Once upon a time there were three little girls who went to a ladies' academy...
Georgiana Hathaway - "an unrepentant, wicked girl"
The middle child of seven, Georgiana is accustomed to causing trouble just to be noticed. Sadly, even then, her busy father often fails to recall her name, and resorts to "Esmerelda" or "Jezebel" when in a hurry to admonish her.
Georgiana spent a happy childhood in the Norfolk countryside, but her ambitious father - a widower, newly remarried to a much younger wife - has uprooted his family from their beloved home and moved them to a new, fancy house in London. Here, as the owner of a successful newspaper and a printing business, he hopes to expand his fortune and improve his status. In this pursuit he is aided by his new bride, who is extremely keen to be accepted by grand society and determined not to let Georgiana's bad behavior embarrass them.
And so, when the opportunity arises, the second Mrs. Hathaway eagerly suggests to her husband that he send his troublesome daughter away to an academy for young ladies. There, so she tells him, Georgiana will learn proper behavior and meet other young ladies of "better" society. Most importantly of all, sent off to boarding school, she will be out of her stepmother's way.
But will she also stay out of mischief? As a natural ringleader with a lively imagination and something that her stepmother calls "a contrary disposition", she has soon formed a friendship with two other young ladies and is eagerly leading them into trouble. They're very fortunate, as she assures them, that they have her to keep them off the straight and narrow.
The only daughter of an impoverished Baronet who makes an art out of never paying a bill, Melinda has been sent to the Particular Establishment for the Advantage of Respectable Ladies for one reason only - to catch a rich husband. Her father has made it clear that she's not to come home again until this goal has been achieved. But Melinda has few ladylike attributes and very little inclination to study. Soon bored at school and restless for more than life seems prepared to give her, she is thankful to meet a fellow adventurous spirit in Georgiana.
Melinda happily goes along with anything that promises entertainment and is seldom bothered by the consequences - as long as she's had her fun first. The only potential she sees in her future is a hat shop, since she's heard that "When all other avenues of pleasure and expression are closed to her, a lady may resort to the comfort of Desperate Millinery." Of course, she must find a rich husband first to help fund her venture - one who is also corrupt enough not to care about the many disgraces of her family.
As a newly-weaned babe, Emma was left at the ladies' academy by a gentleman who wished to remain anonymous. Thus she was abandoned to the questionable care of the school proprietress, Mrs. Lightbody, who never lets her forget that she's a charity case. Emma has no expectations of ever marrying. She has no dowry and no parent willing to claim her. The only respectable option available to her is to one day become a governess - a prospect that horrifies her. Bullied and belittled for most of her childhood, she never had a friend until Georgiana and Melinda came to the school and took her under their protection.
Now, fiercely loyal to her friends, she would do anything for them. Although never a troublemaker herself, she will not allow them to go on any misadventure without her. After all, somebody must be the voice of reason and it is always her hope that she can prevent utter calamity from befalling her dear friends in their desire for excitement.
As she softly teases the other two women, "Some of us might be daring enough to ride down a banister, but most prefer the steadier progress of steps to arrive at our destination with a little bit of dignity."
Jayne Fresina- copyright 2016
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