To Marry A Matchmaker

By: Michelle Styles
Chapter One

May 1848—Corbridge, Northumberland

Precise planning produced perfection.

Lady Henrietta Thorndike knew the saying from her childhood, and as she muttered the words for the two-hundred-and-forty-ninth time that morning, she was inclined to believe it. But straightening the peonies in the central floral arrangement for the third time, she wondered—had she done enough to produce the ideal setting for the wedding breakfast?

True, the bride was an exquisite combination of demureness and supreme happiness in her white silk and organza dress. The groom also seemed far more dignified in his burgundy frock-coat with its black velvet collar than the gossips in the village had considered possible, but something nagged at the back of Henri’s mind as wrong.

Henri took a step back from the table where the peonies now stood upright. On the surface all appeared perfection. Even the notoriously tricky Northumbrian weather proved to be no deterrent to the festivities. Despite dire predictions to the contrary—most notably from Robert Montemorcy, and unremitting rainfall earlier in the week—the sun shone in a blazing blue sky.

But in the back of her mind she could hear her mother’s strident tones, demanding she look again as she would never be good enough, that in her haste to be finished she always overlooked a glaring error. Henri took another sweeping glance at the scene, trying to puzzle out what she’d overlooked.

* * *

When the bride blushed happily in response to a remark from Robert Montemorcy, Henri realised and silently swore. Her mother’s cameo brooch, the something blue and borrowed, lay on the chest of drawers in the front parlour where she had helped Melanie to dress. Nowhere near the bride.

In that heartbeat, despite the triumphs of the day, Henri knew she’d always remember her failure to ensure that the tradition about something old, new, borrowed and blue was followed through. If the marriage failed to thrive, she’d wonder if somehow it was because of the omission, an omission she had spotted and failed to rectify. She could well imagine Robert Montemorcy uttering pronouncements on the folly of putting credence in old wives’ tales, but Henri knew she had to do something to make amends.

Plucking several of the blue forget-me-nots from the centrepiece, she strode over to the happy couple and tucked them into the bride’s bonnet.

‘Something blue, dear,’ she whispered. ‘No point in tempting fate.’

Melanie stammered her thanks and Henri withdrew, allowing the other well-wishers to offer their congratulations, safe in the knowledge that that particular crisis had been averted.

‘Absolute perfection achieved,’ she said in a low tone. ‘I did it. I really did all of it.’

‘Are you going to take credit for the bird-song as well? How did you manage to get them to sing so sweetly?’ a deep voice laced with a hint of a Northumbrian burr asked.

‘I find scattering bird seed is useful in attracting them,’ Henri said in an absentminded voice as she concentrated again on the centrepiece. Was it her imagination or were the peonies leaning over to other side now?

‘And what other tips do you give for achieving the weather, Lady Thorndike? How did you ensure sunshine? Even last night, the barometer was falling. It takes steely nerve to plan a wedding breakfast in the garden in May.’

Henri spun around and saw Robert Montemorcy regarding her with an amused expression. His immaculately cut black frock-coat and high-topped Hessian boots added a note of sartorial elegance to the affair and quite took her breath away. Not that she’d admit it to him. She’d sooner die than confess admiration for his form.

‘Come, Lady Thorndike. What spell did you have to chant to guarantee perfect bridal weather?’

Henri took a steadying breath and readied her nerves for the coming battle of wits. Victory was going to be an altogether sweeter prospect if she ensured Robert Montemorcy was properly humbled.

‘Weather is beyond anyone’s control, Mr Montemorcy.’ She made her voice like honey. ‘I just hoped for the best.’

‘I prefer to put my faith in science and observation. Cool logic.’

‘Had you done that, you’d have been wrong.’ She gestured towards the blue sky. ‘Not a single cloud to spoil the day. I’ll grant you that this spring has been wetter than most, but I just knew that today would be wonderful. But I did have an alternative venue to hand if necessary. Lady Winship offered Aydon Castle’s hall. However, one must always consider the potential for her pugs to escape. On balance, the garden was a less tricky option.’

‘Only you, Lady Thorndike, would consider planning a wedding breakfast in the garden during one of the wettest springs Northumbria has known easier than worrying about a few dogs escaping.’ His dark brown eyes twinkled and the slight flutter at the base of her spine turned to a warm curl of heat. Henri lifted her chin and concentrated on breathing slowly. ‘The generals in the British army could take lessons from your nerves of steel.’

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