Book Jacket

 

rank 5077
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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Chapters

22

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Henry paced at the front of the church rubbing his hands together, his state of nervous tension bore into Archie who suddenly sat down.

‘Don’t worry,’ said the minister, in a soothing tone, ‘they will be here in a moment, no need to fret.’

The stare Henry gave him made him draw back.

‘I’m not fretting,’ he said, ‘and if I am, it has nothing to do with their late arrival. Believe me, that is the least thing that could go wrong.’

He ignored the shocked look on the face of the old clergyman.

 

The carriage drew up at the church. Katy had lost the ability to speak. Esther was punctuating the silence with annoying remarks and pointless observations.

‘I hope he doesn’t have to speak.’

‘Who?’ said her father?

‘Henry,’ said Esther.

‘Why?’ said Katy finding her voice, her mind so mixed up she could hardly figure out what Esther was saying, ‘he’ll have to speak, to say the vows.’

‘Hmm,’ sighed Esther, ‘I suppose so, but his voice… it does something to me.’

She shivered as though a gust of cold air had swept through the carriage.

The coachman opened the door.

Still trying to work out what Esther was talking about, Katy allowed the man to help her out.

‘You look beautiful, Miss,’ he said, ‘if you’ll permit me to say so.’

‘Thank you,’ she smiled.

Her father jumped down looking very pleased with himself.

‘This is what it’s all about Katy, your destiny is behind those doors.’

The urge to turn and runaway had never been stronger. She could still do it, there was time.

The doors were open. She was through. They were walking down the aisle. Henry was waiting, a stranger at his side. The arched window at the end of the aisle let in an eerie beam of light, hazy dust particles danced in it. For a moment she almost collapsed, remembering the dream she’d had of a man standing beneath an arch. She’d taking it to be a bridge but was it here?  When she reached the front would he turn round and reveal not a striking white face and ice blue chips for eyes but a warm smile, round hazel eyes and thick dark hair. It had to be George, it was all a trick, a nightmare, a dream, something, anything.

He turned round slowly, enough for her to see quite clearly. It was Henry. Tall and slim, his ever immaculate costume seemed to have reached an impossible level of precision. The stranger beside him, though well-dressed in his own right, seemed diminished and ordinary.

She felt the ice blue eyes watching her, she could hardly bring herself to look him. she wondered if he was scanning her dress for some flaw or looking at her face for a speck of dirt that she’d missed and that might give the game away.

Eventually she drew level with him and forced herself to look up at him. she received a faint smile and he nodded his head. She took this to mean she was acceptable.

‘Dearly beloved, we are gathered here…’ began the minister.

She stole another glance at Henry, he was still looking at her. She smiled. He looked away attending to the words of the minister.

‘…holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought…’

It was a miracle, thought Katy, that they had even got this far. Her whole life seemed to have been leading to this moment but now she was here her mind was full of dread.’

‘…It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication.’

Henry seemed to stiffen at the words, Katy knew every eye was upon him. Even his unknown companion seemed to be checking his reaction. Katy almost laughed. Nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps the stranger thought Henry had defiled her and was now trying to put it right. She couldn’t help grinning at the thought.

‘… Therefore if any man can show any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace…’

This was the moment, where George should burst through the doors and lay himself at her feet, but such events were best left for novels or fantasies, she knew now there would be no rescuing. Henry shuffled his feet slightly. He would undoubtedly be delighted if anyone appeared to stop the proceedings. Katy wondered if at that moment he even wished for the sighted of his dreaded sister to burst in and demand that they stopped but only silence answered the minister.

‘As you will answer at the dreadful day of judgement when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you know any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined together in Matrimony, you do now confess it…’

Their eyes met, though neither expression flickered. What they were doing wasn’t a crime. They’d made an arrangement that was all. Marriages were arranged in such ways every day.

‘Will you Henry George Cranston have this Woman to thy wedded Wife, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Will you love her, comfort her, honour, and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto her, so long as you both shall live?’ said the minister, his eyes boring into Henry.

Katy had time to smile at the uncanny middle name before she heard him say, ‘I will.’

Her heart nearly stopped, maybe it was the words or maybe Esther had a point, there was something about his voice, she’d never noticed before. It seemed to touch her inside.

‘Will you Katherine Kelso have this Man to thy wedded Husband, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy estate of Matrimony? Will you obey him, and serve him, love, honour, and keep him in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all other, keep thee only unto him, so long as you both shall live?’ the minister turned his gaze to her.

She looked at his scrubbed white face. His stern expression looked momentarily uncertain, perhaps he expected her to say no or maybe he wished it.

The minister coughed and Katy had a hard nudge on her back from her father

‘I will.’

‘Who gives this Woman to be married to this Man?’

Her father almost pushed her into Henry as the minister indicated they should take hands.

‘Repeat after me. I, Henry George Cranston take thee Katherine Kelso…’

Almost whispering, Henry spoke the words. Katy wondered if it was emotion that had drawn the usually commanding tone from his voice, but the whisper, if anything was even more beguiling, she felt mesmerised, ‘…to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.’

It was almost believable, she knew ‘loving and cherishing’ were not feelings to be found in the repertoire of Henry Cranston but outsiders listening in wouldn’t have known. She could hear Esther’s shallow breathing from somewhere behind, hanging on every word.

Katy said her own vows and, taking her lead from Henry, made them as convincing as she could. She caught the expression on the face of Henry’s unknown companion. He looked flabbergasted. She smiled as Henry produced a small gold band from his upper pocket.

Taking the ring he laid it upon the holy book proffered by the minister. The minister lifted the ring and returned it to Henry.

She did not hear him say the words for Henry to follow. Henry seemed to speak them of his own accord, his voice still little more than a whisper but the commanding undertone running through.

‘With this ring I thee wed.’

He took her left hand and placed the ring on her finger,

‘With my body I thee worship.’

Her heart skipped several beats, she almost desired him.

‘And with all my worldly goods I thee endow.’

That was the arrangement after all.

They looked at each other for several seconds. Hands still joined. Not hearing or seeing anything else. It was done.

She was Mrs Cranston. A lady.

 

Chapters

22

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Sophy wrote 785 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 838 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 1007 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 1030 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 1044 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 1047 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 1055 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 1064 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 1068 days ago

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

senyah nala wrote 1069 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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