Lady Margaret Westbrook had been a widow for ten years and had no intention to marry again until she met the young and charming scientist, Felix Oliver.
Accepting his proposal will mean relinquishing her title, lowering her social standing and risking both the gossip of polite society and the disapproval of her grown-up sons. Not only that but Felix Oliver has told her that he is a firm believer in corporal punishment for women and that consenting to be his wife will mean frequent trips across his lap for a sound spanking.
This is a sweet romance set in 1870s England. It contains spankings, explicit sex and anal play. Please do not buy if such things offend you.
Lady Margaret Westbrook gave a barely perceptible sigh of annoyance before welcoming the Duchess of Waverley.
“Your Grace,” she said, thrusting out her hand. “I see you have arrived early.”
“My dear Lady Westbrook,” responded the Duchess, taking the proffered hand somewhat reluctantly. Margaret knew that the Duchess disliked the practise of shaking hands, preferring to bow in the more traditional manner. It was the reason Margaret always made sure to do it. “As Chairwoman of the Waverley Ladies Society, it behooves me to assist my members in any way I can. I thought you might appreciate some assistance in preparing for your guest speaker.”
Margaret suspected that the Duchess’s concern had less to do with being helpful and more to do with being nosy. ?She bit back a desire to say something to that effect, reminding herself to behave like the forty-one-year-old widow and respected member of Waverley society she was. “Mr Oliver has not yet arrived,” she told the Duchess, “although I am sure I shall be able to cope sufficiently when he does.”
“I appreciate you hosting this week’s meeting at Westbrook Manor,” said the Duchess. “But, I must say, your choice of speaker is a little … unusual.”
“It was most fortunate that he agreed to come. Felix Oliver is one of the best regarded experimental physicists working in this country today. His books on harnessing electrical power and the properties of electromagnetism have been well received by his peers.”
“Well, quite. Still, it’s hardly the usual topic of discussion for a society of well-bred gentlewomen, is it?”
“The purpose of the society is to educate and inform, is it not?” said Margaret. “Surely we wish our members to be well-informed in all subjects. It can’t be all flower arranging and cultivation of one’s rose garden. Although, of course, I enjoyed the talk on that subject at your house last week immensely.”
The Duchess bristled slightly. “All the same, electricity. Will he be bringing it here? How do we know it is safe? What if some of it gets out?”
“Mr Oliver has demonstrated his work all over the country. He is a Fellow of the Royal Institution in London and regularly lectures there. All his demonstrations have passed without incident. I am sure we will be perfectly safe.”
“Well, just make sure that he takes all his electricity back with him. You don’t want any of that stuff being left behind.”
Unsure of how to even begin responding to the Duchess’s worries, Margaret was fortunately spared having to do so by the arrival of Felix Oliver himself.
Margaret was a keen follower of scientific advancement, and she had met a good number of scientists before. Mr Oliver didn’t look like any of them. Men who devoted themselves to study were usually solemn, earnest men, she’d observed, with a tendency towards owlishness. ?She had expected her guest to be bookish, and somewhat shabby, with the blinking look of one who spends too much time indoors on his own.? Mr Oliver, however, looked like the sort of fashionable young man one might see in any London member’s club. One could almost describe him as a dandy. He wore a frock coat, a wide-winged shirt and an ascot tie secured with a pin. He removed his top hat as he strode forward to greet his hostess, revealing a mass of curly brown hair that complimented his pleasant, open features and deep blue eyes.
“Lady Westbrook! I can’t tell you how delighted I am to be here,” he said.
“We’re delighted to have you here. Thank you for agreeing to speak to our little group,” replied Margaret. “Please allow me to introduce you to the Duchess of Waverley, our chairwoman.”
“Good afternoon, your Grace” said Mr Oliver, bowing slightly.
“Good afternoon, Mr Oliver. I trust we can expect an edifying few hours?”
“I promise I will do my best.? I was most gratified to be invited to speak by the Waverley Ladies Society. It is quite unusual for me to have women in my audiences in any significant numbers. Far too few women are interested in the sciences ?experimental physics in particular. I believe this is largely due to them having so few opportunities to hear about it. I must commend you on your very forward-thinking Society.”
The Duchess of Waverley smiled almost coquettishly. “Well, we must do what we can to educate our ladies,” she said, causing Margaret’s eyes to widen slightly in outrage.
“As I recall, you were concerned that my speaker’s specialism might be somewhat dangerous for the ladies of Waverley,” Margaret said.
“Really, Lady Westbrook! I am sure I said no such thing,” said the Duchess hurriedly. “I am sure Mr Oliver is highly competent in his mastery of electricity…”
“I assure you, your audience will be quite safe,” replied Mr Oliver, a smile twitching on his lips, “Now, if you will excuse me, ladies. I need to prepare for my lecture. I have some apparatus I need to set up.”
The ballroom was arranged for Mr Oliver’s talk. Margaret had originally planned to hold the event in the drawing room, but the response had been so enthusiastic that she had decided instead to convert the ballroom into a temporary lecture theatre, moving all available chairs from the dining room and throughout the house. It seemed all the ladies of Waverley were keen to see Mr Oliver demonstrate the wonders of the electrical sciences.
They were not disappointed. Mr Oliver had a wonderful gift for showmanship. He talked the ladies through the scientific discoveries that had brought man’s understanding of electricity to where it was today, paying great tribute to Michael Faraday, who had passed on a few years before and who had done so much to increase the world’s understanding of electricity.
He was an engaging public speaker, and his talk was peppered with a number of practical demonstrations to illustrate his subject matter and engage his audience. He had brought along with him an electric battery and an arc lamp consisting of two carbon rods between which the bright white electricity crackled; both were used to impressive effect. His piece de resistance, however, was the item on which he was currently working: the incandescent light bulb.
The assembled audience were treated to a display of a glass dome illuminated before their eyes using the power of energy. “Believe me when I say that this object will be commonplace in all our homes by the end of the century,” he finished.
The applause that followed was spontaneous and enthusiastic. Margaret couldn’t help noting that the lecture had been rather better received than the Duchess’s talk on rose-growing the week before.
“So why do we need to wait so long before we can have a light bulb in every home?” Margaret asked Mr Oliver as the guests mingled afterwards.
“We do have the technology to make light bulbs, but unfortunately, they don’t last very long. The platinum filaments burn up, and the bulb glass blackens after only a few uses. Not to mention the small fortune that it takes to make them. It would cost hundreds to light your home in this way. I can’t see people falling over themselves to get rid of their gaslights just yet.”
“Is that what you’re currently working on? Are you looking for ways to make the light bulb more reliable and affordable?”
“Yes.? I’m conducting a number of experiments to that end. There’s an inventor in America called Edison who I am very keen to work with. You see…”
Mr Oliver was cut off at that point by the approach of Lady Catherine Hockering wanting to thank him for his splendid talk. Lady Catherine was a beautiful young member of Waverley society, and Margaret had no doubt why she was so eager to talk to the dashing scientist. For all his accomplishment, Mr Oliver was still very young – he was not much older than Margaret’s own sons ? and he was certainly very good-looking. It seemed likely that Lady Catherine was anxious to discover his suitability as a social companion rather than a scientist. Margaret excused herself quickly to allow the two young people to get to know one another better.
In fact, there were any number of eligible young women of Waverley who seemed eager to make the acquaintance of Mr Oliver, and he was not short of an adoring audience for the rest of the afternoon.
As the afternoon progressed, the party dwindled. Only a few guests still remained when Mr Oliver approached Margaret. “Lady Westbrook,” he said, “I wonder if you could assist me? I had planned to spend the night at the Coach and Horses in the village. However, my driver has just been there to drop off my equipment, and apparently they never received my letter and have no rooms available at any price. Do you have any recommendations of any other inns that might be able to put me up for the night? I’d prefer not to have to drive back to London.”
“Oh, there’s no need to find an inn, surely,” said Margaret. “I have more spare rooms than I know what to do with. You’d be most welcome to stay here as my guest.”
“Thank you so much, Lady Westbrook. I shall go and let my driver know straight away.”
“Really, do you think that’s wise?” The Duchess of Waverley was beside Margaret in a moment, having apparently overheard the whole conversation. Margaret wasn’t surprised she’d been listening in. There was little enough excitement in Waverley.
“Whatever do you mean?” asked Margaret.
“Having a strange man to stay in your house when you live here all alone? Surely you’ll need a chaperone.”
“A chaperone!” Margaret laughed. “Don’t be absurd. I am a middle-aged widow, not a debutante in her first season. I am sure we can manage the situation without a scandal.”
After Margaret had said goodbye to the last of her guests, she joined Mr Oliver in the drawing room. “Would you care for another cup of tea, Mr Oliver, or perhaps something stronger?”
“I certainly wouldn’t say no to a brandy and soda. Charming as the ladies of Waverley are, they can be a little overwhelming en masse. Lady Catherine in particular appears to hold very strong opinions on every inconsequential topic imaginable and has a strong desire to share them all. I believe I have been brought up to speed on every social event and scandal in the Waverley district and know exactly what Lady Catherine thinks about all of them.”
Margaret allowed herself a small smile. She was not altogether surprised that Mr Oliver would find Lady’s Catherine conversation slightly tedious. Clearly the lady’s good looks alone were not enough to hold his attention.
“It was good of you to stay to talk to the ladies of our society. We certainly enjoyed your lecture. I must thank you again for accepting the invitation to come and speak today.”
“I always enjoy giving practical demonstrations of my work. It’s my passion and it’s nice to have the opportunity to show it off. I am more than happy to encourage women to take an interest in science.”
“You don’t consider it an unsuitable profession for a lady?” asked Margaret.
“Not at all. Science is important to everybody. ?Jane Marcet, for example, is a great heroine of mine. She demonstrates that it is entirely possible for a woman to make a significant contribution to the sciences.”
“I agree,” said Margaret. “It seems preposterous that certain subjects such as painting watercolours or learning French are considered as suitable for a woman as a man, yet others such as a study of electromagnetism or higher mathematics are considered positively dangerous. Women are told that it will affect their ability to breed if they devote too much time to thinking of such things.”
“Perhaps if people weren’t so preoccupied with coming up with foolish reasons why women shouldn’t study and accept that they are just as capable as their brothers, the world would be an improved place for it,” Mr Oliver said.
“You think women should be permitted to attend University?” Margaret asked, intrigued.
“God, yes. I have met plenty of women who were more than a match for any man in terms of wit, reason and understanding. There is a whole body of untapped genius out there. By not allowing women the same opportunities as men, we are attempting to solve the mysteries of the universe with one arm tied behind our backs.”
“So how would we have female undergraduates get accepted into universities?”
“We need to start much younger. There’s no point in expecting an 18 year old to be ready for university if she hasn’t received the education for it. Eton and Harrow should throw their doors open to female scholars. Give them the same educations their brothers receive.”
“Exactly the same?” asked Margaret. “Team sports, cold showers and beatings from prefects? The works?”
Felix Oliver raised an eyebrow. “You don’t think girls should be beaten?”
“I hadn’t considered it.”
“You have sons, don’t you?”
“Yes, two. Robert is serving as an officer in The Queen’s Royal Regiment and Jasper is reading English at Cambridge.”
“You didn’t object to either of them being beaten at school?”
“No. As long as it’s administered fairly and justly, I think it builds a young man’s character and teaches him respect.”
“And the girls? They don’t deserve the opportunity to have their characters built? They shouldn’t also learn the importance of respect?” Mr Oliver asked.
“So I take it you approve of the idea of schools administering corporal punishment to girls?”
“Of course. Many do already but it isn’t given the same importance as it is with boys. Completely the opposite of how it should be, in my opinion.”
“Women respond to physical discipline so much better than men. Boys should only be beaten until they reach adulthood, but women can benefit from physical chastisement their whole lives.”
“How can you suggest such a thing?” Margaret was shocked. “I thought you were an advocate of equal rights for women?”
“Being equal doesn’t mean being the same,” replied Mr Oliver smiling. “And the two sexes are certainly not the same. I think most women would benefit from the occasional spanking. I haven’t conducted a full scientific study into the matter, though. Perhaps I should devote some time to practical research.”
He was smiling throughout this extraordinary conversation. Margaret found it difficult to judge whether or not he was joking.
“Practical research? So you would subject your wife to physical discipline?”
“Why not? I dare say if you were my wife, you would benefit very well indeed from being taken over my knee and soundly spanked from time to time.”
It was not often that Margaret found herself lost for words. But at that moment, she was completely and utterly flabbergasted. She couldn’t believe that her guest could stand in her own drawing room and make such a shocking statement.
She knew she should throw him out on his ear. She could walk out of the room and have a quiet word with her butler, asking him to have Mr Oliver removed from the premises.
And yet she didn’t. Despite her better judgment, she wanted to retaliate. She felt as though Mr Oliver’s words had lit a fire in her belly that made her want to forget the rules of polite society.
She stood in front of Mr Oliver, tilting her head upwards to look him straight in the eye. “That seems an unlikely scenario, Mr Oliver. You are, after all, young enough to be my son. Surely it should be me administering the well-deserved spanking to your backside?”
Mr Oliver’s deep blue eyes flashed with ? what? Anger? Mirth?
He placed his hand at the back of Margaret’s head and tilted her face upwards to him farther still. He gently traced the outline of her cheek with his other hand. She was suddenly aware of his muscular body, far closer to her than could in any way be deemed proper.
“Why don’t you try to do that?” he said softly, issuing a challenge. “I promise that it won’t end at all well for you.”
They were too close. This was too intimate. Margaret realised that she needed to put a stop to it.? She stepped backwards away from Mr Oliver’s slight embrace.
“If you will excuse me,” she said, “I have some matters I need to attend to. I shall see you in the dining room at 8 o’clock.”
“I look forward to it.”
There was nothing special that she needed to attend to other than giving herself some space from Mr Oliver and the piercing gaze of his dark blue eyes. Her heart fluttered when she thought of the way he had touched her face and she mentally chastised herself for it. She was no debutante and he certainly wasn’t a suitor looking to sweep her off her feet. Did he even know the effect his outrageous behaviour could have on a woman?
Dinner must surely be an impossible affair after such a scene. Margaret half-wondered if she should plead a headache and leave Mr Oliver to dine alone. But she didn’t want to. She was rather enjoying his company and found herself wondering what the outrageously outspoken young man would say next.
Felix paced the floor of the drawing room. Dear God, what had he been thinking, speaking to his hostess in such a way? Twenty-six years of good breeding had all vanished in an instant. He couldn’t explain it other than when the conversation had turned to the topic of physical chastisement, he found himself reluctant to leave it. It was clear that beneath Lady Westbrook’s somewhat stern exterior, there was a more playful side as evidenced by her threat to turn the tables on him. Had she been amused? He hoped so. Otherwise she must think him some sort of monster.
The thought of bending Lady Westbrook over his knee for a spanking had leapt unbidden to his mind and now refused to shift. He had to admit to himself that the idea appealed to him hugely. Was it just the thought of breaking down her formidable exterior? He might be somewhat younger than her ? closer in age to her sons than to her, as she pointed out ? but he would be a fool not to acknowledge how incredibly attractive she was.
And yet, he had behaved like some drunken libertine. Speaking out of turn and embracing her in a way that was entirely uncalled for. It would serve him right if she refused to come down for dinner entirely and left him to eat alone.
At 8 p.m. exactly, Felix headed for the dining room and felt a jolt of delight at seeing Lady Westbrook approaching from the other end of the corridor.
“Lady Westbrook,” he said, proffering his arm so that they might walk into the dining room together.
“Mr Oliver,” she acknowledged, taking his arm lightly.
As they took their seats, Felix worried that conversation would be difficult. To his relief, Lady Westbrook showed no signs of discomfort following their earlier encounter. Clearly it would take more than a threatened spanking to shake her.
“So, Mr Oliver, have you always been interested in the sciences?”
“Oh yes, always. My father used to take my brothers and sisters and me to see the Christmas lectures at the Royal Institution every year. ?I ascribe my love of sciences almost entirely to Michael Faraday who inspired me beyond measure. The first lecture I saw was when I was nine. It was on voltaic electricity. I am not exaggerating when I say that my life was changed profoundly that day.”
Lady Westbrook nodded. “He was a great man. We took the boys to several of his Christmas lectures as well. I remember Faraday’s last one, on the chemistry of candles. I was spellbound. More so than my husband or children, in fact.”
“You have studied science?”
“Oh no. Never formally. But so much of it interests me profoundly. I am currently reading Isaac Newton’s Principia.”
Felix was impressed. “Then you are learning from the greatest,” he said.
“Well, I’m trying to. I am not sure I understand everything. It is difficult to accept, for example, that gravity pulls in both directions. That I am exerting a gravitational pull on the earth as it is exerting its pull on me.”
“Well yes, in theory. But of course your mass is so very, very tiny in comparison with the massive bulk of the earth.? Were you to grow to, say, a quarter of the size of the planet, your effect might be more noticeable.”
Lady Westbrook cocked her head to one side. “Do you think me likely to grow to that size?”
Felix looked appraisingly at Lady Westbrook’s trim body. “Oh I don’t know. A few substantial meals and some muscle-building exercises. It might be possible.”
“Of course the really interesting business with gravity happens when you look at two heavenly bodies exerting gravitational pull on one another.” Felix could not pass up the opportunity to give a lecture, however tiny his audience. He grabbed an apple from a bowl in the centre of the table and stood up. “You see, if you have a small object orbiting a much larger one, the centre of gravity ends up being entirely within the mass of the larger object. Were the second object half the size of the first, however… could you pass me that plum?” Margaret picked up the plum and threw it in his direction. He caught it neatly like a cricket ball. “Thank you. Then gravitational centre would be at a point between them. Of course if you were to add a third object…”
“Would you like me to throw more fruit at you?”
“If you would be so kind.”
Margaret picked up another apple and tossed it at Felix.
He attempted to catch the apple in the hand that was already holding the plum. Unfortunately he misjudged it, and as he closed his hand around the apple, he inadvertently reduced the plum to a pulpy mess, which fell to the table. “Damn it, my moon!” ?he cried as he tried to retrieve it.
He saw Lady Westbrook attempt to ignore the absurd situation for a moment before her composure broke down and she gave in entirely to laughter.
The servants were bringing in the first course by this time, so Felix quickly resumed his seat, returned the apples to the fruit bowl and attempted to clear up the remains of plum with his napkin. ?The serving staff showed no reaction to the misplaced fruit or the sight of their mistress laughing uncontrollably, of course. No good servant would.
“I’m sorry,” Margaret said, stifling her giggles. “It was most impolite of me to laugh. I am afraid you just looked so bereft at the destruction of your moon that I couldn’t help myself.” She wiped away the last of her tears. “Where were we?”
Felix looked at Margaret’s beautiful brown eyes still shining with mirth and entirely focused on him. “I believe we were talking about how bodies are attracted to one another,” he said, softly.
Felix left Westbrook Manor the following day and spent the carriage journey back to London reflecting on how much he had enjoyed Lady Westbrook’s company. ?He was conscious that if he left the matter to chance, their paths might not cross one another’s again. He wasn’t going to allow that to happen, he decided, and resolved to find a way to see her again soon.