Author’s Dramatic Content Note: I write romantic love stories for adults, aged 18 and older. So most of the chapters will be PG-13 due to mature themes (M), or dramatic moments (D). And some of the chapters have romantic and sensual, but not explicit, love scenes that I will label as (L), and such. So if you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings that I provide, then please do not read that chapter. This is my disclaimer.
Additional Disclaimer: The Wiki and other reference links that I cite contain general information merely to allude to a place, person, concept/theory/belief, history, or artifact, etc. This story is a work of fiction, and people and their thoughts and actions are figments of my imagination and should not be taken as real or as fact. And though the general backgrounds of the characters and the story’s contextual setting involve mentions of the Christian religion—with an Anglican/Episcopal focus—this story is a romance, not a religious tract.
[And from time to time, I will illustrate my story with my dream cast of: Richard Armitage as Prof. Benedict Somerset, Jennifer Ehle as Laura Leicester, Loretta Devine as Connie Velasquez, John Lithgow as Seminary President Maynard Casten, and Jane Alexander as his wife Portia Casten, Charles Dance as Benedict’s father Edward Somerset, Helen Mirren as Benedict’s Mother Elizabeth Somerset, Dawn French as Alexandra Somerset Solsbury, James Nesbit as Edmund Somerset, Chris Pine as Steve Leicester, and others as noted.]
Author’s recap from the previous chapter: By getting married relatively quickly–given their two week time frame–Benedict also hopes for he and Laura to avoid what would undoubtedly be officious and unwanted interference from his family in England. Oh, he does not think that his family will object to Laura—she is full of goodness and sweetness and intelligence and beauty, etc. But rather that his extended family might be put out that Benedict did not first ask permission—as someone in his position is supposed to do.
Nor does Benedict want Laura to be put off of him because of some of his English relatives’ peculiarities of personality. With Benedict as the vicar in the family—well, one of them, anyway–it’s all downhill from there. And, Benedict muses, England has some very big hills.
“Somerset: A Time to Love”, Ch. 19 (PG-13): Family Ties,
After Benedict kisses a still half asleep Laura very early Monday morning of April 22nd and he bids her a proper farewell, he dashes home to his Chicago Seminary College’s faculty apartment to retrieve his teaching materials and laptop. He and Laura had each agreed to contact and inform their families about their upcoming nuptials today.
And delightfully putting off that responsibility until this Monday morning–since his seminary lecture class begins at 9am–Benedict has no time to get into a lengthy discussion with his family. So Benedict opts to email his family. Coward! He thinks. But prudent.
Now at almost 8am, Benedict sends his email to his parents and siblings in England. With the five hour time zone difference, Benedict hopes that his family will yet be at luncheon and not checking their email. Still, he makes his email short and sweet, then closes his private email server to prevent him from seeing any immediate responses until much later in the day—preferably after he has had his evening wine before dinner, when his family in England is sleeping.
An ocean away, Benedict’s aging parents Edward and Elizabeth Somerset are indeed not glued to their email server on the off chance that their expat son Benedict might email them—mostly, because they do not have an email server. Oh being the good and dutiful son he is, Benedict usually chats with his parents weekly over his mobile phone and their landline phone—since they live in such a remote area that there are no cell towers, and they have not as yet had tv/internet cable installed in the surrounding area–each of his parents vying to grab the phone receiver in order to talk to their son, since their phone set does not have a speaker phone function either.
However, their son Edmund–and Benedict’s brother–has a satellite phone. So Edmund shares with their parents any emails that Benedicts sends them. However, Edmund is not at home today, since he is serving a very long local in-service rotation day at their nearby Exmoor Village hospital as a family doctor and general surgeon.
After having a delightful midday luncheon of consisting of tender chicken over a rice pilaf, a green salad, and a fruit cup on the terrace of their country home only an hour’s drive away from Bath, Elizabeth and Edward decide to take an afternoon stroll through their formal gardens since it is so lovely out today. Edward is 83 years and Elizabeth is 79 years, but each of them are in excellent health. And their leisurely walking in their gardens can only aid them in maintaining their health and mobility. And having celebrated fifty-nine years of wedding bliss together last Autumn, Edward and Elizabeth are sprinting toward their sixtieth wedding anniversary
In their twilight years, Edward and Elizabeth also look quite well for their advanced years. Edward is still distinguished looking with his shocks of combed back formerly reddish hair now white hair gracing the sides of his head–but not the top [(2) below]. He is tall at six feet—though slightly stooped over due to arthritis—and one can see where Benedict’s reserve comes from. But Edward’s crystal blue eyes are still bright. And he maintains his daily management of his estates with the able help of a longtime estate steward and his elder son Edmund who will one day inherit his title, but for now Edmund and his family live in the hunting lodge on the estate to give them their privacy.
And Edward’s wife Elizabeth is as young at heart and sprightly for a woman twenty-five years younger than her age. And with her boundless energy—in addition to walking, she practices yoga once a week with an Exmoor Village ladies group, and swims laps twice a week in their home’s indoor pool–bundled into her lithe and womanly form, Elizabeth is grace personified [(3) below]. She has never even though about having a face lift—nor does she need one—telling her friends and family that she has earned her wrinkles proudly.
As they both settle into the extra wide lounger near their favorite spot—a cottage in the wood grove that they often used for trysts when they were young, and even now—they snuggle against each other under the warming rays of the late afternoonsun.
Elizabeth: “Edward? Have you given any more thought about the Village of Exmoor’s request to create a community garden on the now unused 10 acres west of the village library and community building? Hmmm?”
Edward: “Well Dear, since the land is bordered by trees and a tall privet hedge, the charm of the Village of Exmoor should not be affected by a community garden. So I have no objections to their using the land for now.” [(4) below]
Elizabeth: “Yes Dear, but since it is your land.” He gives his wife a stern look. “Our land, we must give them written permission to improve it.”
Edward: “Well, their improving the land with a community kitchen garden is debatable. It had been a horse paddock for years, until the growth of the village necessitated the village stables relocating further out of town–to avoid the horse manure smells in the village’s residential areas.”
Elizabeth: “Yes Dear. But moving the village stables was a small concession to enhancing the quality of life of our village’s year round residents, weekend residents, and others such as tourists. The shoppes along the Bath Road are very popular don’t you know? Our small village’s small businesses are thriving!”
Edward: “I do know! And I do believe that your patronage of these shoppes is a great boon to them. Hm!” Edward harrumpfs and Elizabeth smiles. “And I suppose that the village will be expecting us to loan them our estate cultivators and several farm hands to overturn the soil for them?”
Elizabeth: “Well Dearest, we could hardly grant them the land, and then not help them with it.”
Edward: “Hardly.” He raises a quelling eyebrow. Except, his Elizabeth has never been quelled by it—more’s the pity in his mind. “And we are not granting the village the land. We are leasing the land to the village, for 1 pound per annum.” A tiny sum, but important for the legalities.
Elizabeth: “Thank you, Edward Dear!” Elizabeth spontaneously embraces her husband and tenderly kisses him. “You’ll see! The Community garden will be wonderful! Especially for the weekenders living in the small 20 unit three story apartment building near there. It will give them a sense of belonging in creating a small garden patch of their own.”
Edward: “Well, the community garden better be a success.” Edward grumbles, because being austere and off putting at times is expected of a person of his station. But actually, he has great hopes for it.
Privately, Edward is delighted for the nearby Village of Exmoor’s community wide interest and participation in the community garden. Though Edward Somerset, Duke of Exmoor is technically the Exmoor Village and Somerset County citizenry’s Liege Lord, these are not feudal times. And Duke Edward holds the progressive view that to whom much is given, much is required. Thus Edward Duke of Exmoor is held in high esteem for his insightful guidance on local and county wide business and land use and development initiatives designed to help their communities and the Duchy of Somerset thrive, as well as his philanthropy in establishing and partially funding several small regional hospitals for clusters of villages who are located more than an hour away from the large cities’ medical facilities.
And Duke Edward also believes in the importance of literacy for all by establishing and funding several small lending libraries with reading tutors to serve the rural poor in the same clusters of villages as for the rural hospitals. He believes that if a person can read and write, that gives less affluent citizens in the County of Somerset a gateway to educating themselves and better job opportunities. And Duke Edward hopes to retain some of the County of Somerset’s most talented and achievement oriented citizens with those job opportunities by creating those jobs and helping young entrepreneurs with their startup costs via low interest loans that must be paid back in 5 years.
And though sibling relationships can sometimes be frought with friction, Benedict counts his own siblings relationships with his elder sister Lexi (Alexandra) and his elder brother Edmund as friends. The siblings’ ages span nearly fifteen years with Benedict being the youngest. And though Benedict’s birth arriving 14 years after his elder sister Lexi’s and 10 years after his elder brother Edmund’s, they were delighted in their younger brother—as was Benedict delighted in them.
With Benedict eagerly toddling after his siblings when they were home from school—and Lexi and Edmund caringly keeping a watchful eye out for the young Benedict then so that he didn’t come to harm whilst bashing along them during their creek bed hiking, or their climbing trees, or even their pranks upon their grounds keeper Mr. Carroll—both the elder father, and now the younger son—with flower beds transplanted overnight to alternate locations, and some topiary bushes in the sculpture garden receiving sometimes comical trims.
And, of course, Benedict and his elder brother Edmund—currently styled as the Marquess of Exmoor, as the Duke in waiting–only shared one year together at Eton. During his first year at Eton when Benedict was 8 years old and Edmund was 18 years old, Benedict felt it grand to have such a popular sports mad, achievement oriented, and protective elder brother in Edmund.
And Benedict’s fifteen years older sister Lexi had long since had her come out by then, university, and then marriage with two children in quick succession—to Benedict’s delight in finally becoming an uncle, at the tender age of 10 years, giving him more children to play with in the family since their first cousins were all older than his siblings.
And, of course, Benedict’s parents were gently teased by their extended family for the late introduction of their third and final child in Benedict—with his father Edward being 38 and his mother being 35 at the time of Benedict’s birth—and giving them at least eight more years of daily child rearing before Benedict went up to Eton. However, Benedict’s parents were entirely pleased with themselves and their little spare heir whom they named Benedict after a much admired late great uncle who had been a Royal Navy man, Admiral of the Fleet.
And when Benedict was just a child growing up, his parents had hoped that Benedict might choose the Navy or the Church as a profession–even a medical doctor would have been satisfactory for Benedict’s station as Baron Exmoor. Though they did not try to influence Benedict in any particular professional direction, his parents did grimace stoically through his wanting to join the circus phase. Benedict was a juggler and ground level gymnast—when he was just a lad of seventeen—during his adventurous gap year experience in Hungary.
But thankfully, providence intervened—because Benedict was too tall and lanky for the very popular aerial acrobatic acts in the circus. And eventually during that gap year period, Benedict swerved his ambitions toward the Church after spending time with the circus’ resident protestant pastor and his family traveling with the circus– and who became for Benedict a warm family substitute, as well as, Benedict’s clergy prospect in training mentor.
With Benedict’s ducal father being slightly more gruff and stubborn about upholding tradition in his eighties—rather than when he was decades ago as a doting and flexible Papa with his young children—Edward Somerset notices a colorful looking blur about to quickly descend upon them in the garden. His wife turns to look at what he is distracted by.
Duchess Elizabeth: “Oh!” Elizabeth exclaims delightedly as she waves to their only daughter Alexandra, who is heading straight for them.
Duke Edward: “Oh Bloody Hell! I wonder what has Alexandra looking as if another great war is breaking out?”
Duchess Elizabeth: “Now be nice, and please refrain from using vulgar language!” She glares lovingly at her life’s partner of 59 years, before turning to greet their daughter.
Lady Alexandra: “Mama! Papa!” Have you heard the news?” Alexandra asks excitedly, then she quickly hugs and kisses her parents and gazes at them fondly. Their only daughter, Alexandra Somerset Solsbury [(5) below], Countess of Bath is an effervescent beauty of 58 years, mother of twins (a boy and a girl) now in their mid twenties, and a devoted daughter.
Duchess Elizabeth: “Alexandra, Dear, Please do not shout. It is both unnecessary and unladylike.” Now Elizabeth gives her daughter Alexandra a quelling look. “Please calmly tell us the news.” The Duchess admonishes, her hoping that a great grandchild might soon be on the horizon.
A woman of fifty-eight years, Alexandra Somerset Solsbury the Countess of Bath rolls her eyes as she clutches her satellite cell phone in her left hand to her chest. Then she thrusts out her satellite cell phone and turns it around for her parents to read Benedict’s email.
Dear Mama & Papa, Lexi, Edmund, and their Families,
It is with great joy and humility that I tell you that I have met the love of my life, Laura Leicester of the U.S. And Laura has graciously agreed to be my wife, and we are soon to be married.
Laura is a 40 year old Instructional Asst. Professor (teacher) and academic advisor at the university across town, whom I met while volunteering at our CSC sponsored Chicago Children’s Group Home on Saturday mornings. Laura is lovely, refined, intelligent, fun (please tell Caleb), and she keeps me on my toes.
Our wedding is set for Saturday May 4th at 11:00am at the Chicago Seminary College Chapel, with a wedding luncheon banquet to follow. We hope that you can join us! My treat! I will take care of the travel logistics planning for your trip.
I will call you tomorrow around 4:00pm your time (11am my time), since I don’t teach until the afternoon (in my timezone). I am certain that you have questions, which I shall happily answer for you.
With much love, Benedict
P.S. Copies sent to Lexi and Edmund
First her father Duke Edward reads the email, with no comment other than a raised eyebrow and glowering. Then her mother Duchess Elizabeth plucks her daughter’s cell phone from her husband’s hand and reads the email. Her response is nearly instantaneous—and vocal.
Duchess Elizabeth: “Oh!” Her free right hand flies to her cheek. “How wonderful! Our little boy is going to married!”
Duke Edward: “Little boy? I daresay our 45 year old son Benedict would object to that characterization.” And Duke Edward had the talk with Benedict before he joined the circus at seventeen. But he wonders if he will need to do another man to man talk, as a refresher—in case Benedict is still chaste, with Benedict being an unmarried minister. You see, Benedict had never apprised his parents of his previous girlfriend Gretchen.
Lexi: “The wedding is in two weeks, Mama! And being held in the Americas!” She whines. Which is not at all a pretty sight.
Duke Edward: “Blast! Why cannot any of you marry from home, or even Bath Cathedral?” He grouses.
Duchess Elizabeth: “Edward, you’ll recall that neither did we get marred from Exmoor Hall. And please stop whining, Lexi Sweetheart, and be happy for your brother.” She admonishes her daughter.
Lexi: “I am happy for Benedict. But what does one wear to an American wedding? They seem to wear blue jeans or their pajamas for all occasions these days, don’t they?”
Duchess Elizabeth: “As long as you don’t choose to wear sack cloth to your brother’s wedding, I won’t be humiliated. Now let’s reply to Benedict and make certain that your brother Edmund has received the happy news as well.”
Duke Edward: Interjecting into the conversation that his wife and daughter seem to be chatting away about, he suggests. “And then there is the tiara and family jewels going to Benedict’s bride—well, to Benedict, for him to allow her to use. Do Americans wear such things? Or worse, might she gauchely choose to wear all of the jewels at the same time, rather than selectively?” And what of the settlements and Benedict’s Bride’s dowry, there is much to finalize, muses Duke Edward.
Duchess Elizabeth: “We and Benedict will guide her in the proper form to go on as Benedict’s newly married wife and his Baroness.” She states with finality. But the topic of Benedict’s chosen bride is not yet final.
Duke Edward: “And we shant forget that Benedict still needs to request approval to be married from our cousin.” The Duke mentions while wagging his ducal index finger at them. There is a moment of silence by his wife and daughter at that sobering thought.
Duchess Elizabeth: Then the Duchess brightens. “A mere formality. It will all work out.” She hopes. With Laura not being of English citizenship, that could also pose a problem.
Meanwhile, before Laura heads in to the university campus where she works as an Academic Advisor and teaches part time as well—Laura Leicester also crafts and then sends a carefully worded email to her younger playboy brother. And her email message to him is precise, if not concise.
I hope this note finds you well! I have some thrilling news! I am to be married again! In 2 weeks!
I met my fiancé, the Reverend Professor Benedict Somerset while volunteering at the Chicago Children’s Group Home. Benedict was a new volunteer and I trained him his first day. He was a bit shy at first, …” She thinks off putting. “… but over time we became good friends, and now we have fallen in love with each other! Benedict is a wonderful man!
Our wedding will be in two weeks, the Saturday after graduation, at 11am on May 4th at the Chicago Seminary College Chapel. It is lovely, and our wedding will be small and intimate. Benedict’s immediate family are all in England, but he hopes that his parents and siblings will come over with their families. And Benedict says that he is happy to pay for your and a guest’s round trip air flight from New York, so that that you can join us! Please say yes!
And please be happy for me! Love and Hugs! Laura
The stunned Steve Leicester sits back in his desk chair. His sister Laura seems happy—all of those exclamation marks (!). Buy why has she not told him about this guy until now? Steve had not approved of Laura’s first husband—something about him was just off–but Steve was not able to convince Laura to not marry him. And look how well that marriage turned out. Not!
And Steve is for damned sure that he won’t let his sister Laura be hurt again. This Rev. Prof. guy better be on the up and up and adore his elder sister, or the guy will have him/Steve to answer to. And Steve resolves to see what he can quickly find out about his sister’s fiancé by doing an internet search about him.
To be continued with Chapter 20
References for “Somerset: A Time to Love”, Ch. 19, November 06, 2017 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1113)
1) The Somerset: A Time to Love” story cover is a composite of two main images:
a) Background–Creative Commons-licensed photo by Flickr user AlicePopkorn2]
b) Prof. Benedict Somerset image is of Richard Armitage (2012 Promo by Roberta Ascroft, pix35) found at richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Richard/Promos/2012Promo/album/RobertAscroft-35.jpg
c) a crucifix image is from MS Office Clip Art;
2) Image representing Edward Somerset is actor Charles Dance and was found at http://wordofthenerdonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/20/actor-charles-dance-ao-1426292662.jpg
3) image representing Elizabeth Somerset is actress Helen Mirren and was found at https://static.independent.co.uk/s3fs-public/thumbnails/image/2013/01/29/15/AN14159020Helen%20Mirren%20-%20ph.jpg
4) Image representing Exmoor Village is a lovely traditional country village scene shared by Trudy B. Thanks for sharing!
5) The image representing Alexandra Somerset Solsbury is actress Dawn French, and was found on her twitter page https://twitter.com/Dawn_French and https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/918392005595729920/H1_zme-p_400x400.jpg
Wattpad Ch. 19 story link:
Previous Ch. 18 blog link, with embedded illustrations: