When I began writing (now I have mentioned this before but bear with me), I have to be honest, my hero and heroine were the characters I concerned myself most with and to be honest, the ones I liked the most. As I’ve continued to write however, I have found my peripheral characters become far from boring. No longer the inanimate objects used to move the plot along, but rather characters in their own right, they really are rather interesting.
You may recall a mention of Courtenay? Well, let me introduce you to him. A large peacock of a man, his waistcoat buttons constantly under pressure, his delight in beautiful women and Society remain unquenched despite more than several Seasons under his belt and his estate horribly insufficient for supporting his taste for lavish living.
Despite their very disparate characters, soon after meeting at University, Courtenay and Wolversley became fast friends. Courtenay is probably only one of a handful of people Wolversley would claim as friend, the peacock being the chief among them. This loyalty seems at odds with Courtenay’s perception of Wolverlsey as being unnaturally interested in his country estate rather than the beauties in Town.
But perhaps it is this attraction of opposites that holds the friendship together through the unfavourable weathers of youth and the complexities of adulthood. Whatever it is, Courtenay and Wolversley’s friendship threads throughout The Unexpected Earl.
For a taste of just how humorous and saucy Courtenay can be, read this excerpt:
“Ah, I do apologize, my poor Miss Rotherham. Lord Courtenay, may I present Miss Rotherham, eldest daughter of our hosts this evening.” He backed away slightly to allow the two to see each other properly.
“Indeed? I know your father. It was he who invited me this evening.” With a flourish of his rings, Courtenay grasped her hand and laid a rather ravenous kiss upon it. “And may I say, you are a beauty just like your sister.” His plump lips curved into a satisfied smile.
“Oh, I would not say that to her, if I were you.” A third man’s voice broke in on the conversation.
After six years, Julia could still recognize Wolversley’s smooth voice the moment he spoke. The Earl came up behind Courtenay and took his own place in the gathering.
“Speak of the devil and he will appear.” Courtenay’s smile changed to a grin and he nodded his head towards the newcomer. He moved back a little to allow Wolversley access to the inner circle, and the dark-haired Earl came to stand beside the fair-haired Highsmith. “But Wolversley, why do you warn me not to say to Miss Rotherham what is only the truth?”
Courtenay’s syrupy words were well practiced but Julia, as Highsmith had said earlier, was a seasoned seasoner. She would have written off Courtenay’s flattery entirely, but the appearance of the loathsome Earl put an idea into her head.
“No. Trust me, old friend,” said Wolversley with a gleam in his eyes, “she would rather hear lies.”
Julia fumed inwardly at the Earl’s audacity, at his presumption of knowing what she would and would not like to hear from other gentlemen. Worse than that, she could see that look in his eyes and she remembered exactly what it meant—he was having amusement at her expense. Well, that simply was not allowed! “Oh! Lord Courtenay, I beg you, pay no attention to the Earl. We knew each other as children, and I am afraid he still thinks me an angel of eight and quite as stupid! But really,”—she arched an eyebrow at Wolversley—“are you not the fool, my lord, to assume a lady does not find pleasure in compliments?”
“Yes, man, that is a trifle dim!” Courtenay exclaimed.
“Exactly my feelings,” Julia corroborated. “He even thinks I cannot dance like a lady!” She attempted a giggle, though it was more like hissing from behind her open fan, and cast a flirtatious glance at Courtenay. Both Highsmith and Wolversley could see their portly friend lapping up the attention like a basset hound.
“I am shocked—shocked I tell you, Miss Rotherham! My only suggestion is that we prove him wrong. Let us dance and show him.” There was that ring-clad hand again and—much to the other gentlemen’s surprise and aggravation—Julia took it with enthusiasm. Courtenay and Julia left the supper room side by side, gliding off in search of the ballroom and an exuberant dance.
I am sure Courtenay would be happy to continue flirting with Miss Rotherham, especially as she has such a handsome dowry that would pull his estate out of dun territory, but we shall see…
Next week, I’ll be introducing you to Julia’s confident and friend, in truth, a most unlikely ally.