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.

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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.”

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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

 

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In a space out of time, two hundred years no longer separates our heroes

After Keisha Page, The Word Mistress, agreed to be a host on the A Baron for Becky blog tour, we talked about the type of post I might write. As many of you know, I’ve done quite a bit of co-writing with my Bluestocking Belles colleagues, on one another’s blogs and at Facebook parties such as our Bluestocking Belles Crock and Bull inn, and the Bluestocking Bookshop.

But I’ve never before put one of my Regency heroes or heroines with someone else’s contemporary dude.

Keisha’s Alex is a quite a guy. In fact, he’s a rock star. The hero of Keisha’s Rhythm of Love, he is astounded to find himself having dinner with a man from 200 years ago. My Marquis of Aldridge, one of the two male protagonists of A Baron for Becky, is pretty surprised, too.

Keisha posted the first part of our joint story, written from Alex’s point of view, and I’m following in her wake posting the same part again, but from the point of view of my Aldridge. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook, or subscribe to our blogs, to catch the rest, which we’ll post every few days over the next fortnight.

Oldinn

Aldridge checked his horse at the top of the rise. Surely that was an inn in the hollow? And one that hadn’t been there three weeks ago when he rode north?

He was wet, cold, and tired. If they had a warm room and good brandy, he’d take it. Mystery or no mystery.

An ostler took his horse in the stable yard, and the front door opened to warmth and the welcoming smells of stew and fresh bread. This was exactly what he needed!

The public room was nearly empty, apart from the old codgers in the corner that seem to live in every pub. Aldridge took a seat at a table near the fire and grinned invitingly at the girl at the bar, who was fetchingly, if surprisingly, dressed in skin tight pantaloons of some dark material.

The serving girl handed Aldridge a beautifully written menu – printed, it looked like. Aldridge raised an eyebrow at the expense of such a print job, but the appetising odours had already made up his mind.

“A dish of your stew, my sweet, and some of that bread I can smell. And soon, dearest, if you love me? I’ve been riding since dawn, and my belly thinks my throat’s been cut. And brandy, if you have a good French brandy. Otherwise, your best ale.”

The barmaid did not appear impressed at his endearments, but she pressed a device in her hand, and said, “Be right wiv ya,” before turning to the man who had just taken a seat at the next table, a strangely dressed fellow in tight leather pants and a bulky leather jacket. And was that a helmet under his arm?

“When did this place open?” the man asked. Aldridge could not place his accent.

“Oh, we’ve been around for ages, sweets. We’re just not always in the same place twice.” She sauntered away, her swaying rump delightfully outlined by the tight cloth of her outrageous garment.

At the next table, the stranger swiped his hand down the front of the jacket he war, and it split into two pieces. How was that possible? Aldridge couldn’t see the fastening, just a series of tiny metal bars down both front seams.

It didn’t take the servant long to return with his brandy. Aldridge held the beautifully formed glass in his hands to warm the drink, and inhaled its fragrance. Yes. This would do nicely. The man at the next table was watching him. He raised the glass slightly and tipped his head in a polite salute. “If the taste is up to the bouquet, I can recommend it,” he said.

“Fantastic, thanks,” the man said; then, after a long pull from his beer. “This is going to sound strange, but why are you dressed like that?”

The man was right. It did sound strange. How else should he be dressed? Riding jacket now open to show the richly embroidered waistcoat underneath; check. Cravat, neatly tied in a knot a hundred dandies would sell their eyeteeth to duplicate; check. Pantaloons, formerly almost white but showing the impact of a day’s hard riding; check. Hessian boots, with tassels of his own design; check. His beaver and the many caped greatcoat that had kept of the worst of the rain were hanging in the foyer.

Perhaps the man thought he should be in breeches for dinner?

“One does not normally dress in formal dinner wear for a country inn,” he explained. “Would you care to join me at my table?” Aldridge would appreciate a closer look at the man’s own clothes. Especially the clever fastening for the jacket.

A strange expression crossed the other man’s face, then he picked up his mug, and moved to Aldridge’s table. “Sir, you’re sitting in a restaurant in the middle of New York City.”

Aldridge blinked. That made no sense at all. “New York City? In the colonies? I beg your pardon, I should say the United States, of course. Sir, I rode up to this inn not fifteen minutes ago in the countryside between Margate and Canterbury. In England.”

The servant placed a fragrant plate of stew in front of each of them, and a whole loaf of fresh hot bread on its own cutting block in the centre of the table. “Told you,” she said. “Sometimes we’re not even in the same place once.”

Aldridge raised both eyebrows. Surely she couldn’t mean that as it sounded. Had he stepped into a gothic romance? He took a deep breath of the stew to ground himself in something real.

Then his dinner companion said, “I’m Alex, current denizen of twenty-first century New York City. Pleased to meet you.”

“Twenty-first….?” Aldridge shook his head. Two centuries in his future? Impossible. Nonetheless, he put out his hand. “Pleased to meet you, Alex. I’m Aldridge. And when I rode out this morning from Margate, it was 1810.”

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