Laura Carroll Butler Interviews the 8th Earl of Wickingham, Lord Michael Alexander Brooks from The Price of a Pearl.

 

price-of-a-pearl-cover22 December 1776

I have the honor of sharing a glass and speaking today with the 8th Earl of Wickingham, Lord Michael Alexander Brooks. The dark-haired, dark-eyed and charming Lord Brooks grew up at Elysian Fields, the manor house built by Sir Robert Brooks, a knight of King Henry VII. He attended Harrow School and Trinity College Cambridge. He is the author of several books of poetry and the novel Reborn, published in 1773 by Collins and Son. Sorry ladies, Lord Brooks is married! He and his lovely wife, Lady Susanne live with their two sons at Elysian Fields.

Lord Brooks and I are meeting in the Mayfair home of his life-long friend, the 4th Baron of Swinstoke Lord Davis Edderle. Lord Brooks and Lord Edderle are also brothers, having married sisters Susanne and Rebecca! It is a beautiful home and Lord Brooks seems very comfortable here, dressed casually for our interview, at times animated, at other times subdued.

LCB: Lord Brooks, please tell us when and where you were born?

MB (smiling engagingly): I will if you will refer to me as Michael.

LCB: Agreed.

MB: I was born 17 January 1746, at my father’s house, Elysian Fields, Wickingham, County Bedfordshire, England.

LCB: Lord Brooks…Michael, what influence did your birth family have on you and on your choices and your life?

MB (Pauses to sip his whisky): My father was a scoundrel, a drunk and a spendthrift. He respected no one and died broke and nearly alone. In many ways, I am like him. I suppose I should have wanted to be a better man, but it’s rather difficult to become the person you were not born to become. I did not know my mother. She died when I was an infant.

LCB: Has growing up without a mother influenced your relationships with women?

MB: If you mean do I seek the unconditional love from women that a mother easily gives? Then no. My wife loves me unconditionally. She nurtures me, she adores me…but she does not know me, or, rather does not see who I really am.

LCB: And who are you?

MB (Smiles, but does not answer.)

LCB: Do you believe that we are unable to rise above the circumstances of our birth?

MB: Not of our birth, but of our nature. Some of us are simply not capable of following the prescribed morality of society.

LCB: Although you are of noble birth, you do not use your title. Are you a follower of the Enlightenment?

MB: I do not like to label myself a follower of anything. With that said, I believe every person should live their life free of the constraints of the church and the government, and so long as they are not harming another. That some, by chance of birth, are believed better suited to make laws that may violate another’s natural freedom I find unconscionable.

LCB: That’s quite a revolutionary idea. Would you share with me your ambitions in your personal and professional life?

MB: I would be most happy merely to live my life free of society’s confinements and expectations. And to raise my sons to think for themselves and not allow society to dictate to them who and how they must be.

LCB: And professionally?

MB: I have only ever wanted to be a writer, to express my views in my poetry and stories. Writing was the only discipline I enjoyed, but the words come harder with time and without my muse.

LCB: Who is your muse?

MB:   The woman I love. (Michael finishes his whisky, pours another and offers me a refill although I have barely touched mine.)

LCB: You are still a young man, but if you could relive a part of your life, what changes would you make?

MB: I would change nothing of my experiences. If I regret anything, it would be the hurt my actions have caused others. But there is always something to be learned and remembered and cherished from our actions, the good and the bad. That said, I should have liked to have known my half-brother. I am sorry that I did not push my father to discuss him before my father passed. But when a door was shut by the Old Earl, it was shut. There was no looking back, no peek into the past. I have wonderful friends, Davis is a brother to me, and blood should not matter. But I see a different sort of relationship between my wife and her sister, between Davis and his sister, and sometimes I envy them for their connections.

LCB: Let’s discuss what our readers really want to hear about, love.

MB (Brightens noticeably and a little wickedly): My favorite topic!

LCB: So I hear! What of love comes easy for you and what is harder?

MB: From my youth, I have easily and freely loved others so long as it remained physical. I never had an issue separating the act of love with the emotion itself. I find I can remain friends with past lovers for this reason. The physical intimacy is easy. Emotional intimacy with a lover is rare and dangerous.

LCB: You separate the emotion from the act. How then do you fall in love? Is it at first sight or does it take time?

MB: There is desire at first sight, lust at first sight, passion at first sight. But I did not know true love until I became a friend first and I did not know for a long time that what I felt was a devotion and not simply erotic love.

LCB: You seem to be speaking of a specific person.

MB: Yes.

LCB: Out of respect, I won’t ask who. But how did you feel when you first saw the love of your life?

MB: I was, of course, physically attracted, though way any man would feel when meeting her. At the time, she would have been only another conquest had I not been forced to be her friend.

LCB: Are you still friends?

MB (Quietly):  I hope so.

LCB: What drew you to her?

MB: I could see my own meandering passion. But I also saw the destiny I might have had if I had been blessed with her restraint. As a man, I am fortunate to be able to live a life of indiscipline with very few repercussions. As a woman, she does not have that luxury. I admire the strength of her control.

LCB: Why do you think we fall in love? Is it an eternal emotion or simply a trick of nature designed to sustain the species?

MB: Some may brush me off as a mere romantic, but I know that to be truly complete we must love. Love is not required to further the species. There are too many children born of duty or accident, not of love. They then perpetuate that dogma. If it was merely a trick of nature, our world would be a colorless, dull one. Love is the paint from God that sustains us when we believe there is nothing to live for.

LCB: What do you consider the most overrated virtue and why?

MB: Chastity! It is deplorable to value something so worthless and dishonest. It denies the natural fact that women are human and have the same desires and needs as men. Why would God give them sensuality if they were expected to deny it? Our society preaches that the highest honor for a woman is to be believed virtuous and chaste. Many people in history have profited upon this thought. What they really mean is that women must remain virginal, from the Mother Mary to our own wives and lovers. Chastity is not a virtue, but a way to control half our species. We don’t have the same expectations in men. By expecting our women to be “chaste”, we are allowing them a basic human freedom.

LCB: What do you want from life?

MB: Only the freedom to live and love who I want. I am an artist and an artist requires this freedom to be creative.

LCB: What prevents you from obtaining this?

MB: For many years, I did live my life this way. I could do so if I kept others at arms-length, away from my heart. But as I’ve grown older, become a father, loved deeply…to pursue a life so selfish regardless of how much I may want it will hurt the people I love. I cannot undo the pain I’ve caused others in the past, but I can refrain from causing more pain. I must choose the light.

LCB: Are you saying that you must choose goodness over evil?

MB: There is no good or evil. There is only what we do and how we then live with what we’ve done. (He finishes his second whisky and pours another.)

LCB: How are you different with your family than you are with friends?

MB: I’m not. I am the same person with everyone.

LCB: Everyone?

MB: Yes. But they see what they want, not what is.

LCB: How do you decide if you can trust someone? Is it experience? First impressions? Intuition? Do you test them to see if they are worth trusting?

MB: It is a combination of experience and intuition, but mostly intuition. I feel I can trust you, for instance, and we have only just met.

LCB: That is very flattering.

MB (Smiles): If I genuinely trust someone, I would never betray them with a test.

LCB: Has your life turned out the way you expected or the way your father might have wished?

MB: I am sure that I am the man my father expected me to be.

LCB: And how is that? How would you describe yourself?

MB: I am a deeply damaged man.

LCB: What really moves you? What touches your soul?

MB (Again, he smiles, but his eyes are wounded. He drinks and doesn’t answer)

 LCB: She touches your soul.

MB: Yes.

LCB: Let’s try some superficial questions.

MB: Good, we need something superficial.

LCB: What do you consider your strengths?

MB (Animatedly spreads his arms): My loyalty to the people I love, my passion for truth, my ability to look beyond a person’s blemishes and see them for the person they really are.

LCB: What do you consider your weaknesses?

MB: My rash behavior. I often do not perceive the potential consequences of my actions and it has caused pain to myself and to others.

LCB: What is one physical attribute you are proud of?

MB: I rather like my hair. It’s quite nice.

LCB: It is.

MB: Would you like to touch it?

LCB: That’s alright.

MB: Really, my wife won’t mind so long as I bring it back home to her.

LCB: What one physical attribute would you change?

MB: You know you’re quite adorable when you blush.

LCB: Thank you. Back to the questions now. What one physical attribute would you change?

MB (Again, with the wicked grin): My feet are a little on the large side.

LCB: What do you consider your special talent?

MB (With great exuberance): My ability to put others at ease and to feel comfortable being honest and free.

LCB: What do you wish your special talent was?

MB: Fidelity.

LCB: What do you consider your greatest achievement?

MB (Michael takes a long sip while he thinks.): My novel, Reborn.

LCB: Who are your favorite authors?

MB: Henry Fielding, Jonathan Swift and Ovid.

LCB: Who is your hero of fiction?

MB: Tom Jones.

LCB: Which historical figure do you most identify with?

MB: Paris of Troy.

LCB: How would you like to die?

MB: In the arms of the woman I love, preferably after our lovemaking.

LCB: When and where were you happiest?

MB (He pauses and answers in a quiet voice.): At Elysian Fields, my home, there is a house on the estate where I spent the greatest hours of my life wrapped in the arms of the woman I love.

LCB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

MB: To live a life free of society’s definition of what is moral or immoral. The most righteous, condemning people often live their lives practicing in the shadows the very immorality they condemn.

LCB: What is your greatest fear?

MB: To die without having the chance to apologize to the ones I have lied to.

LCB: Which living person do you most admire?

MB: My friend, the former Lady Johanna Edderle. She had the courage to leave a predictable and respectable life for the chance for a life of genuine happiness.

LCB: Which living person do you most despise?

MB: I despise no one. (He finishes his third whisky.)

LCB: On what occasion would you tell a lie?

MB: I would lie to protect the ones I love, though I fear they all see through me.

LCB: What is your current state of mind?

MB: At this moment? Desolation. Sadness. And a fear that I shall never be happy.

BIO

I am so proud of my first published novel, The Price of a Pearl, published in 2014. I grew up loving history and literature so meshing the two was natural. For several years, I wrote features articles for local newspapers and magazines. I expected that once my children were older and less demanding, I would have more time to write. But the ideas weren’t coming and after 10 years of writer’s block, I attended a local writer’s forum hoping it would give me the inspiration and courage I needed. It did, but not the way I imagined. It was not a positive experience. I came home in tears and told my husband that it wasn’t going to happen, I was not going to write, it was time to move on. That night, I dreamt the plotline for The Price of a Pearl. I wrote the outline the next day and began writing.

 

The title comes from the Francis Bacon essay “On Truth”. The beauty of a pearl, like truth, is visible and more beautiful in the light of day. My characters constantly struggle with truth and living what we now call an “authentic” life.

 

The Price of a Pearl was awarded a HOLT Medallion Award of Merit in the Best First Book category in 2015 by Virginia Romance Writers (VRW), a chapter of Romance Writers of America (RWA). More importantly, I found the inspiring and encouraging writers I sought before I wrote the novel in VRW. I continue research and writing on my second novel (working title Among the Lilies) which tells the story of one of my secondary characters, Johanna Edderle, who marries and sails to Virginia before the American Revolution.

 

Living in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, I am fortunate to be able to visit some of the places I currently write about with my husband, Chuck.

 

Please visit my authors page http://www.lauracarrollbutler.com/.

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In 1773 England, Rebecca Newland believes that marriage to Baron Davis Edderle will guarantee her happiness. Davis is wealthy and titled, handsome and charming, and he loves her. She is tolerant of Davis’ close relationship with his childhood friend, Michael Brooks. Michael is careless with women, and though Davis doesn’t share his libertine attitude, he is nonetheless devoted to Michael. But Rebecca, unable to understand the true depth of Davis’ feelings for his friend—and the secrets they share—believes this will change once they are married. When producing the necessary heir becomes more difficult than expected, she interprets the mounting distance between them as proof that Davis no longer loves her.

Michael is enjoying the success of his first published novel when his father falls ill and he is faced with the financial consequences of the Earl’s decadent lifestyle. His friendship with Davis and the love of Rebecca’s impetuous younger sister, Susanne, pulls him out of his depression. Michael falls easily for Susanne and believes that her unconditional love will automatically make him a better man. But love isn’t enough and when uncertain finances and the failure of his second novel overwhelm Michael, he slips back into old habits.

As Davis and Rebecca slip further apart, Rebecca finds unexpected support from Michael. When their relationship deepens into love, their brief and passionate affair changes them both and, potentially, the next generation.

Honest and authentic, The Price of A Pearl is a historical romance dealing with love and passion, husbands and wives, friends and lovers, and the question of what it means to be true to oneself. In 1773 England, Rebecca Newland believes that marriage to Baron Davis Edderle will guarantee her happiness. Davis is wealthy and titled, handsome and charming, and he loves her. She is tolerant of Davis’ close relationship with his childhood friend, Michael Brooks. Michael is careless with women, and though Davis doesn’t share his libertine attitude, he is nonetheless devoted to Michael. But Rebecca, unable to understand the true depth of Davis’ feelings for his friend—and the secrets they share—believes this will change once they are married. When producing the necessary heir becomes more difficult than expected, she interprets the mounting distance between them as proof that Davis no longer loves her.

Michael is enjoying the success of his first published novel when his father falls ill and he is faced with the financial consequences of the Earl’s decadent lifestyle. His friendship with Davis and the love of Rebecca’s impetuous younger sister, Susanne, pulls him out of his depression. Michael falls easily for Susanne and believes that her unconditional love will automatically make him a better man. But love isn’t enough and when uncertain finances and the failure of his second novel overwhelm Michael, he slips back into old habits.

As Davis and Rebecca slip further apart, Rebecca finds unexpected support from Michael. When their relationship deepens into love, their brief and passionate affair changes them both and, potentially, the next generation.

Honest and authentic, The Price of A Pearl is a historical romance dealing with love and passion, husbands and wives, friends and lovers, and the question of what it means to be true to oneself.

 

 

 

 

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