There comes a time in a lady’s life when she must lace up her stiffest corset and face what she fears above all else. It’s called a day of reckoning in polite circles. But in the privacy of her mind, Isabelle Tremont, the Duchess of March, preferred language far less refined. Base, in fact. Yes, this promised to be a rotter of a day full of sodding answers. Yet she had little choice but to harness pluck and see it through. And so she would wrestle through a forest of indignities to avoid future brambles of regret. Cowardice was just not to be borne. Her father, the Duke of March, had often told her that before he had died three years ago, leaving her a duchess in her own right. A rare creature to be sure.
She only prayed God would not smite her when she did not fully own up to her true sentiments. It was one thing to take on the enemy, or rather . . . the gentleman who owned her heart. It was altogether another to bare her sensibilities. Pride was natural. Indeed, it protected one’s dignity. And one’s dignity protected the soul. And one’s soul . . . Oh, for the love of God, there was no time for pastoral ruminations. Endless speculation was mere procrastination. Procrastination was worse than waiting for someone else to come to his senses.
And so, at precisely three o’clock in the afternoon deep in Mayfair on a brilliant, cloudless late summer day, which did not match her mood, the petite duchess descended the stone steps of March House toward her destiny. At least no one else could fathom her inner tumult. Her maid, who not only excelled at pulling corset stays tighter than a French straightjacket, but also kept calm in the presence of silent madness, trailed her steps toward the carriage.