At two and twenty, Miss Mary Bennet knew she was considered nearly a spinster. Her youngest sister had married at the age of fifteen – what a story that escapade would make –her eldest sister married on the cusp of two and twenty alongside her other sister who at the time was not even one and twenty. Even Kitty had been swept off her feet at the ripe old age of nineteen. For three long years, she’d watched from the sidelines as her sisters fell in love, married, and moved away.

She knew she was not traditionally ladylike, as her other siblings. In her speech, she was too forthright and would rather spend an evening playing the pianoforte to an evening in the company of friends, or heaven forfend, attend a ball.

She had a pleasing figure, all her own teeth, and if she had a lick of vanity, it was her thick, beautifully curly, mahogany locks of hair. On more than one occasion, the matronly ladies she sat with at many assemblies kindly informed her she had kind eyes.

Kind eyes? Basset hounds had kind eyes.

Papa finally settled on her a substantial dowry. With all her siblings out from under the eaves of Longbourn, he had the resources to add to the family coffers and she now had a nice tidy sum of four thousand pounds for any man willing to make an offer. And there was the rub. Someone had to make an offer.

If anyone were to catalog all her attributes, they’d wonder how she’d gone so long without one single proposal. Without one single kiss. Well, there’d been one when she was just turned fourteen, but she didn’t count the sloppy slobber as a kiss. Nigel, the cobbler’s son had pressed his fleshy lips against hers and then tried to push his tongue into her mouth, which she’d promptly bit.

He’d never spoken to her again, and frankly, she hadn’t cared. If kissing involved groping hands and tongues shoved into one’s mouth, she didn’t wish to be kissed again. However, all her sisters seemed to like their husbands kissing them, so maybe Nigel had got it all wrong. She’d never know. Mama did not extend any effort to push her into the path of eligible young men, and that all by itself spoke volumes. Even Mama thought her chances were nil.

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