The Husband Criteria
The primary aim of every young lady embarking on the Spring frenzy that is the Season must be to make a good match. Or must it? And what is a good match? For cousins Cynthia, Chloe and Ann, well aware that the society preux chevalier may prove to be a domestic tyrant, these are vital questions. How can they discover their suitors’ true character when all their encounters must be confined to the highly ritualised round of balls, parties and drives in the park?
As they define and refine their Husband Criteria, Cynthia finds herself unwillingly attracted to aloof Rafe Marfield, heir to an earldom, while Chloe is pleased to find that Thomas Musgrave, the vicar’s son from home, is also in London. And Ann must decide what is more important to her, music or marriage.
And what of the gentlemen who consider the marriage mart to be their hunting grounds? How will they react if they realise how rigorously they are being assessed?
A light-hearted, entertaining look behind the scenes of a Season that takes a different course with unexpected consequences for all concerned.
Universal Buy Link: https://mybook.to/criteria
Enjoy an excerpt from Chapter Four
Chloe and Ann were at the centre of an animated group. However, as they neared it, Cynthia noticed that once they had been introduced, people tended to step back and talk to their neighbours, leaving the two girls alone.
Once greetings had been exchanged, she gently urged Martin to change position so that they formed a group of four. “It’s as if they are planets orbiting the sun,” she murmured. “They cannot remain but are impelled onwards.”
Chloe groaned. “That reminds me of the problems from Butler’s Exercises on the Globe. To find the place of a given planet in the Ecliptic for any given time. It didn’t matter how often I tried; I could never do them. In the end, Mamma agreed I need not attempt them. I love to look up at the night sky, and make out the constellations, but I just could not transfer them to the Globe.”
“It is as well you were called Chloe, then, and not Urania,” Martin remarked.
She looked at him, horrified. “That is not a real name.”
“It is,” Cynthia said. “She is the Muse of Astronomy.”
“In ancient times. Do you know anybody who is called it today?” Chloe demanded. “You might as well be called Hercules or, or…”
“Aesop,” Ann supplied.
Martin threw his hand up at the girls’ laughter. “I give in. Chloe is a much prettier name; it suits you better.”
“A compliment! I thank you, sir.”
“Make the most of it,” Cynthia advised her. “Martin is not given to making compliments.”
“I do, but only when they are deserved.”
At this lofty pronouncement, the three girls glared indignantly at him.
“For that, you must pay a compliment to each of us before the night is out,” Cynthia said.
“Only if you return the favour,” he retorted.
The three looked at each other. “Done!” Chloe said.
When the others nodded, she smiled brightly at Martin.
“Indeed, Mr Glazebrook, you have a very pretty wit.”
Martin accepted this with a smug nod, but looked uncomfortable when Ann followed with, “I vow, Mr Glazebrook, your sparkling wit matches your eyes.”
Cynthia smirked as she drawled, “With such a charming newcomer, the Season looks brighter already.”
“Sis!” Martin said, outraged, at which the three girls collapsed into laughter.
“Rather trite, Miss Glazebrook,” a deep voice said behind them and Cynthia turned to look up into Lord Marfield’s impassive face.
Engulfed by a wave of mortification, she sharply bit the inside of her lip, hoping to stave off the blush she felt creeping into her cheeks. Forcing herself not to lower her gaze, she said, “Indeed, my lord. I fear my muse has deserted me and I must resort to lesser inspiration.”
“That is sad indeed.” A little smile glimmered in his eyes; the cast of his features became less severe and he turned to the couple who had come up with him. “Lady Elizabeth, Hope, may I present Miss Glazebrook, Miss Loring, and Miss Overton? And Mr Glazebrook. Ladies, Mr Glazebrook, Lady Elizabeth Hope, and Lord Hope.”
“Oh, we know Mr and Miss Glazebrook,” Lady Elizabeth said, smiling, “and are happy to meet Miss Loring and Miss Overton.”
Her brother bowed. “Now, do tell us what diverted you so?”
“Just a silly joke, not worth repeating,” Martin said hastily. “Have you seen Kean’s Macbeth?”
Not long afterwards, they were joined by Mr Malvin, and Cynthia was satisfied that Chloe and Ann no longer appeared to be unknown newcomers but were among a group that included four eligible bachelors, two of whom were peers’ heirs. First impressions were so important; it had taken her some time to find her feet last year, and she would spare her friends the experience if she could.
As soon the sound of sedate trios and quartets gave way to the sinuous invitation of the waltz, the first pairs were formed, the gentlemen turning to the ladies nearest to them. Martin danced with Lady Elizabeth, Chloe with Lord Hope, Ann with Mr Malvin, and Cynthia, to her hidden dismay, with Lord Marfield.
To give the devil his due, he had neither hesitated nor let his eyes stray to other young ladies in the group, but had bowed as soon as Hope had offered his arm to Chloe, and said, “Miss Glazebrook, may I have the pleasure?”
Were it not for the lowering thought that this distinction was due to nothing more than proximity and politeness, she would have savoured it more. They were well matched, she discovered. His clasp was neither too firm nor too loose, but secure enough that she could follow his lead and he never lost sight of the other dancers, skillfully avoiding collisions while making full use of the floor space available. With an inward sigh, she gave herself up to the joy of the dance. Although they did not speak, there was an intangible connection between them, deeper than physical touch, arising from the subtle matching and mirroring of steps, the fleeting locking of eyes during a turn or the brief smiles that marked the end of a complicated figure.
When the music stopped, they smiled in mutual appreciation of a pleasure shared. “Thank you,” he said as she rose from her curtsey. She wondered what he would do next. Etiquette required him to escort her back to her mother or other chaperon, but she had not been standing with them. He offered her his arm, and they fell in behind other couples who were ‘taking a turn of the room’.
“You dance very well, Miss Glazebrook. One has the impression that it is a joy rather than a duty for you.”
“Indeed it is, especially when my partner is equally proficient.”
He laughed. “Yes, there is nothing worse than a partner who seems always to count their steps or continually supervise their feet, as if they might suddenly declare their independence and embark on a very different figure than the one intended.”
“Or who blithely gets the steps of a country dance confused so that one has to tug them into place. Worst of all is the partner who thinks they can dance the quadrille.”
“Perhaps we should insist everyone passes a proficiency test,” he suggested.
“Almack’s could issue badges, and insist that sets are made up of dancers of similar standard, with a separate room reserved for the lowest level. A patroness would have to approve any promotion out of it.”
“We, of course, would be in the highest category.”
He uttered this absurdity with a completely straight face and she was delighted by the way he had entered into her flight of fancy. “Like a premier danseur at the Opéra in Paris?” she suggested.
“Do they have sashes as well?”
“Perhaps, when not in stage costume. I don’t know.”
They had reached the Swann-Lorings. Chloe had already returned and was chatting to the little group that had again clustered around her. Cynthia slipped her hand from Marfield’s arm, saying, “Thank you, sir.”
“Thank you, Miss Glazebrook.” He bowed and strolled away.
© Catherine Kullmann 2023
Catherine Kullmann was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, she moved to Germany where she lived for twenty-five years before returning to Ireland. She has worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector. Widowed, she has three adult sons and two grandchildren.
Catherine has always been interested in the extended Regency period, a time when the foundations of our modern world were laid. She loves writing and is particularly interested in what happens after the first happy end—how life goes on for the protagonists and sometimes catches up with them. Her books are set against a background of the offstage, Napoleonic wars and consider in particular the situation of women trapped in a patriarchal society.
She is the author of The Murmur of Masks, Perception & Illusion, A Suggestion of Scandal, The Duke’s Regret, The Potential for Love, A Comfortable Alliance and Lady Loring’s Dilemma.
Catherine also blogs about historical facts and trivia related to this era. You can find out more about her books and read her blog (My Scrap Album) at her website. You can contact her via her Facebook page or on Twitter.
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