Regular readers of this blog will recall that in November 2014 the Write Romantics published an anthology called Winter Tales – Stories to Warm your Heart. My contribution to the anthology was a steampunk story called ‘A Pistol for Propriety’ about a very independent young lady called Harriet Hardy and her encounter with the rather dashing Viscount Ripley.
After the anthology was published a few people said they felt I’d only told part of the story. They wanted to know what happened next. Did the police catch up with Harriet? Was she arrested for trying to shoot the Alderman? At the time I was busy working on a first draft of the next Spellworker Chronicles book but increasingly I found Harriet and Charlie (which is the name of the dashing Viscount) kept popping back into my mind. I was supposed to be concentrating on druids and spellworkers on Orkney and I’d got these two very determined steampunk characters chattering away at the back of my brain. In the end I decided that, as ignoring them wasn’t working, the only option was to leave the druids for a while and write Harriet and Charlie’s story.
When I got started I expected it would become a novella but my characters had very different ideas (mainly because I couldn’t get them to stop talking!) and in the end I had a short novel of just under 60,000 words which is called The Dirigible King’s Daughter. Let’s just say that things do not go smoothly for Harriet and Charlie and their full story is a far rockier road than even I’d anticipated. But there’s some fun along the way with a trip to a fabulous steampunk version of Scarborough fair, a glamorous night on the town in London and a rather thrilling flight on a dirigible. There’s an extract from The Dirigible King’s Daughter below and if you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available from Amazon here.
Extract from The Dirigible King’s Daughter:
‘Oh Charlie, I have missed you.’ The words broke from her. A second too late her gloved hand rose to her mouth to stop them.
‘Really? Because I was starting to think you’d forgotten all about me.’
A half smile as his hand reached for hers. ‘Not all about you.’
‘Good.’ Gently, he took her hand, turned it, brought it to his lips and kissed the inside of her wrist just above her glove. ‘Harriet.’ His voice was deeper, softer.
She looked up. There was a tremulous moment of hesitation then the space between them closed and he kissed her. Beneath the prickle of his beard there was the unexpected softness of his lips. So tentative and gentle on hers. It was like breathing him in. She’d dreamed of this so many times and it was better than anything she’d imagined.
Too soon he pulled away.
‘I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that. Much as I want us to be, we’re not yet engaged.’
‘Oh, stuff and nonsense. Don’t stand on ceremony with me now. I’m glad you did and you can do it again if you want.’
And with that he took her in his arms and kissed her soundly.
‘You’ve kissed me in a church in the sight of God, Harriet Hardy,’ he said when they finally broke apart. ‘You have to marry me now.’
Oh my! Why had no one told her kissing was that delightful? And if they were married they could do it all the time. Now wasn’t that an enticing thought! Grateful for the support of the door behind her as her knees had taken on the consistency of putty, she put a steadying hand on his chest and felt, beneath the leather of his flying jacket, his heart pounding as hard as hers. ‘That’s poppycock, Charlie and you know it. Ask me again when I’ve cleared my name. I can’t say yes when I might be arrested at any minute.’
Pushing his hair back from where it had again flopped into his eyes, he put his hand over hers. ‘That answer will do for now. In the meantime I shall do the proper thing and court you. Take tea with me tomorrow afternoon?’
‘I have to work, remember?’ she said, yanking the door open. ‘I’m not one of the idle rich, you know.’
‘Take tea with me or marry me. It’s your choice.’
‘When did you become so very persistent?’ The wind whipped around her, catching at her skirts, as she stepped outside. Only a smattering of stars relieved the darkness. The lights from the town below shone across the harbour but the church, and the Abbey behind it, were engulfed by night.
‘When I had to spend eight years looking for you!’
There was no answer to that. Taking his arm, she said, ‘Tea tomorrow would be splendid. If I’m not in police custody, you can pick me up at the office at four.’
You can read a review of The Dirigible King’s Daughter by author and blogger Barb Taub here
The Dirigible King’s Daughter is available to purchase as an ebook here and Winter Tales – Stories to Warm your Heart is still available here and continues to raise money for two charities doing vitally important work.
You can find out more about me on my blog www.alyswest.com, on Twitter: @alyswestyork and on Facebook: Alys West Writer. You can also check out my steampunk inspirations (and a lot of fabulous frocks) on Pinterest at Alys West Writes.
Photo of St Mary’s church, Whitby by Simon Gman