Authors: Julia Quinn
Several years back, as I started work on the book that would become
The Duke and I,
I created a fictitious gossip columnist named Lady Whistledown, whose column excerpts began each chapter, and I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed writing as much as when I stepped into Lady W’s shoes. She was sarcastic, wry, perceptive, and when it mattered, compassionate. And when she “retired” in
Romancing Mister Bridgerton
after gracing the pages of four of my novels, I felt a sense of loss.
But with every closed door, another one opens, and I was presented with the opportunity of having Lady Whistledown “narrate” an anthology. I jumped at the chance, of course, although I must confess I didn’t know what I was getting into at the time. The four novellas herein are lightly intertwined: Suzanne Enoch’s heroine knocks mine over at a skating party, and when Mia Ryan’s hero and heroine have a public argument, they do so at a ball hosted by Karen Hawkins’s characters. I, as the author of Lady W’s columns, had to keep track of all the details, down to the same eye and hair color! It wasn’t easy, but it was all great fun.
And so I, along with Suzanne Enoch, Karen Hawkins, and Mia Ryan, am delighted to present to you
The Further Observations of Lady Whistledown.
There is a great deal to comment upon in 1813 London, and Lady Whistledown is as loquacious as ever.
The Further Observation of
All Lady Whistledown columns written by Julia Quinn
To the memory of my great-grandparents, Vivian H. and Zelma Whitlock.
A West Texas cowboy and a sheep rancher’s daughter, their unlikely romance lasted for more than half a century.
Lady Anne Bishop is back in town, along with the rest of society, eager to enjoy the frigid weather and overcast skies. London is suffering through a spate of cold unmatched in recorded history, and indeed, even the mighty Thames has frozen over. This Author cannot help but wonder whether this means that husbands all over town must now perform all the tasks they had put off by claiming, “I shall throw away my hideous mounted boar’s head (or admit I have gout, or listen to the intelligently spoken words of my wife—you, Dear Reader, may insert whichever you like) when the Thames freezes over.”
But despite the cold’s tendency to turn one’s nose a rather unattractive shade of red, the
seems to be enjoying the weather, if only for the novelty of it all. Lady Anne Bishop, as noted above, was spied making angels in the snow in the company of Sir Royce Pemberley, who, it must be noted, is not her intended husband.
One can only wonder if this incident will compel the Marquis of Halfurst, who has been betrothed to Lady Anne since the occasion of her birth, to leave his home in Yorkshire and travel to London to finally make the acquaintance of the woman he will marry.
Or perhaps he is content with the situation at hand? Not every gentleman desires a wife, after all.
ady Anne Bishop laid the letters on the card table. “Now,” she said, smiling, “we’ve each read all three. Your opinions, ladies?”
“Mr. Spengle’s invitation seems to be the most fervent,” Theresa DePris commented, chuckling as she brushed her fingers across the missive. “He used the word ‘heart’ four times.”
“And ‘ardent’ twice.” Anne laughed. “He also has the best penmanship. Pauline, what do you think?”
“As if you care about penmanship, Annie,” Miss Pauline Hamilton said, giving a delicate snort. “All of us know you’re going to go to the theater with Lord Howard, so please stop flaunting your love letters before us poor unfortunate souls.”
“They aren’t love letters, for heaven’s sake.” Less amused, Anne turned Lord Howard’s letter to face her. Desmond Howard was the wittiest of her circle of male acquaintances, to be certain, but love? That was just nonsense.
“What do you call their correspondence, then? I-like-you-very-much letters?”
With a slight scowl, Anne returned the missive to its former position. “It’s all in fun. No one takes it seriously.”
“Why, because you’ve been betrothed since you were three days old?” Pauline pursued, grimacing. “I think you take that agreement even less seriously than your suitors do.”
“Pauline, you are becoming quite the moralist, suddenly,” Anne said, shuffling the letters into a brisk pile. “I do not have suitors, and it’s not as though I’ve done anything wrong.”
“Besides,” Theresa added, rejoining the debate, “when was the last time Annie received a letter from Lord Halfurst?”
“Never!” her two friends finished in unison, laughing.
Annie laughed as well, though she didn’t consider it all that funny. In romantic tales, one’s betrothed fought witches and slew dragons for one. A letter should have been easy to manufacture, even in godforsaken Yorkshire.
“Exactly,” she said, anyway. “Never a word, much less a sentence, in nineteen years. So I don’t want to hear any more nonsense about my sheep-farming betrothed.” She leaned forward. “He knows precisely where I spend my days. If he chooses to spend his own as far from London as possible, that’s no concern of mine.”
Theresa sighed. “So you’ll never marry?”
Anne patted her friend’s hand. “I have a monthly stipend, I get to spend most of the year in London because of Father’s cabinet position, I have the most wonderful friends I could ever hope for, and I receive at least three invitations to every event, even in the middle of winter. If that’s not perfection, I don’t know what is.”
Pauline shook her head. “What about your sheep-farming marquis, though? Do you think he’ll stay in Yorkshire until he withers and dies? If he decides to marry, won’t it have to be you?”
Anne shuddered. Miss Hamilton had always delighted in finding the pitfalls on other’s paths. “I really don’t care what he does.”
“Perhaps he’ll perish in a sheep-shearing accident,” Theresa suggested.
“Oh, I don’t want anything ill to happen to Lord Halfurst,” Anne countered quickly. Heavens, if he expired, she would lose the only barrier between herself and her mother beginning an eternity of nagging that she needed to find a husband. This way, she could blame any lack of a mate on the absent marquis. And it would just be wrong if she married someone else without his consent. “I like him quite well exactly where he is—far away from here.”
“Hm,” Theresa mused. “You say that now, but—”
The drawing room door rattled and opened. “Anne, come at once!” her mother hissed.
Lady Daven’s face was white, and for a moment all Anne could think was that something had happened to her father. “Mama, what’s wrong?” she asked, shooting to her feet.
“It’s him!” the countess continued, not even sparing the other two ladies in the room a glance. “Oh, why are you wearing that? Whatever happened to your new blue gown?”