For those of you who have read Lady Sarah's Sinful Desires and The Earl's Complete Surrender, you'll probably remember Mary Bourneville's appearance in these two books, first as Sarah's friend, and later as the young lady whom Woodford is asked to socialize with at one of Lady Duncaster's balls.
From Lady Sarah's Sinful Desires, we learn that Mary might be up to something secretive:
As he guided her forward, they approached the house and, to Sarah’s surprise, almost collided with a young lady who was hastily rounding a corner just as they were stepping up onto the terrace. Sarah recognized her immediately as Mary Bourneville, a young lady of roughly her own age, whom she’d met during her first Season and with whom she’d felt the possibility of a strong friendship—a friendship she’d stopped pursuing after the Gillsborough house party.
“Forgive me,” Lady Mary gasped, a startled expression crossing her face. “I was just returning from an early morning walk—the weather’s so lovely this time of day.”
“Indeed it is,” Lord Spencer said.
Lady Mary smiled brightly. “Well, if you’ll please excuse me, I must return upstairs to see to my aunt.” And then, before Sarah could manage a word of greeting or ask Lady Mary if she’d like to join her for breakfast, Lady Mary hurried inside, leaving Sarah alone with Lord Spencer once more.
They stood for a moment in silence until Lord Spencer finally said, “I’m beginning to suspect that Thorncliff Manor might be overrun by adventurous females.”
Sarah gave him a sidelong look. “She was only going for a walk, my lord. There’s hardly much adventure in that.”
Shaking his head, Spencer began guiding her toward the door. “I agree,” he said, “but if that is all that young lady was doing, I’ll eat my hat.”
Later, in The Earl's Complete Surrender, we find her pushing the Earl of Woodford away by criticizing his favorite book. As expected, he immediately loses interest. But since this scene is written from Woodford's perspective, Mary comes across as a bit difficult and uninteresting - a woman who doesn't care for meaningful literature.
With this in mind, we encounter her in His Scandalous Kiss and soon discover that she probably made a deliberate effort to avoid Woodford's attentions, and those of any other gentlemen, for that matter. Indeed, she has no desire to marry at all. Instead, she carries great responsibility and duty - both of which have placed her on the brink of scandal, preventing her from ever entertaining the idea of marriage.
She is kindness and goodness personified; her loyalty toward those she loves, quite endless.
“Lord Carthright is a lucky man to have so generous a sister.” Amy wove Mary’s hair into a long braid.
Mary sighed. “He is my brother. If the situation were reversed, I am sure that he would do the same for me.”
A romantic at heart with a passion for music, Mary cares more for a man's character than for his appearance. So although she starts drawing the attention of several handsome suitors, there is only one man who truly interests her - a man who keeps his face hidden.
Lady Duncaster sighed. “You may not be aware, Lady Mary, especially not based on this particular conversation, but I am a big advocate of love matches. It is my fondest wish that everyone should be afforded a chance at a happily-ever-after, but in this case, I am too concerned that you might end up getting hurt.”
“Because Signor Antonio,” she said, refraining from disclosing her knowledge of his actual name, “might look different from what I expect? Because I will likely be disappointed that he is not as handsome behind the mask he wears as I might have hoped? I am not that superficial, my lady. It is his character that draws me. Nothing else.”
I absolutely adore Mary. She represents the sort of person whom we should all aspire to be - the sort of person who can look beyond the exterior to the beauty beneath and who will risk everything in order to help those nearest to her heart.
She stands up for herself, takes chances in pursuit of happiness, and accepts responsibility for her mistakes.
As she grows, during the course of the story, she gradually begins to believe that it might be possible for her to have the kind of love that she's always dreamed of. The key is honesty and openness.
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