Good Afternoon everyone,
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that we have recently revealed the cover of A Covenant of Marriage, C.P. Odom’s most recent book, and you also know how much I enjoyed doing that because of my love for cover art. Today we will not discuss his cover, but I am equally happy to share with you an excerpt and a vignette, that I hope will increase your curiosity towards this book. These snippets will reveal the very beginning of A Covenant of Marriage, and I believe will be enough to let you know this is one that should not be missed 🙂
Please do let us know your impressions on this excerpt once you’ve read it 🙂 And if you don’t know what the book is about yet, you can also read the blurb below 🙂
A Covenant of Marriage—legally binding, even for an unwilling bride!
Defined as a formal, solemn, and binding agreement or compact, a covenant is commonly used with regard to relations among nations or as part of a contract. But it can also apply to a marriage as Elizabeth Bennet learns when her father binds her in marriage to a man she dislikes. Against her protests that she cannot be bound against her will, the lady is informed that she lives under her father’s roof and, consequently, is under his control; she is a mere pawn in the proceedings.
With such an inauspicious beginning, how can two people so joined ever make a life together.
You can find A Covenant of Marriage at:
Marriage is by nature a covenant. Not just a private contract one may cancel at will.
— Bruce C. Hafen (1940–), American attorney,
academic, and religious leader
Monday, June 29, 1812
The time fixed for the beginning of Elizabeth’s northern tour finally arrived, and on a Monday at the end of June, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner arrived at Longbourn with their four children, who were to be left in the care of their cousin Jane. She was the particular favourite of all the children, and she responded in kind since her own steadiness and even temper suited her exactly to the task.
The Gardiners stayed only one night at Longbourn before setting off the next morning with Elizabeth, all of them highly anticipating six weeks of touring the Lake District. Elizabeth had heard much of the region and looked forward to days of diversion and pleasure, especially since she was in company with her beloved aunt and uncle. She knew she could not have picked more suitable travelling companions, and the inconveniences that so often afflicted travellers would not put a damper on their own excursion. Whether they faced inclement weather, a broken carriage wheel, or problems with inns along the way, she knew Aunt and Uncle Gardiner would deal with any problems in the same way she would with good temper, intelligence, and common sense.
Elizabeth recorded no descriptions of the area they toured or the places that provided delightful diversions during their journey, and in later years, she found she could not remember any of those places with any distinction.
Thus, after a month and a half of travel, the party bent their path towards Hertfordshire, and after sleeping two nights on the road, arrived at Longbourn, expecting to be greeted with predictable enthusiasm by the children as well as the rest of the family.
Only half of their expectations were met.
How many times had those awful words—“I know what I’m doing”—been uttered throughout history as prelude to disaster?
— Christopher Buckley (1952–) American political satirist
Wednesday, August 12, 1812
As soon as the carriage entered the paddock at Longbourn, Elizabeth saw her cousins standing on the steps of the house, having been attracted by either the sight or sound of their vehicle. When the carriage arrived at the door, their faces lit up with joyful surprise that seemed to spread to the rest of their bodies since they began to caper and frisk about the carriage even before the door could be opened.
Elizabeth was the first to climb down, and she stooped to give each of them a kiss and an embrace while her aunt and uncle exited the carriage. As she rose to her feet, she was surprised to see Jane running down the steps in a most unusual haste, her face pale with dark circles under her eyes. Elizabeth had not even time to ask whether she was feeling ill before her elder sister embraced her.
“Oh, Lizzy, I cannot tell you how relieved I am to see you!” Jane cried, and Elizabeth was startled to see tears running freely down her sister’s cheeks.
“What is wrong?” Elizabeth asked, suddenly afraid some illness or accident might have afflicted a member of her family during her absence.
“Did you not receive my letters?” Jane asked in confusion.
“I got only four or five while we were gone, but I received nothing during the past several weeks. Come, what is wrong! Are my mother and father well? Did something happen to one of my sisters?”
“No, everyone is well, but Lydia—oh, it is so distressing!”
By this time, both her aunt and uncle had joined them and realized something was wrong.
“Perhaps it would be best to take the children inside and entrust them to the care of the housekeeper before we discuss this further,” Mrs. Gardiner said quietly. “We do not want to upset them unduly. Are your mother and father inside?”
“My father is in town searching for—” Jane stopped when her aunt raised a finger to her lips.
“My father is not here, and my mother is upstairs in her room,” Jane said, choosing her words more carefully. “I am afraid Hill is sitting with her, so she cannot take the children. My mother is too—”
“Then one of the other servants,” interrupted Mrs. Gardiner forcibly. “Come, one need only to look at your face to see how upset you are. We want to know what has happened as soon as possible, but we want to discuss it in private.”
This was obviously sensible, and Jane allowed herself to be guided inside to the front parlour. Within a few minutes, the children had been taken upstairs, and Mrs. Gardiner returned, closing the doors firmly behind her.
“Now, pray tell us what has happened,” Mr. Gardiner said calmly.
“As I told Lizzy, it concerns Lydia. I assume you know she went to Brighton with her friend Mrs. Forster?”
“Yes, Lizzy mentioned it,” Mrs. Gardiner said flatly, and Elizabeth noted her aunt’s admirable self-control in not showing her displeasure. Lydia was not a favourite with her aunt and uncle, and both had thought it the height of rashness that she was allowed to go to such a place as Brighton without a family escort.
“On Sunday last, an express came at about midnight when we were all gone to bed. It was from Colonel Forster, and it contained dreadful news. He informed us that Lydia had gone off to Scotland with one of his officers.”
“Scotland!” exclaimed Mr. Gardiner. “Gretna Green?”
“I presume so, but I do not know for certain. Colonel Forster’s express only mentioned Scotland.”
“Which officer?” Elizabeth asked. “Lieutenant Denny?”
“No, it was…it was Mr. Wickham.”
“Mr. Wickham!” exclaimed Elizabeth, jumping to her feet. “That cannot be!”
“And why is that?” Mr. Gardiner asked.
“It is simple, Uncle. Mr. Wickham would never marry a woman with no money. He has none himself, and he has already proved himself a complete mercenary!”
“Be calm, Lizzy,” Mrs. Gardiner said. “I agree it does seem inexplicable from what you wrote us about his previous engagement.”
“To Miss King,” Elizabeth said, recovering her composure and sitting down. “Miss King and her ten thousand pounds.”
“Yes, I remember, but perhaps we might be wrong,” her aunt said gently. “It may be possible he truly loves Lydia—loves her enough to marry her despite her lack of fortune.”
“I understand what you mean. You think I might be upset at the thought of Wickham seeking to marry Lydia when he made no offer for me despite having earlier shown a preference for me. But I assure you it is not wounded vanity that makes me critical of him. I know Wickham’s true character, as does Jane. He has been profligate in every sense of the word. He has neither integrity nor honour, and he is as false and deceitful as he is cunning.”
“But, how do you know all this?” cried Mrs. Gardiner.
“I am quite sure,” replied Elizabeth, colouring somewhat as she remembered Mr. Darcy’s letter. “I am not at liberty to give you all the particulars, but pray believe me when I say I have reason to believe my information is true. It has been verified by personal testimony as well as unbiased witnesses.”
Both Mr. Gardiner and his wife looked at Jane, who nodded unhappily in agreement with her sister. Her face showed distress at having to openly criticize another person.
“There is good reason to doubt Mr. Wickham’s intentions—though I must admit I was originally hesitant to accept what Lizzy told me.”
“Jane wishes to think well of everyone,” Elizabeth said. “And despite what I had shared with her that refuted the lies Mr. Wickham told me and everyone else about how badly he had been misused by Mr. Darcy, she still tried to find some way to prove everything had been a misunderstanding. But she was finally forced to agree with me about Mr. Wickham. Am I not correct, Jane?”
“I am afraid she is, Aunt Gardiner,” Jane said, nodding in agreement even though her face showed her unhappiness. “And I have to confess that at first I was disposed to think the same thing in this case. As I wrote in my first letter—the one that never reached you—I originally hoped the reported elopement marked nothing malicious in his heart. As thoughtless and indiscreet as both had been, I believed Wickham had chosen Lydia because of disinterested love for he had to know my father could give her nothing. But then Colonel Forster called here on the very next day after I sent my first letter. He had questioned Lieutenant Denny, who disclosed the unhappy information that Mr. Wickham had never intended to go to Gretna Green—or to marry Lydia at all.”
The effect of this disclosure was utterly and immediately disturbing to the others, and everyone began talking at the same time, trying to ask questions of Jane and of each other, until Mr. Gardiner was finally able to bring a measure of quiet to the room.
Post-Prologue Vignette for A Covenant of Marriage
Unwritten events between the Prologue and Chapter 1
Saturday, August 1, 11:45 pm
While the Gardiner party was engaged in their tour of the Lake District, events elsewhere in the kingdom were taking place that would have the most deleterious impact on Elizabeth Bennet and her family. In the seaside port of Brighton, where the regiment of militia was encamped after their removal from Meryton, a young girl eased open a French door and tip-toed through it, closing it silently behind her. The house from which she exited was on in which the commanding officer of the regiment, Colonel Forster, resided with his young wife and his wife’s “particular friend,” who had accompanied the regiment to Brighton.
Lydia Bennet had to repress a squeal of delight at seeing the figure of George Wickham standing below on the road with a finger on his lips cautioning silence. She quickly flew into his arms, kissing him fervently but inexpertly, and he lost no time in ushering her further down the narrow road to the central plaza of the town, where a chaise and drive awaited them.
“I assume you were able to slip away without anyone the wiser?” Wickham said softly, as he assisted Lydia in entering the chaise.
“Oh, yes indeed,” Lydia said, giggling. “The colonel and his wife made a good deal of noise in their bedroom soon after retiring, but both of them then fell asleep. I could hear both of them snoring through the thin walls.”
“Oh, I am so excited that we will be off to Scotland! What fun it is going to be!”
Wickham said nothing to this, and Lydia’s excitement was so great that she did not notice it. Nor could she, in the darkness, observe the carefully controlled expressionless look on Wickham’s usually mobile face.
“Of course, I had to leave a brief note to Harriet, telling her we were off to Gretna Green. Otherwise, she would be greatly worried when I am missed.”
Wickham scowled in the darkness but nodded to himself after several seconds. There was nothing to be done, with the note already written, and Lydia was correct that Mrs. Forster and her husband would be highly agitated to find her missing. And, since he had no plans to go anywhere near Scotland, it would serve as a false lead.
“My sisters are going to be so jealous of me, the first of all of them to be wed, and me only sixteen. How long will it take to reach Gretna Green, darling?”
If possible, Wickham’s face became even more frozen, but Lydia’s excitement was so elevated that she likely would not have noticed even had there been sufficient light to see.
“Several days,” he said shortly, then leaned back. In her eagerness to at last be alone with Wickham, Lydia twisted around so her torso faced him and she was able to pull his head down to hers.
It is fortunate that I was able to borrow money from Denney, he thought as his hand explored the firmness of the girl’s breast and she squirmed in pleasure. I carefully avoided ever putting the touch to him, saving him for an emergency, which this is. I think some of the officers are about ready to approach Colonel Forster about my gaming debts, so I had best be off to London. Hopefully, Mrs. Younge can give me refuge until something turns up. And this naïve girl will do well enough to warm my bed at night . . .
Monday, August 3, 1812, 12:00 am
The loud banging of the knocker at the sturdy front door of Longbourn was sufficient to awaken the whole household. Some residents reacted in a positive manner, such as the butler and Mr. Bennet, who both armed themselves before approaching the front door, where the knocker again sounded. Being awakened at midnight was not a normal occurrence at any house of the gentry and almost certainly did not bode well. Other residents were more cautious, such as Jane and her sisters, only coming part way down the stairs after throwing on a dressing gown.
And of course, there was Mrs. Bennet, who set up a wail audible throughout Longbourn that “We are all going to be murdered in our beds! Do something, Mr. Bennet!”
The butler eased the door open, pistol held at the ready, then he slumped in relief.
“It is an express rider, sir,” he said, opening the door wider.
“Express for Mr. Bennet of Longbourn from a Colonel Forster,” said the dust-covered rider, holding out a brown envelope that obviously comprised several pages.
“Thank you,” Mr. Bennet said, accepting the proffered missive. As the express rider started to turn away, he said, “Wait a minute.”
He handed the express rider a coin from his purse, and the rider gave him a smile and a quick bow. He had not really expected anything, since he had been paid in full to deliver the express, but it was pleasant to have his efforts appreciated.
Mr. Bennet lost no time in opening the express and read it by the light of a candle held by the butler. His complexion paled in shock, and his jowls—indeed, his whole body—seemed to sag.
“What is it, Mr. Bennet?” his wife screeched, having finally made her way down the stairs. “What news does it contain?”
“We should go upstairs—” Mr. Bennet started, since he had no desire to talk of private, family matters before the servants, but Mrs. Bennet could not restrain herself.
“Tell me! Tell me now! Oh, my nerves are going to fail me altogether!”
“Then read it, madam,” Mr. Bennet said, holding out the express, but his wife through her hands up in the air and would have collapsed to the floor if she had not been caught by Jane and Mrs. Hill.
“NO! NO! I am so distracted I cannot see to read! Tell me immediately!”
Mr. Bennet could see that his wife’s unseemly display had ruined any chance of keeping the contents of the express private, since his wife would undoubtedly broadcast the news throughout the house when she learned them.
“Very well, madam. It is from Colonel Forster informing her that your daughter Lydia has gone off to Scotland with one of his officers. To be specific, with the amiable and personable Mr. Wickham.”
“Ruined!” Mrs. Bennet instantly wailed. “They have eloped, and we are all RUINED!”
Despite the cries of his wife, which were just what he had expected, Mr. Bennet was startled by an unexpected gasp from Jane. He looked at her quizzically to see that she had turned pale at this news. He wondered what that might mean, but any investigation could wait for another time.
“Lydia was not missed until eight o’clock this morning, and the colonel believes that she and Wickham left together in a chaise somewhere around midnight. Several witnesses observed the vehicle departing the central plaza at that time, but the light was so dim that none of them could identify the two occupants. However, further investigations revealed it could have been no one else, so Colonel Forster writes that he plans to set off in pursuit and expects to stop by Longbourn sometime today. Hopefully, he will bear better information when he arrives. Though I have to wonder why Wickham would fix on Lydia—after his engagement to Miss King, we know he needs to marry someone with money, and Lydia certainly has no fortune.”
“I can easily believe him thoughtless in this matter,” Jane said, while her mother continued to wail as she was helped upstairs by Hill and one of the other servants. “But his choice at least shows a goodness of heart, since he must know that you can give her nothing, Papa.”
Jane was to long remember this statement and the naiveté it showed in the dismal events yet to come . . .
By training, I’m a retired engineer, born in Texas, raised in Oklahoma, and graduated from the University of Oklahoma. Sandwiched in there was a stint in the Marines, and I’ve lived in Arizona since 1977, working first for Motorola and then General Dynamics.
I raised two sons with my first wife, Margaret, before her untimely death from cancer, and my second wife, Jeanine, and I adopted two girls from China. The older of my daughters recently graduated with an engineering degree and is working in Phoenix, and the younger girl is heading toward a nursing degree.
I’ve always been a voracious reader and collector of books, and my favorite genres are science fiction, historical fiction, histories, and, in recent years, reading (and later writing) Jane Austen romantic fiction. This late-developing interest was indirectly stimulated when I read my late wife’s beloved Jane Austen books after her passing. One thing led to another, and I now have four novels published: A Most Civil Proposal (2013), Consequences (2014), Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets (2015), and Perilous Siege (2019). Two of my books are now audiobooks, Most Civil Proposal and Pride, Prejudice, and Secrets.
I retired from engineering in 2011, but I still live in Arizona with my family, a pair of dogs (one of which is stubbornly untrainable), and a pair of rather strange cats. My hobbies are reading, woodworking, and watching college football and LPGA golf (the girls are much nicer than the guys, as well as being fiendishly good putters). Lately I’ve reverted back to my younger years and have taken up building plastic model aircraft and ships (when I can find the time).
The blog tour for A Covenant of Marriage is still in the begining, don’t forget to follow it to see all the guest posts, excerpts and reviews that my fellow bloggers will publish:
11/06 More Agreeably Engaged
11/07 From Pemberley to Milton
11/08 Half Agony, Half Hope
11/09 My Love for Jane Austen
11/11 Diary of an Eccentric
11/12 Darcyholic Diversions
11/14 Margie’s Must Reads
11/15 Austenesque Reviews
11/16 My Jane Austen Book Club
11/17 Babblings of a Bookworm
11/18 My Vices and Weaknesses
Meryton Press is giving away 8 eBooks of A Covenant of Marriage. To enter it, just click on the following link.
Good Luck everyone!