If there were one word Amanda Hayworth would use to describe her existence, that word would be “ordinary.” Very well, perhaps “average” would also suffice, but Amanda liked the way “ordinary” sounded. It seemed more tragic somehow.
She was of ordinary parentage, and her looks were not a bit above ordinary. She cast a glance down at her requisite white gown. Nothing remarkable there. Her friends, though gratifyingly great in numbers, were all of the ordinary young miss ilk. And now, it would appear, she was to have an ordinary husband.
“Yes, Lord Millsbury, you have my permission to call upon my father,” she said with an inner sigh. There was absolutely nothing wrong with Lord Millsbury. He was of average height with a frame currently en vogue—that of a gentleman of leisure, slender and willowy. The type of physique made for dancing across a ballroom or walking genteelly through the park. He was not (according to her mother’s discreet investigations) in dire financial straits, though his family’s fortune had been steadily and rapidly declining amidst the more lucrative era of industry. However, this fact no doubt made her very generous dowry all the more attractive. In truth, had she not such a large dowry, she doubted Millsbury or any of the other nobility or gentry would have paid her any notice at all.
Most importantly—at least in her parents’ minds—Millsbury was in possession of a title that, if not overly distinguished or illustrious, was at least duly ancient and quite respectable.
With another sigh, this one audible, Amanda reflected that if she did end up married to the perfectly ordinary Lord Millsbury, at least he was of an age to her. One of her friends had ended up as the bride to a man older than her own father.
There was nothing wrong with ordinary, of course. In fact, were she granted a wish it would not be for stunning beauty or a sparkling wit that made her the center of attention. Really, all she wished for was something special—a calling in life that would make her feel useful, needed. Something that would make her feel she was not simply floating through life aimlessly. A final sigh escaped her, gusty in its frustration.
“Are your stays too tight?” a familiar feminine voice whispered in her ear.
“What?” Amanda asked, turning to her good friend Millicent who had joined her.
“I vow my stays are going to be the death of me,” Millicent said as she tried to unobtrusively tug her bodice into place. Millicent was blessed with an abundance of curves which, when confined in a corset, gave quite a delectable figure, but often left her gasping for breath.
Amanda smiled sympathetically. “No, not my stays. Lord Millsbury. He’s to ask my father for permission to court me.”
“Oh…” was Millicent’s careful response. “Well, that’s good, is it not?”
Amanda choked back another sigh—perhaps her stays were a bit too tight. “I suppose it must be good. I don’t expect I’ll receive another offer.”
“Of course you will!” Millie said loyally. “Why, last season you received three offers, did you not?”
Amanda quirked an eyebrow at her friend. “I did not. I received one offer, Millie. From Mr. Cavendish.” Mr. Cavendish had been very nice, well to do, and while several years older than herself, at least a good deal younger than her father. However, he was only Mister Cavendish. Not Lord Cavendish or even Sir Cavendish, so her parents had politely declined his suit on her behalf.
Glancing again at Millie, she saw her friend tapping her lips with a gloved finger, deep in thought.
“I know you had another offer,” Millie said. “Didn’t something happen while I was in Bath last season?”
Amanda feigned interest in watching the dancers swirl around the dance floor.
“No. There was only the one,” she said definitively.
“Are you sure? I seem to remember Mother mention a Lord—“
“No, Millie,” Amanda said, sending her friend a quelling glance. “There was no one else.”
Millie regarded Amanda’s pinched expression and gamely changed the topic. “My mistake, I’m sure. Isn’t it dreadfully warm this evening?”
It was, in fact, rather cool as it was only early May, and London had been deluged with rain for the past three days, but Amanda appreciated Millie’s sensitivity to her feelings.
There had been another suitor last season—Amanda’s belated debut season—but Amanda tried not to think of him. Like a child worrying a loose tooth, however, once the memory awoke, she could not help but revisit it.