Proposals on WIP Wednesday

I’m posting a proposal scene today. The lady in question is the heroine of Never Kiss a Toad, the book I am cowriting with Mari Christie, who writes historical romance as Mariana Gabrielle and who is a colleague of mine in the Bluestocking Belles. Sally is Lady Sarah Grenford, only daughter of the Duke of Haverford, who you may know as the Marquis of Aldridge. The man tendering the proposal is the novel’s villain.

Post your proposals, folks. I’d love to read them. And don’t forget to share!

c399bc77cf3488d42d075b56376e52c4“I think that funeral-faced wine merchant’s son wants to propose, Sally,” Etcetera told her. “Shall I make an excuse to leave the two of you alone?”

“Do not dare,” Sally warned. “I will make your life hell if you do.”

The genial giant pose slipped briefly, and it was the Nordic warrior who asked, “Do I need to break his neck for you, cousin?”

“Just do not leave me alone with him, Etcetera. I do not like the man, and I do not trust him.”

But in the week leaving up to Christmas, Crowhurst behaved like a gentleman, apart from frequent florid compliments and a tendency to treat any opinions she offered in conversation with patronising amusement. Though if those two behaviours were not gentlemanly, there were few true gentlemen in Society.

So when he found her alone in Command Central on the day before Christmas, she merely greeted him and asked him to put his finger on the ribbon that she was attempting to make into a bow. All her usual helpers were off about the great house on decorating tasks or out with Elf and Uncle James who were captaining the Yule log team. Yule logs, in fact, since no fewer than three would burn from this evening until Twelfth night: one in the chief parlour, one in the Great Hall, and one in the ballroom.

Even Etcetera had deserted her, since his mother and father, the Archduchess of Erzherzog and her consort, had arrived with their younger children.

“What are you making?” Crowhurst asked, though the bunches of mistletoe berries carefully bound among the silk ribbons and paper flowers should have made it obvious.

“We were short one kissing bough,” Sally told him. “I am remedying the defect. It is to go in Grandmama’s drawing room, so I want it to be particularly lovely.” She frowned at the bough, trying to visualise it in place. “I think it is nearly done.” She had chosen ribbons of a deep turquoise blue and a delicate pale green, and flowers in gilt paper and a softer cream tissue, all woven together on the white-washed bough with silver cords.

“I wish to just attach these glass baubles to catch the light.” They were the latest fashion—blown glass fashioned into little ornaments intended to be displayed on Christmas trees after the German fashion the royal family had adopted.

“Yes, very nice. But if it needs to be special, perhaps you should wait until one of your usual helpers returns, Lady Sarah. I am sure they would be better qualified to advise you than I.” Crowhurst’s little huff of laughter was self-deprecating.

“I am not expecting any of them for an age,” Sally said, most of her focus on binding the baubles so they were firmly attached and displayed to best advantage. “I will be finished in a moment, and then, if you are not otherwise occupied, Mr Crowhurst, perhaps you could give me a hand to carry it to Grandmama’s parlour while she is occupied with Aunt Margarete and Uncle Jonathan.”

“The Arch-Duchess,” Crowhurst said, as if he were checking which Aunt Margarete she meant, “and your father’s brother. They have arrived then?”

“Yes, thereby depriving me of all those not off somewhere decorating or out with Uncle James. You did not wish to go out with the duke to bring in the Yule log, Mr Crowhurst? There!” She sat back, satisfied with her work, and at the next moment startled to her feet as Crowhurst suddenly fell to one knee.

“Lady Sarah, I can remain silent no longer,” he declaimed.

“Please, Mr Crowhurst, do not continue.”

Crowhurst ignored her. “I am inflamed by your beauty, your charm, your wit, and I flatter myself that you are not indifferent to me. Lady Sarah, dare I hope you will favour me with your hand?”

The pompous ass. She had done everything she politely could to discourage the man. Impoliteness, then. “No, Mr Crowhurst, I will not.” Never mind that nonsense about being conscious of the honour and so on. It was not an honour at all to be desired for one’s prominent relatives and one’s fifty thousand pounds a year.

Crowhurst surged to his feet and wrapped both arms around her, pulling her tight against his body. “No need to be shy with me, sweet dove. I know you want me as much as I want you.” Sally, one arm trapped, tried to push him away with the other, but he was much larger and stronger and would not release her.

“Let me go this instant! What has got into you?”

“You have, tempting heart-breaker. Your teasing has driven me beyond manners. I am crazed by you, unkind Angel. You must be mine.” He had captured the hand with which she had tried to claw his eyes, forcing it behind her back until he could grasp both her wrists in one hand, pulling her tight against his body. He laughed when she struggled. “That’s right, little treasure. Wriggle against me. Did Abersham leave you the innocent you seem, I wonder? Shall we find out?”

Fear was rapidly winning over fury. She could scream, but no one would hear.


Danger threatens on WIP Wednesday

Tntallon castleA story is not complete without a threat of some kind, whether physical, emotional, or financial; whether to our hero, our heroine, or someone they love; whether the danger is current and real, or remembered, or we readers simply fear it is possible.

This is certainly true of each of my Hand-Turned Tales stories. In The Raven’s Lady, my protagonists face smugglers. In Kidnapped to Freedom, the heroine comes from a life of constant threat, and has no idea what the future holds in store for her—or the identity of the man who has carried her off. In All that Glisters, the heroine’s bullying uncle beats her if she does not comply with his wishes, and he wishes her to marry his bullying friend. And in The Prisoners of Wyvern Castle, my hero and heroine face a stark future. In the passage that follows, they realise why her brother and his sister have forced them to marry.

“She is your sister. Surely she does not mean you harm?”

Rupert’s laugh was bitter. “Half-sister. And she has hated me all my life. She would harm me if it were to her advantage, but while I live—and with Lord Wyvern absent—she has the whole earldom at her command.”

The thought that flashed into Madeline’s mind was so gothic, she hesitated to give voice to it, but Rupert’s mind had clearly gone in the same direction. “While I live…” he repeated.

“If we have a child…”

“If he is a son…”

Madeline turned into him, stretching her arm across his chest to hug herself into his side, as if she could shield him from the malice of their relatives. “Then we must avoid making a child.”

He returned the hug, kissing her hair. “It will not answer, Madeline. Perhaps Graviton might hesitate to carry out his threat; his own sister, after all. But the Ice Dragon will not care who fathers my heir, as long as someone does. We cannot trust your brother to protect you.”

She shivered. “Half-brother. And he has hated me all his life.”

As always, post your own excerpt in the comments, and don’t forget to share so that others may enjoy your work in progress.


Disagreements on WIP Wednesday

lady in snow broughtonI nearly forgot to post my work in progress Wednesday post! Does it still count if it is Thursday in a fair part of our spinning world?

Today’s topic is the conflict that stops our romance story from being over before it even begins! Have you ever read a story that went: they met, loved at first sight, married with the blessings of all their family and friends, and lived peaceful and prosperous lives? All very nice for the participants, but not at all exciting!

My sample comes from the made-to-order story I am writing for the person who won my cat day story. My heroine has just found her husband holding the body of her pet cat, and has leapt to an immediate conclusion.

A gasp behind him told him he was no longer alone; a voice he knew, a scent he would recognise till the day he died even if he never smelled it again, composed of the herbs she strewed among her clothes, the flower oils she used to scent her soap, and something that was ineffably Callie.

He turned to meet blazing blue-green eyes in a white face. “Imp! You brute, Magnus! What have you done?”

“I just found her, Callie. She must have been trying to bring the kitten home.”

The name just slipped out. She had told him that first day, after he had interrupted her wedding and proposed himself as groom, that no-one called her Callie anymore. So he honoured her wish, and called her Caroline. But in his heart, she would always be Callie.


We interrupt this programme for a cuteness overdose

white-kittenI’ve sent the last story of Hand-Turned Tales off to the beta readers, and received the first feedback, which gives me sufficient confidence to finally announce a date!

My new permafree sampler book (three short stories and a novella), Hand-Turned Tales will be published as an ebook on 16 December, and as a print book with a price set for cost recovery as soon after as can be managed. Click on the link above to read about the four stories.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on another made-to-order story, written for the winner of the Cat Day giveaway. She wanted a wounded or disabled hero, a pretty heroine, and arranged marriage, and a cat named Angel. Here’s how it starts:

Magnus and the Christmas Angel

Imp was not in the house. She had not been accidentally shut in the cellars or the attic or any of the dozen unused bedrooms, frozen in a state of readiness for guests who never came.

The children of the Fenchurch Abbey estate had searched high and low, and brought a score of cats for Callie to inspect, hoping to win the reward.

None of them were Imp.

She was not in the stables, or the dairy, or any of the sheds or other outbuildings. Callie had questioned all the servants who had cottages near the main house, and none of them had somehow acquired an elegant, imperious, elderly, and very pregnant black cat.

Or not so pregnant now. Imp had gone missing four weeks ago. Somewhere, she had nested and produced her litter. Somewhere—and half an hour ago, Callie had suddenly had an idea about where. They had not lived at Blessings for more than a year, and Imp had birthed two litters since then, her latest at Fenchurch Abbey (in Magnus’s dressing room on his cravats). But perhaps she had returned to the place that had been home for most of her life?

Callie shivered, and pulled her shawl further forward over her head. She had run impetuously from the house without first checking the weather, and without telling her maid where she was going, thinking she would not be long.

The clouds had looked ominous, but her childhood home was only a brisk walk away; she could be there, find her cat, and be back well before dark. She was not a fool. She wore a rain cape, and it never snowed this far south as early as Christmas Eve. Except, it seemed, this year.

Perhaps it would remain a few stray flakes, melting before they reached the ground, but the sky was black and heavy, and she feared she would not make it back to Fenchurch Abbey before the snow began in earnest.

The servants would fret if she stayed at Blessings overnight. Magnus would neither know nor care. He had spent more time in London than at the Abbey since their wedding. Proving his identity so he could take up his title, he said. This was true, but avoiding his unwanted wife was doubtless also on his list of reasons.



Strange happenings in Hyde Park

Today on the blog, we have something special: a stand-alone short story with two characters from the Bluestocking Belles’ holiday box set, Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem. My character Mary meets Susana Ellis’s character Lady Pendleton. The post below tells the scene from the point of view of Mary, the heroine of Gingerbread Bride. Go to Susana’s Parlour to read the same story from the point of view of Lady Pendleton, mother of Julia Tate who is the heroine of The Ultimate Escape.


Continue reading


First lines on WIP Wednesday

gothiccastleBecause I particularly like the first lines of the new story I started last week (tentatively called The Prisoners of Wyvern Castle — and yes, Carol Cork, this is your story), I’m inviting you all to share with me and the blog readers the first lines of any chapter of your work in progress. I usually say 7 to 10 lines, but I’ve overdone it today.

As soon as he said the last words of the blessing, the fat priest stepped towards them, a broad smile on his face. “May I be the first to congratulate your graces?”

But the man to whom Linnie had just been joined in the bonds of Holy Matrimony ignored the outstretched hands and whirled around to advance on Lady Wyvern, who stood behind them.

“Very well. I have done what you demanded. Where is she?”

“Penworth, your manners.” Lady Wyvern scolded, but the Duke of Penworth ignored her tone and spoke over the rest of her complaint.

“You promised to return her if I married Graceton’s sister. Well. We are wed. I want her back, Lady Wyvern, and I want her now.”

Lin was trying to make sense of it all. The duke had been forced to this marriage as well? By a threat? But to whom? Surely not… not his mistress?”

She stole a look at her half-brother, Baron Granville, who was openly amused. “Send the boy back to his rooms, Margaret, and my sister with him. His treasure is there, is it not? Oh do not fret, vicar. You will get your fee and your portion of the wedding breakfast.”


WIP Wednesdays

I love how several authors offer an opportunity on their blogs for other authors to strut their stuff. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I figured I’d give it a go, so look for me to post a Work-In-Progress Wednesday every week. I’ll set a theme and show you one of mine, and you give me five to seven sentences in the comments.

This week, since it’s the first, how about first meetings? Don’t forget to share once you’re done!

Here’s mine, from the made-to-order story I’m writing for Mary Anne Landers.

As she turned the corner into Frederick Street, a particularly sharp gust skittered a broken branch across her path, tangling it into her skirts.

She stumbled, and would have landed in the mud if firm hands had not suddenly caught her. As it was, in putting out her hands to break the expected fall, she had dropped her burdens. The shopping basket fell sideways, tumbling fruit, vegetables, and the wrapped parcel of meat into a waiting puddle. The parcel from the haberdashers that she carried on her other arm thankfully stayed intact and landed on a relatively dry spot.

She took all this in at a glance, most of her attention on her rescuer. A craggy face bronzed by the sun, amused brown eyes under thick level brows, a mouth that looked made for laughter. He was bundled against the cold wind in a greatcoat, muffler, and cloth cap.

The image is of Dunedin in the mid 1860s, the setting for my story.

Dunedin Farley's Arcade


Oh Brave New World? Alex and Aldridge Part 5

In this final episode of the story I co-wrote with Keisha Page, our heroes talk about the benefits of the 21st century, and decide on a tour of New York. Read on to find out what happens from the perspective of the Marquis of Aldridge from my regency novel, A Baron for Becky. Go to The Word Mistress to see the same story from the point of view of Alex, Keisha’s contemporary hero from Rhythm of Love.


Crock and bull“I was married when my kids were conceived, but I don’t think it really matters much, as long as the kids are taken care of. Today, I wouldn’t dream of making my daughters get married because they were pregnant, but I would expect the fathers to help.

“But women today have more options. They can get a college degree, and any job they want, even if they have a child; so they are far less dependent on someone else for their financial stability. Not that divorced or single women trying to raise kids have it easy, but it’s better than it was even a generation ago.”

Alex smiled. “Birth control works better, too.”

” ‘Oh, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in ’t!’ ” Aldridge quoted. “Your world sounds a paradise indeed.”

Alex burst into laughter. “I happen to agree with you, but I’ll tell you, not everyone would. There’s a great deal of unhappiness in my world today. Talking with you had made me realize just how great we’ve got it. But we still have war, and people are still homeless, and we still have great and horrible diseases ravaging the world. People are fighting over religion, and race, and the world is an ever-changing place and some folks just aren’t happy about that. It seems like some things may never change.”

Aldridge grinned back. “Ah. Human nature has not changed then, in 200 years. It was too much to hope that it would. And in Shakespeare’s play, Miranda’s ‘goodly creatures’ proved a venal and greedy group, on the whole. Shakespeare knew his human kind. What do you say to this tour, my friend?”

Alex signalled the serving girl, and she brought them bills written on paper.  “You take care out there, gentlemen. It’s been a right pleasure serving you this afternoon.”

Aldridge slipped a couple of gold guineas to her as he headed to the door, and held it open. As Alex passed him, Aldridge looked back to wink at the waitress. Perhaps she was fairy folk like in the tales his nanny used to tell him. If so, he could see why they were called the fair folk.

He turned to follow Alex and found himself in the inn yard, with enough light to show the countryside of Southeast England spreading around him.

Perhaps he would find his way back to the future if he went back in and exited again, keeping his mind on Alex this time. But the door handle would not budge. Aldridge stepped back, and looked at the building. Through the windows, he could see stacks of hay and a floor strewn with trash. Definitely not the inn where he’d just spent several hours with a man from the future.

From one of the ramshackle outbuildings, he heard a horse nicker. It was more of a shed than a stable, his horse the only occupant, tied in a broken down stall. It had been rubbed down, and supplied with fresh water and feed, though no one came when he called.

He searched, but the place was deserted; not just empty of human life, but seemingly abandoned for years. Finally, he tacked up the horse. The persistent drizzle that had driven him to stop at the inn had gone, and the sun would not set for at least two hours. And in London, Becky waited.

Photo Credit: The Crock and Bull inn was invented by the Bluestocking Belles as a multi-author space where ourcharacters and those of guests could meet. We now meet in the Bluestocking Bookshop. You can meet the Bluestocking Belles in the Bookshop here.


Contemporary and Regency heroes discuss transport and children – Part 4

Here’s part 4 of the story that Keisha Page and I co-wrote about a meeting between our two heroes. Separated by 200 years and the Atlantic ocean, they discuss the very different cultures they inhabit. See Keisha’s The Word Mistress blog for the same encounter from the perspective of Alex, hero of Rhythm of Love. My hero is the Marquis of Aldridge, from A Baron for Becky. If you want to start at the beginning, here are links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 on my blog.  

fjord_horse_vs__airplane_by_mariszAlex smiled. “Transportation is vastly different now. We have cars; they’re combustion powered wagons that can travel many hundreds of miles in a day. Imagine if a wagon were pulled by three hundred horses all working together. It’s kind of like that, but without the actual horses. I can drive to Denver in two days, if I stop to sleep. Faster if I fly.”

“You can fly?” Aldridge does his best not to look skeptical. How many brandies has Alex had?

Alex laughed.

“Not me. I get into a machine called an airplane, and it flies. The airplane can get me to Denver in about four hours.”

Alex slid the rest of his brandy across the table toward Aldridge.

“You may need this. An airplane can fly from New York City to London in less than eight hours.”

“Eight hours? I find that difficult to… I mean no insult, friend Alex, truly, but… Eight hours?” He pushed the brandy back towards Alex. “In truth, I appear to have had more than enough. Men from the 21st century. Machines that fly. Carriages that need no horses.” He shook his head slowly.

“It may be I have fallen asleep on my horse and am dreaming this whole interlude, but this is certainly the best dream stew and most unusual dream conversation I have ever had. Perhaps the dream will let me visit this New York of the far future. Will you give me a tour, Alex?”

“I would be honored to give you a tour! There’s so much for you to see! Skyscrapers and elevators and the Brooklyn Bridge. I kind of can’t believe I’m having this conversation, because it’s so, well, surreal, but yes, Aldridge! Let me show you the wonders of the twenty-first century. And if you thought the stew was good, just wait. There’s so much food for you to try!”
“Better than this stew?” Aldridge grinned. “You can keep your roast peacock and turtle soup. At the end of a day’s ride, there’s nothing better than good plain hearty fare like this. And the bread is superb.”

“Tell me about your children, Alex. How many do you have? And what are they named?”

Alex’s eyes softened and he smiled as he says, “I have three. My Ella is seventeen. She’s going to be a senior this year. She wants to spend the summer after she graduates in Europe, and I’m not so sure that’s such a hot idea. I know I’m an overprotective father, but I’m not sure she’s as ready to conquer the world as she thinks she is. Leslie and Ella’s mom both tell me that I need to let her go, but I’ve been overseas. I know what the guys there are like.”
Alex shifted in his chair. “My son Ryan is twelve. He’s almost taller than his mom already. He’s gonna be a beast. He’s on the track team and the wrestling team. He’s the fastest kid in his grade, too.”

“Samantha is ten. She is something else, man. Spoiled rotten, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve gotten to spend a lot more time with her when she was younger than I did with Ella, and it made such a difference. I’ve been able to give my kids everything they’ve ever needed because of my job, but I’m not completely convinced that missing out on months of their lives at a time was worth it. What about your kids?”

Aldridge swirls his brandy in his glass. It really is an excellent drop. “I have three, too. I think my world is very different to yours, Alex. I missed the Grand Tour myself. Napoleon, you know. But in our world, it is the men who are sent off to see the world, and the women stay home.

“My Antonia — I say mine, but I did not know of her existence until she was six years of age, and to this day she knows me only as an uncle. I would not for the world attract the attention of the gossips and scandalmongers by telling anyone of our closer bond. But — ah Alex, what a girl!

“She’s smart, she’s kind, she’s every bit as lovely as her mother. I feel very privileged that they let me see her, and be an uncle to her. And anything my name and title can do to smooth her path… Her stepfather won’t ask, of course. But it is hers, nonetheless.” Undoubtedly his smile is every bit as soft and silly as the one Alex wore when talking about his girls. Antonia is ten, too. The same age as Alex’s youngest.

“And I have two boys. I was luckier with them, or perhaps kinder to their mothers would be more the truth. With each one, when I found my mistress was with child… I take precautions, Alex. I would not have you think I am careless, but they don’t always work. Well, twice now, I’ve found my chere aimee a husband who will welcome my child as his own.

“I would give a great deal to be in your shoes, and to be able to acknowledge them without hurting them and their families.”


Fictional worlds collide – two heroes, two hundred years: part 3

Today, I continue the story that Keisha Page, the Word Mistress, and I cowrote; a meeting between our two heroes. See Keisha’s blog for Part 3 from Alex’s perspective. Aldridge’s point of view follows.

Aldridge glared at them, and Alex said, “Go on, mind your business.”

How could Aldridge explain his difficulties to a man who thought divorce was just a matter of paperwork? He shrugged. “I’ll be the Duke of Haverford, when my father dies. My wife needs to be… can you imagine what the harpies of the ton would do to a woman who has… I should explain, Alex. I don’t know what things are like here in the 21st century, but in my world, women who sell their bodies are… reviled is the best word, I suppose.

“It’s hypocritical. I know only a handful of men who haven’t had a ladybird or two in their keeping. And many women of the highest ranks in the land take a lover once they’ve given their lord an heir.

“Nobody says a word, as long as they are discrete.”

Though Heaven help them if they were not. Men could bed as many women as they liked, but let a woman be seen to let a man under her skirts and her reputation was lost forever.

Young Lady in a White Hat by Jean Baptiste Greuze

Young Lady in a White Hat by Jean Baptiste Greuze

“But Becky… well, she has had a hard life, and I would never even consider exposing her to the kind of hatred and ridicule she’d get if she were my duchess, and people were to find out..” he trails off, and stares once more into his brandy.

“Not that I haven’t considered it…” But think as he might, he could not find a path that didn’t end in disaster.

Alex signalled the girl to bring Aldridge another brandy, and she responded quickly..

“Prostitution really isn’t legal here, but it happens,” Alex said. “Your Becky would probably be called an “escort,” today. Someone you spend time with in exchange for money. Legally, there’s not supposed to be sex involved. But we all know there is, and if it’s proven, both the man and the woman could go to jail. But other than a scandal if it’s a celebrity, it’s not really a huge deal. But I don’t think that most people take lovers today. We expect our spouses to be monogamous.”

Becky would expect her spouse to be monogamous. She was, in many ways, a conventional soul despite the life she’d been forced into. Could Aldridge be faithful to one woman? He’d never tried beyond the usual initial period of infatuation with a new lover. Other men managed, so it must be possible.

Alex was clearly bothered by Aldridge’s dilemma. “Surely, there’s something you could do. I mean, I don’t know who this ‘ton’ is but what could they possibly do? And don’t people step down from that royal stuff all the time? Some duke did it a long time ago, when he fell in love with a divorced woman. I guess it was pretty scandalous, but once the initial shock and surprise was over, I don’t think anyone really cared. People have other things to do with their lives. I mean, the Prince of England has been divorced, and remarried a divorced woman, and he’s still next in line to the throne. And no one even likes his current wife!”

Society had clearly changed greatly in 200 years. “My own prince would happily divorce, but he’d lose the throne if he did it, and he won’t risk that.”

Aldridge took several more mouthfuls of his stew, thinking about what Alex has said.

“In my world, women who sell their bodies can be imprisoned, but mostly only the poor unfortunates who work the streets are actually arrested. The brothels pay bribes to the constables to be left alone, and people like my Becky… no one would dare to accuse any woman that has me for her protector, you can be sure of that.”

“But a world where people marry for love and divorce is easy? Monogamy would work, I think.” Indeed, most of the time he was faithful to one lover at a time, even if the affair lasted a mere night. He raised his brandy glass to toast that kind of monogamy. “One woman at a time.”

“It’s like that here, too,” Alex confirmed. “Usually the women you see on the streets are drug addicts, or forced into prostitution. We have one state where it’s legal, and highly regulated. But mostly, no. I think what your Becky does would be looked at as no big deal.

“But I don’t understand why you can’t just go somewhere, where no one knows you, and begin life fresh with the woman you love. Surely, since you own multiple homes, money wouldn’t be an issue?”

Aldridge was rich, that was true, though the homes Alex spoke of belonged to the duchy. But he’d followed the investment advice of his cousin and half-brother and ignored that of his father. As a result, Aldridge was now buying the unentailed properties his father was selling whenever another gaming debt fell due. Technically, they belonged to Aldridge, but in his mind they were part of the duchy. Even without those properties, though, he would not be penniless.

“I do have some personal money that doesn’t belong to the duchy. There is merit in what you say. I couldn’t just disappear, of course. I will be duke whether I want to or not. But perhaps I could engineer my own death? I have a younger brother… “

No. It wouldn’t do. He could not leave the duchy to Jonathan. “But he’s a feckless fool, Alex. I love him, but…

“I’ve trained to be duke my whole life. His grace my father put me in charge of one of his estates when I was 21, and since then I’ve taken over more and more. I run it all now; the estates, the properties, the industries, the trading enterprises. His grace plays at politics, drinks with his cronies, and chases women young enough to be his daughters.”

Edward Archer by Andrew Plimer, 1815And wastes his patrimony at the tables, and abuses his heir for not raising the rents when the harvests have been poor.

“1000s of people depend on me for their livelihood; one could say their lives, if that doesn’t sound too dramatic. The duchy was in poor condition when I took over, but it hums along very nicely now.

“Can I abandon them just to take what I want?”

Alex was shaking his head, rejecting Aldridge’s argument.

“Aldridge, I’ve had some regrets in my life. To tell you the truth, I’ve done some very stupid things. But I’ll never regret a moment spent with Leslie. Not one single moment. If I had an opportunity to marry her, to be with her in a way that wouldn’t rip apart a family, I would jump on it.

“Can’t you hire a manager or something? Someone qualified to run the estate in your stead? Then your folks, those who depend on you for their livelihood, would be taken care of, and you would still have an estate for your children to inherit. I travel a lot, with the band, but I own a thriving business here, and I would never be able to do that without a great manager to take care of things when I’m gone. Surely, you could find someone who could manage things for you? Then, you could have your Becky.”

Aldridge shrugged off his melancholy with a visible effort. “I will think on it,” he promised. It would never work. This man from the future couldn’t understand. Aldridge had managers for all duchy’s enterprises, and he supposed he might be able to find someone he trusted enough to oversee them. But only the duke could represent the Grenfords at court and in The Lords. An absentee duke? Never. He couldn’t do it.

He changed the subject. “But what of you? 1800 miles, you said? I cannot imagine the rigours of such a journey. That is… why that’s four and a half times the distance between London and Edinburgh, and even the fastest mail coaches, travelling without stopping except for fresh horses, can’t do it in less than 2 days. A week is more likely; more if the weather is unkind. You must love her very much to make such a trip every few months.”

Part 1 is here

Part 2 is here

And this table links to Keisha’s postings from Alex’s viewpoint