Leaving behind the rural charms of Finnshire, Miss Penelope Fairweather arrives in London with hope in her heart and a dream in her eye. The dowager, no less, has invited her for a season in London, where she will attempt to catch a husband.
Thus begins our heroine's tale as she attempts to tackle the London season with all her rustic finesse. Unfortunately, her rustic finesse turns out to be as delicate as a fat bear trying to rip apart a honeycomb infested with buzzing bees.
What follows is a series of misadventures, love affairs, moonlit balls, fancy clothes, fake moustaches, highwaymen, sneering beauties, pickpockets, and the wrath of a devilishly handsome duke.Excerpt:
The dowager cast a worried glance at the door while Lady Radclyff stared at the grandfather clock willing its giant needles to move.
“She is late, Mamma.”
“She will be here soon enough.”
“Do you think she is dead?”
“Annie, she is not that late!”
“Yes, but she is coming all the way from that … that Finny village. It has been raining all day and she refused our offer of a carriage. The post-chaise could have lodged itself in a pothole and overturned. I suppose she is lying in some gully, blood pooling underneath her awkwardly twisted body and not a soul in sight.”
“It’s Finnshire not Finny, and she has her maid with her.”
“Well, then the maid is dead too. The weight of the carriage finished her off well before her mistress. Poor Miss Fairweather twitched and trembled for eons fighting for that last breath.”
“I will seriously contemplate your very vivid scenario if Miss Fairweather does not arrive in the next five hours. Until then can we converse like gently bred women? If your brother heard you speaking like this, he would have you sent to the country for the next three seasons.”
“I am bored. I can’t go to the shops, go riding or feel excited about the season. Do you know that I attended a hundred and five balls last year alone, and that does not count the dinners and tea parties?”
“Miss Fairweather would have loved to attend a hundred and five balls last year. You have had the pleasure of three seasons, while the poor dear has never been to anything but the village dance.”
“What do you think she is like? Have you ever met her?”
“I have not met her, but her mother and I attended the same ladies academy. Her mother Grace was bright, full of life and laughter, and if her daughter is anything like her… ”
“She died giving birth to Miss Penelope Fairweather. Mr Thomas Fairweather, Penelope’s father, married the vicar’s daughter, Gertrude, within a year of Grace’s funeral. Gertrude went on to have five more children. I initiated a correspondence with Gertrude to ensure that Grace’s daughter was being well looked after—”
“You couldn’t have the stepmother drowning the child,” Lady Radclyff interrupted.
“Anne, Miss Fairweather is not an unwanted kitten. Where was I? Oh yes, Gertrude writes to me often. Her letters are full of her children’s antics. I feel as if I know them,” the dowager said dreamily. “I have imagined them growing up. They used to wail all night and then they were falling off apple trees ….”
“You are rambling again, Mamma. I don’t care about Miss Fairweather’s siblings. I want to know about her.”
“Why? You have never shown this much interest in any of my other guests before.”
Lady Radclyff sucked on a lemon drop, her mouth pursing in thought.
“The other guests were all the same. They say the same things, they are brought up the same way, and they all wear the same clothes. It is as if a single London lady and a London gentleman have been put into different moulds by God and recreated again and again. I can predict what the replies to my questions will be. No one is original. While Miss Fairweather sounds original.”
“I have never met a country bumpkin before.”
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