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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Write in the ROMANCE genre (04/19/07)

TITLE: Lady Catherine's Strawberries
By william price


The sweetness of fresh strawberries sprinkled with sugar, topped with a cool dollop of fresh whipped cream was what Sir Francis Willingham was craving as he hung in his father’s stockade.

His bare, sun-scorched back was scarred and bleeding. His long, curly black hair, drenched with sweat, dripped down his rugged face as he yearned to be fed his favorite dessert by his Lady Catherine.

A splash of cold water woke Sir Francis from his vision. His father, the Duke of Willingham, stood before him.

“Are you through now with this fantasy of marriage to my enemy’s daughter?”

Sir Francis slowly lifted his head. His voice was weak, but clear.

“Father, I love Lady Catherine. I would rather die loving her, than live denying it.”

“Then die you will.”

Sir Francis’ head slumped. Blood from his back began to stream around his neck to his lips and drip slowly to the ground.

Dear God in Heaven, I know she is one of your angels. She sings your verses so beautifully. She wants nothing more than to serve you in this darkened kingdom. I want to help her, my Lord.

The coolness of night crept in waves of goose bumps up and down Sir Francis’ exposed and battered skin. Sleep came and went. In anguish he lifted his head and roared in a weakened whisper.

“Father! Why are you doing this to me?”

A nearby guard approached.

“Sir, is it the Duke you are calling for? Shall I get him?”

“No, it’s the Father in Heaven I beseech. Have you heard from my Lady Catherine?”

“That I have, sir. She waits behind the bushes. She has offered the finest dessert to allow her to see you. But, I fear for my life.”

“In matters of love you worry about life? Go, eat strawberries. No harm shall come.”

“You may visit as long as it takes me to eat.”

A moment later, a woman veiled in black lace stooped and caressed Sir Francis’ face.

“My dear, Francis, how are you?”

“In love with you, my lady.”

Dried blood on Francis’ face cracked as he tried to smile.

“This is foolish. I am surely not worth your life?”

“You alone are not, but we together are. I have…”

“Shush, my love.” Catherine kissed her finger and touched it to Francis’ lips. “I have told my father that I do not wish to marry his enemy’s son. He is sending a message to your father at dawn saying I am being sent away.”

“No Catherine. I cannot live without you. Our kingdom needs your spirit, your God.”

“Then trust my God, and make Him yours, and in time, if it is His will, we will meet again.”

Lady Catherine gently kissed Sir Francis on the lips and disappeared into the darkness.

Three years later, Sir Francis was standing near his father’s death bed. The Duke had been stricken with a bleeding cough.

“My son.” The eldest Willingham spoke between gasps. “I have but one request before I pass.”

Sir Francis kneeled down and held his father’s frail hand.

“What is it?”

“Give me your word you will not try to locate Lady Catherine.”

The son stood and walked to the window, his fingers clutched a cross pendant that hung around his neck.

“You ask a very difficult thing, Father. But…”

Before Francis could finish his words, life left his father with a final weak cough.

His funeral was attended by thousands. That night Sir Francis sat alone in his room reading a Psalm. A knock at the door startled him.

“Who’s there?”

“It is Richard, my Lord. May I come in?”


Richard carried a fancy dessert and a note.

“What have you there?”

“Gifts from Lady Catherine, my Lord.”

“My Lady?” Sir Francis arose and read the note.

My Dear, Francis. I am sorry to hear about your father‘s death. But, I do hope your love for me is as fresh as these strawberries I have prepared. My love for you is even stronger. If you feel the same, meet me tomorrow by the river. There is a patch of strawberries…

“Is it good news, my Lord?”

“That it is, Richard. Make preparations for a short journey in the morning. We are going to the river to meet my wife.”

“Your wife? Ah, your wife. Very good, my Lord.”

“And Richard, you my have this dessert. Tomorrow I shall eat strawberries fresh from my Lady’s hands.”

“Very well, sir. Very well indeed.”

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This article has been read 1275 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Teri Wilson04/26/07
Pitter patter goes my heart. What a beautiful story and romantic male lead character. The word swashbuckling comes to mind...now where did I put those strawberries??
Mo 04/26/07
Nice! I really liked the dialogue.
Verna Cole Mitchell 04/28/07
This kept me captivated. The descriptions are excellent. I'm going right now to fix some strawberry shortcake!
Sally Hanan04/29/07
Thanks for the smile :) Poor Francis, I guess there was no chocolate back then to dip the strawberries into???
Rita Garcia04/30/07
"sweet strawberries and a dollop of whip cream." promised a delightful story and you kept that promise from beginning to end. Wonderful! WOnderful!
Betty Castleberry04/30/07
Well don't stop now. This sounds like just the beginning. Love the tone of this. I had a very clear picture of the lady in her full skirts and her hair tied up. (My own vision). Well done.
Jan Ackerson 04/30/07
Wowsers! I love it! Super job of develping the plot and the personalities of your characters within the word limits. Quite an accomplishment.
Tabiatha Tallent04/30/07
Beautiful. This was wondeful from beginning to end.
Dara Sorensen04/30/07
I liked it! You did a great job in the word limit--too bad the word limit wasn't a bit more; I would have liked to know more details about the forbidden love! Sounds like a great idea for a romance novel.
Teri Wilson04/30/07
Okay, I read it again and this time it was very... strawberry-y. :)
Sheri Gordon04/30/07
Loved it. Beautiful story -- perfect for the romance genre. Great imagery.

This story sounds perfect for a novella -- giving more time to character development, conflict, etc.

Nice job.
Pat Guy 04/30/07
Yes - this begs for the scene at the river by the strawberry patch with her silhouette haloed by the luminous moon! Ahhhh ....

Enjoyed the male POV for a change! Excellent work!
Joanne Sher 05/01/07
Such an amazing sense of place. What a beautiful portrait of a true lover's heart. I wasn't swept away much during the past week, but this one absolutely swept me away. Dialogue is perfect too. Bravo, dear friend.
Tracy Walshaw05/01/07
You literally took my breath away; superb writing. I read alot, especially the classics attempting to learn this craft, and know when I read something great, something that is so vivid in description that simply by dialogue we are thrown into the scene and FEEL it! Write a novel, already!!!
Cheri Hardaway 05/01/07
Beautiful... had me holding my breath, especially during that first scene. Cheri
Sara Harricharan 05/01/07
I am so glad he gets his Lady and her strawberries! Grrr! I did not like that Duke-good job with writing him so well. I also liked the Male POV and especially the continuing touch of Strawberries. ^_^
Loren T. Lowery05/02/07
Truly enjoyed this period piece of romance. Your writing shows that true love cannot be denied and is ageless and can sometimes evev be kept alive with the memory and hope of simple strawberries.
Jacquelyn Horne05/02/07
Wonderful romance. Christian and somewhat Gothic. Good mix.
Julie Arduini05/02/07
"I would rather die loving her than live denying it." That is one of the strongest quotes I think I've ever read. This was a stand-out. Romance is hard enough, but a period piece? You make it look easy. Well done!
Edy T Johnson 05/04/07
Such a deliciously romantic story! Your writing manages to shine, no matter the subject or the genre. I always look forward to see what flows from your imagination. Once again, thanks for a fun read, Friend!
Valora Otis05/04/07
Okay, now I know why I didn't make the top 40 this week! I also understand why they call you Sir William. Very good! Write another of these this week and you can take your place at the top!