Like other’s who’ve commented here, this is a well-crafted opening. I agree with the comments that noted we’d like to FEEL a bit more about his returning home, knowing he’s not truly welcome.
Ana noted: Suggestions: I love the set up presented; maybe add in more anticipations of how he will be received? Does he harbor anger or resentment?
Vicki noted: I wonder if you could incorporate something about the fact that as the second son he knew there were things he’d never have (like the career he wanted), but he always expected to be able to marry for love (or at least like). I know you touched on this, but maybe you could play it up a bit more. This would hit on the core need of love/connection (Lesson 2). The only other thing I came up with was that it might make him a little more likable (Lesson 3) if he seems more solicitous of Sophia’s needs and comfort. Make him more aware that he might not be her ideal man.
Rebecca noted: A little more sympathy might be created by having him care about something—hoping to see his old nanny? His pony? An old flame? Or instead of caring, perhaps he fears seeing them?
,,, and I agree with the repeat theme of all of these. This ..>
Her soft question was reasonable, but the mention of his family estate sent a whip of panic through him. Edward hadn’t returned Britchard since his father had unceremoniously informed him he was no longer welcome. Only a few days after his twenty-first birthday. And a week after he launched his architecture venture.
Not that he’d ever been truly welcome. Edward had spent years drawing and designing houses, stables, businesses – any structure that caught his imagination. With the end of the Corsican’s wars, Edward was certain his venture could succeed.
His father hadn’t cared. It didn’t matter that his family had no intention, or funds, to provide a living for his second son. An earl’s son did not enter trade. Edward was used to being unseen, unwanted, but being tossed out of his family home for having the audacity to fend for himself had cut deeper than he’d anticipated.
Now he was arriving as the Earl. A broke earl – with a wife who wasn’t interested in him. Closing his eyes, he pulled himself together. He’d learned long ago not to count on anyone but himself. “I suspect we will be there in the next hour or so.”
…is where much of that could go instead of some of the more historical facts which, yes, I know historical readers enjoy, but let’s get the people-history-emotions first. Then later we can worry about the war that ended or the different types of things he can draw.
The key emotions, the kickers, the brain craving things we want to have in this opening is he’s so much an also-ran. He’s pretty much failed as being a “son” in his father’s eyes and now his only use is to marry for money and, I assume, breed an heir for the family lineage to continue.
I like that you’re opening in a “locked room” situation (I do that with space stations and ships–can’t run from your trouble) in the carriage. He has to face her and her existence and purpose in his life.
What I’m unclear on is when he suddenly realizes she’s beautiful. He’s known and/or seen her for weeks, right? Granted, this is not today’s world but still, his shock at seeing her face struck me as odd. She’s not a veiled Middle-Eastern gal in a burka. I know she’s a stranger personally. But he’s seen her–they just went through a wedding, yes? And I assume an engagement party prior, or was this a rushed wedding? If so, that needs to be said because the brain seeks logic and it’s missing here. He does deem her, deeper in the section, a “living doll.” If so, why is he so shocked at her beauty? I totally get why you want that to BE in the section where the carriage jolts her. But it doesn’t ring true. I’m not saying you can’t write it that way. But you need to work to logic and come up with a valid reason he’s just now realizing she’s hot stuff.
Nit (and I know it’s from editing on the fly):
She pursed her lips as she pulled back. [delete , ] “If you wish,” [period not comma] [T]the flush traveled down her long neck as Sophia crossed her arms.
Overall, as I said, lovely. But I agree with other comments that I want to know more about Edward’s issues personally and less about the time period and external world events. Because to the characters, it’s THEIR contemporary world so they’d not be explaining history to themselves. I want to feel Edward’s frustration and anger and, yes, dreams lost or at least delayed. His brother’s death is a KICKER. His whole personal world changes. It seems to me he’d stalwartly accepted his younger-son fate, created a career path and had all his proverbial ducks in a row and then his stupid (beloved?) brother gets himself killed. The brain wants to feel that unwanted and unfair twist of fate emotion.
I’d almost–and maybe deeper in, you do this–have an actual paid commission/project looming when this whole Brother’s Dead=You Must Marry thing hits the fan. I’d like to see a SPECIFIC dream of his go down the toilet (or, at least, appear to be doing so).
It didn’t matter. Sophia’s dowry was enough to keep his creditors at bay until his construction business was on firmer footing. If Edward had had a few more months his business would have been able to handle the creditors’ demands. If…
This set-up leaves open that his construction business was still a bit of a dream, a bit of a question. So he’s lost a POSSIBILITY. How much stronger would it hit him if the wedding has made him lose A CLIENT? As I say a lot 🙂 in my conflict classes, PUT A FACE ON IT. Edward and Duke Doublebottom had come to an agreement, the plans for dowager cottage had been approved, he was set to start as soon as the spring rains/winter snows abated… and now, BAM! (Of course, we can always resurrect that client and that job later, but AT THE MOMENT, all Edward believes is his first major paying client is now history.)
Just a thought… Nicely done overall. Love the set-up and the twist of fate.
//Interstellar Adventure Infused with Romance//