Several characters in the third and final installment of my regency series The Ladies Most Unlikely will already be familiar to readers of the first two books. Some of them you'll be pleased to see again - others not so much. But every story has to have its villain and every story has to have its voice of reason.
Well, Lady Bramley would like to think she's the latter. She's certainly not the former, but she can be a bit of a trial at times for the young people she attempts to guard and guide through life. Lady Bramley is the sort of woman who knows everything - specifically the "proper way" to get anything done. As she likes to say, "Of course, I'm right. I always am."
She can sometimes be stuck in her ways, but she loves a good challenge and is beginning to see that change is not necessarily a bad thing. By the end of this third book, I like to think she is a showing her softer side more often, but she is still intrinsically that same Lady Bramley of whom there can be no other and no equal.
When Lady Bramley encountered our "Ladies Most Unlikely" in the first book, her ladyship had been a widow for some years, was often ignored by her two sons, frustrated by an anti-social nephew, and had turned her energies into gardening. Lady Bramley is an expert grower of vegetables, gourds and melons. And there is not a person left in London who is ignorant of the fact. She's made certain of it.
* * * *
"I grow prize-winning marrows, Captain Hathaway. Did your sister not tell you?"
"I'm afraid Georgiana neglected to mention it, madam. I cannot think why for she knows how fond I am of marrow."
Lady Bramley waved her lorgnette. "My glasshouse produces the biggest gourds and best fruit in Mayfair. My marrows are notorious, although I must say my melons are also magnificent this year."
Emma felt it incumbent upon her to interject, "Melons are not of the gourd family, of course, but botanically of the berry genus." And then she blushed hotly again as all eyes turned to observe her.
The lady continued as if Emma had never spoken. "Everybody remarks upon the size of my melons whenever they are exhibited. My melons have, in fact, received a mention in The Gentleman's Weekly."
"I see," the Captain muttered, looking down and pressing his lips hard together as if he had a pain somewhere. "You must have your hands full, madam."
"Indeed. Lady Fortescue-Rumputney is lime green with envy over my success. She, of course, leaves the tending of her melons to the hands of her gardener, which is, in my opinion, a mistake."
But after Georgiana Hathaway, Melinda Goodheart and Emma Chance ruined her garden party and murdered one of her prize-winning marrows, she decided to take them under her wing and give them the polish they so clearly lacked. In one way it was a sort-of punishment for the young ladies she took on, but mostly Lady Bramley just wanted to meddle, mould and nurture them in ways her own sons and nephew would not allow. It gave her a new purpose, a new challenge, a new zest for life.
And for Georgiana, Melinda and Emma, it all turns out very well.
By the end of The Bounce in the Captain's Boots, that decision to play Ovid's "Pygmalion" with these three young ladies has not only been a good deed. It has also given Lady Bramley the nearest thing she has to daughters. She might even love them more than her gourds and melons.
In her words, "They are, like most young girls, despicably riotous and needlessly excitable on occasion, but they have promise. I like to find pearls in my oysters and to see pretty things grow to their full potential."
In the final book of the series, Lady Bramley gets to see her fledglings take flight into the world and you will get to find out what happens to all the characters you've come to know.
The Bounce in the Captain's Boots will be available on September 13th.
Portrait above is of Mrs. Davies Davenport 1782-1784, by George Romney.