When I sit down to write a book, one of the things that strike me—usually while doing other things, like the dishes, or showering, or some other mindless task—is what a character feels or has to say about this concept or that fact. Sometimes, a whole, verbose lecture will form in my head, and this is often the case with Cherry St. Croix, the heroine—and much beleaguered Society miss—in Tarnished and Gilded.
Because trying to get Cherry to sit down for longer than it takes to eat breakfast—and asking these sorts of things during breakfast would be the very height of rude, don’t you know?—I have taken the liberty to transcribe her thoughts as she’s made them clear to me.
If something sparks your imagination, feel free to ask any questions that you like! I’m just her creator. You, unlike me, are fascinating creatures to our not-so-closeted collector.
Without further ado, I give you Miss St. Croix.
Oh, for the love of… Who was that man who decided one fine day that the primary care of a woman should be the attendance of fashion? That it rise not only to the equal footing of the care of one’s children but sometimes even beyond both disgusts and amazes me. Surely, ‘twas a man who decided such an absurd thing, and worse still that it must be a man who decides the coming and going of fashionable design at the drop of a hat—nah, the drop of a glass! You understand that the Directoire fashion is returning, yes? Unbelievable, truly astounding. What sober mind would wake up one day and think, “I believe bustles should be larger!”
On Marriage and Love
I believe in marriage. Or, at the very least, I am one of those “addle-minded girls” written of in the etiquette books who believes in love—as such a thing that surely happens to other people. By all accounts, my father and mother were very much in love. So much so that they died together, which is tragic yet perhaps a small kindness. I don’t begrudge them their choices now, what good would that do me? I have seen marriages made of convenience and marriages made for love. My own Betsy, friend and confidant, married her fine Scotsman for the love of it, and she is quite happy.
Still, there is something quite sordid about the whole concept of marriage. To bind one’s self forever to another, to be responsible not for one’s own happiness but for another’s, as well? I’m not wholly sure I could commit to such a thing, even without the law to convince me what a shameful idea the whole mess it. Were I to marry, everything I owned would belong to my husband—and even should he die, it would never come back to me. There is no love strong enough to justify losing my freedom. I am no man’s chattel, and never shall be.
Why must a woman sell herself and her belongings simply because Society has deemed her incapable of fending for herself?
There are times when I am quite convinced that fashion’s demands go hand in hand with the presumed role of women in this society. After all, no woman could possibly fend for herself with a bustle so large as to jut like a saddle from her posterior!
Ah, collection. A fine agency for the strong of heart and faint of common sense. I will not lie. I am well aware the profession I have chosen for myself is a dangerous one, as likely to end in a scrap as a surrender. Perhaps had I been raised by my father and mother, I might have become something else. After all, they say that my mother was an elegant creature of grace and charm—unlike myself—and that my father was a brilliant doctor of some esteem.
With their deaths, I have been painted by two separate brushes—that of comparison, and that of judgment.
I will never be what my mother was, and while I enjoy the intellectual debate of scientific interest, I am not the chemist or genius that Mad St. Croix has become in infamy. Ergo, I would much prefer to find my own way.
‘Tis unlikely that either of my deceased parents would have expected me to become London’s only female collector—even if I must keep it secret. Yet there is a thrill to such a profession, I must admit, and the bounties are very good. When, of course, I receive them…
On Cornelius Kerrigan Compton
Oh, him. Why my lord has chosen to defy his mother in this method is simply beyond me. I must be a distraction of some kind, perhaps a bit of eldest son rebellion. He is nice enough, of course—handsome, as the gossip columns have always indicated. And he is kind… but stuffy. The eldest son of a marquis, an earl in his own right, cannot be expected to be anything but stuffy, I think. ‘Tis written in a by-law somewhere, I’m sure of it.
Whatever the case, I refuse to be a pawn in a family game. Refuse. Do you hear me, you dratted earl?
On Micajah Hawke
… Of all the men of my acquaintance, Hawke bears the most animosity—and the most begrudging respect, I must admit it. It is no small feat to keep the Midnight Menagerie operating as such smooth clockwork. I respect his strength of will, yet his behaviors and his often brusque demeanor infuriate me. To him, collector or no, I am just another woman, and for this reason—though not that reason alone—I shall never give him anything more than the collections the Menagerie post. I despise being treated like I am nothing. Or, worse, a burden.
I am no burden. I am a free woman, and I have worked hard to ensure I remain so. I will never be one of Hawke’s pets. Let him claim the Menagerie and stay meekly within the cage his Karakash Veil masters lay out for him. Any debts I accrue, I will pay. I will owe him—and, by association, that Chinese organization that owns him—nothing.
On Theodore Helmsley
Oh! Such lovely companionship from such a dear friend. Teddy is the third son of a viscount, and so retains somewhat more freedom than the heir or spare might. We meet every Wednesday to speak of the intellectual matters found in the science periodicals, and such debates we have! Do you know, he bears almost a mystical awe for aether? Pish tosh, says I, for aether is simply a chemical, a thing, that we have not truly explored yet.
Teddy is a very fine companion, and I count myself fortunate that he is my friend.
Someday, I shall leave this city. On an airship, perhaps, such as the HMS Ophelia. I shall travel the world, from the far-off East to the Americas, and I shall sample all the things denied me now.
I will be a free woman. It can be done, I swear it.
Have you questions for me, then? Ask, while I am here, for now is the opportune time when no dreary lords or fussy chaperones are about.
As for you, sir—you know who you are—I am flattered by your interest, truly. Yet I’ve no desire to be linked in any gossip column. On the other hand, should you desire a taste of collection below the foggy drift, I shall be pleased to take you along… You do have pistols handy, yes?
Well, there you have it. Cherry St. Croix, waxing—as she often does—rather verbosely. Even so, I’d take her up on it! If you have a question for me or her, please ask. I’ll be here to answer! And, all right, so will she. If I make her some tea and strawberry toast.
About the Author
After writing happily ever afters for all of her friends in school, Karina Cooper eventually grew up (sort of), went to work in the real world (kind of), where she decided that making stuff up was way more fun (true!). She is the author of dark and sexy paranormal romance, steampunk urban fantasy, and writes across multiple genres with mad glee. One part glamour, one part dork and all imagination, Karina is also a gamer, an airship captain’s wife, and a steampunk fashionista. She lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with a husband, a menagerie, a severe coffee habit, and a passel of adopted gamer geeks. Visit her at www.karinacooper.com, because she says so.
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