December 15, 1803
The last time the Earl of Herrendon’s voice was heard in the confines of England, the Watch was called to the London residence of the Marquess of Firthley, where it was feared the marquess would kill his firstborn son, rather than allow him to marry the woman of his choosing. That circumstance, however, is of ancient vintage, and who can remember back more than a quarter-century?
Lucky for you, dear Readers, this reporter can.
During the 1775 Season, the featured soprano at the Royal Opera, Miss Lourdes Andreadis, was a dark-eyed, Grecian beauty who had traveled the Continent, performed for the Crowned Heads of Europe, and reportedly taken more than one royal son, in more than one principality, as lover. Inevitably, every British nobleman with the purse to finance a mistress wanted a contract, but she was not a woman for hire. No, she was heiress to a shipping fortune and had made her own money and fame. She chose her paramours for the enjoyment and had no need of a husband, even one with a title.
When the Earl of Herrendon, heir to the Marquess of Firthley, fell in love with her, no one thought there was any question of marriage. Not only was he only one of dozens of men offering her their sincere devotion (by way of worldly goods), but Preston Marloughe was a dutiful son, not given to fancies like love at first sight and midnight elopements. Older, wiser men than he had been ensorcelled by Miss Andreadis, however, and Herrendon was caught up like all the others. Before the end of the Season, they were publicly acknowledged lovers, and she announced she would retire.
Speculation was rife she was increasing with his by-blow, but still, no hint of a marriage until one morning, in the small hours, the Watch was called to Belgrave Square by the screaming of the marquess’ housekeeper, who ran from the house, shouting about the master killing his only son. News of the earl’s marriage arrived back in London within a fortnight, and announcement of a birth no fewer than three years later, but the Earl of Herrendon was never seen in England again.
Readers, I can confirm that the Earl of Herrendon has returned to English soil. The son of Firthley’s prodigal heir and his scandalous opera singer has taken up residence in Belgravia as heir presumptive to his grandfather, the Marquess of Firthley.
So, who is Alexander Marloughe, the new Earl of Herrendon? If the ladies of London are lucky, he is his father’s son, for anyone who remembers Preston Marloughe, does so fondly. He was a kind, funny, honorable young man, and this writer admits to shedding a tear on news of his death by fever some dozen years ago. The noblewomen of England were done a great disservice when Miss Andreadis took him out of the marriage mart, and no less a personage than Lady Sefton has said so.
But will the same be true for the son? For surely, the first order of business for this young bachelor must be securing a bride.
He is handsome, it is reported, and a noted businessman in Greece, but after a lifetime in trade in Crete, raised to manage a shipping operation rather than take his seat in the Lords, one wonders if the new earl will have even a loose grasp of the social graces, to say nothing of understanding the social, political, and economic realities of our nation. It is sure he will have but a slim purse, as his mother’s fame and fortune have long since dimmed, his English property has been lying fallow since his father’s desertion, and his mother’s family’s fleet of ships has been requisitioned at gunpoint by Napoleon’s forces, presumably why he has chosen now to make his return and take possession of Herrendon (both the Hall and the courtesy title).
But does any of that matter at all?
Even were he a bricklayer, he will yet become Firthley and take a seat in the House of Lords upon his grandfather’s passing. The marquessate is wealthy and strategically significant, the current Lord Firthley is a hinge vote in his bloc in Parliament, and no one has the least notion of the character or temperament of England’s latest peer. The question uppermost must not be whether Alexander Marloughe will fit in with the beau monde—for his bloodline is irrefutable—but rather, how?
What kind of nobleman will he be, and perhaps more important (certainly more entertaining to contemplate), which of our noble daughters will redeem Preston Marloughe’s betrayal of his class and welcome Herrendon back home?
Meet Alexander Marloughe, Earl of Herrendon, in ‘Tis Her Season, a Royal Regard prequel novella:
Charlotte Amberly returns a Christmas gift from her intended—the ring—then hares off to London to take husband-hunting into her own hands. Will she let herself be caught?
Available FREE during the month of July at Smashwords, with Coupon Code SFREE.
Charlotte Amberly would rather eat a lump of coal for Christmas dinner than marry the Marquess of Firthley, so when her parents cancel her London Season in favor of a rush to the altar, the feisty debutante takes husband-hunting into her own hands.
Alexander Marloughe, reluctant heir to a marquessate, would rather not spend his holiday dashing through the snow after a flibbertigibbet just out of the schoolroom, but no woman before Charlotte has ever led him such a merry chase.
Mariana Gabrielle is a pen name for Mari Christie, who is not romantic—at all. Therefore, her starry-eyed alter ego lives vicariously through characters who believe in their own happy-ever-afters. And believe they must, as Mariana loves her heroes and heroines, but truly dotes on her villains, and almost all of her characters’ hearts have been bruised, broken, and scarred long before they reach the pages of her books.