Part Sixteen of Eighteen – Lady Julia Tate from The Ultimate Escape, by Susana Ellis

Belles Ladies

Julia chimed in her congratulations with all the rest. Personally, she thought Miss Penrose seemed very reluctant for a young lady soon to be wed. But then, she was barely acquainted with her husband-to-be, so a bit of hesitation was only natural, she supposed. Ellis-The Ultimate Escape-Lady Julia TateNow in her case, she knew just about everything to know about her own betrothed, having grown up with him. On the other hand, the grown Oliver was much more difficult to fathom than the open, honest boy she had known. When they’d met years ago at the Hortons’ ball, their first meeting as adults, she’d been certain their connection was still there. The warmth of his brown eyes, in fact, seemed to indicate a more grown-up interest in her. But he’d never done anything to confirm that belief, and after years of waiting—during which time he’d married her best friend—she’d given up believing that he ever would.

Until he’d come to her as a widower and abruptly made her an offer of marriage. Which she’d eagerly accepted and then begun to wonder about his motives.

“Lady Julia,” began Miss Amberly with her customary frankness, “I hear you are soon to be wed to Mr. Oliver Stanton, of Stanton’s Bank. Is it a love match, then? I understand you turned down several excellent matches in the past.”

Julia’s eyes narrowed. She was sick to death of the veiled remarks about Oliver’s social status. If only that were the problem! She knew how to deal with the high-and-mighty set. The Pendletons, though titled, valued strength of character above birth and connections.

“Well,” she snapped, “if it’s any of your business, Oliver and I grew up together in East Sussex, and yes, I believe we shall rub along quite well together.”

Miss Amberly’s cheeks reddened, and Miss Pritchard took the plate of scones and offered them to Julia. “The scones are delicious, Lady Julia. Take two if you wish.”

Julia winced. Her temper had got the better of her again. “Forgive me,” she said, with a look of contrition at Miss Amberly first, and then the other ladies. “I shouldn’t have spoken so. I was raised better than that. Yes, it is true that I love Oliver Stanton and have always done so. I just wish,” she said, swallowing hard, “that I knew he felt the same.”

She accepted a scone and quickly bit into it.

“No need to apologize,” replied Miss Amberly with a shrug. “I’m far too outspoken. And probably shallow and superficial too. But that’s just the way I am.”

Miss Templeton sighed deeply. “Your family is much more open-minded that most. The Beachams would undoubtedly make Frederick’s life miserable if he were to wed one such as I. It was for his own well-being that I turned him down.”

“Nonsense!” Julia said, wiping away the crumbs from her mouth with a napkin. “How could wedding someone he doesn’t love make him happy? Surely he can manage his own family, can he not?”

Miss Templeton flinched. “But-But… society would look down on him for marrying beneath him. And I couldn’t bear it if he grew to think of me as a burden… a mistake.”

“I never heard such rubbish before in my life,” burst out Miss Amberly, with a pained expression. “Happiness doesn’t just happen. You make it for yourself. Personally, I think you’d be a great deal more happy with your viscount than I would ever be with that evil, old marquess my parents have planned for me.”

Miss Templeton opened her mouth, but nothing came out.

Julia kept quiet for once. How could any intelligent woman refuse a proposal of marriage from a man she loved because her social status was inferior to his? She just couldn’t fathom it. But then, in her own case, she was the one with the higher status. She’d always disdained its importance, but then, she’d always had it. What if she had been born a banker’s daughter and fallen in love with an earl’s heir? Would it have made a difference?

Her skin tingled. It might have, had her swain’s parents been high-in-the-instep as Miss Templeton’s viscount’s were.

Then she let out a breath. Nonsense. That couldn’t be the reason Oliver had declined to court her all those years ago. He’d surely known her parents weren’t like that. Hadn’t he?



Meet Lady Julia Tate in The Ultimate Escape:

On the eve of her wedding, Julia realizes she cannot marry her fiancé after all, no matter that it’s been her dream for eight long years. Too distraught to face him, she follows in her mother’s footsteps and flees to the future for a brief reprieve.

Oliver knows he has bungled things badly, but he is determined to win the woman he loves, even if he must travel through time to do it.

Available only in the Bluestocking Belles’ holiday box set—
Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem

Box Set 3D SquareIn this collection of novellas, the Bluestocking Belles bring you seven runaway Regency brides resisting and romancing their holiday heroes under the mistletoe. Whether scampering away or dashing toward their destinies, avoiding a rogue or chasing after a scoundrel, these ladies and their gentlemen leave miles of mayhem behind them on the slippery road to a happy-ever-after.

***All proceeds benefit the Malala Fund.***

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