Secret Affairs Chapter 2

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Cassie’s summer party at Fanshaugh Manor is off to a good start. Lexie is playing hostess to two new arrivals, and they are having a nice walk in the formal gardens. Shall we join them?

Chapter 2

Early that afternoon.

As luck would have it, two of the newly-arrived guests met Lexie as she quit the sitting room to escape her officious family members. Fool that she was, she had not bargained on encountering any guests. Now she was obligated to put her best face forward.

“Miss Hales! How do you do?” asked Miss Royston. Lady Priscilla echoed the greeting while curtseys were made all around.

“Forgive me, were you made comfortable in your chambers?” Lexie asked.

Miss Royston’s head bobbed with remarkable vigour. “Indeed, we were. I am well pleased with the room I was assigned.” Lady Priscilla nodded her agreement.

“As you no doubt were informed, we shall be gathering for dinner at five, and until that time, you are able to enjoy yourselves in any way you please. Do you have any needs I can help you with?”

“I was able to refresh myself from the road and take tea and toast already. I have no further requirements. Do you, Lady Priscilla?”

“I am content with what your housekeeper has arranged.”

“We were about to take a turn about the grounds, if you would like to join us,” said Miss Royston.

Lexie’s intention had been to make small talk for a few minutes and then leave them to their own entertainment, but now she found herself in the difficult situation of playing host since they were guests in her home. She sighed to herself and collected her bonnet. As she took the arm offered to her, the threesome made their way to the gardens on her suggestion, a preferred walk for visitors.

As they entered the formal portion of the gardens, which happened to be Lexie’s favourite, Miss Royston leaned forward to look at Lexie. “I suppose you know that Lady Hoxley is one of the guests?”

Miss Alethea Royston was a cousin a number of times removed of Cecilia’s from Scarborough, with one Season behind her. The girl was not exactly simple, but it could be said that a conversation with her was often rather gossipy, and she did not refrain from speaking her weak opinions. She made up for her ignorance in prettiness, and although to call her vain would be cruel, she dressed herself in an exaggerated version of fashion. Her petite frame carried frilly gowns like that of a China doll.

In comparison, Lady Priscilla Brand was tall, slender, and pretty in an unusual way, and wore gowns cut in a simple style that would not suit anyone other than someone with a figure such as hers—and that happened to be all the rage these days. Lady Priscilla had been ill when younger and had missed a few Seasons as a result, so Cassie’s event was her first time attending a social party.

“Yes, her brother is my sister’s husband. The invitation was hard to avoid. Have you met her yet?”

Both ladies indicated they had not, and Miss Royston in particular stared at Lexie with wide eyes while she admitted no previous knowledge of her distant cousin. Lady Priscilla was more circumspect.

“She is amiable. You cannot meet with a finer conversationalist anywhere. Of course, I am biased because she lays claim to two connections with my family: she is also the best friend of my younger sister Audra. They attended seminary together.”

Miss Royston tilted her head and touched her lips with one finger. “I do not believe I have met that sister. Is she the Duchess of Alderton?”

“You are correct. Lady Priscilla is more of an age to her and perhaps will recall her from when they were young girls, before Audra went off to school.”

“Indeed, I do remember her,” said Lady Priscilla. “I was pleased to hear she married so well.” Lady Priscilla, though quiet a great deal of the time, shone when she spoke as if she had been saving herself just for the joy of chatting with her conversation partner. Lexie was quite familiar with her because she was the sister of Cassie’s best friend and their neighbour, Lord Broadmead.

“Audra had the great fortune to have found a love match in the duke. They recently welcomed their second child to the family. My mama lives with them now, and it is a happy circumstance, for she is able to help my sister with her most recent lying-in.”

“What are their names?” asked Miss Royston.

“The babes? They are named after their grandpapas, so they are Hugh and William.”

“And Mrs. Charington’s children, what are their names?”

“Iris and Beryl.”

“One has two boys and one has two girls. Fascinating.”

“It is. I do not mind since I dote on each child equally.”

“Lady Hoxley has no children though.” Miss Royston seemed to have a fascination with children for some reason known only to herself. Would Lexie be quizzed on the other married couples who were to attend this summer party, the Kerrs and the Wyland-Holmeses?

“You are mistaken. They have a three-year-old daughter, Georgina. She is in the care of her Hoxley cousins.”

“That is so delightful for them. Lady Hoxley is known for making matches,” said Miss Royston. There it was. Miss Royston had edged towards this topic all along. “Do you know if she might consider selecting me for her schemes?”

“I do not know. Why? Do you have a gentleman in mind who you wish to court you?” Lexie was a bit devilish to make such a suggestion. A lady with decent principles would be mortified to be asked the question, but a lady like Miss Royston would snatch up the opportunity and draw out what she could from the implications.

“Well, now that you should mention it, if Lady Hoxley was to be amenable to the scheme, I do fancy a certain gentleman. But I do not know if he is to attend or not.” Lexie was correct! Miss Royston took both the bait and the hook.

“Could you tell Lady Priscilla and me his name? I know most of who is to be here, and I could tell you if he will attend or not.”

“I should rather you list the names of the unmarried gentlemen who will stay for the two weeks, and then I shall not have to disclose the name.”

“Very well. Lord Broadmead, Lord Catlin, Lord Remington, Lord Crooks, Mr. Poole, Sir Niles Stanchell, …” Miss Royston’s face lit when Lord Crooks’s name was stated. Oh, how astute of her to have paid attention! How could Miss Royston be interested in that conceited, affected prig? Did she not know aught of him? Lady Priscilla put her hand over her mouth to conceal a smile. She had caught the hint too.

“Do you know, Miss Hales, how one goes about having Lady Hoxley make arrangements for a couple? What I mean to say is, does one approach her and make a request or is the process more complicated?”

“In actuality, Cecilia selects the lady and the gentleman herself. She knows from experience who is best suited by considering their character traits and what they need from each other to make for the perfect couple. The decision is not one to be made without an abundance of deliberation.”

Miss Royston’s face fell as she went into a sulk. She had clearly decided that Cecilia would never pick her for Lord Crooks. Why would the lady assume the match would not be made for her? Of course, the question begged to be asked, why did she admire this particular gentleman? Did she revere the idiot so much that she felt he was above her so she could never be considered a choice for him? Lexie hated to think that even Miss Royston would have such a problem with her own esteem or worse, such a high opinion of a man who so little deserved her admiration that she saw a deficiency. Crooks was aptly named. Lexie must give Miss Royston some sense of purpose within her situation.

“I do think a perfect gentleman exists just for you. Do not rely on a matchmaker to find him for you. Instead, keep your eyes open to all the gentlemen this week. Some may surprise you, including the one you think you prefer. Fate will have the right man decide to court you and respect you for the lady you are. Is that not the husband you would desire?”

“You make it sound so simple. But courtship has eluded me so far.”

“For me, the endeavour has gone sour. I do not expect to marry, yet I am open to attentions if a fine gentleman wants to pay me notice. It is only polite to him.”

“If he is the right gentleman, will you marry him?” asked Lady Priscilla.

Lexie shrugged one shoulder. “I suppose so, if I find myself in love with him. But love has eluded me thus far.”

“My brother told me that I do not have to marry unless I find a love match,” Lady Priscilla said.

Miss Royston sighed. “I too hope for a love match, but if I end up on the shelf, I shall take any Englishman with good teeth.”

The three ladies joined together in a hearty giggle over that comment.

“With all this discussion over matches, I must make a confession,” said Lexie. “I am being asked to spend time with a gentleman in hopes of matrimony at the request of Lady Hoxley during this party. If we are inclined towards a proper attraction, I am to marry this man. Today I discovered the identity of the man Cecilia has chosen for me. I have known him since childhood and enjoy his company well enough, but I do not know him as a suitor. So, I do hope that neither of you has set your cap at him. I shall say no more for the moment.”

“When can we expect to meet your gentleman?” asked Miss Royston.

“All will be here for dinner, as you have been told. When we are in the drawing room prior to dinner, the time will have come for weighing the virtues of each and every single man at this summer party.”

The party is about to get interesting. What will happen next? How will Lexie’s “match” work out? Hmmm… stay tuned!


The eBook giveaway continues. Leave a comment below and be entered again for another chance to win your own eBook of Secret Affairs by Suzan Lauder. The giveaways ends at midnight May 2nd, central time, and is international. We would love to hear your thoughts. Good luck!

Cecilia’s Mismatches Series

Cecilia’s Mismatches Series: An Accomplished Woman, Book 1, and The Reluctant Chaperon, Book 2, are available on Amazon in eBook format, paperback, and Kindle Unlimited. Have you read them? Enjoy reading about Cecilia’s mismatching follies for the three Hales sisters, Audra, Cassie, and Lexie. Secret Affairs, Book 3, will be released on May 3rd.

Other Books by Suzan Lauder

These books are available at Amazon in eBook, paperback, audiobook, and Kindle Unlimited: Alias Thomas BennetLetter From RamsgateA Most Handsome GentlemanThe Mist of Her MemorySchemes of Felicity, The Barrister’s Bride.

Alias Thomas Bennet is also available in Spanish.

5 Responses

  1. Glory
    | Reply

    Congratulations again your newest book

    • Suzan Lauder
      | Reply

      Thanks so much, Glory! Good luck on the draw!

  2. Kelly Miller
    | Reply

    Best wishes for your new release, Suzan, it looks like a great one!

    • Meryton Press
      | Reply

      We’re glad you dropped by, Kelly.

    • Suzan Lauder
      | Reply

      Thank you, Kelly! I appreciate your support. I hope you like this book!

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