A wonderful historical with humor and a bit of silliness to toss in the pot. A Regency lady wanting to cook? It was one thing to cook privately in the home, but to enter a contest where the judges would be from the upper echelons of society? An enticing and original story!
Beth and the Countess of Spode exchanged glances, the countess giving Beth a smug smile before telling the footman to admit Viscount Wharncliffe.
“How did he know I was here?” Beth asked.
“Didn’t I just finish saying Lord Wharncliffe is near declaring for you?” the countess replied. “The man wants you. Therefore, he will make it his business to know where and with whom you spend your time.” The countess narrowed her eyes at Beth. “Are you displeased by his attention?”
Beth laughed and shook her head. “Heavens, no! On the contrary, I am amazed such a man would take interest in me.”
The countess smiled. “You are worthy of Wharncliffe, Beth, and he of you. The perfect match.”
“Do not jinx me so! Nothing is perfect.”
The countess inclined her head. “Let me say then, I believe you two will do well together. Yours will be a marriage of mutual attraction and appreciation for each other’s strengths and abilities.”
Beth leaned close to whisper when she heard steps drawing near. “Eight days since we were introduced, and I have seen him every day. Each day I feel more strongly the urge to…to grab hold of him and kiss him!” She looked to see the countess’s reaction.
The countess nodded, a soft smile on her face as she rubbed her swollen belly. “Yes.”
“I always remember myself in time,” Beth said. “Besides, I’ve never kissed a man on the lips. I’m not sure…” Beth pulled herself upright when Lord Wharncliffe was announced.
For a moment he remained in the doorway. Taller than most men, his physique was well muscled but not heavy. Beth appreciated his wavy, dark hair, but she considered his eyes framed with thick, dark lashes one of his finer points. It was Lord Wharncliffe’s smile, however, and especially when the smile was directed at her, that caused Beth to consider throwing herself into his arms. Madness!
The madness-causing smile fastened on her. “How is the recipe creating coming along?”
Beth didn’t allow herself to slump. “I believe sauerkraut may be an acquired taste, my lord.”
The countess looked between Beth and Lord Wharncliffe. “Sauerkraut? What is that?”
“Shredded cabbage fermented in its own juice,” Beth replied. “Vile,” she muttered.
The countess looked from Beth to Lord Wharncliffe. “You expect her to win a recipe contest with fermented cabbage?”
Lord Wharncliffe took a seat. “I’ve heard that not only will the Prussian ambassador be judging, but the queen as well. I have it on good authority they both love dishes made with sauerkraut. Surely anything Miss Reese makes with sauerkraut will win.” He turned to Beth. “Have you created a sauerkraut masterpiece of culinary perfection yet?”
Beth forced a smile to her lips. “I’m working on a few ingredient changes.” Tears were not far away, however. Lord Wharncliffe was a dear to go to all this bother for her, not only filing her application for her, but supporting her decision to enter. She didn’t think most men would consider helping her the way he had, a large point in his favor. He was positive she would win with sauerkraut, while Beth was certain she would be hooted and scorned should she present the nasty, fermented cabbage to the judges. What was she to do?