Catherine wishes the last year never happened. After losing her mother and her marriage in quick succession, each day is a brand new struggle. When her ex-husband drags her kids halfway across the world, she visits the Bath Christmas Market, just hoping to put something good in her life. She never expected find a gateway to the past…
Chris still can't believe his eyes. After traveling back in time 200 years to Regency Bath, he's captivated by a world where men are gallant and manners mean something. Amidst the fun and games of a time past, a future with Catherine may be just the thing he's looking for…
Catherine is drawn to Chris too, but when a Regency fortune hunter attempts to woo her heart, everything is called into question. Will their relationship stand the test of time when the magic of the Christmas market eventually fades away?
Return to the Regency is a time travel Regency romance topped with a generous dose of humour, action, and tears. If you like simmering chemistry, fast-paced adventures, and trips back in time, then you'll love Audrey Harrison's Christmas tale.
Buy Return to the Regency to travel to true love today!
Release date: November 28, 2017
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Print pages: 387
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Return to the Regency: A Regency Time-Travel Romance
She was certain it was going to be a gentle end to what had been a traumatic time.
How wrong could an assumption be?
* * *
“Mum, come on, or we’ll be late!” Megan shouted, running up the stairs.
“I thought the parent was the one to give orders.” Catherine said, tying her shoulder-length chestnut hair in a ponytail, giving up on the thought of spending time styling it.
“When you start acting like a parent, you can give the orders,” came the response of an all-too-confident fourteen-year-old.
“Do I really have to wait until you are sixteen before I can throw you out?” Catherine muttered.
“I heard that. You won’t. I’m too lovable, and you’d only get bored reading all your trashy novels every day,” Megan responded with an all too confident laugh.
“They aren’t trashy! They’re a glance back in history,” Catherine responded tartly, rushing around, picking things up as she spoke.
“Funny that they never appear on the GCSE syllabus then,” Megan said. “I can just imagine it: ‘This year students will be studying Regency romance’. Not!”
“Have you never heard of Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters, you illiterate peasant?” Catherine said, pausing, her hand on her hip.
“Hurry up!” Megan urged, now tired of the conversation. The girl flounced away as only teenagers can, completely unaware of their impact on those around them. Megan wasn’t arrogant as some were, but Catherine was sure that would develop as time progressed. Then the hormonal years would eventually end, and her child would turn into a human being once more. She was a pretty girl, not yet aware what impact cascading chestnut hair and clear blue eyes in a beautiful face could have on her male friends.
Catherine shook her head at her reflection in the bedroom mirror as she closed the wardrobe door. The thought of being five minutes late for the Summer Fayre was obviously too much for Megan, but it was something Catherine wished she could avoid completely. She had always helped out at the events throughout her children’s schooling, but this year was different. Catherine had avoided their close-knit community until now, and she was reluctant to break her self-imposed isolation.
She sighed to herself; it was supposed to be the children who required counselling after a marriage break-up. In her family it seemed as if her children had moved on and were happy in themselves. She was the one still struggling with the ‘whys’ and ‘how could I have been so stupid’ thoughts that were constantly in the back of her mind.
Fabulous at forty the birthday cards had screamed at her not so very long ago. It was almost laughable that a piece of card could mock her at such a low point in her life. She had watched her mother die only six months before her birthday, which would have put a damper on any celebration. Losing the only parent she had ever known had been a wrench; her father had not hung around once the pregnancy had been confirmed.
Catherine would’ve probably been able to manage the milestone birthday without her mum, if her so-called darling husband hadn’t dropped his bombshell weeks before her birthday. She had presumed his distance was because he was planning a nice surprise for her; she had got one thing right: It had certainly been a surprise.
She smoothed down the floaty top, feeling the well-established curves underneath. Catherine liked to think she was average sized, curves in all the right places. She had welcomed the new style that was a nod back to the shift dresses worn in the fifties. If she had anywhere special to go, that was the type of dress she would have worn, but now, school summer fayres were as exciting as life got.
Moving her hand to her forehead, she rubbed at the frown that seemed ever-present these days. When had she become so serious? She sighed; she really didn’t need to ask that question. This last year would have tested the strongest of characters. How life could change in such a relatively short period of time was beyond her comprehension most days.
Reaching for her lipstick, she applied a fine layer of red on her lips. She smiled at the irony of the colour — bombshell. It probably would be more fitting if it were called “dropped a bombshell.” The colour was needed on her pale lips. These days her complexion was paler than normal, contrasting starkly against her dark chestnut hair.
Catherine sighed. She had to try to return to the person she used to be; if she didn’t do it soon, she was afraid her real self would be lost forever. Turning away from the mirror she moved out of her bedroom; today was the first step in that direction. It was time to start living again, if only a little.
Megan was waiting in the car for her. “And don’t think of sticking to the speed limit. Hayley has been there for over an hour.” She said before plugging her MP3 into the car charger socket. Once the earphones were inserted it would be the end of any conversation.
Catherine tugged at one of the wires hanging out of Megan’s ears as she started the car. “I’m not getting three points for you or anyone else. Text Andrew and tell him to meet us there.”
Her seventeen-year-old son would never have agreed to travel with his mum to a school event; that would be far too uncool, but for Megan travelling with a parent was still considered a means to an end. Andrew was attending only because the school demanded that the six formers help set-up and put away the equipment. They got a half day off studies as compensation.
Catherine was under no illusion. She would be abandoned by Megan the moment they arrived, and she would face the gossipers — sorry, other helpers — alone.
They arrived in the busy car park and tucked the car in a corner before entering into the large hall to join the chaos that reigned. As predicted Megan saw Hayley and disappeared with a wave over her shoulder to her mother. Catherine looked around for a familiar face that would not be too keen to bring up the subject of Paul. She saw one or two mums that she knew and although they waved her over, she waved in return but did not move towards them.
Her elbow was touched, and she turned to see a man whom she had not seen for a long time. “Hello,” he said with a warm smile. “Welcome back to the fold. I thought you’d given up on us. I’m Deputy Head here now, so I’m the one with the responsibility of trying to make sense of all this.”
“You poor thing,” Catherine responded with a smile. Adam Jones had been one of Megan’s teachers when she’d first arrived in the school. He had helped in all the other fayres, so for Catherine he was a friendly face.
He laughed, “Thank you. I’m sure at some point I will start to see organisation beyond this chaos.”
“I’m sure you will, although it may be about five o’clock this afternoon,” Catherine said. “I’m normally here earlier, but I’m less organised these days.”
“That doesn’t matter; there is still plenty to do. We’ve made a good team in other years.”
“Yes, apart from last year,” Catherine said, her brow creasing into an all-too-frequent frown. Last year she had been huddled in a corner of her bed, her heart breaking and her marriage in tatters while still recovering from the loss of her mother. The week before the Summer Fayre, Paul had told her that he did not love her anymore. In fact he was wondering if he ever had, and as a result had decided that life with his best friend’s wife was a better prospect than a future with Catherine.
“Well, most people are allowed a year off for good behaviour. It was probably because you had heard that I’d been put in charge,” Adam said easily. “Anyway, our bring-and-buy stall is lacking a helper.” He led the way over to the stall. “Susan is already hard at work, and I wouldn’t want her being put off by facing the mob alone.”
“That’s fine,” Catherine smiled with relief. Susan was her best friend and the one that had persuaded her to start facing the rest of the world once more. It was a nice gesture to place her with someone who would offer support if needed and showed a thoughtfulness in the organisation of the event.
“Hiya, are you ready to face the hooligans?” Susan asked with a grimace.
“I’m not sure. I think missing last year has helped the scars to fade a little!” Catherine responded.
“I’m glad you decided to come,” Susan said quietly. “I wasn’t sure you would.”
“I don’t think I would’ve, only Megan needed a lift,” Catherine admitted.
“It’s the right decision. You aren’t the one who’s in the wrong.”
“I hate to have been the talk of the town though.”
“Let them talk. Your mum would’ve forced you to face the world sooner than this,” Susan said gently.
“I know. After she’d beaten up Paul!” Catherine laughed. Her loss still cut deeply, but she was starting to be able to look back at memories of her mother with a smile instead of tears.
“She would have, and he definitely deserved someone punching him repeatedly! I know I’ve said it before, but I think he only had the courage to leave once your mum died. He might have been double her size physically, but he was definitely scared of her,” Susan said with feeling.
“Everyone was scared of her!” Catherine smiled. “Five feet of big opinions if she thought you’d done wrong. Although in some ways it saddens me to think Paul stayed with me out of fear of my mother!”
“You’re better off without him. You need someone who worships you not a sleazeball like Paul.”
Catherine smiled a little. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to trust anyone again.”
“In time,” Susan reassured her.
“I don’t think there is enough time in the world,” Catherine said grimly.
The two women worked together to put the stall in order. As they worked, a student approached the table. “Hi, Mum.”
Catherine turned and smiled, “Hello, Andrew. Have you come to help?”
“Not likely,” Andrew said with a grin. “Have you any money?” He was very like Catherine in ways and looks. Although both children had her chestnut hair, Andrew had her hazel eyes as well. He looked on the world more seriously than even Catherine had when she was a teen. He was the one she worried most about; Megan’s sunnier nature would see her through the more trying years of growing up.
Catherine groaned, “Hello, Mum. How are you? I’m just here because of your company, and I don’t want a single penny from you,” she mimicked.
“You’d feel unloved if we didn’t bother you all the time,” came the quick response.
“Oh, for the opportunity,” Catherine mumbled, reaching for her purse.
“By the way, I think Dad’s coming,” Andrew said quietly.
“Why?” Catherine asked, stunned. Paul had never been anywhere near any of the children’s schools since the day they had started, apart from parents evening when Catherine had demanded that he pretend to show some interest in his children’s education.
“I dunno. Told him he wouldn’t enjoy it, but he’s doing the new-man thing with Danielle, isn’t he?” Andrew said with derision. “He’ll soon get sick of it and crawl back into his hole.”
“Andrew! That’s your father you’re talking about!” Catherine admonished him. Paul may be a complete low-life in her eyes, but she tried her best not to pass the feelings onto Megan and Andrew.
“Just because he’s my dad doesn’t exclude him from being a top-class pillock, does it?” He laughed at Catherine’s shocked expression. “See you later Mum!”
Before Catherine could gather her wits to either laugh or tell him off for his bad language, he had disappeared into one of the smaller halls. She shook her head. He may be seventeen, but very often he seemed older than his years. Perhaps it was because he was the first born and was always encouraged to develop as fast as he possibly could; whereas, when the second child came along, time was at a premium, so she had been left to develop at her own speed.
Catherine was aware that Andrew felt betrayed by Paul far more than Megan. Megan was a happier natured child. The teenage tantrums had not quite started, although there were signs they were on the way. She was the child who was still quick to tears but was also quick to recover, the way a young child was. Andrew was different; he was a natural born worrier and had taken the news of the divorce badly. He had always sought Paul’s approval in anything he had done and initially had taken his dad’s actions as confirmation that he hadn’t been a good enough son, especially as Paul’s new partner had two sons.
Then one day he had come home from a visit to his dad’s house, announced that his father was an idiot and refused to go again. Catherine had no idea what had happened; they had not fallen out, still speaking occasionally on the phone, but Andrew had not visited since. He had also seemed to grow up a little more, reaching the start of manhood sooner than he perhaps would have in other circumstances. Catherine could see the man emerging, and although she did not count her blessings too soon, she thought he would be fine in the long term.
She turned her attention back to Susan and the stall as the main doors opened and the throng started feeding through the pay booth. It was only a few moments before Catherine could think of nothing apart from prices, change, and preventing items being knocked to the floor. Adam came across a few times during the fair, and one time helped out when Susan and Catherine had their hands full.
Catherine had grinned at him when she realised what he was doing. “Not scared of getting your hands dirty then? I thought that now you were officially in the category of organiser, you wouldn’t associate with us lowly helpers.” She teased as soon as her sale was complete.
“Only to look good in front of the volunteers as I want to convince you all to come back next year,” he replied with a smile.
Catherine smiled but did not respond. She hoped that by next year she could feel something more like herself. She had got lost somewhere between losing her mother and Paul leaving. She wasn’t sure how to return to her more relaxed nature, these days tending to get stuck in long periods of introspection. She shook herself — now was not the time for maudlin moods — and turned to the next student vying for attention.
Two hours later, Susan groaned. “I’ve not worked as hard as that in years. I’m sure I’ve aged this afternoon.”
Catherine laughed, “It’s an experience, isn’t it? I’d forgotten how demanding it is.”
“I might book a holiday next year,” Susan groaned, stretching her back. “Adam Jones is on his way back. He’s a bit of a dish, isn’t he?”
Catherine looked across at the Deputy Headteacher meandering across the hall. “He’s better than most of the teachers here. Have you seen Mr. Bryson?” Catherine asked in a whisper, something about being in the school environment bringing out the naughty schoolgirl in her.
Susan laughed, “I know what you mean. All the kids say he’s really scary.”
“I think, because he’s so small, he thinks he has to scare all the boys. Andrew’s still as terrified of him as he was in his first year.”
Adam reached the table as Catherine noticed the smile exchanged between her friend and the teacher and was pleased. Susan was an attractive woman who had never settled with anyone for long, always holding out for her version of Mr Right. She worked in the school offices and had always spoken highly of Mr Jones. There was a spark between Susan and the charismatic, handsome teacher, which, in Catherine’s opinion, was a good thing. She had never heard anything detrimental about the teacher.
“I’m just checking that you ladies have made us loads of money. And survived, of course,” he said.
“Susan is a natural at negotiation. She didn’t need me,” Catherine said.
“Oh, thanks!” Susan said. “Now I’m lumbered with this stall every year!”
“Believe me, I speak as the voice of experience. The cake stall, the chocolate stall and the games stalls are all ten times worse than this. Hold onto bring-and-buy.” Catherine advised her.
“I hate to acknowledge that any of this is anything but a walk in the park, but I have to admit that Catherine’s correct. It’s mayhem on the chocolate and cakes stalls,” Adam said with a shudder.
“And which have you worked on? I don’t remember you being in the thick of it even when you were supposed to be helping.” Catherine said loftily.
“Just because I haven’t worked on them, doesn’t mean I don’t feel the pain,” Adam assured her. “And I helped here with you two ladies don’t forget. The fact that I might have picked your stall for fear of my life from the mothers and children at the others is beside the point!”
Before Catherine had a chance to retort she caught sight of Paul out of the corner of her eye. She stiffened involuntarily and took a sharp breath. He was headed towards her, and she did not feel ready to speak to him. There was not enough time or opportunity to make a dignified escape, so she stood rooted to the spot until he reached her.
“Catherine, could I have a word in private?” Paul said, not waiting to see if there was a conversation already going on between the three gathered around the tables.
“I don’t think the school fayre is the time to have a private conversation, do you Paul? I’m finishing up here,” Catherine responded, trying to keep her voice level when in her head she was screaming abuse at him.
“I’ll finish off here,” Susan offered, while at the same time glaring at Paul as only a best friend can do.
“You can go into one of the side classrooms if you like. I won’t be far away if you need any help,” Adam said quietly to Catherine. The school was fully aware of what had happened in Megan’s and Andrew’s lives; it was only fair that the teachers were informed of two major life-changing events.
Catherine sent Adam a grateful look before setting her shoulders and leading Paul into a corridor off the hall. She opened the door to the first classroom she reached. There was no point delaying whatever conversation Paul wanted to have. She walked over to the teacher’s desk and leant against it. It was a vain hope, but she thought that she might feel stronger leaning against the large wooden structure. She folded her arms and waited until Paul spoke.
How things had changed. She would have never considered when she married nearly twenty years ago that the man she had fallen for would betray her in such a cold, uncaring way. Was he really the person who had claimed he would love her until his dying day? He forgot to put in the caveat that he would love her until he found someone better. Catherine shook herself. She was in danger of becoming bitter and twisted; it was an easy trap to fall into when faced with Paul, but she was not going to allow him to do that to her. He had taken everything else; he was not taking her.
“Well, I may as well cut to the chase. I’m going to have to stop paying you money for the kids,” Paul said, folding his arms defensively.
“What?” Catherine asked in disbelief. The desk behind her offered the support she needed as she sagged into the structure.
“I can’t afford it anymore,” he shrugged.
“You don’t have children and then discard them when they become too expensive Paul!” she responded harshly.
“I knew you wouldn’t understand!” he snarled.
“Understand? Of course I don’t bloody understand!” Catherine replied, trying to keep her voice low. “How the hell do you think we are going to manage, Paul? Do you think I have a secret stash of money I can just dip into when times are tough? Because I haven’t. I’m already working as many hours as I can. We won’t be able to manage without your money.” As much as she hated having to admit it, she still needed Paul’s support. She had worked part-time when the children had been small. It was only when Megan had gone to high school that they had decided it was time for her to go back full-time. She had a job, but any career she had planned had suffered from the years of part-time work, so she was far from earning a healthy salary.
The door opened, and Megan walked in. “Mum, what’s going on? Danielle said Dad had some news for us. Oh, hi, Dad.”
“Hi, darling,” Paul responded, turning on the charm as he did when he felt like it.
“It’s nothing, Megs,” Catherine said, using Megan’s baby name. “Go and find Andrew. I’ll be out in a minute.” She still wanted to protect her children, even though their father was a complete and utter ass.
“Well, while you’re here Megan, you may as well hear what I’ve got to say,” Paul said, holding out his arm for his daughter.
Megan moved across to the embrace. “What is it? Something nice?”
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