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"Single ladies should not discuss eligible gentlemen so ... intimately," Sibyl Smiles told her sister, Meg.
Seated on the very shabby rose-colored chaise in the parlor at 7B Mayfair Square, Meg rearranged the black lace mantilla with which she'd draped her head and face and said, "Who should discuss them intimately, then? Married ladies?"
"Oh, fiddlesticks," Sibyl said. "I think you want to shock me and it's really too bad of you."
"I want to say whatever I'm thinking—when I'm thinking about it. That is whenever I'm forced to abandon my meditation for matters of the mundane world. And it isn't as if I were discussing an actual man, for goodness sake. Simply men in general and why one might or might not find one man in particular more attractive than another man in particular. These are things I must be clear about, and very soon."
"Why?" Blond and ethereal, lovely Sibyl fluttered over Meg.
This was where caution became imperative. "Don't worry so, Sibyl. There is no absolutely clear direction for all this. I'm gathering information, simply gathering to broaden my understanding." Slight understatements, or even fabrications could occasionally be justified. "I should think a man's hands would be most important, shouldn't you?"
"But why do you think so, Sibyl?"
"I ... Well, if you must know, I do not at all care for men with soft hands. There, now you know. They are not manly to me. And I do not likesmall hands. That is more difficult to explain except to say that I should prefer a man's hands—if I were interested in him at all—that is, if I noticed him at all—I should prefer a man's hands to be larger than mine. Much larger. There is something inside me that insists this is important, yet I don't know why. Yes, large, strong, well-shaped, long-fingered—perhaps blunt at the nail—yes, yes, that is what I prefer."
Meg watched her sister's deep concentration and smiled. "Hmm. I agree." And all this from dear Sibyl, who didn't think they should as much as have an opinion on a gentleman's person.
"I also dislike those small, neat feet some gentlemen seem to take pride in. But again, the reason is beyond my reach. It's just that I know it could be important"
"Height is not of such great importance. But a good carriage is essential, and fine, strong-looking shoulders—legs that look well without padding, particularly when the gentleman is on horseback and the muscle is flexed. Yes, very pleasant. One doesn't, of course, tend to see a gentleman's chest other than when he adjusts his waistcoat, but there are those moments. A solid-looking chest. Firm, with good muscles again, Oh, yes, that is quite the thing. And I do warm to a charming smile. I shouldn't care for a man who smiled all the time since I prefer a serious side in all acquaintances, but a charming smile so becomes a handsome gentleman's face, don't you think? And dimples here?" She touched her own face just below each cheekbone.
Meg scarcely dared move one of her own muscles, or take the smallest breath for fear of diverting Sibyl from this absolutely wonderful revelation. Sibyl was human. Sibyl had longings. Sibyl was no different from Meg in reacting to certain qualities in the male.
"Meg?" Sibyl said. "Do you agree?"
"Oh, I do, I most definitely do. Oh, very much so, I assure you. But do go on."
"Go on? What do you mean?"
Fiddle dee dee, the spell was broken. "Nothing. I didn't want to interrupt if you had more to say. I thought you might have an opinion on, um, well, a gentleman's ... derriere?"
Aghast came close to describing Sibyl's expression.
"No," Meg said rapidly, "I see you don't. But I do. Muscle is important there, too—only to ensure the fit of the trouser, of course. But, moving on to another subject, I'm going to make certain our affairs turn out well. It's just that I have things to learn, and quickly. Because I do have a plan."
Sibyl's blue eyes sharpened with worry. "Oh, no, no, Meggie. I don't know what you intend, but already you frighten me. This is all part of this, this—" she waved a hand at Meg "—this new preoccupation with strange, foreign notions. Oh, do take that thing off your head, Meggie. I can't think what's come over you of late. You are quite changed."
"A grateful parishioner brought the mantilla back for Papa," she said, still hoping to deflect any alarm. "From a long sea journey. It never had any purpose before. But it does now. It calms my inner serf and helps me achieve a serene state. Familiar objects can do that, Sibyl. And if I am changed it's because the world has changed me—for the better, I prefer to think. I am a woman of spirit, a woman with a backbone. I am a woman who will not sit with her hands crossed, waiting for disaster—waiting to become destitute. I am." She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
"You are what?" Sibyl whispered.
Meg breathed in again, long and deep through her nose, and repeated, "I am, that's all. One day, when you are ready and no longer frightened of anything you don't understand, one day I shall begin your instruction in abstraction."
"I cannot bear it," Sibyl said, pacing the drab floral carpet "If Papa were alive he would put a stop to it. This is what comes of women attending lectures by foreigners. They get foreign ideas. I'm not at all certain all this abstracted thinking, and muttering of mantram, or whatever you call these meaningless words you chant, isn't, well ... I'm just not sure, that's all. I thought you only chanted when you assumed you were alone, but now you are perfectly content to worry me with your muttering and humming, and with assuming such completely unladylike poses at any moment at all. They just—"
"Are," Meg finished for her sister.
"There, you see?" Sibyl planted her feet and pointed at Meg. "You do it all the time. Dear, dear. I'm just not sure what to do about you. We won't discuss the subject further at this time,"
"Good for you," Meg said. "Now do sit, Sibyl. I have something wonderful to tell you. I was going to wait, but perhaps it will cheer you, and since I am expecting a message on the subject, we might as well get the explanation out of the way."
Sibyl shook her head. Her serviceable gray morning gown became her, but then, anything became Sibyl. "You are afraid," she said. "No, don't interrupt me, please. You were experimenting with this strangeness before, but now—since the ... you know what—you've only become so, so obvious since that."
Since she had been pushed into the path of a coach near the Burlington Arcade. "I will not lie to you," she said. "There are moments when I want to make my mind so busy there is no room in there for being frightened."
"If we only think good thoughts," Sibyl said, "then we cannot possibly be frightened."
With a great deal of effort, Meg held back a retort that would upset dear, good, Sibyl.
"There, you see now?" Sibyl sounded triumphant. "You can't argue with the troth. Papa—God rest his soul—would be so pleased and proud of you that you are willing to examine your motives in this."
"I wish Papa were here now," Meg said.
"Oh, so do I."
"If he were," Meg continued, "I should give him a piece of my mind and he would not be at all pleased with that."
"Meggie, you are disrespectful."
Posted March 23, 2000
This book has convinced me that I am no longer going to read books by S.C. The story is silly and poorly developed. The characters are shallow. The sex scenes pop out of nowhere. This seems to be the standard with all her books.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 21, 2000
Posted February 1, 2000
I didn't want the story to end. It's so funny and sexy and the people in Mayfair Square are something else. Meg Smiles is one of the two Smiles sisters who were in MORE AND MORE. She's the one who's a seamstress. In this book she and her sister Sybil are in real trouble over money. They don't have enough to live on. Meg decides she's going to change this and sets out to find someone 'pleasant' who can look after the two of them and enjoy having a kind, resourceful wife. Boy is she good at understatements. She's a ball of fire! She starts out by getting some sort of concoction from a hidden shop near Bond Street and dying her hair red. Wait till you hear Sybil's reaction to that. Meg applies to be companion to a princess from Europe when she makes her Season. The idea is to find opportunities to meet an eligible husband. She meets Princess Desiree's older brother, Jean-Marc, Count Etranger and they might as well both give up then and there. The plot is mysterious, and it pulls you in, but I like the way Ms. Cameron always makes the hero and heroine the most important part of the story, even when things get a bit dangerous. Meg and Jean-Marc and to die for. Old Spivey is back and hiding out in his newel post at Number 7 again. He's the most arrogant ghost I've never met! Now I'm hoping Sybil's story will be next.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
When their father, a rural vicar dies, sisters Meg and Sybil Smiles move to London¿s 7 Mayfair Square, home of an unhappy ghost, Sir Spivey. The spirit plans to force the two sibling out of his home by matchmaking the outgoing Meg with a nearby resident. <P>Meg realizes that the sisters have a financial problem. She applies for employment as a companion to seventeen-year-old Princess Desiree of Mont-Nuages, a tiny country on the Italy-France border. Meg¿s plan is to net a wealthy spouse while serving as a guide to Desiree. Meg needs to persuade Desiree¿s older stepbrother Jean-Marc, Count Etranger that she can do the job. Surprisingly, Jean-Marc hires Meg. As Meg works closely with Desiree, she and Jean-Marc fall in love. However, he is the heir to the throne and she would never suit as his queen. Then again, his uncle plans to destroy the only contender to being the next monarch of Mont-Nuages even if it means killing Meg. <P>ALL SMILES is an entertaining Regency romance that provides a fresh look at Stella Cameron¿s superb 7 Mayfair series. The story line is crisp and the entry of Jean-Marc and Desiree provides a different perspective of the lives of Europe¿s early nineteenth century aristocracy. Meg is a wonderful and brave character whose antics adds depth to the fireworks. Sub-genre fans will demand Sybil¿s story soon. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.