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From Upstairs to Downstairs

by J.P. Bowie

When everything is taken from you, including the memory of who you are, what possible chance is there for happiness?

Edward Lazenby has it all—a rich grandfather, a beautiful home, days spent riding his favorite horse in Hyde Park. What he doesn’t have, and feels he never will, is handsome Thomas Marsden, a man who, at first, seems repulsed by Edward’s forwardness when they meet.

Dalliances with members of the same sex in Victorian England can lead to scandal or even imprisonment, so Edward and a few close friends have formed their own Club where they can meet without fear of persecution. When Edward’s grandfather dies, Edward is heir to his estate but before he can lay claim to it, he is brutally assaulted, his injuries resulting in complete memory loss.

Months later, Thomas Marsden finds him working as a stable boy on a country estate. Thomas takes him back to London, hoping to find a way to have Edward’s memory restored to him, and remind him that just before he disappeared, they had declared their affection for each other.

Can the two men build a life together or will Edward’s disability be too much of a hurdle to happiness?

Reader Advisory: This book contains some violence and attempted sexual assault.

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Excerpt:

London, 1880

Edward Lazenby didn’t lie abed late most mornings, but on this particular day he was awakened by a blinding headache, a consequence of downing too many brandies the night before—or rather the night that had progressed into the wee small hours of the morning.

“Late night, sir?” The usually soft voice of George, his valet, sounded like a foghorn to his pulsing brain.

“Damnably late, George. What time is it?”

“Gone nine, sir. Shall I bring you some tea before you go down for breakfast?”

“Please, and perhaps one of Mrs. Chalmers’ miracle powders. I have the very devil of a headache.” The idea of breakfast was not high on his list of things he might have enjoyed at the moment.

“Straight away, sir.” George gave him a sympathetic smile and left the room closing the door behind him.

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“Lord…” Edward pushed himself into a sitting position and rubbed his bleary eyes. He looked around his bedroom, noticing that the clothes he had left strewn everywhere before falling into bed had been taken away. George must have been in tidying the room before waking him. He really was worth the wages Edward’s grandfather paid him…whatever they were.

Sighing, he swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood, swaying as his head swam and the pounding between his ears increased. He staggered into the washroom to relieve himself and splash some water on his face. The mirror showed him a sorry sight. His usually well-brushed chestnut brown hair stuck up at all angles and there were dark shadows under his blue eyes. Even at the young age of two and twenty, too much liquor over too many days was beginning to leave its mark on his pale, smooth skin.

Perhaps I should forgo tonight’s soirée at Lady Haversham’s townhouse.

But Thomas would be there, and Edward hadn’t quite given up on trying to seduce the older man. He longed to at least steal a kiss from that luscious mouth. No matter that Thomas had never shown the slightest interest in joining lips with Edward. And when Edward was honest with himself, he imagined Thomas would in fact be appalled at the idea of kissing another of the same sex. He was, after all, engaged to Miss Margaret Flowers, and had never been seen at any of the ‘gentlemen only’ gatherings Edward and his friends, Albert Harcourt and Freddie Munceford, attended with increasing frequency.

True, there were many other handsome young men Edward could dally with, and had done so, but Thomas he viewed as something of a prize. Tall, with dark, almost black curly hair and a serene expression on his remarkably beautiful face. Edward had never seen him frown, or raise his voice in anger, and even on the occasion when Edward had been less than subtle in his approach, he had not uttered a sharp word of rebuke. Albert thought him boring, but Edward was sure that behind the implacable exterior hid a passionate heart and an insatiable appetite for the pressing of the flesh. Never mind that he, Edward, would most likely not be the one to press that flesh or explore Thomas’ sexual mores…unless some kind of miracle occurred.

Nevertheless, he could not deny that the Club had lost some of its appeal since he’d met Thomas, and despite Albert and Freddie’s cajoling, he’d not attended their soirées for some time. Last night had been a mistake. Foolish of him to sit in a corner and drink alone, longing for a love that could only be unrequited, but there it was.

As he re-entered the bedroom, George appeared carrying a tray that held the welcome cup of tea, and a glass containing a milky fluid. Mrs. Chalmers’ miracle powder tasted vile, and Edward screwed up his face as he downed it then gulped down his tea to dispel the odorous aftertaste.

“How is my grandfather this morning?” he asked George.

“Not very well, sir. I have sent for Doctor Shaftsbury to attend him. He has a bad cough, I’m afraid, in addition to the pain he’s been feeling in his back.”

“Hmm, I’d better visit him before breakfast then.”

“I’m sure he would appreciate that, sir.” George inclined his head politely. “Are you ready to dress, sir?”

“Yes, I’ll bathe later, thank you, George.”

Edward’s grandfather, Sir Rupert Lazenby, had instilled in his grandson the need to be polite to all, regardless of their station, and Edward had noticed that people deferred to him much more readily when he showed that he appreciated them or their work. Some of his friends were not as well-mannered as Edward and he’d seen several black looks thrown their way on occasions when they were together. Edward wasn’t thin-skinned but he knew he would hate it if those less than amicable stares were ever cast at him.

Once properly attired in his morning clothes and feeling somewhat better, Mrs. Chalmers’ miracle powder having begun to dispel the worst of his headache, he made his way to his grandfather’s bedchamber. He could hear the hacking cough George had told him about even before he knocked on the door and entered.

“Good morning, Granpapa.”

The heavy drapes in the large room had been pulled back to let in watery sunshine.

“Nothing good about it, and you don’t appear to be any better than I feel.” His grandfather struggled to sit up and fixed him with a disapproving stare. “Too many late nights, my boy, will make you old before your time.”

“Yes, I’m afraid I did overdo it a trifle, last night.”

“Liquor won’t help you forget, either.” Sir Rupert’s tone was gentler this time. “The sadness you feel at the demise of your dear mama and papa won’t dissipate in an alcoholic haze, no matter how much you imbibe.”

Edward sat on the edge of the bed, suitably chastened. “I know, nor will the rowdy company of my friends help, but sitting by the fire of an evening gives me too much time to think.” He covered his grandfather’s hand with his own and shivered at the coldness of the old man’s skin. “George says he has sent for the doctor. Please, this time, pay attention to what he prescribes.”

“What’s the point?” Sir Rupert said, bluntly. “A man knows his own body better than any physician, and I know that what ails me is slowly killing me. Too damned slowly I say.”

Edward stared at his grandfather with horror. “Granpapa, please don’t talk like that. You’re all I have left. I couldn’t bear it if you died.”

His grandfather sank back onto his pillows and regarded Edward with fondness. “You think that now, but you will get over it in time, and I’ve seen to it that you’ll be well taken care of. I have invested a considerable sum in a trust for you, Edward. That plus the house and its contents will keep you set up for the rest of your life. I know you’ve never shown any interest in the married state, but should you ever decide to change your mind and have little ones, they too will be provided for. Whitgrove has all my papers. He’ll see to everything for you.”

Arnold Whitgrove was Sir Rupert’s solicitor and had been for years. A man for whom Edward had no amiable feelings. On the occasions when social interactions were unavoidable, he found the solicitor condescending, with a shifty slant to his eyes. But now was not the time to be thinking of petty unpleasant matters.

“Granpapa, please…” He turned his head at the sound of a knock at the bedroom door.

Sir Rupert grimaced. “That will be the old sawbones. Go have your breakfast while he pretends to know what he’s talking about.”

“I will come and see you after he leaves. And no more talk of dying or any other such thing.” He squeezed his grandfather’s hand before he rose to open the door for the doctor.

Sir Rupert smiled. “You’re a good lad. Try not to fall into bad ways after I’m gone.”

COLLAPSE

About the Author

J.P. Bowie was born and raised in Aberdeen, Scotland. He wrote his first (unpublished) novel – a science fiction tale of brawny men and brawnier women that made him a little suspect in the eyes of his family for a while.

Leaving home at age eighteen for the bright lights of London, he found himself in the midst of a “diverse and creative crowd” that eventually led him to the performing arts. For the next twelve years he sang, danced and acted his way around the theatres of London and the provinces, appearing in shows with many famous British singers, actors and comedians.

After immigrating to the US and living for many years in Las Vegas where he worked for that incomparable duo, Siegfried and Roy, J.P. found himself entranced by the fair city of San Diego where he currently lives with his partner, Phil.

J.P. loves to hear from his readers.


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