Green as Grass
When I wrote A Stage for Harriet, I initially conceived it as a standalone novel, but then I started to wonder about some of the other characters' fates, and their loose ends started to really bother me! Stories began flowing, plots marrying themselves to characters in my mind, and Green as Grass was born. Green as Grass is the story of the poor, awkward, bird-loving Mr. Andrew Brougham, who courted Harriet disguised as Lady Virginia in A Stage for Harriet. He was largely ignored and then jilted at the end of the book. I began to wonder what his story was. Who had managed to captivate him, and if he were so captivated, why did he become engaged to Lady Virginia in the first place??
These were questions that needed answers, and all of these answers will be found in Green as Grass, which is scheduled to be published next spring by Cedar Fort, and they've been working to broaden their distribution, so that's exciting. I've always loved a good makeover story. (Clueless is one of my favorite Austen adaptations.) My Big Fat Greek Wedding, The Princess Diaries . . . FUN, right? I love makeovers. But I ALSO love George Bernard Shaw's riff on the classic Ovidian myth Pygmalion, because, truthfully, what reason does the newly created "fair lady" have to stay with their creator?
Green as Grass contains something of a makeover story gone awry, in which the fashionable young Miss Louisa Grenfeld, a brilliant protégé of Brummell himself, attempts to turn the awkward Mr. Andrew Brougham into the rage of the season. But when he catches the eye of one of the wealthiest and loveliest ladies in London, what will become of Louisa when she realizes, too late, what her beloved avian scholar means to her?
I'm including the first chapter of the current draft below. Enjoy!
September 30, 1813
Lady Norbury’s card party
“Miss Louisa! There you are. Do tell me what you think of my bespoke new fob! Isn’t it marvelous?” Beau asked.
Louisa looked up to see Mr. Brummell descending upon her in all his evening finery, and she could not reel in a smile. “Which one, sir?”
He gestured to a small bird-shaped bronze medallion hanging from a blue ribbon at his hip. She smiled when she saw it. “I am quite partial to birds, sir,” she said. “So I am not a reliable judge, but I do like it.”
“I am aware, Miss Grenfeld. That is why I asked you in particular.” He gave her a small wink. “Now let us see. Whom do we have here this evening?”
Louisa turned and surveyed the elite assembly alongside her dear friend, Beau Brummell, that esteemed icon of fashion. They had become good friends the last season, and she was proud of herself for earning his approval.
“What do you think of that one, there?” Mr. Brummell asked her.
“Hmm?” She glanced in the direction he indicated. There, entering the drawing room, was a starry-eyed young man who had to have just returned from a tour. The look of overt interest in his eyes ran decidedly counter to the practiced expression of boredom worn by most of the pink of the ton.
Louisa giggled. “He’s come straight from a home tour, my dear Brummell. Can you not see? Far too sure of himself to be fresh from Oxford and practically bursting at the seams to tell everyone of all the beautiful countryside he’s seen in the Lake District. He may even recite a poem or two.”
Mr. Brummell chuckled lightly. “Whatever else he may be, he’s certainly green as grass, isn’t he?
“Indeed, but who knows—he may become all the rage once the season sets in. It’s dreadfully early for such predictions, you know.”
“If anyone were to know, it would be I. Or you, perhaps. You’re becoming quite the arbiter of fashion too, you know.”
She playfully slapped his wrist with her fan. “You flatter me, Brummell. I could never presume my opinion could carry as much weight as yours.”
“Hmm. Perhaps not. But I am fond of your opinions.”
Louisa rolled her eyes heavenward for an instant but smiled.
“Really, though,” Brummell continued. “What devilish awkward hands! Quite a decent coat. It looks like Weston's work. But that neckcloth! Looks as though he had his valet do it. Do you know who he is?”
Louisa shook her head. “No. I’m certain I can secure an introduction, however. Look there—he’s talking with Mrs. Clavendish.”
When Louisa turned back to Brummell there was a wicked glint in his eyes that she knew all too well. She smiled curiously. “What is it, Brummell? You’ve just had an awful idea.”
He smirked at her. “He looks green enough that I’d wager you could make him fall in love with you by the end of the evening.”
She flushed. “Nonsense! Not by the end of the evening, in any case. I’d need at least a few weeks to do that.”
“So you admit you could do it?”
He had been baiting her! She glanced back at the young man for a moment and stood her ground, pursing her lips. “Of course I could. But it doesn’t follow that I ought to.”
“Don’t be missish—it’s all in good fun. How about a little wager?” he said. “If he comes for a morning visit within the next two days, you win. If he doesn’t, I win. Is that fair?”
She shook her head and laughed. He would find anything to bet on. “I suppose. What is at stake, pray?”
Her heart pinched nervously. That was almost all of her pin-money for the entire quarter, and, although she was fairly confident she could win, Brummell shouldn’t be betting so heavily if he were in as much debt as the rumor mill claimed he was.
“No,” she said. “Just one pound.”
He pouted at the small stakes but nodded and they shook hands.
They were interrupted just then by Lady Stanfield, an older woman in a silver gown, jewels and feathers nestled in her graying hair, who latched herself to Mr. Brummell’s arm. “My dear Brummell, you must assist me! These young snips are tearing me to pieces at speculation, and Mrs. Hayes has utterly refused to partner with me again!”
Mr. Brummell smiled indulgently at Lady Stanfield and joined the table, but not before casting Louisa a meaningful glance toward the green young man.
Louisa closed her fan and allowed it to dangle casually from her wrist. She nodded at a gentleman her father’s age as she made her way to the young man’s vicinity.
As she walked toward that end of the room, she passed a large mirror on the wall and verified that she was just as pretty as she had been upon arriving at the party. Her auburn hair was piled high in a fashionable style of curls and braids, adorned with pearls. Tiny cream satin slippers peeped from beneath an impeccably cut dress of deep blue. Her lips were reliably plump and pink, her cheekbones high, and her eyes a dark, shining brown beneath perfectly arched brows. She walked toward the door, as if to leave, but paused meaningfully next to the conversing pair for a moment. Sure enough, her method worked.
“Oh, Miss Grenfeld!” Mrs. Clavendish said. “Do come here. I want to introduce you to Mr. Andrew Brougham. He’s recently returned from a grand tour of the north country!”
“It’s not really a grand tour, madam,” Mr. Brougham sounded mildly uncomfortable. “Travel to the continent is nearly impossible at the moment for those not enlisted.”
“This is Miss Louisa Grenfeld, Mr. Brougham.” Mrs. Clavendish barreled on heedlessly, “And I am certain you two will find much to speak of. Oh, Mr. Farnsworth! You must excuse me.” The lady hurried off after Mr. Farnsworth, leaving the pair alone.
“A tour of the northern country sounds fascinating!” Louisa said, carefully hiding her sarcasm. She’d listened to so many stories about such ‘tours’ lately that she was quite tired of them, but she also knew it would inevitably surface later in the conversation if she did not initially inquire. “Where did you visit, sir?” Louisa opened her fan again and peered from behind it in a way calculated to spark interest.
Sure enough, roses bloomed in the young man’s cheeks. “Oh, all the usual places, of course. The Lake District, and some of the more famous lochs and forests in Scotland. We made it as far as the Scottish highlands before we needed to return. Fascinating wildlife.”
Louisa raised an eyebrow. He hadn’t mentioned a single ruin, poem, or famous individual, unlike most others did. Was he really so dotingly fond of the outdoors?
“Do you hunt, sir?”
He laughed nervously “I’m a terrible shot, but I do enjoy being out on horseback, especially through wooded country. I tend to get distracted, however, so it is no longer easy for me to find hunting companions.” He smiled in such a cheerfully self-deprecating manner that Louisa found herself warming to him despite her original intentions.
“Indeed?” she laughed. “And what is it that so distracts you, sir?”
She blinked a few times. The proper response from a young lady of her social caliber was to laugh carelessly at this confession—birdwatching was far from a popular topic for the drawing room. But she couldn’t help herself.
“Is that so?” she asked. “And are you an avid avian scholar?”
Mr. Brougham smiled. “I do love birds, though I do not consider myself an expert. I have a pair of birds as pets here in town, but I prefer the ones in my dovecote or that live wild on my estate.”
Louisa’s eyebrows raised in interest. He had already come into his own estate? But he was so young. “Tell me of your dovecote. You keep doves and pigeons, I expect?”
“Mostly,” he admitted, “though I have encouraged a few wild varieties to roost as well. And I also enjoy training birds.”
He nodded. “Also pigeons, doves, and an African parrot. Enough about me though, Miss Grenfeld. I fear I am boring you. I would love to learn more about you.”
Louisa smiled at him. She was far more intrigued by him than she had bargained for, and more interested in birds than she was willing to let on to the rest of the ton. High society was not kind to bluestockings, and she had noticed that men did not like women to be too talented. Drawing a pretty bird or flower was all that was required. A perfectly accurate rendering seemed to only make gentlemen look at her strangely. She’d very quickly learned to hide her talent.
But this Mr. Brougham certainly did have nice eyes—of a soft gray-green hue. The color went nicely with the chestnut of his hair, which curled on the edges in a fashionable style that parted to the side and fell into his forehead.
“Oh, there is not too much interesting about me, I’m afraid,” she said dismissively. “Like all young ladies, I enjoy attending balls and parties and the theater, and I’m no more accomplished than most young ladies can boast.” She had learned, while still in her first season, that the more she encouraged others around her to speak instead of herself, the more attractive she would be, and the more gossip she would overhear.
Mr. Brougham nodded. “Are you musical?”
“A very little,” she said. “I sing, when pressed, and I play the piano only enough to accompany my song. My artistic talents lie in a more visual direction.”
Mr. Brougham raised his eyebrows. “Do tell me more. What do you most like to draw?”
Scientific drawings of birds, she thought. But she would never actually admit to that. She smiled innocently. “When did I say that I drew, sir?”
He was taken aback. “I beg your pardon! I only assumed . . . is it needlepoint? Do you cover screens?”
She laughed. “I was only quizzing you! Yes, I do enjoy drawing. And painting, too.”
“And what sorts of things do you draw?”
She cleared her throat and turned her attention for a moment to a passing gentleman. “Mr. Saunders, I did not know you would be here this evening!”
The man smiled. “I would not miss it, knowing you were likely to be here, Miss Grenfeld.” He bowed over her hand. “Perhaps you will join my table for a hand of cards as the evening continues?”
“I should be delighted to.”
As Mr. Saunders left, Louisa turned her attention back to Mr. Brougham. “Now, Mr. Brougham, you were telling me more of the sights you were able to see while in the north country.”
Mr. Brougham frowned curiously. “I believe I was asking you, Miss Grenfeld, about the sorts of things you enjoy drawing.”
Louisa’s jaw grew tense. He’d remembered! He was a far better listener than most young men she’d met.
She laughed lightly. “Indeed I was. How clever of you to remember, sir,” she said, embarrassed her attempted change in subject had not gone unnoticed.
Mr. Brougham smiled at the carpet. “I . . . don’t much like talking of myself.”
Louisa brightened at the opportunity. Flattery was one of her favorite talents. “But a gentleman of such address and consequence as yourself really ought to put himself forward!”
Mr. Brougham looked back into her eyes, and the warmth she saw there surprised her. “I would like to speak with you more, Miss Grenfeld, but I would hate to bore you at a party such as this when there are so many others who wish to claim your attention. Might I make a morning visit to your home during the course of the week?”
His sudden shyness was not unbecoming. “I would be disappointed if you didn’t,” she said encouragingly, unable to hide a genuine smile at the thought of winning her bet.
He smiled. “Excellent. Now . . . we are at a card party.” Mr. Brougham said. “I see Mr. Saunders is part of a new whist table being formed. May I escort you to the table?” He held out his arm.
“Of course! I should like that very much,” Louisa said, taking his arm.
They hardly spoke during the rest of the evening as they played cards at separate tables, and since Mr. Brummell left early, after demonstrating clear frustration at the low stakes offered at his table, she was not able to make a full report to him, either.
She passed an enjoyable evening feeling every bit the bright young socialite she was. And it only added to her delight that every few minutes she caught Mr. Brougham watching her curiously from across the room only to quickly glance away whenever he was caught.
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who am I?
My name is Mary-Celeste, but my friends call me M.C. I am a writer, wife, mother, amateur gardener, sourdough bread baker, n00b video gamer, Austen enthusiast, tabletop gamer, Trekkie, and generally cheerful human being. I write Regency romances and I post about it here (among other things). Thanks for stopping by!