Esther, Elizabeth and Abbie live a life of luxury, but when one brings disgrace upon the family name, the others must stand by their kin. Together they are purged from their sphere of opulence, and plunged into the turbulent reality of Victorian London. Follow this fable of an epic journey, as the sisters learn things that they never knew they ever knew...
Wednesday 1st January 1851
So here it is.
A new day, a new month, a new year. It is the beginning of 1851, the greatest year in the history of Queen Victoria’s reign of ruby-red riches and royal revelry, to indulge in a little gentle and comparatively nonsensical alliterative grandeur.
With my new year comes a diary. For me, the pristine pages of this creamy little book signify a fresh beginning: a future to be created.
That means I must make no more familiar references to Mr Rutherford, who, I blush quite shamefully to say it, was the donor of this book. Perhaps that’s why I feel so strongly that it is to be a new start. One in which I will make no unauthorised utterances as to his Christian name; I will impart no sly hints against the frivolous topic of his thick russet-coloured hair and enchantingly clear blue eyes, as if I were merely the fishmonger’s daughter, Sallie—a common and uncomely girl if ever there was one.
Oh, no! I am Esther Lambert. I wear a modest neckline; not obscenely low, but nor as high and stiff as Laetitia Merton wears her gowns. I do detest those grand walls of lace about her ugly throat. She will never get a husband, I’m sure, unless her father doubles both her dowry and the extent of her dress sense.
If only I could be assured that young Abbie will get a suitable husband. I know when she comes of age the height of her necklines—parents not interceding—will be most imprudent. Even now, at just thirteen, she likes her necklines to be quite inches below the hollow of her neck.
I can only sigh when I look forward. Her elder years are destined to be a trial. There will be no lack of men amassing at her feet—or leering at her necklace from above—I have no doubt, but none of them worthy of her hand. Only will they be admiring of her naked cleavage.
Ah, my words grow improper! I must chide myself severely for my vulgarity, especially on the very first page of my new diary, given to me by the most good and correct of men. Must I refrain from referring to him as such also, for fear that people will suspect I hold an attachment for Mr Rutherford—I am only sixteen; ‘tis unwise to speak at all at such an age, I find.
I will be seventeen this spring, and therefore I must begin to keep an accurate record of this year’s great events, with full and sophisticated language—no breasts or cleavages, that is, nor leering nor attaching—and ignore my own petty emotions, which are irrelevant to the times.
To introduce my temperament, before I embark upon this cold and unfeeling account of ensuing events, however exciting or not exciting they might prove to be, I am bossy and selfish with few regrets. Sometimes I wish I was gentle and patient, as Elizabeth. I suppose Abbie and I do override her in our own bruyant ways. I know I can be brazen and intolerant, but Elizabeth never is.
The three of us have decided upon a year’s resolution—the second, for me, after my effort to eliminate Mr Rutherford’s elegance—if I might say?—from my immediate thoughts. Genevieve bought us a book from her own wages, and this book we will read together, page by page, whenever we are troubled, restive or dismal.
It is a story of courage and discovery—and this year, the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and fifty-one in the reign of Her Majesty Queen Alexandrina Victoria, we hope to find courage and discovery, too.