“That surely cannot be what happened to her! You’re not serious, are you?” Lydia Seymour asked her dearest friend, Marianne Haggerston as they sat in Marianne’s bedroom together putting the finishing touches on their hair. Unfortunately for them, neither girl was very skilled in hairstyling. However, what detail they lacked in their hair they made up for in their dresses, for the two young women were both about to put on their very finest gowns. Marianne’s was a deep red to compliment her dark, almost black hair, and Lydia’s was a sunny yellow that made her golden locks look even more radiant.
“How dare you question my report!” Marianne scolded her, yanking the length of ribbon from her hand and securing it in place on her head. “Yes, Nadine Drakesmoor was indeed tossed from her horse into the river in front of her suitor, Robert Tutty, and her dress was such a sheer white that he very nearly saw… everything!”
Lydia gasped in horror. “Can you imagine that happening to one of us? If that were me, I would never show my face in society again!” Lydia attempted to shove an errant hair that had escaped the clutches of her hair pins, but no matter how much she poked and prodded, it simply would not stay. Finally, she resigned herself to the fact that she would have one curl bobbing in front of her face the whole night.
“Well, she certainly won’t be at the ball this evening,” Marianne informed her. “Her mother has forbid Robert from seeing her until… Come to think of it, I cannot think of how her mother would ever allow Robert to see her again!”
Lydia fought to keep a straight face. “Perhaps,” she posited, “if he were to wear a suit of the identical material Nadine had been wearing and then took a dip in that enormous, hideous fountain that they have at the front of the estate, that would make them even!”
Marianne burst out laughing, and Lydia immediately followed. “Can you imagine? Robert ‘The Hairy Beast’ Tutty… naked? Good thing for Nadine though, he’d probably have so much hair all over that she wouldn’t be able to see anything anyways!”
Marianne continued howling, but Lydia swatted her playfully. “Now, now,” Lydia said, “we must not consider any gentlemen who we might run into tonight… without clothing. I do not believe I would be able to maintain my composure in front of any of them if we did that.”
“Then it is a good thing I happen to know that a great many men from Bury St. Edmonds shall be in attendance,” Marianne informed her. “You shall assume your typical spot along the wall in fear of interacting with newcomers, and you won’t ever have to undress any of them with your mind!”
Hearing this jest, Lydia took the strings on the bottom of Marianne’s corset and pulled them tighter, making Marianne cry out in surprise. Lydia kept a neutral face and simply said, “My apologies. Your corset just looked like it could use another tightening.”
Marianne was momentarily annoyed and rolled her eyes at her best friend. “I did not deserve that and you know it.” Marianne stood up from her seat and walked over to her dress to put it on. “I am simply informing you of the truth, that you are far too shy around gentlemen, and I shall not be punished for it.”
Lydia arched an eyebrow and put her hands on her hips. “Then shall I punish you for gossiping?” she teased her. But when Marianne turned around and gave her a knowing look, Lydia dropped her scolding and returned to her enthusiastic self. “Oh, fine, fine, go ahead and tell me who will be there, for I know you must be just bursting to.”
Having received permission, Marianne animatedly launched into her report of all the gentlemen who would be in attendance at the ball tonight. While her dear friend’s hands were flying all about, telling Lydia exactly what she thought about this fellow or that fellow, Lydia began thinking on a certain gentleman who she hoped would be in attendance tonight.
His name was Percy Wentworth. He was not the extraordinarily handsome, strapping duke that Lydia had read about so many times in her fanciful books, but he was good looking to her. He had medium-length chestnut brown hair, magnificent green eyes, and a soft, kindly look to his face. He had a prominent, but not unsightly, nose, and he stood about a foot taller than Lydia’s petite five foot two inch frame. In Lydia’s mind, he was the man of her dreams, and that was, in part, because she had known of him all her life.
They had first met when they were both quite young. Lydia had come along with her parents to a ball as a special treat for maintaining such excellent achievements in her education, and Percy was there with his family as well. The Seymours were introduced to the Wentworths along with some other families in the same rank, as none of them were as wealthy or held the titles that the Wentworths did. And yet, the moment that Lydia laid eyes on Percy, she knew that her life would never be the same again.
He looked so unlike anyone she had ever met before and he was, after all, a duke. In addition to that, however, Lydia watched the way in which he interacted with all of the adults that he was meeting; he seemed to treat every one of them as though they were on the same societal level that he was. There was no arrogance or privilege dripping from his voice, and he seemed genuinely interested in the goings-on of these people who he had just been introduced to.
Lydia, however, knew that she had not had the same effect on Percy. His eyes momentarily rested upon her, and then he continued looking at all of the other guests in attendance. Looking back, Lydia supposed that she should have admired that about him (for it meant that he did not favour just one person), but in the moment she had longed for him to look at her for even a moment longer.
Lydia looked at herself in the mirror and wondered if a face like hers would have entranced the duke in the first place. In her mind, her face was too plump, her ears were too prominent, and her chin was nonexistent. In truth, Lydia had a heart-shaped face with a soft jaw line. Her eyes were a mysterious blue-grey, her nose sloped upwards pleasantly, and her lips were much fuller than Marianne’s. When she laughed, which she did often, but only genuinely in front of her family and friends, two small dimples appeared in the apples of her cheeks.
When she had stopped questioning her appearance for long enough to allow some of Marianne’s chatter to filter in once more, she looked at her friend in the mirror just in time to hear her say, “But I suppose that isn’t who you’re really interested in, is it? I bet you’re wondering about our beloved Duke of Wexley.”
Lydia whipped her head around to face Marianne, who was smiling as though she had a secret. “Why ever should I care if Percy Wentworth is going to be in attendance?” she demanded.
Marianne patted her hair pompously and did not meet Lydia’s eye. “Because I couldn’t remember his name, but figured that if he had been on your mind, you would know exactly what it was!”
Lydia gasped, but eventually joined in on the fun that Marianne was having. “Oh, I see how you devised that jest,” Lydia told her. “Very clever, my friend, very clever. I suppose I might have been thinking about the duke. Do… do you happen to know if he”-
“Of course he will,” Marianne interrupted her, strutting in front of her to have Lydia do up the back of her dress. “He and his family are almost contractually obligated to attend every one of these things. I would be more surprised if he wasn’t there tonight!”
As Lydia fastened the buttons on Marianne’s delicate red gown, she found herself beginning to struggle. Her heart had begun beating faster, her cheeks were feeling flushed, and it had somehow magically gotten warmer in the room in the last few minutes. But Lydia knew that this kind of girlish crushing was infantile, and so she forced herself to take her task seriously. She finished doing up Marianne’s buttons, and then set to putting on her own dress.
“Thank you for that information. I shall consider it and decide what I will do with it,” Lydia said, attempting to come off casually. Marianne, however, immediately caught her out and laughed.
“Decide what to do with it?!” Marianne cried loudly. Lydia simply adored her more outgoing, vivacious friend, but occasionally Marianne was too excitable for even Lydia. “I know very well what you will do with it, and that is you shall spend the night pining for him! But perhaps… this might be the night that your feelings are reciprocated.”
Marianne had just finished helping Lydia into her dress and guided her over to the mirror to have a look at herself. Even though Lydia was not one to like the way her reflection looked, she had to admit that she did look quite radiant. The dress was made of a silk imitation that, had Lydia not known it was not the real thing, she would have thought the dress cost a year’s earnings to buy. Marianne had also lent her the finest yellow jewels that she had, which, although they were small, still brought Lydia’s outfit together in a delightful manner.
“Thank you ever so much for lending me these,” Lydia complimented her friend, but Marianne wouldn’t have it.
“Do not use this time to thank me, Lydia!” she scolded her. “Admire yourself. Fell the presence that this dress gives you. Inhabit the confidence that looking as splendid as you do should give you. And know that a man like Percy Wentworth would only be so lucky as to fall in love with a woman like you.”
Lydia didn’t know what came over her, but as she heard Marianne’s kind words in her ears, she began tearing up. Marianne saw the tears immediately of course, and embraced her from behind. “No crying though, Lyddie,” Marianne joked, “for this illusion shall be ruined if you show up with puffy eyes and tear-stained cheeks!”
Lydia burst out laughing, and turned around to give her friend a real hug. “Thank you, Annie, truly,” she whispered in her ear.
When the women broke apart, Marianne too Lydia’s hand and said, “Come now. We have gentlemen to bowl over and a ball to be at the centre of! And I should remind you to never, ever, call me that name again.”
The two young women went scurrying down the stairs, where their chaperones and carriages awaited. Lydia couldn’t help but feel that this evening was going to be a special one, even if she did not catch the eye of the handsome duke.
Outside of the ball, meanwhile, Percy Wentworth was struggling to do up the cuffs of his shirt. At the last minute before leaving his estate, he had discovered that the shirt he had intended to wear was now too small, and that left him with only his back-up dress shirt. When he put it on, he had forgotten that he had not asked the family’s seamstress to put a new button on the cuff, and so now he was trying to work something out with the sleeve of his shirt and the button of his jacket. It was not, however, working.
Right when he was about to tear his cuff off in frustration, Percy looked up and saw a familiar figure making his way towards him. “What ho, good chap!” Lewis Crawford shouted at his closest friend, clapping his hands and rubbing them together. “Trying to tear off your clothes before you’ve even met a handsome lady this evening?”
“Good lord, man,” Percy hissed at him, “keep your voice down. You can make your amorous jokes later, but for now you must contain yourself.”
Lewis tilted his head back in laughter and put his hand upon his stomach. “Contain myself? What do you take me for, a society man such as yourself? If such a day should ever come, I give you my consent to take me out to pasture and put an end to my misery.”
Lewis tossed back his hair dramatically, and Percy couldn’t help but laugh. Lewis was, indeed, a society man, as his parents were the Duke and Duchess of Flamborough. However, the moment that he was out of whatever ball, gathering or dinner he had been forced to attend, his boyish, playful side revealed itself immediately. He was a handsome young man with black hair, olive skin and brown eyes, and stood a few inches taller than Percy.
“Then perhaps we should just skip this event altogether so that you are not tempted to be well-mannered. Shall we make out exit presently?” Percy asked, jokingly making his way back to his carriage.
“Come on, then,” Lewis halted him, coming around in front of him. “Don’t allow your anxiety to get the better of you. And do not make it worse by pinning your escape on me! There may be some fine ladies here this evening, and all of them would be overjoyed to make your acquaintance.” Lewis puckered up his lips, sucked in his stomach and mock-curtseyed at him. “Oh you’re the Duke of Wexley,” Lewis said in a high-pitched voice. “How strapping you are! Allow me to show you my affection by steering you towards this broom closet!”
Lewis started prancing towards Percy, flapping his hands adoringly, and Percy pushed him away, making sounds of horror. The two young men laughed together, and then Percy collected himself enough to enter the ball with his outgoing, somewhat boisterous friend by his side.
When they entered hall, Percy was instantly overwhelmed by the number of people, the smells, the sounds, and the heat that they were all creating together. This was one of the many reasons why he didn’t enjoy society balls- he constantly felt over-stimulated and as though he needed to escape more and more with every moment. However, he knew that his friend wanted him to be there, and he also had another, more important reason for being at the ball, and so he pushed through his initial anxiety and put on his brave face.
Right at that moment, Lydia and Marianne arrived at the ball with their chaperones. Marianne was not fond of her chaperone, and older spinster named Gertrude who wore drab old gowns and constantly appeared to have just finished sucking on a lemon. She had wiry grey hair, but she had a face that told Lydia that when she was younger, she would have been a very fine lady indeed. However, her looks could never make up for the rotting apple core that was her soul, and so Lydia could understand why she had ended up alone, as horrible as that sounded.
Lydia’s chaperone, on the other hand, was so beloved by the Seymour family that Lydia considered her to be her aunt. Mabel Wainthrop was a widowed woman in her fifties who was almost more maternal that Lydia’s own mother was. She kept up with the fashions and the trends of the day, despite the fact that she was not in society very often anymore, and tonight was no exception. She was wearing a charming brown dress that made her look quite lovely, and had a single feather protruding from her hair. When Mabel saw Lydia looking at her, she said, “Oh dear. You have that look upon your face. Do I have some food on my cheek that I did not see before we left, Lyddie?”
“Not a spot! I don’t think any crumbs would have the gall to remain on your face, dear Mabel. Now on Gertrude’s face, on the other hand…” Both women looked over to where Gertrude was chastising Marianne about something or other, and much to Lydia’s delight, they could see that she did have one streak of brown protruding from the corner of her mouth. It seemed that eating dinner had not been as simple a task for Gertrude that evening.
Mabel stifled her laughter entirely, but Lydia allowed herself a good chuckle. “Now, now,” Mabel gently reminded her, “we mustn’t be too mean to dear old Gertrude. What if she hears us? You shall fare all right, but I have to spend much of the evening with her! Imagine my despair!”
That only made Lydia laugh harder, which garnered her some jealous looks from Marianne, who was still being scolded. “Now you go along and talk to some of the people that you know here, I shall make myself quite comfortable somewhere that I can see you, but please let me know if you’re heading into another room.”
Lydia thanked her profusely, and then ran to grab Marianne’s hand and rescue her from Gertrude. She knew exactly how lucky she was when it came to chaperones, for Mabel was one of a kind. She could not imagine what her entry into society would have been like had it not been for her, and she did feel slightly guilty that Marianne had to contend with Gertrude all the time.
When Marianne and Lydia had found their place in the crowd, they began catching up with some of their relations who were in attendance and they had not seen for some time. Marianne then quickly became aware that a dance was about to start, and so she began doing what she did best- making a show of herself to the men around her. It worked like a charm, and not one minute later she had an appropriately high-class young man leading her towards the dance floor. Lydia cheered her on in her mind, and then looked to see what Gertrude thought of her dance partner. For once, she seemed almost contented.
While Lydia was very happy that her friend was getting a chance to dance, she admitted to herself that she was slightly disappointed that no fine young gentlemen came and asked her to dance with them. She consoled herself by thinking on Percy, and momentarily dreaming about the possibility of him being in attendance tonight. She thought of his fine eyes, his enchanting smile, the way his laughter tumbled out of his body like water over the rocks in a warm stream…
In the midst of her daydream, however, Lydia did not notice that there were people rushing past her in every direction, and eventually, one of them bumped into her. Lydia stumbled but managed to catch herself before she fell, especially because whoever had crashed into her caught her arm.
“Oh!” she said instinctively when she was struck.
“I am so very sorry, Madam, do forgive me. I do hope that you are well… are you?” the person who had bumped her said. Lydia finally regained her balance enough to look up and see who it was who had collided with her. And much to her equal delight and mortification, she saw that it was Percy Wentworth.
The moment their eyes met, Lydia’s cheeks went redder than a ripe apple. Her heart began racing, her thoughts began swimming, and she could not rightly form any semblance of a sentence for the time being. And so for what felt like an eternity, Lydia just stared at Percy silently, and he continued looking at her with care and concern on his face.
Finally, Lydia regained her faculties enough to respond to Percy. “Sorry!” she shouted rather loudly, and Percy jolted upon hearing her volume. “I…I’m quite well, thank you. How are you?”
“Don’t worry about me, it was my two left feet that got us into this situation in the first place,” Percy responded, smiling in such a way that made Lydia positively melt. It was at this moment, however, that both parties realized that they were touching. Percy and Lydia’s eyes both went to their hands, and when they saw that they were still holding onto one another, they immediately broke apart.
Lydia tried to stay calm and keep her emotions in check, but she was finding it increasingly difficult. She could not believe that not only was Percy in attendance tonight, but he was also talking just to her. She could not have dreamed up a more perfect meeting between the two of them. This was everything she had ever hoped for, and she wasn’t going let some insignificant thing like her emotions ruin it.
They stood slightly apart for a little longer, their attention wandering from each other to the dancers a short distance from them. Lydia tried to take in deep breaths and reassure herself that this was normal, and she could do it. She was not, however, going to be the one to re-start the conversation. Although she was bold, she was not THAT bold, and she knew her place in the world. It was Percy’s responsibility to speak if he wanted the two of them to talk.
“Have we met before?” Percy finally ended up saying rather casually. Out of the corner of her eye, Lydia could see that he was still watching the dancers and not making eye contact with her, and so she followed his lead.
“I don’t believe that I’ve had the pleasure of making your acquaintance,” Lydia lied. She figured that it might frighten Percy to suddenly have this woman who remembered every detail of the single interaction that they’d had as children. And so, instead of telling him the truth, she allowed herself the chance for a better introduction.
Percy tore his eyes away from the dancers and faced Lydia. He bowed low with his head tucked and said, “I’m the Duke of Wexley, Percy Wentworth.”
Lydia curtseyed as low as she could to show her admiration for Percy, and then responded, “I’m Lydia Seymour, daughter of Rodrick Seymour, the doctor.”
Upon hearing her father’s name, Percy’s eyebrow shot up. “You’re the daughter of Dr. Seymour?” he asked in disbelief. “I hear he’s a very fine man and an even finer doctor. That is a fascinating profession. Do you ever have the chance to accompany him on his rounds?”
Lydia felt her interest in Percy blooming in her chest as a sunflower would in summertime. She could not believe that her mouth had cooperated for long enough that she had managed to introduce herself without stuttering, muttering, or generally stumbling over herself. And she could believe even less that Percy was showing any interest in, of all things, her father’s profession.
However, Lydia was actually quite fond of her father’s work, and so she was delighted to speak about it, especially with him. “I’ve visited a great number of patients with him over the years. Father says that the families he tends to are always happier to see him when I come along with him, but I think that he might just be saying that because he likes my assistance.”
“Have you really?” Percy replied, looking genuinely interested. He crossed his arms in front of his chest and knitted his brows together, as if that would help him to focus on what Lydia was saying more intently. “Miss Seymour, this is a very impertinent question to ask a young woman, especially one who I have just met, but I simply must know; what are your father’s thoughts on bloodletting?”
Lydia took in a hesitant breath and did not answer. Bloodletting was widely practiced by many, many physicians, and it was expected treatment for a great many ailments. Lydia knew precisely how her father felt about it, but she was hesitant to explain as she did not wish to alienate the man who she had longed to pursue for many years. And so she decided to reply with, “How do you feel about it?”
Percy sighed and bobbled his head from side to side looking back and forth as he did. “My opinion is not a popular one, which is why I have longed to hear what your father thinks on the subject, for I know he is a well-respected, intelligent man. But since I asked, I suppose I shan’t force you to speak about it first. Quite frankly, I think it is barbaric and we should abolish the practice of it entirely.”
Lydia let out a huge sigh of relief. “That is precisely how my father and I feel,” Lydia informed him. “And as we are in the midst of an improper topic of conversation, I shall explain why we feel that way.”
Upon seeing the way that Percy was eating up every word she said in regards to bloodletting, Lydia launched into her re-telling of the night that she and her father had been called to attend a birth at the Inverwyld residence. This was far from common practice. Dr. Seymour met with a great deal of resistance from the male members of the household upon his arrival, but when he laid eyes on the mother of the young woman labouring, Ethel by name, he immediately attended to her.
Ethel was suffering from an unknown illness. She kept wailing about the pounding in her head, the painful swelling in her ankles, and that she could not keep any food down to give her strength. Dr. Seymour attempted bloodletting in a final attempt to save the life of both the mother and the baby, but it only exacerbated the problems. Ethel had died while giving birth, and the baby had been lost in the process. Lydia’s father swore off bloodletting from then on.
When Lydia completed telling her story in the most delicate way she could, she looked at Percy expectantly. She prayed that she had not gone into too much gory detail about the incident, but was also very aware that speaking of death during the first conversation with a potential suitor was… just unheard of.
However, Percy was utterly engaged. “I am so dreadfully sorry that happened to your father,” he apologized sincerely, “but I am encouraged to know that he no longer practices that ‘cure’. If he had attended to my father on the night of his death, he might still be here today.”
Lydia was taken aback. How is it that we are speaking about death and loss in our first conversation together, and yet I have never felt as instantly connected with anyone in my life? He’s being so open and vulnerable, should I ask him more about his father? she wondered to herself.
Lydia did not have time to respond, however, as at that moment another good-looking young man approached Percy from behind. “Percy!” The young man cried as he passed. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here tonight, or I’d have brought you that book you lent me.”
Percy slightly cocked his head to one side and looked at the young man sideways. “I loaned you a book? Which one?” he asked.
“You know,” the man responded, “that silly one about the potential for using small doses of illnesses in the body to try and immunize the individual against a more virulent form of the disease? I don’t believe a word of it, but it is good for a laugh!”
With that, the young man continued on his way. Had Percy been facing Lydia, he would have seen her eyes positively light up. “I know exactly what book he is speaking of!” she cried.
Percy whirled around and stared at her. “You do?” he asked in disbelief.
Lydia nodded emphatically. “Yes, it’s by that Jenner fellow! I cannot remember the title, but my father had a copy in his possession for a time as well. I only read a few sections of it, but I was enthralled by the idea.”
With that as their jumping off point, Lydia and Percy continued speaking together for the rest of the dance. They were so engaged in conversation that neither of them noticed their usual anxieties, instead putting their energy into trying to remember the names of influential doctors.
“And that is why I believe Dr. Jenner’s hypothesis to be a brilliant one,” Percy finished after a moment.
“I agree entirely,” Lydia said. “His thoughts on the matter are unparalleled, and I…”
As Lydia was watching Percy, however, a strange look came across his face. He looked just past her, and his face went rather pale. Lydia instantly knew that she had said something wrong, for Percy seemed to suddenly have zero interest in what she was saying.
“I must be going,” Percy said in a standoffish manner. He physically, but gently, pushed Lydia aside, walked right by her and disappeared into the crowd without a single backwards glance. She could hardly believe what had just transpired, and felt tears collecting in her eyes, but did not allow them to spring forth. Instead, she turned on her heel and went to find Marianne.
“A Lady’s Sinful Intention” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Lydia Seymour has had her eyes on the beguiling Duke, Percy Wentworth, since she was just a child, and grew up fascinating about him as if he was an alluring romance hero. Years later, during a fateful night at a ball, the tempting Lydia is finally given the chance to speak with the man of her dreams. Sparks immediately fly between them and Lydia’s heart soars. However, right when their temper flares, Percy disappears without any excuse. Lydia is left feeling jilted and tricked and those green eyes are haunting her dreams for days. Vulnerable and broken-hearted, she tries to fool her feelings by finding comfort in the attention of another Duke that has been pursuing her, Edmund Russel. Knowing however that he will never make her heart sing like Percy does, will she find the courage to go after the flaming passion she truly dreams of?
Meanwhile, Percy Wentworth, the ravishing Duke of Wexley, has spent much of his life trying to live up to society’s expectations and chasing after his rebellious little sister, Georgiana. When he meets Lydia, the dashing daughter of the local doctor, the connection between them is undeniable, but it lasts for just a glimpse of an eye. Percy has no time to waste on his love life when there are far more pressing family matters burdening his shoulders. However, it’s simply impossible to forget about their mesmerising encounter that instantly captivated him both physically and mentally. Despite knowing it’s better to keep her at distance, he soon finds himself yielding to her skillfully erotic seduction and only one question remains… Can he resist surrendering his heart to the most dazzling woman he has ever known?
Percy and Lydia seem to just keep running into each other, and the mystery around Percy’s sudden disappearance needs to remain hidden… as does their overwhelming passion for each other. Now Lydia has to choose between two men and a decision has never been more difficult… Will she choose the man who dares to be with her publicly, or the man that her heart and body truly belong to? Lydia isn’t the only one facing a dilemma, as Percy is also fighting his own internal battles… After everything, will this childhood friendship stand a chance of turning into a sizzling affair or will it go down in flames?
“A Lady’s Sinful Intention” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.