Is this Dance Taken? The Dance Card
Dance cards have been in existence for quite some time and although they have been around since the early 19th century (some say the 18th century), they didn’t become popular until after the Regency. Most scholars say that the dance card originated in Austria and traveled to England after the Congress of Vienna in 1814. Still, they didn’t really catch on for another fifteen or so years, around 1830, near the beginning of the Victorian Age.
If you haven’t heard of dance cards, they were originally little notebooks women carried around in their reticules for jotting down notes or making shopping lists. When dances at a ball became more frequent because they became shorter, these notebooks were used to keep track of who your partner was for each dance. Once the idea caught on, the ball organizers would distribute dance cards, often very elaborate notebooks made of metal, tortoise shell, mother-of-pearl, or silver, that could be kept as a keepsake after the dance was over.
Fan-shaped dance cards were very popular, giving space to write not only the gentleman’s name, but the name of the dance and the order in which it would be danced.
After around the 1830s, the dance cards became small pre-printed booklets of paper or cardboard. They would have a pencil attached by a ribbon and a ring at the top to attach to a belt or wrist while dancing. Dance cards also provided ladies not only with a record of their partners but with a ready-made excuse for refusing to stand up with a gentleman. Etiquette demanded a lady not refuse a gentleman’s invitation unless she was already engaged, did not have permission to dance a specific dance (such as the waltz), or had decided to sit the rest of the dances out. She could, however, plead that “her dance card was full,” (even if it was not) and escape social censure.
Dance cards were most popular during the Victorian era and the beginning of the 20th century (until after WWII). They then faded from fashion as a more informal climate invaded the dance hall by the 1960s, when dancing took on many new forms and the rules of etiquette relaxed. I myself would have thought the idea of a dance card thrilling—provided I had sufficient partners for the evening.
Heart of Desire
Follow your heart to find your desire
Miss Katherine Locke is irked to start her third season dancing with the disagreeable Lord Haversham, her brother’s friend and her own arch enemy. After three years out, however, she’s finally interested in the dashing Lord Finley—only to find out her cousin has set her cap for him too. To make the man jealous, Kate feigns interest in Lord Haversham, only to be shocked to find the handsome lord apparently falling for her. With time running out, should she accept his suit and risk falling in love despite herself?
Marcus, Lord Haversham, is in a tight pinch. His estates are failing and worse, he’s just lost three thousand pounds to his best friend, Lord Ainsley. Ainsley’s solution: have Marcus marry his shrewish sister and he’ll cancel his gambling debt plus give him ten thousand more pounds for her dowry. With nowhere to turn, Marcus agrees, praying he can keep word of the wager from Miss Locke long enough to charm her into marrying him. But can he avoid falling in love himself?
The music had a lively air and Miss Katherine Locke would’ve thought herself fortunate to be out again in Society after a long, cold, dull winter in Somerset save that her partner, Lord Haversham, was the rudest man in London. Well, his lordship was about to discover that Kate Locke was not one to suffer fools lightly.
“So you refuse to allow your sister to waltz, yet you are quite willing to stand up with me and dance this, according to you, most scandalous of dances.” Kate smiled into the odious wretch’s face. “My lord, I should say that smacks of hypocrisy.”
“Indeed.” Lord Haversham turned them skillfully at the end of the floor. “I would say it showed a want of character in your brother for allowing you to dance it with me. The waltz should be danced by married couples and no one else.” He pulled her close against him, so their bodies almost touched.
She gasped at her proximity to the rogue. How dare he make a spectacle of them on this crowded dance floor?
“You see?” he whispered, peering into her face, his gaze intent upon her mouth.
All she could see were his cool gray eyes, as the crisp scent of his sandalwood cologne filled her nose.
“Ainsley should be horsewhipped for allowing it.”
“I’ll see to it he horsewhips you if you don’t let me go.” Kate gave a hopping step and smashed her foot down on top of his.
Lord Haversham lurched forward, actually falling onto her.
For the briefest moment, they stood pressed together in a warm embrace that made Kate tingle all over. Then outrage swept through her, and she pushed him away. “How dare you,” she seethed, trying to pull away from him.
“That was your fault, and you know it. And if you make a scene that results in me having to marry you, I swear I will lock you in the tower at my grandfather’s castle and throw away the key.” Lord Haversham righted himself and smiled at her with clenched teeth.
Jenna Jaxon is a best-selling, multi-published author of historical romance in periods ranging from medieval to Victorian. She has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager. A romantic herself, she has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise. She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own stories. She lives in Virginia with her family and two rambunctious cats, Marmalade and Suger. When not reading or writing, she indulges her passion for the theatre, working with local theatres as a director. She often feels she is directing her characters on their own private stage.
Jenna is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America and is very active in Chesapeake Romance Writers, her local chapter of RWA.
She has equated her writing to an addiction to chocolate because once she starts she just can’t stop.
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