If you read The Peculiar Folly of Long Legged Meg, you will be acquainted with Lady Flora Hartnell already - or the side of her that she allows anybody to see. As the best friend of Persephone, the Dowager Marchioness of Holbrooke, she has so far played only a small role in that story and is quite happy to be a peripheral, merry player.
Alas, it's finally time for her own tale to be told, pink toes and all.
Flora has always known this moment was coming. But she's been putting it off - a bit like her scribe, who is a terrible procrastinator.
But Flora's colorful life deserves a book of its own and her long-suffering hero deserves a confession.
As she says, "It is possible, you know, to tell a lie so oft that you start to believe it yourself."
So what has Flora been hiding and who is the man who will finally uncover her secrets?
* * * *
(Below is an excerpt from The Peculiar Folly of Long-Legged Meg)
A frequent guest at the lodge ever since Persey moved there, Flora visited even more often that spring, taking advantage of the fine weather to travel the considerable distance of ten miles from her brother's manor, borrowing his carriage even when he had business elsewhere, or guests at home, and could not accompany her.
"Did you not have to entertain your great-aunt from Hertfordshire too?" Persey asked when Flora arrived unexpectedly one morning.
"Good gracious, no! The old dear thinks me a scandalous woman, a lost cause, but she adores Francis. Better he face her alone." She paused in the hallway of Persey's cottage only long enough to assess her reflection in the looking glass and adjust her hair, before she wanted to go out again. "Let's go for a ramble, shall we? While the rain holds off."
Flora had never been a great walker before this. If there was a horse and carriage at hand she would rather use that to travel, even just a few hundred yards, and really a comfortable chair set down anywhere— indoors or out— was to her a siren's call, especially if there was the promise of champagne too. So a "ramble", during which she might perspire, ruin her shoes and spill the contents of her glass, was not something for which Flora generally volunteered herself. Nor had she previously shown much enthusiasm for mud, but she encountered a vast amount of it in her pursuit of Radcliffe sightings that spring. Lady Flora Hartnell also learned rather more than she ever wanted to know about horticulture, for Persey, determined to use her friend's new passion for good, enhanced their walks with plenty of worthwhile educational lectures on that subject.
It was amusing to see her friend getting red-faced, mud-stained and out of breath for a young man who barely even seemed to notice her and was merely polite in reply to her attempts at flirting. It was less amusing however when Flora took to teasing Persey about the way he reacted to her presence.
"Well," exclaimed the exhausted woman, as she fell backward into a parlor chair, collapsing like a stabbed sack of flour. "It's plain to see he has eyes for only you, Persey. What are you going to do about it?"
"It's obvious, darling. Poor Francis will be devastated, but I wouldn't blame you for taking the opportunity."
"He's the gardener, Flora. Minty's gardener."
Her friend leaned forward, chin in hand, elbow on the table. "I do believe he'd much rather be digging and planting his seed in your garden."
Persey shook her head, trying not to laugh. "My priority is Honoria and her future. She needs me on her side, the voice of reason. I haven't time for anything else."
"Well, I hope you get Lady Honoria settled soon, because your garden is overdue for tending."
"I tend my own garden, thank you very much."
"Don't we all? But it's not quite the same as having someone else do it for you, is it, darling?"
* * * *
Find out all Lady Flora's secrets and the fate of an unfortunate duke who has no idea what he's in for - this spring in THE PECULIAR PINK TOES OF LADY FLORA.
Illustration - Portrait of "Aphrodite" by William Adolphe Bouguereau