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"Nancy!" Kathie bounced into the room, excitement fairly radiating from her. "Nancy, you absolutely have to read this!"

Glancing at the book her partner was waving in front of her face, Nancy very firmly declined. "You know I don't read romances, my love."

"It's not a romance," Kathie asserted, thrusting the book into her partner's hands.

However, Nancy had been tricked like this before and had no mind to be caught again. "It's Georgette Heyer," she said, peering at the book suspiciously. "She writes romance novels. I've seen you reading them."

"She also," Kathie said triumphantly, "writes detective stories. Like this one. Read it, Nance."

"But I don't read detective stories either," Nancy objected, dropping the book carelessly onto her desk. "Why would I want to read this one?"

"Because we're in it!" Kathie revealed excitedly. "Read it, my love. You have to read it."

Despite this inducement, it took an appreciable amount of coaxing on Kathie's part before Nancy would agree to read the book; and some further prodding to get her to actually pick the thing up and begin; but Kathie was determined, and in the end Nancy gave in, aware that she would get no more peace until the book was read.

Fearing (and not without reason) that her partner was likely to seize any opportunity to abandon her task, Kathie nipped such aspirations in the bud by settling herself down in a chair opposite Nancy, assuming a stern expression, and preparing to supervise.

Despite her initial grumbles that it was impossible to focus on the book when she was being watched as though she were doing prep, Nancy had to admit that Kathie's presence did at least provide her with an audience for her literary criticisms, which became increasingly trenchant as she waded through the chapters. However, gradually, criticisms other than the strictly literary came to mind, until finally she could restrain herself no longer and burst into highly indignant speech.

"I do not dress like a man!"

"No need to go off like a squib," was Kathie's amused response. "Nobody said you did."

Nancy looked even more horrified at this reassurance, given the only other character Kathie could possibly have been taking as a comparison. "Nor am I some kind of frothy pink nightmare!"

Kathie collapsed into helpless laughter at this, leaving Nancy glaring at her.

"You forced me to read this under false pretences," she said indignantly. "I can't see where this book has any connection to us at all. Unless," she flicked back towards the centre of the volume, searching for the quote, "you were mentally designating me as 'an opulent female of generous proportions'. And if you were," she added with dignity, "then I have to say that your inner musings are extremely rude."

"Oh, I wasn't!" Kathie giggled. "Of course I wasn't, my lovely! It certainly never occurred to me to equate you with that... that... What do they call her? ...that 'lump of Turkish Delight'!" Laughter overcame her once more as she pictured Nancy dressed up as Leila had been depicted.

"Then just why did you make me read this rubbish you've been trying to pass off as literature?" Nancy demanded. "You said we were in this book, and while I can't speak for how you may see yourself, let me assure you that I am most definitely not in this book!"

"It wasn't the characters, you goose, just the situation that struck me. Admittedly, it's never actually stated that Charmian and Leila are lovers, but I think it's made fairly clear, don't you?"

"Only because the portrayals are so... stereotyped," Nancy protested. "They're not characters, they're caricatures."

"It's detective fiction, my love. The suspects are almost always stock characters. The important point is that they're in there at all - two women, living as a couple, in a book written by a well-known author. Georgette Heyer, Nance! She's positively mainstream - even the girls are allowed to read her books."

Nancy turned over the volume in her hands. "Where exactly did you find this, Kathie?"

"In the library - senior fiction library, if you want me to be precise."

"Not really?" Nancy's face lit up with laughter. "Who was so misguided as to order it, I wonder?"

Kathie looked suddenly apprehensive.

"Oh, my dear, you didn't?"

"Well, how was I to know?" The younger mistress sounded defensive. "There are plenty of other books by Georgette Heyer in the library. I couldn't be expected to guess that this one would be any different. Nance, what am I to do?"




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