The Olde English Bulldogge was originally bred for bull baiting (and sometimes bear baiting). For bull baiting, the dog was trained to flatten itself to the ground and creep in close to the bull. Then the dog would leap up and bite the bull on the nose and head and the bull would then do what came naturally, which was to use its horns and head to catch the dog and throw it through the air. Owners usually would try to catch the dog before it landed to lessen the chance of injury from the fall. Then the process would start all over again. It was a particularly cruel sport that had begun in the 12th Century and survived until 1835, when the Cruelty to Animals Act was passed in British Parliament outlawing “blood sport” inGreat Britain.
This bit of history is my way of introducing you to one of my favorite characters in the Regency Romance I just finished writing with my good friend, talented author Kim Bowman. Perceval Randolph Nevil Thorpe, Marquis of Clareborne Pool AKA “Percy,” is the rather spoiled pet of one of our more colorful characters, the hero’s great uncle, Lucien.
For a bulldog to be turned into a pet was uncommon during Regency times but not altogether unheard of. And the determination and tenacity of a bulldog coupled with the particular spoiling of his owner gave us the exact pet we needed for some lively entertainment.
Actors are warned that working with animals and small children can steal the show away from them, and authors are often given the same caution. And I can tell you, the potential for scene stealing was definitely present between Percy and the hero’s horse, Satan (or Satin, if you listen to our heroine). Thankfully, our hero and heroine are strong enough they do a bit of scene stealing of their own.
Meet “Lord Percy”:
The gentle peace of his home was shattered by the clatter and scrape of nails against the wood floor of the foyer, approaching with the grace of a runaway horse. Grey groaned.The last thing he needed was his uncle’s bulldog attacking someone, even if it might get rid of his unwelcome guest. He hurried to the door and stepped into the hallway, but leapt back as the nasty brown and white animal pushed past him, racing straight for the surprised footman who held open the heavy front door.
“Blasted dog! Lucien, if that mongrel bites someone, so help me, I will shoot you!” Grey warned as the older man hurried by him after his unruly canine.
Lucien had the nerve to give him a disgruntled look. “Why, nephew, Lord Perceval Randolph Neville—”
“Stop calling him that or I shall have to pick my second with the Marquis,” Grey snapped. Bad enough his uncle had named the fiendish dog after a neighbor, now it was apparently running loose aroundLondonterrorizing an arriving guest. Unwanted though she may be.
Why did Lucien continually insist on shocking people? The man had once named his horse, a sorrel thoroughbred stud, after the vicar’s wife because, as Lucien so graciously explained, “The horse was the spitting image of the woman.” Grey’s father had lined the coffers of the church well for almost a year to appease the insulted vicar and his wife.
“Be a dear boy and grab the leash,” Lucien said with a flick of his hand. Straightening his rotund form, he managed a majestic waddle as he followed the bulldog outside.
Grey gritted his teeth and turned to retrieve the leash from it’s undignified resting place wrapped around the iron umbrella stand. Before he’d gone two steps, a loud, shrill scream punctured the air, followed by the dog’s wheezing bark. Grey wheeled around. His great uncle stood as motionless as one of his stone statues just outside the front door, both hands clutching his chest.
“Lord Perceval, get off that woman this instant!” Lucien’s voice rose an octave and ended in a wheezing squeak as he regained his senses and hurried down the walk.
“I’m going to shoot that blasted dog!” Grey yelled as he stomped out the door. First he’d ensure the rotted beast hadn’t taken a hunk out of someone. After that, he’d send his unwanted guests on their way. Maybe then a return to his normal routine would restore peace to his home.
On the landing, Grey froze. His stomach performed a slow turn like a rabbit on a spit.
Lucien’s monstrosity stood growling on top of his victim, who lay sprawled half in and half out of the coach, her skirts were up around her waist. The beast shook his head sending spittle flying through the air.
“Oh my heavens!” Lucien approached the fallen victim. He raised his voice. “Madam! Madam, can you hear me? Have you been wounded?”
“Her ears were not injured, you old fool,” snapped a slender woman of middle years wearing a black velvet pelisse. She proceeded to whack Lucien repeatedly with her reticule. “Get that wretched creature off my sister this instant.”
Lucien raised one arm, attempting to shield himself from the attack, while reaching for the irate lady’s reticule with the other. The enraged lady only changed hands and continued to lash out at Lucien. The driver stepped between Lucien and the lady, receiving a thwack to his shoulders for his effort. The footman abandoned his task of unloading the coach and hastened to the lady’s side, placing a tentative hand on her arm, evidently trying to still her agitation.
A yelp came from beneath the dog as his victim flailed her legs.
Grey glanced about. Lady Rossington and her ridiculously giddy debutante daughter had halted their walk along Newport Streetand stared enraptured at the scene. He bit off a curse. The whole of London will be laughing about the scandalous scene by nightfall.
A Little Bit About A Lot Like A Lady:
Ladies’ maid, Juliet Baines has gotten herself into a pickle by agreeing to go toLondonand taking the place of her mistress and best friend, Annabella Price, stepsister to the Duke of Wyndham. After all, what does a servant know about being a lady? But Juliet soon finds that pretending to be a lady isn’t nearly as hard as guarding her heart against the folly of wanting a man who’s completely out of reach.
Graeme “Grey” Roland Dominick Markwythe, Sixth Duke of Wyndham, approaches his duties as a nobleman with great dedication and meticulous care. And he’s a man who is not easily fooled…except when he tries to convince himself he’s not utterly and madly in love with the beautiful imposter who has turned his life upside down. Will society and his responsibilities to his noble status keep him from opening his heart to the woman he loves?