The Rose of Frampton receives her interviewer from two hundred years in the future in a small parlour, exquisitely decorated. Everything is of the finest quality, including the woman who graces the room in the way a jewel both takes and lends beauty to its setting.
Assured that no word of this interview will be published before the 21st century, she is willing to be frank in the hopes her words can be useful to women in a time she cannot imagine.
“I cannot emphasise enough,” she warns, “how important it is to me to remain anonymous in this time. No one can be allowed to connect Rose Diamond, the mistress of the Marquis of Aldridge, with Rebecca Winstanley, widowed mother of Sarah Winstanley. My daughter’s future depends on that distance.”
1. What impression do you make on people when they first meet you?
It rather depends on who they meet. When Aldridge introduces me to his friends as the Rose of Frampton, they see what they expect to see: a very expensive courtesan. No-one propositions me, of course, or treats me with discourtesy. They know how Aldridge would deal with that! But I know they see me as a status symbol, an ornament for Aldridge’s arm and a toy for his bed. Not as a person.
Then I have my other life. I do not meet many people as the widowed Mrs Winstanley. Mothers of the girls my daughter has befriended at the park; merchants perhaps; servants. I have heard myself described as ‘that pretty timid little widow’. I suppose the description is accurate.
2. Do you wish to marry? If so, what is your idea of a good marriage? Do you think that will happen in your life?
I have rarely seen the kind of marriage I would wish for myself. Aldridge is single, of course, but I have had married protectors, and I have known many other women in the keeping of men with wives. Aldridge sometimes talks to me about the ton women he beds – widows, some of them, but many bored and lonely wives. I would hate a marriage like that.
I’ve seen a few couples who are devoted to one another. They love one another, and more than that, they are friends. They enjoy being with one another. They are loyal and loving. Could I have a marriage like that? Of course not. Not with my past. But I would rather be alone than in a marriage where I was not accepted and loved.
3. What are you most ashamed of in your life?
Ashamed? Hmmm. Most, I suppose, would say I should be ashamed to be earning my living on my back. But I am at a loss to understand the logic. Society says I should be ashamed of taking the only opportunity available to me to give my daughter a better life than serving the appetites of some man until her beauty fades or she dies of the pox. But those same moralists do not expect shame of the men whose appetites and whose money create the market for what I and those like me sell. Should it shame me to sell myself in a comfortable townhouse for gold guineas rather than in an alley for pence or a brothel for the leavings of the bawd? Those were, I assure you, my choices.
I am ashamed of choosing my former protectors unwisely. Perry was a disaster. Had Aldridge not rescued us, Sarah and I would have been truly lost. I would owe him forever for that alone.
4. Tell me about your best friend. How did you meet? What do you like about this person? What do they like about you?
Best friend? I do not know… There was another courtesan, once, who was very kind to me when I first came to London. She gave me excellent advice. I think we could have been friends, but she is gone now. Aldridge is not a friend, precisely. I am fond of Aldridge, and I think he is fond of me, but he is my protector. I am paid to be pleasant, to amuse him, to keep him company. I am, if you like, his friend, but is he mine?
We met in a garden, which sounds very mundane and was anything but. I was escaping with Sarah from men who would have… well, never mind. Aldridge has no idea how he came to be naked and asleep in my summerhouse. But I am glad he was there to hide us and spirit us away to freedom.
He is a kind and generous protector, and I enjoy his company. What does he like about me, you ask? He says I amuse him.
5. What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
Here lies Rebecca, mother of Sarah and grandmother of who knows how many legitimate and healthy children. In life, she was loved and respected. In death she will be remembered.
6. What is your greatest fear?
I fear my past will haunt my daughter. I fear others will link the mistress of the Marquis of Aldridge to my little girl, and that her chances of escaping the life I have led will be destroyed. Aldridge is as careful as I am to keep the connection secret, and I believe he even bribes and threatens the news-sheets to protect us. But what will happen when our arrangement is over? Too many people know us both.
I believe Sarah and I will have to change our names and go where no one can find us, and even then, I am afraid someone will find out. All will be lost if I cannot keep my secret forever.
Regency romance, historical romance
R for implied sexual content, 2 out of 5 flames
Becky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde – the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.
Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?
The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn’t want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.
When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.
Aldridge never did find out how he came to be naked, alone, and sleeping in the small summerhouse in the garden of a country cottage. His last memory of the night before had him twenty miles away, and—although not dressed—in a comfortable bed, and in company.
The first time he woke, he had no idea how far he’d come, but the moonlight was bright enough to show him half-trellised window openings, and an archway leading down a short flight of steps into a garden. A house loomed a few hundred feet away, a dark shape against the star-bright sky. But getting up seemed like too much trouble, particularly with a headache that seemed to hang inches above him, threatening to split his head if he moved. The cushioned bench on which he lay invited him to shut his eyes and go back to sleep. Time enough to find out where he was in the morning.
When he woke again, he was facing away from the archway entrance, and there was someone behind him. Silence now, but in his memory the sound of light footsteps shifting the stones on the path outside, followed by twin intakes of breath as the walkers saw him.
One of them spoke; a woman’s voice, but low—almost husky. “Sarah, go back to the first rose bush and watch the house.”
“Yes, mama.” A child’s voice.
Aldridge waited until he heard the child dance lightly down the steps and away along the path, then shifted his weight slightly so that his pelvis flattened, dragging the rest of his torso over till he was lying on his back.
He waited for the exclamation of shock, but none came. Carefully— he wanted to observe her before he let her know he was awake, and anyway, any sudden movement might start up the hammers above his eye sockets—he cracked open his lids enough so to watch through his lashes.
He could see more than he expected. The woman had a shuttered lantern she was using to examine him, starting at his feet. She paused so long when she reached his morning salute that it grew even prouder, then swept the beam from the lantern up his torso so quickly he barely had time to slam his lids shut before the light reached and lingered over his face.
Jude Knight writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.
Jude Knight is the pen name of Judy Knighton. After a career in commercial writing, editing, and publishing, Jude is returning to her first love, fiction. Her novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair, was released in December 2014, and is in the top ten on several Amazon bestseller lists in the US and UK. Her first novel Farewell to Kindness, was released on 1 April, and is first in a series: The Golden Redepennings.
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I was born and raised in San Francisco, CA, and have a husband and two children. Music is an addiction. I can often be found in the car, singing along at the top of my lungs to whatever is playing. I work full time, and I split my spare time between family, reading, blogging, and writing. I’m a habitual quoter. Lines from films and TV shows constantly pop into my head—my kids are the only ones that really get it. I’m an only child, and so of course I married a man who is one of ten children. Other than English, I speak Spanish, Moroccan, and a little French. I love to travel, but don’t do enough of it. Reading has been a passion for most of my life and I now love writing. I’m klutz, and in my own mind, I’m hilarious.
Find me at www.jennifersenhajiauthor.com
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