Now, admittedly, “prompt” is probably the wrong word, but I’m not sure what else to call this…
Copyright 2021 J.B. Norman
Not for the first time in her life, Kat Darkstone wishes she were anywhere else — because, for the first time in her life, she finds herself trapped at the bi-weekly meeting of the Porthaven Literary Romance Aficionadas’ Circle.
What is with this city and giving things ridiculous names with at least four too many words, she wonders.
And, she wonders, what is with these women?
Now, maybe it’s just because Kat’s never really been the bookish sort, but it hurts her brain to try to make sense of how anyone, anywhere, could enjoy these books.
She glances down at the book that has been foisted upon her — the hottest, latest thing among Porthaven’s middle-aged mothers, apparently.
The latest volume of Happenings at Bridgewalltonshire Priory.
She feels a twinge for a grief for the trees that gave their lives to become… this.
As far as Kat can tell, the entire series is based on the premise of rich, elegant people falling in love.
And then dying in contrived, overwrought fashion.
Kat gives her best friend, and cause of her current predicament, a pointed glance as she sulks beside her on the couch in the living room of their gracious hostess, the esteemed Countess Philerma.
At least the snacks are good.
Kat sulks, tries to avoid eye contact and conversion, and occasionally reaches for another snack. Amara, on the other hand, is right at home, chatting happily away with the assembled women, entirely unbothered that all the others are least three times as old as she is.
The stories aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on—accidentally knocking over an ink pot onto a stack of papers would produce a work with more literary merit.
And yet, Amara just loves them. She insists on holding Kat hostage with every new release in order to read it at her cover-to-cover. Kat tries not to pay too much attention.
But even so, she has ended up learning more than she has ever wanted to know about the trials and tribulations and torrid love affairs of Baron Bridgewallton and his seven daughters — who, at this point, Kat is sure have all died at least twice.
Kat flinches as she realises the entire Circle of Romance Aficionadas is gazing expectantly at her.
“Now, Katherine, my dear,” Countess Philerma says, “as the newest member of our Circle, perhaps you’d like to share your thoughts on the latest Happenings?”
“Well, uh,” Kat mutters, “when the Viscount threatened to put the bootblack in the stocks for breaking his priceless Natalian urn. That was, yeah — that was bad. I guess. And then I felt, you know… bad.”
While Kat considers that answer the barest minimum expected of her, the Aficionadas have clearly interpreted it, despite her best intentions, as a incisive piece of literary commentary.
“Oh, I know!” one of them exclaims. “How horrid!”
“Such unbecoming behaviour from a Viscount!”
“Yes, but what about the urn? He couldn’t very well let that go unanswered!”
“Oh, please! It was established three volumes ago that the urn was just a cheap forgery!”
“And what about the symbolism? The metaphors? What do we suppose that the Countess Dowager’s purple shawl is meant to suggest?”
“And the copper mine! Whatever shall become of the copper mine?”
“Did anyone else notice that there was a spelling error on page forty-six?”
Promptly — and happily — forgotten amid such a maelstrom of opinion, Kat helps herself to more snacks.
I think something may have gone wrong with the formatting. Luckily, I have 30 more days of [whatever]-tober to figure it out.
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