“You’ve no proper understanding of the game, Lydia.” The new girl stood opposite her with her small arms crossed across her chest in a pretty pout. The girl had arrived only yesterday in the county and her family’s decision to let the squire’s acreage had caused a stir in the countryside surrounding everything nine-year-old Lydia held dear.
“I do too have an understanding,” she shot back at the newcomer. “The game of graces isn’t that hard, after all. ‘Tis only dull.”
She looked longingly across the yard to a sunny space of grass where her brother Gregory was engaged in a rigorous game of lawn bowls with a few of the neighbourhood lads. They were older than her and looked to be having a good deal more fun frolicking to their hearts’ content while she and this pale little girl stood in their best muslin and attempted to toss a beribboned ring lightly between two pairs of sticks.
Sighing, she tried to attend to her lot, catching the ring on one of the sticks and righting it before sending it back to the girl.
“Marilyn, is it?” she asked, trying not to sound bored. “How have you found the county thus far?”
“It is well,” the other girl replied demurely, bowing her head with all the delicate grace Lydia’s own mother was constantly trying to instill. “We have a lake at the back of the squire’s place, and some very fine walks.”
“I would hardly call it a lake,” Lydia ventured, tossing her long brown hair over one shoulder. It hung nearly to her waist and swung warm and heavy against her back. “Papa has a lake where he fishes and boats on occasion beyond our orchard. I’ll show you sometime if you like and you needn’t be shackled to that little pond at the squire’s.”
She hadn’t meant to sound imperious but saw from the other girl’s expression that her words were ill-received. The girl, shorter and slimmer with big blue eyes and feather-like blonde hair, seemed to shrink under some unspoken reproof. Lydia, who had been raised to be kind in all matters, felt a sharp stab of conscience and rushed to amend her statement.
“But ‘tis a nice place all around, and I’m sure you have some very pleasant fish.”
The ring soared past Marilyn and landed softly on the grass beyond. The little girl looked at it solemnly, then back at Lydia.
“I wish my papa had a lake like yours.”
“Nonsense,” Lydia said, feeling the heat of a blush creep into her face. “It’s not so fine, and there’s no need now that you live nearby. You can come to mine any time you like.”
Marilyn’s smile warmed at once. “That would be lovely.” She picked the ring up and spun it twice around one of her playsticks. “What is the winning in a game like this, I wonder?”
“I suppose you win if you keep it from touching the ground.”
“But who wins, exactly?” the new playmate pressed on with the first hint of a mischievous smile. “Both of us, and that’s so dreadfully politic.”
Lydia wasn’t sure what ‘dreadfully politic’ meant, but she felt the first real twinge of kinship with the girl standing across from her.
“Would you like to play something else? We could join the boys’ game.”
“Or we could all together play a round of seek and find.”
Lydia smiled broadly and called across the yard at her brother, “Gregory! We’ve a new game to play!”
The boys looked up from their lawn bowls in surprise, then, shrugging, jogged together towards the girls. Gregory reached them first, closely followed by the long-legged Anthony, his best friend. Plump, sweet Will from the parish nearby brought up the rear, panting for air and sweating something fierce.
“What have we done to be graced with the princess’s attention?” Anthony said, speaking first as he always did in the trio. He was nearing twelve years of age and had a fine shock of dark hair and flashing brown eyes. “You sure you can tear yourself away from your fascinating sport? It’s hard work, keeping a little ribbon in the air.”
Lydia flushed with frustration as she always did in her brother’s best friend’s presence. She found him an annoyance at best and spent much of her time avoiding him.
“See if you can do any better,” she said, holding out the sticks to him with an air of restrained dignity. “It’s not as easy as it looks.”
Gregory laughed and took the ring instead, spinning it once on his finger and then sending it spinning away across the lawn.
“Gregory!” Lydia exclaimed.
“Come now, little sis, you know Mama wouldn’t stand for a pair of boys playing the game of graces. I’m just trying to stick to propriety.” He switched his voice into a perfect imitation of their mother’s prim and proper tones. “’Lydia,’” he shrilled, “’you mustn’t shout or encourage improper play.’”
Lydia smiled despite herself. “Well, we’ve an idea for proper play. How about a round of seek and find?”
“Who will hide first?” Will asked, still panting heavily. “Could I stand and count?”
“I’ll hide,” Lydia said with a bright smile.
“You?” Anthony leaned forward, peering at her as though she were a specimen in his butterfly collection. “No, you haven’t the skill for such a task. Besides, all that brown hair will get tangled in the brambles and if we don’t find you, you’ll have to spend all night outside with the wild animals.”
Lydia took a step forward, a familiar annoyance surging into anger, but Gregory stuck his arm out and laughed the drama off as he always did. “Come now, I’ll hide. Give me a count of thirty and then if you find me, you have to hide with me until the others do.”
Lydia rolled her eyes. “All right, but don’t pick a tiny place in the garden like you did last time. I still feel like I have spiders in my hair – ” catching Anthony’s mocking gaze she snapped her lips shut and kept the rest of the story to herself.
Everyone came into a circle, grabbing hands and closing their eyes while Gregory took off away from the group. The estate had numerous places to hide – the lake was there, and the trees, and he could even beeline for the stables if he had a mind to. Lydia held Marilyn’s thin, cool hand in one of her own, and felt Anthony seize the other with his usual playful force. They began to count, and at each number Anthony squeezed a fraction tighter. Lydia bit her lip to keep from giving Anthony the satisfaction of her crying out in alarm, but as soon as the count ended, she jerked her hand back and bestowed him with a withering glare. He pretended not to notice, taking off in the direction of the orchard.
Marilyn headed towards the stables, and Lydia split off towards the lake, all three leaving poor Will in the dust. It was hard to run in her skirts, and Lydia hiked them up nearly to her knees, hopeful that her mother and her guests wouldn’t be paying attention. The wind felt good in her hair, and her legs pumped away in pursuit of Gregory. When she came out of the open lawn and into the first copse of trees she slowed, peeking around the broad trunks to be sure her brother wasn’t hidden there. He was nowhere to be found.
Lydia checked under bushes and inside hollows, eventually deciding to swing by the orchard on the way to the lake. As she passed beneath the mature apple and peach trees, hidden by their greening boughs, she felt something hard fall on her head and looked up in surprise. There, silent in the tree limbs above, sat Gregory and Anthony.
“What’s this?” Gregory hissed. “You dropped that on purpose.”
Anthony shrugged innocently, and then motioned for Lydia to climb up beside them. She struggled to reach the first tree limb, but Gregory and Anthony each took one of her hands and hauled her up. She put her back against the trunk and braced her legs.
“I’m surprised you found us,” Anthony whispered at last, when they’d determined Will and Marilyn were both out of earshot.
“She had help,” Gregory sniffed.
“Did not,” Lydia snapped. “I would have looked up eventually.”
“Look – ” Gregory pointed toward the great house, “ – Mama and Papa are walking down with the guests. You’d best stay quiet Lydia, for Mama would have a fit if she saw you in a tree.”
Lydia knew he was right, and she didn’t doubt for a minute that he’d chosen that hiding place because he thought she wouldn’t risk climbing up with him. She peered up at her brother in silent disdain, catching sight of Anthony as she did so. He winked at her solemnly.
“’Tis no matter. Stay quiet and they won’t see us,” Lydia said.
Anthony nodded seriously. “Oh, I’ll stay quiet, but I won’t count on you to hold your tongue. Women are always prattling on so.”
Lydia frowned and tried to ignore the older boy. He was a daily frustration – the only son of a nobleman and the eventual heir to Rosebury Park. When he wasn’t playing an exclusive game with Gregory, he was baiting her into trouble. She never learnt.
Just then, as the slender and well-tailored figures of the adults cut very near their tree-top perch, Anthony leaned down very low and whispered into Lydia’s ear, “Best close your eyes, lassie. That green might blend in with the trees, but you’ve got that brown spot in the left one and they’d be sure to spot their own deformed princess from a mile away.”
Stinging with the insult, Lydia rose up in anger, tottering on the tree limb, and grabbed hard for Anthony’s lapels. He tried to shake her off, but her hold was good, and when she tumbled backwards to the ground he followed, landing heavily beside her. They weren’t far off the ground, but the blow still knocked the wind out of Lydia’s lungs and by the time she’d gasped for air again, Anthony had risen to his knees with flashing eyes.
“Brat!” he cried out, heedless of the shocked adults nearby. “Where do you get off attacking me?”
A thousand insults rushed through Lydia’s mind, but she stuck to the tried and true method of communicating she’d learnt from Gregory at a young age and merely lunged toward Anthony, catching him across the shoulders and taking him by surprise again. He hurled her off, and she rolled back for a moment, bent on attacking again when she felt strong arms hauling her up by the waist and setting her aside.
It was Father, his face grim, and Mama loomed beside.
“Lydia, how could you?”
Lydia’s mother was a pretty, pale little thing, but she held a firm line of discipline when it came to matters of grace and propriety. Lydia knew with a sinking feeling that retribution would be swift.
“He started it,” she began lamely.
“There is never an excuse for such reckless and inappropriate behaviour. You are a lady, and if you insist on behaving like an animal our guests will be forced to think you are one. Climbing a tree? Fighting with children? What has got into you?”
Lydia hung her head in shame, feeling the eyes of the other parents like needles on her conscience.
Anthony’s father stepped forward too, laying his hand on his son’s shoulder. “And don’t you think you’re getting off easy, son. You are the son of a gentleman, and a gentleman you must be at all times. You must behave kindly towards ladies – ”
“She is not a lady,” Anthony said darkly, staring up furiously at his opponent. “Look at her.”
Lydia looked down and saw the tear in her muslin, the grass stain on the white fabric, the bright scratch across her forearm, and the rumpled ribbon at her waist. He was right. She bit her lip, the fury still simmering below the surface. Here was a miserable boy if she ever knew one, and for the rest of her life she would detest him with every fibre of her being.
Sunlight poured in over the vase of wildflowers set upon the sill in Lydia’s room, highlighting the pale lilacs and the drooping boughs of honeysuckle that spilled like water from their crystal container. Lydia, now a blooming young woman of nineteen, stood and turned the vase ever so slightly before sitting once again before her easel.
It was afternoon light, the very best kind for this sort of composition, but she knew it would only last another half an hour before she was forced to work from her imagination only. She snapped open her paint box with ready fingers, dipped some ultramarine pigment from one of the small bowls, and mixed it with a pale ochre and a few drops of clear water. Lydia wondered, sometimes, which she preferred most out of the painting process. Was it the magnificence of seeing a figure come to life on paper, or was it simply the everyday motions of mixing yellow and blue and finding an earthy green emerge on the pallet?
The door to the solar opened and in walked her mama, Lady Holden, arrayed in dark purple silk with a wimple settled atop her greying curls. Lydia rose at once, setting the paintbrush aside with a curtsey.
“Mama, what a pleasure. How was your walk?”
“Quite lovely, as always Lydia.” Lady Holden came to her side and peered at the initial lines of the painting with a critical eye. “I like that you are choosing such decorous subject matter, Lydia. It is both appropriate and enchanting.”
“You know what our dear Reverend Fordyce says,” Lydia smiled coyly. “It is up to the fine young ladies of our time to repair the rent fabric of society by pursuing once again our most graceful and appealing list of accomplishments.”
“I know you mean mischief when you begin to quote Fordyce’s Sermons,” Lady Holden said curtly, sinking into a chair and watching her daughter apply her attention once again to the canvas. “Although you really should read it more often than you do. I saw just yesterday a passage marked regarding the frugality and simplicity with which a girl should approach her own wardrobe. We may have wealth and title, Lydia, but it’s a mark of grace for a woman even in such a state to avoid gratuitous distinguishing finery.”
Lydia thought of the parcel of paintings hidden under her side table and felt a familiar pang of guilt. She was secretly proud of the figures and styles drawn in that secret stash, but she knew the great Reverend Fordyce would never have approved.
“Of course, Mama,” she said demurely. “But surely you don’t hold the Sermons as applicable in every situation, for surely tonight at the ball you would not have me go without so much as a ribbon to my credit? For is it not Fordyce himself who says a lady should never be an intellectual threat to her husband? If he will not leave us wit as an ally, surely finery is the only weapon left to our disposal?”
Lydia hid a smile as she watched her mother wrestle with this new idea. It was a delight to tease Lady Holden about the social morays of the day, which seemed to Lydia to crumble at the slightest intellectual examination. But outside the safety of the sunlit solar Lydia was always more reticent to push back against society.
“You speak quite frankly now, Lydia, but you must grow more serious about your prospects at some point. Accomplishments and shy smiles are not enough to win an eligible gentleman if you are too afraid to put yourself forward as a suitable alternative to the other ladies of the county. You have a good title, and your face is not poor to look upon.”
“With attractions such as those, how could anyone not desire my hand?” Lydia asked wryly, dipping her brush back into the ultramarine and drawing a slender slash of colour along the underside of a painted leaf. “I’m sorry for teasing, Mama. You know I understand my place.”
“I’m glad of the ball tonight. You keep to yourself far too much for a girl your age, and I think it surprising you haven’t had more suitors.” Lady Holden fanned herself quickly. “Are you having tea drawn up, dear?”
“No, Mama. The maid will be here soon to tend to my wardrobe, and I thought there would not be time.”
“Quite right, quite right. Well, I will leave you to your flowers for the time being.”
Lydia watched her mother go with mixed feelings. She loved the woman as a daughter ought, but as each year passed, she found it harder to connect with her mother’s frantic concern about the marriageable status of her only daughter. Such anxiety had not been bestowed upon Gregory, who walked through life with his head high and his honourable title to comfort him. But while Gregory seemed to bring Lord and Lady Holden nothing but pride, Lydia always felt her parents were looking at the clock when in her presence, desperate to see her situation provided for and her future secure.
She looked to the door and, seeing that the maid had not yet arrived, went to her dressing table and pulled out the brown canvas parcel of paintings. She untied the string and looked at each drawing with quiet delight. There was: a jewel-green gown with high-waisted perfection and an angular shawl cut down the side; a riding habit with sharp lines and a towering colour; and there at the bottom a simple muslin day dress with a borrowed inspiration from Paris. She went on, touching each new design with loving fingers as though they were her children, carefully created and cared for, each as treasured as the last.
“What would Fordyce have to say about this vanity?” she said out loud.
“He would say they are quite fine, Miss.”
Lydia turned with a start, catching sight of the maid curtseying and then closing the door firmly behind her.
“Bess. You startled me.”
Lydia fumbled to put the paintings back in order and tied the string around the canvas as hurriedly as possible. She slipped the parcel beneath the table and looked up guiltily at the little blonde maid, who she’d known since childhood.
“It’s okay, My Lady.” Bess curtseyed again, then smiled gently. “You know I’ve seen them before, and I think they’re truly lovely. You should show them to your mother, or to the tailor in town. Your gown for Lady Marilyn’s ball is a picture but think how much finer it would be if you’d asked for that neckline that’s so popular across the Channel.”
Lydia blushed and stood.
“Bess, you know I don’t think them good enough to share with anybody but myself. They are child’s play – mere doll things I’ve not yet grown out of. I wish I had talents like the lovely Miss Parson from a county over or even Marilyn. Singing and playing the pianoforte is so much more conducive to social functions. I could hardly parade my figures and designs at my mother’s card table for county approval.”
“You don’t know that,” Bess said, adding quickly, “My Lady.”
She laid the armful of silk she carried down on the bed, stretching it out until Lydia could see all the fine points of her gown on display. It was a pale pink, with filmy gold overlay and tiny embroidery roses dancing along the hem and across the sweeping neckline. Lydia brushed the soft fabric with a loving hand.
“You may be right about my designs, but I’m not sure you’re right about the tailor. This is a lovely thing to behold.”
“Come, miss. We must freshen you up and try to get all that long hair into some sort of arrangement.” Bess hustled her mistress behind the screen and helped her undress down to the thin under shift she always wore, handing Lydia a cloth with which to clean, and carrying her day dress out for pressing.
Lydia bathed with the cloth and switched to a fresh muslin shift, stays, and a petticoat, submitting to Bess’s assistance to shake into the undergarments before lifting her slim arms and letting the pink gown slide over her head. It just brushed the floor, and in a moment, she had her stockings and shoes in place as well. Bess laced the back, buttoned the three top pearls, and brushed everything down with a final fuss of attention.
“It’s fine, My Lady.”
Lydia looked down at the generous neckline and the elegant sweep of satin and blushed. “Yes, it will do, Bess.”
“Now for your hair.”
Lydia perched on a stool while Bess brushed out her thick brown hair, which still hung long down her back and had developed a loose curl as the years passed. Bess twisted the bulk of her hair into a high bun, leaving tendrils around the face and at the nape of the neck, and then began gently winding a pale gold ribbon through the dark waves.
“You’ll be at the squire’s home tonight?”
“Yes, although it belongs officially to Marilyn’s father now. The manor will be beautifully outfitted for the ball – Mrs. Winston always sees to such things,” Lydia raised an arm to pull part of the ribbon flat against her head. “I think Mr. Winston plans to announce something very special tonight.”
“About Miss Winston?”
“Yes, Marilyn and Mr. Elwood have been in agreement for some time, and I think tonight will signal their official engagement.”
Bess smiled indulgently and took some small star pins from the side drawer to put the finishing touches on Lydia’s elegant hairstyle. “It’s a fortunate match. Mr. Elwood is very respectable, I hear.”
“And Miss Winston seems to love him,” Lydia said wistfully.
Lydia looked at herself in the mirror in sober contemplation. Her gown was fine, her figure slender. Her arms, when in gloves, would be a picture too. And her hair was all that it should be with the stars shining inside it. She leaned forward and winced at her green eyes, stricken as they’d always been with the single dark spot amid the glowing iris.
“It is what it is,” she said with a shy shrug.
Bess pretended shock. “My Lady, you needn’t be modest,” she said. “You’ll catch every eye in the ballroom if you walk in arrayed like this.”
“’Tis not I who should be catching every eye tonight,” Lydia said with a smile, brushing off the usual discomfort she felt in the face of open praise. “You know Marilyn – Miss Winston, I mean – is fully deserving of the adoring attention of the masses. I helped her pick out her gown last week, and she’ll be glowing in white taffeta with a headdress of peacock feathers and diamonds.”
Bess nodded and, gathering her hair supplies and the discarded day dress, took her leave of her pretty little mistress with a curtsey and a smile. Lydia watched her go with a warm heart. Tonight would be a lovely night, with all the people she cared about close at hand and her best friend’s imminent happiness the star of the show. Marilyn had managed what Lydia had always dreamed of – an admirable and respectable match without sacrificing matters of the heart. Mr. Elwood proved himself a fine-looking and well-mannered man, and though he was a bit dull for Lydia’s taste, he seemed to capture Marilyn’s sweetheart easily enough.
Lydia sighed and shook her shimmering evening shawl about her shoulders. Let the festivities begin.
Anthony Foyle put forth his carved wooden bishop with flair, knocking back one of the pale oaken pawns and placing his own dark piece in full view of the vulnerable king of his opponent.
“That’s happening more often than not, fellow,” Gregory said with a frown, leaning back and surveying the board in his usual manner. “But you’re too impetuous. You set out on such conquests because you see an easy route to the king, but you don’t tend to what’s happening back at home.”
“If I wanted a sermon, Gregory, I would have gone down to the parson. You’re stalling.” Anthony stood and strode down the length of the veranda, looking out over Rosebury with a keen eye. It was a beautiful estate, well-manicured and possessing of some of the finest fishing lakes and walks in the region. He caught sight of a farmer in the distance driving a flock of sheep out to pasture and turned lazily to view his opponent. “Have you made a decision?”
“Of course I have,” Gregory said, shooting his knight over enemy lines and landing squarely in range of both Anthony’s queen and bishop. “That’s called a fork, my good fellow.”
“I didn’t mean about that, of course,” Anthony said, annoyed despite himself at his friend’s cunning on the chessboard. It was usually Anthony’s game, and he rarely lost – never to Gregory. “I meant about your father’s estate and the investment. Have you and Lord Holden decided whether or not to let the outer corners of your home to the village, or are you intent on keeping it as one solid property?”
“I’ve not a mind for business like you have, but I can say I’ve heard my father drone on about the trouble with change long enough to imagine he would sacrifice almost anything to avoid selling the estate piecemeal.”
“Or renting,” Anthony laughed, came back to the table, and motioned to the footman to request a scotch. “It’s amusing that you think I have a mind for business. It casts a poor light on you, I’m afraid, if in contrast to your lordship I seem intelligent and quick with numbers.”
“Oh, Anthony. If you set aside that rakish nature and put your mind to the matters of estate and preservation, I’m sure you’d be as responsible as the rest of us.”
Anthony reached forward and fingered the bishop almost tenderly. Gregory, the tall, rough, sprawling heir to Parkfield and Lord Holden’s title, knew him better than almost anybody else, and still there was much he didn’t know about the heir to Rosebury. Anthony cared more than he was willing to admit about loyalty to the estate tenants and preservation of the family title, but he was a young man with good prospects and an excellent income. He was expected to enjoy life a little. To hunt and fish and squander thousands in London. Anthony smiled inwardly at the sombre tone his thoughts had taken. What a poor man you are, he mused to himself, forced to enjoy life to its fullest. How the urchins of Cowley Street must envy you!
He set the bishop back on the board, moving it to a different square. Gregory looked at him in surprise.
“This may be the first time in the future Lord Carlisle’s life that given the choice between the church and the skirts he’s opted for the former.”
“Not all queens are worth dying for,” Anthony shot back.
“It’s your funeral,” Gregory took the queen with his knight, sitting back in triumph.
“Pardon me, but I fear you are misinformed.” In the space that Gregory’s knight left behind on the field, Anthony moved his castle into prominence, blocking all exits for the opposing team and supporting one solitary pawn for the final death move.
Gregory countered, but it was not enough. Anthony tucked the pawn into place with a swirl of his lace-encased wrist and then looked up with a wink. “Checkmate.”
“It’s a marvel that I keep falling for this rubbish,” Gregory said, throwing aside his kerchief in disgust. “I ask you to play hazard or to ride the length of the field on horseback, both sure-fire wins for me, and yet I find myself again and again submitting to humiliation in the field of your forte.”
Anthony laughed and clapped his friend on the shoulder. “Then you have my word of honour as a gentleman. Next time it shall be a horse race on open land.”
Gregory stood and stretched his legs, quickly regaining his good humour. “Your word of honour as a gentleman? A funny thing, that. If I’m not mistaken, you were once scolded very terribly for ungentlemanly behaviour towards my sister.”
“You make it all sound very untoward,” Anthony said grimly, annoyed as he always seemed to be at the mention of little Lydia Gibbs. “It was a catfight and I was simply trying to stay alive.”
“She pulled you out of a tree,” Gregory said with a barely contained smile. “I’d call that skill.”
“Or raw luck.”
“It wasn’t lucky for her. Mama had her consigned to her room for days afterwards, tending to her sewing.”
Anthony turned away, placing both hands on the railing. “It was easier than my punishment. When you’re thoroughly beaten by your best friend’s younger sister you live with the disagreeable experience for all eternity.”
“Are you going to the ball tonight?”
“Of course I am. I hear it is to be Miss Winston’s shining moment.” Anthony turned and cast Gregory a glance. “I always thought you were destined for the fair Miss Winston. I’m amazed you allowed the dashing Mr. Elwood to upstage you.”
Gregory rolled his eyes and motioned to the footman to bring his coat and hat. “The fair Miss Winston, as you call her, is a sweet enough girl, but a bit too fragile for me. I shall find someone at the heart of London society, swirling amid the drama without being afflicted by self-consciousness or false modesty. I can abide neither.”
“In that, we agree.” Anthony had had his share of pleasant companions, but while fair looks and figures abounded, he found genuine conversation and heart vulnerability was far less common. He had never courted a girl the equal of his wit and ingenuity, and he felt until such a one was met, he would attend to no one with any serious understandings. “Why is it that young ladies always feel the need to act as though they have no accomplishments, when we have all seen them cultivating the skills since they were girls. Take your sister, for example. She was always away drawing and painting, but when you try to look at her latest work, she pretends ignorance of the entire craft and blushes as though she’d never before held a brush.”
“Modesty is assumed to be a good quality,” Gregory said with a shrug.
“Well, so is symmetry, but then the greatest artists believe you must break the rules of perfection to achieve true beauty.”
Gregory looked at his friend in surprise. “Come, now there’s a serious thought for you. What has got into you, Anthony, speaking of art and beauty as though you really cared for such things? You’ve only ever asked a pretty girl with a graceful figure to accompany you around the ballroom, and I don’t expect such things to change any time soon.”
“Of course,” Anthony said, trying to laugh off his discomfort. “I don’t expect to change my standards any time soon.”
“My Lord,” the footman appeared at the door with a dignified bow. “We have brought round the gentleman’s horse, and I have a message from Lady Carlisle.”
Gregory nodded and, taking his hat, made for the door. “I’ll see you tonight, old chap.”
When he had gone, Anthony nodded encouragement to the footman. “Go on. What does Mother need?”
“She says to remind you that we are leaving in the carriage in just a few hours, and you will be required at tea before that. She asks that you consider dressing now, before the gong.”
Anthony restrained the urge to roll his eyes at the severity of the schedule to which they adhered in the great house. He cared deeply for his mother, who was thoughtful and kind, despite her sometimes overbearing manner. But she ruled Rosebury with an iron fist.
“Thank you, Stuart,” He said with a bow. “Send my boy up at once and I will put Lady Carlisle to rest as to the strenuous matter of my wardrobe.”
“Just so, My Lord.”
The footman retreated as quietly as he had come and Anthony took one more look out across the estate before heading upstairs. It was a peaceful and beautiful property, and he felt the weight of responsibility as he looked at it. Whatever the young and the wealthy might deserve, he felt his father and mother and Rosebury Park deserved more. Quietly, he vowed to spend more time poring over the books and acquainting himself with them. Then he walked into the house to prepare for the ball.
“The Secret Admirer of an Extraordinary Lady” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Lydia Gibbs is much more interested in drawing beautiful dresses than settling for something less than a fairytale love. But when she unexpectedly starts receiving anonymous letters from a secret admirer, she begins to dream of a love she never knew she could have. The situation becomes further complicated when she starts to see a different side of her childhood friend, someone she used to despise as a young girl. Will she dare to fall for someone she has never even met, or will she realise that someone else entirely is worth her attention?
Anthony Boyle has always found pleasure in teasing his best friend’s little sister. When one day he takes it too far and she walks off leaving him standing with everyone looking at him, he starts plotting his revenge. But the lesson he’s planning to teach her is one he will be taught himself when he starts realising that he has fallen in love with her. How will he be able to resolve the situation he created without losing the only woman he has ever loved?
Anthony and Lydia will find themselves in amusing situations where one will always be a step ahead of the other. Who will be the one to claim Lydia’s heart when all the cards are on the table?
“The Secret Admirer of an Extraordinary Lady” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.