Tessa here, and I am just so excited to welcome guest authoress Anna Cowan and her hero, Darlington, to the Ballroom today! Anna is a debut historical author, and I predict her May 10th debut Untamed is about to make a big splash. We have had a lot of heroes in this Ballroom, but I’m not sure we’ve ever welcomed a hero quite like the Duke of Darlington…
“I told you not to do this,” I hiss at him. “The whole point was to impress them with your heroic qualities.”
He looks at me like I’m losing it. “You…created me. I assumed you already knew I haven’t any heroic qualities.”
Oh I am so screwed.
I have just entered a grand ballroom with the Duke of Darlington, and as it’s my first time in a grand ballroom I really didn’t need him to be so utterly himself. Tonight of all nights.
“Don’t worry so,” he murmurs, taking his time to move across the floor in a way that pulls all eyes to him. “They will adore me. And you look lovely in that dress.”
He delivers the compliment with a smile like a kiss and I think, Okay, yes, they will probably adore him.
The ballroom is incredible. I’ve always wondered whether ballrooms were actually a bit tacky. You know, if you were an actual person in an actual ballroom back in the day whether the decorations would look cheap, the big potted plants awkwardly placed, the drapes a vile colour. It makes me happy that the Regency really does have a kind of luminosity about it.
I don’t have much time to gawk, because a lady is walking towards us, and there’s something sharp and assured about her that makes me certain this is our hostess, Lady Beaufetheringstone.
“You must be Miss Anna Cowan,” she says to me. “Miss Dare told me you would be bringing your…” Her eyes flicker to Darlington. “…hero.”
He steps forward and takes her hand lightly in his. “What a pleasure it is to meet you at last, Lady B,” he says in that frightening, compelling voice.
She looks at him for a long time without saying anything. Her face is blank – she’s very good at hiding what she’s really thinking. I know what’s coming, though. I brace myself for it. She will be angry. She’ll tell us to leave.
“Your Grace,” she says at last. “Are you aware your dress is at least three decades behind current fashions?”
He looks delighted, which is always a bad sign. “But why would I wear something fashionable,” he asks, looking coyly up from beneath his lashes, “when I could wear something spectacular?”
He does look spectacular.
He is wearing a dress made of heavy lavender silk with birds in cages embroidered across it in yellow, parting at the front to reveal yellow underskirts. He is laced into a rigid corset, and hoops beneath the long skirts add to the effect of a slight figure. A fichu is tucked about his neck and chest, leaving as much of his perfect, white skin on display as possible. His wig is lavender, tipped with actual gold, and one thick coil lies over one shoulder.
His eyes are dark, wicked, complex. He tips his head to Lady B’s and whispers something in her ear.
And now she’s got that look on her face. I know that look. She’s starting to think about what’s beneath the dress. What’s laced and covered and hidden.
I try not to groan out loud. If only he were…vaguely malleable.
If only Katherine were here.
“Where is your duchess this evening?” Lady B asks him.
(I had heard rumours of mind-reading, but that’s just disconcerting.)
“Katherine,” Darlington says, and Lady B shivers at the way he says her name, same as me, “is probably off acquiring half the country’s debt. Or making shady deals with men in low places. Or overseeing the building of her new fleet. She’s naming her finest ship after me, you know.”
He sounds like a boy, all gleeful on Christmas morning. But there he stands: a difficult, beautiful man. He’s a bit much, sometimes.
Lady B opens her fan to hide her surprise. “Your duchess sounds rather unconventional.”
“I have never met a single other person like her,” he says, simply.
I think Lady B wants to know more, but a dashing young man joins our party. He must be Monty, Lady B’s heir. He is alight with interest, and Darlington responds by becoming even more flirtatious.
I can only stand here filled with sincere gratitude that Darlington has found his mate, and will not be luring Monty to any nearby closets tonight. Lady B would surely never forgive me that.
I’m giving away a copy of Untamed to one commenter. I’m wondering what’s the most gender-bendy thing you or your partner have ever done (or wanted to do, but didn’t)?
Anna, thank you so much for joining us today, and bringing along this “difficult, beautiful, spectacular” duke! I, for one, cannot wait to get my hands on this book when it’s available May 10th. And on Darlington.
As for gender-bendy…Mr. Dare works in a profession where most of his coworkers are women, and he has a first name that can go either way, male or female … so we are always getting calls and letters from confused people. How about you?