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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An enormous bed with thick carved posts was the first thing Katy saw on entering her room, its opulent covers and hangings were deeply embroidered and lavishly quilted, matching the draped curtains at each of the three long windows. A wooden dresser laid with lace mats awaited the placement of all her treasures and objets de toilette.

The young maid assigned to her had already stowed her gowns in the giant mirrored armoire. Katy almost fainted as she pulled back a thickly embroidered curtain. Expecting to find another cupboard she was amazed to see a lady’s dressing room. Lit by a small lustre of candles suspended from the ceiling, it was delicate in appearance. A jug and basin adorned a large table around which bottles, trays, sponges and brushes were laid out in orderly fashion. A smaller table draped in satin and lace held the mirror and neatly placed caskets flanked each side. A convenient water closet sat at one end of the room while at the other stood a majestic bath. Katy recalled her few dips in the freezing tin contraption at the inn, not a place to dawdle for long. She wondered what it would be like to linger in an object of such sumptuous luxury, perhaps she would find out this very moment.

‘Madam wants to be left alone?’ said the maid. Katy wondered where she was from, her English was good but an accent was present. She would’ve asked but she remembered Henry’s warning not to trust any of the servants. If she’d been long in the service of Camilla and Prudence she would likely be spying.

‘I should like to take a bath,’ said Katy, ‘before dinner.’

‘Oh, but Mrs Calder does not advise baths before dinner, she says they quite ruin the appetite.’

‘Indeed,’ smiled Katy, ‘but Mrs Calder is not well-versed in the modern manners I’m used to in town. I assure you it is quiet fashionable to bathe before dinner. Please see to it.’

Katy was sure her manner would make it a certainty that the maid would pass the message to Prudence as soon as she could. The new mistress was already flouting rules and paying no heed to the doctrine according to Mrs Prudence Calder.

Not wanting to lose face, Katy suffered the maid assisting her to undress and enter the bath though she would have much preferred otherwise. She was so used to doing things herself. It seemed pointless being waited upon like that, not to mention embarrassing. She was not accustomed to showing her naked person to all and sundry, to anyone at in fact.

She hardly dared wonder on the subject which naturally followed in her train of thought. Such delicate matters were never discussed, she wondered if it was a sin even thinking about it. Of what nature was her marriage to Henry? She wondered what would be worse, lying with him or not doing so. How would it be if they did? Painful, as Esther had predicted, not just pain for her body but also her soul. But what if they didn’t? If he avoided the occurrence, which seemed likely. Even a brief kiss was unpleasant to him if the business in the carriage was anything to go by.  But it would feel all wrong, especially if Prudence were to find out. She would know at once the marriage was a sham. They had to be authentic, that was the key, but persuading Henry to do that was a task more monumental than anything she’d faced today, being a lady was easy in comparison. His disinterest would render it impossible. She sank back into the warm water, the delicate scent of primrose filled her mind, calming and soothing every part of her, soon she would be as clean as him. Not scrubbed and scoured however, she would be refreshed and tantalising. Once dried with fine linen, smoothed by soothing cold creams and fragranced by rose water and lime flowers, she would be irresistible – or so she hoped.

 

Prudence surveyed her with severe distaste as they entered the dining room. Katy’s dress of deep red velvet seemed to convince her that she was indeed a woman of ill repute, one way or another. Henry however seemed deeply impressed, he offered his arm as they walked through the doorway and she accepted it with a wide smile.

‘I hear you decided to ignore our custom of not having baths in the afternoon,’ said Prudence, taking her seat.

The footman smirked again as he pushed her in. Katy thought he may be one servant not in Prudence’s camp. He seemed to be enjoying the sport too much.

‘I wasn’t aware of such a tradition, evidently one of these outdated country rituals. I’m so used to more modern establishments, where it is customary to take a bath whenever one feels so inclined,’ smiled Katy.

‘Your tone should be modified,’ snapped Camilla, ‘when addressing your elders.’

‘As should yours, when addressing guests,’ said Katy.

‘Young lady, how dare you insult my mother?’

Prudence glared, her severe face more wrinkled and lined than ever.

‘I’m sure I didn’t mean to insult, merely stating a fact, as she was to me.’

Unused to little more than a meagre supper, Katy enjoyed the soup, tucked into the chicken and potatoes. She played with her vegetables, some of which she didn’t even recognise, and struggled through the rolls with sweet butter cream and jam. By the time cake and coffee arrived, she thought she might burst, if her corset dug any deeper into her skin, she’d split.

‘Not hungry?’ said Prudence with an evil smile.

‘I think I might have eaten my fill for this evening.’

‘I can see why you’d lose your appetite in your position. Being married to someone like Henry would certainly put me off my dinner,’ smiled Prudence.

‘Then I pity your taste,’ said Katy, ‘for I can think of no better man.’

She felt, rather than saw, Henry’s surprise. Breaking him might be easier than she’d thought.

On retiring to the drawing room, Katy was amused at the industry of the nieces. Producing needlework and books they began to busy themselves. Prudence and Camilla also looked ready to indulge in some light reading, Camilla placing a sombre pair of pince-nez upon the bridge of her nose.

‘And what are you going to do?’ Prudence demanded of Katy, ‘what employment do you have? You needn’t think we’re going to amuse you, we don’t approve of gossiping late into the evening, we prefer quiet amusements.’

‘Oh, I should’ve realised. How quaint,’ said Katy. Turning to Henry she added in a clearly audible tone, ‘and deadly dull.’

‘I know,’ said Henry, before anyone could speak, ‘but I have something that’ll amuse you.’ He sat down beside her, smiling.

‘You do?’ said Katy, her astonishment matching that of everyone else.

‘Yes, I do. I know of just the thing, something that’ll amuse you more than anything else,’ he whispered.

His tone was flirtatious, his eyes teasing, even the manner that he was leaning towards her, was suggestive. She hardly recognised him. She knew exactly what Esther had meant about his voice. It was steadily disarming.

‘Indeed?’

She smiled uncertainly.

‘Something we can do that will amuse us for hours,’ he said, reaching out and adjusting the pendant at her neck, his hand slipped lower than necessary as it trailed away.

‘And that is?’ she said, her voice barley audible.

Silence ensued, everyone waiting. No one even seemed to be breathing, Katy certainly wasn’t. The skin beneath her pendant still tingled where he’d touched it.

Questions, of course,’ he said, ‘after all, we all know how much you love questions. Shall we start with the capital cities of Europe?’

She smiled, breathing out. There was a collective sigh from the room at large.

‘Let’s do it in the corner,’ said Henry, offering his hand, ‘it’s more private over there.’

Settling on the sofa in the corner, he smiled, patting the seat next to him, indicating that she should sit.

‘Authentic,’ he whispered, as she settled next to him. She nodded with a smile, she could hardly fathom the transformation in his behaviour. ‘Now first question, an easy one, the capital city of France, if you please, and its native pronunciation.’

The knowledge Katy had on such subjects was minimal, to the point of non-existent. Henry seemed to realise this but it didn’t prevent the game continuing, if anything her duff answers only caused more hilarity. Unbelievable as it was, she was enjoying his company. She didn’t remember ever having this kind of fun before, for such an occurrence to take place with Henry, was ludicrous. The general irritation their laughing and ribbing was causing made it even more amusing. Henry’s mood was testament to that. She could feel the satisfaction he was absorbing from the exasperation of his family.

‘I have had about as much of this as I can stand,’ snapped Prudence, ‘you are worse than a pair of twittering budgerigars. I can see we’re going to get no peace tonight. I’m going to my bed, girls I think you should do the same.’

‘Indeed, we all should,’ said Camilla, ‘this merriment is intolerable of an evening.’

The silence that ensued after their departure gave Katy a slight chill. Her spirits dropped.

‘Maybe we shouldn’t have been quite so loud,’ she said, looking at the recently slammed door, ‘Perhaps I…’

‘Shh,’ said Henry, turning her face towards him, ‘you are… I can’t believe what you’ve done today, I don’t remember ever seeing anything more amusing. I never really believed it possible.’

‘You should’ve had more faith.’

‘You’re right, I should.’

Eyes locked, they considered each other.

‘Perhaps we should retire too,’ suggested Katy.

‘Indeed,’ said Henry, instantly becoming more upright, ‘we should.’

They climbed the stairs together and walked the length of the upper corridor. It was dark. The light bobbing in Henry’s hand cast odd shadows. Canvas faces appeared in the glow, their eyes watching. Katy was glad he was leading her. She couldn’t remember where anything was. At her door he waited for her to enter. She stopped and waited. He took her hand and kissed it.

‘Thank you,’ he said.

‘Where are you going?’ she asked, not allowing him to drop her hand.

‘To my room.’

Your room?’

She took his other hand and pulled him closer.

‘I thought you wanted this to be authentic,’ she said, ‘or am I so repulsive?’

He stepped forward and she was suddenly aware just how tall he was, the smell of soap no longer repelled her it was seductive.

His lips touched hers. The feeling of giddy misdirection encompassed her again. Aware of moving backwards through the doorway, she allowed herself to be guided by his strong arms. The door clicked shut.

The elaborate costume that had taken so long to put on seemed to peel away of its own accord. All she could think about was him. Owning him. He was no longer a well dressed stranger at the Inn. He was a strong, powerful man. His body felt like the potent form of a roman gladiator. She was a nymph in his arms. Hid blood wasn’t cold any more, it was red hot. The opulent bed encased her as she fell back. It was so dark, she could hardly see a thing but it wasn’t necessary. She didn’t want to see, she wanted feel.

The strength of his body against hers teased every nerve until she gasped. If it was pain she didn’t recognise it. It was carnal. She didn’t care if she was wallowing in sin. She threw her arms back and let out a long moan of desire. The sensation he was causing inside her with the movement of his body was beyond anything she could imagine. It was unbearable ecstasy.

‘Oh good god,’ she cried. It was almost too much. At her cry he pulled back, but she gripped his flesh, frantic with ardour. ‘No! Don’t stop, keep doing it, keep doing it…’ she breathed. The sound of his breathing and low groans of pleasure increased her distraction. She clung to his back, her nails pressing into his flesh. Mind blank to everything else, she felt only the race of desire, a desperate struggle to reach the pinnacle of all her yearning and to be satisfied in every spot.

 

Chapters

27

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Sophy wrote 790 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 844 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 1013 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 1036 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 1050 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 1053 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 1060 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 1070 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 1074 days ago

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

senyah nala wrote 1075 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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