Today I would like to welcome Jude Knight and the Marquis of Aldridge to my blog. Jude will be giving one random commentor a free copy of her soon to be released novel A Baron for Becky. Let’s sit back and enjoy learning more about the Merry Marquis. He is quite the character and I know you’ll fall in love with him as much as I did…
The Marquis of Aldridge was sitting over a glass of brandy in the private parlour of an exclusive inn half-way between Margate and London. The letter in his hand sent his strongly arched brows plunging towards one another in a frown.
His latest meeting with his father, the Duke of Haverford, was behind him, a reunion with his lovely mistress ahead. He had eaten a substantial and tasty dinner and the business of the duchy, which followed him everywhere, was largely finished for the night.
This letter was meant to be entertainment; light relief after the strain of three weeks with His Grace. Questions from a newsheet correspondent? He’d expected an interrogation on his amorous adventures, and planned to formulate replies that would curl the impudent questioner’s toes. Not that he’d send them, of course. His family did not answer to the newsheets. But he’d enjoy imagining their effect.
These questions were not at all amusing; their answers even less so. He thought the answers anyway. How not?
1. What impression do you make on people when they first meet you?
Mostly, people don’t meet me. They meet the Marquis of Aldridge. Or they meet the Merry Marquis. And the impression is made before we are ever in the same room.
Aldridge has a duchy to run. Those in my service, those I do business with; they know I expect efficiency, honesty, and commitment. And I reward it well.
As for the Merry Marquis, what it is to have a reputation! Debutantes are warned off me, which saves me from their artlessness, feigned or real. Widows and bored wives search me out. Which saves me the trouble of looking for them.
People meet me for the first time knowing what they want from me, and that colours their impression of the person they meet. None of them want to know me; the real me.
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?
Marry? Good God, no. I have no wish to marry. I will do so, of course. In time, I must take a wife. I will choose her for her lineage, the lands or wealth or allies she brings to the duchy, her potential to be an excellent duchess. It sound cold put so bluntly, and the idea leaves me cold.
I have seen good marriages. My cousin and my half-brother both made love matches. Even after three years and children, both couples are hopelessly besotted. More than that, though. They are good friends. They like being together. They admire and respect one another.
They live my idea of a good marriage: a relationship of equals, passionately in love but also closely bonded in affection. I cannot expect that, of course. I shall be Duke of Haverford, and shall, in due course, offer myself on the marital altar for the benefit of the duchy.
I think I shall be a dreadful husband. I hope I shall be kind to my wife.
3. What are you most ashamed of in your life?
Ah. I could give a list. A top ten list, perhaps? One of the worst things I ever did was turn my back on a woman whose virtue I took. She rejected me when she realised I meant to make her my mistress. She had thought my words of love sincere.
It starts further back, does it not? The fault was not being offended at her rejection, but in seducing her at all. At the time, I convinced myself that she was not as innocent as she appeared; that I could give her a better life as my mistress than she had as an old lady’s companion; that if I did not seduce her someone else would.
I was sure she must know I was lying when I said I would adore her forever. Already, though I was still in my teens, I had a reputation. But she believed me. To my eternal shame.
I was a cad. That is the long and the short of it. I… What can I say? I’ve never since knowingly taken an innocent to my bed. I’ve never since made promises I didn’t intend to keep, or lied about my feelings. But that doesn’t make my crime the less.
No wonder she believed His Grace my father when she came seeking help after she found herself with child. He told her that I denied parentage. He lied. He never told me of her plight; never gave me the opportunity to provide for my child. Even had that been his only crime against me and mine, I would hate him for that.
he saved herself, and the little girl. When we met again—she despised me, of course, though not more than I despised myself. But she is a generous woman. She is polite when we meet, and she allows me to be an uncle to my… to her daughter. I am grateful for that.
4. Tell me about your best friend. How did you meet? What do you like about this person? What do they like about you?
I met Overton at Eton—two boys bonding over a shared dislike for lumpy, burnt porridge. In hindsight, putting it in the headmaster’s bed might not have been the cleverest move. We were seen creeping out of his rooms, and spent the next week on our stomachs in the infirmary.
I admire Overton. He has suffered so many losses, but he just keeps going. He has brought his estate back from the brink of ruin, given his people a future, and built the mill he inherited into the centrepiece of a thriving trading enterprise.
And he has stuck with me through thick and thin. He says I amuse him. I tell him somebody has to. If it wasn’t for me, he’d stay up there in Lancashire and never have any fun!
5. What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
Here lies Anthony Grenford, who gave pleasure to many and harmed as few as he could. He died aged 99, shot by a jealous husband.
6. What is your greatest fear?
I am the Marquis of Aldridge, heir to the Duke of Haverford. The men of our family do not feel fear. I distinctly remember the first time His Grace told me that. I must have been four or five. I had climbed down the crag below the castle to retrieve a ball. On my way back up, a rock slid from under my feet, and I almost fell. I froze. I held onto that cliff face so hard it’s a wonder it did not crumble.
And there I stayed. It could only have been minutes, but it felt like hours before my nurse found me, and called for help, and half the castle turned out to rescue the heir. Including His Grace.
His Grace came down the rope himself. He wouldn’t let me reach out for him. He castigated me for crying. He told me that I’d got myself down and I was going to get myself up. He told me that we do not feel fear.
I was more afraid of His Grace than I was of falling. After I reached the first hold, then the second, then the third… it became easy again. He beat me when I reached the top, for running from my nurse. But he did instruct my mother to have me breeched. And I did retrieve the ball.
A Baron for Becky
Regency romance, historical romance
R for implied sexual content, 2 out of 5 flames
Free copy of A Baron for Becky to random commenter
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.
Becky lost her next thought as he whisked her into a curtained alcove and proceeded to kiss her. She thought she knew kisses. Rough and clumsy connections, rude invasions of her mouth as the man who had purchased the right violently mauled her breasts and buttocks. Those weren’t kisses. This; this was a kiss: a firm but gentle invitation to a duet, patiently coaxing a response and then turning to a dance, a partnership of giving and taking that spun music through every vein in her body. Becky forgot where she was, almost who she was, as she melted against him, lost in a world of sensation.
Sarah. Campaign plan. She pulled back, and Aldridge let her go.
“Something on account,” Aldridge suggested.
“Perhaps.” She peeked cautiously around the curtain and then hurried away down the silent hall.
Aldridge next approached her after dinner, sitting on the other side of the love seat she’d deliberately chosen in a shadowed corner of the great parlour, out of the direct view of the earl, who was playing the pianoforte, and the countess, who was turning the pages of music for him.
“I love that shade of blue on you, Mrs Darling.,” he said.
She blushed. Her lovers had seldom bothered to compliment her, though extravagant, excruciatingly bad, poetry had been written to The Rose of Frampton by those who didn’t have her in their keeping.
“It needs something else, though,” Aldridge commented. He pulled out a tissue-wrapped package. “Not the diamonds and sapphires I thought of buying, but it is just the colour of your eyes. I had to see it on you.”
‘This’ was a shawl in patterns of blue, so fine it was small enough when rolled to fit into his jacket pocket, but large enough to wrap warmly around her shoulders. She jumped up to examine it in the mirror, and he followed her, standing inches away, but leaning forward to breathe on her ear as he said, “Exquisite.”
She should refuse the gift. Proper ladies did not take gifts from gentlemen. But they both knew she was not a lady, and she was well used to gifts with a price tag attached.
“Something on account?” she asked.
“Not this time. A present, given freely, with no expectation of reward. Because I admire you, lovely Rose.”
She had to remind herself of every rumour she had heard about the man. And even then, if she’d not heard him working his charm on Smite’s men, she might have unravelled as he clearly expected. No wonder he had left such a string of broken hearts behind him.
It would be a mistake to give in too easily.
“And in return,” she told him, “I freely give you my thanks, my lord.”
She was rewarded with a moment’s stunned amazement before the amused look reappeared. “Well played, Mrs Darling,” he murmured.
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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. It is number one in a series: The Golden Redepennings.
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