His Woman Of Affairs
Jane Douglas had a sharp wit, a brilliant mind, and an extraordinary knack for numbers. As financial advisor to Lady Martha Kettering, she was able to provide for herself, her sister and her mother. Jane had resigned herself to a quiet life in the country, in service.
Viscount Luke Kettering was a Corinthian: self-confident, elegant, with a talent for all the manly arts, and a penchant for taking risks. He was admired by his peers, yet his constant requests for funds to settle his gambling debts caused his mother deep concern. He eagerly accepted her challenge to give him control of his inheritance if he could prove to be financially responsible. All he had to do was act prudently for one month. He did not factor in one detail--that Lady Martha's financial advisor would be overseeing his accounting for the month--and that he was--a she!
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About the Author
Paula Schwartz was born in the Bronx and went to Hunter College. She started teaching Drama and English as a junior high school teacher, then a high school teacher and finally a college teacher. She was married and had a son and a daughter. She wrote plays and humor pieces before starting her career as a novelist and shortly thereafter, in 1973, she began writing full-time. Paula Schwartz died in December 2003.
An interview with the author, from 2001, is posted on the All About Romance website at http://www.likesbooks.com/mansfield.html. Some of the details in this bio were extracted from that interview.
Elizabeth Mansfield is a pseudonym of Paula Schwartz, which she used for more than two dozen Regency romances. Schwartz also wrote an American immigrant family saga, A Morning Moon, as Paula Reibel, and two American history romances—To Spite the Devil, as Paula Jonas, and Rachel’s Passage, as Paula Reid.
Read an Excerpt
By Elizabeth Mansfield
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2000 Paula Schwartz
All rights reserved.
At daybreak Jane Douglas woke to a most unusual feeling of warmth. Since she was almost always cold in the mornings (being the only one in the family who could bear sleeping in an attic room that was icy cold in all but midsummer, when it was, of course, stiflingly hot), she breathed in the mild, springlike air that had leaked in through the cracks in the window-frame with real pleasure. After a spell of such frigid weather that one's breath turned to icy droplets in the air, the rise in temperature on this late-February morning felt almost balmy. Jane snuggled into her pillow, letting the unaccustomed warmth thaw her bones. She meant only to spend a few moments in this indulgence, but when she next opened her eyes she knew at once, by the bright light that seeped in at the edges of the draperies, that more man a few moments had gone by. "Heavens!" she exclaimed in alarm. "How long have I slept?"
From the angle of the light rays, she knew it must be after eight, the hour she usually arrived at her post at Kettering Castle. Although her employer, Lady Martha Hammond, Viscountess Kettering of Kettering Castle, Cheshire, rarely put in an appearance before eight-thirty, Jane was expected to have sorted through the mail by then. Sometimes, of course, her ladyship would not come down until nine, but there was no reason to suppose that today would be such a day. Besides, if it was now as late as eight-thirty, Jane was not likely to cross the threshold of the castle by nine. She would never make it!
She threw off the coverings, leaped up, and rushed to perform her ablutions. Thrusting her hands into the icy water in the lavabo was enough to wipe away the last of the warm feeling she'd experienced under the covers. But icy water was the least of her worries. She hurried through her washing-up and dressed with all the speed that a heavy linsey-woolsey dress with eighteen buttons down the back permitted. These back-buttoned gowns, she thought in annoyance, should be made only for women who can afford to employ abigails to dress them.
As she ran down the narrow stairway which led from the attic to the tiny entry hall of the cottage, she heard the mantel clock strike the hour. She paused on the stairs and counted. Good God, nine! Even if she didn't allow herself a bite of breakfast, by the time she ran the more-than-two-miles to the castle, she'd be an hour-and-a-half late.
She crossed the hallway to the dining room in a mere three strides, for the area was tiny, a narrow passageway separating the dining room from the other front room that served as both a sitting and drawing room. The entire cottage was tiny. It consisted of only five rooms: the sitting and dining rooms in front, two bedrooms in the rear, and her own bedroom in the attic. The kitchen was housed in a small outbuilding at the back. For a family of three females of meager income, this arrangement would have been considered adequate, but Jane, her mother, and her sister were gentlewomen who'd been accustomed to better accommodations. Jane's father, an army officer who'd been second son of a baron, had had an income large enough to support them all in modestly comfortable circumstances, but when, two years ago, he'd died suddenly of heart failure, they discovered that he was hugely in debt. By the time the creditors were appeased, there was nothing left but a paltry annuity of forty-nine pounds. Jane, realizing the inadequacy of the annuity to support three females, had answered an advertisement for a secretary-bookkeeper (male, of course) and had convinced Lady Martha to hire her. With the post secure, she'd searched out living quarters in the vicinity of Kettering Castle and found this cottage for rent. Over her family's loud objections, she'd moved them in. Though they couldn't deny the necessity, they'd never quite forgiven her.
She entered the dining room hurriedly. Her sister Adela, sitting at the dining table casually sipping tea, looked up at her in surprise. "Jane! Goodness, aren't you late? I thought you'd gone already, so I ate up all the eggs."
"That's quite all right," Jane assured her. "I've no time for breakfast. Where's Mama? Has she eaten already?"
"She remains abed. She says she has the headache."
"Again?" Jane winced. Her mother's physical com plaints were too frequent and too frivolous for her daughters to be seriously concerned about her health, but they had long since fallen into the habit of indulging their mother's wish to spend most of her waking hours languidly propped up on her pillows with a cold cloth over her eyes. No arguments of theirs, nor of the several doctors who'd been consulted over the years, had ever convinced their mother that she would feel a great deal better if she spent at least some part of the day on her feet. But it did no good to suggest that she'd find greater enjoyment in life if she'd try to view the world from an erect posture, so they'd given up trying.
Jane now shrugged helplessly and, as she ran quickly out to the entryway, said to her sister over her shoulder, "Then you'll have to take breakfast to her, Adela. I must run off at once."
"But, Jane, I can't," the younger girl protested, her pretty bow-shaped mouth compressed into a pout. "I'm promised to Geraldine this morning. We're to go riding. She's lending me Chantey, the sweetest little mare."
Jane, who'd already snatched up her shawl from the coatrack, reappeared in the dining room doorway, frowning at her sister in annoyance. "You will go riding, my dear, only after you've brought Mama her breakfast and done the beds!"
"The beds!" Adela rose from her chair angrily. "Why can't Mrs. Appleby do the beds?"
"Mrs. Appleby has enough to do today, what with all the laundry to be washed and hung, the sitting room carpet to be aired, and luncheon and dinner to prepare."
"Don't argue with me, Adela. I've no time for it. Say good day to Mama for me and explain that I overslept. I'll be in to see her this afternoon, as soon as her ladyship lets me go."
Jane threw the shawl over her shoulders, caught up her bonnet—a shabby little straw concoction with three wilted flowers dangling from its crown—and dashed out the door, tying on the bonnet as she ran. She could hear her sister complaining loudly behind her that it wasn't fair that all the beds were left to her to do. "And besides," the girl whined from the doorway, "I don't see why we can't hire a housemaid to assist Mrs. Appleby."
Jane did not turn or alter her speed. All the beds, she repeated to herself in disgust. There were only two! And as for hiring a housemaid, it took all her talent at management to contrive to pay Mrs. Appleby her meager wages. The rent on the cottage, the cost of food, and Mrs. Appleby's wages used up most of the pay Jane received from Lady Martha, with their annuity going as far as it could to assuage her sister's and her mother's constant demands for gowns, medicines, sweets, and fripperies. There was certainly no money left for a housemaid, even a half-day. Nor would one be needed, if only Adela did her share instead of whiling away her hours in daydreaming, in searching the back issues of the Ladies Book for new fashions, or in coaxing the neighbor's boy to drive her into town in his curricle so that she could visit her friend Geraldine and spend long hours shopping for knickknacks, gossiping about other girls, or evaluating every young man in the vicinity as a prospective romance.
As Jane ran along the road to the castle, breathless and despairing, she revengefully imagined a scene in which she announced to her lazy, self-indulgent family that she'd lost her post. Therefore, Mama, she envisioned herself declaring, you must get up and replace Mrs. Appleby in the kitchen, for I can no longer pay her wages. And as for you, Adela, unless you have a swain who is willing to offer for you, you must apply to the castle for a position as a housemaid, if you want to continue to eat. So there!
The scenario was not as far-fetched as it might seem, Jane realized glumly. If her ladyship should be too displeased by her dreadful lateness this morning, she could very well be sacked. "Then where will you be, Adela, you spoilt little wet-goose?" Jane muttered under her breath.
She had no breath left with which to mutter anything by the time she ran up the stone steps to the castle's wide front door. Mr. Massey, the butler, opened it before she knocked. "Where've you been?" he muttered, sotto voce. "She's in a lather."
"Is she?" Jane pulled off her bonnet and shawl as she ran across the enormous circular foyer. "Has she been down long?"
The butler hurried alongside her and took her things. "More'n an hour. Would you credit it that the one morning you're late, she'd rise early?"
"'Tis typical of the ironies of life," Jane replied and paused to catch her breath. She put a hand to her windblown hair before setting off in a run down the long hallway toward the library where her work area was housed.
"I'll send up some tea and scones for you, Miss Jane," the butler said, looking after her with sympathy. "You look as if you need them."
"Thank you, Mr. Massey, I do," she threw over her shoulder as she hurried away from him down the hall, "but not right away. Let her ladyship cool down first."
But Lady Martha was not in a lather. She was peering out the window, wringing her hands. At nine o'clock she'd been angry, but by this time, at nine-thirty, the anger had been replaced by deep concern. Her secretary-bookkeeper, the astounding, mathematically gifted Jane Douglas, on whom she'd come to rely completely, had never before kept her waiting. For two years now, every weekday morning, rain or shine, the girl would be waiting for her at the library desk, a folder of papers all ready for her inspection. Something dire must have occurred, her ladyship decided worriedly, to have kept the girl from her post.
At the sound of the door being opened she whirled around. "Jane!" she exclaimed in relief. "You had me in a fret! I was afraid something dreadful had happened to you ... that you'd been set upon by footpads or fallen under a carriage ..."
Jane couldn't help laughing as she dropped a bobbing curtsy. "Sorry, your ladyship. I only wish my excuse was half so good. I overslept."
Lady Martha's motherly expression died, and her back stiffened. The Dowager Viscountess of Kettering was an imposing figure of a woman even when calm—tall, full-bosomed, with silver-gray hair plaited in a coronet around a well-shaped head—but when she drew herself up in disapproval she was awe-inspiring. "Overslept?" she echoed coldly.
"Yes, ma'am. I'm afraid so."
Her ladyship's arched eyebrows rose. "Overslept?" she repeated in an even colder tone. "Is that your excuse?"
"No, ma'am, it's not an excuse. It's simply the truth."
"You seem to take it very lightly."
"No, my lady, I don't. Not at all."
Lady Martha studied her for some sign of remorse. Jane, though modest in stature, was a beguiling creature whose queenly carriage made her seem taller than she was. She stood proudly erect just inside the doorway, her shoulders back, her hands at her sides, her head high, her lovely complexion only slightly flushed, and her dark eyes meeting her mistress's with a bright, straightforward, steady gaze. The only signs of discomfiture were a slight breathlessness and an unusual disorder of her thick auburn hair, which, instead of being neatly pinned into a bun at the nape of her neck in her usual style, had been tied back somewhat hastily with a bit of ribbon and was now hanging in windblown profusion down her back. In short, she seemed quite unshaken, as if she'd done nothing wrong. The young woman's equanimity, her ladyship thought, was decidedly inappropriate under the circumstances. Her ladyship was irked by it. "I am very displeased, Miss Douglas, very. Overslept, indeed. That it's the truth only makes it worse. Oversleeping is not a practice I can readily condone. It is a sign that you do not hold your post in proper esteem. I think you are taking advantage of my affection for you."
Jane opened her mouth to repeat that she was sorry but immediately shut it again. Her pride had been offended by her mistress's scold, and she could not bring herself to say the words her ladyship evidently expected to hear. Everything Lady Martha had just said was unfair. Jane had never been late before, had never overslept, while Lady Martha herself often slept late and kept her waiting. And why should she hold her post in esteem when her ladyship, in spite of her oft-expressed admiration for her secretary's talent at calculation, nevertheless only paid her a servant's wage, not much greater than that of an upstairs maid (and lower, Jane had learned, than either the cook's or the housekeeper's)? If that was evidence of her ladyship's affection, that affection was a poor thing indeed. Jane lifted her chin and eyed her employer with a direct gaze. "I esteem my post in direct proportion to your esteem for it," she said proudly.
Her ladyship frowned. "And what do you mean by that, pray?"
"I mean, ma'am, that I esteem it twenty pounds per annum's worth, neither a penny more nor a penny less."
Lady Martha gasped. "Are you suggesting, Miss Impudence, that your lateness is due to a dissatisfaction with your salary?"
"No, I'm not. My dissatisfaction with my salary has nothing to do with the matter. My lateness is due to having overslept, that's all."
The older woman, startled at this turn of direction in the exchange, peered at the girl intently. "But you are dissatisfied with your salary, I take it."
"It is not an amount to bring much satisfaction," was Jane's blunt response.
Her ladyship's eyes fell. "I had every intention of offering you a rise in salary. And a generous gift next Boxing Day."
"Boxing Day is ten months off," Jane couldn't help retorting. "And I don't believe you've ever given my salary a second thought, once the original agreement was made."
"Jane Douglas," her ladyship cried in offense, "are you calling me a liar?"
"Yes, I am," Jane said flatly.
"Your impudence is beyond anything I've ever heard!" Lady Martha put a hand to her bosom as if to quiet a trembling heart. "I should have followed my original intention and hired a man," she muttered. "No man would have the temerity to throw such an accusation in my face."
"No man would have the courage," Jane said promptly. "And what's more, no man would have accepted a twenty-pound-per-annum salary."
"Hummph!" was her ladyship's only retort.
Jane studied her mistress with head cocked. "Do you know, it occurs to me that you would rather have had a lie from me this morning than the truth?"
"What on earth do you mean?"
"If only I'd lied and said I was set upon by footpads, you'd have overwhelmed me with kindness."
Lady Martha's mouth dropped open. She gasped audibly and stared at the girl whose impudence evidently knew no bounds. But after a moment she put a shaking hand to her mouth. "Goodness me," she admitted in surprise, "I do believe I would have."
"Beset by footpads, indeed," Jane added, a light of amusement appearing in her eyes. "Who would believe that footpads would be skulking about at nine in the morning?"
Her ladyship sank down on the nearest chair. "I am a foolish old woman." She sighed.
"Yes, but only sometimes." Jane smiled down at her, unable to keep from feeling a strong fondness for the woman. Lady Martha was a strange sort—sometimes thoughtless, yet often kind; sometimes foolish, yet often sensible; sometimes penurious, yet often surprisingly generous. "Well, ma'am," she asked after an extended period of silence, "are you going to sack me?"
Her ladyship looked up in surprise. "For oversleeping?"
Jane shrugged. "Or for impudence. Or both."
"Don't be silly. How would I get on without you? But I hope you will not expect me to give you a rise in salary today."
Jane laughed. "I suppose you cannot be expected to reward me on the very day I've been guilty of oversleeping and impudence. But I hope you'll give the matter of my wages some thought."
"Hmmm." Her ladyship neither agreed nor refused but merely made a noncommittal nod. After another momentary pause, however, she fixed her eyes on the girl with a look both quizzical and admiring. "You, Jane Douglas, are an extraordinary young woman."
"Yes, ma'am. So you've said more than once."
"And I'll say it again. Extraordinary. Out of the common way. In fact, almost bizarre."
"Thank you, my lady. I shall take that as a compliment, although I'm not at all certain it is. In any case, ma'am, shall we get to the mail?"
Excerpted from Miscalculations by Elizabeth Mansfield. Copyright © 2000 Paula Schwartz. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I don't believe there's an Elizabeth Mansfield book that I don't enjoy and this one was no exception. She always has different types of characters - the female lead in this story was not really of the peerage and was employed as a "man of business" by the male lead's mother. Jane was then but in charge of managing Lucian's (Luke) finances to see if he could handle his inheritance for a month without squandering it. And then the story goes from there.
I like the heroine a lot and the hero was likeable, though a clunch. The premise is very implausible but allowably enjoyable. My biggest complaint is that the characters had very little reason to love each other, spending little time together in the story. The author seems to be a believer in and fan of love at first sight.
I always enjoy this author. She writes very well and makes each romance edtertaining.
Known as a Corinthian, Lucien Hammond enjoys betting with his fellow depraved aristocrats, but loathes asking his mother to advance him money when he loses. Luke does not understand why his deceased father failed to give financial control of the estate to him. Luke¿s mother is at the end of her rope with the constant need to pay off her sons¿ bets. Her financial manager, Jane Douglas tells her she should test Luke by allowing him to run his finances for one month. If he successfully manages his money, she should give him full control of his inheritance. Luke¿s mother agrees with the stipulation that Jane be his fiscal advisor. After recovering from the shock of learning he has a female business advisor, Luke finds himself heeding Jane¿s advice. He wonders what is wrong with him that he should listen to a mere female. He begins to fall in love with Jane, who has loved him from the first day his mother introduced her to Luke. Even though he cares for Jane, he cannot avoid betting, especially with his rival Sir Rodney Moncton. If he is not careful, Luke will find he made one wager too many and it will cost him Jane. After too long an absence from writing, Elizabeth Mansfield returns to the regency sub-genre with a tale that is her best to date. The story line may stay within normal genre lines but it has a captivating plot that brings the era to life. Jane is an atypical woman of the era as she excels at math and supports herself and her self-indulgent mother and sister. Readers who enjoy a fun loving historical novel will want to read MISCALULATIONS because the entertaining tale is very appealing. Harriet Klausner