Excerpt from DUKE OF A GILDED AGE – The Transatlantic Dance Club

Dance engagements card circa 1887


Her waltz with Carl ended, the couples rotated, and Belle found herself paired with Stephen. To her relief, he behaved in an exemplary fashion. He’s likely on his best behavior
because his mother is watching! As their dance went on, she even enjoyed herself to the extent she was able. When the last chords of the music faded, the next rotation brought
Belle face to face with Wesley. She curtsied in response to his bow, and they jockeyed slightly to achieve the proper hold. Please don’t let him feel me trembling! Cavendish played a few bars as an introduction and Wesley flinched—as if unsure whether or not to move.

“Wait,” Belle whispered. “Ready…now.”

Exactly on the beat, Wesley stepped out and Belle followed. They made one complete rotation, and then another. His careful and studied movements were common for a
beginner, but his instincts, grace, and timing were admirable. I knew Wesley would be a good dancer. A burst of pride brought a brief smile to her lips, followed closely by the surge
of emotions she’d kept at bay. To her horror, her eyes grew moist and her throat tightened. She focused on the space over his right shoulder and for the remainder of the waltz she
worked the multiplication table in her head to avoid thinking about anything else. At the end, she stepped back and curtsied.

“Well done, Wesley,” she murmured.

“I nearly blundered at the start, didn’t I?”

“An understandable mistake for anyone unfamiliar with the music.”

Belle rotated into Horatio’s arms. Her inner turmoil eased as she waltzed with him, until Wesley danced past with Louise. His playful smile and easy manner with Louise drove
a sliver of ice through Belle’s heart.

Eighteen times eighteen is three hundred twenty-four.

ornament29DukeofaGildedAge_432When American-born Wesley Parker inherits a dukedom in 1890, he must learn to be an aristocrat. Assigned to the task is his attorney’s daughter, prim Belle Oakhurst. As they travel to England together on a luxurious ocean liner, their tempestuous relationship encounters more than rough seas. Although Wesley is increasingly attracted to Belle, she is already engaged. While Belle begins to regret her hasty promise to marry, she is bound by honor and duty to keep her pledge. Furthermore, a thoughtless fabrication on her part threatens to expose her as a liar. Neither Wesley nor Belle can foresee that their voyage across the Atlantic will be fraught with peril, and will cost more than one man his life.

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