The Singular Mr. Sinclair is the working title for Book One in The House of Lovell series.
When I first get to know my characters, I like to meet them as children. So much of who we are is shaped during those early years so it’s important for me to know what happened to them then, whether I share that information with my readers or not. You’re in luck. This time, I’m sharing. So without further ado, let me introduce you to our hero, Lawrence Sinclair:
Ware Hall, Wiltshire, 1796
By the time Lawrence Sinclair was ten years of age, he was certain of one thing in this world.
He would never make a scholar.
Mr. Hazelton, his tutor, despaired of Lawrence ever amounting to anything in the classroom. To start with, even after years of practice, his penmanship was still a rough scrawl of chicken scratches and uneven lines.
“I cannot be held to account for it, Your Lordship,” Mr. Hazelton explained to Lawrence’s uncle, Lord Ware. “The boy persists in using his left hand unless I tie it behind his back.”
Mr. Hazelton didn’t tell the earl that he also routinely beat Lawrence’s left knuckles with a ruler until they were red as poppies. Nothing worked. Lawrence remained stubbornly cack-handed.
Perhaps his struggle to write legibly bled over into other subjects, but he failed to excel in any area of Mr. Hazelton’s tutelage. Lord Ware, however, was delighted with the progress of his son Ralph. Though a year younger than Lawrence, his cousin was already leagues ahead of him in grammar, rhetoric and Latin. Ralph could do a long column of sums in his head and translate a John Donne poem into French so beautifully that the words still sang.
Lawrence’s only flash of brilliance was that he sat a horse with distinction. He and his mount took leaps with ease, even ones from which older, more experienced riders might shy. He also learned that his tendency to use his left hand could be an advantage in fencing.
“Your foe willna ken how to come at ye,” his old Scottish fencing master had told him. “But dinna let His Lordship know I let ye practice so. We must make sure ye can switch hands at will, aye?”
Still, a gentleman with no prospects shouldn’t rely on those talents alone to make his way in the world.
For make his own way, he must.
Lawrence would inherit nothing. He and his mother had lived under the begrudging care of Harcourt Sinclair, Lord Ware, since his father, the earl’s younger brother by less than a minute, died in a curricle accident a month before Lawrence was born. Lawrence regretted not having any memory of his sire, but he wondered if he should. Whispers of “just deserts” and “larking about with a Bird of Paradise” floated in conversations just over his head when the adults in his life thought he wasn’t attending.
People also remarked how different Lawrence’s father had been from his brother, the earl. In appearance as well as temperament, where Harcourt was a steady, plodding, draft horse, Lawrence’s father Henry had been a flighty racer, lean and strong. Twins were like that sometimes. The earl took after their mother’s people while Henry favored the Sinclair’s darkly handsome line.
Sometimes Lawrence stood before his father’s portrait in the family gallery of Ware Hall, gazing up at the deep brown eyes that were so like his own, and puzzled over the man. He often imagined how different his life might have been if his father hadn’t died while “larking about,” with or without any sort of bird.
For one thing, Lawrence likely wouldn’t be living under his stern uncle’s roof. That would be a blessing beyond measure. Ware Hall was a fine estate, with expansive grounds, but however well appointed, a cage was still a cage. Lord Ware’s strictures were hard enough on Lawrence, but the earl ruled the whole family with a heavy hand.
Just once, Lawrence would have rejoiced to see his mother contradict his uncle on anything. But his mother was a quiet woman who seldom smiled, so docile and frail, Lawrence was forced to wonder if she cared about anything at all. Still, surely she would have been happier, he thought, if she’d been allowed to return to her own family in the Lake District.
Lawrence had never met his mother’s people. His grandfather on that side reportedly held a tidy baronetcy, but Lord Ware always said his brother had “married beneath himself, if that were possible.” The daughter of a minor, late-made noble simply did not signify when weighed against the son of an earl.
Even a second son.
But Lord Ware wouldn’t hear of Lawrence and his mother returning north. The earl might not like Lawrence over much—or his mother, either, come to that—but he was duty bound to provide for his nephew’s upbringing.
For if there was one thing the earl was certain of in this world, it was duty.
“The boy is my blood, demmit. He bears the Sinclair name. I’ll not have him growing up wild as a thistle and ending up like his father. We don’t need another foolish accident to blacken the house of Ware.”
Then just before Lawrence’s eleventh birthday, another accident did happen. It might not have been accompanied by whispers of shame and disgrace, but it was so horrific, so unexpected, it was an affront to heaven and the natural order of things and surely the will of God Himself. It made his father’s sins—including the “larking about” bit—seem small by comparison.
And Lawrence became certain of a second thing in this world.
His uncle wished him dead.