It is with great reluctance and heaviness of heart that I write to you today, but decency demands I must. Were that it not so! A most intriguing stranger arrived at the Pump Room not a fortnight past — you’ll note I hesitate to call him “gentleman”! The Chevalier d’Aubusson — if indeed he holds the honor — has charmed all and sundry with a practiced grace and the face of an Adonis, but I rather suspect –nay, I am certain! — he means to abscond with one of our impressionable young ladies. For their part, the young ladies are only too happy to comply!
His attention has fallen upon the rather tragic figure of Lady Emilia Lloyd-Marshal, known to some by the affectionate appellation “Lady Taffy” because of her unfortunate Welsh roots. As you well know, Lady Emilia was presented late, and is now on her sixth — sixth! — season with not a suitable swain in sight. What does she expect, carrying on the way she does? She shocked the assembly into silence with an impromptu harp recital whilst we were attempting to take the waters in peace. She discarded her gloves, then emptied her glass into a ficus — a ficus, I ask you! At the ball this Thursday last, I espied her sneaking gin from a flask concealed on her person, then she stole a dance with the chevalier from my daughter, and deported herself like a veritable harlot. If that isn’t enough to scandalize you, my dear Mr. Clemens, you may need to find your seat for what I am about to impart.
Lady Emilia Lloyd-Marshal is to appear in a play with none other than the infamous Countess of Somerton — in a theater!
Truly, some Good Samaritan ought to save that girl from her own worst impulses. I suppose it cannot be helped. Though I have not seen her parents in your scandal sheet of late, I can assure you their behaviour is as reprehensible as ever. It is an open secret Lord Brecon lives in sin with a fishwife in some Welsh backwater, while Lady Brecon frequents the bawdy houses of Soho with her retinue of misguided lords, chief among them the hapless Lord Dorchester, who seems quite devoted, poor lamb. In such a household, I daresay Lady Emilia hadn’t the slightest chance of reaching maturity unscathed. But I digress–!
Mr. Clemens, I only wish to caution the unmarried ladies of the ton against this mysterious chevalier. He must be a pretender, for what gentleman would ever seriously court Lady Taffy? Fortune cannot make up for shamelessness or ill manners, and I’m afraid Lady Emilia has an abundance of both. I shudder to think what machinations the “chevalier” has in store for her, but whatever fate awaits her, I am assured she brought it on herself.
Beauty and the Bounder by Jessica Cale
He’s a liar and a fortune-hunter . . . and exactly what she needs.
The moment Lady Emilia sets eyes on the Chevalier d’Aubusson, she knows their fates are tied together. For good or ill, she cannot say. A mysterious aristocrat with a tragic past, the chevalier makes waves with his considerable charm.
Seb Virtue is not as he seems. A once-famous actor with a limited options, his future depends on him catching a rich bride. He thought it would be easy, but he didn’t count on Emilia.
There are cracks in Seb’s story, and Emilia never could resist a mystery. Whether he’s a gentleman or a bounder, he might just be the man for her.
Seb had as much right to be here as anyone. Birth be damned, he was just as good as them if not better. Hadn’t he fought and nearly died for his country? So, he didn’t have a fortune or an ancient name that meant anything outside of Southwark, but he knew how to treat a woman. If Emilia took a chance on him, she’d find out just how good he was at that.
As the couples split into pairs, Seb took Emilia in his arms. She looked startled as his hand found its natural place at the base of her back. At a loss, her free hand skimmed his chest and settled behind his neck. Holding their joined hands tighter, he led her around the room. As he spun her in clockwise circles in an anticlockwise direction, the unavoidable dizziness gave one the sense of flying.
Emilia followed him easily, but he had the sense he’d shocked her. They were moving too quickly to properly converse, and he preferred it that way. He relaxed into the familiar steps and focused on her face. Her eyes were bright, her cheeks flushed, and her lips parted in surprise. She was a little breathless, but not nearly breathless enough. As he twirled her, a sprig of lavender fell from her hair and was crushed underfoot, adding to the perfume of beeswax and warm bodies in the air. She gasped as he caught her and held her to his chest.
Her gaze fell to his lips. “I’m quite scandalized.”
He regarded her with interest. Not yet, she wasn’t.
Jessica Cale is an
author, editor, and historian based in North Carolina. Originally from
Minnesota, she lived in Wales for several years where she earned her B.A. in
History and MFA in Creative Writing while climbing castles for history
magazines. She kidnapped (“married”) her very own British prince (close enough)
and is enjoying her happily ever after with him in a place where no one
understands his accent. She is the editor of Dirty, Sexy History, and you can
visit her at dirtysexyhistory.com.