he put the question to her.

He stopped at an ornate wooden bench within full sight of the path. “Shall we sit a moment?”

The early autumn air wrapped them in a warm cocoon, while the remnants of the sunset bathed the garden in a lavender glow. She perched on the edge of the bench, trying to appear composed.

Instead of taking a seat beside her, William clasped his hands behind his back and paced a circle around her, much as a captain would tread the deck of his ship. Fingers twined tightly together, Julia watched and waited. After several minutes, he paused, half turned away from her.

“Miss Witherington, I—Did you have a pleasant sojourn in London?”

“London? Yes. I enjoyed seeing my father honored with a knighthood.” She bit the insides of her cheek to keep from smiling over his choice to ease into conversation first.

“And do you know when you will return to Jamaica?”

“Not until the spring. Father wants to take no risk of hurricanes or storms on our return voyage.”

A slight breeze ruffled William’s dark curls. “I see.”

What, precisely, did he see? Anxiety began to nibble at Julia’s excitement. She wished he would just get on with it. This time, William’s silence became unbearable after a few moments.

“Susan Barstow wrote to me in London to announce her engagement to Lieutenant Yates.” And Julia very much wanted to walk back into the assembly room and share similar news with her friend.

“Collin is the second son of an earl with a large inheritance. He can marry as he wills. He is not dependent upon patronage and promotion to make his way in this world.”

“There are other ways to gain fortune.” Julia cleared the nervousness from her throat. “Marriage, for example.”

Even in profile, it was obvious that William struggled with his thoughts. “It has been my experience that men who marry to gain wealth are rarely happy with their choice.” He rounded the bench again, paused in front of her, his pale blue eyes troubled, indecisive.

“Not all marriages made for financial security can be bad. Not when there is affection before the marriage takes place.” Heat rushed into her cheeks at her bold declaration of her feelings for him.

Her statement seemed to have no effect on his discomfort. His jaw flexed as if he were grinding whatever words he was not saying between his teeth.

She harkened back to the malicious things the women inside had said about her and William. How could she tell him she loved him all the more for sending his pay home to support his mother and sister, when he had not yet declared his love for her?

William sat beside her for the briefest of moments, then sprang to his feet and ran his fingers through his hair. “I cannot . . . No. It is better for a man to do what he must, to work hard to gain promotion through honorable service—to do what is necessary to gain patronage without sacrificing one’s very soul.”

Julia’s heart, which had been near to floating all evening, sank like a hulled ship. “Then you . . . you are not . . . you would not consider . . .”

He turned, expression inscrutable in the shadows. “Come. I must return you to your parents. I would not wish to offend your father on this of all nights.”

Forlorn numbness settled into Julia’s limbs. Somehow, she managed to rise from the bench and accompany William into the hall. She kept her gaze directed forward, unwilling to witness everyone staring at her, knowing her humiliation would be obvious to all.

Though it seemed impossible, Julia soon stood beside her mother, watching William Ransome bow and walk away. He disappeared into the card room, followed shortly by Collin Yates.

Much to Julia’s chagrin, Susan tugged at her sleeve.

“So?” Susan whispered. “Is it settled?”

All the pieces of Julia’s broken heart lodged in her throat. She blinked against welling tears. “It is settled. William does not want to marry me.”

“What? No, it cannot be!”

Several matrons nearby turned at Susan’s outcry. Julia snapped open her fan and tried to stop the conflagration in her face.

Susan took Julia’s arm and led her out of the hall onto the front steps. “Tell me what happened.”

Before she could censor her words, Julia told her acquaintance everything—every word, every gesture—that had passed in the garden. Mercifully, her eyes stayed dry, and her voice cracked only a few times during the recitation.

Susan shook her head. “This cannot be right. If he did decide not to propose tonight, it is only because he has not yet secured your father’s approbation.”

“Then why were they closeted together for over an hour this afternoon?” Julia sank onto the top step, heedless of soiling her white gown.

“William wants to marry you. I have never been more certain of anything in my life. Even my dear Collin said so when he saw you going into the garden.” Susan reached her hand down to Julia. “Get up. I will not allow you to sit here and sulk when we both know that Lieutenant Ransome is in love with you and wants to marry you.” She saw to the task of brushing the back of Julia’s gown.

“He said that a man should do whatever he could, whatever is necessary, to gain promotion and patronage. You don’t think he—”

“Do not even finish your thought. Except for my Collin, there is no man I have ever met more honorable than William Ransome. He would not toy with your affections just to get closer to your father.”

Julia wanted to believe her friend, but icy shards of doubt prickled along her skin. She followed Susan back inside.

“I will speak with Collin, and he will speak with William.” Susan squeezed Julia’s hand and disappeared into the crowd.

“Julia—you look pale.” Mama touched her gloved hand to Julia’s cheek. “Is it a headache?”

Though nearly complete opposites in temperament, one thing Julia did share with her mother was their penchant for sick headaches during times of strain or worry. She closed her eyes and leaned her cheek into her mother’s palm.

“Oh, my dear, why did not you say so sooner? We shall send for the carriage to take you back home immediately.”

Never in her life had Julia chosen the coward’s way out. But she could not stay, could not risk coming face-to-face with William again.

Once home, she dismissed her maid, needing quiet to try to sort through her thoughts. After disrobing, she left the white gown, the one she’d been so anxious for William to see her in, crumpled on the floor. With her dressing gown wrapped around her, she sank into the cushions on the window seat and stared at the sky.

Two years ago, she lost her twin brother at sea. Tonight, she lost William. What else would God take away from her?

In the morning, Julia dug into the deep drawer at the bottom of the wardrobe and pulled out a plain muslin work-dress. The yellow color reminded her of the hot Jamaican sun, something that usually brought her joy. Now everything seemed devoid of meaning or importance. Everything but Tierra Dulce. The plantation. Her home for the past seven years. The one place where she knew what to expect from everyone around her.

She needed to go home. There, she would be happy again. There, she would put behind her this trip to England and all the trappings of society her mother had wanted her to experience. There, she would forget she ever harbored a dream of becoming William Ransome’s wife.

Her mother must have believed her still feeling poorly, as a maid arrived with a breakfast tray shortly after ten o’clock. Though the food held no interest, Julia’s stomach growled. She ate the toast and strawberry preserves, then returned to the window—just in time to see Susan Barstow turn into the front walk.

Knowing the butler would not admit any callers at such an early hour, Julia went down to meet her, then led her back to her room.

“Did you sleep at all last night?” Susan asked, divesting herself of her hat and gloves.

“Very little.”

“I am sorry for that.” Susan wandered to the window, then to the fireplace, then perched on the edge of the chaise flanking it.

“Susan, what are you keeping from me?”

“I had a note from Collin first thing . . .” Susan took great interest in twining and untwining the end of her sash around her fingers.

Julia wanted to shake the diminutive blonde. “Yes? What did his note say?”

“Lieutenant Ransome left for Gateacre early this morning.” The words rushed out, barely above a whisper.

Julia wrapped her arms around her aching stomach and leaned against the window frame. “To Gateacre? But when will he return?”

Susan rushed to Julia, putting her arm around Julia’s waist. “He told Collin he does not expect to return unless he is recalled for duty.”

William’s words in the garden reverberated in Julia’s head. What little hope she’d managed to cling to through the night shattered.

“He . . . he never intended to propose to me.”

“You cannot know that—”

“Yes, I can. He as much as confessed it to me. He said he was only interested in patronage and promotion to make his fortune, not marriage.” Julia moaned, tears pricking her eyes. “He courted me only to grow closer to my father. My father must have promised him yesterday some kind of position or that he will see William well-placed as soon as he can. That must be what happened. Why else would William have left today?”

Susan stepped back and planted her fists on her narrow hips. “I refuse to believe William Ransome would do that.”

Julia uncrossed her arms and smoothed the front of her gown, swallowing back the bleak disappointment of shattered dreams. “I believe it. And I will never forgive William Ransome. Never.”


Click here to read Chapter One

  1. Friday, June 5, 2009 9:54 am

    Looking forward to it!!!


  2. Friday, June 5, 2009 2:17 pm

    Woo-hoo, I’m excited! And yay for the Ransome’s prologue! Thanks for posting that!


  3. Carman Boley permalink
    Sunday, June 7, 2009 9:49 pm

    I’m so excited! I can’t wait for the books!
    I just bought Stand-In Groom so it should be here in a few days!


  4. Carman Boley permalink
    Sunday, June 7, 2009 9:51 pm

    P.S. I wondered why you had a link to your GoodReads, but not your Shelfari?


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: