Her passion for all things Jane Austen was inspired by her mother and grandmother. She now writes her own English historical romances, and is the author of Rhianna and Audra. When Amanda is not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Matthew, her Shih Tzu dogs, Bella and Huntley, and her Persian cat, Sebastian.
Rhianna by Amanda L.V. Shalaby
|A fire blazed in the hearth that evening, its flickering light enveloping Rhianna in a blanket of warmth as she stood before it. The rose room was cozy and brightly lit, assisted by a handful of candles whose glow in the mirror on the opposite wall was reflected to the far corners of the apartment. Arrayed in her white gown and satin slippers, the twenty-year-old Rhianna lingered momentarily before proceeding upstairs to the ballroom.
It was expected to be an exceedingly good ball. Not a single invitation had been declined, and more than thirty couples from the most respected families would be in attendance. Twenty-five dances would play in the Kingsley ballroom, entertaining some of the most desirable young men and women in England. With difficulty Rhianna mustered her courage to face such society, and she was torn between feelings of fear and absolute, perfect happiness.
Eight o’clock was the set hour. Some concern was made over the condition of the weather, for an early snow had begun to christen the roadways. Fortunately, it was thinly spread and would not prevent the greatly anticipated occasion from proceeding.
In hopes of getting a view of the approaching coaches, Rhianna decided to leave her chamber in favor of the window at the first floor balcony. On her way out, she stopped briefly to take a final glance at her curls to ensure they were properly in place. She stood in wonder at the bandeaus of pearls carefully woven through her red ringlets and the matching choker necklace with its pear-shaped rhinestone drop that complimented the low neckline of her white, silky gown. She smoothed the skirt of her floor-length dress and marveled at her gloved hands. Hallie’s brooch provided the finishing touch. Smiling to herself, Rhianna knew the girl who left the rose room that night would not be the same girl who returned.
Through the tall, frost-clouded Venetian window that overlooked Kingsley Manor’s front entrance, she could observe in the moonlight the white-sprinkled trees that guarded the glistening, snow-dusted ground. In the north winds, snowflakes danced through the air blissfully, as if having their own celebration outside. Rhianna stood and watched, a grandfather clock chiming behind her eight times, as a carriage pulled up to the house. Soon after, several more carriages followed, the tread marks left by their wheels quickly hidden in a blanket of yet more snow. The guests were arriving.
She turned with a start to the servant that stood behind her. “Oh! Katie, I didn’t hear you coming.”
“Forgive me, I didn’t mean to frighten. Lord Kingsley’s good friend, Mr. Weathersby, has arrived from London and he wishes to introduce you.”
Rhianna drew a deep breath. The time had come.
“Thank you. I’ll be there directly,” she said. “Will you be spending time with George tonight?”
Katie blushed. “The servants are having their own ball, of sorts. From the attic rooms, you can hear the music clearly. If you sneak away at all, come find us.”
“I shall,” Rhianna smiled.
With that, Katie disappeared as silently as she had come. Not wishing to keep Lord Kingsley waiting, Rhianna allowed only a parting glance out the window before leaving hastily for the ballroom.
Audra by Amanda L.V. Shalaby
Moments after her presentation to the Queen at St. James’ Palace, a folded note is mysteriously handed to Audra with her full name scribbled blotchily on the front. In the chaos of the Armory and Tapesry rooms, she stuffs the letter into her glove and forgets all about it, until that evening.
|Audra shut the door to her bedroom with the intention of making her way to the ivory-and-gold secretary to write a letter to Lady Brighton of the day’s events. As she walked and began to remove her gloves, a letter addressed to “Lady Audra Kingsley” fluttered to the oriental rug, stopping her in her tracks. She had forgotten all about its appearance at St. James, and how she had hidden it. She hardly knew why she hid it, except that its mysterious nature seemed to require that she do so.
Audra lifted her skirts to kneel beside it and held it over her lap. She wasted no time in opening it now, and read the following words:
Dear Lady Audra,
It was an unfathomable privilege to rest my eyes upon you when you arrived in St. James Square today. You are a heavenly creature, and you cannot imagine my happiness in discovering you may be at Almack’s, as will I. I look forward to the time when I am blessed with the indulgence of seeing you again. Until then —
I am & co,
Your Secret Admirer