What is my favorite scene in How To Impress A Marquess?
by Susanna Ives
My favorite scene is the etiquette drinking game. My hero George, the Marquess of Marylewick, is determined to mold his trustee, the wild, bohemian Lilith Dahlgren into a proper lady. To this end he enlists his sister, Lady Fenmore to tutor Lilith on the finer points of being a gently bred lady and leaves Lady Fenmore with a stack of etiquette books for Lilith to study. George is appalled to come home and find Lilith has managed to enlist his sister into a mischievous etiquette drinking game.
The tiny idea of the scene started when my children and I were listening to the original Sherlock Holmes stories in audiobook format. (I enjoy hearing British stories told with proper British accents. My mental British accent is rather appalling.) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used the term “gin palace”. I thought gin had fallen out of favor after the terrible addiction rates in the 1700s as depicted in Hogarth’s “Gin Alley”. I was pleased to know “gin palaces” were about in the late 1800s. I had to use that term. So, George says, “You’ve entangled my sister in some drinking game worthy of a gin palace?”
I have a penchant for collecting old etiquette books. I love digging through them, learning the proper way to have a tea or leave calling cards. I have an entire Pinterest board devoted to old etiquette books. I adore their titles, so I derived great pleasure in making up my own titles to fictional etiquette books. In How To Impress A Marquess, George asks Lilith several etiquette questions from books titled What Every Young Lady of Quality Should Know Upon Entering into Society and Marriage: A Guide to Gentle Breeding, The Deportment of Proper Young Ladies in Society and Abroad, and The Lonely Suitor’s Guide to the Romantic Arts, or How To Get Married Within a Year—A Comprehensive Guide to All Areas of Flirtation Including Handkerchiefs, Parasols, Rings, Flowers, Gloves, Linens, and Utensils.
Of course, Lilith knows all the answers, clever woman. As she tells George, her so-called ramshackle, bohemian lifestyle isn’t born of ignorance but her own educated decision.
For several years now, I’ve had posts of Victorian flirtations up on my blog, but I was never able to use the fabulous information in a book until now. In the Victorian era, courtship was a rather rigorous affair and the culture of the time was quite, well, Victorian. Unmarried men and women were rarely left alone.
During the game, Lilith says to George “You are at a dinner party,” Lilith began in a somber voice. “And you can’t help but notice that the gentleman or, in your case, the lady across from you is exceedingly handsome. How do you signal to her that you desire to rendezvous on the dance floor later?”
I’ve included an excerpt below so you can learn George’s sexy answer.
“I have completed your entire list for today.” She drew the page from the side table and held it up. “I’ve checked off each item: modiste, millinery, shoes—ah, but we added bookshop, print shop, and confectionery—I appended those at the bottom. Now Lady Fenmore is tutoring me in etiquette. We’ve even made a game of it. Care to play?” She patted the empty place beside her on the sofa.
Who was this woman who outwardly resembled Lilith? “I don’t think—”
“Do play, Brother,” Penelope implored. “It’s great fun.”
With his sister, who had been so listless for months, who hadn’t responded to any of his attempts to cheer her or let him inside her thoughts, now smiling, he couldn’t refuse.
“Maybe for a few minutes.” He took the seat Lilith offered. “I must leave shortly.”
“You must select a question.” Lilith picked up a stack of tiny squares of paper. She leaned in, close enough for him to smell her musk perfume. His pulse quickened.
“But don’t look at the back, for it has the answer,” Penelope cautioned.
“That’s right.” Lilith wagged her finger. “No cheating.” He cautiously picked a piece of paper so as to avoid any accusations of duplicity. A strange sensation, like painless, hot electricity radiated out from where their fingers met.
“You read it,” he said, handing it to Lilith. He sat back in the cushion and tapped his fingers on the armrest. “This is a very serious etiquette question indeed.”
Lilith’s face grew grave.
A tiny giggle burst from Penelope, but she quickly composed herself again.
“You are at a dinner party,” Lilith began in a somber voice. “And you can’t help but notice that the gentleman or, in your case, the lady across from you is exceedingly handsome. How do you signal to her that you desire to rendezvous on the dance floor later?” Both women dissolved into giggles.
“What?” he cried. “This wasn’t in the books I gave you!”
“We found those books rather antiquated,” Lilith explained. “So we purchased The Lonely Suitor’s Guide to the Romantic Arts, or How To Get Married Within a Year—A Comprehensive Guide to All Areas of Flirtation Including Handkerchiefs, Parasols, Rings, Flowers, Gloves, Linens, and Utensils. George, I didn’t realize people flirted with their utensils. How could I have missed it all these years? I wonder if a man has been secretly signaling that he loves me and all the while I thought he was bathing his parsnip in cream. Have you ever flirted with your spoon or linen?”
He was about to say something censorious about mocking his instructions when his sister helpfully supplied, “Oh, George doesn’t flirt with his spoon or anything.”
He was torn. Which did he want more? For Lilith to obey his dictates or not to think he was a flat. All the while, Lilith waited.
“I see you don’t know the answer,” she said, as if she expected as much. “Now you must—”
“When I want to rendezvous with a ravishing lady on the dance floor,” he said, “I draw my linen slowly through my hand as if I were caressing her as we dance.”
Lilith’s mouth dropped. She stared at him as if she couldn’t believe he was capable of anything romantic. He winked at her to further discombobulate her.
“Lord Marylewick, you’re right!” She gave his arm a gentle swat. “Have you read The Lonely Suitor’s Guide?”
“I have not.” He edged even closer. The phrase moth to a flame echoed faintly in his head. “These things come naturally to me. For instance, when I want to rendezvous in a quiet garden or elsewhere, I place my spoon atop my knife. Maybe give them a little rub together.” He couldn’t deny that how he used his fingers to illustrate might be deemed impertinent, but he enjoyed seeing how her blush and fluster erased the usual wry gleam in her eyes.
“George!” Penelope cried. “You’re horrid. Lilith isn’t married. You shouldn’t say such things.”
“I’m sorry, Miss Dahlgren,” he said, but felt no contriteness. After all, she had asked him to play. Maybe it wasn’t so amusing when she couldn’t control the game. “What is my prize for my table-flirting prowess?”
Lilith was still blushing as she reached over to open the box on the table. “You get a toffee.”
How to Impress a Marquess by Susanna Ives
Book #3 in the Wicked Little Secrets series
Take one Marquess: responsible, worldly, deadly dull but concealing an artist’s soul.
Add one rebellious, brilliantly creative but lonely young lady who craves love, home and family.
Combine with ill-assorted guests at an ill-fated house party hosted by a dowager with a poison tongue and a penchant for scandal.
You’ll be shaken, you’ll be stirred, you’ll laugh and you’ll swoon—most of all you’ll be tossed into an intriguing Victorian love story that you’ll never want to leave.
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