“I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE MYSTERY OF GRACE––ONLY THAT IT MEETS US WHERE WE ARE BUT DOES NOT LEAVE US WHERE IT FOUND US.” –– Anne Lamott, author
In this world of high speed internet, smartphones and wifi, finding more information about any topic is only a few clicks away. The other day I was talking to a friend and I used the word “sultry” in describing the smell of Forever Midnight lotion from Bath and Body works. In less time than it takes to tie my shoes, he had looked up the word and we laughed about its definition. This is not an uncommon situation. If we have a question, what do we do? We Google it. We look it up on Wikipedia. I can’t remember the last time I went to the library to look at an encyclopedia and I do not even own a dictionary.
But the topic of grace is different. It means so many things but the more I researched what seemed to be such a complicated topic, the more I realized that it is one of the most simple things as well. Since it was going to be my main metaphor that carries the plot for my Regency romance, Inspired by Grace, that is due to be published May 2015, I did quite a bit of research. Not only did I research all forms of the use of the word, but I studied various online sources, went to a two day conference on grace, and even prayed to understand it more.
I thought you would enjoy reading an excerpt on grace. Since you are unfamiliar with the characters, Gavin is the second son, yet six months ago, both his father and older brother, Spencer, died, leaving him as the new Duke of Huntsman. He is not known for being graceful, in fact, it is one of the most adorable things about him because he is rather clumsy. Because of the tragedy associated with receiving his title, he detests it. Grace was his best friend growing up and they have just recently been reunited. If sparks did not fly back then, they certainly are now that they both found each other.
Here is the excerpt, enjoy!
They walked for a bit without talking. Then she asked, “Gavin, what was your father like?”
“You know what he was like.”
“I do. But I want you to say it.”
Grace heard him take a deep breath before he said, “Being a duke was the most important thing to him. Do you remember how he made me call him ‘Your Grace’ when we were in public?”
“His entire self-worth was wrapped up in his title. He relished the power it gave him. Any decision that needed to be made was done as if it was a matter of the greatest importance. He was always in parliament when it was in session. Before the king fell ill, he was quite influential. Growing up, he had been good friends with King George. When the Prince Regent took over, I think my father grieved more for his own loss of influence than for the man he supposedly called ‘friend’. Everything was a matter of status.” He paused momentarily.
Grace said, “Go on.”
“He was always grooming Spencer—or, more precisely, criticizing him. You remember. Spencer did not think like a duke; he did not carry himself like a duke; he did not talk like a duke. I remember thinking over and over again that I was so glad that I was not the heir. If Spencer could not do it, I would have been hopeless.”
She sensed Gavin was finally getting around to what was really bothering him. She glanced up at him and gave him an encouraging look.
“Well, you know how I am,” he sighed. “I trip; I drop things; I spill. How could I ever walk like a duke? I do not have an air of authority. My countenance does not demand respect as my father’s did.”
They walked in silence a few steps before Grace asked, “Can I tell you what I think?” Gavin nodded. “You worry that accepting your father’s title will somehow turn you into him.” He started to protest, but she shushed him.
“No, Gavin, you do. You worry there is some mold that all dukes must conform to. But you are wrong. Perhaps you do not walk like your father, but you are still a duke. I always feel a certain amount of relief when I hear the clippity-clop of your boots coming down the stairs. Your confident stride does not elicit fear like your father’s prideful gait; but it sparks something else. Something that I think your father always wanted but never really had.”
Gavin stopped walking for a moment and looked at her. “What?”
“Respect. You said so yourself: he wanted the world to respect him. He used his title to claim that respect, but we both know he did not earn it from people. You, on the other hand, have the respect of every person you meet. The kindness you show people, no matter their status in society, is unprecedented. People love you.”
“But I am the least graceful man I know, and everyone is forced to call me ‘Your Grace’.” She could hear the pain in his voice that came from something deep and well-developed; something that had been festering for six months like a growth in his heart.
“Gavin, perhaps you do not smoothly saunter,” Grace said, “but you bring other qualities to the title. This mold that you imagine all dukes must conform to is rather ridiculous. No other role or title comes with such a delineation.”
“What do you mean?”
“Consider the other roles of life. I was born as a sister and daughter. Someday I hope to inherit the role of wife and mother, and if I am lucky, I will live to take the role of grandmother. Should all sisters act a certain way? Should I pattern my behavior after Eliza? Or Sarah? Or Tamara? Or should I be myself?”
Gavin looked pensive as he pondered her words. They walked a while in silence. “Besides,” she added, “there is more to grace than walking smoothly.”
“What do you mean?” Gavin asked.
“Well, ‘grace’ has many definitions. Since my name is Grace, my mother made me learn its meanings long ago. For instance, you can ‘grace’ someone with your presence. In that sense ‘grace’ means to honor someone. Or it can also mean being pleasant, poised, and polite.”
“I suppose I am pleasant,” Gavin admitted. “At least I try to be. Perhaps not poised, though.”
“You are very pleasant,” Grace said. Feeling a blush starting, she quickly moved the conversation along, “Consider the meaning in this sentence: ‘That man has all the grace of the young at heart.’ ‘Grace’ can mean charm as well.”
He smiled quirkily and reached up to her face and caressed it with the back of his fingers. “Am I charming?”
His touch burned her cheeks, contrasting to the chill that was in the air. It literally made her insides melt. Even though he was trying to tease her, she could never give him anything less than complete honesty. “Quite charming, sometimes painfully so.”
“I am glad to hear it. Go on. Tell me more.”
“What if I were to say, ‘He had the grace not to disparage his mother publically’? What would ‘grace’ mean in that sentence?”
“I suppose it means a solid understanding of right and wrong.”
She could see he was starting to understand. “Exactly! What if I said, ‘She showed remarkable grace in handling the crisis’?”
“I suppose it can also mean dignity. I had no idea ‘grace’ had so many different meanings—honor, integrity, dignity, charm . . . How do you remember them all?” he teased her.
“It has taken me my whole life to understand my name. Fortunately my mother had the grace to start when I was a little girl,” she smiled back.
“What about the spiritual sense? You did not mention that one.”
“I recommend you study that on your own. I believe we learn better when we are seeking answers. Things become engraved in our hearts when our minds are hungry and our hearts thirsty. Now, my fingers are getting chilled. Might I ask for your hand to cover mine?”
“You never need to ask.” He covered her hand with his. He then winked at her and huskily asked, “How are your lips?”
The man has more confidence than the Prince Regent himself! And he enjoys embarrassing me far too much! “Toasty warm,” was all the response she could muster.
He chuckled and tapped her nose with his finger, replaced his hand over hers, and turned back around to head home. “Now, I ask you, Gigi, how is it I have the ability to warm your cheeks with a simple wink and a single sentence?”
Indeed her cheeks were flushed. “It must be all of the charm and grace you never knew you had!”
She felt the moment was coming to a close, but there was one more thing she needed to say while he was listening so closely.
She looked up at him for emphasis. She wanted to make sure he was really listening. “One more thing. Sometimes ‘grace’ is a quality that gives something that ‘little something special’ which increases its value or worth.” She took a moment and swallowed. “For example, I might say, ‘As if being my best friend were not enough, Gavin has the grace to assure me that I will never be lonely again.’ I do not care whether you ever take being the Duke of Huntsman seriously, but you should never fear being called Your Grace. It is the highest form of respect. Whether you believe it or not, you are graceful—at least to me.”
His eyes softened as he looked down at her, and the sweetest smile appeared on his face. “I have not blushed in years. Thank you for saying that. I know it took great courage, and you have made my day.”
I hope you enjoyed that excerpt and that you are anxious to read more! We are a bit ahead of schedule for editing but I am hoping for a mid-May publication date, maybe sooner! Make sure to like the Facebook page for the book or my author’s page. (Search Inspired By Grace or Jeanna Ellsworth) That way you can have the most current info on its publication and you can read it hot off the press!
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