14 February 2013

Excerpt Thursday: William & Lucy by Michael Brown

This week, we're welcoming author Michael Brown, whose latest title is WILLIAM & LUCY: A TALE OF LOVE & SUSPICION. Join us on Sunday, when Michael will offer a free copy of the book to a lucky blog visitor; your choice of a paperback (US and Canadian residents only) or an ebook (international). Here's the blurb: 

One of the most romantic poems in the history of English literature “She Dwelt Among The Untrodden Ways” was written by William Wordsworth. The subject of his poem was a young woman named Lucy -- she is one of literary history’s most enduring mysteries. Who was Lucy? Where did she come from? Did she ever exist? No one knows. 

This is their story…

It’s 1798. England is at war with France as struggling poet William Wordsworth meets Lucy Sims, a novice painter working as a nanny in the English countryside. They fall into a love burdened by social prejudice, crushing debt and dangerous rumors that threaten to send Wordsworth to the gallows for being a French spy. Meanwhile, Lucy’s employer plans to seduce her and make her his mistress. William and Lucy’s relationship hangs in the balance, until fate intervenes and in a suspense-filled, action-packed finale, their love triumphs and becomes part of literary history. Winner of the 2012 Global Ebook Award for Best Historical Fiction Novel of the Year (1500-1940), Michael Brown’s deeply romantic work establishes William and Lucy as one of the most captivating relationships in literature, and lovingly conveys how the enigmatic young woman became the poet’s muse, much like how Beatrice influenced Dante.

Romanticism in poetry, as personified by Wordsworth, was marked by meditation, worship of nature, and the decision to abandon classical verse by composing poems for the common man. William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge led the way with the second edition of their book Lyrical Ballads, which became the single most important work of poetry in the history of English literature. The Lucy poem in that volume, “She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways,” one of five Lucy poems Wordsworth composed during his lifetime, presents Lucy living in rural Somerset and charts her “growth, perfection, and death,” according to literary critic Geoffrey Durant. Lucy’s unresolved identity has intrigued literary historians for ages.                                                                     
At long last Michael Brown, through dedicated research and imaginative storytelling, has released the poet laureate from the bondage of his dour portrayal in history and has given us the flesh and blood Wordsworth, a man of adventure and passion. And for the first time ever, the author originates the identity of “Lucy” in a love story that has never been told.

**An Excerpt from William & Lucy: A Tale of Suspicion and Love**

A light breeze blew a curl free from under Lucy’s hat; it landed on her nose. She brushed the errant tendril away, but when it rebelliously returned, she impatiently tucked it up under the brim, and pulled the hat down with more vigor than was necessary. Why was she so upset? Perhaps it was the Squire’s lewd behavior that rankled her, forcing her to come to grips with her dangerous, untenable living situation. Then, there was the stranger; ever since their chaotic meeting, her emotions had run amok, as if they belonged to someone else entirely. Or, she reasoned, perhaps her unsettled state was caused by the aftermath of her seizure and the loss of her most dear possession -- dear in both senses of the word; she wouldn’t be able to afford to replace her father’s paintbrush with a new one of similar quality. 
“I hope I’m not interrupting,” said a deep voice behind her.
She jumped and turned. The stranger! Where had he come from?
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Lucy’s hands fluttered up to touch the small plasters affixed to her temples. She must look so ridiculous! She felt her cheeks flush. Why was she blushing like an adolescent? Aware she had been staring at him, she lowered her eyes. “Sir, I didn’t hear you approach.”
“Forgive me,” he said. “My big feet usually announce my arrival. My sister says I walk like a Clydesdale.”
Lucy hadn’t noticed the soft, melodious tone of his voice before. “I… I was so involved in painting, I didn’t hear you.”
“I understand. I’m the same way when I’m writing.”
“Oh, your journal!” she said, suddenly recalling his loss. “It must have been ruined. I am so sorry.”
“Fortunately my sister had made a copy of my work, although I didn’t know it at the time. Please accept an apology for my rude behavior.” He leaned an ornately carved walking stick against his thigh, and reached a long and graceful hand into his satchel. “Somehow, this found its way into my bag.” He withdrew her paintbrush!
Lucy’s heart skipped a beat. Losing all sense of propriety she rushed to him and took her father’s gift carefully from his hands. “Oh, thank you. Thank you!”
She felt his eyes upon her. Lifting her gaze to his, she was startled to feel a thrill once again shoot through her. She could neither resist nor explain the phenomenon. Who is this man? She wanted to know more, but her tongue wouldn’t move. Her gaze fell to the brush in her hands.
She heard herself saying, “Sir, this paintbrush means much to me.” Her deep blue irises darted up as she suddenly remembered another of the previous day’s mishaps. “Your trousers! I am so sorry. They were ruined, I’m sure.”
“It matters not. I didn’t care for them anyway.”
“Oh, but the unkind way we laughed at your misfortune.” She smiled at the memory.
“It’s nothing, really,” he said with a shrug. “I laugh, myself, whenever I think about it. I must have been quite a sight.”
His eyes focused on her. Yes, they were amber and so warm … so sensitive!
Lucy was suddenly aware he was speaking, “… sometimes, I believe, accidents are not always what they appear to be.”
She caught her breath. He was suggesting that their meeting was somehow an act of fate. She noticed that he was smiling at her, a little too broadly, but charmingly, she had to admit.
“My name is William Wordsworth. I live not far from here, at Alfoxden House. If you don’t mind my asking… ”
It took her a moment to realize he had paused so that she might offer her introduction. “I am governess to Squire Hawkins’ children,” she said with a nod to the manor house on the hill. “I am Lucy Sims.”
Lucy’s pulse jumped. Was he referring to her… or to her name?
      “Emily, it’s the trespasser!” Henry shouted. He and his sister, having left the glen, were climbing the hill.
Lucy noticed William turn toward the children disparagingly. He swung his satchel over his shoulder and lifted the walking stick. “I’d best be off before I’m trampled again. Are you here often, Miss Sims?”
Momentarily taken aback by William’s obviously forward question, she wondered: How she could answer without seeming too anxious? While struggling to find a decorous reply, she realized he was a moment away from walking out of her life. She overcame her reticence. “I might be here a small part of every day.”
“Are you ever free of feral companions?”
She found herself nodding. “Only when the family’s at church.”
“Then I shall see you Sunday morning. Good day, Miss Lucy Sims.”
Before she could respond, he had already turned, and was walking briskly down the opposite side of the hill. She watched after him with a feeling of dismay. How could she meet with a perfect stranger? She had never done anything like this before in her life. Well, perhaps it wasn’t so scandalous; after all they had met once before, even if it had been under rather unconventional and trying circumstances. A smile slowly appeared. What if fate did have something to do with their meeting? She recalled his name: William Wordsworth… a solid sounding name… very respectable. But she didn’t know who he was, or what he did. She mulled this over. Would she really see him on Sunday? 

An acclaimed film editor, Michael Brown has won three Emmy Awards, an ACE Eddie Award and a Lifetime Career Achievement Award for feature and TV work. He is a member of the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America. As a TV writer, his credits include “CPO Sharkey” (NBC), “Brothers and Sisters” (NBC), “A.E.S. Hudson Street” (ABC), “Three for the Road” (CBS) and “Piper’s Pets” (NBC pilot). He lives in Chatsworth, California with his wife, Holly. William & Lucy is his first novel.

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