Today, I am removing my “Austen” hat and replacing it with my “Regency” one. Although those hats are very similar, after all, Austen lived in the Regency period, I also dabble in writing Regency romantic suspense and Regency romances. Today I offer a bit about my latest story in that vein. A Regency Summer Garden Anthology released July 12. My story is entitled “The Earl’s English Rose.”
The Earl’s English Rose: A Regency Romance Novella
The new Earl of Everwalt was not one to appreciate being bamboozled by an obstinate, headstrong girl, though pretty she may be. If he did not require her to repair his reputation, he would leave her to the schemes she had concocted to save her father’s estate.
Just because he was now her guardian, the Earl of Everwalt had no right to decide who she might marry. Therefore, Miss Rose Vickers sets out for London to provide the new earl a piece of her mind, only to run into a highwayman. As if scripted, the new earl proves to be her savior, but it would be some time before the suspicious Rose and the extremely susceptible Everwalt learn the depth of their connection and the true meaning of love.
In my latest Regency romance novella, The Earl’s English Rose, my main character, Jacob Casper, the 13th Earl of Everwalt, has inherited the guardianship of one Miss Rose Vickers. They are related, of sort, in a convoluted manner. Jacob’s uncle Josiah (the 12th Earl of Everwalt) has promised his half sister, Lady Helen Casper Vickers, if something happens to her and her husband, Colonel Richard Vickers, while they are serving England in British India, Josiah will assume the guardianship of Rose. Well, as you might suspect, Lady Helen and Colonel Vickers do perish in India, and Josiah makes a journey to Dover to assure Rose he will assist her in overseeing her father’s estate until she reaches her majority. Unfortunately, Josiah is taken down by consumption, and, thusly, Jacob is expected to take on the additional role of guardian to a girl he has never met and for a family he barely recalls.
So, who or what determined whether a person was a fit guardian? Guardianship during the Regency era had its strictures. For example, guardianship was not hereditary. If a guardian dies, someone had to apply to the Court in Chancery to be appointed the minor child’s next guardian. All children over the age of 14 had a right to suggest the person he or she wanted as guardian. Quite often two or three guardians were named in case one of them died before the child reached his/her majority. At one time, the guardians were the child’s godparents—2 males and 1 female for a male child and 2 females and 1 male for a female. The mother and her brother were often named. However, the mother lost her rights as guardian if she remarried.
Okay, I twisted the story to “bend” this rule somewhat. First, Lady Helen is half sister to Josiah and to Jacob’s father. Secondly, she is Rose’s stepmother. Not a wicked stepmother, but a stepmother, nevertheless. Rose is more than a few months from reaching her majority. Theoretically, Jacob could refuse, but, dear reader, one will quickly learn our hero, Jacob, requires a better public image, and what better way to earn such accolades than to serve as the guardian of a girl whose father is somewhat of a national hero? In short, Jacob requires a PR stunt to earn the good graces of society. Deal done!!!
Minor children, especially girls, were customarily left to the joint guardianship of the child’s mother and a specifically-named male, a brother, cousin, etc. The mother would make the ordinary decisions about the child(ren), but the male would deal with money, any lawsuits, or business matters. Usually, the male was happy enough to leave the upbringing of the girls to the mother unless the lady was considered immoral or otherwise a bad example for the child.
If he took offense against the mother’s character, it would be necessary for her to plead her case before the Chancery court, where there was no knowing how the judge would rule. Women held so little power in the Regency, the court could choose to strip her of her children based only upon the word of a “so-called gentleman.”
Generally, the heir of the deceased would assume the guardianship without any legal appointment if the original guardian died. However, if any of the children have money settled upon them through wills and marriage settlements, or if they are entitled to peerage, entailed land or unentailed land, the one (customarily a solicitor) in charge of the money held for the child was not to give it to any except official guardians.
As to access to the minor’s funds, the guardians could have access, especially if a separate trustee had not been appointed to deal with the money. The trustees for settled land/property were different from those for money or a trust fund. It was possible for a ward to sue his/her guardians if they discovered, upon reaching his/her majority, that the guardian squandered away the child’s inheritance. Often the ward won the case. A well drawn up will set up for guardianship would make it difficult for the guardian to misuse the funds.
Often we see stories where a young man, usually holding a peerage, “inherits” a young woman as his ward. In reality, this would not happen unless the father specifically named the man as the young lady’s future guardian in his will or, at a minimum, named a second guardian to assist the gentleman in the woman’s care.
An exception to this is that a peer has the right to be guardian over his heir apparent or heir presumptive if no other guardian is named for the child—but this situation does not apply to his siblings.
The guardian had to be at least 21 years old. If the named guardian died before the father, the father could name another or the mother would be considered the natural guardian as long as she did not remarry.
Excerpt from The Earl’s English Rose. (Enjoy this second half of Chapter One of the story.)
“I see.” Rose Vickers managed to murmur as Mr. Arnold Palmer explained something of the passing of her step-mother’s eldest brother. Naturally, she had expected as such; yet, it made her sad to think upon the world losing another kind soul. When Lord Everwalt did not answer her multiple pleas for the assistance he had promised, she had repeatedly told herself his lordship had not abandoned her as those around her had often warned. “And you say the new Lord Everwalt means to continue the guardianship?”
Mr. Palmer wiped his palms down across the trousers he wore, evidence he was as uncomfortable with this conversation as was she. “Most assuredly, the present Lord Everwalt will see all you have chronicled set to right. First, I must issue a caveat, however. Surely you comprehend his lordship must first appear before the House of Lords in a formal ceremony to be recognized before that esteemed chamber as Everwalt.”
Rose swallowed her words of protest. “And how long will this formal recognition require of the earl?”
“It is my understanding the ceremony is scheduled to occur when Parliament returns to the Capital for its next session, along with the more prestigious families of the land,” Mr. Palmer explained. “Such is seven weeks removed.”
Alarm registered in Rose’s chest. “That is nearly two months. My father’s tenants must have seed to grow. Food on their tables. I have already sold many of the colonel’s favorite belongings to hold the estate together while I waited for the previous Lord Everwalt to act upon my behalf. I require the new earl’s intervention immediately. I can only do so much without my guardians’s permission. I am not yet of age.”
Mr. Palmer fidgeted in his chair. “I will relay your concerns to the new earl, but I must warn you his lordship has much of which to attend as he transitions to his rightful title. Have you no one to assist you with the estate business?”
“Lord Everwalt was the only guardian my parents saw to name on my behalf. As to the estate, I released my father’s steward when the tenants’ complaints proved to be true,” she explained. “Dhruv Bhatt has taken over many of the responsibilities Mr. Rinhart had ignored; yet, things have not gone as well as I had hoped. As to conducting business for the estate, as I am not of age and I am a woman, I cannot ask for credit for supplies. Such is the reason I have sold off some of my father’s possessions so I can offer the shopkeepers and others coins for the estate’s needs.”
“My, you are ingenious,” Mr. Palmer offered in praise. “And I promise to relay your concerns to Lord Everwalt upon my return to London.”
* * *
“You I might discover here,” Diya Bhatt said through a thick Indian accent and the typical reversals found in all her conversations. The woman had been Rose’s “ayah” since Rose and her parents had arrived in India some fifteen years prior. Diya had been Rose’s closest confidante since Rose was a child. The woman had traveled to England with Rose when she returned some three years earlier, but, more importantly, “Ayah” had remained in England, even after Rose had received word of her parents’ passing.
“I fear I am quite predictable,” Rose said with a slight shrug of embarrassment. She pulled her knees in closer to her body to make room for the woman. She sat sideways on a long bench beneath her real mother’s favorite rose arbor, thus, the source of her name. And although the roses had lost their petals because of the winter months, some buds were still evident, and they gave her great comfort whenever the world felt too much for Rose to handle.
The late Lady Helen Vickers had been the only mother of which Rose held true memories, but Rose often imagined her real mother was in her room at night and watching over her, and she knew the look of her real mother, for her father had always commented on how much Rose had favored the late Mrs. Charlotte Vickers. However, those borrowed memories were the only ones she owned: Her mother had been ill for an elongated period before she passed, and Rose was not yet two years at the time.
She sighed heavily. “It is as we suspected. Lord Everwalt has passed. The new earl has promised to continue his support, but, as, he has yet to be named ‘Everwalt’ by the House of Lords, I cannot say when the financial allotments will resume.”
“The urgency to Mr. Palmer you did explain, did not you?” her ayah asked in well-practiced tones.
“Naturally, but, as Mr. Palmer is simply Lord Everwalt’s man of business, I fear he will not fully express the dire need of my request. After all, I am nothing more than another obligation the new Lord Everwalt has assumed.”
Ayah’s eyebrow rose in observation. “At least the reports of Lord Everwalt’s ‘activities’ now you know in the newsprints were not the the kindly ‘grandfather-like’ man Memsahib Vickers introduced through her letters to you.”
“We must thank our stars for that particular face, but such means the reports of Lord Everwalt and his mistress are in reference to my new guardian,” Rose countered.
Diya looked away as if seeing something Rose did not. “Your choice be few, my child.”
“I have settled on a plan,” Rose stated as she turned to place her feet on the ground, “but I would be willing to listen to your preferences.” Staring straight ahead, she asked, “Would you care to go first or should I?”
Diya said solemnly, “You believe yourself to speak to the new Lord Everwalt rather than you should wait in dependence on Mr. Palmer.”
Rose turned to the woman who had served her loyally for many years. “I do. Do you think my plan too forward on my part. From what little we know of the new Lord Everwalt, could such a man be trusted to act honorably?”
“Maintaining a mistress not be part of character of elder Lord Everwalt, I think,” Diya declared. “He was a man to be admired.”
“Amiable, truly defined the man,” Rose said softly as she recalled the few brief days she had spent with the man, “yet, we do not know his nature when he was younger.” She sighed in resignation. “Despite the presence of both a former mistress and the likely employment of a new one, we know nothing of the present lord—nothing of the true essence of his character. Therefore, I cannot but think I must plead my case before the earl personally.”
“How be so possible unless his lordship calls on you in Dover?” Diya asked, as confusion furrowed her brow.
“I plan to travel to London to request an audience with the earl,” Rose declared. “Surely, if the late Lord Everwalt educated the new lord, as Mr. Palmer assures me the former earl did, then the younger Lord Everwalt will be both reasonable and responsible.”
“If not he be?” Diya asked in obvious concern.
“Then I shall know how to proceed. I will return to Beetham Hall and either release a third of my father’s cottagers to conserve the land and the funds we have, or I will accept a marriage offer and pray the man I choose will not run through my inheritance before I turn one and twenty and claim a voice in estate matters.”
“With you I go,” Diya stated firmly.
“I hoped you would agree,” Rose admitted. “I do not believe I could face Lord Everwalt without you near.”
A Regency Summer Garden (Anthology)
featuring . . .
This anthology includes:
The Scandalous Countess by Arietta Richmond
An Earl with an unexpected problem, a country Miss fighting to save everything she holds dear, an unscrupulous estate manager, impossible choices, a scandalous love. Miss Bluebell Thornley had lost almost everything she truly cared about – and it was all the fault of the Earl of Riverford. At least that’s what she thought, until the Earl returned to his country estate… Can she forgive what has happened, and help the Earl undo the wrongs committed in his name? Or will bitterness steal not only the chance for restitution, but her hopes for love as well?
The Earl’s English Rose by Regina Jeffers
The Earl of Everwalt was not one to appreciate being bamboozled by an obstinate, headstrong girl, pretty though she may be. If he did not require her to repair his reputation, he would ignore her completely… But Miss Rose Vickers, it turns out, is not to be so easily ignored… can sense overcome stubbornness? Or will something of that magnitude require love?
Meadows and Mischief by Summer Hanford
Miss Marie Ellsworth had every intention of claiming a husband before the house party’s end – a wealthy and titled husband, preferably. Unfortunately, the only man there who truly intrigues her is known to be pockets to let, and the wealthy Earl who seemed a good prospect is little better than an oaf. Then, when one impulsive moment upends all of her plans, her life is changed in an instant. But… is all as she thinks it is? Or is there more at play than anyone suspected? Can love be won from disaster?
To a Wild Rose by Janis Susan May
Miss Hyacinth Roote feels the full weight of her mother’s expectations. She is supposed to marry well – and as soon as possible. It’s a pity that she would far rather draw and paint than indulge in society gatherings. When her mother’s aunt, a Countess, shows her favour, with an invitation to her summer garden viewings, Hyacinth expects tedium, with perhaps an occasional change to sneak away to draw the flowers. But what happens is not tedious at all – shocking, perhaps, and utterly unexpected… for flowers lead to gardeners, and altercations… and Dukes….
The Count Courts an Heiress by Olivia Marwood
Lady Eugenia Calthorpe had hoped for courtship from the Count D’Asti, but when he is called away from London, she is left despairing. By the time that she sees him again, she is surrounded by scandal… In a tangle of betrayals and plots, where key moments always seem to happen in the garden, can they unravel the truth, and find their way not only out of the shadow of scandal, but to love?
Lady Laura’s Curiosity by Victoria Hinshaw
Lady Laura Grantley has spent her life expecting to marry the son of her mother’s best friend, to become a Countess, and eventually a Marchioness. She has barely considered much about the world, secure in the knowledge that she has been promised since childhood. But all of that comfortable certainty is torn away from her when her supposed intended elopes with another woman. Faced with a world in which everything seems unknown, Laura finds herself curious, wishing to pay attention for the first time, and what begins as a conversation about the trees on their estate, with her brother’s closest friend, somehow leads to more – much, much more.
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