In Regency England, flirting was more than just a skill, but an absolute necessity. So what happens when a young woman doesn't have the faintest idea how to act in polite society, especially around men? In her new novel, Rules of an Engagement, author Suzanne Enoch provides a woman in just such a situation with some helpful advice. (Including some choice words from the author herself.)
When I began writing the Adventurers’ Club trilogy, it was supposed to be about male explorers, soldiers, men who’d seen the dark places of the world and returned to the even more dangerous land of fancy soirees and Society mamas. The third book, Rules of an Engagement, began precisely the same way, with the adventures of seafaring captain Bradshaw Carroway.
What I didn’t expect was that the heroine of this story would be at least as much of an adventurer. Zephyr Ponsley journeys the world with her father, an acclaimed British botanist. She knows all about flora and fauna and odd customs and odder foods. She’s well read and well educated – with one exception.
Zephyr Ponsley has no idea how to flirt, how to banter, or in general how to survive in proper Society. She speaks her mind, for heaven’s sake. How is she ever supposed to win a man’s heart doing that? Luckily for her there happen to be other women aboard Captain Carroway’s ship, woman who know that a lady uses a parasol to keep her skin fair and unblemished – not to barter with natives for the location of rare insects. With the Society ladies for advisors, Zephyr learns that a man may be trapped just like an iguana or a parrot. Women don’t like rough seas or wild weather, they faint at the sight of blood and violence, and they can’t even imagine being threatened or shot at.
After all, these ladies knew Bradshaw Carroway in London, when he went about in Society as the aristocratic brother of Viscount Dare. Flirting, dancing, banter, sex – Bradshaw is an expert in all of those things. And as far as the ladies are concerned, a gentleman can leave London Society, but Society never leaves a gentleman. The better question – the one the ladies never think to ask – is whether a man prefers flirting or frank conversation. Whether he prefers a waltz over a trek through unexplored island jungles. And whether love is the greatest adventure of all.
Anyway, I suppose if I were to give some advice to Zephyr Ponsley, it would be to be careful who she listens to, and to decide what she’s trying to catch before she chooses how to bait her trap. And whether she needs to do the hunting at all, or if perhaps a particular sea captain of her acquaintance could tell her that knowing how to waltz and how to properly use a parasol isn’t what makes a lady desirable.
Oh, and by the way, Rules of an Engagement hits the shelves on Tuesday, October 26th. In case you’d like to see how the adventure turns out.
- Suzanne Enoch