badgering me again.’
‘Dearest, I’m only
thinking of you. The Little Season is upon us. We’ve put it off too long.’ Her
Grace, the Duchess of Taunton, stood in front of a baronial stone hearth, the
carved features of leaping gargoyles menacing in the flickering firelight.
‘There will be such splendid balls. So many suiters will attend looking for a
‘I’m happy as I
am.’ Defiantly, Rosamond crossed her arms across her chest. ‘Tis not a joking
matter Cassie,’ she muttered, seeing her sister bite back a smile.
only a few balls and soirees.’
‘But it’s all
so belittling – a sham. The truth is, we’re not going there to enjoy the
dancing, we’re parading ourselves, like stuffed dolls on a shelf.’
‘If you want to
marry, you’ll have to attend more social events.’
don’t want to wed – not yet. I’m so caught up with the horses. Really.’
running out Rose. Look, you’re now one and twenty and you haven’t attended a
season. Don’t let your chances slip away.
‘Cassie, I told
you I’m not interested. I have too much to do.’
Duchess crossed to her side, as she spoke. ‘You’re still young and beautiful –
please think about it. Surely you don’t want to live your life alone? Any
suiter would go on his knees for your hand. Just think you could meet the man
of your dreams, and be wed at Christmas. Oh yes, imagine – a Christmas wedding.
Don’t throw it away.’ She patted her sister on the arm and sitting down on the
chaise longue picked up her embroidery.’
her brows. ‘I cringe at the thought of it. Endless boring hours doing those
country dances. Don’t laugh.’ She scowled at her sister. They’re trying to ban
the waltz, honestly the only dance where you can have some fun. ‘Nay, I’m not waiting for a titled runt.’
‘I would not
describe the men as—’
‘I will know
the man for me at first glance, and it won’t be in an Assembly Room. I want a
hot-blooded gallant, not some bacon brained twit, mincing to the minuet.’
‘Come on Rose,
what novel are you reading? You have to have presence, be seen to —’
‘So you want to wait for some unknown beau who
might happen to come along?
‘Yes, if you
put it that way.’ Rose frowned, trying to look interested in the builders
working in the castle bailey.
‘I know, but it
rarely happens – ouch, darn it.’ Cassie sucked on her finger. ‘I’ve pricked my
finger on the needle.
you’ll stop needling me.’ Rose could not suppress a grin, and pulled out her
handkerchief from her pocket. ‘Here, use this.’
‘funny, you’re very quick today. But don’t change the subject Rose; you do need
to think very seriously on what you could be throwing away. Next season you
will be two and twenty and….’ she let her words trail away.
‘And I’ll be
too old; I’ll become an ape leader, cooing after my nieces and nephews.’
‘Rose it’s not
a joking matter. Even one year in your age makes all the difference. Men are
looking for a wife, the future mother of their heirs.’
‘Oh Lord, don’t
Cassie, now I’m a brood mare.’
Cassie bent her
head wrapping the handkerchief around her finger. ‘It’s life dearest, life, and
I want you to have one with the man you love. Darn it, will you tie this up for
Bending, Rose tied the handkerchief in a knot.
‘Honestly Cassie … I really hate those assembly rooms, queuing up and writing
their name on my dance card when I don’t even like them.’
‘Well … look, why don’t you just try? Attend a
couple of the dances. The Assembly Rooms at Bath are spacious, with beautiful
crystal chandeliers, a huge ballroom.
I’ve heard they have so much fun there. And there’s a scrumptious
buffet. It’s not at all like the
preening pomp and lifted noses of the Big Season.’
‘If a man twinkle toed his way across the room to me, I’d run. Honestly Cassie,
they’re all so effeminate, waving fingertips, pointing toes and—’
embroidery aside, Cassie looked earnestly at her sister. ‘The right beau may
just attend this time, you never know.’
beau?’ Rose tossed her head. ‘A man who spends his time at dances, and soirees?
I have no time for dandies.’
exaggerate. They’ll be lots of handsome men attending, It’s the only way for
them to find a wife really.’
‘Hmm like cats
feeding on mice.’
This could be
your season for love.’
‘I abhor the
Assemblies Cassie; I can’t imagine sitting on wallflower row, all fluff and
feathers twiddling a stupid fan. Many girls sit there all evening praying some
male will ask them to dance. How debasing. No, I will not attend.’
‘I shall let
the dowager loose on you.’ Cassie smiled, raising her eyebrows.
Rose lifted her
hands in defense. ‘You wouldn’t? Not the dragon; you wouldn’t?’
it’s six months since Harriett’s period of mourning ended. The dear dowager
told me, she’s now discarded her black gloves. It’s time Harriett entered the
society again. Your sister-in-law needs you. She dreads attending the
Assemblies. Truly she needs you. You know how she suffered.’
if not for her, then for your own sweet sake. At this rate, you’ll never
experience a man’s touch, his passion, his love. I don’t like to repeat this
but you may not have another chance. Most young women wed at seventeen and
mothers with two children at your age.’
‘But you were
four and twenty before you met Max, and you didn’t attend one formal ball or
assembly, yet you urge me to sell myself on the Marriage Mart?
but amused, Cassandra rose to her feet and walked over to the fire warming her
hands over the glowing embers of the logs. Today would be quite busy with
groups of tourists arriving to view the castle and the ongoing rebuild. ‘Rose,
the dowager is forcing our gentle Harriett to attend, but I will not do that to
you. I just ask that you try, if only for two weeks.’
‘Oh … alright –
but just a week.’ Rose stood up; her mouth set defiantly.
a breath of relief. Privately, she too did not agree with the Marriage Mart; of
young women literally posing to catch a future husband. However, pray God,
there would be a man to meet Rose’s expectations. She was a head turner, with
her amber eyes, an abundance of golden hair and cream complexion. However, to Cassandra’s despair, the girl
preferred mucking out the stables to tiaras and dances. It would be a lonely
life for her, a spinster doting on her siblings’ infants. In time, she would