Historical romance fans take note: A new clean, Victorian romance is here from author Rebecca Anderson (aka Becca Wilhite). It is a heartwarming love story you’ll want to read – especially if you’re a fan of stories like Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. Isabelle and Alexander has received lovely reviews from the Library Journal, Booklist, Foreword Reviews, and more, and I couldn’t agree more with their thoughts.
So, find out more about this delightful new book and read the exclusive excerpt below.
OFFICIAL BOOK DESCRIPTION OF ISABELLE AND ALEXANDER
Isabelle Rackham knows she will not marry for love. Though arranged marriages have fallen out of fashion, hers has been settled for some time to combine the upper-middle-class wealth of her father’s coal mines with Alexander Osgood’s prospering Northern country textile mills. Though not a man prone to romantic gestures, Alexander is well-known as an eligible bachelor. His good looks have turned more than one head, so Isabelle is content to think of herself as Alexander’s wife.
However, her marriage is not what she expected. Northern England is nothing like her home farther west in the lake country. Cold, dreary, and dark, the soot from the textile mills creates a gray hue that seems to cling to everything in the city of Manchester. Alexander is distant and aloof, preferring to spend his time at the mill rather than with her at home. Their few conversations are brief, polite, and lacking any emotion, leaving Isabelle lonely and desperately homesick.
Sensing his wife’s unhappiness, Alexander suggests a trip to his country estate. Isabelle hopes this will be an opportunity to get to know her new husband without the distractions of his business. But the change of scenery doesn’t bring them any closer. While riding together on horses, Alexander is thrown from his and becomes paralyzed. Tragedy or destiny? The help and care that Alexander now needs is Isabelle’s opportunity to forge a connection and create a deep and romantic love where nothing else could.
Isabelle and Alexander Excerpt
When Alexander walked through the door, Isabelle simply stood, took a step toward him, and held out both her hands in welcome. “Hello,” she said, which was not among any of her prepared greetings. She watched his face closely for any sign of dismissal. There were no such signs.
Neither did he say anything. He stood in the parlor doorway watching her, his face fixed and immobile, his mouth slightly open.
Be brave, Isabelle, she told herself, and she took another step forward. He had no choice but to take her hands or turn away. Either his upbringing had given him practiced response, or he shook off the shock of her boldness.
He took both her offered hands in his. “Hello,” he repeated. His voice shook slightly, and he stammered, “You look well this evening. Very well.”
Choosing to ignore the nervous energy Alexander was exhibiting, Isabelle turned toward the dining room, folding her arm into his as though this were a natural occurrence. “Thank you,” she said. “I feel very well. I spent the day with Mrs. Kenworthy and Glory, and I found myself wet through from the rains. After a long visit and a brisk walk home, I feel it was a day well spent.” She knew she couldn’t mention Edwin’s news. Alexander might make it clear he did not care, and that would be the final blow to Isabelle’s ability to maintain control of her delicate emotional balance.
They entered the dining room, and he pulled out her chair. “I don’t recall that dress,” he said as she sat.
Was he angry? Did he think she had gone out and made purchases without consulting him?
He didn’t actually ask her if she’d spent money on a new gown, but the thought crossed her mind that if she had, he’d have a right to be put out.
“It’s been waiting for me to find the right occasion,” she said. “I have not worn it before this evening,” she replied, trying not to sound as nervous as she felt. “But I quite like the color, and I thought I’d give it a try.”
He nodded. “Yes,” he said, his voice cracking. “Indeed a lovely color.” He stammered, “Very flattering. To your complexion.” He seated himself across the table from her and met her eye. “You should have another made in that same shade.” He glanced away and then back to her face as though he couldn’t keep his eyes off her.
Surprise stole any reply from her. She was fairly certain that if Alexander continued to look at her with that same expression, she’d willingly wear only that shade of pink every day for the rest of her life. A small warning voice whispered in her mind that it should take more than an appreciative glance to win her over this way, but she ignored that voice in favor of feeling the pleasure of being smiled at.
As dinner was served, Alexander continued to glance at her, and Isabelle felt the full weight of being charming. All of her practiced conversations for the evening flew out of her
head, and so she told a small part of the story of watching Glory paint.
“Perhaps you should sit for her,” he said.
Isabelle chewed a bite of fish longer than needed. “What do you mean?” she asked.
“She could paint a portrait of you.”
Mae came in from the kitchen to deliver a pudding, and Alexander looked away. Isabelle assumed he was uninterested in continuing the conversation, as it dealt with a hypothetical painting that did not contain hunting parties or horses or even dogs, but as soon as the kitchen maid left, he repeated his statement. This time, he added, “You could wear that dress.”
Her heart stuttered to a stop long enough for her to recognize that she was being complimented.
By Alexander Osgood.
She looked at him, and they shared a smile.
Before a proper response could form itself, they heard a knocking at the front of the house. Seconds later, Yeardley came to the dining room door.
“What is it, Yeardley?” Alexander said.
“Beg pardon, sir, but Mr. Connor is here and wishes to speak with you.”
Alexander pushed away from his seat and rushed out of the room, leaving Isabelle to wonder when she might grow used to the idea that she was less important than whatever happened inside his mill. Her father’s business dealings had been farther removed from their home. As Mr. Osgood’s mill was only a few blocks away, he was never far from work, and work seemed never far from his mind.
Isabelle scooped another bite of bread pudding into her mouth just as Alexander reappeared at the door. He didn’t come inside the dining room, but said from the doorway, “Terribly sorry. Bit of an emergency at the mill. Thank you for a lovely dinner. I do hope you’re not distressed.”
She didn’t have time to answer him, or even chew her food, before he was gone. She felt her posture soften and her breath leave her in a sigh.
He hoped she was not distressed. This was thoughtful, but in fact, she was a bit distressed, and he was the one who made her feel so.
Chapter 7, pages 50-53
Rebecca Anderson is the nom de plume of contemporary romance novelist Becca Wilhite, author of Wedding Belles: A Novel in Four Parts, Check Me Out, and My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions. Isabelle and Alexander is her debut historical romance novel.
High school English teacher by day, writer by night (or very early morning), she loves hiking, Broadway shows, food, books, and movies. She is happily married and a mom to four above-average kids.