The Perfect Wife
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Ice House Publisher
Date of Publication: 06/18/2015
Number of pages: 130
Cover Artist: Borja Puig
A society full of rules, but when it comes to love, there is no written rule.
Charlotte Wilcox, an unfortunate baronet’s daughter, has been living with her father in a small village since her mother died when she was still a kid. Although she is happy at home and the fact of remaining single at 23 is not a worry for her, her relatives put pressure on her to find a husband who provides for her.
With that purpose, she travels to Bath, where her aunt Margaret is responsible for educating her so that she can get a proper marriage proposal.
Charlotte thinks that the strict norms that govern aristocratic members of society are ridiculous and old-fashioned. Thus, she is afraid that she will never become the perfect wife that her aunt expects and that every gentleman wishes.
At the first ball she goes to, she meets Edward Holne, viscount of Eversley, and all the rules that her aunt had taught her will be useless before the attraction between them.
Bath, Somersetshire, March 1831
“…The perfect wife has always in mind that the husband’s happiness is her greatest concern even if she has to give up to her own happiness. This success is enough to bring her absolute bliss.
She neither asks the husband any explanation about his words or actions nor complains if he arrives home late. She keeps in mind that he is the master of both her and the house.
She always lets her husband speak in the first place and she listens to him carefully since any topic he brings up is more important than the ones she could ever think of. When he lets her talk, she does so in a humble and plain tone without expanding on typical women trivialities that end up boring and exasperating the husband.
She does not overwhelm him with domestic problems or with her interests and hobbies, which are insignificant compared to those of men…”
Charlotte closed the book and let out an inelegant snort out of exasperation. The more she read, the more she thought its content was ridiculous. How was it possible that aunt Margaret stood up for such nonsense?
She had lent her the guide and told her to read it thoroughly absorbing all its instructions dealing with the main rules of behaviour that should govern her future life of married woman. However, she didn’t think she could carry them out; she even doubted that some rules were actually right. Her father had raised her to think and act with complete freedom as long as it didn’t harm her fellows. He had also taught her to make a source of satisfaction out of her knowledge, to be proud of her intelligence and her enthusiasm to learn and reason, and she wasn't ready to sacrifice everything in or- der to find a husband. She preferred being single rather than becoming a brainless puppet in the hands of a man that was going to decide what she had to say or do. This was such a humiliating idea that she was unable to accept it.
She was very fond of her aunt and she appreciated her efforts to marry her to someone, but she agreed that this attitude was neither proper of an impeccable spouse-as she claimed-nor the guarantee of the marriage stability.
Ever since she arrived in Bath two weeks before, her aunt never stopped trying to polish her unruly personality and rustic manners. That was something she was always re- minding her. She also trained her for social practice in or- der to come across successfully during the social season that had just started. Everything was designed to get a proposal, which was the main reason for her being there. Charlotte imagined that her aunt was making much more effort than she originally thought in order to transform her into a fair lady. Even tough, she knew that her pride was preventing her from admitting it and, of course, from giving up.
With a resigned but light-hearted sigh, she closed her eyes and fell into a snooze induced by the calmness the delicious lunch had made her feel. That was another one of the rules she denied to follow: the austerity in the diet as the guide indicated which her aunt resolved to defend so that it forced her to usually sneak in the kitchen and have an extra food supply to help her get by such sort of penance. Margaret insisted that a polished lady had to be very sparing with meals and this fact tormented her. Yes, greediness was a sin, but even having a bite to eat was too much, so she had decided, together with the cook’s complicity, to provide herself with all she needed in order not to starve to death while she was at that house.
She also disagreed with waking up at dawn to ride a horse around the park. According to her aunt, it was an elegant and useful habit considering that at that time many single gentlemen devoted their time to such a healthy hobby. And, even if no one had ever talked to her, maybe due to the fact of passing her very quickly, Margaret didn’t lose heart and insisted on it every day. Anyway, one nonsense after another she wasn’t easily bearing.
“Have you gone completely mad, child?”
This yell behind her back surprised Charlotte, who hastily stood up and looked at her aunt with an expression of total misunderstanding.
“How do you dare lie down on the lawn and exposing your face to the sun? I had almost managed an acceptable skin!” She angrily regretted. “Now you’ll have to put on the brightening concealer again otherwise you’ll look like a peddler tonight, with all your face blackened by soot.”
Charlotte was terrified when she knew what was expecting her-more than an hour standing still with a horrible mush on her face made of a mixture of honey, lemon juice and ground oat. This process had repeated daily, every morning and every afternoon, and she didn’t see any expected results anywhere.
“It’s only been a while, Aunt Margaret. Besides, I am not undergoing again that torment. If my possible candidates don’t like my appearance, that is because they aren’t suit- able to even consider them.” She complained with a surly voice. She was used to life at the countryside with the healthy sun caressing her face and colouring her cheeks. She didn’t understand the determination in making it lighter until showing a pale skin just like the one of the sick, however fashionable it was.
“Don’t say stupid things, kid. That colour only gives away your rural origin and you shouldn’t be very proud of it. A real lady tries to cover her face from the sun, otherwise she takes the risk that people think she is in the street all day instead of being at home waiting for her husband or taking care of her guests, as every good married woman must do.” She emphasised.
“But I’m not married, if you remember.” She replied with a certain resentment. She was again talking nonsense. She did felt proud of her origins and she missed her home in the countryside.
“I perfectly remember that, Charlotte. My obligation is in- deed to get you married. Moreover, that rule applies to future spouses too.” She reminded her maliciously.
Charlotte gasped loudly, annoyed by her aunt’s words. “Stop complaining and follow me to your room. I’ll try to fix the damage you've made. And don't make those inelegant noises, please; you look like a mare neighing.” She told her off irritated while she walked into the house with quick determined pace.
With bad attitude though, Charlotte had no choice but to comply with the categorical order. She had promised her father that she would obey her aunt and learn everything she taught her and she was willing to patiently bear every sacrifice that promise required.
When they arrived at the room, Margaret started giving orders to the maids and Charlotte, resigned as she was, pre- pared herself to bear the long hours of torture in order to get the appearance every elegant lady should have, according to Aunt Margaret’s rules.
“I’m afraid that if you don’t do your part to improve your appearance and manners, you’ll never have an acceptable gentleman propose to you. I will regret disappointing your father, who has entrusted me with the task of marrying you, but every single day it seems to me a tall order. Of course, it is not completely your fault. It was him who, against my opinion, insisted on taking on your education after my beloved sister’s death. I should never have allowed him to raise you in that small village doing everything you pleased.” She regretted while she spread that sticky mass on the girl’s face.
Charlotte bit her tongue to avoid replying to her aunt. How did she dare criticize her father, who had taken the bur- den of raising and educating a 10-year-old child when her wife died? Margaret, who wished to take care of her, had al- ways reproached him for this decision and she criticized him for not knowing to raise her child appropriately. However, Charlotte appreciated that her father had held his ground before his sister-in-law and let her live in Parham, the small village where she was happy during her 22 years of existence without worrying about her future.
Nevertheless, some months before, Margaret convinced him of the need of finding Charlotte a husband. Thus, she wouldn’t depend on George, his brother and heir of the house and lands, when her father died.
Charlotte didn’t want to be a burden for her family. Her brother had a wife and two children to feed. Her sister-in- law didn’t like that solution either, so that she agreed on Margaret’s idea and persuaded her father-in-law to take Charlotte to his matchmaker sister-in-law. Even if she didn’t completely agree on the idea of marriage, she complied with her father’s wish and traveled to Bath. She only set one condition: if after three months she didn’t get married, she would come back home.
Charlotte was fully aware that she had little chance of get- ting married and especially in such a short time. Being the child of an unlucky baronet and being already 22 without standing out for her beauty, which Margaret was always re- minding her, made the chances of getting married-as her family wished-even smaller. The fussy aristocrats hardy ever married someone that wasn’t the same as them or that didn’t give a substantial dowry, in case they needed funds. There was more to be said from local nobility and rural land-owners. Not only did they expect that their future wife would come together with a bulky bag of money, but they also required that she provided them with social contacts among the upper class.
She didn’t have neither one thing nor the other. She could only provide great knowledge on the wild flora of the county and on the study of medieval texts. This wasn’t a very appropriate cultural background to find a husband-as her aunt claimed-nor was her being prone to argue, her little willing to obey and her revolutionary ideas-mainly that a woman could look after herself if she got the chance to try. Margaret thought that all these facts were the reason why she was still single at her age, so she had to make an effort if she didn't want to see another year passing without finding a husband, which was something that every woman longed. Every single day she spent in the city, she appreciated more and more her reduced rural world. There she led a simple and nice life helping her father with his studies on botany and throwing herself into the literary club she had set up, formed by other girls around her who were fond of reading. The even had the chance to count on the experienced involvement of Professor Davis, recently retired from teaching and a great authority in history and medieval literature. At the club, she didn’t feel as the dumb bumpkin that her aunt usually stated.
After those two weeks at her aunt’s, she started to regret having accepted to take part in this project. The task of get- ting ready for marriage was more and more difficult to her and, obviously, it was giving her little satisfaction if it implied giving up her hobbies and learning stupid things that seemed to be totally necessary to be a perfect wife.
She had had to learn to serve the tea properly, to dress adequately depending on the time of the day and the event she was going to, to keep a smile on her face without suffering any jaw ache, to train herself into embroidery and difficult points of stitching that would make an impression to her fellow women, to recite boring verses without looking like a choked goose, to learn by heart the protocol and re- fined expressions to entertain her guests. Luckily, she had enough practice to get through those lessons without the least difficulty, but she felt overwhelmed by the load of things she ignored and that Margaret said “they were very important to become a real lady”. This was something she was far from being and the reason why her aunt hadn’t dared taking her to any relevant event.
During all that time, her rare social life had reduced to strolling around that beautiful city and to attending to several visits. That was the first night she was going to attend to an important event and she couldn’t help being nervous. It was about a ball in the house of the Earl and the Countess of Newbury. They were important members of the local upper class and it was one of the most select and largest ball of the beginning of the season.
Her aunt Alfred, Margaret’s husband, was good friends with the earl and that’s why he invited him to all his parties. In fact, she had happened to meet the countess in a visit to the museum and she thought she was very nice. She had even invited her, together with her aunt, for tea in her great residence. At the meeting, the kind lady showed interest in her hobbies and confessed that she also liked Gothic literature. Charlotte was glad to see that they had that interest in common, but she was even more delighted when she saw her aunt’s surprised expression. She didn’t considered it suitable to spend time with these novels. The fact that lady Newbury, who was considered a flawless lady and a good example by Charlotte’s aunt, liked those kind of pastimes typical of the working class must have caused her a big shock.
About the Author:
Amber was born in a village by the seashore in Murcia (Spain) a long time ago and now she is living in Cartagena with her husband and children. She has a B.A. in History and she also has a degree in Teaching. She works in the university in the same city where she lives.
Since she was a little girl she has been passionate for literature. She lapped up everything she could get her hands on and very soon she began to create in her mind her own stories, tales, short stories and drafts of ambitious young novels.
Her studies, her work and her family were the reasons why she put on hold those literary dreams for several years, although she kept on embodying on paper some ideas that she wished her own novels would talk about. Fifteen years ago she resumed her old dream and she started to write regularly. She sent her stories to some competitions, where she won a few prizes, and also to different publishing houses.
In 2008 she saw how her dream came true with the publication of her first novel. Other novels followed that first one, such as El escolta in 2010, Buscando a la esposa perfecta, in 2012, El escolta (new version) in 2014 and some others. Thanks to all these novels, she has been very lucky to see how her readers have warmly welcomed them and this fact has made her very proud.