For a young lady who had made a study of all things proper, Miss Lavinia Tempest always seemed to find her fair share of mishaps.
The small fire at Foxgrove. The bunting incident of ’08. And the rather infamous trampling at the Midsummer’s Eve ball two years earlier.
Sir Roger still claimed he didn’t miss those toes.
Of course, he was joking. He’d been very fond of those toes.
And worse, every time Lavinia attended a ball, soiree, or even just the weekly meetings of the Society for the Temperance and Improvement of Kempton, someone (usually Mrs. Bagley-Butterton) had to remind one and all of one of her more recent follies.
So when Lavinia entered the hallowed halls of Almack’s, it was with, she vowed, a fresh start.
A clean slate.
And so it seemed she was right. No one pulled their hem out of the way as she drew near for fear of it being trod upon or worse, the lace being completely ripped away. No one whispered behind their fan, or laid wagers as to who or what would be broken by the end of the evening.
She was, for the first time in her life, merely Miss Tempest, the daughter of the respected scholar, Sir Ambrose Tempest.
“It is just as I imagined,” she said in awe as she and her sister Louisa handed over their vouchers. The perfect place to launch herself into the lofty reaches of London Society.
After all, she’d spent most of the afternoon planning out her evening (when she hadn’t been reading her favorite Miss Darby novel).
First and foremost, she was wearing her new gown—a demure and respectable dress done in the latest stare of modest fashion. And while she had longed for brilliant sapphire silk that had been on the shelf at the modiste’s shop, that color would never do for a debut such as this.
After all, the very rule was on her list:
Proper Rule No. 3. An unmarried lady always wears demure and respectable colors. Such as white. Or a pale yellow. Or an apple green, but only if the occasion permits.
So the blue silk could only be eyed from a distance, and she’d consigned herself to the muslin, for propriety was the order of the evening.
That is if she was to gain the highest obligation of every young lady making her debut Season in London:
Proper Rule No. 1. Marriage to a respectable, sensible, well-ordered gentleman is the order of business for every proper lady.
So she had the gown, entrance into the very heart of the Marriage Mart, and now all she had to do was finish the evening without incident.
But this was Lavinia Tempest, and that was easier said than done.
“No dancing,” Louisa whispered to her as their chaperone, Lady Aveley, led them into the Wednesday evening crush. Her sister held out her hand, pinky extended, and Lavinia wrapped her own finger around it and the two sisters bound their promise together.
In Lavinia’s defense, she had made her promise most faithfully with every intention of remaining safely at the side of the dance floor.
She had demurred when Lord Ardmore had asked. Begging off in a charming fashion that she was “too nervous to dance,” this being her first visit to Almack’s.
She’d even refused the very handsome and dashing Baron Rimswell—though she had been sorely tested for it was only a simple reel, but then one glance at Lord Rimswell’s glossy boots and she’d thought better of it and remained firm to her promise.
But apparently no one had told Mr. Alaster Rowland. Now in his favor, Mr. Rowland’s boots hadn’t a fine gloss and he was rather squiffy from an indeterminate amount of brandy, so even if she had stepped on him, he was drunk enough that it would most likely dull the pain.