He was taller than [she] had at first supposed, rather loose-limbed and he bore himself with a faint suggestion of swash-buckling arrogance.....he was dark, his countenance lean and rather swarthy, marked with lines of dissipation....*
Manolo-Man is something of a surprise: as I'm walking towards him through the stygian gloom of La Poule Au Pot, a Pimlico restaurant so busy doing authentic french paysanne bistro it could audition for a part in a Stella Artois commercial, I realise that contrary to internet dating protocol, Manolo-Man's photos have greatly understated his looks. He's channelling brooding byronic hero, euro-banker, officer-material and repressed output of English public school all at the same time. Not only that, but the fit of his jacket over his broad shoulders would not have disgraced Weston**. As Mr Trefusis -Manolo-Man being too flimsy a soubriquet for such substantial virility - stands up for me as I reach the table, I realise the dinner has distinct promise.
But the pleasing mien and elegant manners count for nothing compared to the real clincher of the evening. The waiter, straight out of central casting with white apron and superior attitude, comes over to talk about the specials or the wine list or some such, and Mr Trefusis, english as a scone or cricket or a red postbox, breaks into a volley of such fluent, flawless french, I can only gawp at him, captivated and drooling. Reader, early imprinting is not confined to dress sense. A pre-teen run-in with 'A Fish Called Wanda' left me fatally scarred: I go wild for a man who talks foreign and right now, listening to Mr Trefusis recite the menu, I feel like Wanda when Otto speaks 'Italian'. Oh yes. Oh Yes.
I have absolutely no recollection what we talked about that evening, in English or in French. My pants had flown off at the moment he started on the parley-voo, and all thoughts of not being 'that kind of girl' and of reputation and respect and similar archaic nonsense had flown with them. The next thing I recall is sharing a bottle of Laurent Perrier in the bar of the Royal Court theatre, and brazenly asking him if his hotel was conveniently at hand.
One taxi ride later, I find myself clutched to his manly bosom, and, like Barbara Cartland, I shall leave you shut firmly on the other side of the hotel bedroom door. All I shall say is that my unconscious knew what it was doing when it prompted me to shave my legs in the bath that afternoon. Though such was the allure of Mr Trefusis, I doubt I'd have cared if they'd been bristly as a badger.
A month later, and apropos of absolutely nothing at all not least a conversation with me, Mr Trefusis announces to my father he's going to marry me. The fact that I heartily disagree with this at the time, and vehemently protest I don't want a relationship, hardly matters now, being mere detail and history. And that I finish with him, heartlessly and unceremoniously, halfway through a holiday in Venice a month or so after that, doesn't seem to put him off either. Mr Trefusis knows better than I that my dating days are done. He has set his cap at me, and eventually, I concede he's right.
The moral of this tale? Ignore anyone who tells you a man won't respect you for shagging him on the first date***. Reader, I married him....
Seven years later, we're still living happily ever after. And because this is Valentine's Day, I should say something nice, and possibly even romantic. But I find that I've come over all British, and although I don't want sentiment, I shall probably eschew the writing of poetry in favour of a comradely and playful punch on the shoulder.
*Venetia. Damerel is one of Heyer's very best heroes.
** Another little detail for Heyer fans
***this is a moot point: it was after midnight, so technically it was the second date. That's my story and I've stuck to it til now despite it being utter nonsense
You tube: a fish called wanda- otto speaking italian