Book Jacket

 

rank 5076
word count 64289
date submitted 15.05.2011
date updated 20.07.2011
genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical Fictio...
classification: moderate
complete

Becoming a Lady

Margaret Fleming

It's not easy becoming a lady. Especially when starting from rock bottom, as Katy is discovering. She needs assistance, but who can she trust?

 

Aberdeenshire, Autumn 1878.

Katy dreams of leaving the inn near the harbour. The expensive lessons learning how to walk and talk are wasted, as she waits tables fending off abusive and rowdy punters.

George admires Katy from afar. If she only had money not just looks. His paltry bank balance is a source of constant irritation. Marrying well seems his only hope. But is there an easy way to get rich and win Katy? Will she go along with the plan?

Henry has all the money he needs but a demanding family who would have it all for themselves. Despising the curse of being wanted only for his financial assets, he must always pay for others to realise their ambitions. But what about his own? He dreams of exacting revenge on those who love only his money, but is that really enough?

For Katy to realise her ambition and escape the drudgery of her life, she must find an escape route. With the family-run Inn sinking lower and lower, the possibility of getting out is evermore distant. How can she break away? And if she does, what unknown complications lie ahead?

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19th century, aberdeen, adversity, atmospheric, attraction, betrayal, character driven, classes, easy read, family relationships, happy ending, head o...

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Aberdeen, Autumn 1878

Deafening roars of laughter rent the room, drowning out the clatter of metal colliding with wood and the scream of shock as four pints of ale sloshed into the lap of an unsuspecting man.

Katy cursed as her hands slammed the tabletop, the tray slipping from her fingers. Its contents flowed freely across the table and dripped onto the now empty chair. The man had leapt to his feet, snarling about the state of his breeches, trying furiously to wipe off the excess.

Gingerly, she straightened up, her wrists ached and she felt something at her ankle. Looking down she saw her boot, poking from beneath her underskirt, caught in the end of a walking stick. An old man doubled up with laughter was pulling senselessly at it, not to remove it, but to add to his amusement. Hell bent on attempting to make her fall further still.

She realised that someone was talking to her. Through the haze of smoke, the continuous laughter and banging of fists it was hard to be sure.

‘Are you hurt?’

The companion of the man she had just covered in four tankards of beer was addressing her kindly.

‘I’m just fine,’ she muttered, extricating her ankle from the offending stick. She picked it up and slammed it in front of the old man.

‘Watch where you put it in future,’ she said.

The laughter intensified. Katy grabbed the tray and returned to the bar. No physical hurt was manifest, she felt only deep humiliation, the ground opening to swallow her up couldn’t happen soon enough.

She avoided the stare from the man waiting behind the bar. He seemed intent on filling more flagons but she knew he was watching her closely.

‘It’s only for one night, lass,’ he said.

She perceived the faintest trace of concern in his voice.

‘You said that three weeks ago and I can’t take much more of this.’

The man didn’t reply.

‘I thought you had this in hand?’ she said, ‘you told me you’d found someone.’

‘Well, I have,’ said the man, defensively ‘it’s just taking a bit longer, but you’re doing fine, you’ll get used to it.’

‘I don’t want to get used to it!’ said Katy, ‘you promised I’d never have to do this, it’s your work not mine. I thought you wanted me to be a ‘lady’? What was the point of all those ridiculous lessons, all that money? For this! You can kiss goodbye to that stupid notion, what ‘lady’ ever worked in an inn serving vermin like this? I don’t know what kind of lady you were dreaming of.’

‘Hush,’ muttered the man, ‘just don’t worry, it’ll be fine you’ll see, trust your old dad.’

Katy loaded another tray, clanging down the tankards with irritation. Beer frothed over the sides and trickled down the cold pewter. That was his answer to everything, he always assured her, everything would be fine, but was he ever right? She’d endured enough, following his dreams, picking up the pieces of his life.

Noisy banter had resumed accompanied by fist banging and the occasional song, in no recognisable key.  Tankards clanged one to another with punctuating toasts of ‘slange’. She wove between the tables carrying the fresh tray, avoiding the route with the offensive stick. The thick air obscured her vision and partly hindered her progress, it was almost as good as being part invisible, her progress went unnoticed until…

‘Over here, lass!’

Cries from the corner, coupled with more fist banging.

‘Aye, mind and no trip now!’

More roars and guffaws, a few wolf whistles.

She continued slowly, maintaining the little dignity she had left. The bustle she usually cursed proved a godsend as filthy pinching fingers from each passing table missed her flesh by a good few inches.

‘You’re a bonny one!’ yelled a grubby man from the corner table, his tangled beard looked infested.

Katy laid the tray on the table, not acknowledging the comment.

‘Aye, shame you canny keep yer feet! You been on the ale yersel’ tonight!’

Ignoring him, she lay the tankards on the table.

‘Where’s the other lass?’

‘Ay, you’re a new one!’

‘She’s ill,’ replied Katy, lifting the tray and making to head off.

‘Ill!’ replied the fattest occupant. The loudest roar of the evening ensued, one of the men seemed close to a fit, or maybe he was really choking. She couldn’t bring herself to care. If he choked it would be one less piece of scum to deal with.

‘What’s wrong with her?’

The fat man could hardly get the words out through his inebriated hooting.

‘The clap!’ roared the grubby beard, ‘no, I know, she’s got a bun in the oven!’

‘Ay, and I heard it was the baker that done it!’

The roars rent the air and Katy took the opportunity to leave.

Her path was obstructed by the man she had covered in beer.

‘What are you going to do about this?’

He indicated his soaked breeches, the sodden patch was in a very unfortunate position.

‘Take them off and I’ll hang them in front of the fire,’ suggested Katy.

The man stared at her, filled with outrage.

‘Don’t give me any of that sauce, how dare you.’

She raised her eyebrow, ‘well, what do you expect me to do? You can go stand in front of the fire wearing them if you like?’

‘It was your fault,’ snapped the man, ‘you should do something.’

His companion was tugging on his sleeve, indicating he should sit back down but he took no notice.

‘My fault?’ said Katy, ‘my fault that some old fool left his stick poking out? You think I did it on purpose? I only walked this way to throw beer all over you?’

‘Nonetheless you…’

‘Actually,’ interrupted Katy, ‘if I’d known what an arrogant devil you were I would’ve come and chucked the beer down you, or better still, up ended it over your insufferably ugly face.’

She left the man gaping, as she neared the bar she heard him calling, ‘you haven’t heard the end of this, mark my words.’

She ignored him, accepting another tray.

‘What was all that about?’ asked her father, ‘you better not go upsetting the customers, I’ve got a reputation to keep up.’

‘Ha,’ scoffed Katy, ‘like I need to be careful, you’re good at ruining that yourself.’

She lifted the tray and conveyed it to a pair of weathered old fishermen, one of them so ancient he was practically a corpse, his skin gnarled and lined deeply like an old oak.

He nodded, as she laid a foaming mug before him.

‘Ye’re a good lass,’ he croaked, nodding compulsively, ‘hold yer pretty head high and you’ll do well.’

She smiled. He seemed almost childlike as he raised the pint tremulously to his lips, she didn’t believe in signs or fortune-telling but she liked the look of him. She decided to believe him, at least for the night. Tonight she would hold her head high and try do well, to please the old man. Apart from the man with sodden trousers, he was a special case.

Feeling heartened, she returned to the bar. The door in the passageway banged. Expecting further guests, she began lifting tankards from the shelf below the bar, the door banged again, then again.

‘Go and shut that flaming door!’ her father’s voice boomed.

‘Yes, your royal majesty,’ she grunted

She made to slam the heavy door but stopped suddenly. A huge flash rent the dark sky followed by a long low rumbling. She felt a slight breeze brush her face then the slow tap of raindrops started to patter on the cobblestones. Another flash lit the sky, the rain steadily increased as the thunder rumbled on.

‘Shut that flaming door will you!’

Her father appeared behind her, a menacing look on his face.

‘I’m doing it, I was just watching the lightning.’

‘Lightning? Good! That’ll keep the punters in here for hours, we’ll make a fortune.’

Katy slammed the door so hard that the groans of thunder were momentarily drowned out. The rain began to lash the mullions very heavily; it was audible even over the rowdy band in the corner. They’d started a new game, roaring at every flash of lightning then counting loudly and deliberately in unison, waiting for the thunder clap. Each time declaring that it was getting closer, or must, at this very moment, be right above them. In order to play this game properly they needed more ale.

Every inch of their filthy clothes and grubby faces disgusted Katy. They had week’s worth of dirt smudged across their mugs, with shiny beads of sweat making streaky marks. But she marvelled at their ability to count in order after the amount of liquor they’d tossed back that evening.

As she returned the empty tray to the bar, she heard the door in the passage banging again. Before her father could yell, she headed for it. Swaying slightly, it creaked in the wind and raindrops beat the edge of the mat. She slammed it fast. No sooner had she clicked it shut but it opened again, she made to push it but met resistance. She let go.

A smartly dressed man carrying a small case entered.

‘I’ll thank you, young lady, to let me in,’ he said, with a crack like a whip in his voice, his well-cut coat was saturated and beads of rain dripped from the brim of his top hat. He hastened to take it off, shaking the excess water onto the doormat. ‘I am quite wet enough as it is, if you insist on shutting me out on the street I’ll probably drown.’

Katy bit back the word good. She remembered that she was ‘doing well’ tonight and did her best to look pleased, not offended, by this comment.

The man was looking around the gloomy passageway, he looked totally out of place in these grim surroundings. His face was clean, so clean he looked pale and ghostly, his hair neatly combed and his short sideburns were trimmed to fit his face perfectly. Apart from being soaked with rain, his clothes were immaculate, he might have walked out of the tailor’s five minutes before. His expression however was unimpressed.

‘This is a boarding house?’ he said, looking sceptical.

‘An inn,’ said Katy.

‘Is there a difference?’ he said, not troubling to hide his disdain, ‘in essence they’re the same. You have rooms?’

‘Yes.’

‘Good, I require one. This weather has completely scuppered my plans.’

‘I’ll check,’ said Katy. She knew there were rooms free, but making the man worry that he might have to continue out in the rain, or even drown, gave her a mischievous pleasure. She chanced a look back before she entered the bar, he was looking about with an air of deepest apprehension. Perhaps he’d never been anywhere so deficient in his life or even imagined such a place could exist.

 

A smart spoken customer in his hallway called for dramatic action. Katy’s father whipped off his apron and almost knocked her over in his haste to meet the guest. Katy could hear his voice talking gently in the passageway, she hoped the well-dressed man had brought lots of cash, he was about to be fleeced for all he was worth. Of course if he objected to the terms, he could always try his luck out in the rain and who knew where the next boarding house was to be found.

 

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Sophy wrote 786 days ago

Hi Margaret,
I've read the first 3 chapters, and like it so far. You have great introductions to the chapters - makes the reader 'there' with the character without endless descriptions of scenery. It is easy to see it through the action. If you're after constructive feedback, here's my thoughts:
Generally - some of your sentences are very long, perhaps putting in a full stop where there is a comma might help - eg 2nd last sentence of chapter 1.

chapter 2 - referring to his breakfast as the 'fair' - should spell 'fare' - occurs twice in this chapter.
'half and hour ago' ought to be 'half an hour ago.
Esther's language is not always consistent - she mixes educated speech with colloquial terms - but this might be intentional, and maybe it's just me, so don't worry too much!

chapter 3 - 'spoons drooping on the best china' - perhaps 'dropping' as it is referring to the clinking noise they make. Some sentences need tightening up again, or cutting in half.

Keen to read more - let me know if you would prefer not to have feedback like this, it is all little stuff. I do like your story and the setting is great.

good luck with it,
regards, Sophy

Bucephalus wrote 839 days ago

Hi Margaret
I liked the construct of this story, and the sheer energy of your writing style. As a personal observation I would suggest tightening the final paragraph a little.
best regards
Steve

Carol Ritten Smith wrote 1008 days ago

Hi Margaret. I'm enjoying your book and I've decided to rate it high and pop it on to my bookshelf. I'm curious as to how you got to number eight hundred-something when you have so few backings. What number did you start with? I'm still trying to figure out Authonomy's ranking system. Best wishes with "Becoming a Lady." Carol

auntie_hen wrote 1031 days ago

I love historical fiction. I like this as it is set in a different location. too many are set in London, this is interesting. I like the characters and find them enagaging and interesting. I will read more soon.

Carol Ritten Smith wrote 1045 days ago

Hi Margaret. Becoming a Lady is definitely my kind of story. I love historical novels of this era. You described the atmosphere of the inn so well, I was right there. You certainly utilized the senses: noisy banter... tankards clanged... thick air... pinching fingers. Your dialogue is strong and the rude remarks made by the boors in the inn really add to the atmosphere. I often critique as I read each chapter, so here goes Chapter one. In Canada we spell lightening, lightning. My old dictionary, printed in Great Britain, spells it that way, too, so maybe you'd better spell check that word. Also, I'm a stickler for grammar. The second paragraph has run on sentences. My published friend told me that his editor wanted more short and to-the-point sentences for ease of reading and comprehension. When I write, my sentences are never longer than what I could read aloud in one breath. I felt light-headed reading your forty-nine word sentence/paragraph. This is how I might rewrite it. 'Kate cursed as her hands slammed the tabletop and the tray of drinks slipped from her fingers. Its contents flowed freely across the table and dripped over the edge. The man leapt to his feet, snarling . . .' I've separated your one-sentence paragraph into three sentences, but you could make it into two if you kept the comma between 'fingers' and 'its'. But you definitely need to break it into two. Please realize I am only offering suggestions and you can disregard any or all of what I say. My intentions are to bring out the best in fellow writers. Believe me, I've had plenty of advice and hard critiques over the many years I've written. I wish you the best and will continue reading about Kate and the mysterious gentleman. Carol

sweet honey wrote 1048 days ago

Vivid description of an inn in the first chapter. We meet Katy, a girl who wants better for herself, and is neither timid nor shy. Me thinks she'll do well for herself. Might the wet stranger seeking board in her father's inn be the one to make her dreams come true? Perhaps not. We can only find out one way.

AnneEvans wrote 1056 days ago

only read the first chapter so far, but you do a good job of getting the reader interested up front. I'm interested in reading the rest.

Jacoba wrote 1066 days ago

Hi,
I read all your chapters and this is really good. Well written with a nice easy flow making the reader immersed in your story. I liked all the characters they are all complex in their own way and I like the way you have tied them together. I feel a clever plot unfolding already at this early stage. I have a feeling Katy's casual feisty attitude is going to turn a few heads and attract attention. Possibly from both bachelor patrons??? I think I'm gunning for the poor rich lord who has to contend with a house full of women. I'd like to see his demeanour change and perhaps be happy.
If you post anymore let me know, I'd like to read on.
Well done,
Star rated and watchlisted for now,
Cheers Jacoba

Su Dan wrote 1069 days ago

a well written piece; great flow, easy to read, and enjoyable...l shall back...
read SEASONS...

senyah nala wrote 1070 days ago

Margaret (BECOMING A LADY)

This is not my normal sort of read, but browsing the site your pitch for the book sounded interesting and I read three chapters.
It is a pleasant story and well written. Your writing is very descriptive and you make it easy for the reader to imagine being there. I also like the way you have of getting right into the feelings of your characters.
I trust Katy will eventually achieve what she wants.
I'm sure your book will appeal to many. It's going on my shelf. All the best.

Al

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