Rabbie Dinwiddie has left his beloved Scotland to start a new life in a country that offers a better and brighter future. He longs to be master of his own land and destiny, not work for someone else for the rest of his days.
But where there’s an opportunity, there are rogues, and Rabbie suffers the consequences. He never imagined he would be forced to return to Scotland poorer than when he had set out.
Miss Elisabeth Anderson is born and bred American and proud of it. Established as a wealthy farmer’s daughter, she is not limited by old world constraints and has a drive that served the early pioneers well.
Elisabeth has prospects and bold ambitions, none of which include an irascible Scot, whose path seems destined to entangle with her own.
When events occur that shatter everything Elisabeth believes in, there is only one man who can help. But is it too late to redeem what has gone before?
The American Spinster is a Victorian Romance, topped with a generous amount of humour, action and tears. If you like simmering chemistry, compelling but complex characters and fast-paced action, then this is the perfect book for you. For lovers of Regency or Victorian romance.
Release date: June 9, 2022
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The American Spinster
New York City 1846
He was furious.
Robert Dinwiddie, Rabbie to his family and friends, strode along the pavement, not noticing who he passed or where he went. What was it about his sisters? he fumed silently to himself. Neither of them could find a husband in Scotland, and yet the minute he suggested they join him to keep house in the New World, lo and behold, they were both married within a blink of an eye.
Agnes’s feet had not even touched the ground before she was lost; she had fallen in love on her journey to Rabbie with the blasted ship’s captain of all people. At least Agnes had made an attempt to travel to him; Jane had fallen under the spell of someone she met whilst visiting another of their siblings in Manchester. Although her journey to happiness was more complicated, she had been let down badly before meeting George, who she was now besotted with if her letter was anything to go by. He was happy for his sisters, but it was still a damned inconvenience for his own situation.
A wry smile altered scowling features as he walked. He had no other unmarried sisters to persuade to come and keep house for him. Well, there was one, the eldest in the family, but she had her own business and was a little bit scary to the other Dinwiddie children. Rabbie was not going to send a letter to her. No, there had to be another way of getting the help he needed.
The grim expression soon returned; he had worked hard since he’d travelled from the small village in Scotland that his family came from. He had always been determined that the path his parents had walked was not the one he would tread. He was not going to be dependent on a landowner as his father had been.
Combined with the loss of Agnes almost as soon as she arrived in New York, and then Jane not travelling over to him after saying that she would, there had been another setback to his plans. He had wanted to buy a farm not too far from New York and neighbouring land to make the acreage even larger, but someone else had beaten him to it, offering a higher bid that he could not match. The farm needed to be as large as he could afford to give him the lifestyle he wanted, so he was back to trying to source land and save his money in the meantime. He was working hard, doing anything he could to earn as much as possible, and determined to achieve his dream.
He was going to have a better future than his parents had, but for now, he still felt on the edge of society, just as he had when living in Scotland. They had been the most prosperous family in the village after the laird, but it was still not enough to have gained acceptance in the higher circles outside their locality.
It was supposed to be easier in New York to mix with others from higher ranks, and to some extent it was. Most people did not care where your money had come from; in fact, hard work was admired, but he was a single man who needed a woman to manage his house and be the helpmate he would need on the farm. Unfortunately, there was a distinct shortage of female domestic staff, hence his sending for his sisters. He had not realised that his suggestion would result in them finding their husbands. He was pleased for them, he tried to convince himself, but…
He sighed as his shoulders slumped. There was no other option for him.
He would have to marry, but courting someone would take up time and money he could not afford to squander. He was rapidly running out of options. He had to think of something fast because he had heard of another area that was a possibility; he did not wish to lose out for a second time. He had better become more inventive and soon.
Elisabeth looked out of the window onto the wet street. She missed the open views of her home, but she was here because her parents had said it was time to find a husband, for her to marry well. Her opinion on the matter hadn’t been sought, she was nine and twenty after all, a confirmed spinster, but this was her parents’ attempt to secure her future. Knowing they were only acting in her best interests prevented her from being bitter about the scheme, but she wished it had not been made so plain to her that they were to remain in New York until she was wed, for that had felt like a burden; the longer she took, the more money her family was spending on their expensive lifestyle.
Following a raindrop trickling down the window with her finger, she breathed heavily on the glass pane, providing a surface to write on. Help, she wrote. Smiling, she wiped the word away. She wasn’t melodramatic; her parents were not forcing her to consider just anyone. And as things had turned out, there was no need to consider travelling to England to spend a season in London, which had been mentioned in passing. On their first week in town, a gentleman had been introduced to them, and since then, he had proved to be a most persistent admirer.
In just a week, a party was to be held at her parents’ house, in one of the finest addresses a gentleman like her father could afford. At the grand event, which her mother had been planning for weeks, an official announcement would be made. It was too much fuss for Elisabeth, but she understood that her parents wanted to celebrate their only daughter’s good fortune at meeting a man who was in trade but very successful and considerate towards Elisabeth and her family.
Her ideal would have been to marry a farmer and spend her days in the wide-open plains, but living on a large and remote farm had reduced her interactions, and she had not come into contact with an unmarried farmer, so they had moved to New York. Her grandfather used to reminisce about how different the farms were in England. From his descriptions, they always seemed to be small, and neighbours were close to each other in comparison to how Elisabeth’s family lived. She would always wonder how her life would have been if she had got her wish, but it was clearly not meant to be.
It did not matter now what her heart yearned for, her future was set, and although she would always miss the open fields, she knew that she was lucky. Not many women of her age found a life-mate, especially one as considerate as James.
Her ruminations were interrupted by the entrance of her mother. “Ah, there you are. Come, we are to pay our calls.”
“Can I not go for a ride first? I feel I need to let off some energy before I try to pretend to be a young lady of fashion,” Elisabeth asked, swinging her legs off the window seat.
Mrs Anderson smiled. “As much as I dread to observe your fidgets whilst we are visiting the fine drawing rooms we are welcome in, I am afraid there is no time to set you free before we do the rounds. Surely, the dancing this evening will help to use your energy?”
“It’s not the same as galloping through the fresh air,” Elisabeth countered.
“No. Papa’s groom is constantly warning us about having a neck-or-nothing as a daughter. I do feel you should be more considerate to him, Elisabeth. The poor man is positively pale when he returns from accompanying you,” Mrs Anderson gently chided.
“Oh, pah! I never force him to follow me,” Elisabeth defended herself. “And as the one who taught me to ride, I feel his complaints are a little hypocritical.”
“I feel he’s becoming more hesitant now he is increasing in age. The poor man. You will be the death of him.”
“I could go out alone,” Elisabeth offered, trying to suppress the grin spreading over her face.
“Comments like that will get you confined to the house, especially if Papa hears you,” came the quick scold. “There are enough vagabonds in this city to warrant armed grooms when you ride out, yet you only take poor Johnson.”
“It isn’t so bad, Mama,” Elisabeth soothed. “I know which parts of the city to avoid. There is plenty of open countryside around that is hardly visited by anyone.”
“Be careful, Elisabeth. You sound almost as if you like the city. Mr Whittaker will be pleased and very relieved. You tease him too much about hoping you will persuade him to buy a farm eventually.”
“Who says I am teasing?” Elisabeth asked.
“Do not be tiresome, child! You know it is our wish to see you happily settled. Having an unmarried daughter and no other family around is a worry. We cannot see you left alone if something were to happen to us.”
“I am sorry, Mama. I am grateful for all you have done. Lead me to your friends; I will accept my fate for this morning at least.” She knew when to ease off teasing her mother, who was prone to hysterics and nervous attacks.
Elisabeth followed Mrs Anderson into their well-sprung carriage. Society was mixed in New York, with people from all walks of life who had made their fortune and were happy to socialise with others. The London ton would have been horrified to see farmers, financial men, property developers and factory owners all mixing, renting the best addresses in the city and frequenting the same balls. There still was an elite, families who were well-established and had been the founder families of the area, but even these were forced to mix with the more middle classes if they were to enjoy the full social whirl.
New York had hot summers, so most people who could afford to left the city in the summer. Disease was prone to break out in the overcrowded slums where a lot of the Irish or Italian immigrants lived. Unscrupulous landlords provided low-quality housing and rents high enough that too many bodies were forced to share each room or set of rooms. It was inevitable that the areas were hotbeds of diseases.
Winters were cold and snowy, but they offered entertainments for those who could afford them. So, autumn and winter would see the higher-class streets filled with renters, eager to take part in the balls, card parties and excursions that filled the days and evenings.
In this whirl, Elisabeth had met James. He did not seem to mind that she was no quiet wallflower but a woman who had an enjoyment of the ridiculous and threw her heart into anything she undertook. Elisabeth presumed that he considered her a good balance to his more withdrawn nature. He was a very focused man, intent on building his business and looking for opportunities to further increase his portfolio. She admired his determination, and although he was older than her at forty, they had got on well from the first. Musing about James and her future life in New York caused Elisabeth to make an effort to be pleasant and compliant as they went from house to house. She was intelligent enough to know that she needed friends to help her ease into town life, and having friends could only help James’s business in the long term.
When they returned from their visits, Elisabeth was pleased to hear that James was with her father and ordered tea for when he joined her in the morning room. Her mother made no excuses, just patted Elisabeth on her hand, saying, “I will leave you to enjoy each other’s company.”
Elisabeth stood when James entered the room some ten minutes later. “This is an unexpected surprise. I thought we were only seeing you this evening at the Ellerys’ ball.”
Crossing the room, James kissed her cheek. “I wanted to check something with your father, and it gave me an excuse to see you.”
Smiling at him, Elisabeth indicated he should sit while she poured the tea. He was very amiable, although quieter than Elisabeth and inclined to be serious, but he had pleasing features and faultless manners. “You know you are welcome here anytime. I wish you had arrived before we left for visits; you would have given me the perfect excuse not to go out.”
“And miss the highlight of the day? Gathering all the latest on-dits?”
Elisabeth was not sure whether he was being serious or not; there was certainly no smile to accompany his words, so she chose to sip her tea and not respond. It niggled at her sometimes that he took life a little too seriously, but Elisabeth was sure he would become more light-hearted when they were married and they could be more relaxed around each other.
Before the silence became awkward, the maid announced that Elisabeth’s friend, Ruth Lockhart, had arrived.
“Come in, Ruth; this is yet another unexpected visit.” Elisabeth smiled at her friend. “I left you but an hour ago.”
“I know, and I would like to say it is because I was missing you, but I was out on a walk when I saw Mr Whittaker’s carriage and wondered if I could impose on him to take me home?” Ruth asked.
She was everything Elisabeth was not, blonde, blue-eyed, petite with a cherubic face. She was also five years younger, and they had little in common, but Ruth had sought her out and offered friendship from almost the first moment they had arrived in New York. Elisabeth often wondered if Ruth had felt sorry for her and taken the older woman under her wing.
She had met Ruth the same night she had met James. What had been anticipated as a lonely night, not being asked to dance and knowing no one, had become a night of flirtation and laughter. Since then, the three were often together, but sometimes Ruth could be a little too caustic for Elisabeth’s taste. Whenever Elisabeth had challenged her new friend, Ruth had laughed and said that Elisabeth was being a rustic. Although annoyed at the comment, Elisabeth was not surrounded by friends enough to walk away from her companionship. Thankfully, Ruth was always nicer when James was around, which only increased Elisabeth’s appreciation that he could bring out the best in people.
“Of course, it would be my pleasure,” James answered Ruth, having stood at her entrance and only sitting down when she sat.
“Thank you, I knew I could depend on you. Now, don’t you two look nice and cosy?” Ruth said, sitting opposite the pair, who were seated together on a sofa, but not so close as to be inappropriate. “And unchaperoned. How risqué you always are, Elisabeth, and it seems it is already rubbing off on Mr Whittaker.” Her smile seemed forced, and her words were clearly said as a reprimand to them both.
“Mama will be back soon,” Elisabeth said, stiffening a little at Ruth’s words. Gossip could spread far too easily, and she did not wish a teasing comment to cause problems this close to their announcement. She had not confided to Ruth that she had accepted James’s proposal, but she was invited to the party. Elisabeth was convinced her friend had an idea from some of the comments she had made, but Elisabeth refused to confirm or deny Ruth’s unsubtle questions.
“Shall we travel now?” James asked, clearly uncomfortable at Ruth’s comments. He put his cup on the arm of the chair and stood.
“I am in no rush.” Ruth smiled up at him. “I do not wish to be the one to part you two, but if you insist, I would like to return home.”
“It is of no matter. I have my two dances with Miss Anderson tonight to look forward to.” James smiled at Elisabeth.
“In that case, I do not feel any guilt at separating you,” Ruth said, standing. She moved to kiss Elisabeth’s cheek, but there was no actual contact between the pair. James bowed over Elisabeth’s hand, and wishing her a good afternoon, they left Elisabeth alone.
She stood for a few moments frowning after them before shaking her head as if annoyed with herself for her thoughts. More unsettled than she was used to feeling, she decided to watch Ruth more closely when the three of them were together. Something was amiss, she was sure of it.
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