Today is an exceedingly busy day. I have borrowed the Ballroom for a scene in my brand-new book, Any Duchess Will Do! There’s so much to get ready.
I consult my list. “Let’s see… We need to make certain the punch bowl is just so, and placed at the far end of the dance area… I must remember to tell the orchestra to play lots of waltzes. Oh, and the doors to the garden have to remain unlocked at all times.”
“This Ballroom has doors leading to a garden?” Lady B swivels her head, turning in all directions.
“It will by tonight,” I vow. Some serious smooching needs to happen in that garden. I hope the secluded bench I ordered has arrived.
There’s a commotion in the entryway. “Oh, good! The workmen are arriving.”
“Workmen?” Lady B asks. “And what, pray tell, are the workmen here to work on? Other than door installation.”
“It’s the columns.” I consult with my copy of Any Duchess Will Do. “The ballroom scene in the book calls for Corinthian columns, and I’m pretty sure the ones pictured in our blog masthead are Ionic.”
Lady B tilts her head back, observing the soaring pillars. “You’re going to remodel all of my columns just for one line in your book?”
“It’s not just the one line! It’s a running joke.”
Lady B just shakes her head. “A running joke indeed.”
My attention–fractured as it is–is stolen by a new arrival: a slender young woman with light-brown, rather disheveled hair and a simple blue frock.
“Oh, huzzah. You’re here!” I call out.
Lady B beats me to her. “Oh, thank heaven. At least Miss Dare saw fit to bring in extra domestic help. What is your name, girl?”
“Pauline Simms, your ladyship.”
“Well then, Pauline, let’s take you to my housekeeper. She’ll see you kitted with an apron, bucket, and scrubbing brush. Goodness only knows what other preparations Miss Dare has planned for tonight’s ball.”
“Wait!” I interrupt. “Pauline’s not here to work, Lady B.”
“But she’s a servant. She said so.”
“She is a serving girl, yes. But she’s also the heroine of the book. She’s here because tonight she’ll be attending our ball as a guest.”
Lady B blinks. “A serving girl…will be a guest…in my Ballroom?”
Albert squawks. “Inconceivable!”
Poor Pauline. She’s a brave soul, but even she is starting to look a bit intimidated. I think it’s the grandeur of the room. And possibly also the talking bird.
I put an arm around her shoulders to buck her up. “There, there. You won’t be alone. You’ll get to wear a beautiful gown. And Halford will be there, of course, looking handsome as anything. It’s going to be marvelous, you’ll see.”
Pauline shakes her head. “No. It’s going to be a disaster. It’s supposed to be a disaster. Halford hired me specifically to be a disaster.”
I smile to myself. Oh, just you wait. It’s going to be disastrously romantic.
“Halford,” Lady B echoes. “Not the Duke of Halford.”
“Why, yes!” I confirm. “The very one.”
Lady B draws me aside. “Miss Dare, you honestly mean to tell me the serving girl’s hero is a duke?”
“Don’t look so scandalized, Lady B. You married beneath your rank, too. I think it’s romantic when people fall in love with someone of a different class, despite all the social barriers.”
“There’s marrying outside one’s class, Miss Dare, and then there’s marrying outside one’s phylum. At least tell me the duke plans to bring his mother tonight. I do so love a chat with Judith. I’m sure she’ll have a great many woes to vent, if her only son has taken up with a housemaid.”
“Barmaid,” Pauline interjects, smiling a little and holding her chin high.
She’s looking more herself now, and I’m glad. Tonight promises to be very entertaining.
She says, “I’m a barmaid, not a housemaid. And the duchess isn’t at all upset about my carrying on with her son. In fact, it was her idea.”
“It was the duchess’s idea?” Lady B asks, pulling out her fan. “Oh, Miss Dare. I can tell there must be a story here.”
Yes, there is! In fact, it’s a rather long story. Nearly 400 pages, so I’ll spare you the rest of it right now. But please do leave a comment about your favorite cross-class or Cinderella-eque love story, and you could win the whole copy of Any Duchess Will Do for yourself! I’ll even sign it!
And my deepest thanks to Lady B for lending me her slightly-modified Ballroom (and garden!) for one of my favorite scenes in the book.