She’s Rich – And No Lady. He’s Poor – A Gentleman With A Secret.
Lily France is rich, demanding and has the most outrageous taste in interior decoration and clothes. With her inheritance coming from trade, Lily is definitely Not Quite a Lady, and her avowed aim in life is to remedy that by marrying a titled gentleman. Unfortunately for both her ambitions and her peace of mind she falls out of love with her fiancé, Lord Randall, and into love with Jack Lovell, impoverished coal mine owner. But Jack has a secret – and too much pride to buy his way out of his problems by marrying a rich wife, however attracted he might be by Lily.
Almack’s Assembly Rooms: late March 1815
‘My dear, I agree it would be laughable if it were not my own cousin involved with the creature, but as he is, I simply cannot find it in me to be amused.’ The speaker’s affected voice was instantly recognisable as she entered the room. Lady Angela Hardy. Behind the scree in the retiring room Lily’s fingers stilled on the recalcitrant knot in her garter, then slowly curled.
‘Oh, I do so understand and sympathise.’ The other speaker oozed understanding. ‘So vulgar – the whole family will be devastated if your suspicions are true. And that impossible hair. And the clothes! No wonder she has stayed unmarried for so long.’
‘With that amount of money?’ The third female voice was harsher. ‘I cannot agree: personally I am amazed no one has snapped her up before now, despite the grocer grandfather and the carrot curls and her age. Society is littered with gentlemen in dire need of a fortune to restore their own. Worse handicaps than red hair and vulgarity have been overlooked often enough – and at least her parents are dead.’
… As her father had taught her, Lily closed her eyes and thought calming thoughts… Flying into a rage is bad business – keep calm and get even later.
No, get even now. With a twitch at her satin skirts that made the rows of fringing toss, Lily sailed out from behind the screen. Her appearance effectively silenced Angela, who froze, her mouth half open.
‘Lady Angela, Lady Caroline, Miss George.’ Lily dropped a neat little bob of a curtsy. ‘So edifying as always to hear your opinions, but if I might just drop a little hint, Lady Angela? I heard two of the Patronesses earlier this evening commenting on your misfortune in not receiving an offer again this Season.
‘They seemed to feel that your so freely expressed views might have something to do with it. How did they describe you? Oh, yes, the bran-faced spinster with the adder tongue. Very unfair, I thought. After all, I am sure that the application of enough of Rowland’s Kalydor Balm must improve even the most sallow complexion. It can do nothing for the tongue, of course.’