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Authors: Regan Walker

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The Shamrock & the Rose

BOOK: The Shamrock & the Rose
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The Shamrock & The
Rose
Regan Walker

Copyright
201
3 Regan Walker
Smashwords Edition

 

The Shamrock & The Rose

A stint playing Portia at the Theatre-Royal
at Haymarket in London, a dropped valentine and a dangerous desire
lead gentle-born Rose Collingwood into the arms of an Irishman
whose love will hazard all she knows and is.

 

 

The Shamrock & The Rose

Regan Walker

 

www.BOROUGHSPUBLISHINGGROUP.com

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: This is
a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either
are the product of the author’s imagination or are used
fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, business
establishments or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Boroughs Publishing Group does not have any control over and does
not assume responsibility for author or third-party websites, blogs
or critiques or their content.

THE SHAMROCK & THE
ROSE
Copyright © 2013 Regan Walker

All rights reserved.
Unless specifically noted, no part of this publication may be
reproduced, scanned, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in
any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording, or otherwise, known or hereinafter invented, without the
express written permission of Boroughs Publishing Group. The
scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet
or by any other means without the permission of Boroughs Publishing
Group is illegal and punishable by law. Participation in the piracy
of copyrighted materials violates the author’s rights.

Digital edition created by
Maureen Cutajar
www.gopublished.com

ISBN
978-1-938876-41-7

 

 

To my great
grandfather from Ireland who by all accounts was quite the rake yet
managed to win my great grandmother’s heart.

 

Contents

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Epigraph

The Shamrock & The Rose

Author’s Note

Author Bio

 

There’s a dear
little plant that grows on our isle,

’Twas St. Patrick himself sure that set
it;

and the sun on his labour with pleasure did
smile,

and with dew from his eye often wet it.

It shines thro’ the bog. Thro’ the brake,
and the mireland;

and he called it the dear little shamrock of
Ireland.

—from “The Green Little Shamrock of Ireland”
by Andrew Cherry

 

…how beautiful my English rose

how strong this feeling pines

at my thoughts into my soul

here is a beauty unlike any other

tenderly sweet before my eye

I could hold this picture forever

and forever love my English rose

—from “English Rose” by Matthew Holloway

 

The
Shamrock & The Rose

“Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he
hath.”

—from
The Merchant of Venice
by
William Shakespeare

London, February 1818

Morgan O’Connell hardly noticed Sophie as
she turned her attention from the stage and artfully tossed her
head of dark curls, smiling at him from behind her lace-covered
fan. He was tired of his companion’s feigned shyness and coquettish
glances, just as he was tired of the play they would be seeing.
The Merchant of Venice
, though just beginning, held little
interest for him. Once a favorite, he supposed he’d seen too many
bad productions for it to remain so. Still, he liked the ambience
of the Theatre-Royal at Haymarket, which seemed the place he most
often sought entertainment now that he lived in London. Sophie
seemed to be enjoying it, too.

His gaze drifted to the stage where appeared
the three chests from which Portia’s suitors must choose, her dead
father having left a puzzle to determine which man would gain both
his daughter and his wealth. Gold, silver and lead; only one held
the prize. And the cost to hazard a guess was high, for those who
failed must vow never to wed.

As the play unfolded, Morgan’s eyes soon
diverted from the chests to the woman acting the part of Portia.
She was beautiful and young, somewhere between nineteen and
twenty-one. Though he couldn’t tell if that luxurious long brown
hair was the actress’s own, the sixteenth-century gown was most
becoming to her curves. Her acting was extraordinary, holding him
enraptured and sweeping him into a story he’d thought no longer
held any allure. Small movements of her eyes, facial expressions
and gestures conveyed much that Shakespeare’s lines did not. If
she’d never spoken a word, he would have known Portia’s true heart.
When she did speak, he believed in a real Portia of long ago.

Ignoring his female companion, Morgan leaned
forward. “A superb Portia, Roger, would you not agree?”

“She’s captured my attention,” his friend
whispered, likely so Judith Seaton sitting next to him would not
hear. Judith was a new love interest, and Roger had been trying to
impress her. “I’ve heard she is fresh to the stage but already
drawing many compliments.”

“Remind me who she is,” Morgan said in a
voice too low for Sophie to hear.

“Lily Underwood, as I recall the
playbill.”

Morgan nodded and sat back, relieved that
Sophie had again taken up her study of the audience below. It was
clear she was more a follower of the
haut ton
than a devotee
of Shakespeare.

From his box above the stage, Morgan could
see well the actors moving about below. His eyes lingered on the
woman portraying Portia, the one he now knew as Miss Underwood. She
had a compelling voice, one that deepened as the character she
portrayed donned the guise of a man to adroitly argue the points of
law that would save her lover’s friend while cleverly entrapping
the moneylender who demanded Antonio’s flesh.

Leaning forward, he listened as she spoke
the lines that were his favorites:

“The quality of mercy is not strain’d.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”

Portia was the kind of woman Morgan wanted:
brave, forthright and intelligent, a woman whose spirit was equal
to his own. Unfortunately, these were not qualities he’d find in an
English actress, however comely. And though he might consider a
tryst with such an actress, his Irish family would only be
satisfied with an Irish bride.

* * *

The next morning, in a place as far from the
theatre as the nobility was from the rabble, Rose Collingwood
seated herself in the parlour of the Dowager Countess of
Claremont’s home, on the end of the sofa nearest the blazing fire.
She was glad for warmth on the chilly February day. Across a small
oval table set with tea, the dowager countess, elegantly gowned as
always, set down her cup.

“My dear,” said the silver-haired woman, “I
meant to ask when you came in last night, how is the performance
going? Do you still believe it was the right thing to accept the
part despite your mother’s objections?”

“Oh, the play is going splendidly—and yes, I
am happy with my decision. I could not stay in Newcastle another
moment.”

“Was it really so bad?”

“It was the future that caused me despair. I
might be the daughter of Vice Admiral Lord Collingwood, but there
was nothing for me at home save a marriage to some vicar or rising
merchant. Had he lived, my father might even have pressed some
fellow officer on me. Any of those seemed a dreary choice.”

“Your two sisters appear happy with their
lives.”

Rose acknowledged to herself the truth of
the countess’s statement while wondering how to explain their
differences. “My sisters are much older than I am; they have been
wives and mothers for many years, never questioning their place.”
She sighed and lifted her tea. Her sisters were more like distant
aunts. “They hardly understand my desire to see more of the world
than the north of England. I have often thought I may be more like
my father. His military service for the Crown took him to far-off
lands.”

“But an
actress
?”

Rose couldn’t help but note the countess’s
disapproving tone. Though she had participated in the deception
that allowed Rose to become Lily Underwood, the older woman
retained the view of most of the
ton
. Rose, on the other
hand, was quite determined.

“I never thought of it until Mr. Colman from
the theatre at Haymarket heard my dramatic reading at a dinner
party in Newcastle and made me the offer. The role of Portia was
just too marvelous to decline.”

“Well, I am glad Mr. Colman agreed to your
wearing a wig and taking a stage name. Your mother was right to
insist upon that. Actresses have a questionable reputation at best,
and a low one more often, which is why I was pleased she required
you stay with me. You must promise to be careful around the theatre
people, my dear. One can only imagine the things you might be
exposed to.”

Rose felt her cheeks heat at the reminder of
the kindness and concern for her welfare her mother’s dear friend
had shown her. She never would have been allowed to come to London
had not the countess stepped in to offer her home and guidance.
Rose had indeed seen a few things backstage that opened her
innocent eyes to the darker side of theatre life, and to the loose
morals of many of the women there, things that made her determined
to wed a gentleman if ever she married at all. But she would not
mention those incidents to the countess. Instead she said, “I have
heard some actresses have done very well for themselves.”

“Ah, yes. There have been exceptions. The
actress Mary Bolton became Lady Thurlow, a worthy countess for
Edward. She has given him three fine sons, and I am proud to call
her friend.” A faint smile crossed the countess’s face. “I do love
interesting people, you know, and she is one of them.” The countess
paused, her teacup suspended above its saucer. “Now that I think of
it, she was also the daughter of a naval officer, though not as
high ranking as your father.”

“I’m not seeking to marry a peer, Countess,
or indeed, anyone. I merely want to play the part of a woman I
would like to be, one who uses her mind and not her charms. Portia
was more than people thought her to be. She didn’t quite fit, and
often I feel…well, neither do I.”

“A bluestocking in disguise was fair
Portia.” Picking up the quizzing glass that was ever around her
neck and peering through it, the countess added, “Not unlike you, I
think.”

Rose’s eyes fell to the teacup she held in
her lap. “That I cannot say. Coming to London for the stage is the
bravest thing I’ve ever done.”

“All to the good, my dear,” said the
countess. “I am delighted to have so intelligent a companion in my
home, though alongside has come a threefold increase in mail.
Humph! All those letters to ‘Miss Underwood’ my footman retrieves
from the theatre. And then the calling cards for Miss Collingwood
piled so high they are falling off the salver. Why, it’s positively
astounding the hearts you’ve won—both as yourself and in the guise
of another!”

“Don’t forget the flowers,” Rose said,
feeling her mouth twitch up on one side.

The countess’s gaze flitted about the room
to the vases holding the bouquets of roses, and she, too, appeared
to be fighting a grin. “The gentlemen who sent them surely spent a
lot of coin. The scent of these hothouse flowers fairly makes one
swoon. You would think someone died.”

BOOK: The Shamrock & the Rose
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