A Tasteless Union
Isabella signed below her name in the lodging book in the cabin. There were shouts outside. The ship had almost gotten to its dock, and this might be the last chance she had.
“Aren’t you going to come along, Miss Isabella? Would you risk another trip back because of your disapproval of your father’s methods?” Miss Honora asked.
Isabella raised her eyes to her maid. Her hat sat too deeply on her head to see the maid clearly, so using her finger, Isabella tilted the rim back for a better view.
Miss Honora had bleached white skin, not toned like Isabella’s due to her love of riding, but powder white. She wore a green muslin gown with short sleeves and long gloves crumpled around her shoulders. Her eyes caught the light, and the normal dark brown globes took on a lighter shade. Her curls were neatly tucked under a small white hat with a lace shroud in front. She looked every bit a woman who believed in elegance. Isabella sometimes wondered how well Honora would dress if she had been born into a very wealthy family.
“No, my frail heart cannot withstand another tumultuous voyage. I might just die of fainting,” Isabella said.
Her maid nodded and smiled. She opened the door and peered down the narrow corridor of their deck in the ship. Theirs was the uppermost of the three decks. Housing in a room on any deck depended on how much one paid for boarding fees.
“I knew Father would pay top price for our trip,” Isabella said to herself.
“Excuse me sir, please could you help us with our baggage? Our arms are not quite trained for pulling and carrying,” Miss Honora said, obviously in a weak attempt to make a joke with the steward Isabella had not yet seen.
She remained by the door till a young man opened it wider, revealing himself to Isabella. He was a slightly-built steward, but their luggage was not plentiful or heavy as Isabella didn’t plan on remaining in England for long. And besides, her father had rented a house for them and given them a great sum of money. She decided she could spend some on shopping for herself and Miss Honora.
“Thank you,” Isabella said to the steward who couldn’t quite manage to meet her gaze.
He bowed his head and lifted the bag containing Miss Honora’s clothes, pulling the second box behind him. Isabella had owned that box since she was a child, but this was the first time she had moved it. She checked the lodging book again.
Miss Isabella Desmarais, Miss Honora Gagne
Isabella filled in, “30th, March 1814,” in the space after “Docked,” before following her maid and the steward out of the room and into the corridor. A short walk took them to the door leading to the main deck. Isabella could see crowds gathering behind the railings on deck as they welcomed travelers arriving from their lengthy journeys.
“What landing dock is this?” Isabella asked the steward.
“Wiggin’s Quay, ma’am.”
The steward continued pulling the box till they reached the main contingent of people on the ship. The ramp leading down from the ship was narrow, so the queue was rather long as The Voyager had contained many people. The crowd would generate a large amount of heat and sweat, and Isabella was loathe to get mixed up in it, especially on her first day in England. She called the steward back.
“Please would you be a dear and allow us to rest here with our luggage? That crowd seems a little too overpowering,” Isabella said.
The steward looked back. He nodded and turned back, walking close to the railing, just in front of Isabella. She saw a black mark on his blue shirt and wondered if he had just gotten that. She hadn’t seen it before.
“England isn’t possessing of the enchanting air we were told it would provide, on first observation,” Miss Honora said.
Isabella glanced at her maid and then down into the dock at the people below. There were so many of them.
“These are the docks, Honora. The docks in France do not fare better. But remember the elegance and romanticism that our home pours out when you finally get into the cities and meet the people,” Isabella said.
“And I was cajoled that you didn’t want to come, but here you are running to England’s defence,” Miss Honora replied.
“I didn’t, and I still don’t. If I were allowed my way, I would go to the captain and order that he returns us back to where he took us up in France. But alas, such powers are not within my grasp,” Isabella said.
Isabella took another look at the crowd gathered at the ramp. It looked to have thinned. A lot of people had disembarked, but she decided to wait some more. She didn’t want anyone stepping on her dress and tearing it because she couldn’t do anything but wear it that way till they got to their lodge. Her dress was silk. It tore easily.
“What of Lucas?” Miss Honora asked.
“What of him?” Isabella answered.
Miss Honora’s expression portrayed her impression that her mistress would understand her meaning.
Well, I don’t.
When her maid didn’t elaborate, Isabella decided to.
“He left me, Honora. No woman of my stature or class would plead for a man to come back to her. And the worst part is he was paid to leave me,” Isabella said.
Lucas Pabon was her fiancé, well, not anymore. They had been courting for three months and were supposed to have been wed in the summer. Her father had been critical of Lucas from the moment he’d met him.
“His parents aren’t powerful,” he always said.
Isabella didn’t understand her father’s infatuation with powerful parents and families. He talked endlessly about them. Well, his infatuation had cost her the love of her life. Isabella was angry with Lucas, for theirs was an engagement that had already been made public. Everyone in France would have been talking about Paul Desmarais’ daughter’s wedding. Then her father did what he did best and wrecked her plans. He decided he had found a more fitting husband for his daughter and called Lucas into his inner chamber one day.
When Lucas came out, he was a changed man and told Isabella he was no longer interested in the wedding. She was alarmed and incensed because she knew it had been her father’s work, so she approached him and insisted that he provide an explanation.
“Lucas Pabon is not a man fitting for my daughter,” he said in his heavily accented English.
“Qui est?” Isabella had burst out.
Her father looked at her sternly. She knew she had just broken one of their rules, but he had just cost her a happy marriage; she wasn’t bending to him.
“I told you not to speak French to me anymore. You’ll soon be on your way to England,” he said.
Isabella shook her head. She didn’t understand her father. His pride was always an obstacle for her to overcome. He had just broken up her wedding, and here he was complaining about her speaking French because of a planned trip he had for her.
“I’m not going to England, Papa. I’m going to stay here and marry whosoever I deem fit,” she said.
Her father looked at her, shook his head, and looked away like a man who had more important things to do. Isabella almost screamed, but she kept her wits with her and walked out of her father’s bedroom. She went to meet her mother in the gardens although she knew her mother had almost no influence in the decisions her father made.
“Your father?” her mother asked, in her Monaco-styled French.
Her mother, Louisa Demarais, was the daughter of the richest grape farmer in Monaco. She was an easygoing, soft-natured woman that bent too many times to her father’s whims. She never contested his demands and sometimes seemed a bit subservient to her daughter. Regardless of that, Isabella loved her mother dearly because she understood her best and didn’t impose her will on her daughter.
Her mother was a tall waifish woman. Isabella knew she had inherited her height from her, though the rest of their similarities had ended there. Isabella was bigger than her mother, and she saw herself as having more heart than her mother. Arguments between herself and her father were almost a daily affair and peace was only assured when he had travelled or was away on business. And while her mother had skin that seemed permanently tanned, Isabella’s was a whitish pink, though it was starting to darken of late. Facially, they differed too. Mrs. Demarais featured a pointed nose and downturned mouth on a rather longish face, while her daughter had a spherical face, a cute arrowhead nose, and a slightly upturned mouth. Isabella didn’t see the hubris in her assumption that she was more beautiful than her mother despite Miss Honora’s regular claims that it was pride that caused her to conjure such thoughts.
That didn’t matter because her mother was the most amazing woman she knew. Their father was the only hard point in their relationship.
“Oui, you knew he was planning to stop my wedding, didn’t you?” Isabella asked.
Mrs. Demarais said nothing at first. She continued cutting the leaves of the branches of the small hedge she was tending to. Isabella saw the hedge and noticed that her mother had worked hard in getting it to look such a beautiful shape.
“Your father does what your father wants to do, Isabella. You should know best because you took after him,” Mrs. Demarais said.
Isabella bristled at her mother’s response. It always vexed her when her mother claimed she was just as stubborn and opinionated as her father. She wasn’t.
Isabella noticed that the hem of her mother’s blue evening gown had caught on the sharp edge of a stem and if she moved any further it would pull at it and rip it.
“Wait, Mother,” she said softly, placing her hand on her mother’s padded shoulder to keep her in place.
Isabella bent and unhooked her mother’s dress before straightening herself.
“He cancelled my wedding,” Isabella said.
“He did,” her mother replied.
Isabella couldn’t tell if it was a reply that showed surprise or confirmation of what she already knew.
“Is that all you are going to say?” Isabella persisted.
“I knew this would happen even before he executed his plans. But you should know your father, to him, his designs are faultless. He does have the right mind for you, you know that,” her mother said.
Isabella wasn’t sure of that. He was driving the love of her life away from her. The idea that he had her best interests at heart was becoming difficult to prove and impossible to believe.
“He does. I have tried to talk him out of this infatuation with powerful families or families with money, but it has been to no avail,” her mother continued.
“Lucas has money,” Isabella contested.
Her mother peered at her from lowered lashes. Isabella understood what her mother was saying, but she couldn’t resist the comment. Her father didn’t want someone who had just made his money; he wanted a family that the society had come to respect for decades or centuries because they had money.
“And when you observe the method through which your father broke up the arrangement, weren’t you alarmed? Especially by the ease at which your fiancé accepted your father’s deal,” Mrs. Demarais said.
Isabella didn’t understand what her mother was insinuating. Her father was a stubborn and imposing man with a lot of societal clout. It didn’t matter how he went about it; if he wanted the engagement broken, he was going to get it.
“Father is a highly regarded man, Mother. If he wanted to break up my engagement, he would do it,” Isabella said.
“Well, he didn’t even use all that vaunted power you are subtly insinuating. His method should not make you question your father’s actions but your choice of husband,” Mrs. Demarais said.
Isabella hadn’t understood what her mother meant, and she still didn’t. It seemed too complicated advice that required her to have more information before she could understand its meaning. All she did know was that she and Lucas were in love and going to marry if not for her father’s meddling.
And now because of her father’s meddling, she was here in England, soon to be married to a Duke. Her father had finally found her a husband in a powerful family. Isabella wasn’t sure she could go on with this. She had been arranged to marry a man she had never met. She thought about all the classics and romance novels she had read, the designs of love she had planned for her future. She wanted to marry a man that she loved and who loved her back. She hadn’t planned to be whisked over to a foreign land to become a prized possession of a power drunk man. She already had one powerful man in her life, and although she felt that she loved him, the undue and unwanted changes he had made in her life sometimes made her doubt that feeling.
“We should be going now, Miss Isabella. If not, we will be left behind on the ship,” Miss Honora said.
Isabella wasn’t so alarmed at that proposition. It wasn’t any worse than being gifted or bought by a rich Duke into a loveless marriage.
Isabella followed her maid who was also behind the steward helping them with their luggage.
He will expect some remuneration of some sort once he helps us to the dock.
Isabella clutched her purse.
“I should still have a few pound notes within,” she said to herself.
Isabella wasn’t certain, but she didn’t bother checking. If she had no money, Honora surely would.
Her mind fleeted back to being married off to a powerful man, and she remembered her mother. She had always wondered about her mother being the only daughter of five children to a man so powerful and whether she had also been arranged and gifted to her father the same way she was being gifted. She would never voice such a thought as it would draw a chiding reprimand from her maid. But she couldn’t prevent the thought running through her mind.
If her mother had been gifted away, though, that feeling was long gone because the woman was clearly in love with her husband now. Despite their very different temperaments and views that seemed thoroughly incapable of aligning, they were loyal to a fault and would back each other against anyone, even her. Her father would always protect her mother while her mother repaid by her loyalty. Isabella wondered if love could still sprout from what had started a tasteless union.
They started down the ramp, and the steward had to use some strength to prevent the luggage getting away from him. Isabella’s heart beat a bit louder as they went down. She wasn’t someone afflicted by the fear of heights, but her speeding heart refused her the temerity to look over the temporary twine railing. When they got to the bottom, she spied the steward staring at her. His work was done, and as she had predicted, he was expecting to be paid.
“So what difference is to be discovered between Paris and here in London, if no one will provide help for free?” Isabella said to her maid.
Miss Honora stared blankly at her. She didn’t understand. Isabella looked into her purse and sought any pound note that she had. She couldn’t find any.
“Have you any money with you, English money?” Isabella asked her maid quietly.
Her fears came to fruition when Miss Honora shook her head. Isabella felt herself go white. This was a bad way to start life in England.
“Excuse me, please; you wouldn’t be Miss Isabella Demarais now, would you?” a voice asked behind her.
She turned back to see a man wearing uniformed clothes.
“I would. Please to whom do I answer?” Isabella asked.
Miss Honora also turned to stare at the man. He was of average build, a bit shorter than Isabella, but he looked to be around her father’s age. His brown uniform and black bonnet would indicate that he worked here on the dock, but his age and confidence showed that he had to be of a higher rank than a dock worker. Was this the contact her father had said would show her around?
“I am Meredith Chalet, your guide from this dock all the way to your lodging in Marlborough, just a little distance away from London. Your father must have mentioned me to you,” he said.
Isabella smiled widely, hoping it would suffice as apology enough for her cool reception of the man.
“He did. I just didn’t know you would find us first. I was thinking we would have to search for you, sir,” she answered.
The man laughed. One of the teeth in front had been removed and replaced with a golden tooth. Isabella couldn’t take her eyes off the sides of his eyes as they crinkled while he laughed.
“There will be no further need for such worries. I am the Docking Supervisor here at Wiggin’s Quay, and I directed your father to put you on The Voyager. The Voyager always docks at Wiggin’s Quay. I knew it wouldn’t be too much of a bother to find you.”
Isabella nodded. She was somewhat delighted that they didn’t have to search for the man. She had even forgotten his name and would have needed to check inside one of the boxes the steward had brought down.
Oh! The steward.
Isabella looked at him and saw him staring at her, probably wondering what game she was playing at.
“Is he with you? I assume that this luggage is yours,” Mr Chalet said.
“Yes,” Isabella replied.
The man wiggled his finger at the steward, signalling him to carry the luggage and follow them. Isabella felt uncomfortable when he did that. It looked like something her father would do. And she was never comfortable with the treatment her father gave to their servants at home and his workers in his silk treatment house.
The man led them through a host of people and officials. She could see other officials checking some luggage but when they approached, the man just spoke brusquely to them, and they were allowed passage. The man led them further down the big hall and out into the street. She saw a black coach led by two huge horses with shaggy coats of hair around each of their ankles. The driver didn’t look back when Mr Chalet opened the door to the coach’s cabin and directed the steward to put the luggage under each chair. Then he dipped his hand into his pocket and fetched a few coins, throwing them to the steward without as much as a glance at him.
Isabella entered first, but her first impression of life in England had been formed. She didn’t like Mr Meredith Chalet.
“Your father and I do a lot of business together. I am sure he must have mentioned it to you,” Mr Meredith Chalet said.
Even in the tempered lighting of the coach’s cabin, there was always a sparkle in Mr Chalet’s mouth anytime he spoke. And when he smiled, it became a beam.
Was this the sought effect that made him replace his tooth with a golden one?
Isabella didn’t know. She wasn’t sure. Replacing teeth with golden ones wasn’t in fashion in Paris or anywhere in France for that matter. And to her, it seemed a bit too extravagant for a man to use. But then again, she had never been to England. All she knew of this country had been taught her by her governess or read in books.
They might just be so different here in England.
“This man must love the sound of his own voice,” her maid whispered to her, breaking her rumination.
Isabella smiled, but she did well to hide it by dabbing her face with her white ’kerchief. He had been talking since they got into the cabin, non-stop. Isabella imagined that it would be more difficult for Miss Honora because she was facing Mr Chalet directly and couldn’t escape his eyes. Propriety ensured she had to respond with a nod, incongruous exclamation, or a short phrase to every question he asked or statement he made. Isabella turned away and looked outside the window. She feared being brought into whatever lecture Mr Chalet was giving her maid.
It was soon obvious they were leaving the docking area as steward officials and people carrying luggage became a less common sight. The view outside was different from what she had come to expect when looking out of a carriage. Instead of seeing the old houses and structures with huge pillars that filled the streets of Paris, she saw small houses and stalls with lots of greenery. There seemed to be a general infatuation with gardening in England. The coach was moving at a steady pace, and Isabella started to feel the lull of smooth travel. She shook her head and turned to Mr Chalet. Probably if she listened to what he was saying she would feel less inclined to fall asleep.
“Her father brought a lot of silk into England, and I was his conduit. Over the years, we became good friends,” Mr Chalet said, referring to Isabella’s father.
“Is our lodging still a great distance away?” Isabella asked him.
Mr Chalet turned to her and first gave her a smiling glimpse of his golden tooth before speaking.
“You will find carriage rides in England rather soothing as our cobbled roads are perfect for the wheels of a coach. One yearns to enjoy the feeling of a long ride especially while in London,” he answered.
Isabella turned her head away, which was all she could do from sneering in his face. He had said the ‘especially in London’ like she had been coming from a rather uncivilised region without cobbled roads. It was obvious they were still a fair distance away from their destination.
“You will find your lodging to a high taste, Miss Demarais. I had it fitted to your liking,” Mr Chalet said.
Isabella wondered how Mr Chalet had come to know what her taste was.
“It is the first house in Woodley Street, very close to the centre of London and just a few streets away from King Street, near in fact to the hall used by the Almack during the season. Your visit, if we could call it that ….” His eyes lit up when he said that, and Isabella knew that he was aware of why she had come to England. “…. Is very well timed as the season has just begun, and London will be a hub of exciting activities.”
Isabella nodded. She wasn’t so enthralled with the proposition of moving from ball to ball with a man she didn’t love. It was alarming, in fact.
“I hope I can get you invited to some of the great balls and parties. If you attend enough, you will not want to leave England I am sure,” he said.
Isabella feigned a smile and nodded.
If I keep meeting people like you, I’d leave and never come back.
She saw her maid smile. Miss Honora had known her smile was not earnest. She said nothing more as Mr Chalet soon returned to his talk on the business he and Isabella’s father had done.
Mr Paul Desmarais was born to a French trader and an English wife. His mother was once a worker in the docks and had met her father on one of his adventurous voyages into England to see if his lot could be bettered. He didn’t return any richer, but he returned with a wife and a heart full of love. His wife though was aware of the sprouting business of silk dealing in England and convinced her husband to delve into the importation of silk and export for incredibly higher prices into England. He obliged her and slowly became a far wealthier man. When he died, he gave his business over to his first son as his second son was more concerned with busying himself in alehouses and dwelling in the embrace of strumpets on the allowance his father provided him. Mr Paul Desmarais built the business and expanded it, bringing about the construction of a silk refining factory in France and connecting huge buyers in England. This was all the more reason her father had forced her to learn English from a young age because he was also partly English.
The view outside the window soon changed again. There were very few trees now and more old houses with steps leading to the entrance. The compounds were smaller, and people mostly dressed like they were going for a ball.
They can’t all be attending a party now, can they?
Isabella wasn’t sure because everyone she saw was fully dressed. Women in gowns of pink, blue, or lilac that were complete with flailing ’kerchiefs and veiled hats. They were mostly accompanied by men in apparels of dark colour, fitted with wide brimmed hats and staffs that made them look all the more presidential.
“Are we there yet?” Isabella asked again.
Mr Chalet smiled his smile.
“You are rather astute, Miss Desmarais. Yes, we are much closer. This is the heart of London as you could earlier perceive,” he said.
“All these people cannot be going to a party,” Isabella said.
Mr Chalet laughed. He put his hand on his chest, reminding Isabella of her mother’s exaggerated reaction anytime one gave her news that wasn’t to her taste, no matter how trifle.
“A party? Oh, dear me, not all of them. I would be tempted to assume that very few of them even have a ball or party to attend today. They are simply going for walks, Miss Desmarais. A daily dose of fresh air is necessary to clear one’s head especially in this climate,” Mr Chalet said.
Isabella nodded. She had read about this but was highly impressed upon coming across it in reality.
Is this how I will need to dress any time I intend to go for a walk?
The coach suddenly made a turn into a less congested road in the area, and Isabella cast her eyes upon the trees once again. There were tall trees, and the atmosphere was very much cooler than it had been in the middle of London. The coach continued for almost an hour before it soon came to a stop in front of a small gate. The gate was opened by a steward in the gatehouse, and the coach rode in.
Isabella, in a haste to see their living quarters, waited for the house coach to ride to a stop before she descended from the cabin. The house was huge.
How much would Father have spent to rent this place?
Isabella felt a cold grip on her heart, a sadness that reminded her of the malevolence in her planned actions. She was going to waste her father’s money and time if she went ahead with the devices she had planned. She didn’t see a choice, though. The alternative was resigning herself to a loveless marriage during which her entire respite would lie on the title her husband accorded her, Duchess of … Whatever it was, it wasn’t enough. She didn’t think it could ever be.
“Welcome to Willoughby Manor,” Mr Chalet said, bowing his head and bending his back in an exaggerated display.
Isabella saw that the man had a paucity of hair right in the middle of his head. Baldness was an approaching reality for him.
Willoughby Manor was a huge building with custom stairs that led up to the entrance and well tended hedges that showed the presence of a hardworking gardener. It looked to have being positioned at the beginning of a large estate, so Isabella assumed that there would be land stretching far behind the house. There were two identical gardens at both sides of the house, but there was a wooded area behind the one on the right. Willoughby Manor was built of huge stone blocks of which a few were showing signs of ageing. She couldn’t wait to get into a house so old and discover old-fashioned upholstery and antique designed block arcs.
“It is currently run by a group of nine servants, all fully paid for by your father. They are all of course awaiting your arrival and occupation,” Mr Chalet said.
Miss Honora approached her mistress and whispered, “This place is bigger than our home in France.”
“It is huge,” Isabella agreed.
Mr Chalet made his way back towards the coach.
“I must be on my way now, ma’am. I have a trip to France planned this week but should be back tomorrow to provide you with an invitation to a ball where you would meet the Duke,” he said.
His eyes met hers as he said that. Isabella nodded an acknowledgement.
“A coach with driver is present for your leisure. Horses are in the stable, and further enquiry could be directed to the butler of Willoughby Manor,” Mr Chalet said, gesturing behind Isabella and Miss Honora.
They turned back and saw a man in a white shirt and well tapered dark trousers. He had a smile on his clean shaven face, and Isabella noted his fine features. He held his hands behind his back, and once he saw them turn, he bowed stiffly before looking up and meeting Isabella’s gaze.
“Welcome to Willoughby, Miss Isabella Desmarais. We have long awaited your arrival,” he said in a voice that was deep but clear, finely tuned, and almost melodic.
“I am Mr Allister Fenech,” he said.
“So I will be on my way now, ma’am. I’ll surely be back tomorrow,” Mr Chalet remarked before getting into the coach.
The coach moved away, its sturdy horses pulling it effortlessly out of the silver gates.
“Yes, take me to my chambers,” Miss Honora said, stepping forward.
Mr Fenech looked surprised. The heat rose in his cheeks, and his white skin became a radiant pink. He stared at Isabella and back to Miss Honora and swallowed hard.
“I was almost mistaken there. Dear me,” he said, before managing an uncomfortable smile.
“Is there a problem, Mr Fenech?” Miss Honora asked.
Mr Fenech shook his head. The redness was disappearing, but he couldn’t stop moving his eyes from Isabella and back to Miss Honora.
Isabella lifted her ’kerchief to her face, hiding her smile. She had ensured that she and Miss Honora were dressed with apparels of similar status. Now that was looking like a mistake on her part; she would have been more informed to dress in a less sophisticated manner. But it seemed her carriage was still a greater indicator than just their dressing. She had to learn to differ from Miss Honora for their plan to work.
“No, nothing at all. If you would follow me, Miss Desmarais,” Mr Fenech said at length, staring this time at Miss Honora.
Isabella smiled. But for the mistake she made in answering Mr Chalet when he asked who she was, no one in England would be made aware of their actual identities. She hoped he was as busy a man, as it looked like he was, so they would be quickly done with this Duke business and back to France in a very short time.
Isabella walked behind Miss Honora. Still unused to the referent air that maids showed, she looked downwards, worried that their ruse would be too easily discovered if she met many piercing gazes. They climbed the steps and entered the house, through corridors and up the stairs till they got to the chambers. The house had floors covered with thick carpeting and finely panelled walls. The upholstery was modern, a somewhat oddity in the antique decoration the rest of the house displayed. The sitting rooms contained windows of stained glass, but on passage through the corridors, the windows were clear, appropriate to view happenings in the courtyard.
“This will be your room, Miss Desmarais,” Mr Fenech said.
Isabella had to stop herself from moving forward on hearing her name. It was a reflex reaction that still needed to be worked on. Miss Honora answered him and walked into the room. Isabella found it strange that it was she who remained at the door, waiting on her mistress.
“Come in, Honora,” she heard from inside the room.
Isabella walked in, nodding to Mr Fenech who had chosen to stay outside the room.
“The next room is that of your maid, Miss Demarais,” Mr Fenech said.
Miss Honora nodded.
“Thank you, Mr Fenech. I’ll summon you if or when I am in need of your attention. But now, my body aches of the rigours of distant travelling, and I need some much deserved rest. Leave me be with my maid; maybe we will be down for dinner,” she answered.
Mr Fenech bowed and walked away. Isabella turned and closed the door behind her.
“That was a bit too close for comfort, Honora,” she said.
“We were provided with but that chance. If I didn’t take it, then our plan would be thwarted before it even started,” Miss Honora replied.
Isabella nodded. Miss Honora was right. It had been her hasty carelessness that had caused her to answer her name when Mr Chalet first asked. If she had just remembered their plan and waited for Miss Honora to answer her own name as they had agreed, then they would be in no danger of having their ruse discovered. Her father did say Mr Chalet was a busy man and would probably not be seeing them till the planned wedding. Isabella hoped that was true because they had commenced the plan now.
Isabella had thought it up a few days ago while still in The Voyager. She proposed that she assumed Miss Honora’s position as the maid while Miss Honora took her place as the Miss Desmarais. She hoped that this would ensure that the Duke who planned to marry her would easily lose any affection for her since Miss Honora wouldn’t be able to show the class and carriage of a woman of her status. Miss Honora was to pose as an uninteresting, misinformed woman who only looked fortunate to have been born to a wealthy father.
A Duke couldn’t possibly have affection for such a woman.
Even if the Duke didn’t cancel the marriage arrangement, if Miss Honora later told the Duke of her displeasure in the arrangement, he would be so disenchanted with her persona that he would readily agree to the dissolution of their engagement.
All they both had to do was ensure they acted out their role reversals as efficiently as possible.
“What happens when Mr Chalet returns tomorrow to give us the invites?” Miss Honora asked.
“We receive him in the garden. There it will be just the two of us; there will be no danger of our ruse being revealed,” Isabella answered.
“All that’s left is fooling the Duke,” Miss Honora said.
Isabella nodded. That was all that was left, but that was all that mattered.
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Isabella Desmarais has her world turned upside down in a single day. But even as her father cancels her engagement and makes her travel to England to become the wife of a Duke, Isabella is not one to give up that easily! Her spirited, witty nature pushes her to change positions with her maid with the intention of sabotaging the engagement. However, even though she’s determined to dislike the Duke, she can’t help but feel an untamed attraction towards him. When the innocent attraction evolves into ardent passion, what is she willing to do to salvage the situation?
Thomas Wilmington has just returned from Scotland to become the Duke in his late father’s place but also inherit the massive debt that came with the title. He is in desperate need of money. Fortunately for him, the solution comes in the face of a wealthy French merchant’s daughter. The only problem is, she’s not the fiery, passionate woman he expected to meet. To add to his problems, he finds himself irresistibly attracted to her maid! Entangled in this impossible situation, will he choose love and undeniable passion over duty?
When things don’t go according to plan and identities are threatened to be exposed, what can Isabella do to ensure that she won’t lose Thomas? In this forbidden romance, can they find a reason to believe it’s worth risking everything they have for it? The battle between right and wrong may not have the final say in this story of unprecedented love.
“The Mischievous Plan of a Fiery Lady” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.