More Caricatures from the Regency Era

In November, we looked at James Gillray and some of his more famous caricatures from the Regency Era. Today I wanted to introduce another caricaturist and illustrator, George Cruikshank. George was the son of caricaturist, Isaac Cruikshank (a contemporary of Gillray’s), and apprenticed with his father at an early age. After spending a decade or so making caricatures, George then turned his attentions to book illustrations. The most notable of his illustrations are those he did in the 1830s for his friend, Charles Dickens.

Cruikshank British_valour
From 1813, this mocks American boasting in the face of the British Navy.

This mocks some of the rather impractical fashions of 1818
This mocks some of the rather impractical fashions of 1818.

This mocks servants trying to act as their masters in the kitchen
This mocks servants trying to act as their masters in the kitchen.

This is one of Cruikshank's numerous illustrations for Oliver Twist.
This is one of Cruikshank’s numerous illustrations for Oliver Twist.

Do you like any of these caricatures and illustrations? Do you prefer the ones that satirize regular life or politics? Why?

The Final Frost Fair: What Do You Do When the Thames Freezes Over?

Kristi here. Has your winter been insane? Mine certainly has. In a single week in February, we had an ice/snow storm, a sunny 70 degree afternoon, and even felt the minor tremors of an earthquake. The ice and snow has definitely been the biggest surprise of this winter. Multiple crippling freezes have crossed this country, two reaching deep into the south.

Sail Tents on the ice during the frost fairThe ramifications of cold weather were l to the people of Regency England. 1816 is even famously known as the year without a summer. However, it was 200 years ago in February 1814 that the last of the great Frost Fairs occurred on the great Thames River.

It wasn’t the first time the Thames River froze over. Indeed it happened more than twenty times since 1309. This was, however, the last time. The replacement of London Bridge in 1831 and Victorian addition of the Embankment improved the water flow to the extent that a solid freeze hasn’t happened again and is highly unlikely to do so.

With the city pulled to a halt by the bitter cold and drifting snow, people were drawn to the novelty of solid ice, allowing them to walk and play where boats usually reigned. A thoroughfare of sailing vessels, to the tune of 1500 a day, brought to a halt by Mother Nature.

Among the frivolities included in the 1814 Frost Fair were:

–          An elephant crossing the river, demonstrating the thickness and security of the ice near Blackfriars Bridge.

–          A printing press set up on the ice, churning out commemorative books about the fair

–          Food and drink vendors galore and impromptu bars created with ship sails

–          Fires built right on the ice, with large oxen roasting over them

–          Ice skating, bowling, and every other game or sport imaginable

Everything was not all light and smiles, though.

Frost Fair on the Thames with London Bridge in the background.
Frost Fair on the Thames with London Bridge in the background.

With no way to earn their keep on the river, dock workers and ferrymen took to guarding the stairs and ladders that led to the icy surface, charging people a toll to attend the fair and then collecting a penny again when they wanted to leave. Pickpockets took advantage of all the slipping and sliding and drunken frivolity.

The party lasted four days. When the ice began to crack, it proved fatal for some of the final revelers. It also sent huge chunks of ice floating down the river, crashing into barges and doing thousands of pounds in damage.

Four short days, but they were legendary ones. There’s even a reference in Doctor Who, when The Doctor and River visit it for an ice skating outing (A Good Man Goes to War).  In some ways the fair marked the coming end of an era. As the Regency ended and the Victorian age began, life in England would alter considerably. Transportation, engineering, social habits, and opportunities would all change.

Never again would everything align perfectly to create such a unique experience as the Thames Frost Fair.

Have you had unique experiences with snow and ice this year? Tell us about it in the comments below.

A Romantic Regency Setting

Deadlines and glitches in my learning curve as I transfer from a Microsoft computer to a Mac have me behind on everything and thus this is a short, though I hope, encouraging post.

With 60% of North America covered in wintry mixes of precipitation to greater or lesser degrees, what is lovelier than the idea of spring? People want to put away sweaters and mittens and pull on something that appears more fashionable and, for many anyway, frilly. When heating was primitive at best, how much more must those in the Regency have craved for warm breezes and sunshine heralding spring?
One great herald of spring is flowers. During the Regency, around the time when tulips bloom in those northern climes, snowdrops were prevalent in English gardens. Then come the bluebells. These grow in  for an al fresco meal or meeting.
Wisteria
Wisteria, by BearerOfTheCup via Wikimedia Commons

Other spring flowers to consider including are clematis. Thesse are small pink flowers and grow on walls, even covering them with their delicate blooms. And we mustn’t forget one of my personal favorite–wisteria. They can be nearly purple, one of my favorite colors, and the scent is heavenly.

I have never smelled a bluebell, but I have read that they, too, smell delightful when carpeting an English wood.
So let us think spring on this winter’s day and imagine our favorite Regency hero and heroine strolling hand-in-hand through an English garden or woodland and remember that spring always follows winter like the promise of eternal life.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Kristi here, wishing you a Happy Valentine’s Day from Regency Reflections!

It is all too easy to write off Valentine’s Day as a “Hallmark Holiday” filled with flowers, chocolate, and unrelenting torment for single people, but the truth of Valentine’s Day is so much more than those cheesy trappings.

Check out some of these Reflections postings about Valentine’s Day, then reach out and tell the people closest to you that you love them, whether friend, family, or someone hovering somewhere in between.

Reflections on Valentine’s Day  ~ Valentine’s Day trappings from the Regency period including the lost art of the language of flowers.

Be My Valentine: The Art of the Handmade Card ~ Exchanging cards on Valentine’s Day existed long before elementary school kids stuck construction paper hearts on shoeboxes. Before the printed cards of the Victorian era, though, they had to be made by hand.

Love VS Love ~ A devotional look at the various meanings and usages of the word love. Tired of the cupids and roses? Take the time to remember and celebrate the love of friends, family, and our Savior.

And if you’re like me and enjoy the trite trappings and over-romanticism of Valentine’s Day, what better way to celebrate than with a fabulously romantic story. We’ve got you covered there, too. You can check out our serial story, A Suitable Match, or the first of our third year short stories, Saving Miss Caulfield. In the mood for something a bit longer? Read the latest from one of our recently highlighted authors, Jennifer Hudson Taylor or Julie Klassen, or one of the many books available from our Regency Reflections authors or our Recommended Reading posts.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

One, Two, Three… Dance With Me. A Wondrous Set With Julie Klassen

“What place is so proper as the assembly-room to see the fashions and manners of the times, to study men and characters…”  Thomas Wilson, Dancing Master, An analysis of Country Dancing, 1811, pg. 6 of The Dancing Master.

Vanessa here,

It was late. The lights had dulled. I turned to leave, and there across the crowded bookstore, I saw it. A book like no other.

Timed to the subtle Barnes & Noble background minuet, I stepped near and ran a finger along it’s fine spine. It whispered a blurb just for me.

Finding himself the man of the family, London dancing master Alec Valcourt moves his mother and sister to remote Devonshire, hoping to start over. But he is stunned to learn the village matriarch has prohibited all dancing, for reasons buried deep in her past.

Alec finds an unlikely ally in the matriarch’s daughter. Though he’s initially wary of Julia Midwinter’s reckless flirtation, he comes to realize her bold exterior disguises a vulnerable soul—and hidden sorrows of her own.

Julia is quickly attracted to the handsome dancing master—a man her mother would never approve of—but she cannot imagine why Mr. Valcourt would leave London, or why he evades questions about his past. With Alec’s help, can Julia uncover old secrets and restore life  to her somber village . . . and to her mother’s tattered heart?

Filled with mystery and romance, The Dancing Master brings to life the intriguing profession of those who taught essential social graces for ladies and gentlemen hoping to make a “good match” in Regency England.

The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen
The Dancing Master by Julie Klassen

It had me at Finding. With The Dancing Master tucked firmly in my grasp, I gave the attendant my coins and fled to a carriage, content in the knowledge I’d found a joy to keep me warm through the frigid Atlanta night.

Vanessa: Today at R&R we have Julie Klassen joining us. Julie, it is my pleasure to welcome you back to Regency Reflections. The Dancing Master ‘s premise really intrigues me. Normally, we see Regency books with the hero as a duke, a barrister, a spy, or maybe a doctor, but a dancing master, not so much.   How did you come up with this idea?

Julie: In Regency England, dancing was one of a limited number of ways young men and women could spend time together or court one another. It was considered such an important social skill that parents hired dancing masters to come into the homes and teach their sons and daughters to dance. “Every savage can dance,” Mr. Darcy says, but unless one wished to dance very ill (Mr. Collins comes to mind) lessons were crucial. So, as an author of half a dozen other books set in the Regency era—and someone who Screen Shot 2013-10-08 dance classloves to dance–it was probably only a matter of time until I wrote about a dancing master. As I say in my author’s note, I learned to dance the box step standing atop my dad’s size 15 triple E shoes. Later, I went on to take every ballroom dance class I could sign up for at the University of Illinois. I even taught a few dance classes of my own through community ed. I enjoyed drawing on all of these experiences to write this book. Like ballroom dancing, I find English country dancing exhilarating, joyful, and just plain fun. I hope to express that joy in the novel.

Vanessa: Wow, Dad has some big shoes to fill. Poor Mr. Klassen, has his work cut out for him, between dad and all of your romantic heroes. Tell me about what kind of research you conducted. Hopefully plenty of dancing.

Julie: I read instructional guides and journals written by dancing masters of ages past, and watched reenactors perform English country dances online. But the best and most enjoyable kind of research was actually learning dances from that period. My dear, long-suffering husband and I went English country dancing several times.

Julie Klassen at the Ball
Julie Klassen at the Ball

I also attended the annual general meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America, held in Minneapolis in 2013. There, I took two more dancing classes to polish my skills before the “Netherfield ball,” complete with live musicians and costumes. It was a wonderful experience to dance with fellow Austen fans from around the world.

During the conference, we also watched a BBC production: “Pride And Prejudice: Having A Ball.” In this program, a team of experts recreated a private Regency ball, complete with historical food, costumes, music, and dances. Unlike most of the sedate dances we see performed in period movies nowadays, in reality many of the dances of the era were fast paced and lively. Those of us watching were surprised how energetic the dances were, and how the performers (trained dancers in their twenties) were breathing hard and perspiring after a few dances.

By viewing the program and taking the dance classes, I gleaned several details to include in The Dancing Master. For example, when a couple reaches the top or bottom of a long-ways set (line of dancers) they stand out for a round before working their way back up or down the line. This gives couples a breather, and more importantly, a chance to talk and flirt with their partners!

If you’d like to learn more about the JASNA conference, here’s a fun video my publisher took of me (in costume) at the event. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5KmFKlJlfk

Vanessa: Ok, enough of the pleasantries. Julie, tell me about dreamy Alec Valcourt.

Julie: Alec is capable, loyal, and determined to support his mother and sister. He is a sharp dresser, prefers to keep his hands clean, and wields a fencing sword far better than an axe or spade in a rural village where most men are farmers or miners. As you can imagine, this leads to several painful scrapes along the way.

Vanessa: Why is Julia Midwinter the perfect foil to Alec?

Julie: Julia is a bit reckless, flirtatious, and difficult. But like many people in real life, there is more going on beneath the surface—and in her past—that has made her who she is. As the story unfolds and secrets are revealed, Alec begins to see the vulnerable, wounded soul beneath the brash exterior. He learns to understand her and becomes fond of her, especially as she begins to grow and change, and I hope readers will follow his lead.

Vanessa: Growing and changing. Sigh. I know I’ve made a few mistakes on that road. What spiritual truth would have made a difference to Julia, if she had realized it at the beginning?

Julie: All her life, she had been seeking a father’s love and approval. And if she could not have a father’s love, then any man’s approval would do. She had strived so long and so hard to gain attention in the wrong ways and from the wrong people…. If Julia had realized earlier that even though her earthy father failed her, her heavenly father loved her and highly valued her–she might have avoided some of the foolish things she did to try to fill the void left by the absence of a father’s love.

Vanessa: After reading Julia’s and Alec’s story, what else do have for us. There will be more cold nights in Atlanta.

Julie: I am currently working on rewrites for my next Regency-era novel with Bethany House Publishers. It’s a mysterious romance called The Secret of Pembrooke Park, and is due to be released December 2014.

Vanessa: Julie, The Dancing Master, is an amazing book. Asking this of any author is unfair, but if you could sum up the spiritual journey in one word what would it be?

Julie: Grace. I enjoyed weaving in grace in its many forms–social graces, grace in dancing, and most importantly, God’s grace—and I hope readers will be reminded of His amazing grace for us all.

Vanessa: Thank you for being a great sport and sharing this special book with us.

Julie: Thank you for having me here!

Julie Klassen is going to give away a paperback or e-book copy of The Dancing Master to one lucky commenter. Share with us your favorite dance, dance scene, or dance disaster.  Mine took place at last year’s RWA conference when I tried to do a reel. There’s video….

Any way, here’s an excerpt from The Dancing Master:

 “May I help you with something, Miss Midwinter?” Alec said officiously, hoping to chase the self-satisfied grin from her face.

“Yes, actually.” She clasped her hands. “I’ve come for a dancing lesson. Here—since Lady Amelia would never allow it in the house.”

He licked dry lips and felt his pulse rate quicken. Part of him relished the notion of being alone with Miss Midwinter. Enjoying her company and her undivided attention. Taking her hand in his to lead her through a private dance in a deserted churchyard . . . His chest tightened at the thought.

But he knew all too well the possible consequences of such stolen moments. Such seemingly innocent beginnings.

She took a step forward, and he stepped back. She performing the chassé, and he performing the dance of retreat.

He said, “Miss Midwinter. Before we proceed any further, I must tell you that I have a strict policy against any romantic involvement with my pupils.”

She blinked, momentarily taken aback. “In that case, perhaps I ought to reconsider becoming a pupil of yours.”

“Perhaps you should.”

You can purchase your own copy at: Amazon BN Christianbook.com

Julie s Images-Julie Edited Images-0007JULIE KLASSEN loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her books have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also won Christian Retailing’s BEST Award and has been a finalist in the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Awards. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Find Julie at: Her Blog or FaceBook

The Parasol, a Necessary Regency Accessory, by Susan Karsten

Parasols were introduced to England from China. The earliest ones were silk and often shaped like a pagoda.

pagoda parasol

This elegant accessory was mainly to shade a lady’s delicate, fair complexion.  Jaunts through warehouses for accessories would have included buying parasols to match particular outfits.

matchy matchy

The frames were bamboo, cane, or steel. Funny for us 20th-21st century ladies to realize that suntans were extremely unfashionable until the 1920s, when Coco Chanel helped to popularize the suntan. Prior to that, only women who had to labor outdoors were tan. After the 20s, chic, wealthy women were outdoors because they alone had the leisure time for outdoor games like tennis and golf.

Bam!

Wear your sunscreen, ladies!

Saving Miss Caulfield, Part 1 ~ A Short Regency Romance by Kristi Ann Hunter

Regency Reflections is entering it’s third year! To celebrate, we’re giving you a gift. Each month you’ll get a brand new short story from one of our authors. It’s going to be a great year. Thanks for helping us be the home of inspirational Regency readers. 

Saving Miss Caulfield, Part 1

If Miss Bianca Caulfield laughed at one more thing her idiot of a dancing partner said, Landon Sinclair was going to break something. Preferably Mr. Camden Theodore’s toes. Then the cad wouldn’t be able to whisk her away from the protection of her mother and brother under the guise of an innocent quadrille in a London ballroom.  What were they thinking, letting him court Bianca?

He supposed he should call her Miss Caulfield now, but she had always been Bianca to him.

She was easy to spot in the crush of dancers, her blonde hair twisted into the simplest coiffure in the room. Landon caught glimpses of her light green dress as she moved between the other dancers. She was light on her feet, floating through the complicated dance steps without any effort. It was a hard-won grace, Landon knew. He’d spent hours this winter having his feet trampled and his shins kicked as she tried to learn the steps. Her brother sported similar injuries, but one would never know it to see her now.

It would have been a pleasure to watch if she weren’t smiling up at Mr. Theodore.

“Please tell me you intend to start a mill with that fist, Lord Braidstone. This evening could use a good distraction.”

Landon looked down at his hand, surprised to find it curled into a tight ball. With conscious effort he loosened his fingers, stretching them until the knuckles popped. A deep, fortifying breath brought the strong combination of perfume, smoke, and champagne, further reminding him of the conduct expected of a viscount at a social gathering.

He glanced at the speaker, finding the expected grin on his friend’s face. “You let her dance with that shuffler, Caulfield?”

Mr. Giles Caulfield, Bianca’s brother, shrugged and adjusted his coat sleeve. “Why not? He’s well off, popular, and set to inherit a barony.”

“He’s a pompous windbag who lies his way through what should be gentlemen’s dealings and falls asleep in church.” Landon made a point of leaning casually against the wall, crossing his arms to hide any fist-making tendencies he might unconsciously entertain.

Giles adjusted his sleeve again. “Pompous or not, his attention has chased off all other interested beau.” He cleared his throat and tugged at the other sleeve. Obviously the man needed a new tailor. Or perhaps his valet had ruined the coat somehow. “Unless you know of someone?”

Landon cast his eyes about the ballroom. There had to be someone better than Theodore. Anyone was better than Theodore. He would trample on Bianca’s open heart and sweet spirit, breaking the girl Landon had watched grow up. The mere thought of losing the light of her smile made Landon desperate.

“What about Mr. Bertram?” Landon nodded towards the mill owner across the room. A bit old, perhaps, but he was honorable and loyal and able to provide a good life for Bianca.

Giles shook his head. “Too busy with rebuilding after the Luddites smashed his looms. He’s only in Town to visit Parliament.”

True enough. Rumor was he’d let his house fall into disrepair as he tried to save his business. Bianca shouldn’t live in a rundown house. Landon blew his breath out through pursed lips as he looked over the room. That one’s reputation was awful. Another given to drunken routs.

His eyes lit on a tall gentleman entering the ballroom. “Fellbourne?”

Giles shook his head. “Has plans to ask for Presbrook’s daughter.”

The girl who’s dinner conversation was limited to the fit of her slippers? Fellbourne never had possessed high enough standards to appreciate Bianca. “Milton?”

“Debt. He’ll probably be run out of Town within the month.”

Landon jerked his gaze back to Giles. “Truly? I had no idea.”

Giles nodded. “I overheard several shopkeepers today while I was waiting for Bianca outside the milliner.”

“That won’t run him out of town unless he runs up an account at one of the finer establishments. Still, it’s a vise Bianca need not deal with.” Landon returned to scrutinizing the options in front of him, looking for someone ideal and realistic.

“Miss Caulfield.”

What was Giles saying? Bianca was still dancing with that rascal. “Beg your pardon?”

“Bianca. You should call her Miss Caulfield now. At least in public.”

Landon grunted in agreement. For propriety’s sake he should use a more formal address, but there was a much more pressing issue at stake than adjusting his life-long habits.

The dance set was drawing to a close. Soon Bianca would be back at her mother’s side where someone more suitable could ask her to dance. Landon glanced to his left to see if Mrs. Caulfield was still in her previous location. One of Theodore’s friends hovered at her elbow.

“It appears that Theodore is determined that your sister not have any other options.” Landon nodded his head in Mrs. Caulfield’s direction.

Giles gave no more than a glance to the man waiting with his mother. “I believe I mentioned that.”

Landon waited, but it became painfully obvious that Giles was going to do nothing to stop Theodore and his cronies from monopolizing Bianca’s attention. With a sigh Landon made his way through the crowd at the side of the ballroom.

Giles was a dear friend, closer than any of Landon’s own brothers or cousins, but lately he’d been shirking in his brotherly duties towards his sister, leaving Landon to pick up the pieces. They were going to have to talk soon, but first Landon had to save Bianca.

###

Bianca’s face hurt. She’d only been at the ball for an hour and already she was faking the smiles and relying on well-practiced laughter to give the impression of a young woman having the time of her life. In reality she was desperate and growing moreso as the season continued. She couldn’t return home without a secure future.

In truth she couldn’t return home at all. Mother and Giles tried to assure her that Father wouldn’t mind, but they all knew the truth. He’d grumbled for months about the expense of a London season, the uselessness of daughters, and even the size of her dowry, although none of that came directly from him. God bless her grandfather who had left her a decent dowry when he died. Without it, who knows what her father would have set aside for her?

Mr. Camden Theodore was saying something about country estates and the seclusion from Town, but Bianca could barely make out the words over the pounding of her heart and the constant litany of dance steps running through her mind.

They couldn’t afford much time with a dance master, so Bianca had been left to practice with her brother and their generous neighbor, Lord Braidstone. Landon. Bianca swallowed a sigh as she kicked her skirt clear of the next intricate step. She strained her ears to hear the music over the loud talking around her and the fears screaming in her mind.

She brought her thoughts back to Landon. He always had a calming effect on her. Such a mixed blessing. He’d been part of every significant moment in her life, another older brother ready to tease her one moment and rescue her the next.

But he’d ruined any chance she had for marital bliss.

The dance ended and Bianca dropped into a curtsy, looking up at Mr. Theodore through her lashes. She tried to picture him as her husband, but the effort was futile. She couldn’t imagine a cozy dinner at home with his flat eyes across the table or a quiet stroll through the countryside with his constant stream of boasts and gossip as the only conversation.

That may be her life, though.

“Don’t you agree?” he asked with a pat of her hand as he led her from the dance floor.

Bianca smiled. Was the panic reaching her eyes? Because she had no idea what to say and couldn’t blindly agree to a question, not when it was entirely possible he’d asked something crucial to her future happiness. The man spoke often of expediency and efficiency. He might have asked her to marry him on the dance floor to save him a trip to her house.

How to get out of this? “I am parched. Do you think they have lemonade?”

His face screwed up in a frown, the only expression that ever reached his eyes. “Of course. You had a glass before we danced. We missed the first song if you’ll remember.”

A delaying tactic that had caused her to spend more time in his company instead of less. “I had forgotten. It must be the heat. Quite a crush tonight, is it not?”

They reached her mother and Bianca gracefully slid her hand from his elbow, restraining the urge to wipe her glove on her gown. She didn’t want to mar the precious light green silk. It was the only evening gown of color that Mother had allowed.

“I am sure that Mr. Julian can see to –“ His frown darkened. “What are you doing here?”

Bianca spun her head so fast her neck twinged in protest. Mr. Theodore had obviously been expecting his friend, Mr. Julian, to be waiting to claim her for the next dance. Joy, relief, trepidation, and speculation warred for prominence in Bianca’s midsection as she took in the welcome sight of Landon’s tall form standing beside her beaming mother.

Landon raised his brows and looked around as if wondering what wasn’t painfully obvious about his intentions. His brown eyes smiled at her as he brought his gaze back to her. “I’m here to claim Miss Caulfield for the next set.”

“But Julian –“ Mr. Theodore stumbled to a halt.

Mother waved her hand in the air. “Mr. Julian was here, but I sent him to fetch me a glass of lemonade. It is so dreadfully warm in this crush, isn’t it?”

Bianca tried to contain her giggle, but it escaped in an inelegant sputter through her lips. She coughed to hide the embarrassing sound, but ended up sounding like a sick cow as the cough and giggle mingled in her throat.

Landon grinned. “Are you well?”

“Yes, quite.” Bianca forced her lips to curve. Hopefully it looked like a smile. Ice. Brisk breezes. Swimming in the lake at the first sign of Spring. She willed the chilly thoughts to keep the heat of a blush away. Her neck grew warm, but her cheeks remained mercifully cool.

“Shall we?” Landon offered his arm.

Bianca pinched herself as she placed her hand on his elbow. She’d danced countless times with him at home, but never had he asked her at an actual event. He claimed she should keep her dances free for the men vying for her hand and attentions.

Oh how it hurt that he didn’t number himself among those men.

The music started and they bowed to each other. It was a simple dance, one she’d done since she was a girl, which allowed her to focus on her partner. Her handsome, kind, intelligent partner.

He leaned his head down as they stepped between the other couples. “I’ve heard the singer at Vauxhall is quite good.”

Bianca felt a blush threaten her ears. What would he do if she ran her fingers through his dark hair? “I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing her yet.”

“Perhaps we should go then.”

They circled around the other couples in their group until they made it to the end of the line, where they stood facing each other. Bianca was floating. Did he actually want to escort her to Vauxhall? Was he finally seeing her as something other than a younger sister? Her prayers must be working.

Landon smiled across the way at her. “What do you think? Shall we make a party? I’m sure your brother would like to go. Is there someone special you would like me to invite?”

Bianca blanched. He couldn’t mean what she thought he meant. “Special?”

“Yes.” He stepped forward and grasped her hand as they reentered the dance. “Please, anyone but Mr. Theodore. I can’t abide the fellow.”

Bianca tripped over a simple step and stumbled into Landon’s side.

“Oh!” she cried as she righted herself, only to find herself adjusting too much and crashing into the woman on her right.

Landon gripped her arm and righted her with a small laugh. “We’ll simply focus on the dancing for now, hmm? Just like old times.”

“Just like old times,” she said with another cheek torturing smile.

He gave her a brilliant smile as the dance concluded, congratulating her as he always did. And Bianca’s heart broke.

 

The next morning Bianca doodled nonsense on a piece of writing paper, staring out the drawing room window. The Season was nearly half over. Announcements appeared almost daily in the Times. Mother tried not to look worried, but occasionally Bianca found the paper with a name or two circled and she knew another man her mother had hoped to match her with had found someone else.

She was starting to get desperate. Was she to be forced to settle for the first available option? In truth it appeared she was only to have one option. And did it really matter? The man she loved didn’t love her and didn’t see her as marriage material. Only time, God’s grace, and determination were going to make her love her husband. Even then she doubted it would be a passionate love like the couple in Song of Solomon.

At least half of what she’d read in that book of the Bible was beyond her understanding, but it had sounded wildly thrilling and made her think constantly of Landon.

“Lord Braidstone to see you, miss.”

Bianca’s gaze flew to the maid. Landon never called for her.

And then he was there, his large frame filling the doorway, his brown eyes twinkling and a small smile on his lips. His chestnut hair curled where his hat had been and her fingers itched to smooth it down.

“Good morning.” He entered the room and sat in the chair beside her writing desk.

“What are you doing here?” The abruptness of her question made Bianca wince.

“I came to finish our conversation. Giles said you have no fixed engagements for this evening so it seemed a fine time to go to Vauxhall.”

Oh yes, the trip to the Gardens. His curiosity about whether or not she had someone special to invite. “Yes. That would be a fine idea.”

“Have you thought of anyone we should include in the party?” He settled further back in his chair. “Anyone but Mr. Theodore.”

What was wrong with Mr. Theodore? Other than his obvious similarity to all of the other unappealing obsessively ambitious young men she’d met in London. “I’m afraid he’s the only one.”

He surged from the chair and began to pace. “You cannot seriously be contemplating marriage to that man. He’s cruel. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. He cares nothing for his horses, works his staff to the bone, and neglects any and all things Godly. More often than not he leaves the club foxed. You cannot marry him.”

Bianca stood with a frown, resignation pooling in her heart. “Which makes him very similar to half the other men I’ve met in London. He hasn’t asked yet, but he is the only one who potentially will. I hope he does. I don’t have any other choice.”

“You could go home.”

Bianca smiled sadly into Landon’s eyes. The hesitant way he’d said the sentence proved he knew how harsh Father’s welcome would be if she returned home unwed. He’d declare her a failure and doom her to a miserable secluded spinsterhood.

“Well, there must be someone.”

Her hand looked small as she reached out to touch his arm and stop his pacing. Her broken heart reached out to him. A pseudo-brother with no acceptable means of aiding her. It must be a difficult position for him. “There’s no one else. If Mr. Theodore asks, I will have to consent. He has an estate in the country. I believe he would be content to leave it for me to run in his absence. With the title, he’ll require children. I would be happy to have children.”

Landon’s frowned darkened. He wrapped his hands around her upper arms and looked deep into her eyes. “You can’t marry him.”

He crossed to the window, muttering quietly to himself. Was he naming and excusing other men? She didn’t even recognize some of the names. Shame coursed through Bianca until it weakened her legs and she fell back into her seat. Even Landon, with all of his connections and social status couldn’t think of a decent man who would be interested in marrying her.

“I have no other options.” Bianca smiled at him as best she could, but she’d never been able to hide from Landon. He would see her sadness, feel her resignation, and there was nothing she could do about it.

“Yes you do.” He spun from the window, his mouth pressed into a line of resolve. “You can marry me.”

To be continued… Part 2 of Saving Miss Caulfield