Lady B looks a trifle put out, her favorite expression. I told her I was bringing a guest today and I am, in fact, all alone.
Lady B Miss Neville! Where is Miss Grant?
Miranda: Cecilia sends her apologies. She desperately wanted to meet you but was unavoidably detained.
Lady B Oh, you authoresses! Always knotted by plots and distracted by deadlines. I particularly wished to make Miss Grant’s acquaintance because I am told she is uncommonly cruel to her characters.
Miranda I wouldn’t say uncommonly so. Your own Ballroom Authoresses have been known to cause their heroes and heroines discomfort. Lauren, for example, forced Laura Grey to be a governess for sixteen years, even though she hates children (The Orchid Affair). Kate Noble wrote about a laudanum addict (The Summer of You), and we all recall the terrible things Miss Darby did to Angelina Whitcomb.
Lady B Let us not forget the way Miss Ashe brought her hero’s very fortunately deceased wife back from the dead (When a Scot Loves a Lady) as for you, Miss Neville …
Miranda Me? I am the soul of kindness.
Lady B You deprived Mr. Compton of both his memory and his clothes. The worst thing you could do to a dandy. Do tell me, what torments has Miss Grant inflicted on her poor innocent creations.
Miranda I am not sure how innocent they are, but she has something of a reputation of making her characters’ experiences in the bedchamber less than satisfactory.
Lady B That’s terrible. Also, terribly realistic. I do trust these people manage to improve their … lot.
Miranda My dear Lady B! These are romances, after all. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the difficulties facing the hero and heroine of Cecilia’s latest book, A Woman Entangled, are of a less intimate kind. I should warn you, however, that each of them suffers from Unfortunate Family Entanglements that make them less than eligible in the eyes of the ton.
Lady B I never hold my guests responsible for the indiscretions of their relatives. Just as long as they tell me all about them, in strictest confidence of course.
Miranda I beg you will not interrogate Miss Kate Westbrook and Mr. Nicholas Blackshear.
Lady B I am the soul of tact.
Miranda Right. Allow me to introduce Miss Westbrook (a blond beauty in a red silk gown drops a curtsey of precisely the correct depth to show respect to the daughter of a duke married to a baron) and Mr. Blackshear. (Nick Blackshear is neither rich nor titled nor particularly well-dressed but he is hot, hot, hotty-hot.)
Lady B Westbrook, eh? Any relation to the Earl of Harringdon?
Kate We are connected.
Lady B Are you the daughter of the brother that married the actress?
Kate (maintaining her dignity in the face of humiliation) I am.
Lady B I suppose that tedious Harringdon woman doesn’t receive you. You are much prettier than any of her daughters and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t marry well.
Kate I confess it is my ambition to marry very well indeed, mostly for the sake of my sisters, of course.
Lady B A worthy goal for a young gel. Take a look around. We have all sorts of dukes and other muscular bachelors cluttering up the ballroom
Mr. Nick Blackshear Wait a minute, Miss Westbrook. Be very careful and do not let a man lure you out of the room.
Lady B You sound more like her father than …
Nick Miss Westbrook’s father has asked me to keep an eye on her when she goes out in society. I assure you that I have far better things to do, advancing my own legal and political ambitions. The girl is a nuisance. (Kate wanders away on the arm of a titled man of a rakish aspect.) Excuse me, I must go. (Heads off in pursuit.)
Lady B That pair seem exceedingly well suited.
Miranda let’s keep quiet about that. Cecilia went to considerable pains to keep the truth from them until the very end of the book.
I loved every minute of A Woman Entangled, and I’m sure you will too. It kept me up all night, laughing a lot and crying a little. You can learn more about the story on Cecilia’s website.
Cecilia has kindly offered to give a copy of A Woman Entangled to one lucky commenter. What do you think about tortured characters? Is there a limit to how much misery the heroine or hero of a romance should endure? And what is the worst thing you can remember (or imagine) a character having to suffer?