Flirtation and Folly by Elizabeth Rasche
Publication Date: November 10, 2020
Quills and Quartos Publishing
Series: A Season in London, Book One
Genre: Historical Romance
Marianne Mowbrey is a responsible country rector’s daughter who longs for the novelty and excitement she reads about in novels. When her crusty Aunt Harriet agrees to give her a Season in London, Marianne vows to dazzle the world, win a husband, and never go home again. But the Londoners who determine social success are inclined to pass over plain Marianne in favor of her beautiful, reckless younger sister.
In a world of ambition, fashion, flattery, and deceit, how can Marianne stay true to her real self—when she is not even sure what that real self is?
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As if the wayward Fates had declared themselves as much in favour of Marianne’s situation at table as they had been against it before, she found herself seated between two young men at Aunt Cartwright’s dinner. As one of those men was Captain Pulteney, Marianne’s bliss knew no bounds. The other young man was Frederick Lowes, an anaemic-looking gentleman with nut-brown hair stiff with pomade, a trim, clocked waistcoat, and a careless manner. Although the dinner table had been forced to expand for three guests more than the previous visit there seemed to be just as many eatables spread out along the table, as well as the occasional candelabra or well-stocked épergne. There were even small folded bits of coloured paper fashioned into flowers, fans, and jewel shapes delicately arranged among the dishes.
“Shall I congratulate you on your position at table, Miss Mowbrey? Or would that be self-congratulation?” Captain Pulteney said. The gold trim of his regimentals caught the light in a way that made Marianne’s heart giddy. As handsome as he was when she first saw him, he looked even better in regimentals.
“I am always pleased to dine at my aunt’s,” Marianne said, proud of herself for avoiding too particular a reply. As the captain invoked the usual topics of conversation, she felt delightfully at ease, and much more the gracious lady of elegance she wanted to be. Captain Pulteney’s admiration made her feel beautiful and charming.
Glancing down the table, she saw Mr Hearn not far from them, chewing on roast chicken with a solemn air, and Miss Emily further on. As loud as Miss Emily could be with her family, she was decorum itself at dinner in society. Her voice never rose above a murmur, and Marianne could make out nothing of what she said to Mr Hearn. Every once in a while, Miss Emily threw a hard look in Marianne’s direction, but Marianne thought it likely simple envy, not anything personal. Miss Emily seemed eager to please the captain when she could, and Frederick Lowes seemed no small catch himself.
At least, he was no small catch from a worldly perspective. From a more personal view, Marianne could not say that she liked him. Mr Lowes’s demeanour had a studied indifference that she suspected was anything but genuine. His slight body looked too weak to impress anyone, but he held himself with confidence. In her judgment, his confidence was more the false bravado of a child, rather than the genuine self-assurance of an adult. Mr Lowes’s expression seemed to show little interest in others, but he scrupulously attended to his table manners in a way that suggested he was anxious to avoid reproach. Stranger still, Mr Lowes had the oddest way of throwing remarks across the table in a pointed way, as if trying to communicate something to Mr Hearn without addressing him directly.
“I hear you are from the country, Miss Mowbrey,” Mr Lowes said. He had accompanied his claim that she was from the country with a sneer, and then pasted a smile on his face as he spoke her name.
“Yes, my father is a rector—ˮ
“Oh, a clergyman. I cannot say I envy him for that. But a country estate—ˮ He leaned over his plate, and Marianne could not help but think he was trying to attract Mr Hearn’s attention with his raised voice. “I adore country estates. The prettiest of them are in Ireland, I would say. Have you ever been to Ireland?”
“I regret I have not.” Marianne tried to focus on Mr Lowes, but she, too, found herself staring at Mr Hearn, who listened to the conversation with a grimace. She did not understand what sort of allusion Mr Lowes was trying to make. Was he twitting his friend for being half-Irish? She could not see why Mr Hearn would choose a friend prejudiced against the Irish, but whatever the allusion, clearly Mr Hearn was angry. He was digging into his chicken with a ferocity that ill became a fashionable dinner party.
Mr Lowes continued, seemingly unaware of Mr Hearn. “I have several places in Ireland. I pick them up here and there, from people without the sense to hang onto them. There is always a risk associated with them, of course, but I never mind that. Are you afraid of risk, Miss Mowbrey?”
“I suppose I am, a little.” She gave him a puzzled look, and then looked across the table at Mr Hearn, only to see a scowl on his face.
“Now, I adore risk. Life is nothing but a gamble.” Mr Lowes roared with laughter at this, and Marianne began to wonder if he had had too much to drink. There had not been much wine served, but perhaps the gentleman was delicate. It was with relief she realised Captain Pulteney was trying to attract her attention again, and she turned to her other side.
About the AuthorAfter acquiring a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Arkansas, Elizabeth Rasche taught philosophy in the U.S. and co-taught English in Japan. Now she and her husband live in northwest Arkansas, the ‘garden of America.’ (At least, she has only ever heard Arkansas called so.) She dreams of visiting Surrey (if only to look for Mrs. Elton’s Maple Grove), Bath, and of course, London. When she has a Jane Austen novel in one hand, a cup of tea in the other, and a cat on her lap, her day is pretty much perfect.
Elizabeth Rasche is the author of The Birthday Parties of Dragons and her poetry has appeared in Scifaikuest. Flirtation & Folly is her first historical fiction novel.
Blog Tour ScheduleTuesday, November 10
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit
Wednesday, November 11
Review at Gwendalyn's Books
Thursday, November 12
Review at Bitch Bookshelf
Review at Books In Their Natural Habitat
Friday, November 13
Excerpt at Coffee and Ink
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Review at Library of Clean Reads
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Saturday, November 21
Excerpt at Passages to the Past
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Review at Robin Loves Reading
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Tuesday, November 24
Review at Novels Alive
Review at A Chick Who Reads
GiveawayDuring the Blog Tour, we are giving away a copy of Flirtation and Folly by Elizabeth Rasche! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
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Flirtation and Folly