The holidays are full of laughter and cheer, but for Louisa Ward this year is not the same. This will be the last Christmas in the Ward family home unless Louisa can marry before New Years'. Things take a turn for the worse when Louisa's only shot at finding a match does not go as planned, and she finds herself walking through Mayfair with the instigator of her family's demise, the Duke of Thorndale. Taking a gamble, Louisa tries to make Thorndale change his mind about his London tenants and along the way finds herself slowly falling for the man she thought she hates. This holiday season we're taking a moonlit walk through London with Tessa Dare's novella Meet Me in Mayfair. **This season we're giving the gift of SPOILERS**
Support the show and pick up a copy of this weeks' book, Meet Me in Mayfair, part of the How the Dukes Stole Christmas anthology by Tessa Dare, here!
Want to listen to a certain segment? Here is our outline this week:
0:00 - 11:22: Intro/Author Facts/Tropes
11:22 - 21:12 Synopsis
21:12 - 26:57: Parlour
26:57 - 45:11: General Discussion
If you're looking for other Historical Christmas Content, we recommend you try these:
A Mistletoe Vow to Lord Lovell by Joanna Johnson
A Very Highland Christmas: A collection of six enchanting Christmas Novellas
We are now including our synopses as a semi-transcription of the episode in our blog posts. You can learn more about how we compose these by reading this article. As a reminder though, our synopses are FULL of spoilers. Read ahead at your own risk :)
Meet Me In Mayfair Synopsis:
The hopes and future of the Ward family improving their circumstances in the immediate rest firmly upon the eldest daughter’s Louisa’s shoulders. And most unfortunately, Louisa only has one last night to change their stars.
Their family has been evicted from their beloved townhome by the new Duke of Thorndale, and the only way they won’t have to be exiled...errr...move to the Isle of Jersey in a fortnight is if she can finally bring a man up to scratch who is deep in the pockets enough to pay off her father’s debts.
Her father had had an understanding with the previous duke who was his friend and simply never called in the debt on any rent to the house…..for years and years. But the new duke has done so and has refused to meet or discuss any arrangement other than full payment or their eviction.
So Louisa has just one more ball that she can attend - and hopes to charm a rich man there. She’s handsome enough but there’s just one problem…...she has this unladylike quality of speaking her mind and *gasp* appearing educated. So this evening, she’s determined to stay quiet and demure.
However, when she arrives at the ball hosted by her best friend Fiona Carville’s parents, her plans are dashed. Fiona informs Louisa that she’s eloping with her father’s secretary’s son this evening, and she needs Louisa to take her dances for her and tell all that Fiona retired with a headache so her parents don’t hear about it. Louisa hasn’t told Fiona about her family’s troubles, and she knows she must support her friend. So she agrees.
But she is pretty upset, for Fiona only ever accepted dances from the LEAST eligible gentlemen, since her heart was entertained elsewhere. Louisa peruses the dance card in dismay until she comes across one name and doesn’t know if her eyes deceive her - for her nemesis, The Duke of Thorndale is promised for the before-dinner-waltz.
Meanwhile, James, the newly minted Duke of Thorndale, is busy being miserable. He hated London, he hated balls, he hated meddling matchmaking mammas, and he just wanted to be done with his business in London and headed back to the beauty and solace of Yorkshire. It didn’t matter how much he insisted that he was in London only for his presentation to the court and to tie up some business - young debutants were thrown in his path all vying very insistently for his title.
He was never supposed to have been the duke - his brother had been groomed for the role. But now, here he was, and he felt entitled to attend the ball of his relations and to dance once with his distant cousin Fiona at the very least.
However, when it’s time to dance, he can’t find her anywhere. And instead, a striking young woman he doesn’t know approaches him. Quote
James couldn’t quite identify the source of her loveliness. Then again, where was the beauty of a Yorkshire moor? Hiding in a patch of sky? Behind a craggy rock or beneath a bit of heather? No. The effect came from all of it, all together. The way it made his chest expand. The way it scrubbed all worries from his mind. The way it took his breath away.
However, once James hears that Louisa is to take Fiona’s place, he immediately turns cold and releases her from her obligation, blatantly telling her he sees through the ruse. Louisa however insists that they must dance and that she doesn’t renege on a promise to a friend. So finally they do waltz and trade barbs, Louisa admitting to him that she wants nothing to do with him…...and with that statement, James’ interest is peaked.
Louisa is fuming through the waltz, having finally met the cold man who has so callously thrown her family from their home. It’s quite vexing that he’s so handsome, but at least his behavior so far has assured her of his terrible character.
However, once James realizes that Louisa wants nothing to do with him, he is too intrigued to let her go, and admits that this is the first honest conversation he’s had with anyone since becoming the duke. By now, the ballroom has emptied for dinner and the two of them are left arguing on the dance floor as the servants tidy. Regardless, Louisa is still angry and tries to go in to dinner without him, although he grabs her hand and requests to accompany her. And then in tugging her hand away, Louisa turns smack into a footman removing a punch bowl, and is summarily sloshed with a torrent of red down her white gown.
Horrified, James insists he must escort her home. Horrified and dejected at the loss of her last chance to save her family, Louisa assents. They go to the stables to find his coach….but it turns out to be occupied by his coachman and a lady of the night. While James didn’t think he could feel worse, he now goes from horrified to mortified - but Louisa just laughs.
At this point, this whole night has gone from a terror to a farce, and she has a new idea. She will walk home - it’s not far - and she doesn’t need an escort so James is off the hook. Of course he won’t let that happen (in fact, Louisa was counting on it) and so the two set off through Mayfair.
Louisa, however, has withheld her address. And she tells James that she intends to show him the very best of her neighborhood so maybe he won’t be so judgemental against all of London. He begrudgingly assents, and the two begin their adventure.
The night is quiet and calm, and the magic of the evening and season and the chemistry between the two sparkles. They go down all of Louisa’s favorite streets, procure some brandy to warm up from a club, sing a Christmas carol when they are discovered on someone’s stoop to great applause and a slice of pudding, and make snow angels in Hyde Park. By the time the clock strikes 5 AM, Louisa has found herself half in love with James, and he’s already head over heels for her. And the kiss they shared didn’t hurt their connection either.
Louisa though is quite torn over her deception and realizes that she doesn’t want James to deliver her home and speak to her father to clear things up as promised. So when they do arrive near her home she tries to get him to leave - but is spotted by her sister out the window. Once inside and in the kitchen for a spot of tea, Louisa calls him Mr. James in an attempt to hide his identity, but eventually he introduces himself formally to her father.
When he says his title, her whole family is stunned silent - until her younger sister starts celebrating and says “Oh Louisa! You’ve done it! You’ve convinced him not to take our house!”
James, of course, is confused. But realizes that the house he’s in must be one of the properties that he owns. He and Louisa had spoken earlier about them - he had insisted that he needed to sell them to help his farmer tenants fund drainage ditches, and she had argued that perhaps he also had a responsibility to the tenants in his London properties. But regardless, he is livid and cold at learning this fact. He feels betrayed and believes her motives were purely this - and that Louisa is no better than he believed when they first danced.
Furious, he admits to her he had even considered offering for her, and storms out of the house, lamenting his bad fortune. How had he not seen it, when she had come to him under false circumstances to begin with, insisting that her friend had a headache. Now he knew her to be a schemer - albeit a better one than the usuals.
But the next morning, when he visits his cousins the Carville’s to apologize for his early departure, James learns of Fiona’s elopement and Louisa’s involvement in covering it up. And he starts to think about the whole evening with Louisa and all the things she said. And realizes that she had been the most truthful person he’d met, and that their connection had been real. The only thing to do now was to figure out how to proceed.
On Christmas morning, Louisa and her family are enjoying their festivities when a letter arrives for Louisa. Although she has never seen one before, she is pretty sure what she opens is the deed to the townhouse, with her name on it. And it has been delivered by James who tells her that he is there to speak with her father once they’ve spoken. No, he’s not there to ask for her hand, but for permission to court her, if she’s amenable. Quote
“A visit to Lady Carville set me straight the very next morning. When she told me of Fiona’s elopement, I knew at once that I’d been an ass. I wanted to come back and see you straight away, but I forced myself to wait.” “Why?” “Because it would have been too soon, too rushed, too muddled with questions. If a proper courtship revealed we didn’t suit one another, you’d have feared letting down your family. And as much as I hate to admit it, I’d always have wondered if it was the house you truly wanted, or me.” He fidgeted with his hat. “It doesn’t speak well of my character, that I’m so quick to suspect others’ motives. But for the longest time, I was rather on my own….And then suddenly I’m a duke and everyone scrambles for my notice. It’s too easy to believe people want what they can get from me rather than...Well, rather than wanting me.”
And so our story ends with the promise of courtship to determine if they do suit. But of course they do so the epilogue is their wedding and their wedding night, where James begs Louisa to promise him they’ll make “bushels of babies” because he wants a big family.