London, England 1812
Wallowing around in Earl of Seaton’s country estate’s fountain on the night of his engagement ball was not the grand entrance Jocelyn Ramsey wanted to make into English society. She’d planned on being more graceful. And dry. A shiver of cold wracked her body as she sat on the slick bottom of the fountain, her expensive Worth gown floating in a silky mass amongst the koi.
No amount of wishing, bargaining, or praying would change the fact she had made a splash all right, but not the good kind. Somehow, she didn’t think her current situation, no matter how prim and proper she tried to appear with a lily pad resting in her hair, was going to win her the approval of London society.
She looked at her ruined frock, resisting the urge to moan aloud and draw even more attention to her water-logged self. A quick glance through her lashes proved that instead of a few members of society seeing her incredible faux pas, a mass was gathering around the fountain.
Oh bother, her aunt was going to let her have it now. There was going to be no way to smooth over this mistake any time soon, not with all of London society gaping at her. A kaleidoscope of shapes and sizes of women, their mouths open in horror or shock, some outright giggling behind kidskin gloves or decorative fans, faced Jocelyn. Regardless of either any attempt or zero attempt at hiding their reactions to her mishap, Jocelyn fought the need to hide from their silent and cold censorship; instead she gathered her courage and smiled.
Jocelyn plucked at the uncomfortable bodice of her gown in an attempt to free the material clinging to her bosom in a very indelicate fashion and grimaced at the sucking sound her action caused when the fabric peeled away from her body. The noise seemed over-loud to her and her face heated with embarrassment. So much for being a diamond of the first water and not in a positive way.
“Is that the Ramsey gel? Such hoydenish behavior,” a feminine voice whispered. “I understand she actually bathed in ponds back in American, like a commoner.”
“Pish, what do you expect? She is an American,” another female voice intoned a tad louder than the first. “Brash and disrespectful of common decency, I tell you.”
“Well, this will prove to be her undoing, no suitor would dare align himself with someone so clumsy no matter her dowry.”
Jocelyn closed her eyes and prayed for patience or divine intervention. Really, at this point she couldn’t afford to be picky. Did these women not understand she could hear them? Or that English was a language she understood fluently, along with French, Spanish, and Greek? She may be an American—odd how the aristocracy could make that sound dirty and shameful—but she was an educated one. Her beloved mama saw to that.
If she had learned anything in her brief stay in England, manners were paramount to good breeding. However, if whispering loud enough that the subject of the conversation could hear the words spoken was considered polite—well, Jocelyn had to question the ton’s moral way of thinking.