Ladies of London’s High Society are known for their social graces and poise. Vivian Kirby boasts neither of these enviable qualities, though she does offer impressive conversation on chemical compositions. Unfortunately, it appears that not many men want a brilliant wife. So it is that Vivian finds kinship with a group of young women who embrace each other’s differences: The Blue Orchid Society.
After an extended stay in China, Lord Benedict has returned transformed to his family’s estate, where an encounter with Vivian, whose scientific knowledge he once undermined, leaves him determined to make amends. He arranges to help forward her research—anonymously, of course. Through letters, Vivian establishes a warm friendship with her secret benefactor, even as she’s unexpectedly drawn into a murder investigation that forces her to work alongside Benedict to unearth the truth. Soon, Vivian fears she may be falling in love with two men, never suspecting that they are one and the same.
She’d agreed to attend the opera with the Blue Orchid Society ladies, knowing how Hazel loved the music, but in truth, she could hardly sit still. The thrill of her sponsorship for the exhibition
hadn’t abated one jot since Professor Wallis’s offer the day before. The moment the man had left, she’d run to her father, and in her excitement, she was hardly able to put the news into words. She’d dashed off notes to her close friends immediately after, and within an hour received four letters overflowing with congratulations.
Vivian’s cheeks ached from grinning.
Sophie leaned forward in her seat, peering down as well. “Just think, he could be here at this very moment.” She whispered the words, not wanting to disturb the others seated around them.
“If he is, I doubt he has a main floor seat,” Dahlia said in a quiet voice.
The young ladies lifted their collective gazes toward the opposite gallery, studying the faces across the hall. Among the group of women, speculation about the identity of Vivian’s sponsor had become the primary topic of conversation.
“I wonder if he’s an opera lover,” Hazel said.
“Tell us again every single hint the professor gave about your mysterious patron,” Elizabeth said.
“He is titled,” Vivian said. “That is all I know.”
“And unmarried,” Sophie reminded her. “He said so in his letter.”
“I believe the professor referred to him as His Lordship,” Vivian said, trying to recall. “But I may be mistaken.”
“You’d have definitely remembered if he’d mentioned His Grace,” Dahlia said. “Besides, I don’t know of any unwed dukes.”
“Perhaps he’s a widower,” Elizabeth offered.
“I wager he’s a kindly older gentleman who always wished for a daughter,” Hazel said.
“I imagine a quiet scholar who is timid in company and spends all of his time surrounded by books,” Dahlia said.
“Either is possible,” Vivian muttered. She continued scanning the other opera attendees. The idea that he might be sitting here in this very hall was almost more than she could take. How was she to bear not knowing the name of the person who had made her hopes into reality?
Her gaze caught on a person facing her direction, and she started. It was Lord Benedict. And he was looking straight at her.
The man’s mouth curved into a smile, and he lifted his chin in a silent greeting.