A Christian romance set in the 18th century, Pure is the Heart has the ability to draw out the lover and the faithful spirit in every soul. Forced to escape her home country or face the guillotine, Elise LeNoir makes her way to the estate of Lord Hunter Westwood who opens his home to the young woman and his heart soon becomes hers. Unfortunately, he is already betrothed, an engagement meant to unite two families, not two hearts. Even if Hunter were free, Elise is not in a position to marry.
Paris, France, October 1786
“Il est etrangere, Grandmerè,” Elise Le Noir protested. Her voice bordered on a whine for she did not want to write the letter. She glanced at her grandmother. Her eyes pleaded with the older woman to reconsider.
The regal woman of sixty sat taking tea in her salon, dressed in a severe, dark blue dress that complimented her silver hair and grey eyes. Elise’s grandfather passed away five years earlier and after Dame Le Noir put off black, she still wore the darkest shades of clothing, as if in a permanent, semi-state of mourning.
Sunlight streamed through the windows and the crystals, which hung in front of the glass, distributed rainbows across the floors and walls. The array of colors caught Elise’s attention and she watched the reflections dance each time a breeze blew. The day was unseasonably warm and the windows opened to allow fresh air into the room. The heavy scent of lavender remained late into the season this year and Elise inhaled the aroma.
With a deep sigh, the older woman lifted the porcelain pot and poured the brown liquid into a delicate cup. “Speak English, Elise.”
The girl brought her gaze back to the woman she loved dearly. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and spoke with care. “He is a stranger. There is another way? Someone else?” Hope lingered in her voice.
“The best way to improve your English is with someone who is British. I know the family well. Informal conversation is impossible at the moment, which is why you need to enter into written correspondence,” her dear grandmerè insisted and firmed her thin lips before she lifted the cup from the saucer.
Grandmerè’s dictatorial tone indicated an end to the discussion. Elise fell back in her chair, kicked her feet out in front and exposed the white stockings covering her ankles and calves. At her grandmother’s stern look, one eyebrow raised in disapproval, Elise straightened her spine, pulled her feet back, and crossed her ankles in a prim manner.
“Why can’t we return to Chartres?” Elise let her lips pucker into a pout.
Grandmerè frowned. “Your father is needed here and your mother wants you close.”
“I don’t like Paris. There are too many people and everything is so confined.”
Her grandmother relaxed for a moment, a sad smile on her lips, and sighed. “I, too, miss the country and my home.” Her chin lifted and her spine stiffened. “Time does not stand still, Elise. You are becoming a young woman. You are fourteen years old and must prepare yourself for court and your future.”
Elise frowned. She was not happy with the changes in her life and less so with the lessons she’d endured since she and her grandmother arrived in Paris. She was not sure why she needed to be in Paris at all. The majority of the time her parents stayed at Versailles, with King Louis and Queen Marie Antoinette, and took an occasional trip to Paris because of business. Chartres wasn’t far from either Paris or Versailles, so why couldn’t she visit her parents on occasion instead of having to live in this city? No one ever gave her a clear answer except she needed to be in the capital to prepare for her future.
To make matters more difficult, her father employed a governess to tutor her – Mademoiselle Capri, a formal, strict woman who never laughed. Daily, except on Sundays, Elise suffered through hours and hours of lessons that included literature, sciences, behavior, music, languages and etiquette. Each day began with mass at eight in the morning, followed by lessons, a brief luncheon, and more lessons until dinnertime. Her head ached from the education and the tight style of her hair. The governess insisted a girl of her age should have it pulled back and pinned into a tight bun. With her vanity tucked away, Elise would be better able to concentrate on her studies. So far her hair only gave her a headache.
Elise wanted to return to her beloved Chartres, where she was free to explore, ride, wear comfortable clothing, and leave her hair loose. And there were friends she could visit in town.
If she couldn’t return home, she wished to become a nun. At least their clothing seemed more comfortable.
Elise often thought of entering a convent, and not only because of the clothing. She watched them at Our Lady of Chartres, at home, and at Saint Chappelle, since she moved to Paris. The nuns were devoted to God and worked for Him every day, whether in prayer, nursing the sick or taking care of orphans. Elise envied their lives. From what she observed, they seemed to be at peace in a way no other parishioner experienced. From the clear, warm eyes and soft expressions, one could tell they were so full of the Holy Spirit it overflowed and touched everyone with whom they came into contact. She wanted to experience the peace and calmness one could only obtain by serving the Lord with mind, body and soul. She wanted to be one of them.
“Will we be able to return, Grandmother?” Elise let her shoulders slump and her teaspoon slipped with a small clank onto the fragile teacup. She knew her nunnery dreams were impossible. Her parents would never allow her to turn her back on her heritage and enter the church.
“In time. First, you must learn well. Then, perhaps we can talk your parents into a holiday.”
Elise’s hopes surged at the prospect. She could suffer through her lessons easier with the promise of returning home. Unfortunately, one of those assignments included the dreaded letter. She didn’t bring the topic up again. That subject was closed.
For the next half hour, her grandmother sipped her tea and spoke of fashion and respectability before she excused Elise, and allowed her to go to her rooms.
The task at hand filled her with humiliation. Though she spoke English well enough, when she concentrated, she had not mastered the written language. In an effort for her to become more proficient, her governess suggested Elise begin a correspondence with someone who was English.
Her grandmother knew of no young ladies, and the French and English were not close friends, so she suggested another to whom Elise should write, a distant relation of sort, though not by blood. It was to the youngest son, four years older than herself. Elise was to write a letter of introduction. What did one write to a strange man in a foreign country?
After she settled herself behind the small desk, Elise picked up the quill. She brushed the feathered end across her chin and considered how to begin. First the address. How did one address the second son of an English earl? At least she thought the father was an Earl, though deceased. The boys’ grandfather, a marquis, still lived, which made this gentleman the younger brother of the current earl. Or so she thought.
Elise propped her chin in her hand. The British peerage was so difficult to follow, with all the separate titles and addresses for children. She frowned, trying to remember the proper orders of address. Her grandmother tried to drill the order into her head, but still she stumbled. Why must she have this information now? In two years she would enter society and had plenty of time to get matters straight. Besides, in France, aristocracy was easy and Elise doubted she would meet many English peers, if any. But, grandmother insisted she would need this information when she attended court as there were often visitors from other countries and she needed to be prepared.
Determined, Elise decided to admit her failings, and began the letter. The Honorable Patrick Radley,
I hope this letter finds you well. I excuse myself if “l’honorable” is not correct, but I have some difficulties with the English titles.
I write at the insistence of my grandmother, Dame Le Noir. Her sister was the first wife of your grandfather. Maybe you recognize the name.
My governess hopes that I learn better the English. She suggested that I exchange the letters with someone who is English for to reinforce my capacities. My grandmother recommended your family, more specifically you, because you are the most near to my age.
I am called Elise Le Noir. I am the only child of Compt Le Noir. I have 14 years and I live in Paris. Other times, I live in Chartres.
A letter of return would be well appreciated. It will put the comfort to both my governess and my grandmother.
Elise Le Noir
* * *
Wilshire England, 1786
“I don’t have time for this nonsense,” Hunter heard his brother say with laughter.
“What nonsense?” he asked.
Patrick Radley stood when his brother ambled into the room. “A girl has written me from France and requests a letter in return.” He tossed the parchment on the desk.
Hunter Radley, current Earl Weatherly and future Marquess Westwood raised an eyebrow. “I hadn’t realized rumor of your charms had reached so far.” He approached the desk and glanced at the fancy parchment.
“If it were that type of letter, I would gladly pay the lady a visit.” Patrick flashed a devilish smile. “But no, this child simply wants someone to correspond with.”
Hunter watched his younger brother head for the door. “So, you have no intention of writing back?” He called after Patrick and crossed his arms over his chest.
Patrick gave his brother a bemused grin. “Of course not. I am off to London. You really should think about visiting the city and enjoying yourself for a change. You are only twenty, but live as if you already have one foot in the grave.”
Hunter watched his brother leave, shook his head and smiled. He envied Patrick. His younger brother’s life appeared freer and easier due to being born second. Hunter wasn’t allowed such luxuries, especially since their father no longer lived. His advantage of being born first included titles, land, and a huge responsibility that left him absolutely no time for mindless entertainments.
On the other hand, Patrick needed to mature. A perfect example – the letter he disregarded without care. Hunter picked up the missive and read the letter from the young girl. He found it delightful, at least to a man with very little frivolity in his life. He also recognized the name and recalled the stories his grandfather told of the beautiful Frenchwoman who first captured his heart decades ago. He regretted they had not been blessed with children. However, he did lose his heart a second time to Hunter’s grandmother.
With half a smile, Hunter went in search of his grandfather, to listen while the old gent reminisced about his first wife and their life together. He also recounted stories of the young woman’s grandmother, Dame Le Noir. When his grandfather tired, Hunter returned to the library and sat to write a letter.
Mademoiselle Le Noir,
Allow me to introduce myself. I am Hunter Radley, Earl of Weatherly, the elder brother of Patrick Radley. I must apologize for my brother. In his youth and quest for entertainment he did not allow himself to return your correspondence. I hope you do not find it intrusive that I have read it as well.
Your address to my brother was correct and I find it difficult to believe you struggle with my native language. Regardless, if it is your grandmother’s wish that you correspond with an Englishman, I gladly volunteer to fill this position, if that meets with your approval.
She has loved romance novels for more years than she cares to actually count and when stories began forming in her own mind, she finally gave in and put her fingers to the keyboard and has not stopped writing since.
During the day she works as a paralegal and when she is not writing, she teaches Sunday School and sits on the Family Ministry Committee at her church. She can also be found at one of the community theaters doing make-up, or on a very rare occasion, costuming.