Lawrence as a boyI probably won’t get to keep that title. Authors rarely do. But The Singular Mr. Sinclair is the working title for Book One in The House of Lovell series.

When I first get to know my characters, I like to meet them as children. So much of who we are is shaped during those early years so it’s important for me to know what happened to them then, whether I share that information with my readers or not. You’re in luck. This time, I’m sharing. Last week I promised to give you a taste of this story, so without further ado, let me introduce you to our hero, Lawrence Sinclair:

Prologue

Ware Hall, Wiltshire, 1796

By the time Lawrence Sinclair was ten years of age, he was certain of one thing in this world.

He would never make a scholar.

Mr. Hazelton, his tutor, despaired of Lawrence ever amounting to anything in the classroom. To start with, even after years of practice, his penmanship was still a rough scrawl of chicken scratches and uneven lines.

“I cannot be held to account for it, Your Lordship,” Mr. Hazelton explained to Lawrence’s uncle, Lord Ware. “The boy persists in using his left hand unless I tie it behind his back.”

Mr. Hazelton didn’t tell the earl that he also routinely beat Lawrence’s left knuckles with a ruler until they were red as poppies. Nothing worked. Lawrence remained stubbornly cack-handed.

Perhaps his struggle to write legibly bled over into other subjects, but he failed to excel in any area of Mr. Hazelton’s tutelage. Lord Ware, however, was delighted with the progress of his son Ralph. Though a year younger than Lawrence, his cousin was already leagues ahead of him in grammar, rhetoric and Latin. Ralph could do a long column of sums in his head and translate a John Donne poem into French so beautifully that the words still sang.

Lawrence’s only flash of brilliance was that he sat a horse with distinction. He and his mount took leaps with ease, even ones from which older, more experienced riders might shy. He also learned that his tendency to use his left hand could be an advantage in fencing.

“Your foe willna ken how to come at ye,” his old Scottish fencing master had told him. “But dinna let His Lordship know I let ye practice so. We must make sure ye can switch hands at will, aye?”

Still, a gentleman with no prospects shouldn’t rely on those talents alone to make his way in the world.

For make his own way, he must.

Lawrence would inherit nothing. He and his mother had lived under the begrudging care of Harcourt Sinclair, Lord Ware, since his father, the earl’s younger brother by less than a minute, died in a curricle accident a month before Lawrence was born. Lawrence regretted not having any memory of his sire, but he wondered if he should. Whispers of “just deserts” and “larking about with a Bird of Paradise” floated in conversations just over his head when the adults in his life thought he wasn’t attending.

People also remarked how different Lawrence’s father had been from his brother, the earl. In appearance as well as temperament, where Harcourt was a steady, plodding, draft horse, Lawrence’s father Henry had been a flighty racer, lean and strong. Twins were like that sometimes. The earl took after their mother’s people while Henry favored the Sinclair’s darkly handsome line.

Sometimes Lawrence stood before his father’s portrait in the family gallery of Ware Hall, gazing up at the deep brown eyes that were so like his own, and puzzled over the man. He often imagined how different his life might have been if his father hadn’t died while “larking about,” with or without any sort of bird.

For one thing, Lawrence likely wouldn’t be living under his stern uncle’s roof. That would be a blessing beyond measure. Ware Hall was a fine estate, with expansive grounds, but however well appointed, a cage was still a cage. Lord Ware’s strictures were hard enough on Lawrence, but the earl ruled the whole family with a heavy hand.  

Just once, Lawrence would have rejoiced to see his mother contradict his uncle on anything. But his mother was a quiet woman who seldom smiled, so docile and frail, Lawrence was forced to wonder if she cared about anything at all. Still, surely she would have been happier, he thought, if she’d been allowed to return to her own family in the Lake District.

Lawrence had never met his mother’s people. His grandfather on that side reportedly held a tidy baronetcy, but Lord Ware always said his brother had “married beneath himself, if that were possible.” The daughter of a minor, late-made noble simply did not signify when weighed against the son of an earl.

Even a second son.

But Lord Ware wouldn’t hear of Lawrence and his mother returning north. The earl might not like Lawrence over much—or his mother, either, come to that—but he was duty bound to provide for his nephew’s upbringing.

For if there was one thing the earl was certain of in this world, it was duty.

“The boy is my blood, demmit. He bears the Sinclair name. I’ll not have him growing up wild as a thistle and ending up like his father. We don’t need another foolish accident to blacken the house of Ware.”

Then just before Lawrence’s eleventh birthday, another accident did happen. It might not have been accompanied by whispers of shame and disgrace, but it was so horrific, so unexpected, it was an affront to heaven and the natural order of things and surely the will of God Himself. It made his father’s sins—including the “larking about” bit—seem small by comparison.

And Lawrence became certain of a second thing in this world.

His uncle wished him dead.

~~~~~

Hope you enjoyed meeting young Lawrence. Next week, you’ll get to know Lady Caroline!

 

As you probably know, I switched from writing historicals to contemporaries last year. I turned down a request for more historicals while I concentrated on Coldwater Cove. Then while in contract talks about more stories for my contemporary series, my editor asked if I’d think about writing historicals again, too.

So I thought about it.

I do dearly love the manners, the clothes, the take-me-away escape of a historical romance. So I told my editor that if I could make these new historicals sweeter than my previous ones–sort of a cross between Jane Austen and Julia Quinn–then I’d be happy to dive back into the Regency.

CarolineAndLawrenceSo now I’m playing with a series called the House of Lovell. Lord and Lady Chatham have been blessed with five sons and only one daughter. But considering how difficult Caroline is, one daughter is more than enough. She’s about to embark on her third Season and her parents fear she’ll be permanently on the shelf if she fails to make a match this time.

Unfortunately for them, that’s just what Caroline wants! She longs for a life of adventure and travel and she only has to remain unmarried until she turns twenty-one. That’s when she inherits the bequest left to her by her grandmother. It’s not a staggering amount, but it’s enough to fund Caroline’s dream of an independent life.

Caroline has her future all planned out, but it may well be upended entirely when she meets the singular Mr. Lawrence Sinclair. Will she exchange one dream for another?

Since I’m still writing the story, your guess is as good as mine. Next week, I’ll post a few pages to give you a feel for the characters. Hope you love it!  

I’ve had 30 titles published since 2006. My work has been nominated for a RITA and RT’s Reviewers’ Choice Awards. One of my books even made it into the 2010 Best of PEOPLE magazine! I’ve been blessed with a loyal readership, fabulous reviews and wonderful relationships with my editors and my agent. I’m a lucky girl and I know it.

So why did I decide to change from writing sensual historicals to much sweeter contemporary stories?

It didn’t happen quickly. A couple of years ago, while I was still happily writing historicals for multiple publishers, I started noodling around with a contemporary set in a fictional town in the green hills of the Ozarks. I was living in an urban area at the time and really missing my small town roots. Maybe that’s why I fell in love with my own creation–Coldwater Cove, a place that’s a cross between Lake Woebegone and Mayberry! Then the troop of characters that lived there began clamoring for me to tell their stories.

When I sent the first 3 chapters to my agent, she warned me that this was a HUGE departure from my previous writing. Not only was The Coldwater Warm Hearts Club set in today’s world after I’d made my name writing historicals, this new story read like a completely different voice. And it was wholesome enough to read aloud with your Sunday School class. Not that this series is exclusively for the Christian market. It’s not. The Coldwater Cove stories are sweet romance/women’s fiction in the spirit of Debbie Macomber and Kristan Higgins. But I’m not hindered from letting my characters explore the spiritual side of their lives. My characters are flawed. They wouldn’t be realistic if they weren’t. They’ve made mistakes and will probably make a lot more, but they’re working on it.

Because the bedroom door remains closed in these books, I could spend more time exploring other aspects of my characters’ lives. The romantic relationship isn’t the only one that has a growth arc. I also write about friendships and  relationships between adult children and their parents. In The Coldwater Warm Hearts Club, I take on veterans’ issues—not just my hero dealing with his PTSD and the loss of his leg, but also how a community of faith and hope comes together to help a homeless Viet Nam vet find his way back into society.  And eventually, in coming books, to a restoration of his broken marriage and into a relationship with God.

When I wrote as Mia, my personal rule was that every scene in my stories had to either deepen the character or advance the plot, preferably both, including any love scenes. However, even with those guidelines, I felt conflicted about my writing. Since I’m a Christian, it was a tension I couldn’t continue to ignore. I thought I could ease that tension by sneaking spiritual themes into my books. I wrote several faith conversions in my historical novels, even though one of my editors said I was in danger of giving my readers whiplash. I’m especially proud of Once Upon a Plaid (Kensington, October 2014), a book set in 16th century Scotland about a married couple who are childless in an age when a man needs an heir like he needs his sword arm. Not only are Kat and William trying to save their marriage after losing a stillborn son and several failed pregnancies, William has to deal with his anger and bitterness toward God. He finally realizes that God understands exactly how he feels, because He too watched His Son die.

But even though I was able to slip a good bit of faith into my historicals over the years, I grew more convicted about my writing and knew I needed to take it in a different direction. One of the many good things about being a Christian is that God gives us a do-over when we need one.

And I needed one.

the coldwater warm hearts club I turned down a request for more historicals from one of my other publishers, and told my agent to go ahead and send the first 3 chapters of The Coldwater Warm Hearts Club to my editor at Kensington. She and I have formed a solid working relationship over the years, and I hoped to keep it going. Fortunately, she loved my new voice and the Coldwater Cove series is off and running.

We are physical, emotional and spiritual beings. I write about life and that involves so much more than physical. Moving to writing my sweeter Coldwater Cove series has been very freeing. I love these stories, and I’m very glad to have turned this page in my writing career.

Please don’t think I’ve become anti-sex. Not at all. After all, it was God’s idea in the first place and the Bible is very frank in its discussion of sex of all sorts. I don’t judge what anyone reads.But as it always has been in this business, I can only control what I write. And I choose to write about the kind of folks you might meet in the grocery store line, in your kid’s PTA, or in the mirror each morning.

Life is hysterical. It’s both sadder and sweeter than we realize. It can beat us down to a nubbin’ and lift us up to dizzying heights. The only constant is change, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be better than we ever imagined. This is the latest chapter in my life and I’d love for you to come along for the ride.

Thank you for reading my books.Truly. It means the world to me when someone chooses to spend hours of their life with me and my imaginary friends. If you enjoyed my writing as Mia, I hope you’ll give my Lexi Eddings books a try.

I promise I’ll make you laugh, I’ll make you cry, and I’ll always give you a happy ending.