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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Two heroes. Two centuries divide them. Two different fictional worlds. Part 2

Today, I’m continuing the story Keisha Page and I wrote for her blog, The Word Mistress. Our heroes – the Marquis of Aldridge from A Baron for Becky and 1810, and Alex from Rhythm of Love and the 21st century – have found their way to a mysterious inn where the food is excellent and time no longer applies.

awY3dMbAlex’s grasp was firm for a hallucination. And he returned to the slice of fresh bread he’s cut with an enthusiasm Aldridge did not associate with ghosts. “Margate?” he asked, between mouthfuls. “Is that your home?”

“It will be,” Aldridge said, without much enthusiasm. “One of them. I mostly live in London, though.” He smiled, his expression softening. Officially, his London residence was the heir’s wing at Haverford House. But the townhouse he’d purchased for his mistress, Becky, was more of a home to him than anywhere else on the planet. “I’ll be home tomorrow,” he said.

Aldridge hoped this was true; that he’d walk out of here and it would still be 1810. “And do you live in New York, Alex?”

“I’ve been to London a few times. I’m guessing it looks much different now. Cars and pollution, and, oh, all of the new buildings that have been built. I live here, in an apartment in the Bronx. My kids live with their mother, in a house a few miles from my place. At least they’re close enough that I can see them all the time.” Alex dunked his piece of bread in his stew.

The London Aldridge knew had dirt and filth enough; pollution, certainly. Cars? He’d seen a few processions, but perhaps this modern London had more? He focussed on the part of Alex’s statement he could make sense of. The term ‘kids’ clearly meant children. “I also have children who live with their mothers, but I see little of them. You are fortunate to have yours close.”

Alex nodded.

“I am pretty lucky. My girl, Leslie, wants to move here, but if she does, then her kids’ dad wouldn’t be able to see their kids. It’s kind of a pain in the ass. Not the kids, but the making sure that everyone gets to see each other when they’re supposed to. I don’t know how anyone makes a second marriage work.”

Another statement with outlandish implications. The man had been married to the mother of his children and now wanted to be married again to someone who had children by another man? How outraged Society’s dragons would be to hear Alex refer so casually to second marriages.

“So, Aldridge, how many times have you been married?”

Aldridge ignored the question, still thinking about Alex’s statement. Perhaps his interpretation was wrong.  “May I… I do not wish to give offence, so please tell me if I breach courtesy in asking this… may I confirm that I understand correctly? Your children live with their mother. And the woman you would marry lives near the father of her children.

‘But you speak of a second marriage. You are both divorced, then? And all the parties work together so that the children can see their fathers and their mothers?”

“Dude. That is the least offensive thing you could say.” Alex smiled at Aldridge, clearly not offended.

“Yes, Leslie is divorced from her first husband, the father of her children. They both live in Denver. I am divorced from my first wife, who is the mother of my children. She lives near me here. We’re actually required by law to make things work. If Leslie moved the children here without her ex-husband’s permission, a judge could put her in jail. And so far, her husband won’t agree to let her move here.

“Truthfully, I can’t say I blame the guy, but it’s frustrating. Leslie and I… I can’t stand being without her. She lives 1800 miles away, so we only get to see each other every few months. The last time I got to see her, it was only for a couple of days; I was in the middle of a tour, so I couldn’t stay long.”

He held up his brandy snifter to catch the attention of the waitress. She nodded in his direction. He sat the glass down and looked at Aldridge.

“I didn’t realize divorce was common in 1810. Or even legal, I guess.”

“It isn’t common,” Aldridge confirmed. “It requires a Bill in Parliament, which means washing the family’s dirty linen in full view of every gossip in England.”

Not an option for any person of consequence. No decent man would do that to his wife and children, not any respectable woman, either, unless in peril of her life.

“A man can get a divorce and custody of his children if he proves his wife was unfaithful. A woman has to prove extreme cruelty, and even then she might not keep the children. A man might survive the scandal, but a woman? I can only imagine what would drive a woman to such a course.”

He took another slow sip of brandy, saying out loud the doom his father had been enjoining on him all this last visit to Margate.

“I’ll have to marry some day. When I do, it will be for the rest of my life.”

Alex said, “Oh boy. It works much differently now. It’s mostly paperwork. You file papers in court, and if a judge agrees that the division of assets is equitable, then six months later, you’re single again.”

It couldn’t possibly be as easy as that. Could it? Aldridge took another bite of the excellent bread. Alex was still talking.

“I hope it works out forever with Leslie. I love her more than I ever thought I could love someone. When we’re together, I feel like I can conquer the world. Do you have a girlfriend?”

At two score and ten, he was old for a girl, but he’d have to choose one, he supposed. A girl who was a friend? He had largely ignored this year’s crop of debutantes, but it seemed unlikely he’d find a friend in their ranks. How he wished…  Well. No point in that. “I envy you, Alex. And I hope it works out for you, too.”

“I’ll marry some women with the right lineage, and for the land or political advantage she offers my family. It doesn’t matter for me… I think I’m not capable of the kind of love you mention. But I feel sorry for the poor lady I marry.” Despite his determination, his mind drifted back to his mistress, and he heard himself saying, “If I could love, I expect I’d be head over heels for Becky, the woman I am going to now. She’s… well, she’s a fine woman. Beautiful, intelligent, kind. I could see spending the rest of my life with Becky.”

If he married his mistress, elevated her to future Duchess of Haverford, the dragons would tear her to pieces. They would never accept her. They would not rest until they had destroyed her and her children with her. He could not subject her to that horror.

See Keisha’s post for her hero’s point of view, and find out how he feels about Aldridge’s revelations.

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