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Ballrooms and Blackmail by Regina Scott

Book Three in the Lady Emily Capers series

Priscilla Tate, most celebrated debutante of 1815 London, is well on her way to wringing a proposal out of the Season's most eligible bachelor, the Duke of Rottenford, when blackmail notes start arriving, threatening to expose a dark secret unless she ceases her pursuit. It's up to her friends, Lady Emily Southwell and Ariadne and Daphne Courdebas, to help her uncover the mastermind before disaster strikes. But will Nathan Kent, the duke's handsome personal secretary, no, no, the duke, understand if Priscilla's secret should be revealed?

Excerpt

Lady Weston’s music room had a massive white marble fireplace at either end, bracketing a series of long windows before which squatted a golden harp, violins, cellos, and a pianoforte lacquered in white and painted with pink and red roses. Roses in porcelain vases rested on either mantle, perfuming the room. And more than four dozen people in silks, satins, and velvets ambled about, attempting to see and be seen before the music temporarily robbed them of the opportunity.

A braying cackle led Priscilla straight to her quarry. Acantha Dalrymple, replete in a lacy confection the color of jonquils, was standing by the far hearth, giggling over the gangly gentleman who had bowed over her hand.

Priscilla faced front, mind whirling. Surely Acantha wouldn’t announce the secret to the entire room. She felt as if the iron bars of debtors’ prison were encircling her, drawing closer, holding her frozen.

“Look for an opportunity,” Emily murmured beside her. “We can question her tonight.”

Tonight? Where anyone might hear? Priscilla had feigned a faint more than once in her life, but for the first time, she actually felt light-headed.

“Good evening!” Lady Weston, in a wine-colored satin gown with a graceful overskirt stitched in gilt thread, stepped to the front of the room. Her white hair gleamed under the light of the crystal chandelier. “Thank you all for coming. If you would please take a seat, we will commence our marvelous musicale shortly.”

Her guests jockeyed for position. Gentlemen intent on pursuing a certain lady veered to secure a place at her side. Those hoping to escape the Season unshackled held for the back of the room. When a gentleman seated himself beside Priscilla, she hardly noticed, so intent was she on watching Acantha.

Her rival sashayed to the front of the room and took a seat in the center of the row, a gentleman on either side. Priscilla recognized the Marquess of Bathhurst on her left.

“Does Mr. Cummings have no taste?” Emily murmured, evidently recognizing the curly blond head on Acantha’s right.

“Bit of fluff, remember?” Priscilla returned.

“Indeed. I shall have to warn His Grace.”

Priscilla sucked in a breath at the dry voice beside her. It couldn’t be. She pasted on a smile and turned to find Nathan Kent gazing at her. His evening black was impeccable, but it only fueled the panic rising inside her. She glanced past him to the empty seat beyond.

“His Grace is indisposed,” he said, correctly interpreting her look. “He sent me to convey his regrets to Lady Weston and his friends.”

He made it sound as if she was one of them. So, at least the blackmailer had not regaled the duke with her secret. Yet.

“Mr. Kent,” Emily said with a nod. “Good to see you.”

“You do have a way of turning up,” Lady Minerva put in with a humph, twitching her black silk skirts closer to her side as if she feared he might sully them.

He did indeed have a way of making his presence felt, and at all the wrong times. If Acantha revealed Priscilla’s secret now, Priscilla would have no opportunity to present a counter story to His Grace. And she was certain Nathan would make sure his employer heard every sordid detail. She could not allow that.

“Indeed, Mr. Kent,” she said, fluttering her lashes, “it is an unexpected pleasure to see you again so soon. But it distresses me to hear His Grace is feeling unwell. Perhaps we should both forego the pleasantries of the evening. You should hasten to his side, and I will return home to offer prayers on his behalf.”

He frowned. “Now?”

Priscilla rose. “Yes. Now. This very minute. If you’d be so good as to escort me.”

Lady Minerva glared up at her. “Oh, do sit down. I won’t be able to hear the music with you posturing, girl.”

Others were glancing her way as well, and Priscilla felt her color rising.

“Did you have something you wished to say, Miss Tate?” Lady Weston asked from the front of the room.

More eyes turned to her. Priscilla smiled at them all. “No, your ladyship. I’m only delighted to be here among so many talented young ladies.”

Lady Weston’s smile could have graced a cobra. “And I cannot think why I did not include you among their number. I’m certain you won’t mind opening the evening with one of your lovely piano concertos.” She waved toward the elegant instrument behind her. “Come along, dear. Show everyone what you’re made of.”

*

Nathan knew the amount of preparation necessary to perform a complicated concerto in public. He’d heard Glynnis practice for weeks when she’d been called on to play at His Grace’s last birthday celebration. The youngest child in a family that boasted four sisters ahead of him, he’d also seen his siblings’ panicked gyrations during their Seasons. Had any of them been asked to open a musicale with no warning, they would have either run from the room screaming or expired on the spot.

Miss Tate smiled graciously. Gathering the soft swirl of her pearly skirts, she swept to the front of the room and seated herself at the pianoforte. The pale gown made her hair look like tongues of golden light, the flame at the top of a beeswax candle. She did not ask for sheet music or poke about to find the proper key. She set her fingers to the ivory and began to play.

Nathan leaned back, not expecting much. Every young lady of his acquaintance played an instrument of some sort. Few progressed beyond proficiency. From the first note, however, he found himself sitting up, listening closer. Instead of merely hearing the music, he could feel it: the joy as she played high and fast, the sorrow when she played low and slow. Her impassioned rendition demanded that he enter into the song, savor it like a fine meal. When she finished with a crescendo, he found himself as breathless as if he’d run a race.

The applause was thunderous, Lady Weston’s look nearly so. Priscilla smiled again, blushing delicately as if pleased and humbled by their response, then rose to allow another young lady to take her place on the bench. Nathan pitied the woman who had to follow her.

“Well done,” he couldn’t help whispering as she returned to her seat beside him.

“Thank you,” she whispered back, settling her skirts around her. “I hope you will let the duke know how disappointed I was not to play for him. I had him in mind when I chose the song.”

As she had not known she was to play tonight, Nathan found her statement hard to believe. But perhaps she’d been thinking about what to play for His Grace if given the opportunity. At the moment, Nathan was heartily glad the duke was safely homeR. Nathan wasn’t about to let his cousin out and about until he knew who was threatening him.

And Miss Tate.

The Captain's Dilemma by Gail Eastwood

Originally published November 1995, Signet Regency

Falling in love with the enemy…
A fugitive in his enemy’s country, he’d already risked everything that mattered except his heart…

Accused of impersonating himself, captured French officer Alexandre Valmont has risked his life and honor to escape the English war prison at Norman Cross in a desperate bid to get home and clear his name. The daughter of a baronet, Merissa Pritchard risks charges of treason and her family’s safety when she hides the wounded fugitive and tries to nurse him back to strength. Neither has counted on risking their hearts in a most dangerous game of impossible love!

Reviewer’s Choice Award nominee (1995) –Romantic Times

Excerpt

EXCERPT (from Chapter 13):

Perhaps he had used up more than his share of luck. Since the loss of his parole and the charge of impersonation against him, his only plan was to clear himself—to regain his name and all that he had lost with it. If he were to change his life, what would he do?

He had plenty of time to ask himself such questions during the two days following the dinner. Sir Barry was out much of the time, observing the final days of harvest in his fields, and the Pritchard women seemed to be very occupied with preparations for the harvest fair. Merissa, in particular, seemed to have no time to spend with him. He had watched her go out to ride earlier in the morning with a young man who was familiar enough to address her by her first name. Alex had not spoken to her alone since he had moved into the house.

He confessed that it was for the best. He knew it was. Yet he had become as addicted to her presence as if she were opium. A dozen times in an hour he would think of things he wished to say to her—questions he wanted to ask her, thoughts he wanted to share. To fill the emptiness, both yesterday and today he had yielded to the temptation to go into the salon and pick up Sir Barry’s violin, seeking solace in the way he had done for so many years.

He found that his fingers seemed to have a memory of their own. If he stopped thinking and simply let the music wash over him, the bow seemed to draw the notes from the strings by itself, and his hands instinctively knew what to do.

Like making love, came the thought, entirely unbidden.

He paused, trying to bury the thought back into whatever part of his mind it had come from. Merissa’s sweet image had come to him with it, along with an intense stab of desire. Impossible, impossible, impossible, he railed at himself. He could not have her. Anger replaced the desire—anger at himself and at the circumstances in which he found himself. He channeled the anger into his music, first a Beethoven sonata newly published since his captivity, then a concerto by Vivaldi that admitted the full range of his emotion.

He was so lost in the music that he failed to notice when Merissa first slipped into the room a short while later. The musical phrases were building upon each other, one after the other, crescendoing and taking with them all his anguish, fear, doubt, and joy—for there was joy in his soul, too. He released them all into the music.

The effect was cathartic. When he reached the end of the piece, he was shaking. He let his hand with the bow fall limply to his side.

Merissa went to him and retrieved the bow from his fingers. “Never have I heard anyone play with such passion!” she exclaimed quietly. “Where did you learn to play like that?”

Alex looked at her intently, drinking in the welcome sight of her like a parched man. He must have let his gaze linger too long, for suddenly she looked down and fidgeted with the bow in her hands.

He could have gone on looking at her for days, he thought, without so much as saying a word. He wanted to commit her to memory—every inch of her creamy skin, the exact color of her lips, the graceful arch of her brows. Her scent, her hair, her eyes were his already and had been almost from the first time he had met her in the windmill. But now he wanted all—he wanted memories to supply a lifetime without her. He was so glad to see her standing there, he wanted to sweep her into his arms. With a supreme effort, he called back all the control he had cast off while he had been playing. He must not touch her. He would not be able to contain the bonfire it would set off in him if he did. Besides, she seemed unaccountably flustered. Was it only due to his music?

“I learned to play as a boy,” he said, trying to study her without being obvious. “When I went away to school, I continued to play, and even as a student at the Polytechnic, I played and found others to play with. When I entered the military, it brought me much pleasure.”

“But you said that you had not played in a long time,” she pointed out.

Oui. My violin was lost on campaign. I was not able to replace it.”

“Why not?”

Why not? He realized that somehow, he had lost the heart for it. He had not replaced it when he might have, for he was certain some similar disaster would befall the replacement. His pay as a captain was not sufficient to finance multiple replacements of something as valuable as a fine violin. There was no place in his life for a violin, just as there was no place for a woman or a family. Startled, he glanced down at the instrument in his hands. He had never thought of it in quite that way before.

“Why not?” she asked again softly.

He placed Sir Barry’s violin carefully on the pianoforte. Turning to Merissa, he held out his hand for the bow. Her gloved fingers brushed his bare ones as she gave it to him, and they both pulled back like frightened deer.

“Too great an expense, too little opportunity, too rough a life,” he said brusquely. “Pick a reason. Ça ne fait rien. It does not matter.” He busied himself collecting the sheets of music Sir Barry had given him into a neat pile.

“Here is one of yours,” he said with surprise a moment later. He handed her the pages marked “flute solo” in a neat hand across the top. He wondered if it was her own writing.

He paused, then added, “You play very well yourself, Miss Pritchard. I enjoyed hearing you the other night.”

He realized that her hair was disarrayed. She had gone riding—the removal of her hat might have been the simple cause. But an unreasoning part of his mind whispered jealously that the cause might have been the young man she had gone with. He should be glad that there was someone else in her life, he knew.

“What made you decide to choose the flute as your instrument?” he asked. She was not looking at him now, and he decided that, yes, she definitely seemed distracted. She did not usually fidget.

Still, she answered him. “I chose it because I liked the sound, and because it was relatively small and portable.” She gave a derisive little laugh. “I had some foolishly romantic idea that I would take it out of doors and play it in the fields like some version of Pan. Of course, I have never done so.”

“Why not?” It was his turn to ask.

She seemed surprised by the question. “Well, I just—I never felt comfortable enough. I suppose it seemed an unconventional and idiotic thing to do, and I don’t really play that well . . . People think I’m flighty enough as it is.”

“Is that what they think?” He took a step nearer to her. God help him, there she stood, looking beautiful and distraught and very unsure of herself. “Then they don’t understand you, do they? You should have more faith in yourself, be more accepting of your own nature.”

Another step, closer to her, closer to hell. He should stop. “When you want to be unconventional, you should simply be so. Are you afraid to be free? I never thought an Englishwoman would be.”

He reached out and took her hand between his. It was trembling. He looked into her eyes and saw tears beginning to pool there. He was lost. “What is it, Merissa? What is wrong? Can you tell me?”

Merissa shook her head, hoping to shake off the tears at the same time. How foolish she felt, trembling and weeping in front of him! How could she possibly explain what it was like to leave Harlan, who had behaved like a boor and a bully on the ride with her this morning, to come home to find Alex, pouring out his passion into music and talking about understanding?

She thought that they must be star-crossed lovers, kindred souls kept apart by the cruelty of Fate. Harlan’s behavior had upset her, but this exchange between her and Alex was unbearable. She had not realized she could feel this much pain over parting with him before he had even left.

Prelude for a Lord by Camille Elliot

Book One in the Gentlemen Quartet series

An awkward young woman. A haunted young man. A forbidden instrument. Can the love of music bring them together . . . or will it tear them apart?

Bath, England—1810

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 . . .

Excerpt

As she entered the music room, Alethea saw Lucy, for propriety’s sake, seated in a corner with some mending. Her sister gave her a quick smile, then returned to her work.

The music room had been set up with three chairs and three music stands ranged around the magnificent Broadwood pianoforte. Lord Ian handed her violin to her, and it was both strange and exhilarating when he held out her chair for her, which was not at the pianoforte.

He procured that seat for himself with a sigh. “I miss David exceedingly. Pianoforte is not my forte.”

Lord Ravenhurst grunted as he took up his violoncello, a beautiful instrument with a deep golden glow in the wood. “If David were here, you would not be playing at all. I much prefer Lady Alethea to your ugly mug.”

“Alethea, please take second violin.” There was a speculative gleam in Dommick’s eyes as he handed her the music manuscript, and her stomach tensed. In the concert, they would play the pieces she had already been practicing with Ian, but today they would play something new which he had just finished composing. She opened the manuscript.

The breath eased out of her chest as she looked it over. It was beautiful and challenging, but not extraordinarily difficult, even with her two injured fingers, which she had stretched earlier. She massaged them to warm them.

“Are you injured?” Dommick’s brows lowered.

“An old injury. It is nothing.” She was almost grateful to her cousin for forcing her to Bath, for only here could she have found a physician to help her regain the use of her left fingers.

She began her normal warm-up on her violin, exercises to stretch the stiff tendons in the last two fingers of her left hand, build finger speed, and increase the flexibility of her bow hand. She ran through some intonation and vibrato exercises, then skimmed through Dommick’s music to finger passages which might be tricky.

She finished as the other men completed their own warm-ups. She flipped to the first page.

“We shall take the first page at a decreased tempo,” Bayard said.

Lord Ian interrupted him. “Let us do a straight run through instead.”

Dommick frowned, and Alethea thought he might have glanced quickly to her.

“Try it and see,” Lord Ian said cryptically.

After a moment’s hesitation, Dommick nodded. “Then, from the beginning.” He set the time with his bow, and with a firm nod, indicated for them to begin.

The music blasted into existence like a choir of angels, grabbing her heart and squeezing tightly. She had never before played with more than one other musician. The sound roared through her in powerful waves, chords and runs in unison that echoed from the high ceiling of the room.

The piece diverged as each instrument carried the primary melodic line in turn, weaving from one to the other in a tapestry more colourful than any hangings on the walls of Trittonstone Park. The complexity fascinated and excited her, and she eagerly played, barely aware of herself as she gloried in the rich sounds produced

Then the music softened like the stillness of early morning on the downs, and each instrument became a bird welcoming the day, a rabbit rising up to sniff new scents on the air, the hawk soaring on the high winds above the world.

The music built like a storm, first with the pitter of raindrops, then the blustering wind, then the crashing thunder and blistering sheets of water flattening the grass. The instruments again wove into each other, one at the forefront and then the other, each carrying a storyline of the music until they all converged into a climax of nature’s fury. The piece ended as if on a sigh.

Alethea was breathing heavily as she lowered her bow. Her heart felt filled with simmering emotions that spilled over—awe, sadness, tenderness, ecstasy. She closed her eyes, trying to recapture the rush of euphoria of those last measures.

“I told you,” Lord Ian said in a smug voice.

She opened her eyes to find Dommick staring at her in complete astonishment. “Good Lord,” he said.

She didn’t know what he was referring to.The potency of his gaze made her anxiety begin to rise. “What is it?” Her voice was weaker than normal, and she cleared her throat. “What is wrong?” she demanded in a stronger tone.

“You are . . . magnificent.” Dommick’s voice was filled with wonder, and the yearning in his eyes was suddenly all she could see. And she knew he could see the fullness of her heart, the fragility exposed whenever she played because she played with all her being.

Dommick had heard brief strains from her violin, but unlike Lord Ian and Lord Ravenhurst, he had not seen her perform before now.

“Lady Alethea, you see Bayard flabbergasted,” Lord Ian said. “I do believe you are even better than me on the violin.”

“I never doubted your ability, but I had never seen you challenged.” Dommick broke eye contact and looked at his music, but Alethea saw the faint flush of colour at his jawline. It was endearing to see him embarrassed.

Alethea glanced at Lucy. Her sister gave her a wink and a smile as if to say, “Well done, you have bested them.” It buoyed her spirits as she returned her attention to the men.

“Now that we are aware that Lady Alethea can outplay all of us, shall we continue?” Lord Ravenhurst said.

It was the most enjoyable two hours she had spent in many years. Alethea forgot about Lucy, sitting in the corner as her chaperone. Dommick had the ability to write music that sounded elaborate, yet was straightforward to master. Lord Ravenhurst had uncanny intuition about tweaking passages to create more emotional impact. Lord Ian suggested changes that enhanced the strengths of the individual instruments.

Clare and Lady Morrish entered the music room to sit and listen to the final product of their practice session. Lady Morrish expressed pleasure at the piece, but Clare sat immobile for a full minute after they had finished, her mouth in an O and her eyes darting at the musicians, landing most often upon Alethea. Finally she gasped, “Bayard, that piece is your most commanding composition yet. And Alethea, your talent is . . . staggering.”

“Yes, she is brilliant,” Lord Ian agreed.

“I thank you.” Their praise should have made Alethea feel vindicated after her interest in the violin had been denigrated by so many people. Yet she felt uncomfortable. She did not want to stand out from the other musicians—she realized she wanted to belong to them. They never made her feel like an intruder to their circle, but she nonetheless was not quite one of them. And she longed to be. She longed to call them her intimate friends.

The Widower's Folly by April Kihlstrom

Book Two in the Magic Locket series

Theresa Barlow writes stories, magical stories for children. Lord Rivendale has a daughter who cannot speak and the only way to reach her seems to be through Miss Barlow’s books. Both are wary of love, but in trying to help the child Anna, Tessa and William discover they have much more in common than either would have thought.

"...a book worth passing down to a reader's own children some day."--Affaire de Coeur

“THE WIDOWER'S FOLLY is thoroughly enjoyable as a stand-alone. You don't need to read THE AMBITIOUS BARONET first, but once you delve into one, you'll want to read the others. So far, the three sisters and two heroes are quite distinct from each other in personality and interest, yet tied together by love, family and the mysterious locket. Faithful Regency readers are well aware of Ms Kihlstrom's fine novels; readers new to her works will find this an excellent place to start”--Jane Bowers

Note that this book was originally published as a traditional Regency by Signet.

Excerpt

Somehow Rivendale managed to find himself seated next to Miss Theresa Barlow when the musical portion of the evening began. He was not particularly surprised to discover that Kepley had managed to acquire the seat beside Miss Elizabeth Barlow. The younger sister was just as attractive as the older one and if they were anything alike, she would not see Kepley’s injury as repulsive, but rather as a badge of honor for his service in the Peninsula.

The music was as dreadful as Rivendale had come to expect from this particular tone-deaf and cheap hostess. Rather than hire musicians or a singer, she had invited her friends and her daughter to display their talents. It would have been a kindness, he thought, had they all fallen prey to a grippe that stole their voices.

But for once William did not care. He was content to sit beside Miss Barlow and steal glances at her face. Even now he could not explain his fascination with her. To be sure, he admired her storytelling—and her kindness to Anna. But it was far more than that. He felt a connection to her that he could not begin to explain.

He noticed the way her hand kept stealing up to touch the locket at her throat, and he wondered what it meant to her. It looked very old.

Others were less polite than Lord Rivendale or the Stamford party. Behind him he could hear all sorts of conversation. He tried to ignore it as thoroughly as he was ignoring the purported music. Until, that is, he felt Miss Barlow stiffen beside him, and then he did listen, wondering what it was that had caught her attention.

“....as the first book, The Shy Unicorn.”

“I’ve subscribed. They say the author is someone we know. But who?”

“Someone with children, that much is certain.”

“What about Lady Fanshaw? They say that she positively dotes on her children. Shockingly so!”

“Yes, but when would she have time to write? No, it must be someone older. Perhaps a grandmother.”

William cringed as he heard just such reasoning as he had gone through himself. And he wondered what they would say if they knew the author was seated right here among them. At his side he felt Miss Barlow give a choke of suppressed laughter and he knew she must wonder very much the same thing. He risked a look at her and smiled. What he heard next, however, wiped the smile from his face.

“Isn’t that Lord Rivendale?”

“First time I’ve seen him out and about since Lady Rivendale died.”

“Hanging out for a second wife, do you think?”

“Well, it stands to reason he’ll need a mother for his daughter, don’t it?”

“Fixed his eyes on the Barlow chit, has he? Thinks she hasn’t any other options, perhaps, and will be happy to accept any offer.”

“Now, Agatha, you know very well that his fortune is indecently large.”

“His wife’s fortune was indecently large. But how much of it is now his, and how much of that fortune is held in trust for the child?”

“Always wondered about his first wife’s death. Mighty convenient, if you ask me. Been fighting because of his gambling debts, they say, and she threatening to refuse to pay ‘em for him. And then, poof, she’s dead, and he’s got his hands on more funds than is good for any man.”

Now William didn’t dare look at the woman at his side. All he wished to do was leave and not look back. But he couldn’t do it. That would only have given them cause to gossip even more. But he didn’t have to like it. The question was, would it make Miss Barlow change her mind about coming to his house to help Anna?

And would Stamford still let her come? Even from where he sat, Rivendale could see the man grow more and more rigid. The rumors continued to swirl around them until the speakers grew bored with the topic of his interest in Miss Barlow and moved on to the latest crim con instead.

Still, William was not surprised that when the music ended and they were free to stand and circulate again, Stamford moved to his side. “Miss Barlow will not be coming to visit you at your house anymore,” Stamford said in a voice pitched low enough that only Rivendale could hear.

“I understand.”

Stamford went on as though William had not even spoken. “You will bring your daughter to my house to see her. There will still be gossip, but not to the degree there would be if it were the other way around.”

And then Stamford moved away, taking the Barlow sisters with him. Rivendale did not try to follow. He was too stunned by Stamford’s words. He understood the fellow’s point of view. The trouble was, he didn’t know whether it was going to be possible to get Anna into a carriage to take her there.

For the past year, anytime anyone tried to take her near a horse, she started to kick and scream. They had had to give her laudanum to bring her to London, and since that time William had given up trying to take her anywhere. Instead, he had become accustomed to arranging for doctors, dressmakers, and others to come to the house when they were needed.

Well, he would have to see. Perhaps for Miss Barlow, Anna would be able to overcome her fear. And if she did not, Rivendale would plead his case with Stamford and hope the man would relent.

So caught up was he in his own thoughts that Rivendale did not notice Kepley until he spoke. “What the devil was that about? Stamford looked quite grim when he spoke to you just now. Warning you away, was he?”

William tried to smile, more for the benefit of anyone watching than for Kepley. “Just precautions,” he said, keeping his voice pitched low. “Wants to protect Miss Barlow’s reputation and I cannot say I blame him.”

Kepley was silent a moment. “Miss Theresa Barlow is a pretty young lady,” he said, “and rather out of the common way. Do you fancy her, then?”

William looked at his friend. “Don’t be absurd. That would be pure folly!”

Kepley merely smiled.
“You are a very strange creature by way of a friend!—always wanting me to play and sing before anybody and everybody! If my vanity had taken a musical turn, you would have been invaluable; but as it is, I would really rather not sit down before those who must be in the habit of hearing the very best performers." On Miss Lucas's persevering, however, she added, "Very well, if it must be so, it must." And gravely glancing at Mr. Darcy, "There is a fine old saying, which everybody here is of course familiar with: 'Keep your breath to cool your porridge'; and I shall keep mine to swell my song.”

Excerpt from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
“Marianne's performance was highly applauded. Sir John was loud in his admiration at the end of every song, and as loud in his conversation with the others while every song lasted. Lady Middleton frequently called him to order, wondered how any one's attention could be diverted from music for a moment, and asked Marianne to sing a particular song which Marianne had just finished. Colonel Brandon alone, of all the party, heard her without being in raptures. He paid her only the compliment of attention; and she felt a respect for him on the occasion, which the others had reasonably forfeited by their shameless want of taste.”

Excerpt from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
“No, no; you were better employed. You need not tell me that you had a pleasant evening. I see it in your eye. I perfectly see how the hours passed: that you had always something agreeable to listen to. In the intervals of the concert it was conversation."

Anne half smiled and said, "Do you see that in my eye?"

"Yes, I do. Your countenance perfectly informs me that you were in company last night with the person whom you think the most agreeable in the world, the person who interests you at this present time more than all the rest of the world put together.”

Excerpt from Persuasion by Jane Austen

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