Jane Orcutt: All the Tea in China

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Jane Orcutt All the Tea in China
  • Название:
    All the Tea in China
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  • Жанр:
    Триллер / на английском языке
  • Язык:
    Английский
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    4 / 5
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All the Tea in China: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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The good young Englishwoman knows that her destiny depends upon a good marriage match. But Isabella Goodrich is not your typical good young Englishwoman. After an encounter with those less fortunate than she, witty and fun-loving Isabella makes a shocking decision. Against everyone's advice and wishes, she is going to become a missionary in the Far East. Fighting against cultural expectations, common sense, and a mentor who is not as he seems, Isabella leaves her predictable Oxford life behind and sets sail to a new world fraught with danger. Can she trust the mysterious missionary Phineas Snowe? Or will her adventure end before it even begins? This first novel in the Rollicking Regency series will delight readers who like high adventure, twisting plots, and a fun bit of romance.

Jane Orcutt: другие книги автора


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“… scandalous education…”

“… uncle even permits her to use a sword!”

Of course I knew their talk to be directed at me, but one gaze in return, and they smiled charmingly at me as though I were a child or a pet dog begging for treats.

Dinnertime arrived at last, and I consoled myself with the thought that surely Mr. Mysterious had managed to sneak into the party without my notice. At last I would see him, for he could not possibly bypass the meal.

“Isabella, you simply must sit next to me,” Catherine said, drawing me to her side at the lengthy table loaded with platters of food. “I have the most delightful person selected for your dinner companion.” She leaned toward me confidentially. “The man of whom I spoke, Izzy.”

“Really?” I tried to hide my excitement, craning my neck to watch the others as they sat at prearranged places. Deep in conversation with Mrs. Marston (but hopefully not about her verrucas), Uncle Toby took a seat directly across from me.

“Here he is,” Catherine said, holding out her hands past me. “How good of you to grace our humble table with your presence, Mr. Snowe.”

My heart sank nearly to my knees as I watched Phineas Snowe take her hands. “The pleasure is all mine, Mrs. Ransom.”

Catherine brayed with laughter, then placed her hands on my shoulders. “I have taken the liberty of seating you next to-”

“Isabella Goodrich, was it not?” His eyes seemed to twinkle maliciously behind those horrid spectacles.

“You two are well suited as dinner companions,” Catherine said, her face a warm mask of smiles.

“But he is not, that is…” I searched the doorway, hoping desperately to see my dashing, ideal gentleman at last. “We met earlier,” I finished lamely.

“I am delighted,” Catherine said. “For I can imagine no two people more predisposed to like-minded conversation. After all, Isabella, you have always been the intelligent one among our little crowd.” She took the arm of her doting husband, David, who seated her with great solicitation. “Isn’t that right, my love? You always said that Isabella Goodrich was quite the bluestocking.”

David glanced at me for a moment, then away, his cheeks flushing.

My mind was all sixes and sevens as Phineas politely held out my chair. He was the man Catherine had in mind for me all along? As I settled into my seat, I glanced around the table and saw that save for Uncle Toby, Phineas, and myself, everyone was paired off like animals preparing for Noah’s ark.

Suddenly it seemed that every set of female eyes was trained on Phineas Snowe and me. Their gazes were quick but not enough so for me to miss their shift to Catherine. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that she smiled triumphantly, and when the other women turned to their husbands or betrotheds, I knew that somehow they, too, had been a part of my public humiliation. For as surely as I knew my name, they were setting me in my place.

This was what Uncle Toby had tried to relay in the carriage but had not the spirit to make plain. Or perhaps I simply had not the ears to hear. But the truth was that I was past hope of finding a husband. My place in life had suddenly been reduced to gossiping with the matrons and entertaining this foreign man, a social stray.

In society’s eyes, I was officially on the shelf. The battle was over.

Or was it?

Through the years, I had learned that one of the greatest mistakes in fencing occurs when one does not allow proper distance between himself and an opponent. You simply cannot be hit if you maintain a more than adequate separation. Maestro Antonio had repeatedly emphasized that I should always set the distance between myself and him as one small step beyond where I believed the tip of my weapon could strike him. Time and again, his advice had proved advantageous, and I trained to perfect my lunge across the gap.

Catherine Ransom had failed to leave herself just such adequate space to avoid my riposte to her parry. I would let her think that she had done me a favor by pairing me with Phineas Snowe, though the thought turned my stomach. She and every woman in the room would see that Isabella Goodrich was not done for, that they need not consign me to spinsterhood just yet. Though he had been rude beyond measure, Snowe was only a man, after all. I abhorred flirting, but that did not mean I was ignorant to its methods and results.

I turned my most beguiling smile to my dinner companion, taking care to lower my eyes a trifle and peer through the fringe of my hair. “You have already spoken to Uncle Toby, but I should love to hear about your travels if you do not mind the repetition. I am certain that you can moderate your speech so that even I can understand.”

Snowe glanced at my uncle, who was still in conversation with Mrs. Marston, then presented me with a thin, oily smile. “I would not mind at all, Miss Goodrich.”

2

Ever the romantic, Flora once said that every young woman should have at least one secret vice. I would hate to disappoint with something so seemingly useless, but mine was fencing. Uncle Toby had taken me, as a child, to view a student fencing exhibition, and I was enthralled by the flash of blade against blade. I insisted upon being shown the basics, and Uncle laughingly obliged what he thought mere whimsy by hiring a fencing master. We worked first on footwork, then added wooden swords. Both the master and Uncle assumed I would weary of the endeavor, but they indulged my increasing interest as the years went by. Eventually I graduated to real swords and a more skilled fencing master, for time sown in persistence reaped undeniable skill.

I thrilled to the sport for its cat-and-mouse qualities, each thrust and parry designed to work an opponent to my will. When I fenced, I felt as though I were a human chess piece, as well as the player, calculating and executing moves in sequences designed to ensure victory. Had I been born male, I have no doubt I would have been drawn to the military or, more imaginatively, to life as a benevolent highwayman, like Robin Hood. I understood implicitly that fencing should only be employed with the purest of motives, though I, like many other fencers, romantically desired to execute a botte secrète-a perfect thrust that would ensure victory.

To guard my reputation, my practice remained secret for many years. The rattling tongues at the Ransoms’ party only reinforced society’s opinion: young women simply did not fence. How long my rule breaking had been common knowledge, I could not say. But I would not let a few clucking guineas stop me from my favorite pastime. I met my instructor in his salle d’armes the very next day.

Signor Antonio and I sparred diligently, as was our custom. Our fleurets met, parted, and met again, our blades clanging with metal against metal. However, I could scarce keep my concentration as I daydreamed about the Ransoms’ party of the previous night. Flora’s superb work on the new dress still enthralled me, as did the memory of the slippers. They had been works of not only beauty but comfort too. After dinner, we had adjourned to the ballroom, where a four-piece orchestra played for the remainder of the evening.

“Ah! You are slowing. Too much dancing last night, eh?” Signor Antonio beamed. I could see sweat forming behind his mask as we broke. “If you must participate in useless exercise, you must know your limits. Reserve your strength for fencing.”

I nodded as we continued. If only Signor Antonio knew that I had not set even one of my beautifully slippered feet to dance. Phineas Snowe had kept me cornered all night with his fustian chatter, waving off all who approached. Not that any man would willingly dance with me!

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