Short Story No. 4: Two Unlikely Duchesses

Updated: Oct 1, 2020

Somebody near and dear to me asked if they could see Teddie and Augusta (from Duke of Sorrow) together, and I’ve tried my best to oblige!


Quick note: the Dukes of Destiny books take place in their own microcosms, with the exception of Duke of Disgrace and Duke of Misfortune. And as there can’t possibly be this many dukes in Regency England (true), here’s a vague disclaimer about suspension of disbelief being important to romance novels.

Teddie watched the young, bird-boned woman before her with sympathy and tried not to show it. Lady Ainsworth, Duchess of Ravenwood, was far more stalwart than she looked. More to the point, she wouldn’t appreciate overt pity.


I wouldn’t, thought Teddie. Besides, it was a beautiful day in the townhouse’s garden and she didn’t want to ruin it by dredging up the past. Whatever had happened, it was far removed from the delicate table at which they sat, drinking tea.

But when a new acquaintance so casually mentioned that her father was a violent brute, it was difficult to move past it as though she'd just expressed an opinion on bird watching, or preferring cats to dogs. Teddie did not quite know how it had even come up.

Their overall topic of conversation was Teddie’s pet philanthropic venture: namely, supporting Slim’s theater company. When Lee mentioned the Duke of Ravenwood and his particular background one evening after supper, it struck Teddie that he and his wife might be amenable to the prospect. They seemed different in the way she knew others believed Lord and Lady Valencourt were different. Which was to say, in Teddie’s language, that they were not self-important and puffed up like male peacocks trying to find a mate.

“I do think my husband would be interested in helping support the company,” finished Augusta. "He enjoys the arts."

Teddie had invited the duchess for a visit because she thought she recognized a kindred spirit. In a way, she was right, but she did not anticipate how correct she would be. Unlike Augusta’s, Teddie’s family were ostensibly in trade. So far as Teddie could surmise, Lady Ainsworth’s had been farmers. Well, her father was a drunkard and a cruel schemer, so perhaps he ought not to be lumped in with good farmers.

But temperamentally, she and Augusta were as alike as could be.

Teddie shook her head minutely to clear it. They were speaking of theaters, not horrid matters.

“He would not have to make an appearance,” said Teddie, knowing that the man whom the gossip sheets had christened the “Duke of Sorrow” was still getting used to going about in public. She never used to pay much attention to the blasted newspapers, but as a duchess, she found it was much better to try to get ahead of whatever it was people were saying about her. It might not be that way for every lady of the ton, but when your husband’s brother had been a rather detestable man… it did mean the way was cleared for endless speculations and indecent relish to be had in your affairs.

As orderly and above the table as they were.

“Do you know, he might want to?” Augusta worried her bottom lip. “I have heard it said that the actors and those who dally around theaters are less prone to… making pronouncements.” She frowned, her dark eyebrows gathering together in consternation.

“With the exception of the beau monde who goes to watch them,” said Teddie with a wicked emphasis on the French, “I think you are right.” She poured them each more tea. Lee would never dream of reviling a man whose face was injured, particularly when it had been marred in the same course of duty that had cost him his voice.

Her words seemed to put Augusta slightly more at ease. She wished Lee were here, now, as he would be able to reassure Lady Ainsworth that Lord Ainsworth would be free to donate as he wished, come to performances as he wished… why, Lee himself was still determining his own best course of action.

His prior double-identity did present a complexity, one which he and Teddie were managing together. She cast the thought from her mind.

“I shall speak to him as soon as I get home,” August said, her expression smoothing into a smile rather than a frown. It was the season, and so the Ainsworths were in London — along with everyone else. For her own money, Teddie would rather have spent all her leisure hours with earthy Augusta than gone to the routs and musicales, but needs must. “Do you know, Lady Valencourt, that I was a little suspicious of your invitation?”

Teddie could empathize with her caution. She was still evaluating the turn of every phrase, the implications of saying yes, no, perhaps, the ways in which any of her actions could be construed by anyone else — and be turned against her or Lee.

“I do not blame you, my dear. And… please. Teddie. Just Teddie.”

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