I’m doing the weekly excerpt from The Wild One, which was released January 09 Kensington Books. There are still a few copies, I believe, available on Amazon, along with a Kindle edition.
I chose this excerpt because I’ve done a post or two about the upper class society in the Victorian period, and have meant, at least, to write up another one or two. This is how I used that history in my book. The hero, Lee Montgomery, is a temporarily transplanted Boston Brahmin (the son of Morgan and Ward in Wicked Woman) and has managed to persuade heroine, Jess Sullivan, to attend a ball with him. Jess has been lead to believe that Lee is a footloose gambler, mostly because Lee dislikes the pomp and circumstance of his background. It is in these scenes that Jess learns about the wealth and high social standing–and about how poorly she would fit into it, which is one of the story’s conflicts.
“Don’t worry, sweetheart,” Lee whispered in her ear. “They don’t bite. At least, I don’t think they do.” The music grew louder with each step. Then the footman bowed and swept his arm toward a huge room with two sets of open double doors. They entered, stopping just inside.
Gold. Lord almighty, everywhere gold—enormous, sparkling chandeliers, paneling, wainscoting, everything covered in gold leaf. The floor-to-ceiling windows, hung with delicate lace, were trimmed in gold.The marble fireplace and the huge mirror over it, trimmed in gold. Even the sky-and-cloud-painted ceiling was all but lost in gold-squared trimming.
And flowers, hundreds, thousands of flowers. The scent almost knocked her over. “Good gracious, Lee,” Jess gasped. “I didn’t know the world contained that much gold leaf! Do they own a hothouse, too?”
Lee, scanning the crowd, grimaced. “Awful, isn’t it? It’s Bernadette’s doing. Hathaway’s a Yank; you’d never see this sort of ostentation in Boston. I see we’re late enough to have successfully avoided the reception line and the Grande Marche, which, believe me, is for the better,” he said smugly. “Let us see about finding you a seat while I locate—ah, there’s Michael. Ah hell, he’s with Greenway and Eleanor.”
Blinded by grandeur, Jess only then noticed the people, some dancing to the strains of an orchestra hidden behind a row of palms, some sitting on cream silk settees and chairs, while still others stood talking ingroups.
Then the names sank in. “Greenway?” Jess repeated, in yet another shock to her reeling mind. Over and over again she tried to swallow the lump in her throat, barely controlling the urge to flee. “Ned Greenway?” Dear God, and Eleanor Martin, the queen of San Francisco society. Jess had only read about her in the society pages. Oh no, she would not meet her, she’d rather sink through the gold-parquet floor, turninto a bird and fly through the heaven-painted ceiling. To be anywhere but here, completely, entirely out of her realm.
Across the room Michael Hathaway spotted them. After reaching into a gold-edged white box, he withdrew a slim gold square and crossed the room. “Montgomery,” he exclaimed, shaking Lee’s hand. “Good to see you again! And Miss Sullivan,” he said bowing. “It’s an honor to renew our acquaintance. Your dance card, ma’am.” He handed her a goldleaf book with a tiny pencil attached by an ivory silk cord. She took it, using her best acting skills to appear perfectly at ease. Mr. Hathaway continued. “Lee, there are a number of people here who wish to talk to you.”
Rubbing his neck, Lee grimaced. “Damn it, Michael, I came late hoping to avoid all that.”
Hathaway laughed. “You’d have to arrive dead for that to happen. Come, we’ll make it as painless as possible.”
“Confound it, McAllister’s here, too,” Lee hissed, as he took Jess’s arm to lead her across the floor. “Thought he was visiting his brother in New York. If he talks to Port there’ll be the devil to pay. You’d better steer me clear of him, Hathaway, or it’ll be pistols at dawn between you and me!”