Current Word Count: 11, 670
Hey guys–Just a little update on my 2014 NaNo experience.
Last year, I was racing through the word count. This year, not so much. I’m ahead by about a day’s worth of word count, but I’m not exactly galloping through. It felt rusty and awkward the first few chapters, but now that I’ve written some really cool stuff, I feel a little more relaxed with these characters and this plot.
I’m alternating chapters between my two timelines: odd chapters present day, narrated in first person by Nicole; even chapters in the 1890s, third person to Victoria. I’m not so worried about research, actually. Karla sent me a book called Daily Life in a Victorian House a while back (thank you so much!) and I’ve picked it up to spot-check stuff like “Did men wear top hats then?” and “What was a leg o’ mutton sleeve?” and “What was meal time like?”
Also, I’ve outsourced a little bit of research–Nicole is a quasi-descendant of Victoria’s and she inherits a load of money from the family, so I asked Meta the Beta how the heck an inheritance could be managed if it came from a distant relation in a different country. What happens, like, legally?
So, watch out, guys. This story might veer into fantastical elements of legalities if I don’t like the real-life answers 🙂
Here’s an excerpt. This is June 1893 and it is a Victoria chapter. In which Conrad man-splains and makes an ass out of himself and Victoria wonders what she ever saw in her cousin to make him marriage material.
“I think Conrad is going to ask Miss Houghton to marry him.”
Well! Victoria swallowed. Perhaps Beatrice wasn’t quite so oblivious after all. If Conrad wasn’t ready to propose just yet, then this visit was tantamount to studying his prey. After all, Conrad’s wife would be mistress of this place.
“Ow!” Victoria muttered. She’d jammed a finger into the hard surface of the vanity table.
“Oh, dear,” Bea said. “Shall we go down?”
“Yes, let’s,” Victoria said, rising. Her door opened. Conrad stuck his head in. “Con! Don’t you knock?”
“Aren’t you two coming down?” Conrad asked. He stepped inside. “Bea, Mama was looking for you.”
Beatrice left. Conrad closed the door behind her. His eyes wandered all around the room. He looked splendid in white tie and tails, his abundant dark hair neatly tamped down into discipline. He looked like regular old Conrad, but then his eyes met hers, and Vic wasn’t so sure anymore. His eyes looked so shadowed.
“I wanted to talk to you alone for a moment.”
“You know she’s probably listening at the door,” Vic replied, pointing her chin to the door. Conrad walked further into the room in response. He took her hands, his bare ones sliding over her long gloves.
“I think I may want to marry Ursula,” he said.
“I like her very much.”
“Good.” She wanted him to let go of her hands.
“Vic, it isn’t because I don’t—”
“You needn’t explain,” she said, slipping her hands out of his grasp. “I well understand the situation.”
Conrad’s lips curved. “Do you, sweetheart? I’m not sure you reckon the full of it.”
Not reckon the full of it? Of course she did! Aunt Malden had told her before, during, and after both Seasons that, promises to Conrad not withstanding, the best Victoria could do for herself was to find a wealthy husband. A title was not necessary, Aunt Malden had said. A chap with money was.
Victoria had an allowance from the estate and a small stipend from her mother’s family. Altogether, it was some three thousand pounds. Enough to live on, perhaps, in a modest way, but not enough to entice a nobleman who needed his gutters fixed and his masonry redone to marry her.
“The estate needs money to keep thriving,” Conrad said. “It’s vulgar to think of, but the money we make from the tenants and farms goes down every year. It’s not dire yet, but there are things we need cash for—like the back half of the first floor.”
“And Miss Houghton is amenable to being your pocketbook?”
“I don’t know yet,” Conrad replied. “But if she wants to marry and I ask her and we do wed…”
Vic took a few steps toward the door. “We ought to go. They’ll be wondering where we are.”
“You know, Vic, I may yet take a mistress.”
She turned her head. Conrad’s eyes looked dark and his mouth quirked to the side, revealing the boyish dimples in both cheeks.
“That’s revolting. You’ve not even proposed to her and you’re already thinking of a mistress!”
He sighed. “I’m only saying…it’s not unusual for a man in my position. And I’d certainly take you as my mistress, Vic.”
Victoria remembered being six years old, just arrived from India with her amah, and newly ensconsed in Malden Court after her father’s death. Conrad then had been her angel, her big brother, a protector, playmate, and hero in one exuberant little boy. She remembered skipping up and down the drive once, tripping and skinning her knee terribly. It had bled something awful and she had cried. Conrad had dried her tears, then carried her up the drive like a sack of potatoes to the house.
There was none of that gallantry now.
“Your…mis…” Victoria shook her head. “Are you asking me to ruin myself?”
“Darling, we’ve been promised for ages,” Conrad said. “And I’ve imagined what our marriage would be like, as I’m sure you must have. It’s not ideal, of course, and we’ll have to be discreet, but as I’m certainly allowed to have a mistress, then I would choose you.”
“Wouldn’t it be better to wish me happily married rather soon?” Vic asked.
“Of course, Vic. And I do wish you most happily married, but in the event that doesn’t happen…” He moved his mouth in awkward opening and closing movements, like a fish gawping for water.
“You’re despicable,” Victoria snapped and wrenched her bedroom door open.