Genre: Historical Fiction
Intended Audience: YA
Belle Morrison is finally at an age that she may start courting the upper-class to protect her standing and make her parents happy. Despite knowing it must be done, she dislikes the idea of promising her life to someone.
At a party hosted by her parents, Belle meets many potential suitors but her feelings towards love and marriage don’t change. She is introduced to Joshua Greenwood, a handsome upper-class man with a proclivity for poetry and a tendency for falling over his own feet. Although they strike up a friendship, that is all Belle wants.
The pair begin their courtship duties with Belle evermore reluctant to the idea and doing whatever she can to hold off on the courtship for a little while longer. Joshua, seemingly oblivious to Belle’s unwantedness, follows the rules of the courtship to the letter, but he realises he must do more to catch Belle’s eye if they are to be wed.
With the help of her lady’s maid, Hazel, Belle is able to hold off Joshua’s advances long enough to decide just what she wants for herself and her future. Her parents continue to push for the pair’s betrothal, unaware of their daughter’s unhappiness and struggle with who she is. As time passes and the pressure from her parent’s increases, Belle falls further and further into the dark hole of depression. Joshua, meanwhile, notices the shift in Belle’s behaviour and vows to understand just what is happening.
Joshua breaks the rules of courtship and slips out to see Belle in the middle of the night. With the help of Hazel, the two meet in the park close to the village and Belle finally reveals all to Joshua. She tells him that she never felt any sort of romantic attraction to him or anyone else, despite their weeks of courtship and meetings. Belle confirms that she would rather they remained close friends but knows that it is impossible because of her parents and their desire for her to remain high in social standings.
As they return to the house, Joshua’s clumsiness is their undoing when he stumbles and knocks over a bucket, alerting Belle’s parents to their late-night rendezvous. Furious with her, Belle’s parents push for the betrothal before anyone finds out about their secret meeting and their family is ruined. Belle refuses and promptly runs from her home, finding herself by the lake and toying with the idea of jumping in to escape her fate.
The two having grown so close means Joshua knows just where Belle has gone and rushes to the lake before she does anything she would regret. Together, they decide to go through with the betrothal for the sake of their families, but Joshua promises nothing more will happen beyond the wedding. Belle agrees, deciding to make her family happy and maintain her friendship with him.