If you love Regency romance, I hope you’ll enjoy the latest short story in our Follyjohn Gossip series, When She’s Alone.
Clean Regency romance: the Follyjohn Gossip series
New to Follyjohn?
I decided that the Follyjohn series would be “clean” romances, mainly because I enjoy reading clean Regencies, and also because of the country setting.
Sizzling romance would be impossible in a village and country atmosphere, where everyone knows everyone else, everyone gossips, and strangers are suspect.
To villagers, the wealthy families were local celebrities, and although a family’s household servants might be discreet, there were many servants. Gossip was a given, and perception was everything.
An excerpt from When She’s Alone
London, 1817, summer
By July, most of the ton had escaped London for their country estates. They’d be back after their autumn shoots, but for now, entertainments were few.
Newly in town a year after she became a widow, Sylvie was ready to greet the world again at Mrs. Sein’s dinner party. She didn’t know Mrs. Sein, an Austrian lady. Her brother assured her that the woman was highly fashionable, and an intimate of the Prince Regent besides. By “intimate”, she assumed that he meant that Mrs. Sein had been or was the Regent’s mistress.
Mrs. Sein pressed her hand, and smiled kindly at her. “So good of you to come, Lady Shelldown. Your brother has told me much about you. I’m convinced that we’ll be friends.”
Sylvie glanced at her brother when he led her away from the front door into the drawing room. His face betrayed nothing, but she was sure that there had been something intimate in Mrs. Sein’s warm look at him.
The drawing room was full of people, none of whom she knew.
Marcus turned to face her, and spoke quietly. “That’s him. The reason I brought you. Lord Raydorm. He’s asked for leave to address you,” he nodded towards a small man, shaped like a barrel on thin legs, bowing low over a lady’s hand. “Made his fortune in India.”
Oh no. “Marcus, you said that I might have a year to myself,” Sylvie protested, while her heart dropped to her shoes.
Finally mistress of her own house — Shelldown House, in Berkley Square — and free, she felt the gates of marriage slamming down on her again. She realized that she should have refused to attend this dinner party.
A foot taller than she, and wide as a barn door, Marcus Dellon’s handsome features twisted as he smiled down at her. His smile never reached his eyes. “My dear Sylvie, you need a husband — and I need money, so come and meet the man.”
Marcus took her hand and placed it on his arm, squeezing her fingers so tightly that she winced. “I promised him an introduction. Be kind. Beautiful women make him nervous, he says.”
“Lady Shelldown,” Lord Raydorm bowed deeply, but didn’t take her hand.
Marcus put his hand over hers while Sylvie dipped to Raydorm. Then Marcus took her hand, and when Raydorm extended his arm, Marcus put her hand on Raydorm’s sleeve.
The action was symbolic. Just like that, Marcus had handed her over to a new owner. Leave, leave, leave… an insistent small voice whispered in her ear.
She could leave. Sylvie knew that. She could talk to a footman and ask that her carriage be brought around. Within ten minutes, she’d be back in Berkley Square. But the habits of a lifetime were impossible to break. Why she was brave only in her mind, and never in reality?
Of course she’d been placed beside Lord Raydorm at dinner. He invited her and her brother to a house party on his country estate. He didn’t wait for her acceptance, he assumed that she would be there.
Seated down the table from her, she felt Marcus’s gaze on her.
She had to escape.