Please welcome author A. R. Conti Fulwell to The West Corner! She’s here today with her historical novel, When the Italian Came to Stay.
Like a fish out of water…
Serafina Rinaldi wants nothing more than be free. Free from boarding school, free from English society, and free from her haunting past. When her father calls in a favor from an English friend, Sir Matthew Renault, asking him to take his daughter back to Sir Matthew’s esteemed family estate, Cainesworth Abbey, Serafina is ready to give in, and forget she ever wanted anything more.
As Serafina settles in, she finds that not everyone at Cainesworth is against her. Making friends with Lady Eliza Carthidge, Matthew’s cousin, gives Serafina just the ally that she will need, as her past begins to collide with the family at Cainesworth. Joshua Stone, a man from Serafina’s past, comes to Cainesworth after the unfortunate death of his brother on the Titanic, looking for solace. Together, the four uncover a mystery, and a common scoundrel, connecting their worlds, testing their faith, and delivering them to the threshold of a destiny that they have all been seeking.
When I finally went down to the drawing room, I could hardly breathe. Fear, anticipation, and nerves pricked at my spine like a thousand needles. I can do this. All I have to do is follow the plan. I took a deep breath, and opened the door. My first reaction was to angle my gaze with the ground, and slip in unnoticed; however, I could not be that girl tonight. As I walked into the drawing room, my eyes were fixed on Matthew. His blue eyes were wide with amazement, and for a brief moment, he glanced around the room, and saw what I already knew.
Every man in the room couldn’t take their eyes off of me.
Turn around! Run! There’s still time! I shook my head as if to erase the thoughts.
“Sera, you look –” Matthew began.
“The poor chap is so dumbfounded he can’t spit it out,” an eerie voice from behind me said. The man I’d seen earlier, rose to join Matthew and I. “I don’t believe we’ve met,” he said.
Matthew curled his left hand into a fist. “Mr. Windham, allow me to present, Lady Serafina Renaldi.”
“Pleasure, Lady Serafina,” he took my hand. I couldn’t help but shutter at the sound of my name coming out of his mouth. “How do you know the Carthidge family?”
Matthew glared at me.
“Papa and Matthew are old friend, isn’t that right, darling?” I smiled, batting my eyelashes at Matthew.
“Yes,” Matthew said, barely able to keep a straight face. “‘Old friends.’ ”
Elinor joined us. “So, Alastair, you’ve met our Italian. Charming, isn’t she?”
“I imagine about as charming as an Englishman in Milan,” I paused, wavering as to whether or not to continue. I fabricated some confidence, and looked to the Dowager Countess. “Don’t you agree, Lady Plymouth?”
“A foreigner is always a novelty, my dear,” she said. “But some people don’t understand the value of an Italian. Perhaps you could play something for us later?”
“I’d be delighted,” I lied, hoping she would forget.
“Granny, why do you never ask me to play? You know how much I used to practice,” Elinor whined.
“My dear,” the Dowager raised a scolding eyebrow. “The answer is within your question, for preparation, in its best application, must be recent and repetitive. Just because you sought to be a virtuoso, does not mean that you have succeeded.”
Shock exploded on Elinor’s features. “Well, how do you know that Lady Sera plays?”
“Have you noticed her eyes that instrument all week? Goodness! You’d think she was a thirsty traveler who had just seen a spring,” the Dowager chuckled at her own sarcasm.
Elinor huffed and went to complain to her mother. I glanced at Matthew for reassurance. He nodded.
“So, Lady Serafina, is it?” Alastair began. “How long will you be in the country?”
I swallowed. “Indefinitely, Mr. Windham. I am completely at the disposal of my champions on either side of the water.”
Matthew had to cover his mouth to hide his laughter.
“Well, when you have a spare moment, you must come to London and do an interview. Surely you’d like your story to be told under the finest English newspaper title?”
Here’s the punch. Lord help me. “That is very kind, but unfortunately, another man has already cornered that market. I was forced to sign a very binding contract, you know how these things are.”
Windham was taken back. “Another man? From another newspaper?”
“Yes, it seems the news is everywhere.”
Windham eyed me in a most unwelcome fashion. “Really? And what paper was this man from?”
Oh no, we never discussed this… “I can’t be sure, it all happened so quickly.”
“Then perhaps you can recall the man’s name? I should like to see this article.”
Name? “It was….”
“Yes? Or was he a ghost?”
“What?” Windham gawked at me.
“Stone was his name. Funny name isn’t it?”
Suddenly, Reynolds opened the door as dinner was served.
About the Author
A. R. Conti Fulwell holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English, and a Minor in Music, from Malone University, but her story-telling journey began long before her college years. Fascinated by the art of historical fiction, she began fashioning her own tales after the greats – Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, T.S. Eliot, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Amanda resides in Hartville, Ohio, and is often found shooting short-films within her hometown.
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