A Regency Invitation

This is the Blog of the Book! Read all about the process by which Regency authors Joanna Maitland, Elizabeth Rolls and Nicola Cornick wrote collaboratively to create the story of the Regency House Party of the Season! A Regency Invitation is published in November 2005 from Harlequin Historicals.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Dreaded Synopsis...

Joanna Maitland
16 December 2003

I haven't done a proper synopsis yet, but I've done an outline scene plan for story 2, covering only the scenes between hero and heroine. I've amended my earlier plan so that villain C is not unmasked, only suspected. I'm not absolutely sure it works and would welcome advice.

The other problem is that I'm still not sure what Will is accused of. It needs to be serious enough that he could be tried and perhaps hanged for it, but also something that Anthony might believe Will could have done. What about a serious assault by an unknown assailant on someone that Will had threatened publicly? A sworn enemy of Will? I imagine that the documentary proof will show Will couldn't have been at the scene of the crime because he was somewhere else, with someone important. Alternatively, perhaps better, the proof could be a letter from the actual assailant to an unknown paymaster, demanding money for his silence; if assailant doesn't get paid, he'll reveal that Will has been fitted up by the paymaster. (The paymaster was C, of course, in order to remove Will as heir, but that wouldn't be disclosed in story 2. The reader might suspect, though, given various hints.)

Any advances on the above gratefully received. BTW, I very much like your take on villain C's character: plausible, manipulative. I've added lecher, groper etc but only of servants who can't fight back.

Except at the very end, I haven't included the Earl, Cassie, Georgiana or Lord Peter in my scenes, though they'll probably figure in the linking scenes. Also I need some below stairs stuff. You'll see, Elizabeth, that Anthony has quite an important role in story 2. That's why I want to have a good idea of how you see him. I imagine his manner with Georgiana will be rather different from his manner with the men.

Tomorrow I'll try to set down a bit more information about the individual characters. I can see them, but I haven't actually done any physical descriptions. I also have to get the individual backstories a bit clearer.

It's now 2.30 am so I'm going to bed. We've got carpet-layers arriving at 8.00 am. Joy.

Synopsis #2: The Abigail’s Tale
Scenes between Amy & Will (other scenes to be interpolated)

Opening Scene

Amy, having already searched all the other bedchambers in the house, comes to search Anthony’s bedchamber while guests are at dinner. It is not yet dark enough to need candles. She enters room to find curtains drawn and room gloomy but not totally dark, because a fire is burning (even though it’s not cold). A screen stands between door and fire. Amy surmises that it, and fire, were for Anthony’s bath. Sudden concern that bath may not have been emptied; she may be caught by the maids. She goes round screen and meets Will, standing naked in the water, about to get out. He is clean but unkempt: several days’ growth of beard and long, wet hair. She is largely hidden by a huge, ugly cap and inelegant clothes. She also avoids looking directly at his face and tries (but fails) not to look at his very attractive body. She is so shocked at seeing her first ever naked man that she cannot move or speak.

Will treats her like a flighty servant. He doesn’t cover himself, he orders her about, and he almost kisses her, but resists at the last moment. Insulted and horrified at her own response, Amy reacts like a lady instead of a servant and then has to talk her way out of her predicament by claiming she risks dismissal. Will offers her a bargain: he will not shop her to her mistress, if she doesn’t mention his presence to anyone, even Anthony. Amy agrees. And then flees. When she gets back to her room, she realises Will has seen her silver-blonde hair which she had been trying to conceal under the cap because it is so distinctive it might betray who she is.

Scene 2

Following evening, late, Amy goes back to search again, assuming Will will be gone. He appears from Anthony’s dressing room (where Anthony has hidden him). He removes her cap and recognises her, then berates her for her masquerade. He says that he has seen her before, in London, though they haven’t met. That’s untrue; they have met but he doesn’t want her to realise who he is, because she might inadvertently betray him. He forces her to tell him why she’s in disguise. Will knows where Ned is, since Ned has been ‘jailed’ by Anthony to protect Will. Will doesn’t tell Amy but swears to her that Ned is safe and that she needn’t worry. She looks so concerned that he kisses her. Short love scene. Will horrified at what he’s done. Last thing he needs when he’s on the run. He resolves to have nothing more to do with her unless he’s been exonerated. He feels so guilty that he doesn’t tell Anthony about who Amy is.

Scene 3

Amy is trapped by villain C (who gropes, and worse, anything in a skirt). Will hears what’s going on and rescues Amy, even though he’s blowing his cover by doing so. Fight between Will and C. C, though almost reduced to pulp, swears he’ll call the constable and have Will thrown into jail where he belongs. Amy is horrified; it’s all her fault. Anthony arrives, alerted by valet. Amy won’t let Will tell Anthony what C tried to do to her because she feels guilty. Anthony, as a compromise, agrees that Will should be locked up in the house, pro tem, and forces C to agree not to call the constable until Anthony has reached a view on whether Will is guilty. C has to agree because, otherwise, he’d risk the inheritance or that Anthony might begin to suspect C’s guilt.

Scene 4

Amy manages to sneak in to see Will, and offers help. Anthony has insisted that Will resume the guise of a gentleman, so Will is now clean-shaven and properly dressed. Amy recognises him, and is shocked that she didn’t do so before. They had not only met, they had danced together and she had been much attracted to him. Then he had disappeared. Will explains that there must be evidence somewhere to prove his innocence, possibly in the house, but he has been unable to find it. He suspects C but has no proof. It’s been too dangerous for Will to do much searching and now he’s a prisoner. Amy says she’s seen various documents in some of the bedchambers, including C’s. She’ll go back and search again, bringing anything useful to Will. Will forbids her to do it, but it’s clear she’ll ignore him.

Scene 5

Amy comes back with some documents from C’s room. (Amy enlisted Countess’s help as look-out while Amy searched. Possible close shaves.) Documents suggest real evidence is hidden in the cupola. Will won’t let Amy go alone to search for it. It’s too dangerous. She might encounter C again. He’ll get out somehow and go himself to search. Amy resolves to go too, without telling him.

Scene 6

They search cupola (having dodged C) and find enough evidence to exonerate Will, though not enough to indict C. They also find each other. Will admits it’s not an appropriate place for a man to propose, but will she have him? Amy says she doesn’t care about the place or the state of him, but she won’t be proposed to in an abigail’s cap and gown. They put their heads together to concoct a plan (not disclosed in this scene).

Scene 7

The Countess’s abigail has left on some pretext. Earl (now in on the secret) says he fired her after finding his papers disturbed. Ned has been freed. (Actually, he’s having such fun drinking and gambling that he doesn’t want to leave his ‘jail’ so he’s not living in the main house.) The Countess announces that her dear friend Amy has been worried sick about brother Ned and is on her way to Ashdown to search for him. She will be in transports when she sees with her own eyes that he’s all right. Amy arrives. She sees, not Ned, but Will. She and Will do a pantomime of love at first sight/reunited long-lost lovers with Countess struggling to keep a straight face in the background. (Possibly Anthony also?) C is incandescent with rage and frustration but can do/say nothing without giving self away.

Scene 8

Will asks Ned’s permission to marry Amy. Ned says it’s not a matter for him but if Amy wants Will, he won’t object. Anthony announces that he’s tired of having Will squatting in his dressing room. Will can have a room of his own. In fact, he can have Lord Peter’s room. Lord Peter will have to move. The only vacant room is the one next to Cassie. (Surprise, surprise.) With two betrothals, he (Anthony) proposes to organise a huge firework party to celebrate. Ned, disgusted by all the lovey-dovey stuff, says he will take himself off. Threatened by Amy, he promises never to reveal what has happened at Ashdown. Satisfied, Will and Amy go for a lovers’ stroll in a convenient shrubbery.

Joanna Maitland
16 December 2003

OK, it's 9.00 am, my eyelids are propped open with the regulation-issue matchsticks and the ****** carpet layers have not arrived. However, I have had further thoughts on my hero and his backstory.

My hero doesn't want to be Will. Somehow too young for him. I now *think* he's Marcus Sinclair. Hope that's OK.

Villain C: how about Waldo or William Lyndhurst-Flint? Flint reminds me of skinflint. I modelled the name on Wellington's elder brother William Wellesley-Pole, Earl of Mornington. He didn't assume the -Pole on marriage as I'd thought. According to Burke's, he assumed the additional name of -Pole when he was 15! Doesn't say why. (His son, also William, married Catherine Tylney-Long, so the family surname then became Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley! Such are the joys of double-barrelling! No wonder that branch of the family died out.)

I'm planning to create a family tree later today so that we can see how they all fit together, possibly even great-aunt harridan. (Harriet is a great name. Will always make me think of harridan.)

Hero 2's backstory

How about this? Marcus was involved in a seriously drunken gambling session in his London club. Villain C was also present, being an inveterate gambler. (Ned may also have been there. Not sure yet.) One of the players, Frobisher, while very deep in his cups, made disparaging remarks about Anthony and his inability to keep his wife in his own bed, or at all. Marcus, also very much the worse for wear but not totally drunk, lost his temper. Said that only Frobisher's drunkenness was saving him from being called out and if Frobisher ever crossed Marcus's path again, Marcus would kill him. Villain C, and others present, heard this. Within 2 days, Frobisher had been attacked by an unknown assailant and left for dead. Frobisher didn't see his assailant, but reports that the assailant repeated the threats and it sounded like Marcus. A magistrate has therefore issued a warrant for Marcus's arrest.

Marcus, realising he's been framed, legs it to Ashdown to hide. He gives Anthony his word that he didn't attack Frobisher, but naturally refuses to tell Anthony what the quarrel was about (because Anthony would be devastated to learn that his good name was being bandied about in the London clubs). Anthony accepts Marcus's word but feels there's something fishy about it all. Feels he can't consider Marcus as a potential heir until all the truth comes out and Marcus is cleared. Marcus (worried that Anthony might hear about the insult) makes Anthony promise not to get involved in clearing Marcus. Marcus has friends who are already working on it.

Villain C knows Marcus will not have told Anthony the whole truth. So C, without actually telling a lie, allows Anthony to infer that the quarrel with Frobisher resulted from Marcus having said something disparaging about Anthony's wife. Anthony doesn't want to believe it but the suspicion has been planted; Anthony realises it would account for Marcus's strange reticence about the quarrel. This would account for Anthony being slightly more distant from Marcus than would ordinarily be the case. It would also show manipulative C.

It's important for the reader to know the reason for the quarrel, even though Anthony doesn't. It would be helpful if you could hint at it in story 1, Nicola, perhaps in a passing comment between Earl John and villain C. (Earl John wouldn't dream of saying anything to Anthony, of course.) Then, in story 2, the Countess (after Amy tells her about Marcus hiding in Anthony's dressing room) will pester the story out of her husband. Anthony will never learn the full truth but, at some stage, Marcus will admit that Frobisher insulted Anthony's honour in the worst possible way and Marcus felt he had to defend it. That might have to come in story 3, Elizabeth, after villain C has finally been unmasked.

Re the evidence and villain C. Amy will find out below stairs that a suspicious character (=the hired assailant) is lurking near Ashdown and has had a note delivered to villain C. For some reason, it was delivered to C in the cupola and he had to hide it there. He hasn't had a chance to return to retrieve it or destroy it. When Amy searched C's room, she found a half-finished letter to C's banker, asking for a large amount of money immediately against his expectations of becoming Anthony's heir. It's not proof of C's guilt but it's suspicious. When Amy tells Marcus, he works out what it must be for. Amy remembers the delivery of the note and also that she saw C push a paper into a hiding-place in the cupola. Maybe it was the note? (This aspect of the plot needs more work.) So she volunteers to go and search. Back to scene 5 in my synopsis#2. Finding the assailant's note will clear Marcus but, since C is not named and Amy can't prove the note was the one he received, C can't be openly accused.

Help! Does that hold together? It sure is complicated, even if it does. And doing it all in 30,000 words will be...er...a challenge.

(now going to make coffee since it's 10.30 and carpet layers are working)

Elizabeth Rolls
16 December 2003

Joanna! It sounds fabulous! Ties in beautifully with the way Lyndhurst-Flint ruins Anthony's marriage in the first place.

If it helps - Anthony refuses to discuss Georgiana at all, which would fit in with Marcus's reluctance to tell him what the fight was about. He has a miniature of her that her father gave him as a wedding present, but no one else has ever seen it. I suppose if Marcus is hiding out in Anthony's dressing room(!) he might see it, while looking for a handkerchief or something. Anthony would be furious if he found Marcus looking at it. And shaken at having let his feelings show. If you can't work it in to an existing scene, don't bother. It would be a good way of flagging that Anthony is deeply affected by Georgiana's disappearance.

I assume Marcus is not merely worried about sparing Anthony's feelings but also doesn't want him issuing challenges on the matter. Because he would. Definitely.

By the way - Anthony has an ulterior motive for kicking Marcus out of his dressing room at the end of story two. He fully intends to have Georgiana back where she belongs - in his bed.

If possible in the scene where Marcus is cleared, Georgiana should leave precipitately. Possibly Great Aunt Harriet could send her supposed companion off to bed. Gruffly of course. Anthony should seize the first opportunity to remove himself as well. He has every intention of running Georgiana to earth and finding out what the hell she is up to. (Where do you envisage this scene taking place?)

That should weave the two stories in together if you then remove Marcus and Amy to a convenient shrubbery - where they can say Nee!!? My story opens with Anthony storming off to find his wife and after finally giving up, finding her in his own bedchamber. I've started that scene. Will send it through as soon as it is sort of complete.

PS I want to go to Ashdown House as well! Why isn't Richmond stumping up with an airfare?? Just let me know what sort of wildflowers and birds etc are to be seen at whichever point in the summer we are setting it. I like birds and flowers.

Elizabeth Rolls
16 December 2003

Some info for your perusal. If the colourings double with your characters,let me know.Anthony David Lyndhurst - tall, dark auburn hair, grey eyes. He would beabout 31 or 32. He has a very slight limp in left leg, courtesy ofWaterloo. More a slight hesitation. He is still very active and fit. Is now fairly introspective. Used to be a wild type with a swift temper. No one has seen him lose his temper since he lost Georgiana.He actually believes she must be dead, since he was unable to trace her,and blames himself. He has bricked up everything he feels. When he sees her initially in Story 2 he should be stunned. His demeanour would need to alter, from very calm and reserved, to rather snappish and possibly even cynical. Seeing her is one hell of a shock and shakes his facade loose. Georgiana is of medium height, tawny brown hair, slightly wavy, but scraped back in a bun. She has very blue eyes. She is very fair skinned and slender. Her clothes are fairly dowdy, respectable companion's clothes. As a companion she is very quiet, except on the issue of loyalty, if that happens to come up, which - given Anthony's shielding of Marcus and refusal to believe him guilty despite evidence to the contrary - I imagine it might. She might also react to Anthony's limp in some way, since he didn't have itfour years ago.Great Aunt Harriet has always known who her 'companion' is, but Georgiana doesn't know that. GAH has come to the house-party to make quite sure Anthony knows what he's doing and doesn't make 'another damn-fool mess by not acquainting yourself with all the facts!' I see her as very outspoken, rather like Mr Beaumaris' grandmother in Arabella. An absolute old terror with a heart of gold. I thought she might use an ear trumpet which she doesn't really need, but it's awfully useful to prod people with. She lives very much retired down in Cornwall, which is why Anthony has never realised where Georgiana is. (He hasn't seen GAH in many years and is completely gobsmacked when she shows up.) She distrusts C without reservation.
I imagine her as rather thin, with beady eyes and a loud voice. She is definitely not mealy-mouthed. She took Georgiana on reluctantly at the pleading of her friend, G's godmother, but has come to like her very much.She knows that G's quietness is a mask for unhappiness and can't for the life of her see why, if G is as black as rumour paints her, she doesn't just go and find herself a wealthy protector, rather than hiding herself inthe depths of Cornwall as a companion. Hope all this helps. Right, back to the story - at 1:30 am. I have a potential buyer coming with the agent at 11am (please offer up prayers!) so may not be able to use my writing day tomorrow, since I also have the kids' Christmas presents to buy. Hope you're not too tired, Joanna. Did your carpet layers come?

Joanna Maitland
16 December 2003

It's taken me longer than it should have, but here's a family tree for the Lyndhursts as we have them so far (I think). I've done it as an Excel worksheet and it should be readable by any version of Excel. It will print in colour or black and white. If either of you has problems, I can scan it in and send it as a picture but then you won't be able to alter it.

Assumptions made, subject to your agreement.

Cassie is a later generation than Anthony and Marcus. Her family name is Ward, as you suggested, Nicola. She is an only child. Her grandmother, though richly dowered, married Mr Ward who was very rich too and Cassie is their only descendent, so an heiress. If you want Cassie's mother to be dead, Nicola, I'll change the names. But if her mother is dead, she'd need a guardian and/or trustee who would, logically, be Earl John. If you don't want him too closely involved with her, you may want to keep Cassie's mother alive.

Marcus's grandmother married rich Mr Sinclair and Marcus is the sole heir. Not as rich as Cassie, but rich enough.

Earl John's mother, Frederica, brought a large dowry into her marriage. The Earl's grandfather insisted the names be hyphenated into Lyndhurst-Flint.

William Lyndhurst-Flint is a lot younger than his brother, Earl John, because there was a daughter (died young) in between.

Anthony's father was the only male child so, although the daughters were very well dowered, Anthony's father got the land and most of the loot.

Anthony and William are first cousins.

Marcus is second cousin to Anthony and William.

Great-aunt Harriet is the only one of her generation still alive. She was by far the youngest. The generation after her are all dead, except, possibly, Harriet's own children if she had any. If she did marry, we need a married name for her. Perhaps she should be the only one who didn't marry well? I fancy her sponging a bit off her rich relations.

We need to put dates to most of the characters on this family tree to ensure we know that it hangs together. If we're in 1818 or thereabouts, we can work backwards. (Was 1818 the year George III's wife died? We need to avoid periods of public mourning, either for her or for Princess Charlotte.)

I won't do any more on all this until you've had a chance to digest it. I hope it helps you both. It's certainly helping me.

[Note to blog readers: We can’t import the Lyndhurst family tree for you. Sorry.]

Nicola Cornick
16 December 2003

Honestly, you two! I go out for one afternoon and when I come back there's another outpouring of creativity to deal with! I will have a look at all your emails and get back to you both. Sterling work!

Elizabeth Rolls
17 December 2003

On the ever vexed subject of titles, I was thinking about The Prodigal Bride/Companion, or something along those lines. But perhaps that suggests she has been seriously sinful?

I don't want an 'Unexpected' for myself. My first book was The Unexpected Bride, so it might create a little confusion. By the way, Joanna, you were asking about it a while back. It is being reissued next month in the Regency Rakes series with one of Annemarie Hasnain's. The Marriage Truce, I think.

The name of the house . . . oh, hell! That's a hard one. Coming up with a house name is harder than characters. I usually resort to the hero's title or some variant thereon, but since Anthony isn't titled . . . It was a hunting and shooting box, wasn't it, Nicola? How about Pevensey Chase? I know Pevensey is a long way off. Otherwise I'd suggest Ashby Chase. Something Chase, anyway. I'm open to suggestions. We could of course just run with Lyndhurst Chase. Or Lynden Chase, which picks up the family name

Joanna - I have a tech problem with the family tree. We don't have Excel installed. DH removed it because the disk is full. Naturally he left all the stuff I never use.

Joanna Maitland
17 December 2003

Sorry to drop you in it, Elizabeth! I do like the xxx Chase idea. My favourite would be Lyndhurst Chase or Lynden Chase. Then maybe we could call the volume The Lyndhurst Intrigues?

I also like The Prodigal Companion though I see what you mean about sinful. Re your techie problem, I've actually worked out how to do the family tree on Word so I've attached it for you. It will be easier to send this version to Richmond, if we need to. I thought we might send it as background to the overview story, since it would save us reams of explaining how the characters relate to each other.

Great about your book. I haven't bought any of the rakes' series, because I've read them before, but I *shall* buy yours! Oh, and I suddenly realised why you didn't understand my comment about enjoying writing old harridans. The harridan in question, the Dowager Lady Luce, is a main character in Rake's Reward, and you won't have read that.

Shall do background notes on the Earl, the Countess, William L-F, Marcus and Amy/Amelia today, I hope, and send them round. You will need them all, Elizabeth, and Nicola will probably need at least the first three. I'll also send round some sample scenes, when I've done a bit more work on them, so that you can get the feel for them.

I've also been thinking about point of view. Unless absolutely essential, I don't plan to use the POV of your heroes and heroines, because I'd be bound to get the feel wrong. If I do have to use them, I'll send any text to you for vetting. Whether in their POV or not, I am happy to have either of you rewrite anything I've done that concerns your characters in order to make them consistent.

And it's still terrific fun. Christmas? What Christmas?

Nicola Cornick
17 December 2003

Your Regency Rakes book should be a good seller, Elizabeth. Two excellent books in one! I love that one of Annemarie's and although I was lucky enough to get your first book when it came out, I know loads of people missed it and have been looking for it ever since.

The Prodigal Bride sounds an excellent title to me. I'd like mine to be called Lady of Fortune, but I'm not holding my breath.

Ashby Chase would be fine, I think, though I like Lynden Chase as well. I like "Chase" names and it's very appropriate for our House Party (in more ways than one!)

Am just coming to the end of Cassie's back story and the outline of story 1. I will send it round in a little while.

Nicola Cornick
17 December 2003

Thank you both very much for all the story details and the family tree. I think they are great – so much potential – and you have really helped me put together my thoughts on story 1 and the set up. I have now enclosed Cassie's story and the way I see it linking to the two later stories. All comments/ideas welcome!

A few extra random bits and pieces:

Queen Charlotte did die in 1818 as you said, Joanna, (and Princess Charlotte in 1817, of course). Do we want to push the story back to 1819 to avoid the public mourning? 1816 will presumably be a bit too soon after Waterloo.

Once you had mentioned William Wellesley-Pole I had to find out where the Pole came from, Joanna! Apparently he inherited an estate from a distant cousin, William Pole, and so took on the name.

Elizabeth - a selection of Ashdown animals, birds and flowers - fallow deer, badgers, buzzards, skylarks, woodpeckers both spotted and green, jays. Trees - beech, hazel, oak and elm, rare orchids in the fields, primrose, bluebells and gentians in early summer, ox eye daisies in summer in the fields, Candytuft, Solomon's Seal, Deadly Nightshade. Loads of butterflies in the woods as well.

Joanna - I like "The Lyndhurst Intrigue" very much for an overall title.

Cassie’s back story

Cassie Ward is 21 years old. She was born in 1798.
She possesses dark blonde hair but with some of the auburn colouring of the Lyndhursts in it. Unlike Anthony, though, she has brown eyes. She is a strikingly pretty girl, quite small and with a complexion like a russet apple. Cassie is an orphan. Her mother died 3 years previously after a long degenerative illness, and John, Earl of Mardon, and Anthony Lyndhurst are Cassie’s distant cousins and her trustees along with Edmund Burnside, her uncle. She lives with her mother’s sister and brother-in-law (The Burnsides) who do not feature in the story.

Cassie is heiress to a huge fortune but she can’t touch it until either she marries or she is 25. John and Anthony are generous to her and she loves them both and is especially fond of John’s wife Kitty, whom she sees as a surrogate sister. Because she has no close family of her own, Cassie has often stayed with the Mardons but as she grows older she feels uncomfortable about hanging on their coat-tails. In some ways she wants a home and family of her own, but her feelings on this are mixed up because she has seen that John was unhappily married the first time round and she senses that Anthony is also deeply unhappy over the loss of Georgiana, even though he never speaks of it. She envies John and Kitty the closeness that they have now, but she is not sure that marriage is worth the risk. Given a choice, Cassie would hold out until 25 and possessor of her own fortune, but she knows Anthony and John want her to wed because they want to see her settled and happy. Unfortunately finding a suitable husband for Cassie is not that easy.

Cassie will also make brief observations on the other characters in the stories. She dislikes William intensely as he has made a play for her in the past and she knows he is a fortune hunter with an unsavoury reputation. She mentions Ned Devereaux as a indiscreet and rather impolite young man who has disappeared somewhere. Cassie also knows and likes Marcus, who is also a distant cousin of hers, but of course she knows nothing about his being in hiding. She is a little bit in awe of Great Aunt Harridan, but admires her immensely and (assuming she doesn’t marry) sees herself as an eccentric old spinster in Harriet’s style when she is old. Harriet once expressed the view that it was positively indecent for a young gel to be as rich as Cassie. Perhaps Cassie could flag up towards the end of story 1 that Harriet and her companion will be arriving soon (in book 2) and Anthony could make some disparaging remark about it being bad enough having a sharp-tongued aunt descending uninvited, never mind her bringing some unpresentably dowdy companion with her… That could start the set up for his comeuppance when Georgiana appears!

When Cassie was 17 and her mother was an invalid and unable to keep a close eye on her she became embroiled in radical politics through the influence of an unsuitable governess. This led to an infamous incident where she attended a political meeting and was caught in a low tavern smoking a clay pipe. This was blown out of all proportion in the Ton and for a while threatened to ruin Cassie’s reputation. Despite her fortune, which is larger even than Society imagines, she is thought of as an unmarriageable hoyden.

At the house party Cassie is officially being chaperoned by Kitty but since she is somewhat preoccupied with Amy, this gives Cassie ample opportunity to run around being a hoyden and to be seduced by Peter! It is in fact Cassie’s no nonsense maid, Lizzie, who keeps her in line and in whom she confides.

Story 1

In addition to the purpose of choosing an heir, Anthony Lyndhurst wishes his House Party to be a means of finally finding a suitable husband for Cassie. In addition to family members, Anthony has therefore invited along a few comrades and friends to join the party. The man he and John have identified as Cassie’s favoured suitor is
Quinn, Marquis of Quinlan, heir to the Duke of Bellars. The arrangement has been mooted to Quinn, who has no money and would therefore like a rich wife. He is perfectly pleasant but rather staid, and has a dislike of headstrong women. He likes his females demure and malleable. Anthony and John are hoping that he will be a steadying influence on Cassie. Cassie, naturally, is not happy at the thought of them trying to marry her off and has already hatched a plan to put Quinn off her by showing just how bold she is.

Accompanying Quinn separately to the House Party is his younger brother, Peter, who was a very junior officer with Anthony at Waterloo (and therefore was not party to the details of Anthony’s marriage to Georgiana, or her disappearance.) He does however know William and has heard about the incident in which Marcus was framed. (I thought that he could mention this to the Earl, Joanna, therefore explaining the reason for the quarrel). Because Peter has always been somewhat in awe of Anthony, he would not think of mentioning it to his host.

Peter is on his way to the House Party when he meets Cassie unceremoniously when she falls out of a tree beneath his horse’s hooves as she is trying to affix a radical poster to the branches, to embarrass Quinn and show she is not a suitable wife for him. Peter has no idea who Cassie is and assumes that she is a village maiden and a rather attractive one at that. Cassie is knocked unconscious in the fall and Peter carries her off to a local hostelry where she comes round. It soon becomes apparent, however, that the knock on the head has had a profound effect on Cassie’s loquacity and with the additional effect of the brandy that Peter has plied her with she is soon spilling her darkest secrets to this stranger.

Amongst the things that she tells him are her feelings about Anthony and his brief marriage and her dislike of William Lyndhurst-Flint. She then moves on to her own history, the fact that her cousin is trying to marry her off, and her feelings on marriage and men in general.

Peter is utterly riveted and unchivalrously plies her with more brandy to keep her talking. He knows that he should take her home but keeps putting off the moment as he finds the unmarriageable heiress completely adorable and is shocked to realise that not only is he strongly attracted to her but that she is fascinating company as well. He finds himself telling her things about himself that he has never told anyone before. When their conversation moves on to examples of how they have committed the seven deadly sins, matters start to become quite scandalous. Peter has just given in to the impulse to kiss Cassie when the door flies open and Anthony Lyndhurst and John Mardon rush in, having been alerted by the villagers to Cassie’s danger at the hands of this evident rake.

Peter is in deep trouble. Cassie has fallen asleep, the whole situation looks deeply compromising and Lyndhurst and Mardon are furious at his ungentlemanly conduct. In desperation, Peter protests that his intentions are honourable, realising as he says so that he is telling the absolute truth and he genuinely wishes to marry Cassie. The news is a shock to both himself and to Cassie’s relatives, who had not envisaged someone actually offering to marry her because they liked her rather than because it was a suitable match. Anthony and John agree to think about it but express the view that it is rather sudden.

It is also a shock to Cassie when she wakes up the next morning back at the Chase and remembers what has happened. She is excruciatingly embarrassed to remember all the secrets that she has vouchsafed to Peter and is also furious with him for not telling her who he was and for encouraging her indiscretions. Since one of the secrets she has told him is that she is far richer than society suspects, she now thinks he may be a fortune hunter and she refuses his proposal, even to save her reputation. Quinn is not very pleased either to have his younger brother apparently steal an heiress from under his nose. When Peter insists that his intentions are honourable Quinn is frankly sceptical since his brother has the reputation of a rake.

With Quinn, Anthony, John and Cassie all believing him insincere, Peter sets out to woo Cassie and prove his love for her. (I envisage these scenes establishing some of the house party activities such as impromptu dances, riding expeditions, the cricket match where William cheats etc. It is also a good opportunity for Cassie and/or Peter to observe the mysterious goings on, with Amy creeping about. Since Cassie has spent some time with Kitty she has actually met Amy before – she just doesn’t recognise her). Cassie has withdrawn from Peter and is distant and chilly as a result of both her anger and her embarrassment. However, she is obliged to admit that Peter is a dangerously attractive man and when he pays court to her it is difficult to resist him.

Peter’s plans are sabotaged by William Lyndhurst-Flint who still hasn’t given up hope of Cassie marrying him and keeping all that lovely money in the family. He manages to hit Peter on the head with the cricket ball during the match and Peter is carried off the pitch with concussion. Cassie insists on tending to him and later creeps back to his chamber to make sure that he is all right. Now the tables are turned – Peter, in his delirium – tells her all sorts of secrets such as his life will never be complete if he cannot persuade him to marry her. Cassie, knowing he must be telling the truth, admits to herself that she is in love with him and overcomes her scruples about marrying him. When Peter wakes up in sound mind and finds her still by (or in?) his bed in the morning he is furious, especially since he’s been trying to avoid the temptation of taking her to bed ever since he met her. No matter that Cassie tells him that she loves him, it seems he will refuse her proposal of marriage – until she persuades him otherwise…

On seeing that both Cassie and Peter are incandescently happy (and suspecting some of the things that have been going on) both John and Anthony give their blessing to the marriage, which is planned to take place shortly after the end of the House Party.

(I thought that when Marcus is kicked out of Anthony’s dressing room (story 2 or 3?) and Peter has to move next door to Cassie as a result, they could both look a bit shifty, as they have been trying to preserve the proprieties ever since the night Peter found Cassie in his bed. Perhaps Great Aunt Harriet could comment that it’s a mercy there will be a couple of weddings happening quickly, with all that has been going on in the house! I’m sure she can come up with a suitably pithy comment on the subject!



Blogger Nicola said...


Hi Nicola, Joanna, Elizabeth,

This is totally fascinating - so fascinating, in fact, that it's now midday and I haven't done anything I'm supposed to be doing for myself yet! I love all the interweaving between you.

One question - did having to stick to a framework because it would affect the others' stories constrict your actual writing or did it make it easier?

In awe,

Stage by Stage - Transita - July 2005 - Winner of RNA Joan Hessayon Award 2005

4:32 AM  
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