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.
The Elizabethans: Lord John's Folly
festivities were coming to a close and Lord Michael Melford and his family were
delighted to have their younger brother home at last.
They were a close
family and had not seen John for almost a year, not since he left for London to
seek his fortune. He had briefly met with his brother, James, at the palace,
when the latter went there to seek an annulment, having discovered his wife had
an illegitimate child.
Apart from that one
meeting, when John would have liked to say much more on the subject of James’
marriage, they had heard little and Michael worried about his youngest brother.
At that meeting John had been in a hurry to leave for the north, to help defeat
a rebellion to oust Elizabeth and replace her as Queen with Mary of Scotland.
Rebellions of that nature often broke out, as there would always be Catholic
lords who wanted another Catholic monarch as well as those who saw Elizabeth as
a bastard and not fit to be Queen. They saw Mary as the rightful heir and felt
the need to establish that fact.
There would always
be people who wanted everything their own way in religion and politics, but the
Melfords were not among them. They would defend the Queen because she was the
Queen, and after the brutal reign of her papist sister, they would always do
their best to protect a Protestant monarch.
When Michael heard
where his brother was going, he was not sure whether to be relieved or even
more worried. At least he was not being sent to the new world to defend
England’s claims there.
This Christmas they
were all together in Michael’s London house and after tribulations over the
past few years, it was indeed the happiest family time.
Michael was not
born to inherit the title and estate; that privilege should have gone to his
eldest brother, Malcolm, and when he was killed along with their father,
Michael suddenly found himself the head of a very old and noble family. It was
a frightening prospect and he could not have fallen into the role so easily
without the help of his remaining brothers.
Now they watched
the children as they played an energetic game together. There was little James
and his brother Mark, the sons of James, Viscount West and his wife Helen.
There was Lisa and little Michael, the children of Lord Melford and his wife
Christine, and there was Angela, the eldest of all, the daughter Helen bore out
of wedlock to a renegade Catholic priest.
followed the little girl, so much like her mother, a child whose existence they
knew nothing about until this time last year. He still could not quite believe
that James had not only taken his wife back, he had adopted her illegitimate
daughter. When he left them after that Christmas, he was determined to see the
Archbishop and get an annulment, determined never to see Helen again, but he
had learned the hard way what it was to lose the woman he loved. Still, Michael
was surprised. He would never have expected James to be so generous. He was not
of a forgiving nature.
They all thought
James was far too possessive of his wife. He hardly ever let her out of his
sight, wanted to know where she was and what she was doing all the time. Michael’s
wife, Christine, could never understand how she endured such scrutiny but what
none of them knew was that Helen was just as possessive as James. She did not
want him going off and leaving her alone, for who knows what he might be doing?
They suited each other very well.
Helen squeezed her
husband’s hand as she watched the children at play. Despite being raised by a
brutal father, this year had been the hardest she had ever lived through. Since
the day she married James, she had longed to tell him about Angela, but there
had never been an opportunity and she was always very afraid of his reaction.
When James learned about Angela, he greeted the news precisely as she had
expected him to. He set out to annul their marriage, breaking her heart and
tearing her away from her two sons.
After a year of
living in secret with her daughter, he forgave her, said he could not live
without her whatever she had done, and she was surprised and grateful.
Now she watched her
little daughter, her firstborn, running around and laughing with her half
brothers, with her cousins, where Helen had always believed she belonged and
she thought she might burst with happiness. And she owed it all to her very
She would never
have expected it of him. He was a very proud man and a very possessive one, and
she expected no forgiveness. Ever since the day they married she had lied to
him. She had told him the two days she spent away each month were to pay visits
to her father, when in fact she went to see her daughter who lived in hiding
with Helen’s retired nurse.
She did not want to
dissolve their marriage, as James meant the world to her, yet she would not
beg. He would not have liked that. But when her father burned down the house in
which she and Angela had found shelter, a house on his estate, she had nowhere
to go and nowhere else to turn.
It would not have
been easy for James to be granted an annulment. The Archbishop of Canterbury
was the only one who could grant such a thing to a member of the nobility and
he had insisted on hearing from Helen, insisted on her giving her side of
things before he would agree.
Helen did not want
to do that. She was not sure she had the courage to help dissolve her own
marriage, to help James rip her happiness and her future away and it would have
been so humiliating to have to tell a tribunal of bishops about her shame.
But she had no
choice. She came back to try to come to an agreement with James, that she would
tell the church court whatever he wanted so that he could be free of her and
remarry, if he would provide her and her daughter with a home. He had an estate
in Hertfordshire and Helen expected he would find her a small house on that
estate, send her many miles away from him and her sons. He visited that estate
only two or three times a year and she could agree to make herself scarce when
Instead of agreeing
to her plan, a plan which tore her apart to even suggest, he had taken her in
his arms, kissed her and told her that he loved her, even said he would adopt
Angela and make her his own. She had no idea he loved her that much, no idea he
loved her enough to swallow his enormous pride and have everyone know that the
child who now lived as his daughter was his wife’s bastard. No, she would never
have expected that and she was so grateful to him,
Now she had another
secret, but this was not one she wanted to keep from him. She only waited for the
festivities to be over before she told him.
John leaned across the
table and spoke quietly to his brother, a little smile lighting his handsome
“I am very glad you
saw reason,” he said. “Last time we met you were on your way to end your
James scowled at
“Would you do me
the very great favour of forgetting that conversation ever took place?” He
replied, with a glance at Helen to be sure she had not heard.
He was relieved to
see her looking the other way, talking to Christine.
conversation?” John said playfully. “I remember nothing. I must say I am
Helen’s hand to his lips and kissed it, before picking up his goblet and
standing up, gesturing his younger brother to follow him. John obviously had a
lot to say and he had no wish for Helen to hear and be distressed by it.
“All right,” James
said when they were seated beside the window, away from the table. “You have
questions and I can see you will not shut up until you have answers.”
“Well, it is none
of my business, of course, which I am sure you will tell me. I am delighted
that you have decided your pride is not worth losing a wonderful woman for, but
I am very surprised that you would take her child in as your own. I would never
have expected that of you.”
“No. Michael, yes,
he is soft enough for anything, but you, James?”
James gave him a
“I surprised myself
as well,” he said. “I have learned a lot during this last year away from Helen.
I learned that I love her, John. I love her far more than I ever realised and I
could not ask her to come back to me unless I also adopted her child. Even if
she had agreed to return without Angela, she would have always resented having
to part with her, and I am content. She is a delightful child and the boys love
her. If they can accept her, so can I. She will never hear a word of reproach
“I hope you can
keep to that promise, James.”
“I can. I will do
anything to make my wife happy.” He paused and sipped at his wine. “And you? What
will you do now?”
“The Queen has
honoured me with a small estate in Surrey.”
“You must have done
well for her. I trust you did not put yourself in too much danger, or if you
did, please do not tell Michael.”
“I have done no
more than any other supporter of the Queen and the Protestant cause. There are
always papist schemes to remove Her Majesty and replace her with Mary of
Scotland, even though no one has asked Mary if she would even accept the
throne. It is unfair to both, but I am a Protestant like my father and brothers
before me. I do not think any of us will forget the last reign, will we? The
violence, the deaths, the barbarism. I cannot contemplate another Catholic
monarch.” He shrugged and sipped his wine. “It was but a small uprising, easily
“You will have
something to offer a bride now, at least,” James said.
“That is true.”
“Do you have
someone in mind?”
“No such thing! I
have given it no thought and it seems to me that I am too late. You and Michael
have already claimed the most beautiful women in the land.”
It was true he had
given the matter little thought. All his life he had accepted that, as the
youngest son with nothing to offer, he would likely only marry if a wealthy
commoner could be found to exchange her wealth for his title.
Now he had an
estate and an income and he had no idea how to find a bride. It seemed to be a
task he should entrust to his brother, who was the Earl and whose consent would
be needed for any match. In truth he felt a little shy when he thought about
finding a wife. Both his brothers were fortunate in their marriages, despite
recent misunderstandings; he could scarcely hope to be nearly so fortunate and
he did not want a wife he could not love.
“John has matured a
lot this past year,” James remarked as he closed the door to Helen’s bedchamber
and turned to look at her. “I can no longer think of him as a boy. I wonder
what manner of bride he will choose.”
He stood behind her
and unlaced her bodice, felt her respond with a shiver of pleasure as he
slipped her sleeves away from her arms, slipped the bodice away from her
breasts and allowed it to drop to the floor. His arms went around her and held
her tightly against him, her back pressed against his chest as he kissed her
neck then turned her in his arms to kiss her lips.
“Whoever she is,”
Helen answered, “she will not be as fortunate as I.”
“My daughter had
more fun this yuletide than ever before in her whole life. She played and
laughed and danced, just as a child should. She has spent her life with no
company save her elderly nurse and occasionally her mother. She has had to hide
away for fear of her grandfather learning of her existence and doing her harm.
That is no way for a child to live.” She wiped at her eyes with her fingers,
then reached her lips to his face. “I do so thank you, James. I am so very
“There are many
things I want from my wife, but gratitude is not one of them. She is a charming
child and deserves everything I can give her.”
She drew a deep
breath and stood while he pulled the tie fastenings of her skirt and her
petticoats and allowed them to gather at her feet while he slipped her shift
from her shoulders, his fingers caressing the flesh as he did so until she
stood naked before him. Then he stepped away and ran his palm over the slight
bulge of her stomach.
“You are with
child?” He asked.
She flushed, a
crimson stain spreading over her cheeks, and she buried her face against his
chest to hide it. He held her against him, kissed the top of her head and
“Why the secrecy?”
He asked. “I have suspected for weeks now, but I grew tired of waiting for you
to tell me.”
“I was not sure how
you would greet this news,” she murmured against his open shirt.
“With joy, of
“But there is
Angela. If this child should prove to be the daughter you always wanted, what
will become of her?”
“She will have a
little sister. Do you think I would break my promise to you?”
She shook her head,
feeling that swell of gratitude once more.
“You are pleased
He ran his hands
over her body, traced the line of her waist and her full hips, cupped her
breast and pulled her close to him.
“Of course I am
pleased. It is what we need for our new beginning.”