This blog is to keep my readers updated about my forthcoming historical romance books and to tell you a little bit about the history behind each one. I hope you enjoy reading it and feel free to comment.
Friday, 4 April 2014
The Flawed Mistress
This is the second book of the Summerville Journals, the story of Rachel, Lord Summerville's beautiful mistress.
Were anyone to ask me about my
childhood, I would have to reply that I did not have one, at least not one that
I can remember. I was born Lady Rachel
Stewart, the child of an impoverished earl, a man who had gambled and drunk
away his entire fortune, and that of his three wives, the last of which was my
mother.When I came along there was
little left and by the time I was ten, there was nothing.
I recall lying in bed at night and
hearing the quarrel about money, Father telling Mother that he had found a way
to pay off all his debts and have a lot left over, her protesting, begging him
not to do it.I had no notion of what
this was all about, and I did not want to know, so I buried my head beneath the
covers and stopped up my ears before the blows started falling, before my
father got his whip with which to persuade her that he was right.
All I remember of my father is that I
feared him.He had never hurt me as
such;he never paid me that much
attention, but he was violent toward my mother on a daily basis. Whatever went
wrong, it was her fault and she took the punishment for it. I did not know
then, of course, that the beatings she took were often caused by her defence of
me; to keep him away from me she had put herself in the way.
Children never know these
things.They just take it for granted
that this is how things are and I probably assumed that this was the way things
were in every family.
All I knew was that we were all safer
if I kept out of his way.If I made him
angry, my mother would be hurt.He had
no interest in me, or so I believed, and that suited me well.
I was completely innocent then, knowing
nothing of the world or even how babies were born.I was just a child and things would not have
been spoken about in front of me, not even if Mother had anyone to talk to.
She only had me and the servants, but
nothing could be confided to them.They
knew precisely what went on, as servants always do, but they feared my father
as much as my mother and I did.
My earliest memory is that of my
tenth birthday, of watching my father fill himself full of strong wine and
listening to my mother’s weeping from her bedchamber.I had no idea why she was crying more than
usual, but a huge carriage arrived early in the morning and made her wails even
worse.It was as if the very sight of
that carriage hurt her somehow.
The gentleman who stepped out of the
carriage was old, not only by my own standards but elderly by the standards of
the time.He was, in fact, my father’s
age with similar grey hair and lined face, although without the bloated face
and body that my father had acquired through drink.
His clothing declared him to be
wealthy.He wore a doublet of red satin,
with rich embroidery and encrusted jewels.His hose was silk and on his gnarled fingers he wore many rings, too many
for simple decoration and good taste.He
could have done a lot of damage with those rings, should anyone challenge him.
I was watching from the gallery when
he entered, when he strode passed the servant who stepped forward to show him
in to see my father, and into the great hall itself.If I had known then that this man was to be
the cause of all the misery to come in my life, I would have run away and hid
somewhere, never come out of my hiding place.
But I did not know, nor could I guess
at the motive for his visit.I was too
young then to even imagine what he might want, too young to know that there was
anything more evil than my father and his whip.
“Well,” the stranger demanded.“I have the money.Have you decided yet?I cannot wait forever.”
He threw a velvet purse down on the
table and my father took it and opened it up to look inside, while his eyes
grew wide and greedy.
“It is all there,” the stranger
said.“One thousand gold pieces as we
agreed, as well as all your debts paid.”He watched my father for a few seconds, then added with a smirk of
satisfaction:“Not bad for a loan of one
day.She had better be worth it.”
My father nodded, then got up and
came to the bottom of the stairs, calling my name.
“Rachel,” he called.“I have a special birthday present for
you.Come down here.”
I moved slowly down the stairs, not
wanting to trip and disgrace myself, but also because I did not feel very safe
in the company of this man.I had never
felt safe in the company of my father, but that was because he got drunk and
became violent.There was something else
about this man that made me afraid, although I could not have said what.I was too young then to know; I would know
“This is Mr Carter, my dear,” my
father went on.“He is a friend and he
wants to take you out for the day to celebrate your birthday.Is that not good of him?”
I remember shaking my head in mute
refusal.I did not want to go with him
and even my ten year old mind could not fathom why this stranger might want to
take me out.Perhaps he had no children
of his own, I tried to tell myself, but even as I thought it, something told me
that was not the reason.
I heard my mother crying from the top
of the stairs.
“No!You cannot take her!”
My father climbed the stairs then,
faster than I thought possible in an old man so unfit.I turned to look, turned in time to see him
strike my mother across the face, hard, tearing her cheek with his ring.It was not the first time I had witnessed
that particular scene and I did not know then that it would be the last, but on
this occasion that was all I saw, because Mr Carter had grabbed my arm and was
dragging me to his waiting carriage.
I tried to pull away, but I was weak
and this man was strong, even for his age.The coachman took no notice of my screams or my pleas for help; they
went unheeded, both by him and by my father’s own servants.
Mr Carter lifted me up and pushed me
inside, then climbed in beside me and slammed the door shut.I could still hear my mother’s screams but I
was unsure whether she was crying for me or from the beating my father was
I tried to push myself as far into
the corner of the seat as I could while the man ordered his coachman to drive
on.Then he turned to me and smiled; it
was not a welcoming, friendly smile, but one I could not interpret.Now I know it was a smile of lust, but then I
had never before seen any such smile directed at me.
“Your father told no lie,” Mr Carter
said.“You are beautiful.Even more beautiful up close than when I
first saw you in the street.You will be
the most beautiful little girl we have ever entertained.”
I had been told before that I was
beautiful, and I had always been quite pleased.I had no way of knowing that those same words coming from this man would
warp my emotions every time I heard them for the rest of my life.
Mr Carter’s coachman returned me to
my father’s house late that night.He
had to climb down and carry me inside because I could not walk and I cannot
remember when I have ever been in so much pain. I remember him handing me over
to a manservant of my father’s who carried me upstairs to my bedchamber, and
every step he took brought further agony.
I have tried all my life to blot out
the events of that long and painful day, tried to forget Mr Carter and his
friend who took turns to rape me, then thought themselves generous when they
produced a sumptuous meal at midday and were angry that I could not eat.The friend had a long and deep T shaped scar
down the side of his face that made him look like a monster out of a fairy
tale.He had a skinny body that made his
head look too big, and that made him even more of an ogre to my ten year old
imagination.That scar imprinted itself
on my nightmares for many years to come.
I am talking now from the perspective
of an experienced woman, not the child I was.I did not know what was happening, only that it hurt badly and that it
was wrong and embarrassing.That was not
the way I should have learned that men are built differently from women, but
that was my father’s special birthday present.
The more I struggled, the more the
two men laughed at my helplessness and I overheard them telling each other that
I had been worth every penny that I had cost.
I was terrified by this talk, as it
seemed to me that my father must have sold me to them and that I would have to
spend all my days like this one. Despite
the terrible pain I was in, I was so relieved to be delivered back to my home,
I was sobbing with it.
I had no nurse or governess.I had once, but that was before my father had
squandered all his money and could afford such a thing.Any education or care that I received was
from my mother and that night she was there at my bedside, carefully removing
what was left of my clothing.
She moved slowly and I knew even at
that age that it was because she was also in pain. She moved with one arm held
to her ribs, the other being the only one she could use. I had witnessed this
before; it was nothing new.Her bruises
were angry and her eye was swollen shut, yet still she tended to my wounds that
were bleeding heavily.
“Enough is enough,” she said
quietly.“I thought I could not suffer
any more at his hands, but what he has done this day has been too much.Tomorrow we leave.”
I sat up as best I could and leaned
against the pillows.
“Leave?”I asked.“Where will we go?We have
nowhere to go, do we?”
“We will go to my brother,” she
“Your brother?I did not know you had a brother.”
“We have not spoken for many years,”
she said quietly.“Not since long before
I married.My father turned him out; he
did not approve of the woman he married and would have nothing more to do with
him.But my father died before he had
time to change his will, so Stephen still inherited the bulk of his fortune.”
“But you know where he is?”I asked.
"He inherited my father's house,
the one I grew up in.I assume he is
still there, at least I pray so. Sleep now,” she said, putting her hand gently
on my forehead. “We will leave in the morning and go to London to find your uncle.”
I slept fitfully for a few short
hours, my dreams filled with images from the day.I relived every horrifying moment and when I
woke in the dark, cold room, I forced myself to stay awake, wondering if I
would ever sleep again.
I was also concerned about how we
would escape the house without my father stopping us.I could not bear the thought of my mother
receiving another severe beating at his hands and I wished I were grown up and
able to defend her.She was too weak now;
I did not think she would survive.
I need not have worried as the next
day there was no sign of my father.I
had no idea where he could be, as his usual habit was to start drinking before
breakfast.It was unlikely that he would
have gone out riding or even walking, and besides it was pouring with
rain.He was a man who liked his
When I asked my mother she only told
me that we were in luck and to hurry before he came back.I needed no more prompting than that.
I remember little about the journey
except that I was terrified every time we had to stop that my father would
appear out of nowhere and order us home.
The carriage was damp and cold and we
kept the blinds down to keep out the rain.Every bump in the road broad me fresh agony and I cuddle against my
mother for comfort.It was my father’s
carriage and we were driven by his own coachman; I remember being surprised
about this and that my mother handed over her emerald necklace to him before we
boarded the coach.I realise now that
was his payment for taking us and for keeping quiet about it but then I was
just scared that he would tell.
By the time we arrived at my uncle’s
house, I was in a lot more pain from the day before and I noticed that my
mother was having difficulty breathing.It
took her a long time to climb down from the carriage, each step was agony and
left her with even less breath.
She stood still and looked up at the
house before carefully moving forward.
"This is where I grew up,"
she said softly."This was my
I did not reply as I was only
surprised that she was telling me this much.She never normally spoke about her past or anything that had led to her
marriage to my father, who was many years older than her.
I know now that she was forced into a
marriage with him because he was titled and her family were wealthy
commoners.There was nothing unusual
about this arrangement, that an impoverished aristocrat would trade his title
for a rich dowry and all a woman could do was pray for a kind man.My mother's prayers had gone unheeded.
My uncle did not seem pleased to see
his sister after so many years.When
first he opened the door he just stood and stared at us, as though he had no
idea who we were.My mother was leaning
against the porch pillar, unable to stand without support, and I wanted to
scream at him to let us in.Even a
stranger would have let us in, seeing the state of us. He took us in at last,
gave us refreshments and when he realised how bad was our condition, sent for a
My uncle assigned us bedchambers,
just in time as it happens.My mother
collapsed in the hallway outside and he scooped her up in his arms and laid her
on the bed.
“Stay with her,” Uncle Stephen told
me.“I have no idea what has happened to
you two, but it does not look good.She
can hardly breathe and you are having difficulty walking.And there is blood on your skirt.”
I felt myself blushing a deep red and
my cheeks grew hot and uncomfortable.Why did he have to say that, even if it were true?I fled from the room and into thechamber he had given to me.
“Forgive me,” he said following
me.“I did not mean to cause you any
distress, but I do need to know what has happened.I need to be able to tell the physician when
I just hid under the covers and shook
my head furiously.
The physician arrived shortly after
and examined my mother first, then came in to me.You would have thought that after my ordeal I
would find nothing else embarrassing, but this man prodding and poking was excruciatingly
shaming as well as painful. And I was sure I had done something for which I was
to blame, I was sure that either my uncle or the doctor would shout at me, tell
me I had been wicked.
He did not speak to me, not even to
ask what had happened, but just shook his head mournfully and returned to the
adjoining room where my mother lie unconscious.
I had crept out of bed with great difficulty and was listening from
the adjoining chamber.
“I am sorry, Mr Jameson,” he told my
uncle.“I do not believe that your
sister will live. She is bleeding
internally and there is nothing I can do."
I felt the tears spill out over my
face.My mother was going to die and I
would have no one.What would happen to
me?Uncle Stephen would have to send me
back to my father, would he not?Then
what would happen when he ran out of money?What would happen when he lost his temper and had no one else on whom to
use his whip.
I suddenly felt that Mother was the
lucky one.I would certainly rather be
dead than return to my father.
“Try whatever you can,” Uncle Stephen
was telling the doctor.“What of my
“Your little niece has been
horrifically abused, Sir,” the physician said in a shocked voice.“I have never in my life seen anything like
it.Indeed, I am deeply shocked.”
“Abused?”Uncle Stephen asked with a frown.“What does that mean exactly?What sort of abuse?My sister has been abused, that is obvious.”
“Your sister, Sir, has been badly
beaten but the little girl has been raped, repeatedly I would say.She has extensive injuries, bruises and
tearing, that will likely heal up partially, if not completely, but I have to
tell you that the chances of her ever being a mother are very remote.”
Raped?That was the first time in my life I had
heard that word and I had no real idea of what it meant even then.
The doctor stopped talking then
rubbed his chin reflectively.“How did
this happen, Sir?”
Uncle Stephen looked outraged.
“I wish I knew,” he replied.“They arrived this morning.I have not seen my sister in many years and
my niece not at all.This is obviously why
they were running away.”
“He sold me,” I said in a shaky voice
from the doorway, causing both men to turn around and look at me.
“Sold you?”Uncle Stephen asked.“Who?Who would do such a thing?”
“My father,” I replied, realising
that I had at last summoned up the courage to speak of it.“He took one thousand pieces of gold from a
man and that man took me away and kept me all day yesterday.He and his friend.There was something said about clearing his debts
That was the first glimmer of pity or
compassion I had seen from my uncle.He
had obviously not wanted to receive us into his household, but now he stepped
forward and gathered me into his arms.I
flinched, from pain and from fear.I did
not want him to touch me.
“Forgive me, little one,” he said
quietly releasing his hold.“You can
stay here as long as you wish, you and your mother.”
“Not my mother,” I replied.“She is dying.Will you send me back to my father?"
"No!"My uncle cried out at once."Whatever it costs me, you will never
have to see him again.I promise
I retreated into my bedchamber then
and climbed under the covers to weep for my lost mother and for my lost