Writing Challenge: Right Place, Wrong Time

by Evan Yeong

The last time we had a Historical writing challenge I didn’t make things easy for you. When putting together my rules I decided to take every popular historical era off the table, forcing you all to broaden your ideas of what this romance genre could be. And you all delivered with flying colours, marking an all-time high for submissions!

Now that we’re once again covering similar territory, I had to really rack my brain for more restrictions that would be distinct from the last one while still allowing you to thoroughly explore the wonderful world of Historical Romance. After much deliberation, I finally had it.

In 400 words or less I want you to write a romantic scene featuring a character who bucks against the cultural norms of their particular time and place-

-but I’m taking warrior women off the table.

To be more specific, if you were looking to have the character be a woman who has chosen to pick up an axe, broadsword, or claymore in defiance of society’s expectations of her, head in a different direction. This isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with legends like Hua Mulan or real-life historical figures like Boudicca, just that it’s an angle I could see too many of you taking given this prompt.

I would also caution (and encourage) you to do some research! You might not think that a man from a certain era would be familiar with a “domestic” skill like sewing, but then again, you might be surprised! Gender norms differ from culture to culture, and even from one century to the next.

As a final stipulation, I would ask that the cutoff for your story be around 1914 or so. While the Historical team has shared that they’re considering expanding their submission parameters, for the purposes of this challenge we’ll be keeping things more traditional.

All submissions are to be left as a comment under this post, and to be turned in no later than Sunday (5/24) 11:59 PM EST. We’ve cycled back around to picking our Editors’ Choice Top 3, and those will be revealed sometime next Tuesday (5/26), so be sure to come back to see if you make it to the top!


UPDATE: Having this challenge take place over a long weekend for the Americans meant a record low with 21 submissions, but this may also mark a record high as far as their quality! We were genuinely wowed by these, in particular how so many of you deftly created such immersive settings while still staying within the word count limit.

Two observations before announcing our Editors’ Choice Top 3: 1) the vast majority of submissions focused on the heroine bravely resisting cultural and societal pressures, and 2) some of you seem to really love the idea of women creating art!

There’s so much going on in Fiona Marsden‘s scene, but every aspect from the mistaken identity to the lovingly rendered details (down to their very clothing) just works. A rare example of the first submission actually taking first place!

Tanya Kilpatrick gave us one of the handful of artistic heroines we received, but setting hers in Ancient Egypt really set it apart. It’s an era that isn’t often explored, and her incredible cliffhanger easily propelled her to the top.

And finally we have Nancy, whose heroine just wants to know more! Having her slake her thirst for knowledge by eavesdropping on philosophers is a fantastic setup, and having the hero join her made us wonder what conflict might arise.

A truly phenomenal set of submissions made this a difficult one, so thank you to everyone who participated! Encouraged as always to see you all lifting one another up in the comments. If you haven’t read any of these you’re doing yourself a true disservice.

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  1. Fiona Marsden

    Intruders had taken root on the south lawn of Fallowfield. Thomas opened a window, the latticed panes distorting the view. There were two of them. Three if you counted the donkey attached to the wooden cart. The animal contentedly cropped the long grass while a lad in his teens used a scythe to slash the field.
    The last of the group, in dull brown doublet and what looked like baggy breeches over muddy hose and boots, was perched on a ladder leaning against the back of the cart. It was beneath his dignity as a Tremayne to bellow at the strangers, so he withdrew, leaving the manor by the front door.
    Close up, the intrepid ladder climber appeared as young as the boy, smooth cheeks flushed from sun and wind.
    “Hey, lad. What brings you to Fallowfield?”
    He met dark eyes, framed with long girlish lashes. Despite the masculine nature of the clothing, he knew at once this was not the young fellow he’d assumed from a distance. “You’re a girl? What strange prank is this?”
    “I am Loveday Stroude. Lady Alicia has employed me to construct a knot garden. A parterre.”
    Thomas blinked up at the face which appeared almost childlike yet had an odd maturity in the dark eyes and the controlled set of her jaw. “You, a gardener?”
    She shifted on the ladder, drawing his eyes to the shapely legs revealed by the girdled skirts.
    “Not a gardener sir. A designer of gardens.” She waved the sheets of paper she held in one hand, stitched together into a booklet. He could see drawings on the exposed pages, made with a stick of charcoal that had blackened the fingers of her other hand.

    Loveday itched to pull her skirts from the sash at her hip. The cold eyes of this fellow had warmed as they lingered on her exposed limbs. Her insides warmed oddly too, under his scrutiny. He was plainly dressed in a dark blue, long-waisted doublet and matching hose yet the lace at his collar suggested a man of means. “Who are you, sir, to question me?”
    “Thomas Tremayne. Steward of Fallowfield and responsible for all business in this place.”
    Carefully, Loveday climbed down the ladder. The notebook and drawing charcoal she placed carefully on the back of the cart. Good quality charcoal sticks were expensive. Shaking out her skirts, she faced him, chin up.

  2. Iris Swift

    Fina took a deep breath and straightened her white druid robes. Now that she was actually here in Trudeu Castle, on the cusp of meeting Sir Elias face to face, she half regretted her bold decision to come in her Grandfather’s place.

    Back in the forest which was the home of her people, it had all seemed so simple. She’d watched the messenger galloping towards her and the plan had formed in her mind even before the breathless stranger slid off his horse and held out the sealed parchment.

    “Please,” the man had gasped, “could you take this to Arch Druid Aldred? It is a summons from Sir Elias of Trudeu. The Lady Mathilda is ailing and we need help.”

    Fina had folded her arms within her robes and smiled, gently. “You have come a long way. Can I offer you refreshment?”

    The messenger shook his head. “There is no time. I am anxious to return, if Arch Druid Aldred will accompany me.”

    “Arch Druid Aldred is travelling,” Fina spoke steadily to cover her lie. “But I am a trained healer. I will accompany you.”

    The man had recoiled at her daring. Even within her own society, where women and men were held as equals, it would be unacceptable for a young novice to consider herself on a par with the Arch Druid himself. But Fina was not only a skilled healer, she was ambitious and determined. She’d long nurtured a wish to see the druids accepted in Trudeu, and she knew that Sir Elias was sympathetic to their cause.

    Sir Elias. The legendary warrior she’d admired from afar, who was now standing just inches away.

    His scorching gaze took in her travel-stained robes and dishevelled blonde hair.

    “I was expecting Arch Druid Aldred.” His voice was deep and gravelly.

    Fina bowed her head respectfully. “I am his grand daughter.”

    He put out a hand and lifted her chin. His fingers were warm, his grip tight. Fina’s heart beat faster, but she looked up into his dark eyes without flinching.

    “You have come in his place?” he mused.

    “I have.” She held his gaze.

    “My mother is ill.”

    “I know.”

    He was assessing her, she could tell. His gaze lingered over the bodice of her simple white gown and Fina felt her cheeks flush pink.

    “You are a woman,” he announced.

    She stood taller. “I am a healer.”

  3. Theresa Kemble

    London 1668

    This day could be counted as the most auspicious in the life of Lady Georgianna Elizabeth Stirling or the worst disastrous decision she ever made in her young life. She would catch a glimpse of the man she was betrothed to since she was eight years old. Lord Thomas Claremore. It did help that she only saw him just once before at the tender age of nine. She did not want to use the conventional way of meeting her attended. She hated writing those long boring letters to her guardian, who would read the letters, return them to her and make suggestions to impress her future mother in law. She had another plan to get into Claremore Haven. She would disguise herself as a servant to the artist at court who was about to paint a new portrait of the young lord.

    She gleaned important information from her own servants that it would appear the artist himself was of noble blood, the third son of the fanciful Earl of Kenilworth. This son had a reputation of being a libertine. His own father threatened him to disown him if he would not mend his ways. He struck a bargain, if he could make a profitable living with a stroke of the brush, he would try living on the straight and narrow.

    Georgianna sat uncomfortably in a carriage, waiting for her servant to come fetch her to the tavern where she was to meet the artist. A warm refreshing breeze floated into the carriage, which she whole heartily welcomed. Suddenly, a young man unannounced entered her carriage. Her eyes widened and she was ready to scream. He put a finger to her lips. “Hush, Lady Stirling, I presume? Let me introduce myself, I am James Kenilworth, the son of William Kenilworth, the 7th Earl of Kenilworth. And I am here to talk you of out this cockamamie plan of yours.”
    She defended herself. “It’s a brilliant plan! If you trust me, I believe we can carry it off!”

    He snorted. “Brilliant? Not so sure of that yet my lady!”

    She rolled eyes and grabbed her purse and produced a small ruby. “I believe this would help the plan.”

    James held the ruby to inspect it. “Not of great quality, my dear. What else do you have?”

    She threw her pearl earrings at him. “You are a dastardly rake, sir!”

  4. Anna Christine

    “It’s 1890,” Martha mutters pulling her long navy flared skirt through the screen door then letting it slam leaving her stuffy parents inside with the suitor they selected. Straightening her white shirtwaist, she steps off the porch heading to the street by way of the sidewalk with her sealskin shoes tapping with each step. “I want to work before I marry, and I want to marry for love.”
    Still fuming at the thought of her parents thinking she should marry Peter Shand, the men’s clothing manager in their family owned department store, her steps quicken as she walks towards the center of town.
    While her head is up, she is noticing nothing because she is too busy stewing about the surprise meeting, the forced suitor, and that she wants to work with her friend at the telephone company. She misses the appreciative looks of both men and women as she storms past them.
    Her dark hair is pulled into a chignon with curly tendrils escaping around her face and with the sun shining, she wishes that she’d grabbed her straw boater hat with the matching navy fabric color on the crown when she left the house.
    Martha is so entrenched in her thoughts she narrowly misses slamming into a gentleman approaching in the opposite direction.
    “Excuse me,” he says tipping his high-top derby.
    Martha stops then looks and sees a dark-haired gentleman wearing a high button black sack coat open to display his matching waistcoat. She sees dark hair under the derby along with a dark mustache and dark twinkly eyes along with a big grin.
    “Well hello,” Martha huskily greets him her gaze meeting his.
    ‘Are you well? You seem to be a bit distracted.”
    “I am now,” she responds offering her hand. “I’m Martha Garver.”
    “I’m Gilbert Futter,” he responds grasping her hand gently but firmly.
    Martha feels the strength in his long, tapered fingers and a spiral of heat swirls down through her being. They stand gazing at each other neither dropping the hand of the other. She notices his full lips that appear below his dark mustache and wonder how those lips would feel on her own.
    “Is that your bicycle?” Martha asks.
    “Yes, it is. I have a shop over on Chestnut Street. This is the Futter Flyer.”
    “I’ve always wanted to learn how to ride a bicycle.”
    “I would be honored to teach you.”

  5. Annie Rae

    “Oh, come on, woman.” He growls, impatience flying off the straggling cowboy, despite the many times I’ve told the man, this is not my job.

    Unfortunately, I’m the one left to do it since ma passed last month, all the other women need to tend the sick or their babies. But I was ma’s helper, the retriever, the deliverer… I was never the cooker.

    Huffing in frustration, I rush cowboy’s eggs, hoping his hot rocks stay warm while he waits.

    “Listen… dah’lin. Every day I’ve got cold meal, burnt biscuits, or just plain nothin’.” He huffs, coming to stand behind me like his presence is going to make this any easier. That mixture of musk and leather fill my senses, making it harder to concentrate on the food he’s waiting for.

    “Hank… I’m sorry, dammit. I’m doing my best but goddammit, how many times do I hafta tell ya boys? My mamma cooked, not me.” My frantic effort to not burn another breakfast makes my voice more shrill than I’d like. I don’t want this king of backsides to know how frustrated I am, not by my situation and not by his maddening existence.

    “We know, dah’lin. It’s why we go easy on ya’.” He placates, sniffing over my shoulder before that dark head rears back, nose crinkled like he just stepped in a cowpie.

    “Dammit!” I scurry my spoon, sliding the overcooked eggs to cowboy’s tin plate with the slightly blackened biscuit. He’s just another unsatisfied cowhand. Tears fill my eyes despite my best effort to stop it, but I refuse to let the complainer see.

    One day, mamma. One day I’ll make ya proud and do this right.

    Quickly, I shove the iron in the pile to wash, turning my back so I don’t see the disgusted look on Mr. Temptation’s overly handsome face. Yet another failed attempt at breakfast. Thank God the other women take over for dinner ‘cause I can’t take it! With six hundred miles til California, I gotta figure this out at some point, right?

    “It’s perfect, doll.” Cowboy placates, his voice suspiciously soft and very close behind me. One heavily callused hand turns me, that handsome face bent to see my glassy eyes before I jerk my head away. “We know you miss your ma, Kit.”

    Cursing my trembling lip, I look up, ready pitch a fit seconds before cowboy’s mouth covers mine.

    • Suzanne Hull

      I always loved a gold rush story! I like how realistic you made it with her not being a capable cook which would have been expected then.

    • Annie Rae

      Thank you so much, ladies! Kit is a WIP who is more of a book nerd, wannabee teacher but put her dreams on hold for this trip. She was expected to train under her mother as the only sister among 3 brothers. Unfortunately, she has a bunch of missteps along the trail learning how to “mother” the boys.

    • Eilidh Lawrence

      I really like how well your use of first person narrative allows us to get right into our heroine’s head in such a short extract. I’m writing an Oregon Trail romance for Love Inspired just now, so this is my jam! Like it a lot. 🙂

    • Theresa Kemble

      Annie,
      I really like that you use the 1st person to tell this interesting story. Gold Rush, to knowledge hasn’ been use quite often to tell a romantic story , good job emoting your heroine’ anguish and grief!

    • Evan Yeong

      Hi Annie, I’m so happy to see that your submission struck a chord with other writers here. I regret to inform you that since it was twice the length of the requested word count, however, it isn’t eligible for the Editors’ Choice Top 3.

    • Evan Yeong

      Hi Annie, you’re so right! My extreme apologies. When I ran it through my word counter the first time there must have been an error (my mechanical keyboard sometimes hits keys an extra time). You are of course eligible I’m so sorry about that!

  6. Tanya Kilpatrick

    The rising sun filtered through the entrance of the tomb. Amun, the sun god had travelled safely through the underworld and now filled the sky with life giving warmth. Imoteph, stood surveying the barren land before him. In the distance dust clouds arose as more workers headed to the site. There was much to do. Pharoah was counting on him to have the tomb completed. If he was successful there would be more prestige and wealth for his family. Nothing must impede Pharoah’s journey to the afterlife.

    Morning was Kahmila’s favourite time of the day. The early light played across the delta and fired her imagination with images she wished she could paint. “But father…” Sabu frowned at his daughter. “Kahmila, we have spoken of this before. Women are not allowed into the tomb and most definitely not to scribe.” Her father didn’t understand. Her hands itched to write, draw and sculpt, not weave cloth like the women in her family. “You must wait at the entrance and prepare the meal. Attached to the donkey is enough to make a feast.” Kahmila opened her mouth but quickly closed it at the disapproval on her father’s face.
    “Because I am female I have no ability?” she muttered to herself. Moving toward the makeshift camp she removed the food. Stashed at the bottom of the satchel were her precious paints. Looking over her shoulder she waited until the last man entered. Creeping toward the tomb entrance she listened for sounds. If, she was caught it would mean certain death to her and banishment for her family.
    Entering the doorway, the lamps flame flickered across brilliant colours of ochre, blue and gold. Drawings depicting Pharoah’s life sprang to life. Not bad work, but she could do better she mused. Treading carefully so as not to dislodge any debris, Kahmila made her way to the unfinished portrait of Anubis, god of the afterlife. Father mentioned Arten had not finished the painting. Placing her oil lamp on the rocky floor she laid out paints and brushes. Kahmila, so engrossed completing the portrait did not hear footsteps until they were beside her. Turning quickly she smashed into a firm, bronzed naked chest. Tilting her head back she groaned inwardly …. Imoteph. Why were the gods so cruel! Strong hands bit into her arms. “Why am I not surprised find you here?”

  7. Shannon Arthur

    Lillian, who had arrived early, admired the new brass lock which would mean the shop would be more secure and made a note to check the back door. Security was important. Lillian checked her best cap, making sure her hair was not sticking out.
    The landlord carried the key in his hand. In an embroidered jacket and an exquisite waist coat, he minced rather than walked, taking each stair carefully.

    “You’re a woman,” he stated the obvious. “Don’t you have a partner or patron?” After opening the door, he led her up to the second floor. This room would be cosy in winter.

    “I will have male and female employees,” Lillian said.

    “I cannot legally enter into a lease with you alone.”

    “Why?” Lillian straightened her back, bracing for a difficult discussion.

    “I don’t think I can sue you for breach of contract. The lease would be considered invalid because as a woman you’re not competent.”

    Lillian nodded, disappointed by his attitude but determined because Marcianna had suggested there were ways around this.
    “If you married, say to Somery, the shop becomes your husband’s property. I would be without a tenant if he didn’t allow you to continue the lease.”

    He arranged his lace cuffs just so. Why had he agreed to meet her and show her the premises? They were just what she wanted, small rooms with small windows for light.

    “Lillian, you come recommended but there’re rumours.”

    Lillian nodded, both annoyed and impressed at the man’s diligence. She wanted this shop with every fibre of her being. “Which rumours concern you?”

    “Those that you support that childless Papist, our Queen,” he said, his words tinged with disgust. “I don’t hold with Papists.”

    She hated that her associations through spying tarnished her reputation. “I am no recusant. I go to church almost every Sunday.”
    What was the point of so many objections? This prosperous and well informed property owner had not shown her the door.

    “I would consider leasing to you and a reliable male partner.” So he badly wanted to lease the shop, just not to a woman.

    Lillian hadn’t had serious discussions with Dickon, only an exchange of dreams while sitting in Marcianna’s coffee shop. She would find Dickon to discuss a partnership. If he wouldn’t or couldn’t, she’d pay Marcianna’s solicitor. This was going to be her shop.

  8. Eilidh Lawrence

    Scotland, 1912

    Robert Dalrymple left the counting hall, no longer a Member of Parliament. He had gambled and it had not paid off. His former constituents were not ready. His party was not ready. The country was not ready.

    He had shaken Chalmer’s hand, and the returning officer’s, and given a brief concession speech. After thanking his supporters, and taking a little time to commiserate with them, he had chosen to walk home alone. Rain poured down onto the Glasgow pavement, so hard the drops bounced back up. The sound of the pounding rain provided an appropriate accompaniment to his mood. Dirty grey puddles pooled everywhere and everything was dreich.

    Still, it could have been worse. It hadn’t been a landslide. Maybe he’d just made his move too soon…

    “Congratulations Mr Dalrymple.” A woman’s voice came from behind him. English.

    Taken aback, he turned.

    She was neither young, nor old, thirty perhaps, tall and a redhead. Her dress was white underneath a dark green coat, almost black in the poor light, onto which was pinned a large round brooch set with pearls, emeralds and purple gemstones. He didn’t know what the purple stones were called. He didn’t have a wife to buy jewellery for.

    “I’m afraid no congratulations are in order. Perhaps you have not heard the result? Mr Chalmers won the seat for the Conservatives by some 700 votes.”

    “I heard. Such a pity.” She shook her head briskly and the wet purple fabric flowers on her hat sprayed rain water around her.

    He tilted his umbrella towards the Englishwoman. When she nodded, he moved it above her and led her out of the rain, to shelter under a nearby tree.

    “I’m Miss Bradley. Diana.” She held out a gloved hand. Her grip was firm and her accent was cut-glass, like a Cabinet minister’s wife. “I meant, congratulations for standing up for what you believe in. What you did was brave. Not many men would trigger a by-election on a single issue, hoping to regain their seat, but without any certainty of doing so.” She paused, for effect, it seemed. “And of course, no woman can.”

    Miss Diana Bradley smiled and her green eyes sparkled like the emeralds on her brooch. Purple for loyalty and dignity, white for purity, green for hope.

    “But we’re working on it.” A heartbeat. “And I’m glad we have you on board.”

    (396 words)

    • Eilidh Lawrence

      Hi Theresa. Thanks! There was a Labour Party MP, George Lansbury, who resigned from his London constituency in 1912 to fight for it back on the single issue of votes for women. He lost but regained his seat 10 years later. He became a lot more militant than ‘my’ Robert would and went on hunger strike in prison. He said: “Let them burn and destroy property and do anything they will, and for every leader that is taken away, let a dozen step forward in their place.” But he actually ended up as Leader of the Labour Party later in his life and even served as a Cabinet Minister. Can you guess who his granddaughter is? The Suffragettes sent their Head of Operations Grace Roe to help with the campaign, but there was no romance that I know of! He was married with 12 children.

  9. suzanne Hull

    Elizabeth Applegarth wiped her hands on the linen apron she always wore in the shop before setting out the last of the candles on the shelf behind her. She was pleased with her new display in the window, large church candles to the left, and small household candles to the right. In the centre coloured sealing wax and a small collection of intricately moulded figurines. She was about to snuff out the last candle and retire to bed when the door rattled open.
    ‘Good evening mistress, pray, send your husband down to me. I need an embalmer most urgently.’
    Elizabeth eyed up the strangers’ slashed tunic and breeches pieced from richly patterned silk which glowed in the candlelight. ‘I’m afraid you are in the wrong establishment sir. I don’t do embalming.’
    His eyes danced around the room, looking for the man of the establishment, suggested mirth, not misery. He had not the look about him of a recently bereaved man. ‘God’s nails woman! What am I to do? My aunt gave me strict instructions to find an embalmer for her pet dog. My lady will be most displeased when I come back without the services of one.’
    Elizabeth shrugged. ‘You might fare better in Middensgate, not Bishopsgate.’
    He raised one perfectly shaped eyebrow, the other hidden under the ostrich plume adorning his cap. ‘Why doesn’t your husband provide embalming, mistress? It is most lucrative. My lady will pay well for his services.’ He stepped closer; his smooth hands stretched out upon the wooden counter before her.
    ‘We stopped that service three years prior. Embalming dead bodies is unsurprisingly fraught with hazards, not least disease and death.’ She held his eye contact, firm in her resolve. Three long years of being a widow had forced her to harden her will to all kinds of unwanted requests. ‘The door sir.’ She pointed, directing him to leave.
    The stranger pulled his feathered cap from his head, allowing Elizabeth to look fully on his pleasing features, softened by the candlelight illuminating it.
    ‘My condolences.’ He tipped his head, his dark hair curling behind his ears. ‘Your husband I presume.’ His soft tone spoke of genuine experience. ‘Mayhap I will return on the morrow to purchase candles for my own residence. Goodnight.’
    Her heart fluttered beneath the constraints of her tightly laced bodice as she cautiously returned his smile. ‘I look forward to it sir.’

  10. Sharon Thompson

    The raven-haired Lola de Lacy stood firm on Túrlough pier.
    “There’s not one woman left on the Sands island. It’s a cursed island inhabited only by men. Look out there Ms. De Lacy,” the handsome boatman said. “Now, tell me why you wouldn’t want to be a guest in Turlough House instead?”
    “Lady Turlough is my reason,” Lola said peering where his weathered finger pointed. “I cannot return to the Big House. Now, are we going on the turning tide before those rain clouds come closer? I will double your usual price if you just simply take me with no more questions.”
    Lola let that information rattle around in his head. It was more than she’d wanted to share, but she needed a sip of water and to be inside somewhere warm soon. “I’ll also need a hand to take my trunk to Beatty cottage.”
    The rugged captain of the drontheim sailing boat moved his weight from one foot to the other and his moustache smiled,“take this to the boat!” he ordered in Irish to one of his crew. “Go easy with it.”
    “Thank you.”
    “You know our language?” he asked. “I’ll see you get to the Sands. But, I’ll be taking you back here tomorrow.”
    “One step at a time, Mr…”
    “Fitzgerald. Jack C Fitzgerald. Can you manage the steps?” Jack asked looking at the length of her dress.
    “I am a dancer and a woman used to travel,” Lola said. “I’ll manage.”
    “I could take your hand?” But Jack stood back as Lola moved down the narrow stone steps with ease and hoisted her skirts high to toss a long, slender leg into the boat.
    Jack pointed to a wooden bench and nestling into it Lola pulled the hood of Lord Turlough’s cape forward and hid her beauty from view. There was a thud of her trunk being positioned in a few different places for ballast.
    Lola closed her eyes. She held her nerve and the stolen pearls. As bad as this man Jack Fitzgerald thought Sands Island was, Lola was leaving something much more horrific behind. When the wind caught the red sails, it gave the boat and Lola a surge of momentum. It might take a few tacks to reach the far shore, but Lola sat steadfast in her journey to a new life.

  11. Joice

    Bologna – Italy, 1406

    The last time Alessandra Bocchi had seen Raffaello Alberti, it had been more than ten years ago. He had asked her to marry him. Instead, she had accepted a position as a professor at the University of Bologna, and stolen his job. They had never spoken since. But now he was back, and they were celebrating his recent addition to the academic personal. They would be colleagues.
    Of course, ten years was a long time, and from what she had heard, he was, for many years now, happily married. Enough time to forgive and forget, at least she hopped as she watched him approach them. First, he complimented the men, then turned to her. Their gaze met. His was indifferent. Hers, she expected, composed.
    “Signora Bocchi.” He said with a small courtesy.
    “I see you already are acquainted,” Carlo commented, clearing knowing they were.
    “Of course. He was one of my father’s apprentices. One of the most brilliants. It’s an honour to have you with us again, Signor Alberti. Especially after so long.”
    “Not everyone can inherit a position, Signora. Some have to earn it.” The room froze. He was, undoubtedly, insinuating she only had her position because it had belonged before to her father. He had just openly insulted her in front of everyone. ‘Neither forgiven nor forgotten.’ She thought bitterly.
    Alessandra stared at him. His eyes were cold, but so were hers. This was a game two could play. She arched a brow at him, as saying: ‘As you wish.’ But didn’t utter a word. She didn’t need to. He was the first to look away and, after clearing his throat, said. “Excuse me, I’m requested by Lorenzo Urbino.” He bowed slightly. “Signori.”
    Before leaving, though, Raffaello grabbed her hand. His fingers were almost rough against hers. Like he had spent a lot of time doing manual labour. He brought her hand to his mouth. She could feel his breath against her skin, his lips were warm, and when they touched her, she lost her breath.
    “Signora.” He said with one last meaningful look.
    After he left, Niccolo, her assistant, approached with a goblet for her. Alessandra saw he open his mouth to say something, probably: ‘I told you so.’ But she raised her hand in warning.
    “Don’t even start.” She said, taking the goblet out of his hand and then drank her wine.

    • Joice

      *Note:
      Alessandra Bocchi was based on two female Italian historical figures, Trota “Trotula” di Salerno, a medical practitioner and writer, and Dorotea Bucca (Bocchi), a professor and physician. Mostly on the last one though, to which I borrowed the surname Bocchi. There isn’t much about both of them. But on Bucca, the information I gathered agree basically that she was appointed around 1390 as a professor of Medicine and Philosophy in the Università di Bologna, the first university of Italy, and probably Europe too, to succeed her father, Giovanni Bocchi, and that she remained in the position for 40 years. We can read about her in what is basically a footnote on page 42 of the book “Women in Science: Antiquity Through the Nineteenth Century: a Biographical Dictionary with Annotated Bibliography” By Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie (1986).
      I also found a picture of a “Busto” of her, which is part of a collection of 12 Bustos of illustrious Bolognese ladies on an Italian website. The page also had a short informative text in Italian, that I, with my terrible Italian and the help of google translater, translated the information that she was, and I’m basically quoting here, “the daughter of a professor of moral philosophy and medicine who ‘graduated’ (the literal translation is ‘graduated’, but I believe it was supposed to mean something like ‘retired’, maybe? My Italian is crap!) in this area in 1436. She was considered ‘highly educated in the deepest Philosophy’ as much as to succeed her father in the teaching. For her work, she was compensated with a fee of one hundred lire: a good salary, so much as to be mentioned in the chronicles of the time.” Link here: https://collezioni.genusbononiae.it/products/dettaglio/1673
      Although I couldn’t for the life of me find any direct estimation of how much 100 lire would be worth in our currency nowadays. I found a table on page 24 of the book, “The Universities of the Italian Renaissance” By Paul F. Grendler (2002), where was showed the income of professors of the University of Bologna and Padua. I need to mention that some professionals were better paid (of course), but in the position that I suppose it was similar to hers, the payment of a male professor was pretty much the same, which is only fair. So she wasn’t probably getting rich anytime soon, but it was a decent income, mainly for a woman at that time. So congratulations to Italy for besides being ‘open’ to employing people independent of their gender, even kinda had ‘equal’ pay in the middle of the 14th century! Well, maybe.
      And to corroborate all of this I found in page 104, of a Thesis by Gabriella Berti Logan, titled “Italian Women In Science From The Renaissance To The Nineteenth Century”, and submitted to the School of Graduate Studies and Research in partial fulfilment for the Ph.D. degree in History in the University of Ottawa, Canada (1998), information that agrees with these content, but kind of adds a parenthesis regarding the accuracy of these facts, because the source dates from 1714, so they are not completely reliable. But well, sometimes History calls for a bit of faith, so I believe.
      And last but not least, I apologize for any historical inaccuracy. They say the devil is in the details, and in a historical story, the details are what make the story credible, so there’s a need to be very careful with it. I must admit I am obsessed with getting the details right, cause I’m a bit of a perfectionist and control freak (not at all proud of it). But I’m not a Historian, I’m just a curious person, and sometimes I get carried away, and creativity does get the better of me. For instance, I didn’t find any register that indicated hand-kissing as a form of respectful greeting or farewell before the 18th century (which is a porcelain piece named Polish handkiss by Johann Joachim [1744], if you want to see it, here is a link to The Metropolitan Museum of Art: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/203120). Still, I just couldn’t resist including it in the scene, like many other things. So I apologize.

    • Joice

      Hi, Fiona!
      You are absolutely right! The University of Bologna was the first university in Italy, and probably Europe too. It was founded in 1088, and it’s still working until today! It has nearly 932 years of history! And the amazing part is that in 1390 they actually had a female professor of Medicine and Philosophy named Dorotea Bocchi. I’m trying to post a note that explains better who she was, but for some reason is being blocked due to duplicate comments. But I’ll keep trying because I just feel people have to know about her. Thanks for your reply! 🙂

    • Eilidh Lawrence

      I love this scene and I love your note. I also love how you did all this really intense research while I watched Suffragette and a documentary on Emmillene Pankhurst mainly to see what my suffragette would have been wearing and looked vintage jewellery on Pintrest! #Priorities. lol. Congratulations on taking all your research and using it to add flavour to the emotional connection/backstory, rather than letting it take over the story. So tempting! And thank you for sharing Doretea’s story.

  12. Rachael

    The silence was worse than a shout.
    Was it shock, surprise, or outrage? In her way, Dr. Harper was one of the most beautiful women that Alexander Cooper ever saw. Even with her hair tightly pulled back from her face, he could see her large brown eyes and perfect pink lips. She was too lovely to be a doctor, much less, an instructor at an all men’s medical school.
    If they ever had the chance to speak alone together, he was certain that her experiences were similar to his own. It was 1888, and although medicine had come a long way, people’s attitudes and perceptions stayed the same.
    Women were welcomed as nurses, not doctors. The public felt women were too delicate for the profession. As for himself, his name gained him acceptance, but when his fellow students and instructors saw his face, it often stunned them into silence. His father had been a highly respected doctor who performed missionary work in Nicaragua. There he met Isabel Clara León. They married, and Alexander was born in Managua. After his mother died, his father returned to Philadelphia with him and he was tutored at home.
    When Alexander was accepted to the Philadelphia Medical School, his fellow students didn’t know how to react to a man who was not of their skin tone. To some, he was a strangely curious anomaly. They saw his brown skin and wildly curly hair and looked at him like he was some sort of sideshow attraction.
    What they didn’t know was he spoke five languages fluently and was a descendant of the Coopers of Plymouth Colony. His mother’s family owned and operated one of the largest coffee plantations in Carazo.
    The sound of a book crashing to the floor echoed off the walls and caught everyone’s attention.
    Dr. Harper had purposely dropped it.
    “My name is Dr. Caroline Harper. I will be your instructor in anatomy, physiology, and microbiology this term. Let us get the obvious out of the way. Yes, I am a woman. I am a doctor. I am not leaving the school for any reason. If this upsets you in any way, you are free to leave now.”
    Alexander caught her eye and winked. She gave him the briefest of smiles. It was going to be a most interesting term.

  13. Nancy

    Athens, Greece – 465 B.C
    A deep hunger woke Agda from her sleep. The fish and eggs she had helped her mother prepare for the family’s dinner had satisfied her physically. This other gnawing sprang from her spirit and soul, a desire for companionship and ideas.
    She rose and exited her bedchamber. She quietly descended the stone steps. Pulling her cloak from a hook beside the entrance to the courtyard, she wrapped it around herself taking care to securely cover her golden hair. Moonlight spilled onto the clay tiles, illuminating the way through her home’s courtyard. Quietly, she crept through the doorway and opened the gate outside.
    Only then did she pause, weighing the cost of her behavior. Did she really wish to upset the balance of her life? Was helping her mother care for her younger siblings, fetching water from the nearby well, and sewing clothes for her family such a terrible way to spend her days? Her father had, after all, conceded to her wishes and said no to Pantheras when he had asked for her hand in marriage a year before.
    Her will strengthened by the memory, Agda walked eastward toward the home of Kadmos. She had heard of late-night meetings there where young men and their teachers sat around a fire, discussing philosophy.
    Her quest for knowledge leading her, Agda slipped through the gate and into the courtyard of Kadmos’s home. She stood in the shadow of the wall.
    “Then, what benefit is living the just life,” Pamphilos asked, “if others live unjustly?”
    “Such is the price of justice,” Leonidas replied.
    The discussion continued and Agda let out a long sigh. Just to be able to listen to such words sated her hunger and thirst for knowledge.
    “Good evening, Agda,” whispered a voice beside her. “You’ll like it here.”
    Trying to keep her shock in check, Agda turned and found herself inches from Stelios, a young man she had often noticed in the marketplace. Her heartbeat quickened. The moonlight outlined his aquiline features. She looked at the fire, trying to catch her breath.
    “Living a just life should be pursued because it is right to do so, regardless of what others choose to do,” Leonidas continued.
    She felt a warm hand touch hers and then gently grasp it. Her breath failed her momentarily, then she squared her shoulders and continued listening.

  14. Gina Bell

    Sweat ran down like rivers between Adelina’s shoulder blades, stopped at her lower back, and collected in the waistband of her trousers. She shook her head, flinging more droplets of sweat and pounded the molten piece of metal. It was finally the thickness she needed and she said a prayer of thanks. She laid the heavy hammer on the anvil and loosened her grip on the iron tongs, flexing her stiff fingers.

    Adelina had observed her father, the castle blacksmith, since she was a child. He had allowed her to apprentice in secret. She was very skilled, but she knew Lord Warwick would not be pleased to find out the person in charge of the blacksmith was a twenty year old female. A knot of unease twisted in her belly. Her father should have been back by now.

    She removed her leather apron and reached for her cup of water, drinking deeply. It didn’t help. Would she ever feel cool again? She dunked her cup in the bucket of water and dumped it on her head, gasping in delight as the water poured over her face and onto her shoulders and chest.

    “That’s an interesting way to drink a cup of water.”

    Adelina spun at the deep voice. She wiped the water out of her eyes and fell silent at the most imposing man she’d ever seen. The linen tunic he wore only emphasized the breadth of his shoulders. But it was his eyes, a deep, vivid blue that held her captive. She knew she looked a sight. Her dark hair had started out in a braid that morning but was sticking out all around her head and her shirt was soaked and clinging to her skin.

    “In this heat, I find it the best way to drink a cup of water, sir.”

    He laughed, and his eyes swept over her before resting on her face again.

    Adelina smiled. She had seen many of Lord Warwick’s knights, but never this one. She would have remembered this man. “May I help you, sir?”

    “My squire will bring my breastplate to you for repair. I trust Gamel will have it ready by tomorrow?”

    “Yes, my father will have it in perfect condition.” No, she thought, I will.

    He nodded. “What’s your name?”

    “Adelina, sir. And what are you called?” she asked, boldly.

    His blue eyes gleamed. “Sir Kelin.”

  15. Sarah Shaw

    West Coast, New Zealand, 1866

    Lyndon Scott looked before him at the chaos that was gold-rush Hokitika. A muddy road stretched away from the wooden docks, lined with flimsy-looking stores and hotels hiding their canvas structures behind double-storeyed timber frontages. Crowds of men — and it was all men, Lyndon couldn’t see a woman among them — lingered on the verandahs that lined the street, smoking as they sheltered from the light rain that was falling. Rich mud squelched onto his London-made boots as he made his way gingerly up the street, feeling the miners’ eyes on him, the newcomer.
    It was a relief to see the name: Scott’s Palace Hotel, painted in jaunty red lettering on a shabby building on his left. He pushed open the door and stepped into the warm fug. It was only mid-morning but the bar was already full of customers, many of them well in their cups by the sound of their animated conversation.
    A very tall woman in a gaudy blue-striped dress, her auburn hair pinned up in an elaborate style, was wiping down the long timber bar. She glanced up as he approached, her large green eyes wary as she looked him up and down.
    “How can I help you, sir? I don’t think we’ve got any rooms that’d suit the likes of you.”
    Lyndon shook his head. She might be the only woman in this town, but she was a damn striking one. Confident, too.
    “I—”
    “And if you want dancing girls, you’re in the wrong place as well — the last two I had got married and left for the Arahura yesterday with some lads off the last boat. Try the Ace of Spades down the road.”
    She resumed her wiping, so Lyndon tried again.
    “I’m looking for Henry Scott.”
    The woman snorted. “You and a hundred others. He’s not here. I’m in charge.”
    Could she be any less helpful? Lyndon decided it was time to be more direct.
    “Madam, it is imperative that I speak with him. I am his brother, and I have some information to share with him about a significant inheritance.”
    Now she responded. One eyebrow raised, she gave the bar-top a final sweep with the damp cloth before pulling a bottle of whisky and two glasses from underneath it.
    “In that case, you’d better talk to me. He drowned two weeks ago, and I’m his widow.”

  16. Malle stepped out the door into her herb garden with relief. The castle was noisy, bustling with preparations for guests, and the housekeeper had kept to her bed sick. Malle had overseen breakfast. She brushed a hand over the lavender, enjoying the rising scent.
    Down the slope, in the sunniest spot of the garden, a tall man stood with a sheaf in his arm. What was he doing in her garden taking plants? She narrowed her eyes.
    ‘Stop!’ She hurried down the muddy path. This damn dress was two inches too long. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’
    A stranger. He wore a cropped riding cloak and an unobtrusive brown tunic. Dark hair, a square jaw. He straightened up, clutching his bundle. The plants had been yanked out. Soil clung to the delicate root webbing.
    ‘I have been searching for these. So elusive,’ he said. ‘If only I can convince them to take root. Where did you get the seeds?’
    No apologies. Why did he think her carefully cultivated plants were there for the taking?
    He should go back to fighting and hunting. She had never met a man with an interest in herbs. But his hands were gardener’s hands, blunt and scratched, with traces of ingrained dirt.
    ‘My brother brought them from France. I’ve only had them in the ground a season. ‘
    ‘You must have good soil,’ he said.
    ‘There were lupins in here last year,’ Malle said. Who was he? His boots were beautifully made. He wasn’t local.
    ‘Look, over here.’ She brushed past the bee’s leaf, putting her hands on a tall, white-flowered plant that reached past her shoulder. ‘When was the last time you saw this growing?’
    ‘Caraway,’ he said. He had a strong face with high cheekbones. ‘Impressive, yes. Do you have seeds?’
    ‘No,’ Malle said promptly. ‘Not when you’re already thieving my valerian.’
    He rubbed a hand over his neck.
    ‘The lord suggested I look around,’ he said, ‘knowing of my particular interest in medicinal gardens.’
    Her father had sent a man out to do women’s work? His opinion of the visitor must be low.
    ‘I’m Sir Neil Anderson of Castlepoint,’ he said. ‘My party rode in this morning.’
    Castlepoint was three hours’ north. Malle looked up into his sea-gray eyes.
    He was the knight who had come to negotiate for her older sister’s hand in marriage.

  17. Helen

    Hearing the pounding rhythm of hooves ahead, Sir Garyth spurred his charger onwards until he spied his quarry across a small glade: Lady Elaine and her captor Sir Peris.

    “Sir Peris!” Garyth boomed. “I challenge you to a joust.”

    Sir Peris appeared to turn and consult his captive, perhaps warning her to remain where she was, before reaching for his lance. Lady Elaine was clearly not an obedient prisoner, wheeling her horse to ride towards Garyth. Seeing the tension in her body and the pale fear on her face, Garyth knew it was his duty to protect this innocent maiden as she made a dash for freedom.

    “Lady Elaine,” he called out to reassure her as he galloped past, couching his lance and aiming it towards Sir Peris. “I shall rescue you from this reprobate cur!”

    With an almighty crash, the tip of Garyth’s lance struck Sir Peris full in the chest, crumpling his armour and catapulting him from his saddle. Garyth was surprised by the lack of resistance from a knight of such black renown, and it took a moment to calm his charging steed and return to the clearing, where Lady Elaine was standing over her erstwhile captor.

    Garyth allowed himself a moment to admire her, a perfect court beauty with flowing golden tresses, milky white skin and large blue eyes. But although this lovely damsel had tears in her eyes, Garyth suddenly realised they were not tears of distress. And while earlier he had attributed the paleness of her face to fear, now that he saw the set of her jaw, her generous red lips locked in a tight line rather than pursed to offer a kiss to her rescuer, Garyth recognised she was not pale with fear, but fury.

    “What have you done to my knight?” She demanded, pointing to the crumpled knight unconscious on the ground.

    “Your knight, my lady?” Garyth asked in confusion.

    “Yes, Sir Barslow, the knight I commissioned to assist me in my quest!” She glared up at him in anger, eyes blazing, bosom heaving, fists clenched, all but stamping her delicate, silk-clad foot.

    “Your quest, my lady?” Garyth repeated again, slowly realising his mistake.

    “My quest to rescue my sister from Sir Peris!” This time she did stamp her foot. “Not every lady is a damsel in distress in need of rescue you know!”

  18. Molly

    Yorkshire, 1855

    “I don’t know what it is, but I like it.”

    Stella laughed. Her paintings received either appreciation or confusion, rarely a mix of the two. This handsome new employer of hers continued to surprise. “It’s not really supposed to BE anything. Everyone sees something different.”

    “So those violet blobs here?”

    “Could be your hopes and dreams. Or a runaway sheep at dusk.”

    “So my nightmare then. You painted my nightmare.” Lord Radcliffe smiled and pocketed his muddy eyeglasses. The rare gentleman farmer who got his hands dirty, he had encountered Stella just now atop the stone wall of his barley field. She was painting today in her preferred style but had been hired to paint like her famous late father.

    “Don’t worry, I can still paint like Samuel Alton when I need to. Your mural will be repaired perfectly as soon as the scaffolding is up.”

    “I hired you to just repair it, but now there’s another option, a different style…”

    “His work was dainty, wasn’t it? Careful and too perfect? Sold like oranges at Christmas, though. They even had playing cards printed with his designs.”

    “Exactly. I don’t want something everyone’s already seen. A ballroom ceiling should awe.”

    “Paint over Father’s work?

    “Why not?”

    The unhappy ghost of Sam Alton coming back to haunt the ballroom, that’s why not. “This wouldn’t be a normal piece of decoration. People might hate it.”

    “Not decoration, art. One has meaning and the other is just pretty, don’t you think?”

    That caught her off guard. He was nice to talk to, this muddy, bookish baron.

    “As much as I would love to…” Stella grabbed her paintbrush, comforted by its familiar weight. “A mistake the size of a train station would not be good for my career.”

    “Think about it. I don’t know about art, but the best kind of science is innovative.” His voice dropped a few notches. “And beautiful.”

    After an odd, long moment of eye contact, they both busied themselves with suddenly urgent tasks — he searching pockets for his glasses, she with mixing two blues on her pallet together. She swirled the little sea vigorously, the color changing into a bright new toy to play with later. Had he been complimenting her? Had he hinted she was —

    “Lord Radcliffe!” Jones, the stable boy, skittered around the corner just then. “Come quick! There’s been another accident.”

  19. winderford anderson

    He rode down the side of the hill watching for her to take flight. but she stood tall and proud as she awaited his approach.
    He pulled his stallion to a halt right in front and slipped from its back.
    She blushed at how he was dressed. The only clothes he had covering his body was a breechclout and moccasins.
    He had coal black hair that hung in one long braid down his powerful and muscular back. he wore a knife sheathed on his left leg.
    He reached out taking her hands in his as he turned them over to look at her palms. He ran his fingers gently over the blisters that he saw there.
    “You work to hard white woman.” He stated as he let go of her hands and took the shovel she had been using while he watched her and finished digging the holes for her.
    She stood and watched as he buried the last of the bodies that the renegade Indians had killed on the wagon train that she was traveling with.
    Turning back to her. “Which of the wagons is your white woman?”
    She was stunned that he could speak English so well. “None of them are mine. I was traveling with a man and woman for this journey but they are now dead.”
    “You are a crazy white woman. You travel all this way by yourself. Why is your mother and father not with you?” He watched her face closely mesmerized by her big green eyes.
    “I’m a big girl. I do not need my parents to go everywhere with me.” She stated as she tossed her head back in a stubborn move.
    He laughed as he looked around. “Have you not seen what a Indian can do?” He held out his hands as he turned in a circle motioning to the wagons that still smoked nearby.
    “Yes I know what a Indian is capable of. But you do not want to hurt me. because if you did then I would be dead already.” She glanced at his leg where his knife was sheathed at. “Right?” She stated standing her ground.
    He looked at her curiously. “For a white woman you act like you know something of us?”
    She held her head high. “We trade with Indians all of the time. And my name is not white woman! it is Kira.”

    • Fiona Marsden

      Tricky subject choice for the present era. Reminds me of a movie I saw back in the seventies but I can’t remember the title.

    • Evan Yeong

      Hi Winderford, I would agree with Fiona here. Native Americans (or First Nations, as we call them here in Canada) are a marginalized group that have rarely received accurate portrayal in media, in romance especially. What immediately struck me about your submissions is that there aren’t any references to a specific tribe, or even a setting that would help us to place the story. The former would help to offset the hero and others like him being vaguely referred to as “Indian.”

      The last we held a Historical Writing Challenge quite a few submissions ran into some of these same issues, and I penned a blog post that I think you might find quite helpful: https://www.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com/the-challenge-of-writing-interracial-romance/

    • Eilidh Lawrence

      Fiona, I’ve come across some pretty problematic movies in my Oregon Trail research. The Oregon Trail (1959) starring Fred MacMurray with starts with a shot of a wagon train post-raid. Bodies with arrows in them and burning wagons. It ends with a raid too. Maybe that? Ken Bruce and Robert Redford’s documentary series are fabulous alternatives, without any of the stereotyping.

    • Winderford Anderson

      Evan thank you for your input on my story I’m sorry for the oversite of the era it was suppose to have been at the top of the page. And thanks for the site I will be sure to check it out

  20. Emma could not wait till the ceremony, she had worked so hard to see this happen. Her father had been a very prominent engineer on this project. And she had worked right along with him. The railroad executives had pursued her father, Adam McQueen, to work on this section of the railroad. Adam was a brilliant engineer who had been at the top of his class and had agreed after much deliberation to move out west to work on the huge task of building tunnels through the mountains for the railroad.
    He only agreed after a long discussion with her about the changes and moving away from their home in Virginia. But Emma knew how hard her father had worked to finish his degree. Her mother was so proud of Adam after he had graduated. She never told him about the cancer the doctor had found. It was so important that he focus and finish his schooling. Emma had just finished high school when her mother passed away. It was not long after this, that the railroad offered Adam the position. It was a new start for the both of them and possibly a way to heal after their loss.
    Emma was not welcomed, but Adam had been adamant that she be allowed to work with him. Each day she was working to measure and place the charges and chart the path the digging would take for the day. The foreman, Jake Finn, was a young man who was forward thinking. He did not mind the idea of her being there, unlike some of the other members of the project. They were not as kind to her as Jake. But, she was not about to be discouraged by their backwards thinking. She and her father were here to complete this task of getting the railroad through these mountains.
    Emma wanted to go to school and become an engineer like her father. She hoped by working with him that her dream would be possible. Today, was a special day, it was the day they were to place the final charges to break through the main tunnel.
    “Good morning, Jake”, Emma happily said as she brought the case of dynamite.
    “And good morning to you, as well”, said Jake. “Where is Adam?”
    “He is still graphing the last Trajectory of where we are to run the fuse line.”

  21. Medora Todd

    Adella Rose Lawson was awestruck by the magnificence of the displayed art and longed to study it, but she was on a mission. She needed to see her painting. She resorted to trickery so the directors would consider her work for its own merits. She signed the painting with only her initials and submitted it by proxy for the Royal Academy of Art’s Summer Exhibition of 1857. The directors assumed it had been created by a man and never questioned the initials when accepting it. They were slack-jawed to discover the initials “A.L.” belonged to a woman. This emboldened Adella. She applied to study at the academy, but was rejected because the director said women were too delicate and considered it indecent to expose women to the nude models in the life arts classes. She evaded a marriage and escaped to her uncle’s care where she could paint, but she longed to further her knowledge of the arts. For now she must savor this victory.

    She stood gazing at her creation, a landscape of the tranquil garden on her mother’s family estate. It was an indescribable joy for her to see the patrons view her painting and discuss it. Adella became lost in a reverie imagining the day she would stand in a gallery and see an entire exhibition devoted to her works.

    The reverie was broken by an argument that broke out amongst a group of men.

    “It could not possibly have been created by a woman! This work shows skill and a knowledge of the world that women could not possibly possess! It is sheer frivolity for a woman to spurn her duties in a pursuit of the arts,” stated a young aristocrat.

    A man with mahogany colored hair and sapphire blue eyes put him in check by saying, “And that attitude is precisely why you have not yet won the hand of a lady in spite of all your attempts! Given the opportunity women are capable of producing works that rival the works of the masters!”

    The sapphire eyed man suddenly locked eyes with her and invited her to enter the fray. “Excuse me, miss. Could you enlighten this buffoon?’

    Adella felt her pulse quicken and wasn’t sure if it was the sparkling eyes of her would be defender or the anger she felt at the statements of the boorish. She steeled herself for what was to come.