Caroline Warfield interviews Fred Wheatly from The Reluctant Wife
Fred Wheatly, formerly Captain Frederick Arthur Wheatly of the East India Company’s forces in Bengal, shifts uncomfortably in his seat. Conversation and the sounds of taps and tankards swirl around him in the Hare and Ewe Pub in Wiltshire. He eyes his author, Caroline Warfield, nervously.
Fred: This really isn’t a good time.
He glances at a tall man, an obvious Londoner leaning on the counter while talking with the locals. Caroline considers telling him that the Londoner—Walter Stewart—knows his business, and that their enterprise will come right in the end. She does not. He has to find out for himself.
CW: I know you are waiting for Cornell. I will be brief.
Fred: You know about—of course you do. He scowls at her and takes a deep swallow of ale.
CW: I want our readers to understand why you are so determined. You knew him in Dehrapur, and despised him then.
Fred: Of course I did. He bled the district.
CW: Wasn’t he supposed to collect taxes?
Fred: He found ways to gouge more than the Company demanded to line his own pockets. He extorted money from every business, from people trying to keep body and soul together. He—
He waves a hand as if to dismiss the conversation when loud laughter near the counter and distracts him. The Londoner is entertaining the locals.
CW: Why do you fear for your sister and for Clare?
Fred snaps his attention back.
Fred: He is an animal. No woman is safe around him. At least one died because of him in India. I saw the way he looked at Clare when he rode up to our cottage. It turned my stomach. Cornell thinks he’s untouchable. He thinks he can take whatever he wants. He has to be stopped.
CW: You care for Clare. What do you plan to do about it?
Fred: Of course I do—and there is nothing I can do but protect her. She refused me when I asked her to marry me, and I don’t blame her. A soldier is no kind of husband. She needs her cottage, her herbs, her healing. I’ll just hurt her. It’s better if I go.
The author raises an eyebrow. Some men are clueless, she thinks, but she doesn’t say it out loud.
CW: You still plan to leave England again?
Fred: I’m a soldier. I have to make my way in the world, and the army is all I know. Some country or mercenary force will hire me. As soon as my family is safe from Cornell and my cousin’s estate is stable, I will go.
CW: You care for the estate like you cared for the people in Dehrapur.
Fred: Someone has to. In Dehrapur neither the tax officials nor the commander at the cantonment cared.
CW: And here?
Fred: My cousin just needs help. The tenants…
CW: Turn to you. Leadership is your gift you know.
He stares into his tankard until sudden movement at the door catches his eye, and he sits up sharply. Cornell saunters in, surveys the crowd as if he owns them, and approaches the Londoner. Fred’s attention rivets on the pair of them. She’s lost him.
The author discreetly rises. He’ll find out soon enough.
About the Book
When all else fails, love succeeds…
Captain Fred Wheatly’s comfortable life on the fringes of Bengal comes crashing down around him when his mistress dies, leaving him with two children he never expected to have to raise. When he chooses justice over army regulations, he’s forced to resign his position, leaving him with no way to support his unexpected family. He’s already had enough failures in his life. The last thing he needs is an attractive, interfering woman bedeviling his steps, reminding him of his duties.
All widowed Clare Armbruster needs is her brother’s signature on a legal document to be free of her past. After a failed marriage, and still mourning the loss of a child, she’s had it up to her ears with the assumptions she doesn’t know how to take care of herself, that what she needs is a husband. She certainly doesn’t need a great lout of a captain who can’t figure out what to do with his daughters. If only the frightened little girls didn’t need her help so badly.
Clare has made mistakes in the past. Can she trust Fred now? Can she trust herself? Captain Wheatly isn’t ashamed of his aristocratic heritage, but he doesn’t need his family and they’ve certainly never needed him. But with no more military career and two half-caste daughters to support, Fred must turn once more—as a failure—to the family he let down so often in the past. He finds his past has followed him. Can two hearts rise above past failures to forge a future together?