Sophie I felt I soon came to know easily. She is motivated by the normal desires of a middle class girl of the late eighteenth century (her branch of the family having lost most of their status). As I said earlier, her career options are dismally limited; she must either marry, become a governess or resign herself to being a burden on her relatives (though the generous Lord Ynyr and the Dowager Countess hardly find her to be so when she is packed off by her brother John and his wife to life with them).
She is fond of children and wants to marry, but she wants romance and excitement too; she continues to read books like Samuel Richardson’s ‘Clarissa’ at Plas Uchaf as she did in Chester (where Harriet no doubt forbade reading in bed as a waste of candles).
At that date, girls couldn’t go off on adventures on their own behalf; they had to be passive, hoping to become involved in one through a man.
That certainly happens to Sophie…
Although foolishly romantic in some ways (she hero worships Emile and used to draw him as Theseus, Achilles and Robin Hood) she is earthy enough to sense the importance of physical attraction in a marriage and it perturbs her that the handsome Lord Ynyr’s touch leaves her unmoved.
Of course, having no mother to arrange a match for her, she has no choice but to do it for herself, and she has a try at Lord Ynyr, as any spirited girl would do. His title could hardly fail to appeal to her. She uses all the old tricks, laughing at jokes, flirting eyelashes, listening to him talk about is interests, besides, of course, her playing and singing.
She has, luckily, the most lovely singing voice. Emile likens it to that of a siren.
The young Count’s passions are hardly easy to heat up; but he becomes sufficiently drawn in by Sophie’s blonde and voluptuous sweetness to feel torn betwen herself and Morwenna, his cousin on the Welsh side of the family, who cannot believe that he can really be impressed with such an insignificant little chit.
That is, this is Sophie’s scheme until Emile turns up on a visit; within days, she’s unaccountably lost all interest in that title.
She’s untried – when she gets the opportunity to marry Emile, with whom she has become besotted, she jumps at the chance, though she knows a gothic doom of vampire infection and time warps hang over them. She’d rather take the risk of marrying her hero than remain safely unpicking the Dowager Countess’ Sad Tangles any day.
It’s lucky that she has Agnes, who is anything but subjegated by the then current views of female weakness and dependence, as an ally.
Agnes has her own ideas about everything, including the right of the Vicar to prohibit fortune telling and the absurdity of conventional moral codes for young woman. Her influence soon starts to tell on the compliant, sweet-natured Sophie…