Z: The Beginning of Everything – (tv series) Amazon Prime – Released January 27th

Z is a biography series based on the life of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, the brilliant, beautiful and talented Southern Belle who becomes the original flapper and icon of the wild, flamboyant Jazz Age in the 20s. Starring Christina Ricci (Monster) as Zelda Fitzgerald, Z starts before she meets the unpublished writer F. Scott Fitzgerald (Gavin Stenhouse, Allegiance), and moves through their passionate, turbulent love affair and their marriage-made in heaven, lived out in hell as the celebrity couple of their time. The series travels through the wild parties, the wicked jazz, the dissolute artists of the era, as well as the alcoholism, adultery and struggle with dashed dreams and mental illness that characterizes their later years.

 

Who is Jack Lowden ?

Rising star Jack Lowden grew up in the Scottish Borders. He graduated from the prestigious Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in 2011. He has had enormous success on stage in leading roles, including his performance as Oswald in Ibsen’s “Ghosts”, for which he won both the Ian Charleson Award and the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2014; the play was filmed and is available to view online. After an assortment of television and film appearances, his breakout international screen role has been as Nikolai Rostov (Natasha’s brother) in the six-hour BBC miniseries War & Peace (2016), leading to an array of leading roles in films.  Born June 2, 1990 – IMDb Mini Biography By: angelofvic

Jack Lowden

 

Coming in April – True Story

 

 

I Killed Him – pt 24

Chapter Twenty Four

Grant Hartford was nearing Milton after giving his horse to a young lad along the road, a mile or two from the third station from London. From there, he walked to the nearest station and boarded the train. He had hired a coach to take him from the train station three stops before Milton. He knew his training, and should the Army be now warned about him, he knew how they would think and react. He paid the driver good money to keep his mouth shut should he be asked about him. Grant had the driver drop him off two miles outside of Milton. He would walk the rest of the way in. Thinking his disguise would be plenty, he soon saw that he would stand out in his hunting clothes. He would have to rectify that.

Grant walked the perimeter of Milton until he saw what he’d been looking for. There was an ageing man about his size that would not give him much trouble as he strangled him. Any other form of death would have resulted in the clothes being unusable. He laid the body in high grass and began his hike into town.

As he neared the edge of Milton, he could see a newer more affluent end of town being built, but he was drawn to the puffing smoke mill area. There the poor labourers would be living and perhaps John Thornton as well. He pulled his worn threadbare cap low over his eyes and walked through the winding back disgusting filth of the streets. He listened to the accents around him. There were many, but all were uneducated speech. It was apparent that a lot of people had migrated to where there was work. He would have to alter his own speech to match.

Finally seeing a beaten down shed of a building with a pub sign over the top, he entered. The smell was atrocious. Apparently, they only mopped the vomit soaked floors once in a while. He took a seat at the bar and looked around him.

“I’ll ‘ave a pint,” he ordered. Neither patron beside him struck up a conversation which allowed him to listen to the conversations he could hear.

“Got any stew?” He asked as his drink was slid to him.

“Aye. Want a bowl and bread,” he was asked.

“Right you are, guv,” Grant responded.

Hartford listened to the grumblings going on around him. Workers from differing mills were bickering about their wages or treatment. He listened for John Thornton’s name but never heard it.

The bartender brought his bowl. “Why don’t you sit over there in that booth?”

“I’ll be doin’ that for sure. I’m here to find work and a bed for the night. Got any ideas?”

“You can probably find a cot or floor pallet, if you don’t mind that, about four blocks over. We get a lot of people looking for work, so’s I can’t say if there’s room. As for where to look for work, ya see that feller over there talking with that other man?”

“Aye.”

“He’s been at the mills a long time. He should know anything you want to know.”

“Thanks, chap.” Grant slapped a few coins on the bar top for his food and ale. If he’d left a tip, he might stand out, so he didn’t do that. He picked up his bowl and pint and walked over to the empty booth. No one around him seemed to be talking about Margaret Hale or Margaret Thornton. Grant wanted to find a paper to buy.

A woman with cheap bangles and scarves around her, accentuating her very full bosom slid into his booth.

“You new here?”

“Nope, just new to this joint. I don’t ‘ave time for what you’re sellin’. How long you been here, anyway?”

“I’ve been plying my trade for a couple years, in Milton. The pay ain’t so good, here, though. Do I see some interest comin’ into those pretty eyes of yours? My name is Mable.”

“How much Mable?”

There was a bartering on price since Grant felt it was expected.

“I don’t want no stand in the corner thing. I want a room.” Grant insisted.

“That’ll be extra.”

“Bloody hell. All right.” Grant moaned.

“I’ve finished my dinner, and it’s gettin’ late. Where to wench?”

“Just up those stairs, ducky.” Mable winked.

Grant trudged along behind her. He was hoping for some information from her, more than satisfaction.

Entering the room, Grant felt like vomiting himself. He was going to have to crawl into a used bed. Not being able to stand the thought of that, he went to a chair and removed his trousers.

“You kneel in front of me, Mable.”

“Do you want me to remove my clothes since that’s what you’re wantin’?”

“Blast! Of course, I do woman. I haven’t seen a naked lass for several months.”

Mable removed her clothes as Grant looked on. Her face was painted profusely to hid her age, but her body underneath was still in good shape. As he took in her curves, breasts and the V at her upper thighs, his erection came to attention. It was almost painful. He’d forgotten about his injury.

Mable knelt down and inspected him for disease.

“Oh my, what’s happened to this big boy,” Mable said with concern.

“It is an injury. It’s none of your concern; just do what I’m paying you for.”

Grant relaxed back in the chair enjoying this effortless pleasure on his part.

“You ever hear of John Thornton?”

Mable stopped her administrations to answer. “You are new here if you don’t know Thornton.”

“Why’s that?”

“He’s a very prominent citizen in Milton. He heads up the committee of mill owners. Do you want me to talk or work?”

“Go back to working. We’ll talk later.”

 

The night was drawing late, and Greta came up the stairs, making a noise, so the new couple were aware of her entering the room.

“Mrs Thornton, Would you like to prepare for bed?”

Margaret paused and looked at John, who was purposely looking away.

“Greta, I think just help in the privy this evening. I will attempt the other myself.” Margaret looked over at John, expecting to see a beaming face, but he was calm and collected. He had picked up the day’s paper to appear to be reading. His heart had started to pound. If the room was quiet, he was sure he could hear it. He anticipated exquisite torture ahead. He could look but touch very little. If he ever needed strength of will, it would be now.

Margaret and Greta returned from the back room. Before John could notice, Margaret had sat down on the side of the couch, holding her weight against the arm rest.

“John, I told Greta, she could go tomorrow. I’m going to be a burden on you.”

“I hope so.”

“That doesn’t mean that I am ready . . .”

“I know sweetheart. You are going to tell me, remember?”

“I may want to, but I don’t think the words will come out of my mouth when I want.” Margaret displayed a playful, yet serious, pout. Perhaps, you should take that back over, as it’s easier for me to say no, than the other.”

John smiled at her. Her innocence was undoing him. Of all the women that he had been with over his lifetime, they made the initial move. He was not used to shyness and innocence. He thought Margaret was too endearing for words.

“I will look forward to the honor,” John said.

“Would you like a drink, Margaret?”

“I thought we were going to bed?”

“Only if you wish it. Because your nurse thinks it’s bedtime, doesn’t mean you must think the same.” John needed a little assurance that Margaret meant what she said.

“It is late.”

“Yes, to some, I would imagine,” John teased, still maintaining his uninterested look.

“Would you help me undress?”

“I would like nothing better.”

“In the dark? Added Margaret.

John rolled his fist and held it in front of his mouth to keep from grinning at her charms. “Whatever you are comfortable with, my love.”

“Let me light the bedchamber light until we get there. Then I will come down here, turn these lights off and watch you climb the steps.”

Margaret was a ball of nerves. She was rubbing her hands together. Her legs felt weak, too weak to climb the stairs. “Oh, I’m going to be a fright. What will he think of me?” Margaret said to herself.

John was back in no time. He turned down the lights and came to her.

“I have a confession.”

“And that is?” John asked.

“My legs have weakened. I think I am . . . no, I know I am nervous. Could you carry me?”

John kissed her and picked her up. He had waited a long time for this, whatever this turned out to be.

 

Entering the bedchamber, Margaret saw that the bed had been turned down. She wasn’t sure if John did that or Jane before she left. The lights were low but not out. A thin gown lie at the foot of the bed.

“How would you like to begin, my love?”

“Umm . . . first, turn out the light.”

John went to one light and turned down the gas. That left a single candle lit in the room. Margaret looked at it and decided to leave it alone.

“Next.”

“If you will undo my buttons in the back of my dress, please.”

John could see his own hands shaking. What in the world was wrong with him? This had never happened. He struggled with the task as his hands were large and there was very little light. Finally, it was done. He didn’t ask but gently slid the sleeves off of her shoulders. He could see she had a slip on, in fact, one full and one-half one. Margaret didn’t object. As he started to slide it down, he felt foolish. He should be standing in front of her so she could balance herself on his shoulders when she stepped out of it.

As the gown began to fall in his hands, he kissed the back of her neck and continued softly around to the front. The weight of the garment took it down into a pool and John knelt in front of her so he could remove it while she held his shoulders.

“John, I think you are shaking worse than I am.”

“I’ve never felt this way before. I cannot seem to stop it.”

“If I say no, are you still able to stop?”

“Yes.”

John carried the dress and hung it next to his own clothes in the wardrobe. Turning to Margaret, his inhale was audible.

“I suppose this big piece just slides down the same way?” he asked.

“Yes. I thought you knew about these things.” Margaret laughed, breaking the tension for him.

“It’s all lost forever. It’s only you now.”

“John, don’t tease me. This is hard enough.”

“I am not teasing. I am more nervous than you. You are like that special gift under the tree that I have waited for a long time. I want to slowly unwrap it.”

John began to repeat the same procedure as the dress. He knelt until it was at her feet. She steadied her hands on his shoulders and stepped out.

“Does this get hung up or go in a drawer.”

Margaret couldn’t help but laugh at John’s nervousness and his unexpected naiveté.

With great embarrassment and beyond all wonder, Margaret blurted out, “Am I to show you where to put it, too?” Margaret was thinking far ahead in their relationship, but John was still looking at her crinoline, which had not been her intention with that statement. Margaret started a hysterical laugh, throwing her hands over her mouth.

“Yes, where do I put it?” John asked becoming amused himself.

“I didn’t mean the crinoline,” she barely gasped out.

John stood there with the garment in his hands, looking at it when he finally realized what she had meant.

John slowly raised his head to look at her. His grin was easy to see even in the dim light. He was stuck for a reply. He continued to stare at her as he fondled her half slip. “I have no answer for your question. We will just have to wait and see,” he said, dropping the slip onto a chair nearby and walking back to her. The long slip was sheer, and in the faint glow, he could see her breasts through the gauzy material. Also, the rib harness was visible, too and her undergarment.

“John, will you be disappointed if I do not make it all the way to naked this time?”

What was he going to say? Yes, he would be disappointed as a lustful man, but not has a loving husband. He was beginning to wonder which one he was.

“Whatever makes you comfortable. You want to put on the nightdress and do not know how to go about it, is that it?”

Margaret looked down at it and then herself, and said, “Yes.”

“I know how to work this.”

“Finally,” Margaret laughed.

“If you did not have a break in your body, you would not be getting away with that talk, wife of mine.”

“How do we go about this?” she said, pulling herself together. She was afraid she’d be crying if she wasn’t laughing.

“You turn your back to me, like so.” John turned her.

He reached down and grabbed the hem of the full slip and pulled it over her head.

Margaret pulled her arms to cover herself, instinctively.

John gently embraced her from behind, folding his arms across hers and held her. He began kissing her neck which he loved doing and thought she felt the same. Margaret leaned her head slightly to the side, giving him more access. While kissing her neck and shoulders, he slowly unfolded her arms in front of her. He placed them at her sides, and she did not move them.

“Margaret, I love you,” he said has he held a breast in each hand. John laid his head on top of hers and swam in the soft heaviness of his wife’s feminity. He was gentle and did not want to arouse her any further. It would be so easy to do.

“Will you turn around for me?” he whispered in her ear.

Margaret paused. She looked down to see John’s long fingers massaging her bosom. She could feel him move to look over her shoulder to see his own hands filled with her. She turned to him, facing the candlelight. Margaret looked into his eyes for his reaction. His face was radiant, and her knees grew weak.

“Margaret, . . .”

“John, I cannot stand any longer. Help me.”

John let go of his precious treasure and held her under her arms. He lifted her off the floor and walked her to the bed; sitting her there. He knelt in front of her.

“Thank you, my love, for being so beautiful.”

Margaret reached for his hair and began to run her fingers through it, which pulled his face to her breasts. Although he had not anticipated this, he filled his mouth with her. She moaned softly. John gave equal pleasure to each. It quickly came to an end.

“John, stop.”

And he did. He looked for an explanation, but he didn’t think one was forthcoming. He knew what was happening to him and it must be happening to her, and someone had to stop it.

He placed her on her back and began to unhook the rib corset. His hands were much steadier now. As it fell away, the evidence of her attacker hit him like a thunderbolt, once again. The blotches of bruises were starting to fade, but it would be another week or two for them to be completely gone. He sat her back up and slipped the nightdress over her.

“Can you stand once more, for just a moment, and I will slip off your undergarment?”

Margaret nodded, and John helped her stand. Once again he knelt. He could kneel before her all night if she let him. He lightly raised his hands under her night dress and found the ribbon that was tied in a bow. The garment fell lose, and he pulled it down, coaxing her to hold onto to him once again. He tossed it to the side and placed his hands on the side of her legs. He felt the primal animal rear its presence at the scent of her. He stood quickly.

“John those will be washed. For future reference, I will not wear those a second day.”

John laid them where he put his clothes for the washerwoman that came in twice a week. As he walked back, Margaret was beginning to pull the pins from her hair.

“Let me do that.”

John stared at her face in the candlelight and wished he could love her more than infinity. Slipping into her blue eyes, he ran his fingers through her hair, feeling for the pins. First one tress fell and then another, and another. Her hair unfurled over her shoulder and down to her breasts. Finding the last pin, he raked his hands through all of it, pulling it across his face and under his nose.

“Would you like me to brush it for you?”

“I think I would like you to remove your blouse,” Margaret said, glad that John could not see her blush.

“No. I will let you do that.”

 

Grant left the room with more information than when he entered. Now he would take a stroll in the dark to look at what he could see in the direction of Marlborough Mills before finding a place to lay his head.

Grant nodded and tipped his hat now and again. He’d look down whenever a bobby was passing him, but he’d say, “Good evenin’, Guv.”

He imagined this was a high crime rate as there were a lot of police in this poor district. Everyone must be stealing from their neighbour down here.

Once he got into the actual mill area, there were fewer people on the road, but men were coming and going in the yards, he could see. It was almost impossible to read the signs to know which mill he was looking for. But it looked like night would be his best opportunity to hit and run. Once he found the mill, he would have to plot his escape route. Depending on how he managed it, would depend on the time it would take to discover her body, thus his escape time, as well. Grant had passed about twenty mills before he gave up. This reconnaissance would have to take place at either dawn or twilight. Both times seemed sensible to have a shift change, which would be ideal for him. He could probably easily stroll onto the property unnoticed. He turned and headed back to the place he’d been told about earlier. A cot or a floor pallet, they would have to do. Finally, he found his way back to the inn. From there, he was told to walk four streets over, and he did.

There was a dim lantern burning near the window. He knocked on the door. He heard the door being unlocked and a large man asked him if he needed a bed.

“Yes, Guv. You got anything?” Grant felt good that he had a couple days growth of beard on his face.

“I think I can find you a floor pallet at this hour,” said the night man. “Will that do ya?”

“Anything. I want to be up early to go looking for work tomorrow.”

The night man could care less. “Second floor, pallet number thirty-six.”

Grant handed over a few bob and went on his way.

As he fumbled his way in the near total darkness, he kicked a few feet and was cursed for it.

Little did he know that one of the men he woke was Frederick Hale.

Frederick laid back down with a sense of something he could not put his finger on. It had to have been that vagrant that tripped over him. He couldn’t sleep. After a few hours, as dawn was filtering through the windows, he got up, as some others were and passed the sleeping man. He felt rewarded for sleeping where he had been. He had hoped someone on the run might look for a place like this to sleep. He took a second look to be sure. It was Captain Grant Hartford. He could only see the man’s profile, but he looked a lot like the drawn picture. His hat had slipped off and that haircut was military, Frederick was sure of it.

The Counterfeit Governess – Part Eighteen

books

Eighteen – A Time For Reflection

 

Mrs Bradley’s funeral occurred on the Tuesday before Christmas 1819. It was a remarkable event with the whole village and the occupants of Brixton Abbey attending the service at St Mary’s church. The Reverend Mr Carter, assisted by his curate, Mr Sage, moved the congregation to tears with his praise of Mrs Bradley’s virtues, all of which were only very true, as Stephen knew.

His children were sitting very still and white-faced, clasping their governess’ hands as they sat on both sides of her. Stephen could clearly see their distress but also, their braveness in mastering their tears and controlling their grief. Beth, he noticed, did not weep at all but sat very upright and solemn in her black mourning clothes. He was unsure if her apparent aloofness was a good thing. He would have preferred some tears over this rigid control.

When the service was finally over, and they had laid Granny Bradley to rest beside her daughter Molly, the congregation split. The Dowager took the children to the carriage where their father was waiting for them. As her charges had no immediate need for her, Beth’s steps were drawn to Granny’s cottage before she could help it. She pushed open the door and a huge gulf of grief suddenly gripped her. Granny … dearest Granny, who took her in after Beth finally came back to the place of her youth … How was she supposed to continue now? Whom could she turn to if ever she would be in need of a comforting presence in her life? With a sob, breaking from her, Beth sank into Granny’s chair by the hearth and wept.

 

~~~~

 

After Stephen sent his mother and the children back to the Abbey, he followed Beth when she directed her steps to the cottage. The look of sheer forlornness in her eyes had thoroughly alarmed him. He wanted to watch over her because he knew she was upset. The unexpected sight of her, huddled in a chair and sobbing her heart out, appalled him.

He ached to comfort her – no, to take her in his arms and hold her close but … He sighed inwardly with suppressed frustration. Had he not spoiled his chances of winning her heart by his rude, lustful behaviour, he might not have to restrain himself so.

Yet, Stephen knew all too well he would have to be careful not to shock Beth with brusque manners, lest she would again think him a confessed cad.

So, he waited patiently for her to put her hands down from her face and stare at him in surprise and dismay. With some awkwardness, she began searching her pockets for a handkerchief, which she failed to find, whereupon he presented his own large white one to her.

“Come on, Miss Williams,” he said evenly. “It is not at all in your nature to be so downcast. Normally, you tackle setbacks with fortitude and alacrity. Do so now, too. The children will need you at the Abbey.”

His rather blunt approach seemed to do the trick for Beth obediently rose while she blew her nose and wiped her eyes with his handkerchief. She glided past him without a word and left the cottage, clutching – at least – at some shred of her dignity.

 

~~~~

 

Christmas came at last. Stephen and his mother went out of the ordinary to make it a memorable one for Lily and Oliver and so – the baron observed – did the whole household staff, including his governess. Everybody wanted the children to feel less forlorn about their grandmother’s death.

Henrietta took the children with her in the carriage when she visited the tenants. She encouraged them to talk to them and give them presents. A sure way for Lily and Oliver, she knew, to become familiar with the many tasks of the gentry they belonged to from now on.

Stephen made them ride over the estate with him and taught them the names of the staff members who were of vital importance to the day-to-day workings of Brixton Abbey. Especially Oliver soon became acquainted with Mr and Mrs Robinson, the steward and his family. They were a friendly couple with three children, the eldest of them a boy of Oliver’s own age, by the name of Crispin.

To her own surprise, Lily found herself liking Mrs Tremayne a lot, whose husband was the home farmer. The Tremaynes were young and had been married for only a year and Mrs Tremayne was expecting her first baby in the spring.

Mr Darton, the game keeper, was more to Oliver’s liking. He was impressed by the man’s knowledge on the woodlands and promised himself to go out with Mr Barton frequently as soon as spring returned.

Beth, on the other hand, planned outings for her charges with the head gardener, Mr Burrows, and his helpers, who took the three of them with him into the woods to collect greenery and berries. Afterwards, the children and Beth helped the indoor maids to decorate the Great Hall and stairways with holly and fur branches and mistletoe. They had so much fun that Stephen was drawn out of his study by the giggles and laughter. Mrs Banton, the housekeeper, was trying in vain to keep the excitement down but, as soon as the baron appeared in the hall, voices died down instantly. Stephen felt himself growing irritated! Was he such a tyrant, then, that the maids cowered when he entered? Even Beth seemed startled and was staring at him with big brown eyes.

“Oh, Papa!” Lily’s high-pitched voice rang. “Come and join us! This is so much fun!”

The awkward mood was instantly chased away and soon, Stephen found himself standing on a ladder to attach some greenery to the post of a hallway door or to a chandelier, with Lily and Beth handing him branches of various shrubs. To his amazement, he enjoyed it a great deal, especially when Lily handed him a branch of mistletoe and ordered him to place it in the drawing room doorway.

“Why here, Lily?” Stephen asked. “Why not in the library door?”

“Because the drawing room is the one we use most, silly! We pass this door the most so you will have the greatest opportunity to kiss under the mistletoe here!”

“Oh? Is that what it is used for? I did not know that!” Stephen said, pretending not to know, but he winked at Beth, who suddenly blushed violently. He was absolutely delighted by that!

 

~~~~

 

Yet, Stephen had to wait until Christmas Day and the party his mother gave before he had a chance of coming close enough to Beth to have a private moment with her. She had stubbornly and most efficiently avoided being alone with him during the last few weeks and he was growing very irritated with that.

Finally, the Christmas dinner party saw the Abbey’s friends and neighbours assembled around Henrietta’s table in a quiet but comforting gathering. Lily and Oliver had been officially presented as the Baron’s heirs. Stephen’s neighbours were delighted to make the children’s acquaintance and treated them with affection and good humour.

Beth, who had been presented as the children’s governess, had not expected the unaffected friendliness of the guests. She was being treated as an equal, she realised with surprise and several of the young, unattached gentlemen politely asked her to reserve a dance for them. Yet, when the dancing began, Stephen forestalled every other suitor by claiming a waltz right away. He had the immense satisfaction of seeing Beth startled yet again.

“A waltz, my lord? But … I did not think I was supposed to be attending the dance … I …”

“You are requested here tonight, Miss Williams. It is obligatory to attend the baroness’ Christmas party. And, now that you are here, it is also capital that you grant me this waltz. People would think you rude and impolite.”

The musicians struck up the introduction to “Invitation to the Dance” from the German composer Carl Maria von Weber who just made a name for himself with a new opera in Dresden, Germany.

Without further ado, Stephen put his arm on Beth’s waist and drew her with him onto the dance floor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Collection – (tv series) Premiers February 10th on Amazon Prime

The Collection focuses on an illustrious Paris fashion house, emerging from the dark days of the Occupation. It is centered on two very different brothers. Coyle plays Paul Sabine, the couturier with a romantic vision he hopes will resuscitate a beleaguered, post-war Paris. Riley plays his brother Claude, the true but hidden genius behind the Sabine label. Gummer is Paul’s American wife, an expat who has lived in Paris for 10 years. The Sabines’ mother (de la Tour) is a scheming matriarch who will stop at nothing to use her sons to help achieve her own thwarted ambitions. Jenna Thiam (The Returned) is Nina, the working-class daughter of Sabine’s chief seamstress and the unexpected beauty who becomes the iconic face of the label.

7 episodes

Richard Coyle, Tom Riley, Frances de la Tour, Mamie Gummer, and Jenna Thiam.

Their Finest in Cinemas – US March 24, UK April 21

 

Gemma Arterton and Sam Claflin play reluctant screenwriting collaborators on a WWII film designed to lift the British public’s spirits and coax America into the conflict in Lone Scherfig’s period comedy-drama. Near the end of the stealth charmer Their Finest, the accidental screenwriter played by Gemma Arterton slips into a movie theater amongst the London public during the Blitz to watch the morale-building British Ministry of Information propaganda film she has helped to shape.