Lady B has asked me to attend her in the sitting room. I suspect this is because all the other authoresses have made themselves scarce, knowing as they do that Lady is “at home” today. I’m fairly certain Miranda’s love of fashion (and ability to scathingly judge it) would be more of use. As we know, it’s been a zoo here during the Season, and all because of Monty.
But nonetheless, I happily leave my work-in-progress aside and call upon my anthropological training to be a participant observer in the ritual of Regency courtship. One in which the male in demand is unlikely to be present and all early negotiations are made through oblique comments by the females.
Just as I enter the sitting room, I hear the first knock at the front door.
“It begins,” Lady B intones with a wink and I take a seat to her left.
“Again,” squawks Albert.
I am half tempted to retrieve my laptop—ahem, notepad—to take notes. After all, what better way to get tips on London ingénues than here?
“Mrs. Perkins-Wilkenson and her daughter, Miss Perkins-Wilkenson,” announces the footman.
These two are not your usual romance book mother-daughter set. In fact, they are fairly reminiscent of the Gilmore Girls. While I assume young Sarah Perkins-Wilkenson is the customary 17 or 18 of a girl in her first season, her mother, Eloise Perkins-Wilkenson, looks as if she could be her sister. Both of them are lovely in that peaches and cream, strawberry blond sort of a way, and they are dressed impeccably. Wait, no. Is that a turned hem I spy at the bottom of Eloise’s dress? Hmm, surely if it is Lady B will notice and I can ask her later. I start wondering if perhaps Eloise is a widow and absolutely ripe to be a romance book heroine. Perhaps she sees her young daughter as her last chance for financial safety but ends up having a romance of her own.
Not with Monty. Lady B would never forgive me, even if it’s merely in the world of my fictional conjecture, my little writerly game.
But certainly any number of wealthy rakes (yes, it would have to be a rake who endangers her reputation and therefore her daughter’s chances of a respectable marriage!) would be appropriate for her. But unfortunately all the rakes I’ve met in Lady B’s ballroom lately have been taken. Maybe one of our heroes has a best friend or a “rake club” acquaintance to recommend.
But then again, perhaps Eloise is still very much married. Then I must focus my attentions on Sarah.
I am determined to fit Eloise and Sarah into the romance book mold over the next fifteen polite minutes. What do you think is the true nature of their circumstance and what gentleman/gentlemen would be appropriate as a match?
In college I spent hours browsing: bookstores, CD stores, clothing, food markets. If there was a place to wander and browse, I was there. As a result, I stumbled on influences I might have never found otherwise. The way things looked grabbed me. From Carole Maso’s The American Woman in the Chinese Hat to Milla Jovovich’s album The Divine Comedy, I picked things up that caught my eye.
The American Woman in the Chinese Hat by Carole Maso
These days, most of my shopping is done online. After a couple years of wildly searching the net for anything of interest, (Apologies to Lady B for all this talk of Modern Things Crazy Authoresses Discuss) I very rarely browse anymore. I have an idea of what I want and any search I do is extremely narrow. Naturally this limits the chance for pushing the boundaries of my experience.
Which is one of the reasons I love driving up north to San Francisco every few months. My husband and I realized on our most recent trip, that we spend a good portion of our time wandering around bookstores and finding books we would never have found if they weren’t in a physically easy to browse situation. And better yet, bookstores such as City Lights in North Beach and Moe’s in Berkeley aren’t limited as much to the big bookstore chain focus on new releases. (Not that there are many big bookstores around anymore anyway.)
This last weekend I walked away with Joseph Kanon’s Istanbul Passage, which only released in 2012 but likely would have never shown up in my Amazon recommends lists. I’m loving it!
How about you? How do you discover new books outside your usual realm?
It’s Thursday, of course, and I’m comfortably ensconced in Lady B’s library reading and avoiding doing the very thing an artist is supposed to do at the home of her patroness.
Lady B looks very put out. Immediately I catalogue all the things I’ve done that she might be upset about: the continued mess in my room, the fact that I never did bring my latest hero to visit…
“Have you seen Monty?”
I blink. Monty? Why on earth would she be looking for Monty in the library? I think back. I remember seeing Harold the other day. And I’m fairly certain I saw Monty’s valet creeping down the backstairs with one of the maids. But Monty?
Now that I think about it, I haven’t seen him in at least several weeks. Perhaps, since Easter.
I shake my head slowly. Of course, now I am curious to know what the rapscallion has been doing. Surely if he’s been up to his usual sport of saving damsels who may or may not actually be in distress, we’d have heard something about it. Why, with the season in full swing, Lady B’s parlor has been nonstop filled with callers. Mostly mothers with their newly come out daughters…oh.
Maybe that’s why he hasn’t been around.
“I haven’t seen him, but I shall definitely keep my eye out for him. He can’t have gone far with Harold and his valet still here. Has he done something to upset you?” Clearly he has, but now I’m fishing for gossip. Because after all, there is nothing like Regency gossip!
“Upset? Do I look upset?”
I’m not certain what I’m supposed to say to that so I hold my tongue and wait for her to continue.
“No, Miss Darby, I am not upset. I am furious!” She waves a stack of invitations around wildly. “Do you know that I have been beset with the most insipid of conversations for the last three weeks? I already had a list of prospective wives for Monty, but naturally, all of London wishes their pale, quiet, brainless daughter to marry the Beaufetheringstone heir. And if the daughters weren’t bad enough, I have to deal with their mothers, who seem to conveniently forget that in our youth I thought them just as brainless as their spawn.”
“Monty is quite a catch,” I offer tentatively.
“Yes, he is. Despite his irregular upbringing. However, I have a list and if he refuses to abide by my wishes and pursue these particular women, then I demand he at least be present during these interminable afternoon visits. He simply cannot go about London at all hour attracting the wrong sort of woman.”
Now I’m even more curious.
“Who do you think would be the right sort of woman?” I ask. I’d love a peek at her list. After all, after nearly two years at Lady B’s I’ve met half of London and certainly all manner of heroines.
“Someone intelligent. Vibrant yet restrained. Who will know how to curb his more physical tendencies. Lady Arabella Prescott comes to mind as a possibility. Her parents are both brilliant. Lord B always agrees with Lord Prescott in parliament and Lady Prescott is a fabulous wit. From the little I’ve seen of the young Prescott girl, I believe she has inherited her parents’ intelligence.”
I actually haven’t met Arabella yet, and I have a strange feeling this list might hold even more surprises. What about all of you? What qualities do you think Monty needs in his future wife? And do you think he’ll bend to Lady B’s will?
At Lady B’s voice I look up, and accidentally drop the sheaf of papers in my hands. They drop to the floor, joining the other thousands of pages that are in semi-assorted piles about the floor of my writing room at Beautheringstone House.
“Yesterday was the Equinox and the first day of spring. So I’m doing Spring Cleaning.” I feel quite proud of this because when not at Lady B’s, my tendency towards cleaning of any sort is very latent.
“It looks to me as if you are creating spring chaos.”
“Oh no!” As I am ensconced on the floor, I invite Lady B to sit down in my favorite writing chair, the one that is quite plush and velvety and allows one to daydream comfortably for hours. She picks her way across the cluttered floor. “Each of these piles represents an unfinished manuscript. And the only way I can consider them “cleaned” this year is if I finish them. So… one by one I shall make my way through these piles.”
“Are you saying that you will leave these piles on the floor until you finish the story within?” She’s looking around and I follow her gaze. There are probably two-dozen piles of varying heights. Oh…and then the assortment of unorganized papers I accidentally pushed under the bed. Hmm… what is that?
“Stand and deliver!” The carriage jolted to a stop and Livia winced as her head slammed against the padded wall of the carriage and her legs collided with Elizabeth’s.
“Will the maids be able to clean this room or not in the next five years?”
Five years? I think she’s underestimating me. But at the same time, everyday a new pile of ideas does seem to appear in the room…
“And I thought today was the day you would bring your newest hero to visit. A Daniel something or other?”
Oops. That’s right. I was supposed to bring by Daniel Hartmann of Entry-Level Mistress. But I became so engrossed in the idea of “cleaning” that I completely forgot to summon—er—invite him.
Lady B is giving me an extremely disapproving stare. But as all of us authors have learned in the last nearly two years, one way to distract her is to provide her with new reading material full of yummy heroes and heroines.
I pick up a story at random and hand it her. She arches an eyebrow but begins to peruse the pages. Then she makes a small noise that sounds suspiciously like a snort. She puts the manuscript to the side and suddenly Lady B is down on her knees on the carpet beside me, nosing through all my piles.
“Well, I certainly think as your benefactress, I have the right to choose which one you work on next. And to do that, I need to look at ALL of them.”
I glance once more at all the piles around me, wondering what will excite her. A valet hero? A duke in disguise story? A heroine who has been rejecting all her suitors only to discover the perfect man is the one she can’t stand? What do you think Lady B will choose? And what type of Regency do you want to read next?
I crack one of my eyes open. Apparently I fell asleep on the sofa in Lady B’s library. I go to check the time and then remember that I’m back in the Regency and my cell phone has no power here. That’s the problem with spending a little too much time in 2013; one tends to forget some important details.
“Sit up, Miss Darby!” Lady B folds her arms over her chest and taps her toe. Loudly. And then I feel a pecking at my hair. Albert!
Naturally her minion would be close at hand. I sit up begrudgingly. As uncomfortable as these Regency sofas are, I was rather enjoying my rest.
“What rumor, Lady B?” I ask and seeing that she now has my attention, she finally sits down in the big brown leather chair across from me.
“A rumor that you have released a new book.”
“I assured Albert that it could not possibly be true as I have not yet received a copy and all of your fellow authoresses have always been intelligent enough to send me a copy in advance of the public. However, Miss MacLean (who did present me with a copy of the fabulous One Good Earl Deserves a Lover) mentioned that you wrote yet again about mistresses. So what do you have to say for yourself?”
She is definitely in a huff.
“With apologies, Lady B, I confess the rumor is true.”
<< Squawk! >> Now you did it! << Squawk! >>
“But,” I continue quickly, “it is so different from my usual fare, and I’ve been a bit preoccupied this last week that—”
“Enough with the excuses, Miss Darby.”
“I am sorry, Lady B. Completely remiss of me. May I present you with a very special copy entirely for you? And one for Albert as well?”
Daniel Hartmann and Emily Anderson have every reason to hate each other. Her father destroyed the lives of his parents and he in turn sent her father to jail. Now Daniel’s a successful billionaire and artsy Emily is his newest employee. Both of them intend to make the other pay for the sins of the past, but revenge has never been so sweet.
Lady B nods with a sniff. And then opens the book.
And then starts to read. Aloud.
“Emily Anderson, right?”
So he knew my name. Despite the relative ubiquity of Anderson as a last name, surely then, he knew that I was the daughter of his father’s old partner.
I straightened. Turned. Sent him that slanted smile. Up close he was nearly devastating. But he wasn’t smiling back. Maybe that intense expression meant something other than the desire I had read. Maybe I only knew how to read college boys, not mega-wealthy businessmen.
“That’s right,” I said lightly. Took a sip of water while
watching him. “Newest employee at Hartmann Enterprises . . . Mr. Hartmann.”
His lips quirked. I almost held my breath, expecting that brief movement to stretch into his patented smirk, the one that had stared out at me from GQ. For goodness’ sake, he was a celebrity, or at least dated celebrities. And I was talking to him.
“Well, newest employee. I’m on my way out to lunch. Join me.”
He shifted. I could see the outline of muscles under the smooth lines of his pants. I had the brief, clear idea that his body would be long and lean, the sort of body that belonged to a man who was active and athletic but had never tried to bulk up. He was about a decade older than me and yet he was without doubt the most attractive man I’d ever been within five feet of.
He knew my name and he was asking me to lunch. If that didn’t add up to having been made, I didn’t know what did. I wanted to run but I had to brazen this out.
I crossed my arms, affected an air of nonchalance that I didn’t feel at all.
“Do you invite all your newest employees out to lunch?”
“Do you look at all your bosses that way?”
The way I had looked at him? What about the way he had looked at me?
“You’re my first boss,” I bit back quickly, hoping the heat I felt didn’t show in my cheeks. How exactly had I looked at him?
“We hired you without a track record?”
I wanted to stamp my feet at how easily he caught me off guard, twisted my words to serve him. Instead, I arched an eyebrow. Tilted my head. “Should I be worried for my job?”
He smirked. I sucked in a breath. The man was wickedly handsome. It wasn’t fair. Especially since I resented him. Hated him. He’d sent my father to jail.
There . . . attraction almost all gone.
“No. I don’t invite all my employees to lunch. But I’m inviting you.”
Lady B looks up. “While I am not entirely certain about the language in this novel, I do hope you intend to bring this Daniel Hartmann to visit. You know how I always enjoy when these rogues attend one of my balls.”
“I will definitely see what I can do.”
However, in the meantime, I’m giving away a digital copy of Entry-Level Mistress to one of our commentors. I know we all adore Regency rakes, but what about contemporary heroes? Who are your favorites of years past?
There are very few perfect books I’ve ever read and perfect movies I’ve ever watched. I spent much of my college years wandering bookstores (back when there were more of them to wander) looking for the story that would perfectly capture everything I was feeling. The closest to that that I found was in Ani DiFranco’s music and in Carole Maso’s prose.
However, as a voracious reader, as it seems most of our Ballroom denizens are, there were a myriad stories that were almost perfect. And then there were hundreds more that were flawed but had moments that spoke to me deeply. Some of that last category are what have influenced me most as a writer.
For example, this exchange from The Interpreter. Warning: this following excerpt and the clip come from the end of the film so if you don’t want anything spoiled, don’t read below!
In any event, there is something about Penn’s last line in this section that just gets me every time.
Kidman: You have to get out of here.
Penn: l can’t do that. So put the gun down.
Kidman: l can’t.
Penn: – Yes, you can. Put it down.
Kidman: l can’t! l can’t… l can’t. Just go.
Penn: This is how it’s done. This is how you put a gun down.
Another example is from the PBS television show Sherlock. It took me a while to get into this show and if I hadn’t already run through all the episodes of Flashpoint and Bones available on Netflix, I probably would not have watched it. If you haven’t planned to watch this show, but do intend to, there is a spoiler ahead.
So while I didn’t love this show, I did get into it and it did have some good writing and a few very funny lines. However, there was one section that actually brought me to tears and if you are a fan of the show, you likely already know which!
When John says, “One more thing. One more miracle, Sherlock, for me. Don’t be dead,” he’s getting at that universal feeling of raging against fate, at wanting to turn back time and change the present. As a writer, that angst is one of the emotions that is often important evoke at some point in a story so that the resolution can be that much more powerful.
And one last influence is Gossip Girl. In this case, the “line” I love is all of season 1 and 2. The part that I recommend ignoring is everything after!
What about everyone else? Do you have a favorite scene from a book or movie that is otherwise forgettable or deeply flawed?
After today, there are only two more Ballroom Blog posts before Christmas, and I must say, I am fully in the holiday spirit. And from the sound of it, Lady B is too.
“Good King Wenceslas…”
I can hear her singing as she overseas the servants as they continue last minute decorations in preparation for all of the family arriving for the holidays. From what I hear, she’s been singing ever since Kate’s post.
Part of my good cheer and holiday spirit stems from the recent trip I took to Prague.
I had not seen snow in seven years. All right, technically this isn’t strictly true, as there was that freak snow storm that we drove through on our way to Yosemite, but all of the snow was gone by morning and we never had a chance to walk out in it.
Prague, however, was a magical winter wonderland.
And when I say magical, I mean, it felt more Hogwartsy than Hogwarts. I mean, in a city with a history steeped in alchemy and mysticism, you’re bound to round some corner and step into a special room that only infrequently makes an appearance, or perhaps stumble into an unusual alleyway. And Prague is the location of one of the most famous Golem stories.
This is not the golem beside me, but this is one of the few photographs of me in which I am not completely covered by the scarf I was wearing.
Lady B: That’s a very strange painting. I cannot make out the brushstrokes.
Sabrina: That’s because it’s a photograph, Lady B. I’m certain we’ve discussed photographs before… no? Have we at least discussed lithographs, because I brought you back this wonderful print by the famous Moravian Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha.
Alphonse Mucha’s poster for Joan of Arc (1909)
And I brought a little something for Albert. Not lobster patties, but since sausage is ubiquitous over in the Czech Republic, I figured…
<< Squawk! >>
Albert swoops down and snatches the food from my hands.
Well, that’s one way to show that he likes it.
I liked it too. In fact, I liked quite a bit of food I normally don’t eat. As we strolled through the Christmas markets, I sampled hot wine and mead (just to keep warm, of course!) and roasted chestnuts. I’ve always loved roasted chestnuts and when I could no longer buy them on the streets of Manhattan, I was quite sad. However, I was very satisfied in Prague!
The Christmas Market in Staroměstské náměstí
And with all that talk of Christmas Carols and Good King Wenceslas, it turns out no one calls Wenceslas by that name in Prague. I think that must be his Latinized name, as there he is known as Vaclav, and Wenceslas square is actually Václavské náměstí (not pronounced the same as the term “namaste” that I know from Yoga class)
Lady B: Yoga?
Sabrina: I know the word is strange, but I am completely certain, Lady B, that you remember this day.
I tried to take as many photographs of Christmas trees as I could, unfortunately, all the pictures of me look a bit ridiculous because I was so cold I tried to hide as much of my bare surface area as possible.
With a Christmas Tree at Prague Castle
In Václavské náměstí
So even though it was the second week of December that I visited Prague, I feel as if I’ve had my “White Christmas.”
Lady B: I do love fresh snow. I wonder if it will snow here in time for Christmas…
Alas, unless I drive into the mountains, there is very little chance of that here in Southern California. How about you? Is anyone going to have snow for Christmas this year?
Lady B and I sit in the Ballroom, anticipating our latest guests. It took not a little convincing for Lady B to allow the rather notorious Zoë Archer into the ballroom. After all, the last time Zoë encountered Lady B, we all gathered in a rather disreputable part of town, to meet the highly scandalous Leo Bailey (from Zoë’s Demon’s Bride). Though Mr. Bailey had a magnetic presence and a fine pair of muscular thighs, after that day, Lady B would often refer to Zoë as “that improper Archer woman.”
But when I informed Lady B that Zoë was bringing a genuine American cowboy with her to the Ballroom, well, Lady B did make a few noises of doubt, but she was certainly intrigued.
Lady B: Are those boots I hear stomping down my fine parquet floor? They certainly don’t sound like a pair of Hessians!
I believe those are a working man’s boots, Lady B. Cowboy boots.
Lady B: Good heavens! I pray the wearer of those boots isn’t also sporting a pair of spurs. My Aubusson carpets will be shredded.
Fortunately, when Zoë and her guest appear in the doorway, the man isn’t wearing spurs. He is, however, clothed in the unique style of the wild American West: a long duster coat, and the aforementioned boots. In his weathered hand, he carries a Stetson hat. I was rather disappointed to see that he didn’t have a six-shooter strapped to his thigh, but I suppose our English constables wouldn’t look kindly on a man strolling down Bond Street carrying a revolver.
Is this him? The hero of Lady X’s Cowboy? (I’ve heard of this man–Zoë’s first hero now reprinted in all his digital glory–and I’ve been dying to meet him!)
Lady B’s eyesbrows arch.
Zoë: Lady B, may I present Will Coffin. Will, this is the esteemed—and feared—Lady B.
Will: An honor, ma’am. You don’t look like, what was it you said, Zoë? “a dragon in pearls.”
Lady B gasps in indignation, her fan waving furiously, as Zoë makes a choking sound. But then Mr. Coffin winks, and the seas calm. Indeed, it seems a Herculean effort to remain out of temper with Mr. Coffin present. For all the tales of hardened gunfighters, there’s a distinct ease and sense of equanimity about this cowboy, with humor glinting in his bright blue eyes. Further, he’s exceptionally handsome, and his muscular, rangy physique bespeaks a life of demanding labor.
I see Lady B trying in vain to glimpse Mr. Coffin’s calves, but, alas, he’s wearing long trousers. But whatever she does manage to discern about our cowboy’s legs, they seem to suit Lady B, and she settles back in her chair imperiously.
Lady B: You are a long way from home, Mr. Coffin.
Will: Call me Will, ma’am.
Lady B: Very well, William—
Zoë: It’s just “Will,” Lady B. The man who named him never got around to the “iam.”
You said “the man who named him.” Does Mr. Coffin, I mean, Will, not have any parents?
Will: No, ma’am. I was orphaned when I was just a little tyke.
Lady B and I express our condolences, but Will seems unperturbed by his lack of parents.
Lady B: What brings you to London from Texas?
Will: Oh, I ain’t from Texas. I’m from Colorado.
Lady B: Don’t be ridiculous! All cowboys are from Texas! I read it in a periodical somewhere.
Zoë: I’m sorry, Lady B, but America is a big place—
Lady B seems highly vexed that the notorious Zoë is contradicting her, so I immediately step in and ask Will why he’d travel all the way from Colorado to London.
Will: It’s on account of me bein’ an orphan, ma’am. See, my folks came from England and settled in the Rockies, but they were killed in an accident, leavin’ me on my own. A miner found me and raised me like his own, until I decided I wanted to light out and start cowboyin’. Been livin’ most of my life on the trail. Well, old Jake—he was the miner who raised me—he went on to his reward not too long ago, and left me with a little bit of money. He was a good feller, Jake, and before he died, he said I should try to find my family. He was worried that, with him gone, I’d have nobody.
Lady B: That’s quite sad, Will, but haven’t you some farmwife back in Texas.
The normally good-humored cowboy’s face darkens.
Will: No, ma’am. I’m what you might call a restless spirit. Can’t seem to settle anyplace long enough to find a girl, and the ones that I’ve met, they’re awright, but none of ’em have any real spark, if you get my meaning.
Lady B: I’m not sure that I do. You Americans talk very strangely.
I ring for tea, and Lady B, myself, Zoë and Will refresh ourselves. The china cups and plates look miniscule and liable to break in Will’s large, callused hands. I cannot help but notice that beneath Will’s ebullience is a kind of melancholy, as if he wasn’t entirely certain of his place in his world.
Please forgive my impertinence, Will, I say, but I was wondering if perhaps Lady B and I might be able to use some of our connections in Society to help you locate your remaining family.
Lady B: That’s a splendid idea. I’m glad I thought of it.
The cowboy brightens, but he looks slightly reluctant to take up my offer.
Zoë: I was hoping you might make that suggestion. That’s why I brought Will here today. I knew you couldn’t resist an opportunity to show everyone how well-connected you are.
Lady B: Miss Archer, you are, without a doubt, the most audacious creature I’ve yet encountered!
Zoë: Thank you, Lady B. I do try.
Will: If you’d do that for me, ma’am, you’d make me as happy as a fox in the henhouse after the dog died.
Both Lady B and I are stunned into silence by this American’s colorful way of speaking. We resume our tea, and, in due time, everything has been consumed.
Will: I appreciate you ladies lookin’ into my family. If y’all don’t mind, my legs are getting twitchy, especially on account of me not bein’ on horseback for weeks. I’d better light out of here before I start kickin’ like a mule.
Zoë: Will, you don’t know London very well. I’ll come with you.
Will: That’s awright, Miss Zoë. I don’t mind a bit of new territory. Who knows? Maybe I’ll find myself a little adventure.
I wonder where he’s off to. In fact, where would you take an American cowboy in London? We’ll be giving away an e-copy of Lady X’s Cowboy to one commenter!
Dear Ballroomies, All September long, you have come along with us on a whirlwind tour of Choose Your Own Adventure month at the Ballroom. But today, I have designed a special tour for YOU. How well do you know your Ballroom authors? Carissa Portland, the “snoop” heroine of My Scandalous Viscount, is here to make some revelations about each of us. Wherever you see a Link below, it’ll take you to the Bio or revelant page of one of the Ballroom authors. You may get more than you bargained for! Enjoy!
* * * * *
Lady B: Miss Portland! We meet at last. I was so pleased when Gaelen sought an invitation for you to my Ballroom.
Carissa Portland, heroine of My Scandalous Viscount: My lady, it’s truly an honor.
Lady B: Well, as a niece of the Earl of Denbury, I knew you’d be most suitable for our gatherings. But I must confess, the real reason I was excited you were coming is because I hear you have a penchant for gossip to match my own.
Carissa: Gossip, my lady? Me? Never! On the contrary, I am a lady of information.
Lady B: Isn’t that the same thing?
Carissa: Not at all, ma’am. It’s all a matter of intent—what one means to do with the information one learns about others. ‘Gossip’ suggests an undertone of malice, don’t you think? Whereas ‘information’ is simply… well, knowing useful things about others.
Lady B (leaning nearer): Do you know anything useful about anyone here?
Carissa(with a slight gleam in her green eyes): Maybe.
Lady B: Oh, do tell!
Carissa: Well… since you are one of the most esteemed hostesses inLondon, I suppose you have a right to know more about your regular guests.
Lady B: You know something about my authoresses?
Carissa: A bit.
Lady B: Well?? Out with it, you marvelous sly thing!
Carissa: As you wish. (She scans the Ballroom, her painted fan half covering her face. Her gaze lingers on the cluster of authoresses hanging around the ratafia.)
Carissa: I happen to know that Katharine Ashe—
Lord Beauchamp: Hullo, ladies.
Carissa(nearly jumping out of her slippers, for unbeknownst to Lady B, he has discreetly pinched her arse when he sauntered up behind them): Don’t do that!
Lady B(looking like she might swoon): Lord Beauchamp!
Beau, with a bow: So nice to see you again, Heliotrope. You are radiant tonight.
Lady B: So charming!
Carissa:Don’t believe a word he says.
Beau: So what’s going on, then?
Lady B: Miss Portland was just about to share a few on-dits about my authoresses.
Beau: Really? (With a mocking twinkle in his sky-blue eyes.) Do tell.
Lady B: You were about to say something about Katharine Ashe? She’s right over there, my lord. (She nods toward Miss Ashe, who is beaming as certain readers say how much they enjoyed the book party for her new release.)
Beau: Ah, yes, isn’t she the lady with the smart crimson spectacles? Fetching creature…
Carissa smacks him. Must you ogle every female you see?
Beau, innocently: Who, me?
Carissa (slightly jealous): As I was saying, it might interest you to know that a major revelation has been made about Miss Ashe. It was even in the papers!
Lady B: Really? Nothing too scandalous, I hope!
Carissa (whispering): She leads a double life. It’s true.
Beau: Well, well, double life… a lady after my own heart.
Carissa: If you think that’s big, you should hear what I found out about Sarah MacLean.
Lady B’s eyes grow round. Don’t torment me!
Beau: You mean the fact that her mother was a spy for MI6?
Carissa gasps and turns to him. You know?
Beau: Of course. I read her dossier. We always know our own.
Lady B: What are you talking about?
Beau: She was stationed inParis for MI6 during the 60’s. I always knew that Sarah MacLean was good people… and must admit I’ve always had a weakness for redheads.
Red-haired Carissa gives him a reluctant smile at his pointed compliment, but at the same time, is beginning to see the difficulty in being courted by a spy.
While wondering how poor Lady Sarah ever got away with anything as a youngster, having a mother for a spy, she is unsure if she, in turn, will still be able to follow her various whims and impulses if her ongoing love/hate flirtation with Viscount Beauchamp becomes more serious.
And I’m rather sure it will. (You can read Chapter One of their story at www.gaelenfoley.com if you like!)
Lady B: It’s all too delicious! Come, what else do you know about our friends?
Carissa looks around discreetly: Well, Sabrina Darby started writing her first romance novel the day after her wedding.
Beau: Blazes! Really? Why, I don’t think even I ever inspired a women to write a whole novel after a night together, maybe a sonnet…
Lady B: Perhaps, knowledgeable as you are, Miss Portland, you could explain to me what the Californian contingent of authoresses (Sabrina, Tessa, and Kate N.) mean by a particular word they often utter. I believe it’s pronounced, “Dude.”
Lady B: More like, “duuuuude.” Is it French?
Beau: I hardly think so. And, er, pardon, but what is this California of which you speak?
Lady B: I’m not entirely sure. Some region of the American wilderness, I daresay. A strange, dry country where the earth quakes, but somehow our brave Sabrina Darby, Kate Noble and Tessa Dare have all managed to settle there.
Carissa: I hear it’s also the place where they make “movies,” which explains why Tessa Dare is not only a writer, but an up-and-coming “movie director.” Her films are not to be missed. (Click here to watch one of Tessa’s blockbusters. Seriously.) For what it’s worth, I also have reason to believe that Kate Noble’s favorite movie is a famous story of a horrible marauding shark called Jaws.
Lady B: That’s it! Just like that. Miss Portland, do you have any more tidbits on our friends?
Beau: Don’t encourage her, my lady. Carissa, why are you gossiping again?
Carissa: It’s not gossip! It’s just information.
Beau arches a brow, and once more, considers training her for a spy. Very well, my dear, what else have you got, then?
Carissa: Don’t look now, but that lady over there, in the fascinator?
Beau: Yes, nice hat. I love a lady who knows how to wear a hat.
Lady B: What? A lady at Oxford? I never heard of such a thing!
Carissa: I know, it’s very shocking. And by the way, she always gets lost because she spent every Geography class secretly reading romance novels instead of paying attention to her teacher. But if you think that’s surprising, consider this. That mild-mannered gentlewoman standing next to her—
Beau (giving our friend a smoldering once-over): Lauren Willig? Lovely…
Lady B smacks him with her fan. You’re as bad as Monty! Hush, now, you rake! Let her talk!
Beau: I can’t help it. I love women. All these blondes…
And we love our blond boys, too. Here’s a couple of possible Beau’s for your consideration and viewing pleasure…
Carissa: Perhaps it’s better if I don’t go into it—
Carissa: I see, so that’s the game you’re playing? (turning to me.) You go telling our private story about Beau and me to the whole world, and we’re not supposed to say a peep about you? That is hardly fair!
Lady B (perking up): What’s this?
Carissa: Well, one time, while she was writing our book, she came to a part where she sat in front of her computer crying like a baby—
Gaelen: That will do! Carissa, you are one of my favorite heroines, but you’d better watch your step. Don’t forget, I still control the Delete key.
Carissa: You wouldn’t!
Gaelen: Try me.
Beau: I see where I get my ruthlessness from. Delete key, indeed. Come along, darling. (Taking Carissa’s hand and tucking it through the crook of his elbow) You have worked your mischief quite enough for now. Besides, I have something better for your lips to do other than repeating gossip.
Carissa: It’s not gossip. How many times do I have to explain that?!
* * * * *
Well, Ballroom friends, I hope you’ve learned something you didn’t know before about your humble authoresses. It’s all true!
And to celebrate the release of Beau and Carissa’s story, MY SCANDALOUS VISCOUNT (on sale this week!) I’m giving away a signed (but not tearstained) copy of the book by random drawing to anyone who can tell us a good piece of funny/interesting/little known gossip—I mean “Information”—that we ought to know about YOU. *g* Don’t worry, nothing too incriminating. We just want to get to know everyone better! Thanks for being with us today. xo, Gaelen
I have been charged with a very important task, and that is to ensure that we arrive in London TODAY. No water crossings, no freak snowstorms, no pirates, no moors and highwaymen. After all, there is a certain ball to plan and I am certain Katharine and Lady B will need every day between now and Monday to do so.
Lady B: I assure you, Miss Darby, that I could plan this ball in my sleep.
I eye Lady B from my position in the corner of the coach, facing forward and near the window. (I’m not a good traveler and, although it took them nearly three weeks to realize this, the rest of my travelling companions have decided its best to let me pick my seat.)
Lady B: You doubt me?
And I don’t. However, considering the amount of days we’ve spent on the road, and the number of hours per day we’ve all spent napping the interminable hours away, it did look for a while that Lady B might have to plan in her sleep.
Of course, it’s my job today to ensure that will not be the case. And I am indeed the right person for the task. After all, I’ve never seen Magic Mike and I’m not easily impressed by a famous male face.
Doesn’t affect me at all.
Katharine: It will be fine.
She’s sitting opposite me, and I can see that she’s speaking out of a desire to convince herself it will be so.
Lauren: I’m famished.
We can’t stop. We’re so close (The landscape blurring past, etc…)
It’s Lady B making the demand, so of course, we stop. However, I don’t see any convenient copse of trees around. The edge of the nearest forest is visible a mile away.
My goodness, Look!
I look. It’s a lovely September day. I always love the English countryside. I wish I could spend as much time here in the 21st century as I do virtually in the 19th.
I hear Sarah say rather incredulously: So unicorns are real.
Which means I am clearly looking in the wrong direction.
Kate: Aside from narwhals, of course.
I’m picturing a whale with a horn when suddenly a flash of white crosses my vision. OMG. It’s actually a unicorn. As in white coat. A single horn. And absolutely stunning.
Lady B: I want to see it. Miss Dare, you have a way with animals, fetch it for me, will you?
Gaelen interrupts. “Actually, a unicorn can only be captured by a virgin. At least, according to mythology.”
We all look at each other. Eight married women and we are quite certain that despite her husband haring off with Lord B, Kate has consummated her union. If only this journey had happened at the beginning of the summer, when neither Lauren nor Kate were married.
“This is the 21st century, Sabrina.”
“Nonono! It is the 19th, I assure you.”
“Right, I heard that the horn is a symbol of virility.”
“Well we need a virgin. Albert?”
Lady B coughs.
Monty stirs from his careful ignoring of us, which he’d been doing for the better part of the last two days. He stares at us between swollen eyes, then those eyes grow wider, even as he winces in pain.
Ladies, I assure you, there is no reason to be looking at me.
I look at him doubtfully. Or hopefully? Because it really would make it so much easier if he were…
Lady B: Follow that Unicorn!
I look out the window to see that the white horned animal is speeding away from us and suddenly we are speeding after it, as if the forces of darkness will overtake the world and keep it in winter forever if we don’t find the unicorn. At a pace not at all copacetic with my stomach.
I have no idea where we are anymore. Last I knew, we were a mere 20 miles from London. Now, with my internal compass all turned around, I have no idea.
We’re in the middle of the forest thicket, and the path before us is lit with tiny candles in decorative lanterns.
We’re never going to get to London.
Except, there’s a familiar odor in the air. Like stagnant water and coal…
“London!” Miranda cries, like someone starved for sustenance and I do believe she’s right. Furthermore, somewhere in this fair city is a unicorn, sniffing after virgins like a Regency rake. The only question is, where is the unicorn? And where exactly in London are we?