In the Perfect Happiness: A Matchmaker Bonus Story

After concluding the Matchmaker trilogy, I wanted to peek at some of the characters down the road. Especially Emily, the matchmaker herself, who has a hand in all three of the trilogy’s love stories. After a difficult year, how is her own romance with her husband Jeremy?

This story, “In the Perfect Happiness,” is a look at Emily and Jeremy five years after the events of Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress. I hope you enjoy!



Bath, 1822

“’—the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union.’”

With that final sentence, Jeremy Middlebrook, the Earl of Tallant, closed the volume of Emma. Running his fingers over the fine binding, he then slipped it into a pocket of his greatcoat. “Another happy ending. And what did you think of it, Emily?”

The expected reply did not come at once.

When Jeremy turned to face his countess, seated at his side on a bench in the Queen Square garden, she was still leaning forward. An attitude, he had thought, of great absorption in the story.

But he now realized she hadn’t been listening. She’d been watching the little dark-haired girl strolling along the nearby garden path between her parents: the tall father, the copper-haired mother. Joss and Augusta Everett each held one of their daughter’s hands, guiding her beneath trees speckled pale with blossoms and new leaves.

Ah. Seeing the little daughter—Emily was remembering, maybe, and wishing.

“Em.” Jeremy took his wife’s hand, all he could do to comfort her in this public setting. “You are very quiet. Do you wish we had not returned to Bath?”

“Not at all. I am glad to be here.”

“Are you certain?”

“Of course. We’ve made a tradition of our visits here, have we not? Especially when the Everetts are visiting too.” She squeezed his fingers, then straightened to face him. “Goodness, Jemmy. I did not realize my temporary silence would so discomfit you.”

Discomfit him, it had. Her rare silences, her reveries, made him think of that low year. That quiet year of loss five years before, when his vibrant auburn-haired wife had become a silent shell for a time.

But she smiled now, and it was easy—had always been easy—to smile back at her.

God, it was good to be with her. Heart-bruised but whole, the pair of them.

“Such silences are rather rare,” he ventured to tease. “When you are silent, it always means something dramatic is to happen.”

“Honestly, Jemmy. You make it sound as though frogs will be raining from the heavens any moment.”

“On a fine spring day like this? No, I suspect something worse.” He tapped her straight nose. “You might be formulating a plan.”

“Ah.” She drew back, fingers slackening within his grasp.

“You are? No, no, Em, I was only joking about the plan. Surely you are too. Surely.” In more than fifteen years of marriage, Jeremy had learned that his wife’s plans—often grandiose, even more often successful—were not to be gainsaid.

“It’s not a plan you need to worry about for quite a while, Jemmy.” She tipped her head back, letting the spring breeze pinken her cheeks beneath the brim of her bonnet. “I was only thinking how well Agnes Everett might do for one of our boys.”

Jeremy squinted at the tiny dark-haired girl in question, hopping and wobbling between her laughing parents. “You are matchmaking for a three-year-old?”

“And a thirteen-year-old,” Emily responded primly. “Though as I said, not for quite some time. Fifteen years at least; perhaps twenty.”

“If you would consent not to matchmake for the next fifteen to twenty years, I will happily allow either of our sons to court Agnes Everett.” The idea was not bad, in truth—for fifteen to twenty years in the future. Little Agnes was great-granddaughter to a baron on her father’s side, and like her red-headed mother, she would inherit Meredith Beauty’s fortune.

And Augusta Everett—the former Miss Meredith—had been a friend to Emily during that dark year when not even Jeremy could reach through his wife’s grief. Jeremy could never thank Augusta enough for that.

Though he tried to show his gratitude all the same. Every time he encountered Augusta, either in London or Bath, he bought her sweets. Who didn’t like sweets?

Emily scooted closer to Jeremy on the bench. “I think reading Emma has made you fearful of matchmaking. Remember, though, all ended happily in the novel. You said so yourself.”

“I thought you were not attending,” he grumbled.

“Indeed I was. I especially liked one line—what was it Emma Woodhouse said? ‘I always deserve the best treatment, because I never put up with any other.’”

“True for you on both accounts.” For a moment, he simply sat at her side, observing the whisper and wave of the newly-budded branches. A spring greeting to the earl and countess seated on the bench; to the dark-haired man and his wife, to their little girl who hopped between them, feet crunching over the garden path. “And I suppose your matchmaking ended as well as Emma Woodhouse’s. It was under your chaperonage that Joss Everett and Augusta Meredith decided to make a go of it.”

She muttered something that sounded like lack of chaperonage, though it was hard to tell as the little girl shouted with laughter just then.

“But you went very wrong with my brother,” Jeremy added. “Hal and Caroline would never have suited.”

Emily looked at him as though he’d dumped orgeat all over her favorite gown. “Henry, Jemmy, He wants to be called Henry. And you think I wished to match him with Caro? Good lord, I should hope I knew better than that. Why on earth would you think such a thing?”

Jeremy blinked. Em sounded so certain; maybe he wasn’t remembering correctly. The year 1815 had meant victory for England and great loss for his younger brother—once a soldier and an artist, then neither. It had been difficult to look at Hal when he came back from war with a paralyzed arm; difficult, because Jeremy had failed to protect him.

What use was Jeremy as an older brother—what use his fortune and title—if he could not keep his family safe?

He had wondered this when Hal came home wounded. He had wondered the same when Emily almost lost her life in a third pregnancy.

With the softness of intervening years, he had been able to stop wondering. There was no answer. There was only gratitude when one’s loved ones recovered.

Which they had. Hal—oh, damn, Jeremy must remember to call him Henry—was fine now. Happily married to Frances, teaching art to London’s fashionable sons and daughters. Caroline, the wild countess who had been Emily’s friend since their debut, had married the once-mad, quite-clever Duke of Wyverne.

“Henry and Caro found happy endings,” Jeremy replied to Emily. “Just not the ones you intended.”

“Precisely the ones I intended.” Emily rolled her eyes. “I remember it quite clearly, Jemmy. It was not long after Henry reached London; it was the day he started painting again. I painted that horrible table with him, and then I told him I was going to introduce him to his future wife.”


“I should roll my eyes again, except that it would be repetitive. No. The pairing of Caro and Hal would be like—like—”

“A rain of frogs?” Jeremy could not resist.

“Practically that bad, yes,” Emily sniffed. “I did not speak the lady’s name to Henry, for I did not want to seem pushing and forward.”

“Never that.” Jeremy could not resist again, and was treated to a poke in the side.

“But you see, I meant Frances for him all along. And there was never anyone for Caro except Wyverne. All those two needed was a friendly ear toward which to direct their flounderings of emotion until they realized they loved one another.”

“Fine, fine.” He lifted his hands, placating. “You are the most marvelous matchmaker the world has ever seen.”

“That might be overstating the matter a bit,” she granted. “But I have had a hand in four matches—and that doesn’t even count the housekeeper the year after we were married.”

Jeremy searched his memory. “The plump one?”

“They’ve all been plump, Jemmy. I mean the one who was widowed and ready to retire. I found her a nice home in the country, and she took up with a groom young enough to be her son.”

“Oh…right. Yes, well done.” He didn’t remember that housekeeper in the slightest, but if she’d found passion, that wasn’t such a bad way to spend one’s twilight years.

But something didn’t add up. Hal…Caro…the Everetts, now wending their way closer to the bench on which Jeremy and Emily sat. “You said four matches, Em, but you’ve arranged only three.”

“Oh, Jemmy.” She laid her bonneted head on his shoulder. “My first successful match was ours. And it has always”—she eased an arm about his waist—“and will always be my favorite.”

Jeremy was not a poetic man; nor was he particularly quick of speech. So he hoped his wife understood what he meant, and how much he felt, when he took up her free hand and pressed it to his lips, then his heart.

In another moment, Joss and Augusta Everett and little Agnes were upon them, and Jeremy and Emily became an almost-proper earl and countess, seated side by side on the bench.

“We were just saying,” Emily lied, “that you must all join us for dinner. Shall you walk over in an hour?”

“Ready for cakes?” asked the little girl, her dark eyes hopeful.

Clearly an intelligent child, for she asked this of Jeremy. Who was, as the world knew, always ready for cakes.

But it was Emily who answered. “Your parents must decide,” she said. “But I have often heard a brilliant man say, ‘Who doesn’t like sweets?’”

After they bade farewell to the other couple, with promises to dine together soon, Jeremy offered his wife his arm for the brief walk from the Queen Square garden to their blonde-stone house.

“So,” he said. “You know a brilliant man, did you say? You must tell me more about him.”

“Ah, yes.” He could tell, just from the tone of her voice, than Emily was feeling mischievous. “Quite brilliant. He made the best match of his London season. No, of a dozen seasons.”

“Not of the entire century?”

“Perhaps. We must let the remainder of the century pass before we can be certain.” As they climbed the steps of their rented house, she pressed a swift kiss on his cheek. “But she made the finest match too. For who doesn’t like sweets?—And that perfectly describes the man she chose.”