Extract from 'The House Party'
My next book The House Party is due for release - both in hardback by Robert Hale and, for download, with http://www.regencyreads.com/ - at the end of July.
Here is an extract from the first chapter where you first encounter the heroine, Penelope Coombs, and her redoubtable Aunt Lucy, Lady Dalrymple.
I hope you enjoy it.
'What did you say, Aunt Lucy?' Penelope Coombs stared at her aged aunt with undisguised amazement. 'Attend a balloon ascent?'
'My dear, have I not told you how enthralled I have become of late with all things aeronautical?'
'No, Aunt, you have not. Indeed I can say without fear of contradiction that this is the very first time you have ever expressed so much as a passing interest in the matter.'
Lady Dalrymple patted the chaise-longue making the feather on her maroon turban flutter. 'Do come and sit down, my dear, your pacing is making me dizzy.'
Penelope paused at the far side of the drawing-room the hem of her pale green muslin skirt swirling around her ankles. 'I cannot sit still. I'm certain that the letter from London will come today.'
Lady Dalrymple snorted. 'In my opinion the whole thing is fustian. Your poor father would turn in his grave if he knew how you intend to spend his money.'
'That's doing it too brown, Aunt Lucy. I only intend to invest half my funds in shipping - and there will be more than enough left over to keep us both in luxury for the rest of our lives.' Penelope walked over to join her aunt. 'What is all this about balloons, Aunt? Tell me more?'
'If you stop perambulating around the room for five minutes I shall be happy to do so.'
'Very well. I suppose your tale will pass the time'
'I came by a poster advertising the ascent a week ago and quite made up my mind to attend. There are to be rides for the public and I am determined that I shall be first in the line.'
Penny gazed at her elderly aunt with affection. 'You're almost eighty years old, Aunt Lucy. Ballooning is for the young and agile.'
'Stuff and nonsense! I am fitter now than some people half my age. It is because of my approaching name day that I wish to do it. The good Lord might call me back at any moment. Can you think of a better way to go than when one is already half way to heaven?'
Penny chuckled. 'Now I know you've run mad. Are you trying to tell me in a roundabout
fashion that you hope to perish in the basket of the balloon?'
'What a ridiculous notion? Of course not. I have a list here of ten things I wish to experience before I depart this world and a ride in a balloon is but third on it. I am determined that I shall accomplish them all before I turn up my toes.'
Penny held out her hand. 'Please show me, Aunt. My heart quails at the prospect of discovering the two items that precede the ascent.'
Lady Dalrymple placed the paper in the outstretched hand, her eyes lowered, not wishing her astute great-niece to see her expression. She considered that her imaginary list was a masterstroke. When Penny had been obliged to return to the family home, on the sudden demise of Sir John Coombs just over a year ago, it had been in the happy expectation of receiving an offer from Edward Weston.
Lady Dalrymple smiled as she recalled the exact words on the bill advertising the forthcoming balloon ascent.
This event has been fully funded by the Earl of Rushford. Lord Weston is a founder member of The Suffolk Aeronautical Association.
With any luck his lordship would attend the event bringing several of his gentlemen friends. Whatever her personal feelings on the matter Lady Dalrymple was of the firm opinion that any earl was better than none.
Penny scanned the neatly penned list with growing consternation. Number one was a visit to Paris, number two a trip along the canals of Venice and number three, an ascent in a balloon. 'Aunt Lucy, I know Bonaparte is imprisoned on Elba but I don't believe it to be safe to travel abroad at the moment.'
'Which is why, my dear, I intend to start with number three. It is fortuitous that such an event is to take place in our neighbourhood. It is high time you were seen in public again. What is the point of having a new wardrobe in the first stare at fashion if you do not intend to be seen wearing it?'
'Very well, I concede. Tomorrow we shall drive into Ipswich. However reluctant an aeronaut I am, I cannot allow you to take a flight unaccompanied. If you insist on this folly then we shall suffer the experience together.' Penny grinned. 'Don't look so smug, Aunt Lucy, I promise you might well regret your determination to cheat the laws of nature. From what I have read on the subject many people experience nausea and all return frozen to the marrow.'