(“Somerset: A Time to Love” is an original contemporary romance copyrighted by Gratiana Lovelace, 2017; All rights reserved) [(1) story cover, left]
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 Benedict’s elder sister Alexandra Somerset Solsbury, James Nesbit as Benedict’s elder brother Edmund Somerset, Chris Pine as Laura’s younger brother Steve Leicester, and others as noted.]
Author’s recap from the previous chapter: With Laura and Benedict each having emailed their families their engagement and swiftly upcoming wedding news, all that remains is for Benedict to reveal to Laura that his family are English aristocrats.
Ch. 20 (PG-13-L): Benedict’s Revelations
For the first week of their two week engagement, Benedict and Laura had known that due to their respective teaching, advising, and campus meetings schedules, that they would not have any time to spend alone with each other in person and alone until Wednesday afternoon. Because Tuesday afternoon would have to be spent again with their wedding planner–whom they briefly spoke with on Monday–in order to facilitate their quickly upcoming nuptials at the end of week two of their very short engagement.
So each of them plans to keep their disappointed desires in check with nightly phone call farewells and over the phone kisses. And on Monday evening’s night time bed time phone call, they had planned to call each other around 9:15pm as usual to talk about how notifying their families went. Which for Benedict involves not having talked with them face to face yet—that will come Tuesday morning (for Benedict) and afternoon (for his Parents in England) when he calls them about his quickly approaching marriage to Laura.
Yet Benedict is unsure of which conversation he is dreading more: talking with his parents in England about Laura’s divorce, or him revealing to Laura about his family circumstances—of his family being English aristocrats—that he is a Baron and his father is a Duke. There are Barons a plenty in England, but Dukes are very thin on the ground—the Dukes of marriageable age and being unattached, anyway. But still, English aristocratic families have centuries of tradition and alliances to uphold and strengthen—much longer than the upstart nation of the United States.
And Benedict has lived in the United States so long now, 24 years, that he is well aware of there being no formal/bloodline aristocracy here—however much fleeting reality tv stars would like to claim that title. Besides, the only Duke in the United States that Benedict is aware of—by way of the late gentleman’s nickname–was the late American actor John Wayne.
Finally deciding that warning/apprising Laura about his family being aristocrats—including himself—is the wisest option, Benedict unexpectedly arrives at Laura’s apartment Monday evening a few minutes before 9:15pm, rather than calling her. And Laura opens her apartment door to Benedict wearing naught but her hastily switched to satin negligee and penoir set—from her comfy but unflattering baby doll pajamas—when he called up to her from the Lobby, giving her a two minute warning.
After letting Benedict into her apartment and shutting and locking her front door, Laura turns to him with a minxish grin on her face.
Laura: “You just can’t live without me! Can you, Reverend?”
Benedict: “Yes.” He draws out huskily as Benedict’s gaze appreciatively roams over her satin encased womanly curves. Laura will be his wife, and Benedict feels that he is the luckiest man in the world.
Seeing Laura in her negligee eliminates all thoughts of what Benedict had planned to say to her, as Benedict pulls Laura into his arms for a quick kiss. But after they plunder each other’s mouths and entangle their tongues together in that age old dance of love and lust—not to mention their respective roving caresses as Laura pushes his clothes off of him—and they are lost to their loving desires.
An hour later lying in bed cuddling together and happily contented after their romantic tryst, Benedict knows that he has to take the bit in his teeth and tell Laura what she needs to know about his family. A caveat, of sorts
Lying on her side, draped over her fiancé Benedict’s bare chest—with him gently stroking her bare back–Laura can hear his heartbeat pick up its pace.
Laura: “Benedict? Your heart is beating quite fast.” Laura sits up quickly facing him, while holding the sheet to cover herself. “Are you feeling any chest or arm and neck pains?” Laura asks him worriedly. She had read about seemingly healthy forty year olds dropping dead after exerting themselves. And Laura doesn’t want to lose Benedict, now that she and he have found each other.
Laura: “Well, I don’t recall your heart beat being so fast before, after we … you know.” Laura blushes deeply—from her cheeks to her bare toes peeking out of the bed sheet.
Benedict: “Made love?” He smiles as Laura nods shyly. If anyone should be blushing, it is Benedict, he thinks. He is a grown man who was dedicatedly celibate for over fifteen years. And now with Laura, he has a chance for a life filled with love and a family. And Benedict will accept and cherish these gifts.
Laura: “Yes. And you were quite … vigorously spectacular just now.” Laura smiles blushingly and then she lies back down beside him and buries her face into Benedict’s neck.
Benedict: “Thank you!” He smiles with obvious masculine pride. But Benedict knows that he is just stalling about the inevitable conversation that he must have with her.
Laura: “Then what is it? Are you worried about staying the night, tonight? Please stay!” She pleads softly. “We can set the alarm clock for early enough for you to return to your apartment without attracting attention.” She gazes at him hopefully.”
Benedict: “It’s not that. And I accept your kind invitation to stay tonight.” The ever polite Benedict hugs Laura closer to him and he tenderly kisses her forehead. “It’s just that …” Benedict pauses for several moments, as he tries to think of a way to break it to her gently.
Laura: “It’s just that …?” She prompts.
Benedict: “Laura Darling, do you remember when I said that I was a second son?”
Laura: “Of course! You very amusingly described the impetus of your vocation for becoming a minister—as if you were landed nobility out of a Regency period novel.”
Benedict: “Yes, well. Hhhhh!” Benedict sighs to delay his telling her. “Laura Darling, I was being slightly less amusing, than that I was being purposely vague.”
Laura: “It’s alright, Benedict. I might like the Regency romances where the spinsterish woman meets the man of her romantic dreams and she discovers later that he is a Duke or Earl, but it is just amusing fantasy. It’s not real. No commoner marries a Duke in real life.”
Wincing, Benedict turns onto his side to face Laura and looks her into her eyes. Laura is still smiling, so far.
Benedict: “True. Bachelor Dukes are rather thin on the ground in England.” Benedict licks his lips in nervousness.
Laura: “But there are always Earls and Viscounts—if they are looking for a wife, that is.” She teases. “Oh! And Marquesses!”
Benedict: “Right. Well, what would you say if I told you that I personally know several people in England possessing those titles?”
Laura: “A hypothetical situation? Are we being philosophical?” She bemusedly asks rhetorically—and she uses the inclusive we. “Well, After I wanly pretend to feign disinterest, then I would quickly squeal with excitement! Will we get to meet some aristocratic friends of yours at our wedding? Or perhaps, on our honeymoon trip to England? I hope they aren’t snobbish.” Laura smiles broadly.
Benedict and Laura had decided to visit England for their wedding trip, so that Laura can visit the London historic sites that she has never seen, as well as visit Benedict’s family’s country home. And Benedict is happy to oblige her in that regard.
Yet as this conversation progresses, Benedict becomes more reticent and taciturn in his demeanor, such as when he and Laura first met—albeit with him now lying naked and entwined with her in his loving embrace.
Benedict: “No, they’re not snobbish. And as to their general demeanor, well, aristocrats typically are less emotional in public. Leaving squealing to pigs and teeny boppers at rock concerts.” He states drolly. “Though the aristocrats whom I have in mind are not solely friends, per se …” Here it comes. “… they are family.”
Laura: Laura stills. “Are we talking extended cousins?” Benedict nods slowly once and his pursed lips and grimace have Laura puzzled. “Closer than cousins?” Benedict nods once again. Getting frustrated, Laura gently pulls one of Benedict’s chest hairs, as if holding it out for inspection. “Out with it, fella! You’re killing me with the veiled hints that you’re giving me. Ha ha ha!”
Benedict: “Right! Well, my five year old nephew Caleb is the 11th Earl of Exmoor, and his father, my brother Edmund, is the Marquess of Exmoor—at least until Edmund inherits from our father. In which case, Caleb becomes the 9th Marquess of Exmoor and then Caleb’s first son becomes the Earl of Exmoor.” Laura ponders this, then she quizzically tilts her head to the side, but otherwise she remains silent—whilst giving Benedict a probing gaze. “Kkhhh! My father is Edward Standish Carlisle Fitzhugh Somerset, The 7th Duke of Exmoor.” His father’s Christian name carrying their distinguished lineage within it.
Laura: “Uh huh.” Laura is still silent for several moments. “You’re in earnest, Benedict?”
Benedict: “I’m afraid so, Love.” Benedict winces apologetically.
Laura: “So are you the Viscount Exmoor?”
Benedict: “Ah! I see that you know your English peerage titles precedence. Uh no. The Exmoor Viscountancy is currently vacant pending my brother producing another son. I am the Rt. Reverend Professor Benedict Edward Maxwell Carlisle Fitzhugh Somerset, the 14th Baron Exmoor. And I may be very simply addressed as Lord Benedict among my intimates.” [(3)]
Laura: Still shell shocked [(4) below], Laura closes her eyes and gathers her thoughts for a moment. Then she asks about Benedict’s sister Lexi. “And I suppose that your sister Lexi is Lady Alexandra, since she is the daughter of a Duke?”
Benedict: “Well, she was Lady Alexandra Elizabeth Penelope Carlisle Fitzhugh Somerset until she married Ian Solsbury, the 4th Earl of Bath thirty-five years ago. So she is appropriately addressed as Alexandra Lady Bath, or referred to as the Countess of Bath.”
Laura: “You’re really not kidding me?” She asks, hoping that he is kidding her.
Aristocratic titles are nice in the abstract ponders Laura—or on the page of a novel. But in real life, in the modern age? Aristocratic hereditary titles are much less prestigious than what one achieves by their own hard work. Her view arises from the American in Laura.
Benedict: “No. Sorry, Love. Is this a deal breaker?” He winces again.
Laura: “No. But I’m even more certain now, that your family were expecting you to marry an English Lady, not a Middle Class American—who has been divorced. Will they accept me?” She worries if she will be good enough for Benedict’s aristocratic family.
Benedict: “Now now, you are more than good enough for my family, Laura Darling. And you are my choice to be my Baroness Exmoor.”
Laura: “Baroness?!? Not just plain old Ms. Leicester, or even, Mrs. Laura Leicester-Somerset?”
Benedict: “You can be those titles, also, if you wish.” He concedes. “However in England, you will be formally titled Laura Somerset, Baroness Exmoor, or Lady Benedict among your intimates. Among English society and at its functions, the etiquette and protocol are quite rigid.”
Laura: “Are they?” She asks facetiously and Benedict nods.
Bemedict: “And there is one more aspect about my family’s aristocratic ancestors that I should tell you–because it affects us gaining the permission to marry–so that our marriage is recognized in England.”
Laura: “Well? Are you going to tell me that your great great grandfather was the son of the King, so that you’re in the royal line of succession?” She jests half heartedly. Then Laura notices Benedict’s sober mien, and she stops smiling.
Benedict: “Something like that, Laura Love. It was actually my great great great grandfather who was the son of a King, and a Prince of the Royal bloodline. I am 178th in the line of succession. So it’s not at all likely that it, the succession, will ever be invoked in my favor. But …”
Laura: “But you still have to follow permission protocols on the marriages of royals.” She nods her head in understanding.
Benedict: “Yes! Hhhh!” Benedict sighs in relief. “I’m glad that you understand.” Benedict gently kisses Laura’s lips.
Laura: “Hmm. I guess when I was a little girl and I wished that I could marry a prince, I must have been a very good wisher. Because, I just got my wish.” Laura looks completely nonplussed.
Benedict: “I’m sorry, Laura Darling. I know that my rather complicated family is a lot to burden you with.” Many English girls would be thrilled with a title—with little affection for the man who bestows it upon her. But Benedict had always wanted a love match, and now he has that with Laura.
Laura: “Well Benedict, I guess that there is only one thing for me to say.” Benedict gazes hopefully at Laura. “I am all astonishment!” Laura impishly smiles as she quotes the character Caroline Bingley from Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice”, the 1995 BBC adaptation with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Then Laura leans up and tenderly kisses Benedict upon his lips and he lovingly responds to her before they cuddle together and fall asleep in each other’s loving arms.
There will be more family revelations from both Benedict and Laura. But for now, Benedict has shared his most important secret with Laura. And that is enough.
To be continued with Chapter 21
References for “Somerset: A Time to Love”, Ch. 20, November 12, 2017 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #1115)
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) Benedict in bed, shoulders bare, is Richard Armitage as Daniel Miller in the tv show Berlin Station (season 1 in 2016, epi8) Dec0916viaSueli; Nov1217GratianaLovelace crop brt color correct
3) For information about the British peerage, please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_nobility
4) Laura with her eyes closed is Jennifer Ehle, with Jeremy Northam in a period drama image found at http://bgmdb.com/videos/video-1-05-01-2015-09-01-10.jpg
Wattpad Ch. 20 story link:
Previous Ch. 19 blog link, with embedded illustrations: