First impressions on WIP Wednesday

I’m just finishing the short story to go out with my next newsletter, so I thought I’d choose something from that for my WIP Wednesday.

Give me an excerpt that tells me what one of your characters thought about another the first time they met.

My story is called A Gentleman Honours His Debts, and starts when the Earl of Bridgethorne takes passage on the ship where his bride has been hiding since she ran away a week after their marriage. This excerpt is a bit of backstory.

Leticia Fanshaw was one of three wallflowers Dickon danced with that first evening at the Bellowes house party. He’d almost passed her by; her discomfort when they were introduced rousing his pity but dousing any potential interest. This year, unlike the previous five, he had a stronger motive than the pleasures of the dance for his exercises on the dance floor. This year, he was in the market for a bride.

Not that he intended for any of Society’s matchmakers to know that, and fortunately his reputation helped keep his new motives secret. All the haut ton knew the Earl of Bridgethorne enjoyed dancing, and his skill made even the most awkward of partners look graceful. And he was kind, dancing with at least three of four of the least popular maidens at every event, as well as matrons, widows, and the more popular debutantes. Never more than one dance with each partner at any one event, a restriction that limited speculation about his marital intentions, and made courtship slightly harder now those intentions had changed.

Still, five years of conversation while standing out in line dances had given Dickon some definite views about the kind of bride he wanted. Not too proud, or too absorbed in her own beauty, which disqualified most of those to whom his fellows were drawn. Not foolish or inane or passionately fixated on an interest he did not share. He would have to converse with his wife, at least occasionally. Indeed, he hoped that, if he chose well, they might become friends. And, while he did not require physical perfection, he would, of course, have to be sufficiently attracted to the lady to do his duty by his title and estate, since an heir was the whole purpose of the exercise.

Five years of conversation had convinced him that the gem he sought was probably hidden among the wallflowers. Not an antidote, or a shy nervous creature afraid of men. But a woman whose intelligence and character had frightened off the fools who fell in love with the transitory sparkle of Society’s annual stars.

So when Miss Fanshaw blushed, stammered, and dropped her fan, he almost made his bow and his excuses, touching his hostess on her arm in the prearranged signal to present him to the next group. But was that fear in the look the young lady shot sideways to the aunt and uncle who were sponsoring her? And surely he imagined the menace in her uncle’s responding glare?

“If you would excuse us, Lord Bridgethorne and I…”

Dickon ruthlessly interrupted Lady Bellowes. How she would roast him later! “May I have the honour of a dance, Miss Fanshaw.”


2 thoughts on “First impressions on WIP Wednesday

  1. She assumed the driver of the curricle must be their new lord; he seemed to be a youngish man, as far as she could tell from the athletic way he jumped from the seat of the curricle. Probably about the same age as her deceased husband then. He was a little taller and bulkier than his friend, but both had the upright bearing of the soldier, and both had patronised the same tailor. Scott, no doubt, the preferred tailor to the military gentleman.
    The two men approached, removing their hats as they came into the shelter of the portico, and bowing to her. At least she could see a difference between them now: the one she supposed to be the earl had thick blond curls, his friend’s hair was almost black. She looked closely at the earl’s face.
    Not classically handsome, but then he had served for some years in the Peninsula on active duty, so she had been prepared for his tanned and weathered skin. The grim expression he wore did not bode well for her or her people, but the approach to the house, she had to admit, would be enough to cause a scowl on the face of the most even-tempered man. No doubt Owen had given the new earl as little information as he had given her. She had not been prepared for the frisson his face caused her though; he actually bore little resemblance to Albert. There was a certain similarity about the chin, that was all. It was normal, of course it was, for her to feel uncertain at their meeting: so much depended on his character. She hoped he would not find fault with her stewardship of his estate, though the look on his face was not reassuring. Really, it was his own fault for delaying so long in coming to the country; she had merely done what had to be done, after all. She stepped forward.
    “My lord, may I welcome you to Langley Abbey?”

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