Thanks so much for all your lovely comments over the past few days. Due to a weird technical glitch, I’ve been having trouble getting in to comment back, so I just want to say a big, universal THANK YOU (and here’s hoping the server has now decided to behave itself and won’t try to lock me out again).
In the meantime, in honor of Night Jasmine’s official birthday, I’m posting one of my favorite outtakes from the book. I have a pile of lovely bookplates to give away (thanks for the suggestion, Georgia!), so the first five posters will receive signed bookplates as a Night Jasmine birthday present.
This outtake was originally the second half of a scene between Henrietta and Charlotte in a little alcove on Epiphany Eve. It was beginning to drag a bit (I had to nip back to Robert and the reprobates outside), so I snipped off this end piece, but I did rather regret having to do away with Charlotte’s musings on True Love– and Henrietta’s very characteristic reaction to them.
“You mean kiss him myself?” demanded Charlotte, laughing at the sheer absurdity of the notion.
Henrietta wasn’t laughing. “That is one idea.”
“You sound like Pen!”
“Not all of Pen’s ideas are bad.”
“No,” protested Charlotte, before Henrietta could come up with any other absurd ideas. “I wouldn’t want a stolen kiss in a corridor—especially not if I were the one stealing it. I want….”
And there she faltered. She knew precisely what she wanted, but it was almost impossible to reduce it to words. She wanted him to steal the kiss, but it was more than that. She wanted the sort of single-minded devotion of Tristan for Isolde or Leander for Hero, the sort of devotion that overleaped oceans and toppled empires. Admittedly, there wasn’t much in the way of ocean or empire available at Girdings, but it wasn’t the specifics that mattered. Her parents proved that. They had conducted their grand love affair against the domestic backdrop of an ivy hung brick house outside a small market town, expressing their devotion in smiles passed across the breakfast table along with the sugar bowl and the Morning Post. There hadn’t been any ships launched or any cities gone up in flame, but it was quite recognizably the same emotion. That was what Charlotte wanted. She wanted Robert to look at her as if she were the only thing that mattered in the whole wide world.
As always, Henrietta already knew exactly what she meant.
“True love,” Henrietta finished for her.
Charlotte looked down at her gloved hands. “Well… yes.”
It sounded rather silly dragged out into simple prose. Charlotte hunched her shoulders, which suddenly felt much barer than they had before.
“True love takes different forms,” said Henrietta gently.
Shaking her hair back out of her face, Charlotte looked earnestly across at her. “In some ways, yes,’ she agreed, thinking of her parents, of Beatrice and Benedick, of Guinivere and Lancelot, of all the loves, loves triumphant, loves doomed, loves trumpeted across the ages, loves unsung. But all had one thing in common. “To be true, it has to be reciprocal. A one-way love doesn’t count. That’s just infatuation.”
Henrietta squeezed her in a quick hug. “I love you, but sometimes you think too much.”