From the author of Bewitching Season and Betraying Season comes a brand new regency romance with plenty of intrigue--and magic!
Sophie's entrance into London society isn't what she thought it would be: Mama isn't there to guide her. Papa is buried in his work fighting Napoleon. And worst of all, the illness that left her with a limp, unable to dance at the Season's balls, also took away her magic. When the dashing Lord Woodbridge starts showing an interest in Sophie, she wants to believe it's genuine, but she can't be sure he's feeling anything more than pity.
Sophie's problems escalate when someone uses magic to attack Papa at the Whistons' ball and it soon becomes clear that all the members of the War Office are being targeted. Can Sophie regain her own powers, find her balance, make a match--and save England?
Find out in Marissa Doyle's Courtship and Curses!
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Marissa Doyle is fascinated by the past and lives in Massachusetts, where she is surrounded by history. This is her third novel.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
London, March 1815
Aunt Isabel was, as usual, exasperated. “Molly, I don’t know why I brought you shopping with us. While that color will do for a creeping plant on a blasted heath somewhere, it will not do for poor Sophie.” She motioned away the bolt of yellowish green satin proffered by the dressmaker’s assistant.
“Ha!” Aunt Molly tilted her head and squinted at the rejected fabric. “I thought it reminded me of something. It’s just the color of toadflax leaves, y’know. But toadflax doesn’t grow on heaths. It’s a meadow and hedge-side plant.”
“I was not knowing that toads had the flax,” Madame Carswell observed. “Do they make linen from it too? English toads must be terribly clever.” She turned her head slightly and winked at the fourth member of the party seated in Mrs. James’s exclusive Bruton Street shop.
The young woman her aunt had called “poor Sophie” caught the wink and smiled down at her lap. Now Aunt Isabel would say something about not having time to examine what grew in the hedgerows and then probably go on to say something about Aunt Molly’s botanical obsession destroying her fashion sense.
“Well, really, Molly. Some of us are far too occupied with worthwhile pursuits to spend our days poking about hedgerows. And I must say, your doing so might account for the shocking state of your hair.”
Ah, well. She’d been half right. Sophie smoothed the wrinkles out of the buttery-soft kidskin gloves in her lap and felt her smile fade. She’d been scrunching up her gloves again. But glove scrunching was the only way she could relieve her feelings, at least here. Shrieking into a pillow would have to wait until she was home, alone in her bedchamber.
Every one of these shopping trips had followed the same course, like the farces at Covent Garden: The shopgirls would end up red-faced with suppressed giggles while Papa’s sisters quarreled over nothing. Or else Aunt Isabel would examine fabric and designs and shake her head, murmuring how they would just not do for Sophie, what with the poor girl’s limitations. Either way, they’d leave the shop empty-handed and move on to the next one, where the same thing would happen. At this rate, she’d never have any gowns made in time for the season’s round of parties and balls. If there were any, now that Napoléon was back on the throne in France and all of Europe in an uproar.
Maybe that would be for the best, said a hateful little voice in her head. Cripples don’t dance at balls. Even if they’re the daughters of marquises with substantial fortunes.
Thus the scrunched gloves. Sophie wished she could scrunch them small enough to stuff in her ears and drown that voice out.
Thank goodness Madame Carswell—Amélie, as she just yesterday asked Sophie to call her—had been staying with her and Papa and Aunt Molly for the last few days. Her company had made today’s shopping trip with the aunts much less odious. If only Mama ... but she couldn’t think about Mama now. Her nose turned red when she got the least bit teary, and sharp-eyed Aunt Isabel would notice at once.
Sharp-eyed Aunt Isabel was examining a bolt of cherry pink silk held by the other of Mrs. James’s assistants. Sophie leaned forward, entranced. The color was beautiful, warm and vibrant, but Aunt Isabel’s bushy eyebrows had shot up most of the way to her hairline. “That shade, for Sophie?” Her voice dropped. “Haven’t you eyes to see with?” she hissed at the assistant. “She would stand out like a sore thumb in a color like that! Gray or snuff brown is much more appropriate.”
Sophie sat back. Of course. A color like that would draw attention to her ... and to her infirmity. At least to her external one.
“I think it would be perfect for Sophie.” Amélie examined it, head to one side. “See how it would bring up the lovely color in her cheeks. I have a length of sari silk just that shade. It is still in my box, I am thinking.”
“My dear Mrs. Carswell,” Aunt Isabel began. Sophie braced herself. When Aunt Isabel my-deared someone, it was because she felt the person thus addressed anything but dear. “While India is doubtless full of very interesting things, I fear they are not quite, ah, suitable here, and certainly not suitable for poor, dear Sophie. I know you lived there many years, but you are in England now. Surely Mr. Carswell explained—”
“Oh, they don’t make linen from it. Wrong sort of flax,” Aunt Molly said in her botanical lecturer voice. “It’s very good for chickens and keeps them from getting chicken gall, I am led to understand, so why it’s not called chickenflax instead of toadflax is beyond me. Culpeper says it cures the dropsy and pimples, at least when used as a face wash. For the pimples, that is. I don’t think a face wash will do much for dropsy. Do y’suppose chicken gall is the same as dropsy? Unless it’s pimples, and how would you tell if chickens got pimples under all those feathers, that’s what I’d like to know.”
Aunt Isabel had begun to turn a color remarkably similar to the rejected silk. She opened her reticule, pulled out a tiny silver box, flipped open its hinged lid, and sniffed at it. “My head—you’ve no idea how I suffer. Molly, will you please stop prattling about plants for at least a few moments and attend to the matter at hand?”
Aunt Molly’s brow wrinkled. “I was. You were just saying that satin was the same color as toadflax, and I—”
“Sophie.” Amélie Carswell’s soft, French-inflected voice insinuated itself under Aunt Molly’s protest. “Come and look at the ribbons with me. They are very fine, I think.” She rose—gracefully for such a small, plump person—and held out her arm.
Sophie stared up at her arm. True, she limped like a drunken sailor on shore leave, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t rise from her chair by herself and walk a few paces across the shop to—
But no. Mrs. Carswell—er, Amélie—wasn’t the aunts. Her gesture was meant to be a friendly one. It wasn’t always easy not to jump to conclusions. Besides, she was tired, and Amélie’s arm would be a welcome support. Let her heavy, ugly, dull brown cane stay where it was, looped over the back of her chair.
She struggled to her feet and took Amélie’s arm. The flow of the aunts’ bickering didn’t cease as she and Amélie made their way to the display of ribbons and laces on the wall.
“You looked as though you had had enough of that.” Amélie ended her sentence with an expressive lift of her eyebrows. “Your tantes—they mean well, I think, but they are so busy being themselves that it is difficult for them to pay much attention to you.”
“Oh, they pay me plenty of attention. It’s just...” Sophie fell silent. Aunt Isabel frequently reminded her that a cripple should always show the world a patient, forbearing face. “Papa says they’ve always been that way, even when they were small. They mean well, and I’m ... used to it.”
“But that doesn’t mean you must like it, eh?” Amélie said, running her finger over a length of pale blue ribbon and glancing sideways at Sophie. “Tell me, do they often remind you that you cannot walk as others do?”
Sophie felt her chin rise defensively and hated herself for it. “Well, I cannot.”
“But that does not mean it must rule your life. Will you tell me how it happened? Or were you born with it?”
Amélie’s voice was gentle but matter-of-fact, and it defused Sophie’s defensiveness far more effectively than pity would have. “No. It happened two years ago this summer, at Lanselling—that’s my family’s seat. There was influenza in the neighborhood, and I came down with it. I nearly died, but my mother brought me through it. Then one morning I woke up and found I couldn’t turn over in bed because my legs ached and wouldn’t work. The doctors said I would never walk again, but Mama was determined to prove them wrong. She wrapped my legs in hot towels and stretched them and massaged them, but one still stayed weak and began to shrivel.” That wasn’t the whole story; Mama had done considerably more than wrap her legs when the doctors weren’t present. But she couldn’t tell Amélie—or anyone—about that. Nor about what else she’d lost after her illness.
“Then my—my little sister...” She paused to steady her voice. “My little sister Harriet came down with it as well. Mama was nearly frantic caring for her, but she couldn’t save her. And then Mama fell ill too and ... and died. I think it was exhausting herself nursing us, and then losing Harry.” Sweet little Harry, with her gold curls and soft, round baby face, had been only five.
“She died of grief as well as sickness,” Amélie said softly. “And your leg?”
“It mostly works, but it is shorter than my left leg, and the foot turns in oddly. It makes me walk with a most noticeable limp. It always will,” she couldn’t help adding bitterly. Two years ago, she’d been looking forward to her come-out just as any girl of her age and birth did. She’d longed for the London season, for sweeping through minuets and country dances at balls ... and maybe, if she were allowed, dancing the scandalous, delightful new waltz. Mama had seen to it that sh...
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Book Description Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), 2012. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110805091874