“…I’m telling you, Cleo,” I’m whispering furiously from behind a column near the refreshments, “If Lady B can’t help you…no one can.”
Cleopatra Hadley, the heroine of Sophie Jordan‘s most recent book, Lessons From A Scandalous Bride, looks like she might, as they say, cast up her accounts. She also looks like she is really not certain that I’m telling the truth. I look at Sophie for help.
Sophie, in her calming Texan drawl, says, “I’ve never met Lady B, but I am certain Sarah wouldn’t steer us wrong.”
Cleo looks unconvinced. “I heard what she wanted to title your next book.”
“Hey! That was a good title!” I defend. Cleo and Sophie give me looks. “Ok, maybe not good. But respectable. I was working on borrowed time.” I pause. “I’m known for titular excellence.”
“Bride Overboard is a terrible title,” Cleo says, “Even I know that.”
“Whatever.” I say, because I can’t argue the hindsight. “The point is…I’m right about this. Lady B might be a gossiping meddler–”
“I beg your pardon, Miss MacLean?”
Oh. Now the parrot decides to repeat things?
“–Uh…Lady B! I was just telling my friends that you’re a horse-loving peddler!” Sophie and Cleo are dropping quick curtseys, eyes anywhere but on me and the mess I’m making. “A horse-loving peddler of matches!”
Lady B’s gaze moves from accusatory to excited. “Matches?”
“Yes! I say, warming to my topic and pushing Cleo out in front. “Lady Beaufetheringstone, may I present Miss Cleopatra Hadley? Daughter of Jack Hadley?”
“Jack Hadley?” Lady B looks through her lorgnettes and down her nose at Cleo. ”I’ve heard of him.”
“Rather unsavory character … and that dreadful accent. Owns the rookery, I hear …but he is rich, isn’t he?”
“Yes!” I say.
She isn’t listening to me. “Now what’s this I hear about matches?”
The woman is a dog with a bone.
“Cleo’s looking to be matched.”
Lady B looks positively gleeful. “Well! That I certainly CAN be helpful with.” She points at a handsome young man across the room. “How about Mr. Drellworth?”
I shake my head. “Won’t do. She needs a man with a title.”
Lady B considers Cleo. “Needs a title? Well, that requires a bit of thought.”
Sophie interjects. “Her father is very rich, my lady. Very.”
Lady B looks to Sophie. “Who are you?”
I jump in, “Lady B! Meet Sophie Jordan, author of…well…lots of things. Including Cleo’s book.”
“You say, very rich?”
Sophie nods. “Very.”
“Well then. How about Earl Hartwell?” He’s handsome and smiling at the far end of the room.
Cleo shakes her head. “Too young.”
Lady B’s brows rise. “Too young? You like them older? All right then,” she points her fan at a Baron nearby. “Trilby is older. But still has a handsome pair of legs.”
Cleo shakes her head again. “Too handsome.”
Lady B scowls at her. “You are a choosy one.” She points at the Duke of Nightrow. “A duke. Not too handsome, not too young, eager for a young bride upon whom he can get an heir.”
Cleo looks ill. “He wants children.”
“Of course he does. He’s a duke. They like to pass on their titles.”
Cleo looks to Sophie. “None of them will do!”
Lady B has had enough. She looks to me. “What on earth is wrong with this girl?”
I open my mouth, then close it. Then look to Sophie. “Sophie?”
“She’s got her reasons, but …. well … she’s looking for someone unexciting … especially in the bedroom. No one attractive, young or virile.
“–Yes. The closer to infirm, the better, really,” Cleo says.
Lady B snorts. “You might be the oddest young lady I’ve ever encountered, but I’m certain we can meet your criteria. Now let us see who do we have in our midst … Oh, my …let us discount that young man. Lord McKinney, I believe his name. Quite handsome…”
Cleo stares across the ballroom to the gentleman and releases a breathy sigh. “Oh. My. Quite…”
I think Cleo might well be the first woman ever to be interested in marrying someone old, unattractive, unvirile and infirm! But handsome men are trouble…the worst kind. What’s the worst (or best) kind of trouble you’ve found yourself in (or considered leaping into) because of a handsome man?
Answer in comments for a chance to win a signed copy of Cleo’s story – Lessons from a Scandalous Bride! The winner will be chosen tomorrow!