Improper Relations

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My story begins with a wedding.

Not, I hasten to add, mine. I have been assured from allegedly reliable sources that certain farmyard creatures would sprout wings and fly were I to receive a proposal. My brother George, a year older than me, has declared me a filly no one wishes to mount, and although he was in his cups at the time, and I deplore his vulgarity, it is true I look to gallop in last to the finishing line of matrimony. Or, as my father thunderously pronounced, while I braced myself for the rigors of polite society, “If you can’t catch one this time, Charlotte, it’s off to the country and good works for you.”

I felt rather as an elderly horse must when the glue factory is pointed out.

Besides, the family needs a social triumph following the recent unpleasantness (or as my mama phrases it, the Recent Unpleasantness—you can hear the italics when she utters the phrase, usually with a flutter of handkerchief, a sigh, and the consumption of another glass of cordial) regarding my eldest brother Henry. Shortly before Ann came to live with us, Henry was hastily fitted out for a commission in a regiment, his debts paid off, and several parents of naïve heiresses (who anticipated marriage whereas Henry clearly did not) placated. Henry barely had time to shake his golden frogging at a few more fresh victims and run up a few hundred guineas more in gaming debts before the regiment left for Liverpool.
I was relieved. Mama was Prostrated with Grief, the Likes of Which One Who is Not a Mother Cannot Conceive.

But the wedding. Yes, Ann’s wedding. My best friend Ann, from whom I have been inseparable ever since she came to our family a few months ago. I had not seen her for years, she was someone who visited occasionally when we were both little girls, and with whom we both swore vows of eternal friendship before she went home and we forgot about each other until the next visit. She was a vicar’s daughter in a family infinitely more shabby and far less money-grubbing than mine, who had spent the last three years as housekeeper to some obscure, dreadful old cousin, so as not to be a burden to her parents. And then suddenly Ann, dear Ann, orphaned and with all that money inherited from her cousin and employer, and with no one to look after her… of course she should live with us, for was not my papa her godfather and now her guardian? So it was off to London and high society as Papa managed Ann’s inheritance.

Fortunately she inherited so much money that Papa’s expenditures—or, giving the dear girl what she needs to triumph in society and Charlotte with her, as he puts it—have barely made a dent.

She is a beauty, the gentle and sweet-natured one who always knows the right thing to say, whereas I am the clever one, or so they say. I’m not too sure of this, for it sounds remarkably like a sop of kindness tossed in my direction. That’s not to say that I break mirrors—certainly by knocking one from the wall, but not merely with the impact of my reflection. I am moderately pretty. But compared to Ann—well, there is no comparison.

You can read some more excerpts at Risky Regencies:

…there is someone sprawled on a chair. He wears plain black—very fashionable for a gentleman, of course—but on this man it looks as though he intends to fight a duel and possibly conduct the funeral service over his unlucky opponent all in the same day. Read more.

Lady Renbourn’s drawing room is infested with cats and a handful of decorative young men, all dewy eyes and careful curls. She is apparently fashionable in a strange sort of way—the young men hang upon her every word and seem grateful when picked out for any particular insult. Read more.

Much to my relief, I am not to be the principal in a family drama. My brother George has appropriated that role, stretched upon the couch (his muddy boots still on his feet, something only he and Henry would be allowed to do), while my mama laments and groans, a basin in her hand. Read more.

Improper Relations

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