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The Reluctant Viscount


Lawrence did not know what it was about Miss Deneham that always seemed to tie his stomach up in knots. He first met the young lady two years ago when the Marquis of Beaumont, Lord Felton's great-uncle, hosted a ball to honor Felton's betrothal to Lady Anne. Lawrence, newly titled, had been overwhelmed by the effervescent marriage mart mamas tickled pink to introduce their single daughters to him. They saw the unpolished young man as an easy prize to win and pushed their daughters to secure him. Lawrence was ill-prepared to manage the flaunting and obsequious debutantes accosting him with frivolous discourse and silk fans. He felt like a cornered animal and soon wearied of being attacked. He began to take refuge in the ballroom shadows, preferring to observe society from the corners of the room rather than being its focal point. He was discreetly watching the couples take their positions on the dance floor, when Miss Deneham caught his eye. She was remarkably pretty wearing a white lace skirt over a white satin slip, trimmed with Belgian lace and sea green ribbon. The high-waist gown with short puffy sleeves displayed her trim and shapely figure, plus the green trim complimented her chocolate-brown hair, luminous amber eyes, and fair skin. Lawrence was fascinated with her assured demeanor, sparkling eyes, and laughter. She seemed real compared to the other debutantes who acted as though they had never received a gentleman's attention before. He thought Miss Deneham revealed her true self and was a person of good humor, not someone performing to allure attention. It was her joie de vivre and beauty that beckoned admirers much like a mythical Siren lured sailors. He doubted she was dangerous, at least until he saw her hands lash out in enthusiasm while she chatted. He had to hold back a chuckle when her conversation peaked in excitement and she almost swatted a neighbor with the back of her hand. He could not take his eyes off her and his curiosity got the better of him. Without thought, he walked across the dance floor and found himself near enough to draw her attention. He was mortified when he realized he looked like he was attempting to introduce himself. He knew a respectable gentleman would look for a mutual acquaintance to make his introduction, anything less would be considered gauche by Society's rules. His embarrassment grew when she turned her attention from her friend and asked him, “I beg your pardon, but I do not believe we have been introduced.”


The Reluctant Viscount Discussion Questions

1. Lawrence was whisked away on a Grand Tour, a young man's rite of passage into adulthood. The experience gained him some life experience and helped to put him on common ground with his peers. In the story, where does Lawrence draw on his traveling experiences to help him navigate socially. Do you think traveling abroad matures a young person more quickly than if they stayed at home and if so, how? 

2. Of the advice given to Lawrence by his friends and mentors, which ones resonate with you? For example, on page 60 Lawrence recalls the Marquis of Beaumont instruction "to never let anyone know when he was upset.  Indifference, [the Marquis said] was the greatest weapon against those who wished to best him with words." Do you agree or disagree and why?

3. On page 116, Lord Felton counsels Lawrence that being called a coward is a challenge that cannot go unanswered. Do you agree or disagree with his advice in the context of the story and why? Would your opinion be the same for a man challenged today? if not, why? What has or hasn't changed?

4. Lord Felton tells Lawrence on page 303 that a secret garden will serve him well in offering him and his wife peace and solitude.  Gardens are known to be tranquil places for repose, why? What other places, aside from the Secret Garden, offered our characters a similar respite?  Today, with homes being built on smaller lots, some without yards, where do people go to find sanctuary if they can't find it at home?

5. On page 290, Lawrence admits he is prideful. Is that a good or bad thing and why? Are there other example of pride in the story?

6. Everyone refers to Simon as Meg's ardent suitor. Do you think he was and if not, why?