Today, I’m featuring Becky Lower – an award winning and Amazon Best Selling author. She’s also one of the authors in the Time after Time historical romance bundle from Crimson Romance.
The Reluctant Debutante
by Becky Lower
In 1855 New York, Ginger Fitzpatrick has absolutely no interest in taking part in the newest rage in America – the Cotillion Ball. Instead, Ginger would rather be rallying for women’s rights – at least until she meets her brother’s best friend from St. Louis, a dark mysterious man named Joseph Lafontaine, who ignites her passion and makes her question if love and marriage is such a ridiculous notion after all.
What she and the rest of New York’s high society don’t realize is that Joseph is half Ojibwa Indian, and therefore, totally unsuitable for marriage to a fine, cultured young lady.
In this Edith Wharton meets Julia Quinn tale, a young woman rebels against high society and opts for a life in which she creates her own set of rules.
Ginger Fitzpatrick was in a pickle, that much was certain.
Her mother took her by surprise at breakfast by announcing to the family that Ginger
would participate in the Cotillion ball two months hence. While her younger sisters squealed in excitement, Ginger couldn‘t find her voice to object to her mother‘s idea. She knew she must, considering that her father was known to grant every wish his wife had, but Ginger could only stare in confusion. And that wasn‘t the worst of it.
―George,‖ her mother stated calmly to her father, ―you must relieve Ginger of her duties at the bank so I have time to teach her the rules of etiquette she‘ll need for a full season of events. Dear Lord, I have only a couple months to cram in everything.‖
Astonished and stunned, Ginger turned to her father, hanging onto a thread of hope that her valued involvement at the bank would save her.
―Let me think about the best way to handle the shift in responsibility, darling. I‘ll make sure Ginger is free by the end of the week.‖ He glanced at Ginger‘s stupefied expression and reached across the table for her hand. ―Perhaps we could also offer a reward of some kind. Possibly a trip to St. Louis if she gets through the season without incident?‖
He had actually smiled over the breakfast table at her. As if the allure of a trip would make everything all right.
Now, Ginger strode down the hallway of the bank to talk to her father before he could continue the discussion with her mother. She had always been able to convince him of anything, if she wanted it strongly enough. After all, he allowed her to work alongside him at the bank, which went against all the rules of society and a woman‘s place in it. She stopped briefly at the window overlooking the street, watching the snow falling outside. It clung to the red bricks of the ornate bank building, and she longed to be as capricious as one of the snowflakes. Instead she had to present a strong argument to make her father see the folly in her mother‘s latest idea.
She stopped in front of his office door and smoothed her long gray skirt. Brushing her hand over her quivering stomach, she knocked.
Ginger was certain she could right this ship and make her father see things her way. At his gruff reply to enter, she inhaled deeply. She was going to have to tread softly to get out of this predicament.
―Papa, may I further discuss Mother‘s idea with you?‖
―Yes, of course, my dear. But you know by now that once your mother makes up her mind, it‘s best to go along with it.‖
Ginger glanced at him as her voice quavered. ―But, Papa … ‖
Her father merely raised a perfectly arched eyebrow.
Hmmm, the trembling voice trick usually worked. She‘d have to try a different tactic.
Tears, maybe? She hated resorting to something as totally feminine as sobbing.
She cleared her throat and started again. ―You are aware, are you not, of my worth
here at the bank?‖
With a sigh her father laid down his fountain pen and began to reposition his sleeves, which had been rolled up to avoid staining them with ink. ―Your mother‘s decision for you to participate in the Cotillion has nothing to do with your abilities at the bank. I‘m well aware of your contributions. Now, do you want to talk about what‘s really at issue here?‖
Ginger attempted to regain her calm and to remember the precise arguments she‘d planned to present. ―You obviously believe dangling a trip to St. Louis before me will be enough to get me through the Cotillion ball and the season Mother wants for me. And I agree with part of your logic. I should go to St. Louis, but without any strings attached. Basil has written to me, Papa, and told me about the West. Men there are more open- minded and not so stringent about what a woman can and cannot do.‖
She began to pace around the office as she warmed to her subject. ―Basil might be able to charm little old ladies into depositing their life savings into our bank, but I can make their money work for the good of the bank and for them at the same time.‖ She turned to face her father. ―Please, Papa, I am begging you to let me go now before the season begins. I must get away from stuffy old New York City. Our clients in St. Louis need me now, not in the fall.‖
―I agree it would be a good move for you, my child, even though I have full confidence in your brother‘s ability to run the St. Louis branch. Your mother is the one who needs convincing. And you know what she considers important.‖
―The Cotillion,‖ Ginger whispered her reply, as tears began to well up in her eyes, unbidden. She knew she was losing this argument. Nonetheless, she persevered. ―Who thought up this wretched ball idea anyway? I will feel like a piece of horseflesh at the Cotillion, being paraded about like a fine filly and up for grabs to the highest bidder.‖ She stamped her foot in frustration.
Ginger watched her father‘s jaw flex. He was not an imposing man, but he had a will of iron. He needed a strong constitution to have successfully raised nine children and to have provided a privileged life for all of them. So, when she saw the movement of his jaw, she knew what it meant. Things were not going to go her way.
George Fitzpatrick stood and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. ―I know you despise the idea, but you are not the only one concerned here. You have your sisters to consider. You know how high society works in New York, especially when the Astors and Schemerhorns are involved. If a precedent is not set this year for our family, your sisters will bear the brunt of it.‖
―But, Papa … ‖
He raised a hand to silence her. ―They will not be invited to any future balls and will miss their opportunities to be presented to society, all because of your selfish acts. I doubt you want to carry that mantle on your shoulders for the rest of your days, do you?‖ He smiled to soften his words.
―Papa, you can‘t be serious! My actions really won‘t have any impact on my sisters, will they?‖
He nodded in affirmation, and his eyes flashed at her. ―Should you choose not to participate, or to make life difficult for your mother, there will be no trip to St. Louis for you, now or in the future. You‘ll stay at our home here in New York with only your sisters for company, who will be forever known as the ̳Spinster Fitzpatricks.‘ Won‘t you have a lovely existence to look forward to?‖
She dropped her head and softly asked, ―So exactly what do I have to do?‖
George raised both hands in front of him, ticking off each item on his fingers. ―You will do whatever your mother wants. Obviously, there will be fittings for new clothes between now and the ball in April, so you will be relieved of your duties here at the bank as of Friday. You will also limit the amount of time you spend with that rabble-rouser, Amelia Bloomer. Your mother will spend the next two months giving you the etiquette lessons you‘ve been avoiding for years, in preparation for the high social season of balls, parties, plays, and operas. You will participate in each and every event and will present yourself with dignity in accordance with our family‘s position in society. You will appear to have a good time, even if it means you will be putting on an act every night. All this will be over and done with by August, and if you have done everything to your mother‘s satisfaction, I will allow you to go to St. Louis. But only if you still want to.‖
―Of course I‘ll still want to.‖
Ginger gulped as a tear slid down her cheek. She turned her face away, hoping her father wouldn‘t notice her moist eyes. He had never been this unreasonable before. For one of only a few times in her life, she could not cajole him into doing her bidding. She brushed the tear away, smoothed her skirt, and then turned back to him, meeting his tough yet tender gaze.
―All right then. I will do what you ask, Papa, to appease Mother and for the sake of my sisters. But I want you to know I will hate every moment of it. I will be marking off the days between now and the end of August when I can escape the bonds of conventionalsociety and move to the frontier. I will never become any man‘s chattel.‖
Her father smiled. ―That‘s all I ask for, Ginger. Peace and harmony on the home front. Thank you for being so agreeable.‖ His voice held more than a touch of irony.
She closed her father‘s door and walked slowly back to her office. Ginger stood in the middle of the small room and placed her hands on her hips. Under her breath she muttered, ―Bless my bloomers, I‘ve been outfoxed.
“This series is a breath of fresh air for a historical romance lover! I loved that the [mid-1800s America] setting for each books takes place in a different city and you can see how the approaching [Civil] war is causing havoc in so many ways. Ginger is very likable, and is a strong woman who knows what she wants.” –Rachel, The Reading Cafe