The very proper Miss Langley does not know what she has done to encourage the attentions of a lord, only that they are most unwanted and very improper!
So when a handsome stranger saves her from his clutches, Madeline is too relieved to suspect that her tall, dark defender may have a less than respectable reputation....
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1 . Much better than I thought it would be
Posted April 14, 2010 by Ann , BransonA short romance, but very nice plot, with heart-felt characters.
August 31, 2007
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Excerpt from The Wicked Earl by Margaret McPhee
"Sit up straight, Madeline. And can you not at least attempt to look as if you're enjoying the play?"
"Yes, Mama." Madeline Langley straightened her back. "The actors are very good, and the play is indeed interesting. It's just Lord Farquharson--" She dropped her voice to an even lower whisper. "He keeps leaning too close and--"
"The noise in here is fit to raise the roof. It's little wonder that Lord Farquharson is having trouble hearing what you have to say," said Mrs Langley.
"But, Mama, it is not his hearing that is at fault." Madeline looked at her mama. "He makes me feel uncomfortable."
Mrs Langley wrinkled her nose. "Do not be so tiresome, child. Lord Farquharson is expressing an interest in you and we must encourage him as best we can. He will never offer for you if you keep casting him such black looks. Look at Angelina--can you not try to be a little more like her? No scowls mar her face." Mrs Langley bestowed upon her younger, and by far prettier, daughter, a radiant smile.
Angelina threw her sister a long-suffering expression. "That is because Angelina does not have to sit beside Lord Farquharson," muttered Madeline beneath her breath.
Angelina gave a giggle.
Fortunately Mrs Langley did not hear Madeline's comment. "Shh, girls, he's coming back,'she whispered excitedly. Amelia Langley straightened and smiled most encouragingly at the gentleman who was entering the theatre box with a tray containing three drinks glasses balanced between his hands.
"Oh, Lord Farquharson, how very kind you are to think of my girls." She fluttered her eyelashes unbecomingly.
"And of you too, of course, my dear Mrs Langley." He passed her a glass of lemonade. "I wouldn't want you, or your lovely daughters, becoming thirsty, and it is so very hot in here."
Mrs Langley tittered. "La, Lord Farquharson. It could never be too hot in such a superior and well-positioned theatre box. How thoughtful of you to invite us here. My girls do so love the theatre. They have such an appreciation of the arts, you know, just like their mama."
Lord Farquharson revealed his teeth to Miss Angelina Langley in the vestige of a smile. "I'm sure that's not the only attribute that they share with their mama." The smile intensified as he pressed the glass into Angelina's hand.
"So good of you, my lord, to fight your way through the crowd to fetch us our lemonades," Mrs Langley cooed.
"For such fair damsels I would face much worse," said Lord Farquharson in a heroic tone.
Mrs Langley simpered at his words.
Madeline and Angelina exchanged a look. Lord Farquharson's fingers stumbled over Madeline's in the act of transferring the lemonade. The glass was smooth and cool beneath her touch. Lord Farquharson's skin was warm and moist. "Last, but certainly not least," he said and gazed meaningfully into Madeline's eyes.
Madeline suppressed a shudder. "Thank you, my lord," she said and practically wrenched her hand free from his.
Lord Farquharson smiled at her response and sat down. Madeline turned to face the stage again and tried to ignore Cyril Farquharson's presence by her side. It was not an easy matter, especially as he leaned in close to enquire, "Is the lemonade to your taste, Miss Langley?"
"It is delicious, thank you, my lord." The brandy on his breath vied with the strange, heavy, spicy smell that hung about him. He was so close that she could feel heat emanating from his lithe frame.
"Delicious," he said, and it seemed to Madeline that a slight hiss hung about the word as he touched her hand again in an overly familiar manner.
Madeline suddenly discovered that drinking lemonade was a rather tricky task and required both of her hands to be engaged in the process.
Thankfully the lights dimmed and the music set up again to announce the resumption of Coriolanus. Mr Kemble returned to the stage to uproarious applause and shouts from the pit.
"He's a splendid actor, is he not?" said Lord Farquharson in a silky tone to Mrs Langley. "They say that Friday is to see his last performance."
"Oh, indeed, Lord Farquharson. It will be such a loss. I've always been a staunch admirer of Mr Kemble's work."
Madeline slid a glance in her mother's direction. Only that afternoon Mrs Langley had made her feelings regarding John Philip Kemble known, and admiration was not the underlying sentiment.
The second half of the play had not long started when Lord Farquharson proclaimed he was suffering with a cramp in his left leg and proceeded to manoeuvre his chair. "It's a souvenir from Salamanca. I took a blade in the leg," he said to Mrs Langley. "I'm afraid it plays up a bit from time to time." He grimaced, and then stretched out his leg so that it brushed against Madeline's skirts.