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A new #free short story…  I’ll be telling it here, and it can also now be preordered on Amazon.

@Copyright Jane Lark; Publishing rights owned by Harper Impulse; Harper Collins UK

Capturing the Earl’s Love

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A Historical Romance story

Part One

~

Lord Rupert Stanforth, Earl of Morton, watched his sister, Rowena, approach.

She was smiling, and her friend, Meredith Divine, clung to her arm.

His gaze briefly passed over the other girl. He was increasingly convinced Miss Divine only kept Rowena as a friend because Rowena was the perfect foil to show off Miss Divine’s more striking looks. Her auburn curls glowed in the candlelight beside Rowena’s lacklustre, light-brown locks.

Miss Divine was also slightly taller, and a little fuller in the bust.

While they crossed the room, she appeared to press as close as she could to Rowena’s side, letting Rowena’s less impressionable looks make Miss Divine’s stand out among the white-clad debutantes in the ballroom.

“Rupert…”

His eyes focused on his sister once more. She was out of breath, having just completed a country dance, and her cheeks were flushed, while her eyes glowed, expressing the fun she was having.

“I want to introduce Meredith to Ellen. Will you escort us and do the honours? Meredith is dying to meet her.”

Mmm, now what is this little game? He glanced at Miss Divine only to receive a very bright but subtly restrained smile.

She was trying to win his approval.

He was not interested. He wished nothing to do with the little schemer. Her father was in some sort of trade. Rupert had not even wished Rowena to befriend Miss Divine, let alone become so thick with her. The two of them were inseparable; or rather, Miss Divine hung about Rowena like a moth around a flame. Except Miss Divine was no moth. Her beauty was far too vibrant.

Rupert was Rowena’s guardian. Their father had passed on long ago, so Rupert was responsible for keeping his sister safe. It fell to him to help her choose her friends wisely. Yet the more he disparaged Miss Divine, the more Rowena favoured the girl. He’d ceased his complaints. Their friendship had still blossomed. He’d hoped it would wither and die back. It had not—yet.

He expected Miss Divine to make a wrong step soon though, one which would open his sister’s eyes, and end this arm-in-arm behavior.

“They are over there,” Rowena prodded.

Their cousin, Edward, had come up to town yesterday with his wife, who was with child again, although her condition was still barely visible.

Rupert ought to be glad they’d come. His mother rarely rose from her bed, due to her rheumatism, which she eased by drowning herself in laudanum. It left the burden of chaperoning Rowena on his shoulders. Ellen could help. Yet he felt uncomfortable about the notion. His cousin’s wife had a disreputable past.

Complying with Rowena’s request, he offered his right arm.

Miss Divine let go of Rowena and swept about to claim his left, without an offer.

While the girls chattered excitedly, he walked about the hall in the direction of his cousin, not listening to a word they said.

Edward was standing in conversation with his wife and his in-laws.

The Pembroke sisters, of whom Edward’s wife was one, stood out like dark-haired sirens. It was difficult not to stare when they were all together.

Edward’s wife, Ellen, was the eldest, but unfortunately, as Rupert looked at her, an unwanted image of her in her former life slipped into his mind.

She’d been a courtesan when he and Edward first saw her, and he’d seen her in one particularly compromising situation. It still made his spine tingle, like hackles rising, to let Rowena mix with Ellen. Yet Ellen’s family, along with the whole of the ton, society’s elite, had disregarded her past, if they were aware of it. It had simply been swept away.

Rupert could not forget.

Miss Divine gripped his arm too tightly. God, he found the girl irritating. Her voice was shrill, as though the excited pitch was forced.

He’d thought Edward’s wife a schemer, too, in the beginning, angling after his cousin for some reason. Rupert had been wrong. The moment they’d come back to town after their elopement, he’d seen that. A mutual affection lingered in the air between them.

Rupert could not fathom it. His parents had hated one another. Even his cousin’s parents had only displayed comfort with one another. Yet Edward had changed character in many ways since meeting Ellen. She’d become the pivotal focus of his life, when for weeks Rupert and Edward had been as inseparable as Rowena and Miss Divine. So there must be something in the word love. Edward certainly seemed to have a deep intimacy with his wife.

Rupert missed his cousin’s company, and he wanted nothing to do with love. He’d seen his cousin travel through hell to be with Ellen; he did not fancy that for himself. And it was a farce, as far as he was concerned; Rupert half-expected Edward’s haven of happiness to collapse at any moment. Solid relationships were built on mutual respect and nothing else.

Miss Divine’s grip shifted a little on his arm, as if she sought to gain his attention. He ignored her.

When Rupert took a wife, which would not be for a few years yet, he wished for someone who would bring him contentment. A woman he would not argue with, someone quiet, who would be willing to make his home, and perhaps his bed, comfortable, and manage all else without needing to refer to him.

“Ellen,” Rowena exclaimed as they neared the couple.

“Edward,” Rupert acknowledged. His cousin’s eyes were shining with both humour and happiness when he turned.

“My friend wishes an introduction—” Rowena began.

“So I have been asked to do the honours,” Rupert completed. “Lord Edward Marlow, this is Miss Meredith Divine, Lady Eleanor, Miss Divine.” He bowed slightly to Ellen, who bobbed a shallow curtsy as both girls on his arms did the same, but dipped a little lower.

“Miss Divine…” Ellen acknowledged, then began asking the girls questions, finding out from Rowena what she had been up to in town.

Rupert could answer that — shopping mostly, spending a small fortune, as well as visiting constantly.

Lord, he prayed she would hurry up and find a suitor he might accept.

Rowena’s fingers slipped from Rupert’s arm, while Miss Divine’s clung a moment longer. Awareness prickled across his skin when she finally let go.

Edward set an arm about Rupert’s shoulders, drawing him aside from the women.

“How are you?” Edward asked.

~

A Lord’s Desperate Love is the  story of two of the secondary characters from the 1st book in

the Marlow Intrigues Series

~

‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’

~

For

  • the story of the real courtesan who inspired                                                 The Illicit Love of a Courtesan,
  • another free short story, about characters from book #2,                              A Lord’s Scandalous Love,
  • the prequel excerpts for book #3                                                                   The Scandalous Love of a Duke

Go to the index

Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional Historical and New Adult Romance stories, and the author of a No.1 bestselling Historical Romance novel in America, ‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’.

Click here to find out more about Jane’s books, and see Jane’s website www.janelark.co.uk to learn more about Jane. Or click  ‘like’ on Jane’s Facebook  page to see photo’s and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras, which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark


Harriette_Wilson00Last week I began sharing the true stories which Harriette Wilson, the real 19th century courtesan, left out of her memoirs, and this week’s truth is truly amazing. I was really surprised when I discovered it.

I am going to carry on my tradition of a little background though ;) so below is the background I posted last week, if you read it last week, skip to the text marked with bold type.

If you have been following my blog for a little while, you will know that Harriette Wilson, the real Regency courtesan who published her memoirs in 1825 as a kiss and tell series, inspired the first novel in the Marlow Intrigues series, The Illicit Love of a Courtesan, I have been sharing the version of her life she told in her memoirs here for about a year, but over that year so many times people have told me – but it’s known she lied in them.

Well recently, I discovered the work of someone who has researched Harriette’s real life, and so I can now share with you some of the things she did not include.

As to whether or not she lied, well I will also cover that… But… I will say now, I have used her memoirs as a wealth of insight into the Regency world, her writing is like looking in through a window to see how life was for someone who lived then, and yes, you can definitely spot the scenes where there is some embellishment, either because she was writing for an audience, or because she wished to hurt someone who had hurt her… But overall, many of her scenes are from truth. Plenty more of this in the next couple of weeks, including some insights which I have found really upsetting.

I left Harriette last week as she ran away from home with her first gentleman lover (or maybe not her first, that we don’t know for sure, but definitely the first man she agreed to become the recognized mistress of). Her memoirs began at the point she was living with the man she ran away with in Brighton, but that was not where he took her to first. What she doesn’t mention at all in her memoirs is where her relationship with Lord Craven began…

So where did Harriette Wilson start her first affair and begin to learn the artistry of a courtesan…? At Ashdown House.

Ashdown House 1

 

Ashdown House is an isolated hunting lodge, up on the top of the Wiltshire downs, it sits in acres of grounds, in the hollow of a hill, with amazing views. It was built as a love nest by the 1st Earl of Craven, who received his earldom for his funding and loyal support of the Stuart family, even during their exile. But Lord Craven had a reason for his devotion, he was in love with the Queen of Bohemia, known as the Winter Queen, and when her nephew allowed her to return to England, Lord Craven supported her and kept her at his home in London. Ashdown was to be his gift to her… Their love nest in the country… However she died before it was completed. I shared their story a while ago, here, with no idea Ashdwon had any link to Harriette Wilson, or Jane Austen…

When the Queen of Bohemia died, after Ashdown was completed, it became a lordly playground, and instead of a love nest, a den of iniquity. King Charles II was entertained there often, among his group of courtiers who, like the Lord Craven of that time, all enjoyed women and wine, there is a huge wine cellar, which was filled for there hunting visits, and women would be brought in, or mistresses brought with them. There are many accounts of the debauchery of King Charles II’s court in Samuel Pepy’s diaries.

So how do we know Harriette was there – at this stately house with its history of love and sin. Well here is another stunning link… Jane Austen wrote about Harriette in a letter… How bizarre is that?!

William Craven, the 7th Baron, and 1st Earl of the second creation was oddly linked to Jane Austen… Tom Fowle was Jane Austen’s sister’s, Cassandra’s, fiancé, and Lord Craven, the Earl, was Tom Fowle’s uncle and patron, he’d funded Tom’s education. Had Tom lived to marry Cassandra, he would have likely been given a job on one of Lord Craven’s estates. Tom’s father had been appointed Reverend on an estate having married Lord Craven’s sister. Cassandra would have obviously lived with Tom there. Tom died of yellow fever serving as a Chaplin to Lord Craven’s private regiment. So like other lesser sons and high society family members who had no actual status or income themselves – just like Jane Austen’s father, and his own – Tom would have probably taken on a parish on one of Lord Craven’s estates. Lord Craven had several.

Ashdown was one of his smaller, minor properties. The perfect place to tuck away a mistress, who at that time, was considered boyish, and  little more than a child.

So, when Jane Austen heard rumours of Lord Craven’s extremely young  new mistress, she included the news in a letter to her sister. Jane’s letter was dated, Thursday, January, 8th, 1801, “Eliza has seen Lord Craven at Barton, & probably by this time at Kintbury, where he was expected for one day this week. – She found his manners very pleasing indeed . – The little flaw of having a Mistress now living with him at Ashdown Park, seems to be the only unpleasing circumstances about him.” Jane Austen was speaking of Harriette Wilson. Then Harriette was just fifteen years of age.

Strangely, just to add to all the bizarre links in this, I grew up about seven miles from Ashdown House, in a village below the downs, looking up from my bedroom window at the White Horse on a hill Harriette was known to have walked to in her time at Ashdown. I used sit on the windowsill when I was really young, looking up at the Horse, daydreaming all sorts of nonsense. The teacher who told me I would write a novel when I was eight, lived in a bungalow opposite that house. So weird…  Anyway, I have spent hours of my young life up on the hills where Harriette began her career as a courtesan, how odd then to discover this link to Harreitte, especially as Harriette’s Memoirs have been so influential in the development of The Illicit Love of a Courtesan and all of the Marlow Intrigues series, which have brought me writing success.

horse-from-bridge

I’ve always loved the hills and the countryside,  my soul needs it. When I have lived in towns, I’ve walked miles, caught buses and caught ferries to get out into the countryside for days here and there. I am like Jane Austen… Who loved country life and hated her years in Bath…

 

Ashdown House from the air, the Uffington, White Horse is on a hill about 3 miles to the right

Ashdown House from the air, the Uffington, White Horse is on a hill about 3 miles to the right

Harriette, though, how would she have felt…? We can only imagine. But her memoirs frequently say how bored she was whenever she became isolated or lived away from London, or Brighton, or somewhere with many forms of entertainment and a lot of people. But she had escaped a house full of noisy siblings at the time, been freed from a life of labour and then deposited in a huge house, filled with luxuries. I am sure at first she must have felt like crowing – Look at me! She’d beaten her sisters. She was the mistress of an Earl, and living in a huge house, with acres of grounds to wander about… and she had many servants to wait on her, and order about… as if she was the lady of the house. But… She was the mistress of an old man, who wore a night-cap to bed – her memoirs told us she was unimpressed with that – and her memoirs also indicate he treated her like a child. He must have talked down to her, she tells us he drew her pictures nightly of the cocoa trees on the shores of the countries he’d visited in his years in the navy, telling her stories of his successes in battles at sea.

Everything implies Harriette did not find him physically attractive at all, the role she had taken on must have been a duty, she cannot have enjoyed it, and she must have been bored stiff, it is no wonder then that at the beginning of her memoirs, she talks more about the other men who called on her while she lived with Lord Craven in Brighton. I am sure there were no love scenes of the sort I write about in The Illicit Love of a Courtesan.

When she left Lord Craven, it was to take up with a man who gave her no money at all, and had nothing to offer her financially, not even a home to put her up in, she had to lodge with her old nurse when she was Frederick Lamb’s mistress, and he came to visit her there, and gave her no income either. But she was back in London, and the one thing he could offer was influential friends, he was the second son of an Earl, poor, but very well-connected, and his network of friends presented possibilities…

Harriette said she was extremely glad to leave Lord Craven and his cocoa trees behind…

Next week – were the stories she did tell in her memoirs true, or not?

~

Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional Historical and New Adult Romance stories, and the author of a No.1 bestselling Historical Romance novel in America, ‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’.

Look at the index to discover all the true stories Jane has discovered during research, and to find links to excerpts and a FREE novella ~ A Lord’s Desperate Love

Click here to find out more about Jane’s books, and see Jane’s website www.janelark.co.uk to learn more about Jane. Or click  ‘like’ on Jane’s Facebook  page to see photo’s and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras, which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark

 

 

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