This was originally posted on the Dorchester website during my blog tour for In for a Penny. Obviously, the Dorchester website no longer exists. So:
Penelope, the heroine of In for a Penny, likes to make lists. Here’s an excerpt from an early scene:
“I really will try to make you happy,” he said, not knowing what else he could offer her.
To his surprise, she flushed. “Actually, I–I made a list. Of–of terms. I thought some things were best agreed on right away, while you can still change your mind.”
Fat chance of me changing my mind, he thought with a flash of resentment. He needed that money. But–“you made a list?”
She flushed harder. “It is a habit of mine. So that I am sure not to forget things.”
“All right,” he said, blankly.
She pulled a sheet of paper out of a desk drawer, with a column of neat writing down the side. She looked down at it and frowned. Her blush was beginning to work its way under the neckline of her gown. Nev wondered how far it extended. He pictured it sweeping over the curve of her breasts and darkening her nipples…
He struggled to focus on her voice.
So I made up some lists that Penelope’s written at different points in her life.
The first one is from when she was eleven or twelve. Her parents had sent her to a boarding school for young ladies, and she wasn’t very happy there.
Reasons Lucy Hopper is the worst girl in the world
- Her hair doesn’t curl naturally though she pretends it does.
- She has not the least understanding of geography.
- It was not at all fair of her to say I dropped my H today, as we were studying French. All the Hs are dropped in French and I simply got confused.
- She has a very garish taste in buttons.
- She cracks her knuckles, which is repulsive.
- Her voice might be passable if she did not insist on singing in a high soprano which I do not believe is her natural range.
- I saw her stealing Mary P.’s potatoes yesterday at dinner (to be fair portions were very small).
- She talks of nothing but boys, which is very dull as there are no boys here to talk about.
- It was her turn to break the ice in the water pitcher this morning and she did not do it but stayed abed until I had.
This one is from their first Christmas as a married couple (about six months after the book ends).
Notes: (1) You can probably guess this from the list, but they both love music and Nev reads Gothic novels. (2) Josie Cusher is the child of a laborer on the estate. (3) Coke was the foremost agricultural innovator in Norfolk, where Nev’s estate is, and his Clippings (a sort of party/educational event held every year when his sheep were sheared) were the forerunner to the modern agricultural fair.
Possible Christmas gifts for Nev
- Having the pianoforte cleaned and voiced.
- a red dress (for me, of course)
- a box at the Opera (expensive, and we are not in town much, but I know he would love it.)
- refurbishing the Orangery (not entirely a waste–I have been having oranges sent from London, he adores them so.)
- some new sheet music (only I should have to write for it instead of choosing it myself.)
- a subscription to the Minerva Press.
- I have been teaching Josie Cusher to play the guitar. If she is ready to play “The Ballad of Captain Kidd” by Christmas, I think it would make him very happy.
- I wrote Mr. Coke about attending his next Clippings in the Spring, and he has invited us to stay at Holkham Hall!
- hire Mrs. Bailey to quilt him a new warm waistcoat, as we are trying to save on fuel and it has been rather cold, and he cannot simply put on an extra flannel petticoat as I do.
I’m noticing a pattern here! It was a fluke because of the size of my background graphic, but I’m starting to think Penelope likes her lists to be nine items long.
The third list is the two of them brainstorming baby names. The messier handwriting is of course Nev’s.
[Nev’s name is Nathaniel Ambrey (“Nev” is a nickname based on his courtesy title). His sister wants them to name a daughter Mary because she loves the warrior maiden balled “Mary Ambree.” The two of them both like Arthurian legend, in particular Malory’s Morte d’Arthur. Embarrassing fact: I discovered while writing these lists that Le Morte d’Arthur was reprinted in 1816, for the first time since 1634. I am extremely lucky in that I think this doesn’t actually contradict anything in my book, but I really, really hope I didn’t somewhere indicate that they’d read it as kids. Oops!]
- Arthur (only everyone will think it’s for Wellington)
- Nathaniel [NEV: no!]
- Francis [NEV: I like Frank]
- Tristram [NEV: bad luck! PENELOPE: I don’t believe in luck, and it’s a pretty name.]
- Mary [NEV: dull! PENELOPE: I did promise Louisa I’d consider it. NEV: And now you have!]
- Elinor or Lenore (Lianor is a silly spelling, Nev, you know it is.) [NEV: Is not!]
- Gwen [NEV: also bad luck!]
- Margaret [NEV: We’ll call her Daisy! He’s teasing because Penelope has mixed feelings about her rather middle-class nickname Penny.]
- [NEV: Penelope]