I’ve been enjoying the continued sales and glowing reviews for book one of my What Happens in the Ballroom series, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR BARON, while completing edits on book two and writing book three.
I hope you enjoy this little taste of my stories until all three books are out in the world.
“With pleasure drugged, he almost longed for woe,
And e’en for change of scene would seek the shades below.”
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Lord Byron
She’d only ever seen a pen and ink likeness of the man, but there was no mistaking him. The wild hair, the blithe smirk, the awed parting of the crowd as he passed through the ballroom, leaving his name whispered in his wake. Byron. Lady Elsinore Cosgrove stood on tiptoe to get a better look as he finished his single circuit of the room and turned down the grand house’s main hallway. Most likely making his way to the card room…or else to an assignation. How very romantic.
In a maneuver she’d reserved for the direst of situations, Elsinore grasped two of the pearl buttons on her satin evening gloves and wrenched them free. “Oh, dear,” she exclaimed, attempting to sound devastated. “Look, Mama.” She held the buttons for her mother and older sisters to see. “My gloves are falling apart.”
“Good gracious.” Her mother frowned at the offending pearls. “I see I’ll have to have a word with the glover for passing off shabby goods. Take yourself to the ladies’ retiring room and find a seamstress with a needle to let. Quickly now,” she ordered. “You’re to dance the next set with the marquess.”
Elsinore looked over to spy her mother eyeing an ancient marquess. The man was as old as her father and twice as round. One by one, her sisters all nodded their silent approval and Elsinore cringed inwardly. She’d known when the season started that her days as an unmarried woman were numbered. Tonight’s taste of liberty might be her last. She had better make it count.
As they married, Elsinore witnessed her older sisters change from semi-intelligent, articulate human beings into demure and proper matrons. Each had squandered the paltry freedoms marriage offered in exchange for domestication. They now reminded her of the automatons she’d seen at an exhibition in Spring Gardens a few years ago. Mechanical beings endlessly repeating lifelike tasks with great precision, yet without a glimmer of emotion. She would not let it happen to her.
“I’ll hurry.” Elsinore turned and ducked behind a potted palm to make her escape before one of her sisters thought to accompany her. Weaving her way across the room, dodging dancers and ignoring a summoning wave from the hosts’ daughter and her dearest friend, Libby, Elsinore plowed forward. She would make amends for the social cut and the grief her mother would heap upon the poor glover tomorrow. Elsinore could let nothing stop her from completing tonight’s mission.
Folded small within her reticule, the frontispiece of Byron’s newest work, “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” lay as a secret treasure. Her plans for it made it more than a mere token sheet of paper. She was going to meet the “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” genius poet. Not officially, of course. Her mother would never allow such an introduction. The man was terrifically disreputable.
Still, she would walk up to the man with confident steps and introduce herself as an admirer. Should he favor her with conversation, she would tell him that she likened Harold’s journey to her own. She, too, found herself weary of a life filled with naught but society and pleasure-seeking. Then, she would present him with the page and request he sign it.
That he may refuse her was worth the risk. For, if she succeeded, no marriage-minded lord would fail to take her boldness into account. With this one daring act, she would weed out the most stuffy and hard-nosed of this year’s pack of eligibles. She had but this one season to narrow the field down to those men looking not for a meek, obedient wife but a woman who considered herself more than just the ornament upon a man’s arm to be trotted out on formal occasions and then left to languish alone with naught but her needlework for company.
By the time she cleared the ballroom and made the hallway, Byron was nowhere to be seen. Still, she reasoned, with all the rooms opening off a long corridor, all she had to do was get a peek into every room. How difficult could it be for one as determined as her?
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Here’s a sneak peek at Book Two:
April 19, 1775
I beg you heed this missive, good sir.
Meet me in the garden by the fountain of the goddess Themis.
Your future is in grave peril. JL
Julianna Latham’s hand trembled as she scribbled her initials underneath the desperate plea and folded the strip of foolscap in half. She folded it again, worrying her fingers along the seam as the waiting footman’s hand extended eagerly so that he might be on his way. Hesitating to draw a single nervous breath, Julianna surrendered the note along with a coin she’d borrowed from her cousin, Edwina.
“This must be delivered to the Earl of Winchcombe in all haste.”
“Winchcombe?” A rare expression of confusion clouded the footman’s face. “The Earl of Winchcombe?”
“He’s a guest at this evening’s ball,” Julianna replied. “As a favor to me, John.” She pressed another coin, her last, into the footman’s hand. “Tell no one who sent it.”
“Thank you.” She lifted her hand away, releasing the note to begin its perilous journey. The footman turned and hurried off, his purposeful footsteps clicking across the polished marble floor. As he turned down the hallway and out of sight, fear that she just made the second biggest mistake of her life prickled the back of her neck. Scrunching her toes within the too big dancing slippers to keep them on her feet, she made her way out into the garden to await fate.
The fountain of the goddess Themis seemed a fitting place to exact a measure of justice. Blindfolded, with her balancing scale held aloft, perhaps the Greek goddess would silently bless Julianna’s betrayal of her cousin Udele’s mad plan to trap the earl into a compromising situation. With a lace domino masking her face and the sound of the fountain obscuring their conversation, it was unlikely anyone would take notice of Julianna’s warning to the earl. All he had to do was show up.
Forcing someone to offer for you was just as bad as, well, as bad as making certain promises to a girl and then abandoning her. After all these weeks, Eldridge’s cruel words still brought tears to Julianna’s eyes. After years of pretty talk and a dozen stolen kisses, Eldridge was betrothed to another. How calm and cold he was when informing her of his sudden “cessation of affection” for her. She would not have her justice, but she could use tonight to spare someone else misery.
“Well, your majesty…” How did one properly address a goddess? Looking back up at Themis Julianna smiled sheepishly. “I hope you and those of your ilk are looking down upon me kindly this eve.”
CHECK BACK SOON
for Book Two Release Date!
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