Welcome! You’ve dropped in at just the right time to hear some juicy behind-the-scenes Regency gossip from the Bluestocking Belles’ soon-to-be-released Christmas box set, Mistletoe, Marriage, & Mayhem.
In the following never-before-seen vignette, Cordelia, Lady Montagu, the villainess from my Christmas novella All She Wants for Christmas catches up with Enid, Lady Bosville, the villainess from Jude Knight’s Gingerbread Bride. The following post features the first half of an exclusive chat with these two arbiters of ton gossip. Then drop by Jude Knight’s blog to read the remainder of their scandal laden conversation. There’s quite a bit of delicious inside information sprinkled throughout each post about other characters featured in Mistletoe, Marriage, & Mayhem. Go on, read on… You know you want to…
Enid, Lady Bosville can barely hide her boredom. The Stanton musicale is a dismal affair—mostly ladies, with a smattering of husbands. And they are actually listening to the music! She hides a yawn, and forces a smile as the newly wedded Julia Stanton passes by. How nauseating it is that the young woman appears blissfully happy as she gazes up at her new husband, Oliver Stanton—and a commoner no less! How utterly dreadful.
Enid wonders if she can steal away; perhaps pretend a call of a delicate nature and revisit the tea table in the other parlour. The afternoon tea, at least, is to her taste. No sooner thought than put into practice, she slips from her seat and glides quietly to the door.
But someone is before her at the tea tables…
* * *
Cordelia, Lady Montagu, scans the chattering crowd seated in the drawing room and only just manages to hide a bored sigh behind her fan. The musicale at Oliver and Julia Stanton’s Manchester Square residence had turned out to be a frightfully tedious affair. Not an unexpected circumstance at this time of year, mid-December. But she’d had rather high hopes of meeting some roguish fellow up to the task of keeping her warm in bed tonight. However, all the men present this afternoon are either well into their dotage or sickeningly devoted to their spouses. It seems that all of the rakes have left Town and have retired to their country estates for Yuletide. Deciding to seek diversion elsewhere, Cordelia rises from her seat and makes her way toward the tea tables in the adjoining parlour. Her mouth curves into a genuine smile when she spies her friend Lady Bosville. She had no idea Enid was attending the musicale. This afternoon might be quite entertaining after all.
“Cordelia!” Enid appears delighted when she approaches. “I have not seen you since that rather astonishing evening at Penrose House! Tell me, are the rumours true?”
Cordelia smiles archly. “Yes, my dear, Enid. They most certainly are.” She places a hand on Lady Bosville’s arm and leans closer to speak in a low voice, “We should find a quiet corner to sit and chat about the supposed wedding of the year. I’ve been dying to share the details.”
Enid’s eyes gleam. “I knew you would know what had really happened that night. Perhaps… the library? Does a banker have a library, one wonders?”
Cordelia sniffs. “I suppose Mr. Stanton thinks he can afford one. However, I believe there might be a sitting room nearby.” Armed with cups of tea and all manner of salacious tales to tell, the ladies repair to a small side parlour and seat themselves on an over-stuffed sofa. “Now, what would you like to know, Enid?” asks Cordelia, with a conspiratorial smile. “How thoroughly disreputable Jasper, Lord Arlington is, or how odd and entirely unsuitable his affianced, Miss Tessa Penrose appears to be?”
“I am well aware of how disreputable Jasper can be, my dear Cordelia,” Enid replies with a smirk. “I would love to know how disreputable he actually was! And with his best friend’s sister, by all accounts!”
Cordelia takes a sip of tea, pulls a face as she suspects it is really not the best quality, then puts down her cup on the occasional table beside her. “Well, Jasper was certainly a busy man that night,” she says with a knowing smirk of her own. “And perhaps I’m partly to blame for what happened. Jasper had been in such a lather earlier that evening, poor boy, I felt compelled to soothe the proverbial savage beast. But I obviously didn’t soothe him enough. Mind you, I wasn’t present when the ‘incident’ with Miss Penrose occurred. That happened later. Apparently, Jasper was caught flagrantly kissing her during the height of the ball at Trevilian House. By her aunt, Lady Cardew and that shocking old tabby, Lady Salter.”
“No! After he already…? Cordelia, I am shocked!” Enid is openly grinning. “One can admire his stamina, if not his taste. But surely Miss Penrose is not even out. Was it not her first ball?”
“Ah, you are thinking of Viscount Trevilian’s youngest sister, Miss Emma Penrose,” explains Cordelia. “The ball was held for her – a trial come-out ball or some other such nonsense, I believe. But it was the eldest Miss Penrose, Tessa—such a strange woman—who was compromised. I hear that not only does she hire herself out as a painter, she is also,” Cordelia pauses for effect, “a bluestocking. Why Jasper kissed that bizarre creature, is a complete mystery to me. Although, he was quite foxed when I left him.” She smiles slyly. “Perhaps he mistook Tessa for me.”
“Poor Jasper!” Enid crows, clearly delighted. “How ever will he manage!”
Cordelia shrugs. “Lord knows. Although, he is always welcome to cry on my shoulder. And he well might. There are certain things society does not know about Tessa. I rather suspect that leg-shackled or not, it won’t be long before Jasper and I take up where we left off.” She shudders and adds, “Miss Tessa Penrose really is a most unsuitable match for a man like Lord Arlington. Forced marriages. They never work.”
“I dare say,” Enid agrees. “And Miss Penrose can hardly expect him to be faithful. Not Arlington. Certainly not under the circumstances. A spinster at her last prayers? And a peculiar one at that? She saw him foxed and took her chances; you mark my words! And a marriage begun with a trick is unlikely to be a happy one. You may remember, Cordelia, that I told you how I and Bosville… Well, he wanted me, of course. I merely helped things along a little. It wasn’t the same thing at all as this sad situation with the Penrose chit.”
Cordelia inclines her head in agreement. “Yes, one must always look out for oneself. And take comfort wherever and whenever one can.” She eyes Enid with interest. “How is your husband these days if you don’t mind my asking?”
Her friend sighs almost as dramatically as an actress from Vauxhall Gardens. “His whores and his horses keep him entertained and out of my way. So boring, all these people who pretend to be enamoured of their spouses. So plebian. He was a fine figure of a man before he put on all that weight, but no patience, Cordelia. Always in a rush… if you understand me.”
Cordelia touches Enid’s hand. “Oh yes I do. Completely. My husband—God rest his soul—could barely even rise to the occasion. Now, men like Lord Arlington…” Cordelia smiles wistfully as she recalls their last encounter. “I’m sure that starchy Miss Penrose will have no idea how to keep him happy. Mark my words, Enid, I’m sure it won’t be long before the earl casts a look my way again.” She gives her friend an assessing look. “Speaking of straying spouses, what news do you have of that entirely delicious Rick Redepenning? I know he married Mary Pritchard some years ago. Surely he’s grown tired of her by now.”
To read the remainder of the gossip, see the second half of this post on Jude Knight’s blog.
- the full story of what really happened at the Penrose Ball—and how Tessa Penrose and Lord Arlington fared afterwards in All She Wants for Christmas
- the real story of the courtship of Rick Redepenning and Mary Pritchard, and how Bosville and Enid attempted to derail it, in Gingerbread Bride.
- how the Stantons come to meet and marry in The Ultimate Escape, by Susana Ellis