Susana Ellis - Treasuring Theresa
Comment to win an eBook of Treasuring Theresa by commenting on this post! Ends 1/25/2013.
1. Comment = 1 Entry
2. Tweet = 1 Extra Entry*
3. Like = 1 Extra Entry*
* Make mention of this in your comment for extra entry / (Important: Full Contest Entry Rules) - Updated NOR Contest Passport required for entry.
Treasuring Theresa / Genre: Romance (Historical)
At the betrothal ball of the man she had expected to marry herself, Lady Theresa latches on to the most dashing gentleman present, hoping to divert attention from her own humiliation. That gentleman happens to be her father’s distant cousin and heir, Damian Ashby, a useless London fribble in her opinion. He is not favorably impressed with her either.
But when her father becomes mortally ill and Damian is obligated to spend time with her at the Earl’s country estate, the two of them unexpectedly find admirable qualities in each other and discover a mutual attraction.
But can a London swell and a country lady ever make their diverse lives and interests work together?
Her Father Left Her Destitute: a Penniless Lady's Options in Regency England
[The solicitor] took out a handkerchief and wiped his brow. “Indeed. It is my duty to inform you, Lady Theresa, that when your father—that when the estate is handed over to the next earl and your father’s outstanding debts have been settled, you will be left homeless with, according to my calculations, perhaps a few hundred pounds.”
He looked her directly in the eye. “Marriage is your best option,” he said. “Perhaps a well-off gentleman eager to ally himself with a noble family?”
Lady Theresa, the heroine in my Regency short story, Treasuring Theresa, is about to lose her home and nearly everything she owns. Her father, the Earl of Granville, is mortally ill, and when he dies, the estate will be passed on to his heir, a distant cousin. A year earlier, the earl suffered the loss of nearly all of his money at the hands of an embezzler, so there is virtually nothing left to support his only daughter, Lady Theresa. Except for “a few hundred pounds.”
So…how much is “a few hundred pounds”?
According to Jane Austen's World,* a typical genteel family in Regency times required an annual income of around £2,000. That amount would cover the expenses of maintaining a large home, a carriage and horses and enough servants to run the household. That was the amount the Bennet family lived on in Pride and Prejudice…and what the family stood to lose at Mr. Bennet's death when his entailed estate passed on to the next male heir, Mr. Collins.
If Lady Theresa should end up with as much as £500 after her father's death, that would yield about £20 a year (at 4% interest on the 'Change). How much was that? A typical laborer earned about £15-20 annually.* Jane Austen's annual “pin money” (which did not include support) is estimated to have been around £50 per year.* £20 is obviously not enough to support a gently-born young lady like Lady Theresa, even though her needs might be far from extravagant.
What are her choices, then? As a titled young lady who is also dowerless, her chances of making a marriage with an equal are slim. As the family solicitor informs her, however, she would be an excellent match for a wealthy merchant seeking to infuse a dose of blue blood into his family tree. Most would consider this a step down for an earl's daughter, although Theresa is not such a snob. But for a young lady who expected a love match, contracting a marriage for the sake of convenience is simply unthinkable.
So she chooses instead to apply to her father's aunt as a companion. A companion or governess was considered sort of an “upper servant,” not precisely a servant, nor a member of the family. She would be tasked with fetching and carrying for her aunt until the aunt's death, whereupon she would seek another post. Her chances of meeting suitable marriage prospects would be virtually nil.
Perhaps most young ladies in her position would have chosen the convenient marriage instead, but Lady Theresa is that rare breed who values relationships and integrity over wealth and pretension.
I'd like to think I would make a similar choice if I were in her position. However, as an American who has never really seen poverty—and who has always been taught that a good education and hard work can take you “from rags to riches,” I'm not sure I can truly understand what it was like to live in a society where one's birth was paramount and opportunities to rise above a low birth were rare.
Of course, Fate has something else in store for Lady Theresa. But, I wonder, would you choose the life of a drudge over a convenient marriage to a title-monger if those were your only two choices? I wonder.
Thanks so much for the opportunity to talk to you today.
Please friend me on Facebook (susana.ellis.5), follow me on Twitter (@susanaauthor) and check out my web site (http://www.susanaellis.com) and blog (http://susanaellisauthor.wordpress.com). I love to chat with readers!
To celebrate the release of Treasuring Theresa, I am hosting a series of contests on my web site (http://www.susanaellis.com) for the month of January. All you have to do is answer a question about the Regency period and your name will be entered for the next drawing. Winners will be chosen on January 9, 16, 23, and 31.
Win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!
Available January 3, 2013 on Ellora's Cave, January 10 at other e-book retailers.
Purchase Susana Ellis titles and find out more
EXCERPT: TREASURING THERESA
Copyright © SUSANA ELLIS, 2013
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
The Sedgely Mansion
Damian Ashby, Viscount Clinton, looked down upon the festive ballroom with a critical eye as he waited in the reception line. Greek statues and scrolled Ionic columns, along with draperies of white and gold and a profusion of candelabras wrapped in ivy, trumpeted the classical theme. A brief survey of the guests confirmed his suspicion that the Sedgelys did not socialize in the first circles of the ton. Except for his cousin, the Earl of Granville, whose heir he was and at whose behest he had deigned to attend, Damian himself appeared to be the highest ranked in attendance.
And frankly, he’d rather be indulging in an intimate dinner and sensual dessert with his mistress than attending a provincial betrothal ball held for two people he’d never met.
“Charmed, I’m sure” he said disdainfully as he greeted his hosts. The pudgy Mr. Sedgely, a banker, and his horse-faced wife, second cousin to a baron, socialized on the fringes of theton, which is why he’d never encountered them previously.
The balding gentleman waiting to greet him on the next step down introduced himself as Squire Bromfield, father of the bridegroom. “So good of you to come,” he boomed, “considering I’ll be your neighbor one day. Or at least my son will, if I’ve shoved off by then.”
“Indeed,” Damian replied, shuddering inwardly at the thought of socializing with such boorish people. After he inherited, he planned to reside at Granville Manor for one week annually during the hunting season. The rest of the year it would be left under the management of a capable steward while he continued to enjoy the pleasures of civilized society in London.
He was calculating the most direct path to the card room when a young lady pounced on him.
“Why, I do believe it’s Cousin Damian! How delightful to see you again!”
She was passably pretty, he thought, although her marine-blue gown was not in the first stare of fashion. He could find no fault with her small waist and full breasts, although he personally preferred a more voluptuous figure. Her hair was too dark a blonde to be in vogue, and the simple chignon indicated that she had arranged it herself without the assistance of a maid. But it was her tantalizing eyes that drew his attention—a deep cerulean blue that reminded him of the Adriatic Sea and a pleasurable interlude on a beach with a sultry Greek barmaid during his European tour a few years ago.
She swatted his arm with her fan.
“You don’t remember me, do you, Cousin Damian? It has been an age since your visit to Granville at Christmastime. It was five or six years, perhaps, but I still had no trouble recognizing you!”
His memory yielded the image of a younger version of the girl before him. Barely out of adolescence, she’d been as provincial as the others in the tedious party.
“Lady Theresa,” he said. “How delightful to see you again!”
“Cousin Theresa,” she insisted. “Strict propriety need not be followed among relations, you know.”
“Although a high-stickler would point out our blood relationship is somewhat diluted,” he reminded her, “our grandfathers being merely cousins and all.”
She grinned. “Isn’t it fortunate there are no high-sticklers here?”
The first notes of a waltz were struck. “What luck!” she said, pulling him onto the dance floor. “Come dance with me, Cousin Damian. I do so adore waltzes!”
He could have—should have—cut her for her impertinence. If he’d been ambushed in such a manner by any other young lady at a ton ball, she’d have been dealt a severe set-down. But among a roomful of provincials, Lady Theresa, as the daughter of an earl, outranked everyone except her father and himself. And seeing as she was the one who would be displaced when he inherited her father’s estate, he decided to ignore her lapse in manners. More or less.
“How fortunate that we both have this dance available,” he said with a hint of reproof.
“Oh la,” she said. “I don’t have so many partners that I must write down their names. And you just arrived,” she said with a triumphant smile.
A country bumpkin, thought Damian in disgust. Bruiting about her own unpopularity so candidly. She would be a pariah at any civilized ball.
She danced surprisingly well for a country girl, he thought as they whirled around the room. She felt good in his arms and the scent of her hair wafted up to his nose. Lavender.
Her astonishing eyes peered up at him, sparkling with interest. Oh no, he groaned inwardly. Here it comes.
“You are easily the most refined gentleman here,” she gushed. “Your apparel outshines even Reese’s, and he is the guest of honor.” Seeing his puzzled look, she explained. “Reese Bromfield, Squire Bromfield’s son. The husband-to-be.” She nodded toward a hulky blond man dancing with a pretty redhead. “That’s Eugenia Sedgely, his fiancée.”
Was it only his imagination that her voice shook slightly when she said that last word?
About Susana Ellis: A former teacher, Susana is finally living her dream of being a full-time writer. She loves all genres of romance, but historical—Regency in particular—is her favorite. There’s just something about dashing heroes and spunky heroines waltzing in ballrooms and driving through Hyde Park that appeals to her imagination.
In real life, Susana is a lifelong resident of northwest Ohio, although she has lived in Ecuador and studied in Spain, France and Mexico. More recently, she was able to travel around England and visit many of the places she’s read about for years, and it was awesome! She is a member of the Maumee Valley chapter of Romance Writers of America.