About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The colour came back into the cheeks of Lady Stapleford and her lips parted to no doubt utter a scalding response, but the butler was already at my door. He opened it and extended his hand. I gave it to him and he bowed very low. ‘Your Highness, Welcome to The Court.’
‘Thank you,’ I said, inclining my head a fraction. I descended gracefully and for the first time in my life felt grateful to my mother for the hours of deportment she had made me practice.
‘Indeed you are most welcome, my dear,’ said an elderly lady dressed in the very best fashion. This must be the Countess. No one else would dare be so informal with royalty. I decided to be gracious.
‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘You have a lovely house. It reminds me of one of our smaller winter palaces.’
I heard a gasp of horror from Lady Stapleford behind me, but the Countess looked at me with a twinkle her eyes. ‘Shall we let Robbins see to your luggage? I shall take you up myself.’
This, naturally enough, elected a gasp from Richenda, who had expected the Countess’s undivided attention. However, the rest of the family were left to the housekeeper, a Mrs Merion, while the Countess escorted me to my very large bedchamber and dressing room, apologizing frequently for the coldness of the house and the ‘rather temperamental’ hot water system.
I assured her that the house was very lovely, my room extremely tasteful and if she could send my maid and a cup of tea up to me I would like a little time to recover from my journey before pre-dinner drinks.
Nothing seemed too much and I had barely taken off my outer clothing before there was a tap at the door and Merry appeared carrying a tea tray. She closed the door behind her, carefully supporting the tray with one hand and made her way to an occasional table. Once she had set her burden down she collapsed onto the floor, her fist stuffed into her mouth, as she attempted to stifle the gales of laughter that over took her. Tears of pure joy ran down her face. I poured myself a cup of tea and waited for her to recover herself.
Eventually Merry sat up and wiped her tears with the edge of her skirt. ‘I’m sorry,’ she gulped, ‘but you should have seen Lady Stapleford’s face when the Earless greeted you first and then Richenda nearly had a cow when you said the house was small.’
‘Countess,’ I said. ‘Not Earless.’
Merry staggered to her feet and dropped me what she obviously thought was a deep curtsey, but looked unfortunately vulgar. ‘I am so sorry, Your ʼIghness.’ This set her off again. Although this time she managed to attain the dignity of sitting on a small sofa rather than rolling around on the floor.
‘Merry,’ I said seriously, ‘you’re right this whole escape is laughable. But it’s also very dangerous. I said what I did about the Court because the Countess didn’t give me my title. We were establishing our respective social standings. If I’d got that wrong I could have been exposed as a fraud.’
‘What the Staplefords don’t understand is that every conversation I have here will be watched and analysed.’
‘You mean they are suspicious?’
‘I mean because the English are always sensitive about foreign royalty. They assume all other Royals are not as important as their own, but they are never quite sure where to put us in the social ranking when we visit.’
‘ʼOw do you know all this?’ asked Merry, her head on one side. ‘Cos the way it looked when we arrived only you knew what to do.’
‘That’s how it should be.’
‘No, you don’t,’ said Merry. ‘Don’t dodge the question.’
I sighed. ‘You know my father was a Vicar. Sometimes he had to visit the Archbishop’s Palace and there could be important visitors there.’
‘The Archbishop had a palace?’
I waved this comment aside. ‘It’s just what the residence of an bishop is called. Most of them look nothing like palaces. Anyone Pa got one of these books on etiquette in case he ever met anyone important. I read it. That’s all.’
‘But the Staplefords hadn’t a clue.’
‘I’m sure they don’t think they are in need of reading etiquette books.’
‘Looks to me like they are,’ said Merry watching me very closely.
‘I don’t care if they make mistakes,’ I said. ‘I mustn’t. I’m not sure what I’m doing isn’t illegal.’
‘Then why are you doing it? They’re tripling my wages for the time here. That’s my reason. What’s yours?’
‘You got a much better deal than me. They said they would fire me if I didn’t do it.’
‘Blimey,’ said Merry, ‘they really don’t like you, do they?’
‘Something to do with trying to get Lord Stapleford hanged for murder, I expect.’
‘That and seducing the younger son of the house.’
‘Merry!’ I cried. ‘I have never seduced anyone.’
‘Yeah, I know,’ said Merry. ‘You’ve never been one to take advantage of your position like a proper servant would. But you can’t deny Mr Bertram isn’t sweet on you.’
‘Honestly, I think Bertram’s feelings for me swing between intense annoyance and mild affection.’
‘I’ve seen the intense annoyance,’ said Merry with a grin. ‘Now come here, I’ve got to re-pin all your bloody hair for dinner.’
‘I have to have a bath first and change my dress and jewellery.’
‘Lord, what a bloody palaver!’ said Merry. ‘I’ll be glad when this is all over.’ I couldn’t help but heartily agree.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I like the series and this story is a fun enough read but the quality of the ebook is horrendous. I don't know how these books are transcribed but this reads like a very poor speech to text. It is very distracting. Almost unreadable.