Author’s note: In the virtual worlds of historical fiction, authors create whole societies of characters, interacting with real historical events and even real people. But each virtual world sits alone, never touching the worlds of other authors. Until now.
The Bluestocking Belles, as part of the launch of our new website for historical romance readers, created a magical coaching inn—fittingly called ‘The Crock and Bull’—a place for characters to meet from all of our books’ worlds and those of our guests.
Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight soon discovered that two of their characters knew one another well. Rather too well, according to all who knew them as young men.
During the course of the party, the Duke of Wellbridge and the Marquis of Aldridge have referred on several occasions to an incident that saw them banned from an entire town, from the Prince of Wales’ presence, and even—for a time—from England. Until now, even the Duchess of Wellbridge hasn’t known the whole truth.
What was that mysterious event? How do Aldridge and Wellbridge know each other? Why has it been so long since they’ve spoken? Are they still keeping secrets?
Now, exclusively for readers of our blogs, Mariana Gabrielle and Jude Knight have co-written a small bit of backstory shared by a young Lord Nicholas Northope (from Royal Regard) and his protégé in crime, the Merry Marquis of Aldridge (who first appears in Jude Knight’s work-in-progress, Encouraging Prudence).
We will share sections of this scandalous story the week of March 8-13, leading up to the Bluestocking Ball on March 14.
The year is 1801 in Fickleton Wells, Somerset.
The Marquis of Aldridge, heir to the Duke of Haverford, is 21, just down from Oxford. Lord Nicholas Northope, second son of the Duke of Wellbridge has been, at 27, racketing about England unchecked a fair few years without much purpose. And the trajectories of both young lives are about to change.
Haverford turns all his attention on his son and heir, and Aldridge’s confidence shrinks to a needle point.
“They claim you have been visiting them for months,” Haverford explains, his suddenly gentle tones a sure sign that Aldridge is about to be very, very sorry. And then even sorrier than that.
While Aldridge tries to duck out of sight, Nick moves to a position well away from any more corners. He is a grown man, for heaven’s sake. And there are plenty of places to stand.
“I haven’t finished with you, Northope.”
“Months?” Nick responds, shaking his head, straightening his cuffs. “You’ve been coming here months, Aldridge?”
“Not I, Your Grace. It’s a lie.” Aldridge squeaks.
“I, on the other hand,” Nick offers, “just came to Fickleton Wells for a prize fight. At least that is why your son told me he was bringing me here. If he had another purpose… well… I cannot speak to that…”
Haverford casts his eyes to heaven. “No honor among thieves or scoundrels. Did the Duke of Wellbridge’s wife play him false with the village idiot? Aldridge, if your mother weren’t a saint I would swear you couldn’t be mine.”
Aldridge is casting Nick a look of deep betrayal. “Nick, how could you?”
Nick relents. There is no need to leave all the blame on Aldridge. “Admittedly, Your Grace, we had a bit more gin than two gentlemen should… But I would swear Aldridge and I were both unknown to them. And the gin had quite a sharp taste, rather like… patent medicine. I can’t help but think they are lying.”
“Of course they are lying.” Haverford throws up his hands in despair. “And of course they set out to trap you. And of course they drugged you. And of course you would drink anything put in front of you! Do you think I’m as big a fool as the two of you? But they have the whole town believing them, and the prince half believes them too.”
“The prince,” Nick gulps. “What is Wales going to do to us?”
Haverford ignores him to continue his version of a fatherly sermon. “I have told you before, Aldridge. And you should listen, too, Northope. Never, ever, indulge yourself with the lower gentry or the middle sort. Servants, yes. Farmers’ wives and such. But never with people who can embarrass me… you. Keep a mistress. Keep ten; your allowance is large enough. Just don’t let your mother know, and stay away from the middle sort. One of our own, if you must, and if she has done her duty by her Lord. But never the middle sort. You have embarrassed me. You have embarrassed Wellbridge. And you have embarrassed the Prince of Wales.”
To find out whether Aldridge will be blamed for twelve (or is it fifteen) pregnancies, come back here or go to Jude Knight’s blog March 13, 2015 for the conclusion to the story.
To attend the Bluestocking Ball with Aldridge, Nick (who is now, himself, the Duke of Wellbridge, at the wise old age of fifty), and dozens of other historical romance characters, go to the Bluestocking Belles’ Housewarming Party, March 14, 12 noon – 8 pm EDT.