Last week I started a new feature called Before the Editor’s Cut. Much like the popular Director’s cuts included in movie DVD’s, Before the Editor’s Cut gives reader’s an insider’s look at how my story’s come about, the submission process and the editing process to the final product.
Last week, I started this feature with my first published novel, Charmed. This week, I decided to share THE MERRY WIDOW before the editor’s cut.
A fifteen thousand word novella, The Merry Widow, was inspired by a trip to Europe where I spent both Christmas and New Year’s in London. In fact, the heroine’s home is located in one of my favorite London neighborhoods, Mayfair.
Written in about ten days, this multicultural victorian romance was initially submitted for one of only six spots in Ellora’s Cave’s Caveman anthology. Unfortunately, it was rejected for publication.
Of course since I have a hide tougher than an elephant’s, I submitted the story to Red Sage Publishing. Although I wasn’t rejected outright, I was given a laundry list of suggestions to make the story better by then senior editor Alicia Ralsey.
Letter from Alicia Ralsey
“Good evening, sir. Will you be remaining in the St. James’s area or will you be retiring home this evening? I’m sure you can make it home for at least the first course at this early hour.”
Viscount Bellomont glanced up at the hackney driver. Although his usual mode of transportation was a brougham or newly acquired phaeton, he was currently without transportation for he’d sent Talbot home hours ago while he exercised his demons at the Royal boxing club. The snub he received earlier in the day having put him in a rather sour mood. So much so that he knocked out his sparing partner in the first round.
Reggie as he was called by his family and closest friends hesitated on the carriage steps. “No, I’m done for the evening – to 45 Palace Court, please.” With a heavy sigh, he settled back into the stiff leather as the hired cab lurched forward. However, he didn’t get too comfortable because the ride would only be but a short jaunt.
“We’re here your lordship!” The driver called – his voice echoing on the otherwise lonely street. Reggie looked out the coach’s window at the six story brick-faced home located on fashionable Palace Court.
With an eye to fill the almost six hundred square meter home with laughter and children, he’d bought the home eight years ago as a wedding present for his new bride. Now it was nothing but a hollow shell reminding him of what he’d lost. Yet he was loathe to let go of the past. Therefore, he’d kept it despite his wife’s death more than six years ago.
After a moment’s deliberation, Reggie finally alighted. Once on the ground, he turned around and pitched the driver a silver crown.
“Thank you your lordship.” The man grinned greedily as he caught the coin in his grimy hands. He then brought it to his lips and bit into it. Satisfied with its quality, he then turned in his seat, lifted the reigns and slapped the back of his horse.
Reggie stood on the curb and watched the cab round the corner. However, instead of entering no. 27 Palace Court, he crossed the street and headed west.
Although knew what he was about to do was asinine and totally improper, he couldn’t stop himself. Because when he was hell bent on something, it was hard for him to give up without at least exercising all of his options. And unfortunately, many of them had dried up already for Widow Phillipa Jones had turned out be a true anomaly.
Unlike most women who would have retired to the country after the death of a husband, she had taken the helm of the fourth largest shipping company operating out of the Grand Surrey Docks. Even though the Jones Maritime Shipping Line was only a fraction of the size of his present holdings, she directly competed with him for the lucrative Canadian route.
And as the third son of an earl, who’d competed for his father’s affection all his life and was forced to amass his own considerable fortune, he was not going to allow a mere woman to stand in his way.
Reggie was sure his private investigator, Mr. Lawson, had confirmed that Mrs. Jones currently resided in the upper middle class neighborhood of Notting Hill but he wasn’t quite sure.
As he turned into Pembridge Square, he silently prayed that his information was right. After locating No. 4 Pembridge, he climbed the steps two at a time and then lifted the lion head door knocker.
With startling efficiency, the door opened, flooding the stoop with a warm glow. A stout woman dressed in the customary servant’s uniform filled the doorway. Her gray eyes looked him up and down and for some reason, he felt like she found him wanting which was an unusual occurrence for him considering his combined holdings brought in over twenty-two thousand pounds annually.
“Is Mrs. Jones home?” he asked as the woman looked past him to the street beyond.
“Yes! And you’re late!” She huffed. “She’s been waiting for you nigh two hours now.” She stepped aside, and then motioned for him to enter. Unsure of what to do, he hesitated on the stoop, for she’d obviously had him mixed up with another – someone her employer was expecting. “Are you coming in or are you going to continue twiddling your thumbs on the door step?”
Even though he felt uneasy about entering her home under false pretenses, Reggie knew this would probably be the only time he would be granted an unprejudiced audience with the stalwart widow Jones.
“Your hat and your gloves, sir.”
Reggie waited patiently by the door while she placed his effects on a nearby sideboard, next to an Egyptian vase. “Rather fine garments for a man in your line of work,” she sniffed.
“Excuse me?” Not quite comprehending what she was getting at, but she essentially ignored him as she walked towards the stairs. Without any by your leave, she proceeded to climb them. Reaffirming his reasons for being there one more time, Reggie caught up with her before she cleared the first landing.
“My lady is awaiting you in her private parlor so you will not be disturbed,” she confirmed while leading him down a narrow hallway. “And make sure you apologize for your tardiness,”she directed as if scolding a child. She finally stopped at a set of double doors, and knocked softly.
“Come in!” A feminine voice called on the other side. Reggie braced himself, as the servant twisted the brass handle fixtures and then gave the doors a healthy push inward. As his eyes scanned the room, he quickly surmised that Mrs. Jones favored the slender, elegant lines of the Regency period for it was scattered here and there about the room in a quaint hodge-podge style and matched the demi-lune table downstairs in the front foyer. Although it was thirty or forty years out of date, it perfectly suited the owner’s no nonsense style.
“Mrs. Jones, your gentleman caller is here,” she announced with such gravity as if were a doctor making a house call.
“Go on. You can go in. She won’t bite.” The housekeeper encouraged, then stepping out of the way.
Although Reggie wasn’t a stranger to a woman’s private chambers, having been the invited guest on many occasion, somehow he now found himself wavering on the threshold….
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