What does orphaned Cecilia Beaumaris, a too tall, too outspoken gentlewoman with no pretensions to beauty and no fortune, do when she is forced to leave the school she has been living in for nearly fifteen years? She decides to open her own school, of course. But she can’t touch her small inheritance until she is twenty-five, so she has to live temporarily with her aunt and uncle. But they don’t want her. To get her married off, they invent a fortune she doesn’t have and she is besieged by fortune hunters. Enter Lord Thomas Allenby, a handsome, fashionable fribble, who has his own reasons for wanting to escape the marriage mart. He persuades her to announce a faux betrothal, but it doesn’t work out quite how Cecilia expects.
Against the background of early nineteenth century London, with its fashionable Mayfair mansions, East End slums and the development of public education, this is the story of how one woman seeks to improve the lives of impoverished girls by opening a school for them. The effect on her own life is beyond her wildest imaginings. .
Scroll down to listen to the first chapter
click red arrow
When lovely widow Imogen Mainwaring is offered the “protection” of the devastatingly attractive rake Lord Ivo Rutherford, she violently rejects him and leaves town. Some months later, they meet in London, where Imogen has taken over her husband’s business and is making money on the Stock Exchange. She tries to avoid him, but there’s just something about him…
Told against the background of early nineteenth century England and the development of new technologies such as the railways, this is the story of a strong woman who is financially acute and perfectly happy on her own. Or so she thinks. But Ivo has other ideas and the outcome is a surprise, especially to Imogen.
Set in 1830’s London, this historical Romance sizzles with the attraction between two unlikely people.
21st of January, 1831 London
Dear Lady Imogen:
My husband recently made a remark I find very hurtful. He said, “There’s a bit more of you these days, isn’t there?”
Do you think he’s finding me unattractive because I put on weight, and should I go on a diet?
Am I Too Corpulent?
Dear Am I Too Corpulent,
My dear, first, you must learn to pay no attention to your husband whatsoever. Furthermore, most marriages function much better when the parties hardly ever see each other. There are married couples of the ton who can barely remember each other’s names.
As to whether you are unattractive with a little extra flesh, I am sure this is not the case. Most gentlemen prefer a lady with, let us say, a little coverage. I myself am quite rounded and I must say my Lord Ivo seems to enjoy it very much, if his almost constant presence in my bedchamber is any indication. But I draw a veil over that.
You have but to buy yourself a new gown that amply displays your form and go to the Vauxhall Gardens on an occasion of a Masquerade. You will be masked, so no one will know you. See if the cavaliers do not flock to your side! You will have proof that your husband is quite mistaken if he considers your extra poundage a detriment. And should he mention it again, you may tell him so.
In the meantime, do not by any means undertake a reducing diet! It is said that Lord Byron sought to reduce by a diet of vinegar and cold potatoes. There is no doubt that this miserable life led to his unhappy verse, which many admired but I found lowering. It almost certainly contributed to his unfortunate demise. He dwindled away from a fever while in Greece a few years ago. No wonder. Do not follow the same path!
Imogen Rutherford, Duchess of Sarisbury
20th of December 1830. London
Dear Lady Imogen,
I have a problem with my boyfriend. I think he may have found someone else. Whenever I come into the room and he’s talking on his phone, he quickly hangs up. If I ask him who he was talking to he says “no one”. What do you think I should do?
Thanks for your help,
My Dear Worried,
I find myself perplexed by the details of your letter, though not by its sentiment. What, for example, is a boyfriend or a phone? And what exactly is hanging up ? A portrait of you, perhaps? My husband, Lord Ivo Rutherford has commissioned a portrait of me which will, I suppose, be hung in the formal salon in Sarisbury House. I must say, it will look very odd there, next to all the landscapes executed by dear Mr. Turner. In any case, I doubt he will do the hanging himself. A couple of the footmen will do the job.
But I digress. It seems from your anxiety that boyfriend must mean more than a friend who is a boy. We employ several boys in Sarisbury House: they carry in the coal or deliver notes to our neighbors, but I must confess that I cannot regard them as friends and if they found someone else to serve it would not cause me a moment’s anxiety.
I therefore think you may mean someone closer to your heart: your betrothed, I imagine. If he is talking to someone else, whether on his "phone” or on anything else, (is he in fact standing on a large pouffe or other item of furniture?) and says it is no one, then my dear, you are right to be anxious. For any man (or boy) who, when discovered conversing, claims to be talking to no one, is clearly disturbed in his mind.
I believe that a similar condition affected His Majesty, our late king. He took an oak tree for the Prince of Prussia and held quite some discourse with it, so it seems he thought he was talking to someone when he was not.
In any case, I recommend a notice in the Times to the effect that you have broken your engagement as you found you did not suit. For who wishes to be allied with a madman?
I hesitate to mention the more delicate issue of marriage with a man so small in stature that he needs to stand on something to carry on a conversation. What that must mean in terms of his ability to perform his manly function, propriety forbids me to conjecture, not to mention the inevitable dilapidations to the furniture. Break your engagement, my dear!
Imogen Rutherford, Duchess of Sarisbury