Today, we are with that renowned scion of the Grenford family, the Marquis of Aldridge. As the eldest son of the Duke of Haverford whose health is understood to be failing, he has taken over much of the business of the duchy. However, he continues a vigorous social life, and is as popular on his rare appearances in a Society ballroom as he is rumoured to be in less reputable establishments.
(LC stands for Lady Correspondent. The interviewer wishes to remain anonymous, and Aldridge has sworn not to disclose her identity.)
LC: Your lordship has recently returned from Hollystone Hall, where your mother has been holding a Yuletide house party. We are informed you arrived late and left early. Do you have a particular reason for avoiding such events?
(LC blushes. She was present at both the arrival and the departure, but her questions will be printed so she cannot say so. Beyond a twitch of his eyebrows and a quirk of his lips, Aldridge does not acknowledge her deception.)
Aldridge: Errands for my father and other business matters kept me in town, but Her Grace my mother knew not to expect me until Christmas Eve. I would, however, have avoided the party altogether if the duchess had not required my attendance. I find that I spend such occasions avoiding debutantes with a fancy for a ducal coronet. In any house other than my mother’s, I could have discouraged them by a blatant and scandalous pursuit of a willing widow or a straying wife.
I say pursuit… But if that is not sufficient, our behaviour once I have caught the lady who has temporarily attracted my attention tends to drive away the most title-hungry of virgins and their mamas.
You would be wise to believe that my reputation is well deserved, but it is also something of a protection against all but the most ambitious.
However, as I say, I was under my mother’s roof, so the usual avenue was not open to me.
LC: So what did you do instead?
Aldridge: In the event, I had my brother with me, and we protected one another. We even shared a bed chamber, so any blushing virgin who thought to conceal herself in my bed was as much at risk of ending up with the prodigal spare, as with the disreputable heir. (Grins)
The few days I was there proved very entertaining. The duchess’s stated aim for the fortnight was to raise money for her new charity fund, but she was playing matchmaker, of course—and very successfully.
Aldridge: Yes, the Earl and Countess of Somerton married at the local church just before Christmas.
LC: Society is aghast to learn that the Earl of Somerton married the actress, Charlotte Halfpenny.
Aldridge: A magnificent actress; possibly the finest of our generation. She will, I am sure, play the part of countess to my dear friend Somerton with as much artistry as she put into her earlier roles.
Two other weddings in those weeks were associated with the house party, though they did not take place at Hollystone Hall. Lady Sophia Belvoir wed Lord Elfingham in London in a private ceremony that received, we are told, the blessing of his dying grandfather, the Duke of Winshire. And the Stanton party were delayed (with the exception of Lady Stanton), because Lord Stanton’s little sister and Frederick Woodville wished to be married in Cumbria.
LC: There is a touch of scandal in both unions, is there not? Why was Lady Stanton not at her daughter’s wedding, and what happened on that wedding journey that caused her stepson to propose to Mr Woodville’s sister?
And Lord Elfingham was made Earl of Sutton by the death of his grandfather. Or was he? The Privileges Committee will soon decide whether the new Duke of Winshire was validly married to the Persian princess who bore his large brood of children.
Aldridge: All three couples are happy. (Aldridge looks surprisingly wistful. Perhaps his mother is not the only romantic in his family.) Our sort generally look for advantage in marriage; family links, or property, or wealth. We do not, as a rule, expect to marry someone with whom we share a deep affection. They are fortunate, Lady F-Lady Correspondent.
LC: Your brother was also hopeful of a betrothal, I believe, my lord.
Aldridge: That is so. We had intended to stay to the end of the house party, but my brother received a message that recalled him to–shall we say Eastern Europe? We have not yet heard the results. I hope that he, too, is happy.
As you mentioned, though, the house party also saw several betrothals, and part of the entertainment was watching the gentlemen and their ladies stumble their way to an understanding.
Mama can take no credit for the betrothal between Mr Durand and the lovely Miss Sedgely. Their affection was fixed prior to the house party, and their fate sealed when half of Society saw them k–. Well. Never mind.
But she was, I am certain, involved in unsnarling the misperception Lord Nicholas Lacey had conceived about Lady de Courtenay. I may have helped a little myself, although flirting outrageously with the lady did not have the intended effect.
Even Mama was uncertain which of her two suitors Lady Anna Wycliffe would choose: Lord Pershore or the Duke of Barnet. But one departed early, and the other remained to be happy.
The affection between Miss Baumann and Mr Halevy also predated the house party, but Mama is undoubtedly correct that she provided the setting for its very satisfactory outcome.
And, of course, Her Grace could hardly have expected the affair between my cousin Cedrica and the chef.
Still. Nothing makes my mother happier than a courtship successfully concluded in a love match.
L.C.: And when we might expect your own betrothal, Lord Aldridge?
Aldridge: (Laughs out loud.) Did my mother put you up to asking that? All I can say is that I do not advise holding your breath.
The Marquis of Aldridge appears in several of the stories in Holly and Hopeful Hearts. He is one of Jude Knight’s characters, and pops up in a number of her books, including A Baron for Becky (where he is not quite the hero) and Revealed in Mist (where he is almost a villain).
To win an ecopy of A Baron for Becky or an ARC of Revealed in Mist, put your answer to the following question in the comments below. I’ll choose a commenter at random.
What did Aldridge do to try to help Lady de Courtenay?
About Holly and Hopeful Hearts
When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?
Valuing Vanessa, by Susana Ellis
Facing a dim future as a spinster under her mother’s thumb, Vanessa Sedgely makes a practical decision to attach an amiable gentleman who will not try to rule her life.
Young widow Grace, Lady de Courtenay, has no idea how a close encounter with a rake at a masquerade ball would make her yearn for love again. Can she learn to forgive Lord Nicholas Lacey and set aside their differences to let love into her heart?
Artemis, by Jessica Cale
Actress Charlotte Halfpenny is in trouble. Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and out of a job, Charlotte faces eviction two weeks before Christmas. When the reclusive Earl of Somerton makes her an outrageous offer, she has no choice but to accept. Could he be the man of her dreams, or is the nightmare just beginning?
The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, by Jude Knight
James must marry to please his grandfather, the duke, and to win social acceptance for himself and his father’s other foreign-born children. But only Lady Sophia Belvoir makes his heart sing, and to win her he must invite himself to spend Christmas at the home of his father’s greatest enemy.
Christmas Kisses, by Nicole Zoltack
Louisa Wycliff, Dowager Countess of Exeter wants only for her darling daughter, Anna, to find a man she can love and marry. Appallingly, Anna has her sights on a scoundrel of a duke who chases after every skirt he sees. Anna truly thinks the dashing duke cares for her, but her mother has her doubts.
An Open Heart, by Caroline Warfield
Esther Baumann longs for a loving husband who will help her create a home where they will teach their children to value the traditions of their people, but she wants a man who is also open to new ideas and happy to make friends outside their narrow circle. Is it so unreasonable to ask for toe curling passion as well?
Dashing Through the Snow, by Amy Rose Bennett
Headstrong bluestocking, Miss Kate Woodville, never thought her Christmas would be spent racing across England with a viscount hell-bent on vengeance. She certainly never expected to find love…
The Bluestocking Belles (the “BellesInBlue”) are seven very different writers united by a love of history and a history of writing about love. From sweet to steamy, from light-hearted fun to dark tortured tales full of angst, from London ballrooms to country cottages to the sultan’s seraglio, one or more of us will have a tale to suit your tastes and mood.