Then he walked into the room where his father’s body still lay and looked at him. He looked at him and looked at him, staring at him for hours, barely blinking.
And when he left the room, he left with a new vision of his own life, and new knowledge about his own mortality.
Edmund Bridgerton had died at the age of thirty-eight. And Anthony simply couldn’t imagine ever surpassing his father in any way, even in years.
The topic of rakes has, of course, been previously discussed in this column, and This Author has come to the conclusion that there are rakes, and there are Rakes.
Anthony Bridgerton is a Rake.
A rake (lower-case) is youthful and immature. He flaunts his exploits, behaves with utmost idiocy, and thinks himself dangerous to women.
A Rake (upper-case) knows he is dangerous to women.
He doesn’t flaunt his exploits because he doesn’t need to. He knows he will be whispered about by men and women alike, and in fact, he’d rather they didn’t whisper about him at all. He knows who he is and what he has done; further recountings are, to him, redundant.
He doesn’t behave like an idiot for the simple reason that he isn’t an idiot (any moreso than must be expected among all members of the male gender). He has little patience for the foibles of society, and quite frankly, most of the time This Author cannot say she blames him.
And if that doesn’t describe Viscount Bridgerton—surely this season’s most eligible bachelor—to perfection, This Author shall retire Her quill immediately. The only question is: Will 1814 be the season he finally succumbs to the exquisite bliss of matrimony?
This Author Thinks…
LADY WHISTLEDOWN’S SOCIETY PAPERS, 20 APRIL 1814
“Please don’t tell me,” Kate Sheffield said to the room at large, “that she is writing about Viscount Bridgerton again.”
Her half-sister Edwina, younger by almost four years, looked up from behind the single-sheet newspaper. “How could you tell?”
“You’re giggling like a madwoman.”
Edwina giggled, shaking the blue damask sofa on which they both sat.
“See?” Kate said, giving her a little poke in the arm. “You always giggle when she writes about some reprehensible rogue.” But Kate grinned. There was little she liked better than teasing her sister. In a good-natured manner, of course.
Mary Sheffield, Edwina’s mother, and Kate’s stepmother for nearly eighteen years, glanced up from her embroidery and pushed her spectacles farther up the bridge of her nose. “What are you two laughing about?”
“Kate’s in a snit because Lady Whistledown is writing about that rakish viscount again,” Edwina explained.
“I’m not in a snit,” Kate said, even though no one was listening.
“Bridgerton?” Mary asked absently.
Edwina nodded. “Yes.”
“She always writes about him.”
“I think she just likes writing about rakes,” Edwina commented.
“Of course she likes writing about rakes,” Kate retorted. “If she wrote about boring people, no one would buy her newspaper.”
“That’s not true,” Edwina replied. “Just last week she wrote about us, and heaven knows we’re not the most interesting people in London.”
Kate smiled at her sister’s naïveté. Kate and Mary might not be the most interesting people in London, but Edwina, with her buttery-colored hair and startlingly pale blue eyes, had already been named the Incomparable of 1814. Kate, on the other hand, with her plain brown hair and eyes, was usually referred to as “the Incomparable’s older sister.”
She supposed there were worse monikers. At least no one had yet begun to call her “the Incomparable’s spinster sister.” Which was a great deal closer to the truth than any of the Sheffields cared to admit. At twenty (nearly twenty-one, if one was going to be scrupulously honest about it), Kate was a bit long in the tooth to be enjoying her first season in London.
But there hadn’t really been any other choice. The Sheffields hadn’t been wealthy even when Kate’s father had been alive, and since he’d passed on five years earlier, they’d been forced to economize even further. They certainly weren’t ready for the poorhouse, but they had to mind every penny and watch every pound.
With their straitened finances, the Sheffields could manage the funds for only one trip to London. Renting a house—and a carriage—and hiring the bare minimum of servants for the season cost money. More money than they could afford to spend twice. As it was, they’d had to save for five solid years to be able to afford this trip to London. And if the girls weren’t successful on the Marriage Mart…well, no one was going to clap them into debtor’s prison, but they would have to look forward to a quiet life of genteel poverty at some charmingly small cottage in Somerset.
And so the two girls were forced to make their debuts in the same year. It had been decided that the most logical time would be when Edwina was just seventeen and Kate almost twenty-one. Mary would have liked to have waited until Edwina was eighteen, and a bit more mature, but that would have made Kate nearly twenty-two, and heavens, but who would marry her then?
Kate smiled wryly. She hadn’t even wanted a season. She’d known from the outset that she wasn’t the sort who would capture the attention of the ton. She wasn’t pretty enough to overcome her lack of dowry, and she’d never learned to simper and mince and walk delicately, and do all those things other girls seemed to know how to do in the cradle. Even Edwina, who didn’t have a devious bone in her body, somehow knew how to stand and walk and sigh so that men came to blows just for the honor of helping her cross the street.
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