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About the author:
Nolan graduated magna cum laude from Chapman University, earning a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Film Studies. Heavily involved in the arts, Nolan is an award-winning actress and an accomplished composer and playwright. She has written three musicals, music, lyrics, and libretto. Nolan’s first novel “Mabel Crowley” was an Amazon best-seller. Nolan loves to read and participates in a family-run book club, finding inspiration from both classic literature and modern masterpieces.
What inspired you to write your book?
My debut novel “Mabel Crowley” featured Theodore Hartley as one of the supporting characters. Since Theodore was always one of my favorites from the original book, I wanted to give him his own book!
Here is a short sample from the book:
The great timbre of Theodore’s voice cut through the stale air that had never seemed stale until now. The servants startled, and the two summoned Hartley girls froze where they stood. He shouted again, worrying that the dramatic entrance he had envisioned was evaporating before his very eyes. He stood in the parlor and opened his arms wide.
Four-year-old Irene trotted down the hall as quickly as her little feet could carry her. She recognized the voice of her recently absent father and was thrilled that he specifically wanted to see her. As soon as she saw the familiar wavy brown hair and square jaw that she often played with, she found her voice and shouted her delight.
Theodore bridged the gap between them in hurried strides and lifted her up. He squeezed her so tight he might have broken her ribs, but she didn’t mind. He covered her face and hair in kisses and tears and apologized a dozen times for not fighting for her and forbidding her to leave.
“My darling, darling child. How could I have forgotten you?”
Alice stood at the top of the stairs, unnoticed. She watched the tender reunion between father and daughter, and she saw the look of utter completion upon Theodore’s face.
The front door opened again, and Thomas emerged, carrying Theodore’s trunks into the house. The servant, who would have requested to accompany his master if he had not been asked, gave only a glance to the father daughter pair. His eyes scanned the parlor, the hallways, and quickly reached the top of the stairs where Alice stood. He breathed a sigh of relief he had been holding inside over three months since he’d last set eyes on the perfect creature.
In the midst of his trying to think of a reason why Theodore hadn’t rushed up the stairs to immediately embrace his wife, Thomas was greeted by the head of the household staff. He was swept away by protocol and was forced to tear his eyes away from his employer’s wife.
Theodore was momentarily distracted and received the compulsory introduction to the staff. He demanded that Thomas assume his duties as he had in Hertfordshire, trusting that whatever problems that arose among the current hierarchy would be solved quickly.
“Father, may I show you my room?”
“Of course, my darling, anything you want!” Theodore reluctantly released his hold on her and let her find her feet on the floor.
Irene quickly trotted up the stairs, not dreaming that her father would not follow. She ran past her mother and made it all the way into her room before turning around to find an empty audience. Rather than embarrass her father, she decided to wait for him to catch up; he was old and could not run as fast as she could, she thought.
Theodore remained at the bottom of the stairs. He had seen Alice. As she descended towards him, his guilt increased, crushing him down with the weight of it. His knees buckled and he found himself kneeling, then sprawled out, as in a frozen fall, across the bottom four steps. Alice stopped at the fourth step, somehow seemingly out of his reach.
“Your trunks have been brought in,” she stated. “What length of visit had you planned?”
The ice in her voice pained Theodore, and he winced, closing his eyes as she spoke. “Alice . . .” he started, without strength.
“We have a life here,” she continued. “It’s been three months, Theodore. I didn’t think you’d come.”
“Neither did I,” he admitted softly.
Alice blinked back tears and waited for a declaration of love that he never spoke. At last, she filled the painful silence.
“I’ll make sure your things are unpacked in one of the guest rooms.” She turned on the step and lifted her dress to begin the tortuous ascent alone.
Theodore caught sight of her ankle and felt a familiar heat in his chest. Instinctively, he reached out and grazed her skin with his fingers. Saliva gathered in his mouth and he felt a sudden energy in his limbs, enough to straighten himself into a kneeling position.
Alice placed a hand on the banister to steady herself. Theodore’s touch always had a terrible effect on her, but she was not going to give into him after a three month unexplained absence. She forced her legs to move, counting the stairs as she continued her journey away from him. Try as she might, she could hardly walk faster than a crawl, and her heart pounded wildly with each step.
She stopped at the top step; she felt Theodore, who had shadowed her every step, place his hand atop hers on the banister. His chest rested against her back, and she felt his heartrate mirror her own. Her hair stirred as he breathed hard and took another step. Alice stayed put and gripped the wood as his foot inched next to her own. His leg fitted between hers and pressed forward; she leaned her head back into his shoulder and felt his arm drape around her front.
As much as she hated to pull away from him, she forced herself to finish the climb. Moving as one, and with a rushed hesitancy, they travelled the short distance to the master bedroom. Once behind the closed door, they soon found themselves on their knees, apologizing, kissing, and frantically trying to undress the other. Alice didn’t even bother with Theodore’s waistcoat, and Theodore accidentally ripped Alice’s petticoat off, but neither seemed to notice the haphazard awkward movements that had never before appeared in their lovemaking. It felt graceful as it used to be, not a first trial in a five month hiatus.
After the usual scratches and screams and spasms, they lay together, panting. Alice asked him why he came back, and he hesitated.
“It’s a . . . long story,” he breathed. It wasn’t appropriate to describe his four-year-old niece while still holding onto his wife’s legs.
“Are you leaving?”
“Never!” Theodore shouted hoarsely. He kissed Alice deeper and more passionately than he had ever kissed her before, he thought, forgetting how he had kissed her the night before he left for York five months prior.
To his great surprise, Alice, who had given every indication that she was enjoying the kiss, pushed him away. “I can’t breathe,” she whispered.
“Me neither,” he agreed, moving in for another kiss.
“Really, Ted. I can’t breathe,” she insisted.
Theodore saw the color deepen in her cheeks and immediately started to loosen her clothing. When his wife’s life hung in the balance, his fingers moved surprisingly quickly, and within half a minute, her dress was unbuttoned and peeled from her shoulders. To close out the minute, he loosed her corset, pulled it past her hips, and threw it over his shoulder.
Alice was still having difficulty breathing, but now for a different reason. “Wait,” she told him, when he moved between her legs again.
She sat up and forced him to the floor, but he buoyed himself up again and held onto her thighs as she slowly unfastened his waistcoat. Alice was determined to undress him, but with every touch and kiss she was delayed, waiting until she felt calm before continuing. In the end, Theodore’s teeth on her neck and his hands on her burning skin proved too overwhelming; with one button left on his shirt, she sank into his lap and wrapped her legs around his back, squeezing so tight that they both cried out.