So You Think You Can Dance
Romantic Dance Scenes from the Bluestocking League
Ah, dancing! There's often nothing more romantic for a couple falling in love, especially in the Regency period. The lovely ladies of the Bluestocking League joined me in sharing their favorite dance scenes from their clean traditional Regency romances. Enjoy!
Camille Elliot's Prelude for a Lord
Regina Scott's The Bluestocking on His Knee
April Kihlstrom's Miss Tibbles' Folly
From Prelude for a Lord by Camille Elliott
At twenty-eight, Alethea Sutherton is past her prime for courtship; but social mores have never been her forté. She might be a lady, but she is first and foremost a musician. In Regency England, however, the violin is considered an inappropriate instrument for a lady. Ostracized by society for her passion, Alethea practices in secret and waits for her chance to flee to the Continent, where she can play without scandal.
But when a thief's interest in her violin endangers her and her family, Alethea is determined to discover the enigmatic origins of her instrument--with the help of the dark, brooding Lord Dommick. Scarred by war, Dommick finds solace only in playing his violin. He is persuaded to help Alethea, and discovers an entirely new yearning in his soul.
Alethea finds her reluctant heart drawn to Dommick in the sweetest of duets . . . just as the thief?s desperation builds to a tragic crescendo . . .
"This very enjoyable book will appeal to fans of Jane Austen and Linore Rose Burkard." CBA Retailers + Resources
Alethea walked through the doors to Lady Fairmont's home and immediately felt as if everyone were staring at her.
She surreptitiously studied her dress to make sure mud wasn't splattered across it. The deep lace at the hem was unblemished cream. The rosy orange colour was perhaps a trifle unusual for an unmarried woman, but Alethea felt her advanced age entitled her to shed insipid whites in favour of colours that suited her better. But surely that wouldn't cause the stares. Was she imagining it?
"Why are people staring at you?" Aunt Ebena demanded in a whisper.
No, not imagining it.
Lady Fairmont's ball was small, limited to the size of her two drawing rooms with the connecting double doors thrown open to expand the dancing area, and a card room and supper room, yet it was one of the largest residences in Bath. The elegant furniture had been removed to make way for the dancers and the musicians in a side alcove, although many chairs in both Classical and Egyptian styles graced the walls, several already occupied by guests. The rooms were packed with far more people than could comfortably fit. The musicians had not yet begun, and Alethea wondered how people would clear a space for the dancing.
"I see Mrs. Nanstone," Aunt Ebena said. "She detests me and would be only too happy to tell me why everyone is staring at you as if you've grown tentacles. Go somewhere and be unobtrusive." Her aunt bustled off through the crowd.
The only people not glancing her way were Lord Dommick and his party. His mother and sister sat at chairs speaking to Lord Ian and Lord Ravenhurst while Lord Dommick stood nearby, his posture upright. He did not look tense, but something about him made Alethea think he was not comfortable in the close room with people chatting and occasionally bumping into him. He was all politeness, but there was a stiffness at the edges of his mouth. Alethea realized with a start of surprise that he may not like small rooms and crowds of people. Just like herself.
He happened to glance her way. Alethea did not expect him to notice her in the midst of so many people, but he found her gaze, perhaps because her height set her above most of the women in the room. He froze for a moment as if something had surprised him, then with a tiny shake of his head, he blinked. He nodded his head to her, and she returned his gesture. At least he was not staring and pointing as others were doing.
In her London season, she had been a stone lighter, awkward and insecure. She would have obeyed her aunt's instructions to be unobtrusive by hiding in a dark corner, preferably behind a fern.
But she was not that girl anymore. So, instead, she held her head high, relaxing her shoulders to belie the pounding of her heart, and adopted a polite mask. She decided to emulate Aunt Ebena's excellent strategy and walked toward the cluster of women who appeared to be deriving the most enjoyment from her discomfiture.
Alethea had not been overly impressed with the calibre of Bath misses she'd met this past year while going out in society with her Aunt Ebena. Most of them were daughters, nieces, granddaughters, and grandnieces to Aunt Ebena's friends and acquaintances, and a rather large percentage of them resented being stuck in mouldy Bath with their elders rather than somewhere that possessed more young, single men.
They made Alethea feel rather long in the tooth, because at the advanced age of twenty-eight, she was firmly on the shelf whereas most of them were still in the fresh, nubile state of mind where dreams of dukes falling madly in love with them still formed the chief of their journal entries. As an earl's daughter who had been introduced to several dukes and marquesses, Alethea had found that many arrogant noblemen lost that gilding painted onto their personalities on account of their rank, so she had even less in common with these young girls.
And the icing on the cake was Alethea's intensity when it came to music. Most of the young women played adequately for social situations, or they found enjoyment in playing, but none of them had Alethea's focus during concerts and her appalling tendency to listen to the music rather than gossiping about the attendees. They did not understand her, and they did not care to.
And so now, Alethea walked straight toward the one girl who embodied all those characteristics-Miss Herrington-Smythe. The bored young woman made no secret of her yearning for the excitement of London rather than being stuck in Bath with her great-aunt, one of Aunt Ebena's friends. She was also confident in her ability to dazzle a duke despite her disparity of funds, and she possessed a rather unfortunate sense of pitch but was convinced she sang as well as the famous soprano Catalani.
Alethea could have chosen any other miss, who would likely flare her nose at Alethea, then give her the cut direct, which wasn't very entertaining.
Miss Herrington-Smythe, on the other hand, would relish Alethea's attention and give her all the information she needed to know, albeit clothed in barbs and insults. An added bonus was that Miss Oakridge, Lady Fairmont's granddaughter, formed part of Miss Herrington-Smythe's retinue, and if Alethea could attain a private second alone with her, she might recognize the initials from the violin.
Alethea approached the two girls. "Good evening Miss Oakridge, Miss Herrington-Smythe."
"Good evening, Lady Alethea." Miss Herrington-Smythe smiled widely, her crooked teeth emphasizing how pointy her canines were. "What an unusual colour gown you have on. The style for older women is so varied these days, don't you agree? It really does wonders to perk them up."
Miss Oakridge, closest to Alethea's age at twenty-three and embarrassingly desperate to marry, tittered behind a gloved hand while smoothing her white lace gown.
If she wanted any information out of Miss Herrington-Smythe, Alethea needed to prod her with an insult that was pointed enough to make her vindictive. "I think it a great pity young girls wear white. When they dance, they look like jiggling blancmange puddings."
A strangled noise came from Miss Herrington-Smythe, although Alethea was scanning the room in a casual manner and avoiding her eye. After a moment, Miss Herrington-Smythe said in a voice like candied plums, "Lady Alethea, you must put to rest a most distressing rumour. Have you indeed asked Lord Dommick to discover the original owner of your violin?"
Was this why people were staring? "Yes. Whyever would that distress you, Miss Herrington-Smythe?"
Miss Herrington-Smythe pretended to look shocked. "Lady Alethea, say it isn't so."
Alethea resisted reaching out to shake her. Miss Herrington-Smythe was being vague when Alethea needed information. "I am concerned that you are losing your hearing. I daresay it happens to some of us as we age. I shall repeat my question. Why should the news distress you?"
Miss Herrington-Smythe shrugged off the barb. "I was hoping to have misunderstood you, for I should hate to suspect that you are becoming desperate."
Alethea walked into that verbal trap. "Desperate about what?"
"About your future, of course."
"Miss Herrington-Smythe, I fear the heat has addled your brain. You poor dear."
Miss Oakridge covered a snort with a hand clapped over her mouth.
Alethea continued, "How should anyone think my violin has anything to do with my concerns about my future?"
Miss Herrington-Smythe delivered the crushing blow with relish. "I only have your welfare at heart when I tell you that everyone believes you may have . . . exaggerated the mysterious history of your violin in order to monopolize the time of a certain gentleman."
Alethea almost burst into laughter, but that would ruin Miss Herrington-Smythe's glee in telling Alethea the rumour. "Indeed?" she said in what she hoped were tones of horror.
"I am most sorry to tell you that this is how it appears to everyone in Bath. It's really rather pitiable. Young ladies have no need to resort to ruses to force men to spend time in their company."
"Of course, only a violin would do for your plans," Miss Oakridge added. "How long you must have looked for one old enough to provide a challenge for him."
The comment was like a long deep scratch on Lady Arkright's violin. "The violin was a bequest," Alethea said through numb lips. These pampered, selfish women would never understand the depth of love that made the violin so precious to her. Their idea of a mother's love was a shopping trip for a new gown.
Alethea didn't like Miss Herrington-Smythe and her friends, so she should not be hurt by the fact that they delighted in society's current disdain of her, but it reminded her once again that the polite world was not a pond she easily swam in.
She had always only depended upon herself, and it was still true. However, she wished her independence were not so isolating at times.
"How fortuitous for you," Miss Herrington-Smythe cooed.
"I am ashamed at the effort some women will undertake to capture the interest of gentlemen," Miss Oakridge added.
"Alethea, there you are." The deep voice behind her seemed to rise up from the murmurings of the crowd and blanket them all with a strange stillness.
Alethea turned and tried not to look astounded. Lord Dommick stood a few steps away, partially screened by the large back of a dowager in masses of black silk and apparently unnoticed by the three of them during their verbal melee. He had a warm smile that he had never directed at her, which made her insides jiggle like the blancmange she had compared the girls to earlier. There was also a sparking in his dark eyes that seemed to hint at some kind of irritation. Was he upset at her?
Then she realized that he had called her familiarly by her first name, which she had not given him permission to do. They were certainly not cordial enough for him to even have asked her for the privilege.
He nodded in a cool fashion toward Miss Herrington-Smythe, who had paled, and Miss Oakridge, who had gone scarlet. "Ladies, I beg you to excuse me and allow me to steal Alethea from you. I hope I was not interrupting anything of import?"
And at that moment, Alethea knew he had overheard a good portion of their altercation. Her stomach clenched. She had walked into this skirmish with the girls of her own accord, expecting the barbs and ready to deliver a few of her own. But once she realized what the rumours were about, she hadn't thought about how it might negatively impact Lord Dommick and his family. Alethea was ready to sink through the floor.
"Alethea, Ravenhurst and Ian told me they had already secured your hand for dances tonight, and they teased me that I had not been faster, so I am come to secure my own dance before it's too late."
Alethea suspected she looked rather like a fish as she gaped at him, but she wasn't sure what his game was.
Lord Dommick then nodded to the two girls and took Alethea by the arm to lead her away.
As it happened, the musicians signaled the start of the first dance. "Are you engaged for this dance?" he asked her.
"Now you are." The centre of the two connected rooms was being cleared of spectators and couples began lining up. Lord Dommick led her among them. He said nothing as they waited for the music to start, but his face looked faintly forbidding.
It was fortunate Alethea was not easily intimidated.
The music began and she curtseyed to him. As they drew together in the movement, she whispered to him, "What in the world was that about?"
"Why did you engage in conversation with a vulture like Miss Herrington-Smythe?" Lord Dommick hissed back.
Alethea tried to yank her hand from his, but his fingers bit into her knuckles, and the two healed fingers twinged. "I needed information."
"Don't you realize the girl eats reputations for breakfast and spits them out as the most spurious gossip?"
"Oh, she's harmless."
The movements of the dance separated them, but she could tell Lord Dommick was trying very hard not to scowl at her. As they came together again, he said, "I can't determine if you are simply naive or blind."
She smiled and bared her teeth at him, saying through her tight jaw, "Miss Herrington-Smythe hasn't an original thought in her brain. She only repeats what she hears with great relish, which makes her useful when I need to know why people are staring at me as if I have a peacock roosting on my head."
His face remained stern, but the corner of his mouth twitched. If he weren't so incensed she was sure he might have cracked a smile. A real one, this time.
"I came to find you as soon as I heard what people were saying," he said.
She blinked at him. "Why?"
"I have seen rumours ruin a person." The ballroom wall suddenly fascinated him. "I thought it very unfair that your simple curiosity about your own violin would expose you to such ugliness."
It had never occurred to her that he would be concerned for her. She had been so busy detesting him and trying not to think about him that she had assumed his heart was an empty shell.
No, that wasn't quite true. From the assembly, she knew he cared deeply for his sister. That he had extended his concern to her . . . she was not certain what it made her feel. "I thank you, my lord."
"You should call me Dommick since I made free with your first name in front of those harpies." He frowned, and at first Alethea thought he was upset about that, but then she realized he frowned because he was embarrassed.
How strange. She had placed him on a pedestal in her season in London, but then later she had set him apart as a cold statue. Yet in both cases, she had made him out to be remote and unfeeling, when in reality, he was . . . human.
Alethea said, "If the rumours only involved myself, I should find it hilariously diverting, but I do regret that the rumour requires people to studiously avoid mentioning your name."
"It's not my name I'm worried about. Miss Herrington-Smythe was doing a bang-up job smearing yours all over the floor."
"Oh, that was nothing to worry about. If you had not extricated me from them, I was going to say something along the lines of, 'Ladies, your conversation has ceased to be entertaining to me, so I bid you good evening.'"
He finally did smile at her. It made his eyes crinkle and laugh lines deepen in his cheeks. "Can it really be true that you do not care about the rumours?"
Alethea gave a one-shouldered shrug she had picked up from Calandra. "I have had tales told about me my entire life because of living buried in the country. One becomes a figure of curiosity." An oddity. Fodder for ridicule.
The dance separated them and he looked confused.
"Before I even arrived in town for my season, gossip had painted me as a wild hoyden with no table manners simply because I had never been seen in society. Several servants spread tales about how I forsook a regular schedule when I was practicing my music, and so the gossip expanded to say that I was an eccentric."
"I never heard those rumours."
"You probably did, but did not know me at the time and so it meant nothing to you. My Aunt Ingolton was sponsoring my come out and she was appalled, but the tales were so ridiculous I could not help but be amused by it all." Alethea grinned. "I teased my aunt by threatening to pick up my soup bowl and drink directly from it at the next dinner party."
He looked at her as if unsure if he should be amused or appalled himself.
"I no longer credit gossip about anyone else after being the object of such imaginative tales." She could do no less, when the tales had both amused her and hurt her, though she never revealed her pain.
He surprised her with an expression of almost . . . awe. Then his face hardened. "I dislike gossip, but dislike even more being its object."
The dance partnered her briefly with an older gentleman who was a friend of her aunt. "Lady Alethea, how lovely you look tonight."
"Thank you, Mr. Pollwitton."
For the rest of the dance, Alethea and Dommick said nothing to each other, but he did seem to be less disapproving.
And why should she care about that when she didn't care about the disapproval of Miss Herrington-Smythe?
Learn more at Camille Elliott's webpage
Regina Scott's The Bluestocking on His Knee
Just when wealthy heiress Eugennia Welch finds herself wishing for male companionship, Kevin Whattling, a handsome suitor, comes calling. But though Eugennia falls for Kevin's charms, she suspects that he loves her fortune more than he loves her.
As for Kevin, even though he knows Eugennia's fortune will save him from debtors' prison, the more he gets to know her, the more he finds himself falling in love.
"Ms. Scott crafts a zesty courtship romance featuring a delightfully eccentric heroine and a sinfully attractive hero." RT Book Reviews
Fiching obligingly fetched Miss Tindale, who was pressed into service at the pianoforte again. They practiced for some time, but although Jenny acquitted herself far better than on the previous day, Kevin could tell her agile mind was elsewhere. Besides, the crowded room was getting on his nerves. When Miss Tindale stopped to shuffle the sheet music, Kevin drew Jenny to his side.
"Do you truly have no ballroom, in all this huge house?" he asked.
"Of course we do," Jenny answered. "I saw no need to use it I told the staff not to clean there. I'm sure it's quite dusty. I've never even had cause to go there."
"Well, you do now," Kevin declared. Miss Tindale eyed him, and he smiled innocently. She bent her gray head once more.
He lowered his head to speak in Jenny's ear. "Let's leave your guardian dragon to her devices. Show me this ballroom."
He was doing it again, Jenny thought. He was using his charm to get her to do something on the edge of propriety. Well, she had certainly broken a few rules in the last day or so. She was within her rights to refuse him, but she didn't want to. She took his hand and tiptoed out of the room.
She led him upstairs to the back of the house to a set of double doors recessed in the paneled wall. Pushing one side open, she glanced in the shadowy room beyond and grimaced. "Just as I suspected. No one has been in here in ages."
Kevin peered over her head. The room was long and narrow, with arched windows running along one side and massive gilt-framed mirrors the other. By the light coming from the open door, he could see several dark credenzas under the mirrors, brass candelabra scattered along their dusty tops. The parquet floor was filmy with grit.
"Can we open the curtains?" he asked.
Jenny raised her skirts and walked across the floor, her steps leaving a trail in the dust, her passing echoing to the frescoed ceiling high above. She pulled back the first of the dark rose velvet drapes and dust danced in the sunlight, shimmering like fairy magic about her.
"How's that?" she asked, looking back at him. The sunlight turned her hair to gold, her skin to cream. It darkened her eyes and outlined her curves.
"Beautiful," he murmured.
Jenny blushed under his regard. He crossed the space to her side, gazing down at her.
"I thought we were going to dance," she tried when he had stood so for some time. Her heart was beating as if she had already danced a full card of lively country dances, and her breath came just as quickly.
"Ah, yes, dancing," Kevin replied, noting the way she bit her full lower lip. The temptation to kiss her was strong, but he fought it, at least for the moment. He raised his head to glance about the room, then smiled down at her. "Can you waltz, Miss Welch?"
She raised her eyebrows. "Waltz? I don't recall that one. Is it new?"
"Relatively so," he agreed. "I understand it is all the rage in Vienna right now. Would you like to try it?"
She frowned. "Is it difficult?"
"For my brilliant bluestocking, never. Let me show you." To her surprise, he took her hand with his right hand and slid his left about her waist.
"Are you sure this is how it's done?" she asked suspiciously.
Kevin grinned and tugged her closer to his body, as before enjoying the feel of her. "Very sure. It is quite unlike any other dance you might have been taught. Now, watch my feet." He released her just enough so she could look down between them. "Like this."
He moved through the steps slowly, and Jenny stumbled along with him. After a few movements, however, she tromped on his boot. Embarrassed, she shrugged out of his hold. "I don't think I can do this."
"Nonsense," Kevin proclaimed, pulling her back into his embrace. "You'll do well if you just remember not to try so hard. For once in your life, don't think, just react."
"Don't think?" Jenny laughed. "Better ask the sun not to shine than to ask a bluestocking not to think."
"Pretend it's a rainy day," Kevin countered. "Or better yet, close your eyes."
Jenny grimaced. "You aren't overly fond of your toes, are you?"
"Very well, then, look up, into my eyes."
I should have left well enough alone, she thought, but she took a deep breath and did as he suggested. Almost immediately, she was drawn into the lapis depths. She felt Kevin start to move and simply let her body follow. They glided down the room, swirling in and out of the dust-glittering sunlight and soft gray shadow. Her skirt belled against his Hessians. Her body swayed to his rhythm.
"Turn your head to the right," he murmured and she turned to see a graceful couple dancing against the light. The gentleman was tall and imposing, his lady elegant and curvaceous. They spun back up the room, and she swore she heard her quartet playing in the background.
Kevin slowed his steps, and she returned her gaze to his handsome face. He tightened his grip on her waist, never taking his eyes off hers. She swayed toward him as he lowered his head. With a groan, Kevin pulled her close and kissed her thoroughly, caressing her tender mouth with his own, feeling the curve of her against his chest and thigh. As before, she wanted the kiss to go on forever, pulling him closer, impossibly closer.
After a moment, he raised his head and gazed down at her. "Marry me, Jenny. I think I'll go mad if you don't."
She wanted to say yes, oh, how she wanted to say yes! When he held her like this and gazed down into her eyes, all her doubts vanished like puddles that could not withstand the heat of the sun. Saying yes in his arms was all too easy. Like dancing while looking up into his eyes, the response was reacting, not thinking. And a bluestocking could only hold back the thoughts for a very short time.
Learn more at my book page for The Bluestocking on His Knee.
April Kihlstrom's Miss Tibbles' Folly
Miss Tibbles. Colonel Merriweather. Both accustomed to command. What happens when they turn their attention to one another? Love, intrigue, interference from friends and family, all conspire to make certain their courtship is not an easy one!
5 Gold Stars--Heartland Critiques "...It is rare that a series can maintain as high a quality as this one has. The characters are a joy and so is the dialogue."
Learn more at April Kihlstom's webpage
It was a grave error, a mistake, to agree to attend a ball at the New Assembly rooms. Marian knew it. To be sure, it would have been far worse in London, but she knew she would be regarded as an upstart who was trying to appear above her station.
Still she went. She would be grave. She would move with dignity. She would do nothing, other than attend, which could draw censure down upon her head. Those were the resolutions with which Miss Tibbles armed herself. Until she entered the assembly room.
The room was crowded. It was a very long time since she had found herself part of such a gathering. She found herself grateful that she was here with Colonel Merriweather by her side for even she would otherwise have found it a trifle daunting.
And yet, there was something that called to her across the years. Something that reminded her, as though it were yesterday, of her own Season in London. First one corner of her mouth quirked upward, and then the other, and before she knew it, Marian was laughing. She moved with a lightness she thought she had forgotten. She carried herself with an assurance of a young girl who knows she is sought after. And when Colonel Merriweather smiled down at her, she did not trouble to hide the glow in her eyes.
There was Penelope, clutching Mr. Talbot's arm, and staring at Marion as if she could not believe her eyes. Good! Let her know that Miss Tibbles was not about to be dictated to by a mere chit of a girl.
She smiled up at Colonel Merriweather and she heard him catch his breath in the most gratifying way. Her hand tightened, just the slightest little bit on his arm and his eyes glittered down at her even more.
"Shall we dance?" he asked.
Marian hesitated. For all her vaunted courage in accepting his invitation to this ball, for all her vows to Penelope that she meant to waltz, she felt herself falter now. Did she truly dare? But it wasn't a waltz. It was a country dance that was forming and surely that would be unexceptionable?
She looked up at Colonel Merriweather. "I should like it very much," she said.
He led her to where the couples were forming the lines for the country dance and he smiled so warmly at her that Marian wished she could use her fan to cool herself. But that would have created even more of a spectacle than the colonel's open admiration, the mere action of a fan drawing eyes to her face, noticing the governess who dared to behave as if she belonged here. She would simply have to endure.
Ah, there was the music now. A bow, a curtsy, a meeting of hands and a graceful circle to the left. Marian had forgotten how much such simple steps meant to her. How they lifted her spirits and caused her to smile. How easily the steps came back to her so that she missed not a single beat. Nor did the colonel. Andrew was as graceful a dancer as she had ever seen.
To her left and to her right, Marian could see some of the young ladies experimenting with outlandish turns and movements of their feet. Colonel Merriweather frowned in patent disapproval as one damsel exposed far more of her ankle than was seemly. Indeed, he fairly bristled with indignation.
"What the deuce is the matter with her?" he demanded in a fierce whisper, when the figure of the dance brought him close enough to Marian to ask without being overheard. "Is the poor girl having a fit?"
She smiled fondly. She knew. Oh, yes, she knew. Her last charge, before she had taken on the care of the Westcott girls, had tried to make just such a spectacle of herself at Almack's. Miss Tibbles had managed to prevent it.
When the dancing brought them back, close enough for her to answer discreetly, she said, "I collect the girl persuaded her father to hire an opera dancer to teach her. She is only imitating, and badly at that, I fear, what she has seen. It has been a common fashion, these past few years, here at home, but one I have done my best to discourage with the girls under my care."
The colonel's muttered exclamation did not quite reach Marian's ears and upon consideration, she decided it was probably just as well.
Even as she smiled at the girl who was still making a spectacle of herself, Marian also felt her heart lurch, just a little. This was precisely the sort of impetuous child she would likely have had to deal with next, if there had been no inheritance. As she would still have to deal with if the inheritance turned out to be merely a hum, some sort of mistake.
Then she would again find herself dealing with girls like this. And just now, dancing as she was, Marian could not imagine herself doing so. She could not imagine finding the strength, finding the patience, to school such a girl to the propriety that her parents, and the ton, would demand of her.
She wanted to believe it would never come to that, but despite her defiance in coming here tonight with Andrew, Marian knew it still might.
More Excerpts from the Bluestocking League
"Do Let Us Have a Little Music" from Camille Elliott