Living at Pantsdown Abbey during the early years of the twentieth century, as this story begins, is the 9th Earl, a most handsome, broad-shouldered figure in his 46th year who has enjoyed a long, happy and fruitful marriage to Caroline, the Countess of Pantsdown, who is every bit as easy on the eye, and just two years younger.
The pair was coupled together in the usual way for English aristocracy – and they are of course distantly related – but their relationship is a true and loving one… even if on some occasions what each is truly doing is loving another. Or at least lusting after another. The Earl liked to think of himself as the Roman Emperor Hadrian and of the Countess as his wife, Sabina. There would be dalliances but they always returned to the other with courtesy.
They had three daughters. Lady May, aged twenty-four, Lady Gemma, twenty-two, and young Lady Charlotte, nineteen. They were ladies in search of a suitor, ladies with little to do but look fine and spend long days developing the tautness of thigh and buttock which may flourish through spending long hours in the saddle.
Each, though they did not quite yet know it, had their own special charms to dangle before the menfolk of the area.
All three had inherited their mother’s fine figure and their father’s sharp wit. Sharp wit, you understand, in comparison to other members of the aristocracy, then a largely humourless breed.
Each had strong backs, backs which the erotic writers of Greece mythology would have them arch like swans in the most intimate moments.
Each had the confident gait of a lady awaiting a fortune and a handsome suitor.
Lady May was the thinnest. But it was a slimness that held two firm breasts and a narrow face which gave little of her emotions away.
Lady Gemma – flame-haired like her mother – was the most aloof. Her cutting tongue disguised a rampant desire to shred the constrictive frigidity of her breeding. In other words, she could not stop thinking about it.
Finally, young Charlotte. A free spirit. A dreamer. The stable boys queued up to prepare her for a day’s ride. But, as yet, like her sisters, she had been no man’s.
TAKEN FROM ‘PANTSDOWN ABBEY’ BY PIPPA MAY
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