Book Jacket

 

rank 5072
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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A rough hand was clamped round her neck. Katy struggled to claw it away, her father’s furious face glared at her, his gapped teeth bared.

‘Don’t give me anymore of that lip,’ he growled, releasing her. Massaging her neck she struggled to draw breath. ‘You might think yourself high above us all now but believe me you’re not above going over my knee if there’s anymore of that directed at your stepmother.’

‘Stepmother?’ breathed Katy, ‘when did she become my stepmother? Anyway, I didn’t say anything I just…’

‘You didn’t have to, all these presents and fancy togs you parade about it, what do you expect her to think.’

Katy shook her head, ‘she’s…’

‘Enough!’ bellowed her father, ‘you can stop right now, stop rubbing her nose in your good fortune or I’ll not be letting you go off at all. I’ll tell that swell he can clear off and then you can kiss goodbye to all your fineries. Once he’s gone I’ll let Esther have them and you can go back to scrubbing the kitchen, which is about all you’re fit for.’

‘Right,’ said Katy, ‘if you send him away that’s fine by me, but I’ll be going with him, you can’t stop me.’

‘I can if I wring your…’

Katy moved quickly to the far side of the table.

‘Go on then, and I hope your public hanging goes well. My only regret will be that I won’t be there to see it.’

‘How dare you.’

‘I tell you what,’ said Katy. She took hold of the back of a chair, if her father advanced any further she would hurl it at him. ‘Instead of complaining about the fact that my future husband wants to send me gifts, why not be a man yourself. I know how much money Henry gave you. Why not spend some of it on buying Esther a new dress? Or a gift? It isn’t my fault she’s not getting anything, it’s yours. You’re her husband after all.’

Her grip tightened on the chair, she wondered how best to do it, she’d never been so close to performing an act of violence. The door to the parlour burst open.

‘Interesting,’ said Esther, entering the room and looking at the two of them, ‘what’s going on here?’

‘Oh nothing,’ said Katy, before her father could speak, ‘I’m just suggesting your husband spends some money on buying you a new gown. He doesn’t seem to want to though. I think he wants to kill me for suggesting it, that’s how much you mean to him.’

‘You twisted little vixen,’ said her father.

‘So you…? What?’ said Esther. Her face looked witless and Katy realised just how dim she actually was, ‘so am I getting a new gown?’

‘I doubt it,’ said Katy, ‘that money’s being saved for more important things… like whisky.’

‘But…’

‘Bloody gowns and whisky,’ roared her father. He kicked over a chair and stormed from the room.

‘So does that mean he’s getting me one?’ said Esther.

‘Why not go and ask him?’ suggested Katy, remedying the fallen chair, ‘he seems in a good mood.’

Oblivious to the sarcasm, Esther hurried off.

Somehow she prevailed. As the wedding day drew closer Esther’s jealousy lessened slightly mainly because of the new gown she now sported. Katy smirked every time she saw her parading about in it, trying to catch her reflection in every bit of glass or polished surface. She even decided she would attend the wedding, that wiped the smile from Katy’s face. She didn’t fancy the idea of Esther and her father sitting sniggering in the pews.

Her anxiety increased, she received only brief notes from Henry. They were dry and uncommunicative. She had no idea where his lodgings were so was unable to exchange sentiments with him, she merely had the moot pleasure of reading his dry notes on the subject. She wondered how it would’ve been if she’d accepted George’s disreputable proposal, she might be sitting here reading notes of a more scandalous and intriguing nature. Forming schemes of illicit meetings and staged encounters. Instead she felt cold and flat. The afternoon before the wedding she received his final note, instructing her that his carriage would be sent to convey her and her family to the church. The wedding would take place, they would return to the Inn for a small breakfast and farewells before leaving for Tharstaine. It seemed too short and calculated a note to do justice to the situation. She read it over and over, willing some words of kindness to appear on it, something to calm her nerves or let her know that he felt the same. This was Henry however. How could she expect such a thing? Theirs was to be a marriage of business, a formal arrangement. These notes were a precursor to the life she was about to enter. He didn’t care about the significance of the wedding, the upheaval to both their lives or the immense challenges that faced them. he just wanted the formalities out of the way so that his plan could be implemented. She was a tool, nothing more, an object that warranted no concern.

She folded up the letter and placed it with all the rest in the small box on top of her open trunk. The wedding gown was hanging at the side of her closet, it looked as out of place here as Henry had the first time he’d set foot in the gloomy passageway, too expensive and rich for her.

And then she was being hoisted into the dress, how had the morning come so quickly? Had she slept? The night had been one long mix of worries, nightmares and waking dreams. Esther had deigned to dress her hair so that when she was done, she could hardly believe it was her own face looking out at her.

All this effort, for what? She wondered if Henry would even notice. Did he ever see her as anything to be admired? She imagined his low voice saying, ‘very smart, young lady.’ But would he even stretch to that, it was doubtful.

 

 

Henry checked his watch before leaving his lodgings, everything was packed into the carriage ready to go.

‘Will we be seeing you again soon,’ asked his landlady, unable to disguise her hopeful smile.

‘I rather doubt it,’ said Henry, ‘not in the foreseeable future. I have other engagements.’

‘Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Nothing too unpleasant I hope?’

‘I hope not,’ said Henry, ‘I most certainly do.’

He stepped into his carriage and they were off in an instant. The watch was in his hand again, he forced it away. It was compulsive, like he was counting down the seconds of respectability he had left.

Rob, the coachman reigned in the horses outside the smart office in Union Street where he’d been bidden to stop.

Henry stepped out the carriage.

‘Wait for me here,’ he commanded, ‘I won’t be long.’

The small office was quiet and still. Only one man was working, Archie Colquhoun. He was not expecting the visitor.

‘Mr Cranston,’ he said, looking up from his work, an expression of polite satisfaction hoisted onto his face.

‘Please, there’s no need to be so formal. Henry will do.’

‘Of course, and to what do I owe this unexpected pleasure.’

‘I understand you are to be congratulated on a new arrival.’

Archie smiled not quite hiding his surprise at the greeting, ‘indeed, thank you.’

‘Please, give her something from me, and all your children, my niece and yourself,’ he said, handing him an envelope, ‘I’m not well-versed on the preferences of young children and their parents, so I’ll leave the choice to you.’

‘But sir,’ said Archie, ‘I don’t understand.’

‘A gift,’ said Henry. Archie surveyed the gift with a puzzled look, he opened his mouth to speak but Henry continued, ‘I do have something I should like you to do for me however. Not in return for this, for it is a gift as I say. But if you have the means to help me then perhaps you will be so good as to do this for me.’

‘Indeed, what is it?’

‘Can you spare me an hour? It is rather important.’

Archie checked the clock.

‘Yes, I could, I think, but what...’

‘Good, then come please,’ said Henry, ‘we must go immediately.’

Looking very perplexed, Archie collected his hat and gloves. Locking up the office he got into the carriage after Henry.

‘What is this about?’ he asked, ‘is it some kind of emergency.’

‘No, I need you to bear witness.’

‘To what?’ said Archie, ‘a signature on a document? Why didn’t you bring it with you?’

‘No, I’m getting married, I need a witness.’

Henry thought he might require smelling salts to revive his young companion, Archie almost collapsed, staring in shock.

‘You’re getting married? I didn’t know, aren’t you inviting…’

‘No, I’m not inviting anyone. I simply need a witness.’

‘Who is she? The bride?’

‘A young lady. You know my mother and my sister, I’m sure you’ll understand that they are not all congruous with the idea of my marrying. I wish to do it with as little discomfort to them and the bride as possible, you understand?’

‘Of course, yes, yes I do.’

Archie still looked dazed. Henry suspected he would agree to anything and everything.

‘Why leave it this late to ask me?’

Henry smiled. This way there was no chance of his mother and sister getting word of the event before his own arrival at Tharstaine.

‘Last minute change of plan,’ he said, ‘I hope you don’t mind.’

 

They arrived at the church. Rob, the coachman looked bewildered as Henry instructed him to drive to the Anchor Inn, pick up the awaiting individuals and return to the church with them.

‘Do it discreetly, my man,’ said Henry in a low whisper, ‘not a word of anything that happens here today is ever to pass your lips. If it does you’ll find yourself out of employ, not just with me but anywhere in decent society.’

The coachman nodded, ‘yes, sir.’

Henry watched him go, involving the servants from Tharstaine in the plan was risky but Rob wasn’t quite so deep in his sister’s pocket as some of them.

 

Esther was sulkier than ever. Katy could hardly speak. She entered the carriage, holding her veil steady, not knowing if she was nervous, excited, anxious or just pure terrified. This really was it, there were no more turning points. Once they were married that was it, a lifetime with Henry and his family.

 

Chapters

21

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Sophy wrote 789 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 843 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 1012 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 1035 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 1049 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 1052 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 1059 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 1069 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 1073 days ago

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

senyah nala wrote 1074 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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