Book Title: The Merchant’s Dilemma, a Meonbridge Chronicles Companion Novel
Series: The Meonbridge Chronicles
Author: Carolyn Hughes
Publication Date: 20th September 2023
Publisher: Riverdown Books
Page Length: 232
Genre: Historical Fiction
The Merchant’s Dilemma
By Carolyn Hughes
1362. Winchester. Seven months ago, accused of bringing plague and death from Winchester, Bea Ward was hounded out of Meonbridge by her former friends and neighbours. Finding food and shelter where she could, she struggled to make her way back to Winchester again.
Yet, once she arrived, she wondered why she’d come.
For her former lover – the love of her life – Riccardo Marchaunt, had married a year ago. And she no longer had the strength to go back to her old life on the streets. Frail, destitute and homeless, she was reduced to begging. Then, in January, during a tumultuous and destructive storm, she found herself on Riccardo’s doorstep. She had no plan, beyond hoping he might help her, or at least provide a final resting place for her poor body.
When Bea awakes to find she’s lying in Riccardo’s bed once more, she’s thankful, thrilled, but mystified. But she soon learns that his wife died four months ago, along with their newborn son, and finds too that Riccardo loves her now as much as he ever did, and wants to make her his wife. But can he? And, even if he can, could she ever really be a proper merchant’s wife?
Riccardo could not have been more relieved to find Bea still alive, when he thought he had lost her forever. She had been close to death, but is now recovering her health. He adores her and wants her to be his wife. But how? His father would forbid such an “unfitting” match, on pain of denying him his inheritance. And what would his fellow merchants think of it? And their haughty wives?
Yet, Riccardo is determined that Bea will be his wife. He has to find a solution to his dilemma… With the help of his beloved mother, Emilia, and her close friend, Cecily, he hatches a plan to make it happen.
But even the best laid plans sometimes go awry. And the path of love never did run smooth…
The Merchant’s Dilemma is a companion novel to the main series of Meonbridge Chronicles, and continues the story of Bea and Riccardo after the end of the fourth Chronicle, Children’s Fate. It is a little more romantic and light-hearted than the other Chronicles but, if you’ve enjoyed reading about the lives of the characters of Meonbridge, you will almost certainly enjoy reading The Merchant’s Dilemma too!
This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.
Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/3RY7Yj
Carolyn Hughes has lived much of her life in Hampshire. With a first degree in Classics and English, she started working life as a computer programmer, then a very new profession. But it was technical authoring that later proved her vocation, word-smithing for many different clients, including banks, an international hotel group and medical instruments manufacturers.
Although she wrote creatively on and off for most of her adult life, it was not until her children flew the nest that writing historical fiction took centre stage. But why historical fiction? Serendipity!
Seeking inspiration for what to write for her Creative Writing Masters, she discovered the handwritten draft, begun in her twenties, of a novel, set in 14th century rural England… Intrigued by the period and setting, she realised that, by writing a novel set in the period, she’d be able to both learn more about the medieval past and interpret it, which seemed like a thrilling thing to do. A few days later, the first Meonbridge Chronicle, Fortune’s Wheel, was under way.
Six published books later (with more to come), Carolyn does now think of herself as an Historical Novelist. And she wouldn’t have it any other way…
Carolyn has a Master’s in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.
You can connect with Carolyn through her website www.carolynhughesauthor.com and social media.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Carolyn-Hughes/e/B01MG5TWH1
From Chapter 2
Riccardo had been out all morning, meeting clients. He returned home at the usual time, as the church bells throughout the city were ringing the hour of Sext, knowing Mistress Collyton would have his dinner ready. A chilly wind was scudding through the streets, and even the thickness of his best winter cloak was unable to stop him shivering. He was glad to close the heavy door behind him and feel the warmth of the hall fire seeping down the passage.
He threw off his cloak and hood and hung them on the peg just inside the door. Then he strode down the passage to the hall, where he expected to see the table laid in readiness for his arrival. It was, but it wasn’t the table that drew his immediate attention.
At that moment, Mistress Collyton appeared at his elbow. ‘You got comp’ny for dinner today, sir.’
‘So I see,’ he said and held out his hands to Bea, who was sitting in the cushioned chair next to the hearth. ‘How pleased I am to see you down here at last, my love. You must be feeling stronger?’
‘Strong enough, as long as Mistress Collyton helps me with the stairs.’
‘We took it slow, sir, but she certainly ain’t so weakly as she were.’
Riccardo took one of Bea’s hands in his and kissed it. She had been so very fragile, just a month ago, it was a wonder to see her now. Her cheeks were pink, her eyes brighter and, beneath the new gown he had bought her especially for this day, her body was clearly no longer so thin and frail that he feared her bones might snap.
How relieved he was she had responded so well to the care he – and, much more so, Mistress Collyton – had given her. Pulling gently on the hand he held, he drew her to her feet. ‘Shall we eat?’
‘Yes, but still only a little, I think.’
‘Of course. It undoubtedly takes time for the body to reaccustom itself to eating, when it has had so little for so long. But, as each day passes, I daresay you will take a few more morsels than the day before.’
‘My eyes were fairly feasting earlier on Mistress Collyton’s delicious cooking, but I know I must be cautious still.’
They sat together at the table and the housekeeper scuttled off to fetch the dishes she had prepared. It was simple fare, a stew of pork and boiled greens, then a pudding made from apples picked last autumn in the garden.
Bea sipped several spoonsful of the gravy, nibbled at a morsel or two of meat, and took a mouthful of cabbage. Then she sat back. ‘I do wish I could eat more.’ She laid a hand lightly upon her stomach. ‘But I’m already full.’ She pressed her lips together in a pout. ‘Yet I was hoping to try a little of the pudding. I watched Mistress Collyton make it, with the little apples she still has in the store.’
‘Maybe let what you have eaten settle, then try a tiny portion?’ Riccardo gave her a broad smile, yet he was still anxious about her. It might be months before she was eating normally. He could see too she was exhausted from her morning’s efforts. He wished he had some idea how long it should take for her to recover fully, but he hoped it would be soon.