It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. Gordon Bennet – a widower with a paid-up mortgage – acknowledged this universal truth. He wanted a wife. Not for himself, but for at least one of his five sons.
It had been Mrs Bennet’s dying wish to see her boys – all named after English Kings – safely married. They were grown men now, sitting like bears round the dinner table. Mr Bennet could not get rid of them.
The eldest, Richie, was a serial husband. He’d never forgiven his mum for dying, and found perverse satisfaction in divorcing his brides as soon as the honeymoon was over. In another era (Richie laughed) he’d have had them beheaded.
Eric, the second son, was a forty-one-year old virgin with a passion for model armies. Napoleonic battles against himself lasted months. Eric was a frogbashing Warhammer hero, and Mr Bennet suspected something wasn’t right with him.
Edmund (never Eddie, or Ed) was the middle son. A neo Nazi charmer, with platinum hair Malfoyed into a duck’s arse, he lured women into his bedroom before scaring them off with swastikas and Viennese marches. If they could escape the handcuffs.
The fourth son, Alfie, was a fragile soul, buzzing with narcotics and twisted lyrics. The wannabe Pete Doherty of suburbia, Alfie was way too ethereal for love.
Mr Bennet was pinning his hopes on Henry (the fifth). Henry was good-looking, reasonable – and smart. He’d got himself a place at university. Soon he would meet a girl. Mr Bennet sighed with relief. He was proud of Henry. And Henry was proud to be gay.