Book Jacket

 

rank 5078
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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Whatever he was expecting, it wasn’t this. Entering with her usual flair Katy beamed round the room. Her knees seemed to give way and she almost sank to the floor. Henry took her arm and steadied her, what had happened? her face looked drained of its usual colour.

‘George?’ said Katy, her voice was hoarse.

‘Katy, what…’

‘Who are you sir?’ demanded Henry, looking from one to the other and releasing Katy from his grip.

Prudence sat up, her eyes full of interest.

‘This is my brother, sir,’ said Neil, ‘George Darroch.’

‘I’ve seen you before,’ said Henry.

‘Indeed, I work for Mr Macmillan, the solicitor.’ His voice sounded calm and collected.

‘Of course,’ said Henry.

He watched George’s eyes moving to Katy, she tried to smile at him as though she was meeting a perfectly bona fide acquaintance but he couldn’t help feeling highly suspicious. There was a great change in her countenance. She no longer looked invincible, she looked disconcerted and out of place. She suddenly reminded him of the hopeless young woman he’d pulled back from the brink months before.

‘This is my wife, Katy,’ said Henry, introducing the strangers one by one.

‘You’re his wife,’ said George, he was staring intently at her, his expression divided between horror and intrigue.

‘Yes,’ said Katy. She seemed to regain some of her confidence, ‘that’s right.’

‘You are previously acquainted?’ said Prudence, her interest was tangible.

George said ‘yes’ at the same instant as Katy said ‘no’.

‘Ah, I see,’ said Prudence.

Henry looked at Katy but she didn’t’ return his look, she was staring at George. The looks they were exchanging filled him with dread.

‘So are you or aren’t you acquainted,’ asked Prudence.

‘Our paths have crossed,’ said Katy, ‘but I do not count Mr Darroch among my acquaintance, no.’

‘Indeed,’ said George, ‘how very interesting.’

‘Let us sit,’ said Henry, ‘child, ring the bell for tea.’

Susan rang the bell looking like a frightened rabbit.

Henry did not sit next to Katy. He retired to the window and stood looking out, when he turned back he was unsettled to see George had taken the seat next to Katy. She looked annoyed and turned her head away from him. Henry saw Prudence was also observing, or attempting to. Neil Darroch had sat down at her side and was trying to engage her in conversation.

Unseen, Henry moved to a chair near to Katy and George. As the tea began to flow with the conversation he heard George talking in an undertone, straining his ears he listened, trying to make out his words from the general banter.

‘You did it,’ he said, ‘how?’

‘Don’t talk to me,’ hissed Katy, ‘what are you doing here?’

‘Can’t you guess? I am impressed, you did all this, it’s better than I could ever have managed on my own. If I can marry Miranda, it’ll be set. We’ll be free, you did it, you actually did it.’

Henry did not wait to hear more. He suddenly realised what had happened. The crushing blow of his own idiocy hit him like an avalanche of loose boulders. How could he ever have been so stupid? The door closed behind him, he left the room without affecting the notice of anyone in the drawing room.

 

‘George,’ said Katy, ‘what are you talking about? Did what?’

‘You conned him, you married him, Henry Cranston, the man I was trying to get the money from, Miranda is the girl I told you about.’

‘You seem to be labouring under some kind of delusion, I don’t know what you mean.’

‘I’m happy to see you’re getting reacquainted,’ said Prudence, moving to a chair beside them and parking herself in it, ‘I’d dearly love to know how you know each other. We haven’t been able to discover anything about Henry’s dear wife, though Neil has just informed me you bear a striking resemblance to someone he once met at an inn near the harbour.’

‘What rot,’ said George, ‘I know what he means but he’s quite wrong, I met Mrs Cranston in quite another place.’

‘Indeed and where was that.’

‘I’ve told you before,’ said Katy, ‘this kind of question is intolerable. George is mistaken, we’ve never met before, he must’ve mistaken me for someone else.’

‘But I thought you already said you’d met?’ said Prudence, ‘or are you also mistaken.’

Katy looked around.

‘Where’s Henry?’

‘Do you even care,’ said George.

Neil gave him a reproachful glare.

‘Miranda,’ said Katy, ‘whatever this man says to you, I advise you to keep well clear of him. He’s a dishonourable wretch who’ll bring you nothing but grief.’

She hurried from the room. She must find Henry.

His study door was tight shut, she snapped it open and burst in. He was standing staring out the window. He didn’t turn round when she entered.

‘Henry,’ she said, ‘we have to do something, you have to…’

He turned slowly to face her. She took a step back, his face was white, he resembled the old Henry, the scrubbed face and cold glare had returned, his eyes showed no delight at her appearance. She felt afraid, the first time she’d been really frightened since arriving in this house.

‘There’s no need to continue,’ he said, ‘you’ve achieved what you set out to do, what happens now is irrelevant, so you can stop pretending you care.’

‘What do you mean?’ she said quietly.

‘I see it all so clearly now, I don’t know how I could have been so foolish.’

‘Henry, what do you see?’

‘How you’ve played me for a fool. You and that Darroch character. You’ve been in it together from the start. You told me once you were a terrible liar, just one of your many lies that I believed, you’re an accomplished actress, you’d have done well on the stage.’

‘I haven’t, I never knew…’

‘Please, don’t trouble yourself to invent anymore tales. I saw him at the inn months ago, I thought he was acting like a bruised lover, I should’ve known, even then. An elaborate deception indeed, even your faint attempt at leaping to a watery grave, it was all part of a plan, wasn’t it. He knew I was walking that way, I met him in the solicitors and somehow he prompted you to go there and wait for me. You did well, I was duped, so completely, you really did seduce me, you played on my conscience, but worse so much worse you led me to believe that you… and I…’

He shook his head as if trying to get rid of a troublesome fly.

‘Henry, no, none of this is right, I did meet George at Greyhope, it was him that made me want to jump but not in the way…’

‘No more, I beg you no more. You have what you want, you have all the money you’ve ever wanted and you played your well, you were authentic, too authentic in fact. Now you must do as you see fit.’

Katy slumped into a chair, her head fell into her hands. This was all wrong, whatever she’d planned she hadn’t meant it to be like this.

‘Please leave,’ said Henry, ‘you’ve done your worst, please don’t importune me any further.’

Hardly able to contain the tears swelling through her heart and into her throat, she walked slowly from the room. The most complete sense of emptiness and rejection filled her soul, more than she’d felt at any point in her life before. The loss of George seemed pathetically tiny compared to this. The end really had arrived, she was trapped in a web, partly of her own making and wholly inescapable.

‘Where are you going?’

Prudence appeared in the corridor.

‘To my room,’ said Katy.

‘Oh no,’ said Prudence, ‘you cannot escape that easily, come with me.’

‘Where to?’

‘Come,’ snapped Prudence as though she were an irritating little dog.

She dragged her back to the study.

‘No,’ said Katy, ‘not in there.’

‘Oh yes.’

Prudence opened the door and pushed her back inside.

‘I told you…’ began Henry but Prudence stepped over the threshold and slammed the door behind them.

Katy returned to the chair, hardly able to think.

‘Well, well, well Henry. What an astounding conclusion this is.’

‘What are you talking about?’

‘I had hoped this weekend would be a disaster for this young lady but only in a very minor way. It’s turning out more astonishing than I could have ever dreamed. Young George Darroch has been enlightening us on a few very interesting points, apparently she is the daughter of an extremely lowly innkeeper who runs a house of ill repute near the harbour.’

‘Well, George Darroch is in a position to know,’ said Henry.

‘As it would seem are you, I always suspected you of something of the like and now I see I was right all along. How disappointing Henry. I thought you so much cleverer, but marrying this bar maid, for what? Lust? How disappointing, I thought you above that sort of thing. Or did you imagine something else? Perhaps you thought she’d succeed in fooling us, I congratulate you young lady, you almost accomplished your design, my mother was nearly taken in, as were my daughters, but you, Henry. I thought you’d have more sense, or has she duped you too, was this a plot against you too? A plot to get your money.’

‘No indeed, she’s part of a more sinister plot, one that’s cut me more than you’d every understand, more than either of you can understand in fact.’

‘Henry…’ said Katy but Prudence cut through her.

‘Indeed? Your own folly perhaps? Is that what is to ruin us?’

‘My own folly won’t ruin you, though it’s already ruined me more than you can know.’

‘Please,’ said Katy, she was desolate with grief, ‘please stop, no more, none of this is right, you’ve got it all wrong.’

‘No,’ said Prudence, ‘I believe Mr George Darroch, his brother confirms that he also saw you at the inn in question, when they were stranded in bad weather. I see no reason to doubt his word, whereas you… well, you can understand why I must doubt you. You who’ve been pretending to be a lady since the minute you arrived here, all your big talk about fashionable society, I knew…’

There was a knock on the door and it opened.

 

 

 

Chapters

35

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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 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 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 1065 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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