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Lady Bridget's Diary

By:Maya Rodale

Prologue


Oceans crossed: 1

Sisters who plagued me the entire journey: 2

Brothers who suddenly became a duke: 1

Fearsome duchesses: 1

Lady Bridget’s Diary

London, 1824

Durham Residence

The Ballroom

One would think that having one’s brother inherit a dukedom was a stroke of good fortune that would transform their lives from ho-­hum to utterly fantastic. One would think that until one was on a reducing diet, stuffed into a tightly laced corset, and forced to practice walking backward.

“Once again, Lady Bridget,” the duchess said crisply.

She was Lady Bridget Cavendish now. Before she had just been Bridget Cavendish of Duncraven farm in Maryland. But then a letter had arrived one day, with the unexpected news that their late father, God rest his soul, had inherited the title and died without knowing it. James was now a duke and they were all to leave everything behind and travel to England, immediately.

“Yes Lady Bridget, once more please,” Amelia said with a smirk.

“Do shut up, Amelia,” Bridget said, under her breath. Younger sisters were quite annoying, on any continent.

“It’s ‘Do shut up, Lady Amelia,’ ” Claire, the oldest sister, corrected. She found all the formality as ridiculous as the rest of their family, much to the despair of the duchess.

Somewhere about the massive house—­probably in the stables, even though the duchess made it perfectly clear dukes were above mucking about in the stables—­was her brother, James. Or, as he was now to be known, His Grace, the Duke of Durham. Dukes had many responsibilities, it seemed, but walking backward in a gown with an excessively long train was not one of them.

Before her, with sharp blue eyes and perfectly coiffed blond hair, was Josephine Marie Elizabeth Cavendish, Her Grace, the Duchess of Durham, widow of the fifth duke, and aunt to the Cavendish siblings.

One did not call her Josie. Amelia had asked.

“Remind me why we are learning to do something as ridiculous as walk backward?” Claire asked. From a young age, she had spent her free hours devoted to the study of mathematics, otherwise known as Important Work. Bridget’s head ached just to think about it.

“It is for your presentation at court,” the duchess replied. “Which is necessary before your debut in society, which you must do in order to find a husband, which a lady must do, lest she become an impoverished spinster.”

“What if we do not wish for a husband?” Amelia asked.

“What a silly question,” the duchess replied. “Lady Bridget, once again.”

At the duchess’s request, Bridget sank into a curtsy. They had practiced this extensively on Tuesday afternoon. Then, with as much grace as she could muster, Bridget rose and began to elegantly glide backward. Or so she tried; feats of grace did not come easily to her (a point upon which their dancing instructor would absolutely agree). Nothing about being a True Lady did. Bridget had daydreamt through lessons on the order of precedence amongst members of the haute ton, how to properly pour a cup of tea, and all the other lessons on etiquette and deportment they endured morning, noon, and night.

“Now Lady Amelia, it is your turn.”

While the duchess’s attention was focused on her sisters, Bridget took advantage of her distraction to continue walking backward until she had crossed the length of the ballroom, then she continued through the large double doors and halfway down the corridor, at which point she turned, lifted her skirts, and proceeded to the kitchens. Reducing diet, deportment lessons, and True Lady-­ness be damned.





Chapter 1


Tonight is our grand debut in society. I hope I don’t make an ass of myself. I hope that I conduct myself as befitting a lady of my station. (That sounds proper, right?)

Lady Bridget’s Diary

The Americans had arrived. In fact, they had arrived in London a fortnight earlier but the Duchess of Durham had kept them hidden from the prying eyes of society. Tonight, at Lady Tunbridge’s ball, they made their debut.

A hush had fallen over the ballroom as the Duchess of Durham appeared for the first time in public with the new Duke of Durham and his sisters, three dark-­haired young ladies of marriageable age. The ton craned their necks for a glimpse of them, eager to see what the newspapers had been speculating about for weeks.

The haute ton immediately commenced with clamoring for introductions to the new duke—­the ton had already taken to calling him that—­and gossiping about the sisters. The duchess and her collection of Americans began to circulate the ballroom. Introductions were made. Polite conversations were had. Some fawning ensued.

Three gentlemen preferred to watch the mayhem from a distance.

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