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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24

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Archie Colquhoun arrived home in a state of confusion. Telling his wife about what had occurred that day didn’t seem like a good plan, not in her delicate state of confinement. Then if he didn’t tell her and she found out from other sources, where would he stand? It would appear he’d lied, even if only through omission.

He decided to tell her, as gently as he could. She seemed in a positive state of mind and the baby was asleep. It seemed perfect conditions.

‘I had a surprise visitor today,’ he said, after the pleasantries were got through, ‘your uncle Henry.’

Juliet sniffed in scorn.

‘Not congratulating us on the baby I don’t suppose.’

‘Actually yes,’ he replied,’ he gave us some money to buy presents for her and for us all too.’

Juliet turned away with an aloof sigh.

‘I wonder what he’s after in return,’ she said, ‘or is that him thanking us for staying here at Christmas.’

‘He did want me to do something in return,’ said Archie.

‘Oh no, what?’ said Juliet, ‘I hope it’s not something time consuming, doesn’t he know you spend enough time at that office as it is.’

‘I’ve done it already, it didn’t take long… it was an odd business.’

‘How so?’ said Juliet, she looked curiously puzzle.

‘Yes, he wanted me to bear witness to a wedding.’

‘Really, who’s wedding?’

‘His own.’

Juliet’s already protuberant eyes nearly popped out from her forehead.

‘His own? My uncle is married? To whom? Dear god Archie, explain!’

‘I really can’t,’ he said and he explained how the morning’s events had unfolded, ‘she was a very pretty young thing, not the type I’d expect Henry to have gone for or moreover not the sort to have gone for him. I always thought if he married he’d choose some plain creature with good housekeeping skills. This one looked a very fashionable young woman, though I couldn’t say the same for her family.’

‘Good god,’ said Juliet, ‘and none of us were invited, why the secrecy?’

‘Like I said, he wanted it kept quiet from your mother and grandmother.’

‘Good god,’ she exclaimed again, ‘and we can’t even warn them, he’ll be almost there. My mother will have a fit, none of this seems right. Who was the lady? Didn’t you recognise her?’

‘No, Katherine Kelso, they called her. Doesn’t mean anything to me, I don’t think we know any families by that name.’

Juliet shook her head.

‘I must write a letter to mother this instant, I know we can’t warn her but I must find out what’s going on, I simply must.’

 

 

Tharstaine House was the epitome of a gentleman’s country house, a Palladian mansion built some 40 years before for Henry’s father, its lush grounds and richly furnished interior provided a perfect, tranquil oasis for a family. The Cranston’s however rarely found peace there, Henry certainly didn’t.

The women made it their business to enjoy it when he was in town but his imminent return ensured that Prudence Calder couldn’t settle to anything. His provocative hints about bringing visitors had vexed her to the extreme.

‘If he’d at least had the decency to tell us who to expect, or at least how many visitors he’s bringing. This uncertainty is beyond endurance, how can he expect us to prepare properly?’ she said, compulsively straightening ornaments and adjusting her coiffure.

‘Yes, I’ll be having words with him,’ said Mrs Cranston, ‘he has put us all out. He has no understanding of the running of a household. We need to know how much food to order, what rooms to make up, all these things that he expects done but he doesn’t think to let us know all the facts. His manners are worse than ever and I can’t put up with it much longer.’

‘I think they’re here,’ said Miranda, ‘well, Uncle Henry is anyway, that’s the carriage coming up the driveway.’

‘Oh lord,’ said Prudence, pushing her way to the window to look out, ‘I can’t see properly, does he have people with him?’

‘Impossible to tell from here,’ said Miranda, ‘but I shouldn’t think so, I expect he just said so to tease you.’

‘Oh, I expect you’re right child, that is most likely, indeed.’

 

 

The carriage pulled through the arched entrance to the stables, just as Henry had instructed.

Katy was in a state of shocked silence, she hadn’t expected a place of such prodigious dimensions. Fear had crept into her super-confident psyche, she wondered how she would even find her way about and she doubted that there would be a map. They exited the carriage in an open courtyard. She wanted to look around, even to draw breath but Henry seemed unable to stand still even for a second.

‘We’ll go in this way,’ said Henry. Tension seemed to be clinging to him like a swarm of bees, he almost pulled her into the house.

A smartly dressed footman appeared in the hallway. Katy didn’t like the look of him, he seemed to be only half concealing a smirk.

‘Sir,’ he said, his face suddenly straight. He was obviously trying very hard to look at his master but his eyes kept darting towards Katy.

‘You’re expected, sir, I believe your arrival was noted from an upper window.’

‘Thank you, but don’t announce me please, I wish to speak to my family in confidence. I’ll explain to the staff later, please make sure we’re not interrupted.’

‘Yes sir.’

His smirk reappeared and he looked Katy up and down. She hardly had a minute to spare him even a derisory glance before Henry pulled her through a doorway and up a stone staircase.

‘Let me go in first,’ he said, ‘you wait in the corridor until I say.’

‘Yes sir,’ she said, he didn’t notice her sarcasm.

At the top of the stairs, he took a deep breath and pulled back the large shiny varnished door. The corridor on the other side was so palatial Katy felt her jaw drop in shock, this was turning into a nightmare. She tried to take in the thick, darkly rich carpet, the panelled walls and the large paintings but her mind had lost any capacity for observing, all she could think about was what was going to happen in just a few seconds.

They reached a door that was slightly open. High pitched voices were conversing rapidly within, Katy’s heart was performing a drum roll loud enough to announce their arrival with a bang.

‘Wait here,’ Henry whispered. She didn’t consider disobeying.

The chatter stopped the second Henry crossed the threshold. Katy listened, her heartbeat now clattering in her ears.

‘Henry, I didn’t hear you come up!’

‘Hello mother,’ he said.

‘Really Henry, we’ve been in uproar all afternoon thinking you were bringing visitors, it simply won’t do. And now you arrive here all alone and we’re left picking up the pieces once again.’

‘You’re quite wrong mother, I’m not here alone. I have indeed brought a visitor with me.’

‘You have?’

‘Indeed, you’ll permit me to introduce my wife.’

The door swung back. Katy entered the drawing room.

 

Chapters

24

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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 1011 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 1034 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 1048 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 1051 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 1072 days ago

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

senyah nala wrote 1073 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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