The king of chefs and the chef of kings

careme-06Just down the road from where I live is the village of Martinborough, centre of a wine and olive growing industry that has become a major tourist destination for foodies. And one of the attractions is named after the man who was arguably one of the founders of France’s grand cuisine, whose life story I borrowed from for the hero of my novellette A Suitable Husband, written for the box set Holly and Hopeful Hearts.

cuisiniers2Carême is a cooking programme at the Palliser Estate, and it is named after Marie-Antoine (Antonin) Carême, cook to statesmen and kings in early 19th century France and England.

He had a rough start: born in Paris and abandoned by his parents at the age of 10 at the height of the French Revolution. A job as a kitchen boy, in return for food and board, led to him being apprenticed at a pâtisserie in a high-profile, fashionable neighbourhood. He soon became known for his centrepieces, which his employer displayed in the shop window. Sometimes several feet high and moulded from sugar, marzipan and other foodstuffs, they were architectural shapes such as temples and ruins.

Carême freelanced in private kitchens, and learned to create whole meals, and when the diplomat Talleyrand was given a chateau at which to entertain and impress those Napoleon wanted to influence, Carême convinced Talleyrand to take him, too. The test Talleyrand set was a year of menus, with no repetitions using only seasonal produce. Carême passed. He had just turned 20.

He went (after the Napoleonic wars) to London, where he was chef to the Prince Regent for a time, then back in Paris he worked for the banker Rothschild. He laid the foundations for the system that became French cuisine, and was a prolific writer. He is credited with being the first cook-book writer to say: ‘You can try this for yourself at home.’

a-suitable-husband-fbMy character Marcel Fournier is also a talented and ambitious chef, a few years younger than Carême. In this short excerpt, he is indignant that he is not to be in charge of both kitchens at Hollystone Hall.

caremeMarcel could do good English cooking! Had he not grown up here in England after his family escaped from the Terror?

In Spitalfields, until he was apprenticed to a cook in an inn on Tottenham Court Road, then in Soho where he took charge in an earl’s kitchen, and finally, after having himself smuggled into France and attracting the man’s attention by the bold trick of sneaking into his office with a box of his own pâtisseries and menus for a year’s worth of banquets, in the kitchen and under the direct supervision of the great Marie Antoine Carême, chef to Tallyrand and through him to the diplomats of Europe.

For the past two years, Marcel had been one of the most sought-after chefs in the whole South of England. Good English cooking, indeed.

diplomacy-through-cuisine

For more information, see:

Marie-Antoine Carême, First Celebrity Chef

Eater: A name you should know

Regency Era “Hell’s Kitchen”: Marie-Antoine Carême, the First Celebrity Chef and One Time Head Chef for the Prince Regent

Cooking for kings

 

 

 

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Reflection characters on WIP Wednesday

masqurade-1795‘Reflection’ character is Michael Hauge’s expression. I’m still processing his full-day Story Mastery workshop from the RWNZ Conference, but have already strengthened Revealed in Mist by applying his inner and out journey methodology to the hero and heroine.

The reflection is the person that shows the protagonist when they are acting according to the armour they’ve built around their woundedness, and when they’re reaching into the real person they’re meant to be. As always, you show me yours and I’ll show you mine.

In The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, the heroine’s sister holds up a mirror to her just before this scene, set at the Costume Party.

Sophia frowned at Felicity, who was ostentatiously ignoring her from the other side of the room. They had had words, especially when Sophia had realized Felicity had deliberately sought Lord Elfingham out, accosted him in the garden, rejected him for herself, and sent him to Sophia. Sophia was not taking her sister’s leavings, and so she told her. Felicity, of course, claimed that Elfingham wanted Sophia all along, but Sophia did not believe that for a moment.

Oh, dear. He was coming this way. He stopped to speak to the Persian king, and Sophia took the opportunity to hurry away, putting as many people as possible between herself and her suitor.

He could not possibly be serious, and besides, she had her life all planned. She would never marry. She would be content with her studies and her work for the disadvantaged. She would be an aunt to Felicity’s children and one day to Hythe’s. If Hythe married someone she did not care for, she had money enough to hire a companion and set up her own establishment. She would be free and independent.

Why did such a life suddenly sound dreary?

 

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Tea with Lady Anna

monday-for-tea

Lady Anna Wycliff follows the servant into the parlor. The lovely Duchess of Haverford is standing by a table, already laid out with tea and biscuits.

“Do come join me,” the duchess says warmly. “I am so glad you could join me for tea.”

“Of course.” Anna smiles.

“How is your mother?”

“Good. Good. She sends her regards.”

The duchess picks up her bluebell patterned teacup but did not drink. “She mentioned to me that you enjoy to write stories.”

Anna’s smile grows even wider until her cheeks almost pain her. “Oh, yes! There’re just silly little stories. I mostly write for myself and share some with the children at orphanages. It makes them happy, which makes me happy.”

The duchess leans forward. “I would love to hear more about your stories. Perhaps you could read me one some day.”

“Oh, I would like that very much!”

An excerpt from Christmas Kisses:

Throughout the meal, Anna found herself sneaking glances at the marchioness’s son, Lord Pershore. She had nearly tripped over her feet when she walked into the parlor to see a strapping young man there, gazing upon her portrait. He had shockingly black hair, his eyes gray and without much warmth. His words were polite but a little terse, and she could not help imagining him into a story. Not as a hero. More a villain. Yes. He had plans to spirit away the beautiful heroine, and the dashing duke…er…the dashing hero had to save her from his vile clutches. Now when would the villain kidnap her? From where?

She could make him a pirate. The last time she had visited the orphanage, she had regaled them with several already penned stories by other writers, but a few of the tales had been ones she had conjured in her own mind, and she had a feeling the boys might appreciate a tale told partially by sea. Yes. Anna could easily see Lord Pershore’s black hair fluttering about in a strong breeze as he stood on the deck of his ship.

Anna could feel her cheeks flush. She couldn’t tell the duchess about the pirate tale with the villainous Lord Pershore! But she had plenty of ideas for more stories, including a few romances. Maybe one day she would have a romance all of her own…

decorative-text-divider-1

Lady Anna Wycliff is the heroine of Nicole Zoltack’s story Christmas Kisses, which appears in the Bluestocking Belles’ holiday box set for 2016, Holly and Hopeful Hearts.

christmas-kisses-fb

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Barnes & Noble: http://ow.ly/LqCI304jGuS

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Kill those crutch words

crutch-wordsI’m on the home stretch with Revealed in Mist, and will be announcing the release date this coming week. I’ve finished the rewrite following the developmental edit (and the workshop that so inspired me at the RWNZ conference), and received feedback from two of the three people I sent it to for a final read. It still needs a proofread, but first, now that I’m comfortable with the story, I’m going on a crutch word hunt.

I use ‘so’ far too much. And ‘many’. And many of my characters start sentences with ‘Well’. And I have a habit of starting sentences with ‘And’ (or ‘But’). I’ll do a search for these and for ‘that’, asking myself a few useful questions. “Does it add to the meaning?” “Have I used this word five times on this page already?” “Can the word be removed? Or replaced with a better one?”

What are your crutch words?

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Holly and Hopeful Hearts

Today is the day, people. At last we’re ready to reveal the box set the Belles have been working on for so many months. I give you:

holly-and-hopeful-hearts

When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?

Read about all eight novellas, and find pre-order links, on the Bluestocking Belles Holly & Hopeful Hearts page.

Today, meet my hero and heroine, James and Sophia.

the-bluestocking-and-the-barbarian-fb

james-bbJames must marry to please his grandfather, the duke, and to win social acceptance for himself and his father’s other foreign-born children. But only Lady Sophia Belvoir makes his heart sing, and to win her he must invite himself to spend Christmas at the home of his father’s greatest enemy.

Sophia keeps secret her tendre for James, Lord Elfingham. After all, the whole of Society knows he is pursuing the younger Belvoir sister, not the older one left on the shelf after two failed betrothals.

An Excerpt from The Bluestocking and the Barbarian

Chapter One

A country road in Oxfordshire
April 1812

curricle-vs-phaeton

They heard the two curricles before they saw them, the galloping hooves, the cacophony of harness and bounding wheels, the drivers shouting encouragement to their teams and insults to one another.

The Earl of Sutton turned his own horse to the shoulder of the road and the rest of the party followed his lead. As first one racing carriage and then the other careened by, James Winderfield murmured soothingly to his horse. “Stand, Seistan. Stand still, my prince.”

Seistan obeyed, only a stamp of the hind foot and muscles so tense he quivered displaying his eagerness to pursue the presumptuous British steeds and feed them his dust.

From their position at the top of what these English laughably called a hill, James could see the long curve of the road switching back at the junction with the road north and descending further until it passed through the village directly below them.

One of the fool drivers was trying to pass, standing at the reins—legs broadly astride. James hoped no hapless farmer tried to exit a gate in their path!

Seistan clearly decided that the idiots were beneath his contempt, for he relaxed as James continued to murmur to him.  “You magnificent fellow. You have left us some foals, have you not, my beauty? You and Xander, there?”

The earl heard his horse’s name and flashed his son a grin. “A good crop of foals, if their handlers are right. And honors evenly divided between Seistan and Xander. Except for the stolen mares.” He laughed, then, and James laughed with him.

Once the herd recovered from the long sea voyage, many of the mares had come into season. Not satisfied with his allotment, Seistan had leapt several of the fences on the land they had rented near Portsmouth, and covered two mares belonging to other gentlemen. And most indignant their owners had been.

“They did not fully understand the honor Seistan had done them, Father,” James said. Which was putting it mildly. When James arrived, they had been demanding that the owner of the boarding stable shoot the stallion for his trespass.

The earl laughed again. “I wish I had been there to hear you explain it, my son.”

ikon-_golden_akhal_teke-stallionA thirty-minute demonstration of Seistan’s skills as a hunter, a racer, and a war horse had been more convincing than any words of James’s, and a reminder of the famous oriental stallions who founded the lines of English thoroughbreds did the rest. In the end, he almost thought they would pay him the stud fee he had offered to magnanimously cut by half.

But he waived any fee at all, and they parted friends. Now two noblemen looked forward to the birth of their half-Turkmen foals, while James had delivered the herd to his father’s property in Oxfordshire and was now riding back to London to be put to stud himself.

“Nothing can be done about his mother, Sutton,” his grandfather, the Duke of Winshire, had grumbled, “but marry him to a girl from a good English family, and people will forget he is part cloth-head.”

The dust had settled. The earl gave the signal to move on, and his mount Xander took the lead back onto the road. James lingered a moment more, brooding on the coming Season, when he would be put through his paces before the maidens of the ton and their guardians. One viscount. Young, healthy, and well-travelled. Rich and titled. Available to any bride prepared to overlook foreign blood for the chance of one day being Duchess of Winshire.

Where was the love the traveling musicians spoke of? At least his cousins had adamantly turned him down. Not that he had anything against the twin daughters of the uncle whose inconvenient death had made his father heir and him next in line. But they did not make his heart sing.

The racing curricles had negotiated the bend without disaster and were now hurtling towards the village. Long habit had James studying the path, looking to make sure the villagers were safely out of the way, and an instant later, he put Seistan at the slope.

It was steep, but nothing to the mountains they had lived in all their lives, he and his horse, and Seistan was as sure-footed as any goat. Straight down by the shortest route they hurtled, for in the path of the thoughtless lackwits and their carriages was a child—a boy, by the trousers—who had just escaped through a gate from the village’s one large house, tripped as he crossed the road, and now lay still.

It would be close. As he cleared one stone fence and then another, he could see the child beginning to sit up, shaking his head. Just winded then, and easier to reach than lying flat, thank all the angels and saints.

Out of sight for a moment as he rounded a cottage, he could hear the carriages drawing closer. Had the child recovered enough to run? No. He was still sitting in the road, mouth open, white-faced, looking as his doom approached. What kind of selfish madmen raced breast to breast, wheel to wheel, into a village?

With hand, body and voice, James set Seistan at the child, and dropped off the saddle, trusting to the horse to sweep past in the right place for James to hoist the child out of harm’s way.

One mighty heave, and they were back in the saddle. James’ shoulders would feel the weight of the boy for days, but Seistan had continued across the road, so close to the racers that James could feel the wind of their passing.

They didn’t stop. Didn’t even slow. In moments, they were gone.

The boy shaking in his arms, James turned Seistan with his knees, and walked the horse back to the gates of the big house. A crowd of women waited for them, but only one came forward as he dismounted.

“How can we ever thank you enough, sir?” She took the child from him, and handed him off to be scolded and hugged and wept over by a bevy of other females.

sophia-rembrandt_peale_-_portrait_of_rosalba_pealeThe woman lingered, and James too. He could hear his father and the others riding towards them, but he couldn’t take his eyes off hers. He was drowning in a pool of blue-gray. Did she feel it too? The Greeks said that true lovers had one soul, split at birth and placed in two bodies. He had thought it a nice conceit, until now.

“James!” His father’s voice broke him out of his trance. “James, your grandfather expects us in London.” The earl lifted his top hat with courtly grace to the woman, and rode on, certain that James would follow. Not the woman; the lady, as her voice and clothes proclaimed, though James had not noticed until now.

A lady, and by the rules of this Society, one to whom he had not been introduced. He took off his telpek, the large shaggy sheepskin hat.

“My lady, I am Elfingham. May I have the honor of knowing whom I have served this day?”

She seemed as dazed as he, which soothed him a little, and she stuttered slightly as she gave him her name. “L-L-Lady Sophia. Belvoir.” Unmarried, he hoped. For most married ladies were known by their husband’s name or title. And a lady. He beamed at her as he remounted. He had a name. He would be able to find her.

“Thank you, sir. Lord Elfingham.”

“My lady,” James told her, “I am yours to command.”

For more of our stories, see our individual blogs:

A Suitable Husband, by Jude Knight (this story links the others and is featured in the Teatime Tattler)

Valuing Vanessa, by Susana Ellis

A Kiss for Charity, by Sherry Ewing

Artemis, by Jessica Cale

The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, by Jude Knight

Christmas Kisses, by Nicole Zoltack

An Open Heart, by Caroline Warfield

Dashing Through the Snow, by Amy Rose Bennett

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Unequally yoked? Love across the boundaries on WIP Wednesday

brakespearew-youngloversDo you have a pair of star-crossed lovers? If so, what makes their union impossible? Different classes? Different races? Different faiths? Feuding families? Warring countries?

Today on Work-in-progress Wednesday, I’m looking for excerpts in which characters show the chasm they must bridge before they can be with their loved one. My piece is from my story in the Belles 2016 holiday box set.

Ah. Here was his goddess, approaching across a generous entrance hall that appeared at first glance to be full of people, though in truth he counted eight, not including the pair blocking his way inside.

“Felicity, you put me to the blush.” She turned from her sister to address the girl in spectacles. “Allow me to present Lord Elfingham, Miss Ellison.” Then she regarded him with wary eyes. “Have you come for the house party, Lord Elfingham?”

James gathered the wits that had scattered at Lady Sophia’s approach and told his tale of a lame horse and the need for shelter until he could diagnose and fix the problem. The other ladies and gentlemen stopped their work of hanging ribbons, garlands, and wreaths from every available vantage point, and gathered around to be introduced to the scandalous barbarian suddenly in their midst.

James smiled, nodded, and exchanged pleasantries, moving farther into the hall, his back prickling as he found himself surrounded by these polite strangers.

“There is a horse in the forecourt, and it will not move. Odd looking beast. Small head and too long in the back. And one blue eye! Whoever heard of a horse with blue eyes?”

James turned toward the voice at the door, and met the eyes of Nathan Belvoir, Earl of Hythe.

For all his youth—Hythe was three years Sophia’s junior and seven years younger than James—he was head of the Belvoir family, and James would prefer to have his blessing to court the man’s sister. From the hostility in young earl’s blue eyes, it would not be forthcoming.

“My horse,” James explained mildly. “Seistan.”

“The horse is lame, Hythe,” Lady Felicity told her brother, “so Lord Elfingham cannot travel on tonight.” She turned to the young woman in spectacles who had entered behind Hythe. “Will you inform the duchess, Cedrica?” The girl nodded and went back outside.

“He cannot stay here, either,” Hythe declared, his brows almost meeting as he frowned. “You should have stopped in the village, Winderfield, or whatever your name should be. The duchess will not want your sort mixing with her guests.”

James schooled his face to show no reaction. At least two insults in as many sentences: the denial of his title and his legitimacy, and the “your sort” comment. Sophia would doubtless be displeased if he challenged Hythe, or simply punched him.

Or punched Wesley Winderfield, who was grinning like a loon at Hythe’s elbow. Weasel Winderfield was some sort of a distant cousin and had been heir presumptive to the Duke of Winshire after the untimely deaths of the duke’s three sons one after the other, and then of his eldest son’s heir, his only known grandson. Weasel was most disappointed when Winshire’s third son proved to be not nearly as dead as reported, the inconvenience of his return compounded by the tribe of offspring he presented to his father when he arrived in England.

Weasel’s presence here was unfortunate but not unexpected. He was an acolyte of the man most determined to prove James a bastard: the man who owned this house, the Duke of Haverford.

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Her Grace is At Home on Mondays

eleanor-duchess-of-haverford

Eleanor, Duchess of Haverford

wishes to announce that she shall be home to callers

on Mondays.

Any heroine of any work of fiction

is welcome to send a message to

Jude Knight

to arrange a date.

Any era, any genre, any story.

Her Grace would be delighted to converse,

read an excerpt of her guest’s story

or both.

visiting

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What’s up?

leonid_pasternak_-_the_passion_of_creationI’ve been neglecting you, and I am about to start doing better.

I’m blaming winter, a touch of ill-health, a busy time at the paying job, and the decision to first refocus Revealed in Mist, then to rewrite large chunks of it, and then—when I got it back from the developmental editor—to rewrite it again. (Revealed in Mist is the book that was Prudence in Love, and before that Encouraging Prudence, and before that Embracing Prudence).

At the current pace, I’ll finish the last rewrite this week, so expect to see the book at long last before the end of the year. But the long drought in book publishing has given me time to think about my future plans, and one thing I wish to do is be more deliberate about how I post on this blog.

I’m planning four regular posts a week.

I’ll be starting each week with a new feature post: Mondays for Tea with Her Grace the Duchess of Haverford. So on Mondays, I’ll be inviting other authors to bring a character to tea with my duchess, and to talk about their book or post an excerpt (or both).

On Wednesdays, I’ll be continuing Work-in-Progress Wednesdays, where I choose a theme and post an excerpt to fit that theme, and invite other authors to post their excerpts in the comments. I love reading everyone else’s snippets.

Friday will be research day. Footnotes on Friday will be the place I post little bits from my research that intrigue or delight me, and that I think you might enjoy.

And I’m saving Sunday for a post about writing. This might be a post on the craft of writing, or an update on my current projects, or an opinion piece about anything to do with writing or the romance genre or whatever else is on my mind.

How about subscribing to my newsletter if you’re not already on the list? The signup link is on the right menu.

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You can’t choose your relatives on WIP Wednesday

au_bistro_at_the_bistroI’m deep in edit mode for Revealed in Mist, and I think I’m improving it. Sibling relationships are a big part of the story—Prue’s with her sisters, and David’s with his half-brothers. As the saying goes, you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your relatives.

I’ve just edited chapter two, where David meets the Marquis of Aldridge for the first time in years, so I figured I’d make relatives the focus of this week’s post. Here’s a short excerpt. Feel free to post one of your own in the comments.

He frowned at the fire in the small hearth. The private parlour he had hired was small and shabby, but at least its size made it easy to heat. And it was neutral ground, which mattered. David hadn’t had a prolonged conversation with his expected guest in a decade and a half.

He must have been seventeen or eighteen on the last occasion, staying at Haverford Castle in Kent between the end of the school term and his first term at university. The Duke of Haverford’s son and heir, the Marquis of Aldridge, would have been 12. The day had begun happily enough with the boy tagging along while David went out after small game with a gun. It had ended with David beaten and driven from the property.

Aldridge had tripped and knocked himself out, and Haverford, finding David leaning over his unconscious heir, had not waited for explanations.

Once the young marquis left school and entered Society, they met from time to time, usually when the Duchess of Haverford insisted on David coming to one of her entertainments. Her husband, the duke, was almost always engaged elsewhere, but her sons often attended. They paid their mother the courtesy of not being rude to her protégé, and he responded with the same polite reserve.

He was expecting Aldridge now. Older brother to one of the courtesan’s lovers. David’s despised father’s oldest legitimate son. His half-brother.

A knock on the door heralded Aldridge’s arrival. A maid showed him into the private parlour. He’d clearly been treating her to a display of his facile charm; she was dimpling, blushing, and preening.

David examined him as he gave the girl a coin “and a kiss for your trouble, my darling.” The beautiful child had grown into a handsome man. David had heard him described as ‘well-put together, and all over, if you know what I mean.’ The white-blonde hair of childhood had darkened to a guinea gold, and he had his mother’s hazel eyes under a thick arch of brow he and David had both inherited from their father.

Aldridge navigated the shoals of the marriage market with practiced ease, holding the mothers and their daughters off, but still not offending them, and carrying out a gentleman’s role in the ballroom with every evidence of enjoyment.

But his real success, by all accounts, was with bored widows and wives, where he performed in the bedroom with equal charm, and perhaps more pleasure. Society was littered with former lovers of the Merry Marquis, though he had the enviable ability to end an affair and retain the friendship.

Aldridge ushered the laughing maid out of the room and closed the door behind her, acknowledging David’s appraisal with a wry nod.

“Wakefield. You summoned me. I am here.”

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‘Missing you’ on WIP Wednesday

girl with treeAbsence, so old wisdom goes, makes the heart grow fonder. So we writers separate our darlings and let them worry a little. This week, I’m inviting you to post about someone who is separated from a loved one: a lover, friend, or relative.

My excerpt is from Never Kiss a Toad, which I’m writing with Mariana Gabrielle. Our teenage lovers have been separated by their parents, and my heroine is writing to Mari’s hero, feeling somewhat indignant about his latest letter but being circumspect, since her father is reading all correspondence. He needn’t think she is sitting her fretting. Even if that is exactly what she is doing. (We’re posting this a bit at a time on Wattpad. Follow us to see what happens.)

Elf would make a very nice husband. Just not for Sally.

Only one man would do for Sally, and he was off enjoying himself with every tart in Paris. But he had signed his letter ‘David.’ Surely he intended to remind her of their lovemaking. The swine! As if she could forget it. As if she could ever let another man touch her the way he was undoubtedly touching his opera dancers and whores. ‘My dearest Monkey,’ indeed. Did he think she was still a child?

“Some of my suitors are pleasing enough, but I will follow your advice about taking my time to choose a husband, Toad. I shall want to know them better before I make such a momentous decision. Will we work well together? Can we grow to love one another? Will he be faithful only to me? For I mean to have a marriage like my parents, and like Grandmama has had with Uncle Winshire. I mean for us to be friends, partners, and lovers, as well as husband and wife.”

“But I am only seventeen and mean to have some fun before I settle for a single lord and master.”

Was that what Toad was doing? Having fun before settling down? What if some other respectable female sought his ‘help’ as she had done?  It would not do to assume he had learned his lesson that night in the heir’s wing, and it would break her heart all over again if her sacrifice to save him from a forced marriage with her only led him to another.

“Be careful yourself, my dear friend. Do not allow your enthusiasm for your pursuits to lead you into a situation where marriage is your only honourable course.”

“When you do come to choose a bride, as heirs of dukes eventually must, I counsel you to find out more about them than their looks and their dowries. You would not want a wife you found boring, Toad. Look for someone who reads the books you love, laughs at the things you find funny, and enjoys the same kinds of activities that give you pleasure.”

Would he not be happiest with the girl he grew up with, who knew him better than anyone in the world, who had loved him her whole life? Sally sighed, and turned her head aside in time to stop a tear from staining the page.

“On that note, I must end this missive. My fondest regards to you always, David. Always.”

“Sally”

There. He need not think she was pining away in England waiting for him to claim her. If he could enjoy himself, so could she. And downstairs, she was keeping a room full of suitors waiting. She must go and be flattered and flirted with, and try not to drift away in a daydream where she ran off to Paris and took a job dancing at the Opera, just to catch the eye of a certain handsome rogue.

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