I’m blaming Lauren (The Ashford Affair) and Maggie Robinson. Thanks to them setting books in the twentieth century, Lady B. had learned about the existence of the camera and cover models. She got VERY excited when I told her about cover shoots and insisted on manipulating the Time Space Continuum in a manner that I do not regard as altogether healthy. You’ll find out what that means as I welcome the fabulous Christina Brooke to The Ballroom. Not only is Christina an incredible writer, she also has a cute Aussie accent (We love our Antipodean sisters here. I’m looking at you Anne Gracie and Anna Campbell). So without more ado, let’s welcome Christina to The Ballroom. Also the guy who is on the cover of her new book. Le sigh.
Lord Davenport: (looks around the ballroom) This isn’t Almack’s.
Christina: No, you were banned from Almack’s, remember?
Davenport: Was I? What the Devil for?
Christina: If you can’t remember, I’m certainly not going to tell you. This, my dearest scoundrel, is Lady B’s ballroom.
Lord Davenport: Yes, I daresay. But I need to go to Almack’s, damn it. I must reform, mend my ways, stop whoring about London and settle down. Hilary said she won’t have me until I get those Almack’s vouchers.
Miranda: My dear Davenport, Rome was not built in a day. We have much work to do if we are to re-establish your character.
Christina: Thanks, Miranda. I knew I could count on you to help my poor hero.
Miranda: Don’t mention it. I’m looking forward to this.
Christina: Lord Davenport, my lovely friend here is condescending to introduce you to Lady B. Lady B has an enormous amount of influence in society. Her word, in fact, is law. Do precisely what she says and you will be dancing at Almack’s in no time.
Davenport: I’d rather swallow my own tongue.
Christina: It’s for Hilary.
Davenport: Oh, balls. If you insist.
Christina: Actually, I do.
Miranda: Lady B? We’re ready for you now.
Lady B bustles in, followed by footmen carrying a large white screen, powerful lights and a wind machine. Lady B is dressed (most improperly) in knickerbockers, a tweed jacket and a white fringed scarf. She has a black beret on her head, a megaphone in one hand a cigarillo clamped between her teeth. And Albert on her shoulder. Monty follows with a contraption that we denizens of the late 19th century and later recognize as a camera.
Lady B: Ah! I see you are here for the audition. Name, please!
Davenport: Jonathon Westruther, Earl of Davenport at your service. Wait. Audition?
Lady B: Come, let me look at you. Take your coat off now, and your waistcoat… That’s better. Nice pair of shoulders on you. Good face, too. Got that roguish twinkle in your eye that I like.
Davenport: I think there’s been some mistake.
Miranda: This will go much better for you if you do what the lady says.
Davenport: (Sighs) What next?
Lady B: Turn around, of course. Tchah! I am an artiste and they send me amateurs. Ooh, but I can forgive a man a lot with nice firm… principles like yours, my lord. Good gracious, what have you been sitting in? Let me dust you off a bit there…
Miranda: Lady B, behave yourself!
Lady B: Sorry, sorry. Fingers spasmed. They do that sometimes. Right, let’s get started. Stand in front of that screen, Davenport.
Davenport: Like this?
Lady B: No, no, make the most of what God gave you, sonny. Back to us. Lose the shirt, too. Or at least, no we’ll keep the shirt but just let me… Now where did I put my pinking shears? Oh, never mind, just wait a minute while I…
Davenport: I feel so dirty.
Lady B: Right, back to us, please. Now turn your head juuust a little this way. No, not to the camera, boy. Look over there, where Miranda is standing. Pretend she’s this Hilary person you keep prating on about and you’re about to… do what men like you do to ladies like her. Right! Wind machine on! Are we ready? Action!
Monty busily takes photos while Lady B directs.
Davenport: Not so lavish with the baby oil, there, Miss Neville.
Miranda: I’m sure there was a spot I missed.
Christina: I see it! Here, let me.
Miranda and Christina engage in an unseemly scuffle.
Lady B: That’s a wrap, ladies and gentlemen. I think we have enough shots for today.
Christina & Miranda: Ohhh!
Davenport: That was amusing and all but I still don’t see how it gets me into Almack’s.
Lady B: Almack’s? What’s that you say?
Miranda: Um, nothing. Nothing, really.
Christina: We’ll just be going now.
Davenport: Can someone at least bring me a new shirt?
Over to you, readers! If you were a patroness of Almack’s what would you make Lord Davenport do to get those vouchers? Christina is giving away a full set of her Ministry of Marriage series here today to one lucky reader, U.S. only. That’s the following titles:
HEIRESS IN LOVE
MAD ABOUT THE EARL
A DUCHESS TO REMEMBER
LONDON’S LAST TRUE SCOUNDREL
LONDON’S LAST TRUE SCOUNDREL:
When he was bad, he was so very, very good…
Physically reckless, irrepressibly roguish and poised on the brink of ruin, Jonathon Westruther, Earl of Davenport, returns from the dead only to throw himself into dissipation. Until he meets his worst nightmare: a straitlaced former schoolteacher he can’t get out of his head. He resolves to seduce the delightful Miss Hilary deVere by fair means or foul. But when his past returns to endanger Hilary, he must protect her at all costs…
For more information and an excerpt, go to Christina’s website.