Considering the summer weather has been strangely warm (one cannot but wonder if someone has been Tampering with the Climate), London is quite full this week. First Monday’s Big Squeeze when more Lady Authoresses than I care to remember brought their heroes to the ball.
Yes, Albert. It was quite fatiguing, though gratifying that the dear ladies understand the importance of presentation at Beaufetheringstone House. I’m happy to see that we are well attended this evening, too. I thought Anyone who is Anyone had gone down to Dorset for the Duke of Wessex’s wedding.
<squawk> Snubbed <squawk>
Silly Albert. Of course we were invited. Lord B insisted on remaining in town for the All English Battledore and Shuttlecock Championship. I don’t know why gentlemen prefer sporting events to weddings. It is one of the great mysteries of life. I see Miss Ashe and Miss Neville over there. Also Miss Caroline Linden and Miss Maya Rodale, lovely gels both with excellent taste in heroes. Goodness gracious! Is that the Duke of Wessex? He is supposed to be newly wed. I must get to the bottom of this.
Miranda: She’s headed this way and she’ll want to know why there are so many of us. Do you suppose Lady B knows what an anthology is?
Katharine: Better not ask. She’ll be insulted either way.
Lady B: I heard that.
Miranda: My God, she has the hearing of a bat.
Katharine: (loudly) An owl. She has the hearing of an owl because she is so wise.
Miranda: Right. Lady B! We need to speak to you.
Lady B: Never mind that. I want to know what happened At The Duke’s Wedding.
Katharine: And we’re here to tell you. You see, four weddings resulted from the gathering at Kingstag Castle. Just none that was expected.
Lady B: You are making no sense. Nothing unusual in that.
Miranda: Let’s make Maya explain. She’s the smallest so Lady B will be kind to her.
Maya: (shuffles forward) Um. It all starts when Lord Willoughby–Jack– picks up the ducal wedding ring in London to bring it to Kingstag for his cousin Gareth, the duke.
Lady B: You cannot have a wedding without a ring.
Maya: I think I’ll let Jack explain. (whispers) He’s good with ladies.
Maya introduces a blue-eyed, chestnut haired gentleman with a particularly winning smile.
Jack: Due to an entirely temporary misunderstanding the ring was, in fact, temporarily mislaid.
Henrietta: He means lost.
Lady B: And who is this young lady?
Jack: This is my beautiful bride, the former Miss Henrietta Black. And thank goodness she had the job of helping me find the temporarily mislaid ring or I might still think of her as Lady Sophronia’s tiresome companion.
Lady B: Sophronia Cavendish? I thought she’d been dead for decades. I can see you are much better off with Lord Willoughby.
Miranda: We love Lady Sophronia, Lady B. She reminds me a little of you, only years–centuries!–older. She’s always ready with a trenchant observation, like when she called Frank Newnham an idiot.
Lady B: All the Newnhams are idiots.
Miranda: I rest my case. Unfortunately Miss Rosanne Lacy thought Frank was intelligent as well as handsome, thanks to his wonderful letters. Little did she know that they were written by his cousin Christian, Earl of Bruton.
Lady B: I recognize Lord Bruton by his scarlet uniform. The Royal Horse Guards, if I’m not mistaken, and I rarely am. Introduce me.
Miranda: (whispers) Don’t mention the scar.
Lady B: (loudly) I would never be so ill-bred as to mention the scar.
Christian: How do you do, Lady Beaufetheringstone. May I present my bride, the former Miss Lacy?
Lady B: I thought she was supposed to marry Newnham.
Rosanne: Thanks to a kiss in a grotto, a cricket match, and a duel, I realized I was in love with the wrong man.
Lady B: I would like to hear about the grotto. It reminds me of an incident from my youth. Is the grotto at Kingstag very dark?
Rosanne: Utterly. Do you know that Christian–
Christian: (blushing through his sinister but curiously attractive facial blemish) – I see several girls in white muslin hovering. Not only must they infest Kingstag, but now they’re in London, too. Can we leave now? You must be very tired, Rosanne, after the journey from Dorset. We should go to bed early.
Lady B: Ah, newly weds! Nothing wrong with young gels in white. Once they’re a little older they can come to the Ballroom and find some rakes to reform. But now I want to know why the Duke of Wessex is here and why he is accompanied by a woman other than his wife?
Caroline: Oh, but this is his wife, the former Mrs. Cleopatra Barrows.
Duke of Wessex: How do you do, Lady B?
Lady B (aside, to Caroline): I know full well he was betrothed to Miss Helen Grey. Mrs. Barrows is her sister, for heaven’s sake! What happened?
Duchess of Wessex: I think we should blame it on the lightning, don’t you agree, darling?
Duke of Wessex: Er—yes. And possibly lawn bowling, but one must also credit a very timely elopement.
Lady B: An elopement! That sounds like a fascinating story…
Caroline: It’s all in the book, Lady B.
Lady B: But what happened at the Wedding?
Caroline: I think we’ll let Katharine answer that.
Katharine: (now gazing fondly across the ballroom at a gorgeously fit blond gentleman dancing with a dark-haired lady) Huh?
Maya: (elbowing Katharine) You’re supposed to answer that.
Katharine: Answer what?
Lady B: (with an intolerant eye) Miss Ashe, you can be—
Katharine: Replaced. I know. I know. So… (looking around) What am I supposed to answer?
Maya: (whispering) What happened at the wedding?
Katharine: Oh! Right. Our purpose here today! (purses lips) But actually I can’t do that. It’s like telling someone Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father. However, I can tell you about that attractive couple over there.
Lady B: The American gel clumsily dancing with “Crash” Ascot?
Katharine: Yes, that’s Angela Cowdrey from America, who dances clumsily because she’s–well–she’s–that is to say–she’s not from around here. (whispering aside) Or now. (louder) And the man with whom she is dancing so romantically is indeed Trenton “Crash” Ascot, Viscount Everett.
Caroline: Not “Crash” anymore…
Lady B: Miss Rodale, why are you grinning?
Maya: Er… Um…
Katharine: Well, you see, Lady B, there was this really nice carriage at the wedding—
Jack: (puffing out chest and flashing his famous smile) My carriage.
Duke of Wessex: A fine sporting vehicle, really.
Jack: (reverently) Hippolyta.
Lady B (lifts her lorgnette)
Miranda: He named it.
Katharine: So there was this phaeton—
Miranda: And a challenge to duel.
Christian: Two challenges. (smiles at Rosanne)
Katharine: Two challenges. And a gentleman’s club in the stables.
Maya: And a lady in the hayloft.
Katharine: And another lady speeding off in the dead of night to Gretna Green.
Caroline: And a ball at which nobody seemed to be dancing but at which there may have been some activity in dark corners.
Miranda: And a lot of sneaking around late at night.
Katharine: And so, Lady B, the wedding didn’t exactly go as planned. Voilà!
Lady B: As usual, Miss Ashe, you have managed to obfuscate matters thoroughly.
Katharine: (grinning) I aim to please.
Lady B: I still don’t know what happened at the wedding but at least I now understand why you are all here. Four authoresses, four stories, all set At The Duke’s Wedding. I particularly like the bit about the phaeton. Lord B would enjoy Hippolyta.
All gentlemen present, in unison: Hippolyta rocks!
Lady B: Will I be able to buy this anthology at Hatchard’s?
At The Duke’s Wedding is available only as an ebook (details at www.atthedukeswedding.com) but the Lady Authors plan to have a print version ready for order in a few weeks. We invite you to enter a contest to win a spot at the Bachelorette Party of the Season. Be one of the 6 lucky readers to join The Lady Authors for an exclusive online chat about At The Duke’s Wedding. Entering the contest is easy: just read the anthology and post a review on either Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Goodreads. Then send us an email with the link to your review to be eligible to win a spot at our party! We’ll chat, spill secrets and mail you a gift bag (Contest details are here.)