Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Young and the Lesbian

I watched "Days of Our Lives" for huge chunks of my childhood up
until my second
Me, my braces and "Mike"
 year or so of college. I was hooked again a couple of years later with the serial killer storyline, but that was it. The storyline did me in. The resolution was unfair, shortchanged viewers and made no sense. Before that, though, I loved demonic Marlena and devious Stefano. Oh yeah!!! I even went to several DOOL conventions in Greenville, South Carolina. Other soaps I watched on and off included "One Life to Live" and "Loving."


A couple of years ago, I came up with a soap opera story idea; an actress whose career was tanking would come out of the closet because, well, a lot of celebrities were, and they were getting tons of attention. So what if this actress happened to be straight? In the world of romance, she'd find a female love interest. Cue Cupid's arrow. That is exactly what happens when the newly out Dash Bannon pairs up with soap queen Jane Knight, who has secrets of her own.
Me and "Stefano"


I've worked on this novella (about 23k words) off and on since, I think, 2014. I could never get the ending right, but now I have. (Or so I think. Ha.) So, it's out now on Smashwords and Kindle (Smashwords will distribute to Kobo, Nook, etc.). 

I've had a lot of fun with giveaways in the past, and given my affectionate memories of DOOL, I decided to have a giveaway for this story. All you have to do to enter is go to my author Facebook page and find the giveaway post. It will be pinned to the top, and the giveaway ends late in the day on Sept. 4 (Sunday). Wait! One more thing. You need to comment on the post about what soap is/was your favorite and why. (Or do soap actors/actresses instead.) If you are not a soap watcher, just comment about your favorite TV show or actor/actress.
Me and a "Jack"


I will use a random-number generator to pick a winner from the commenters, and  you can pick from .epub or .mobi ebook format. Happy soaping!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Which One of Us Is Pregnant?



My wife and I are expecting a baby next month. (July 11—knock on wood! ;) )

We announced the pregnancy on Facebook, and right away, got hit with questions such as, “Which one of you is pregnant?” and “Who is the real mother?” Stuff like that. Based on the name on the ultrasound, some people made an assumption (that may or may not be correct) about who the pregnant woman was. That woman then got congratulated for being “the mom to be” and for being the “real mother.”

Marcy and I never planned to not tell people which one of us was pregnant but after being overwhelmed with such questions from people we barely knew and who seemed to be asking out of pure nosiness/bias, we just kind of naturally decided to take it slow. Do people ask a heterosexual, “Are you the father of the baby?” or “Is your husband the father of the baby?” No.

It does not matter TO US which one of us is pregnant, and honestly, I feel a bit sorry for anyone for whom it matters so overwhelmingly much that it is the first thing he or she has to ask. Both of us are the mothers of our daughter. Both of us are on the birth certificate. Both of us planned this child and want this child. So when “you” ask on Facebook a question like that, please think a moment about why you are asking. Is it because you want to identify with the physical ailments of pregnancy, the struggles, etc.? Is it because you are really close to one of us? (If you were, chances are that you would already know who was pregnant, but exceptions do occur.) If so, consider PMing instead of asking in public.

Are you close to either one of us? Do you keep up with either one of us? If not, if you barely know us, why is this question the first one you ask? Are you asking to simply be nosy? Again, we ask you to assess WHY it matters so much to you. Explore your biases. Explore why you ask this question and why it means so much to you.

Both of us are the mothers of this child, but we face the unfortunate reality that some people may see one of us as "more" mother based on the fact of being pregnant OR of being the biological mother. (In this day and age, the pregnant woman is not necessarily the biological mother.) One reason Marcy and I were relatively tight-lipped on the issue was to correct in part for such biases from other people. Obviously, people who know us in person and family members generally know which one of us is pregnant, and on occasion, we do share. We are much more inclined to do so, though, when it is in a private message and when it doesn't come with such naked nosiness or bias, and when it doesn't come from someone who has shown a propensity in the past for favoring biological-type children.

It has been an eye-opening experience to see people's biases float to the forefront. For each of us to be called "the real mother" because different people assume each of us is pregnant.

Examine questions before you ask them, and ask why it matters so much to you.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

So Tired of the "Make America Kind Again" Meme

The past few months (at least) I have seen a meme on Facebook that says, "Make America Kind Again." People I know and respect as well as people I don't know and don't respect have shared it. 

Guess what?

I'm tired of it. America was NEVER kind. Pray tell, in between Native American massacres, slavery, lynchings of black people, suppressing the right to vote, rampant sexism, Japanese-American camps, American interference overseas for less-than-kind reasons, etc., when exactly was America kind? Just...America has never been kind, and that's the truth. In fact, the "Make America Kind Again" meme is patronizing to a lot of people and erases their struggles and brushes away the actions of wrongdoers.

Here's a meme that is more accurate. 


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Ask Me Anything!

Hey, everyone. I am taking my turn at the AMA (Ask Me Anything) this upcoming Saturday at Big Tent Lesfic. You can ask me anything! Join the group if you have not already. It's a great bunch of people. https://www.facebook.com/groups/bigtentlesfic/


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Royal Release!

"I, Alexandrina," is out and available for purchase!

Amazon
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01GQNMZ3E

Amazon UK
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01GQNMZ3E


If you enjoyed "The Girl Prince and Her Princess" and/or "Third," this one should be right up your alley. It has everything, from romance, suspense and adventure--and the past and the future! 

To read more about it, including the first two chapters, check out this post

 

I, Alexandrina





I have a short novel (35,000ish words) coming out this week. It's titled, "I, Alexandrina." 

If you enjoyed "The Girl Prince and Her Princess" and/or "Third," you should enjoy this one. It is written sort of in fairy tale style with both modern and older elements.
Below are the first two chapters and a blurb.

Part One

I, Alexandrina

“Today is my eighteenth birthday! How old! And yet how far am I from being what I should be.”

–Princess Victoria


My birth on 1 January 2000 began with the birth on 24 May 1819 of a certain Alexandrina Victoria, later queen of many realms. Nanny Flossie said I came into the world an obedient and cooperative girl, patient and slow to cry. However, my first memory is not of her, but of Russ Brendel and John Jameson. While the roots of my life are entwined with Queen Victoria, it was Russ and John who dared perform wicked and dastardly deeds.
It was they who paid undisclosed sums of money to scores of thieves and grave robbers to plunder the resting places of 50 famous people for their DNA. It was Russ and John who announced to a shocked world that they had cloned people from history and were opening a sort of zoo/circus in the former Soviet republic of Marslavia. They urged visitors from all over the globe to pay $2,000 daily for events such as watching the exact DNA replicas of Mary Todd Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth and Abraham Lincoln re-enact Lincoln’s assassination. (Popcorn and soda would cost extra.)
So, this first memory. I expect I was about four years old. The memory is hazy, like the pollution that renders much of Wosnia, the capital city of Marslavia, an ugly brown. I remember a huge looming door opening seemingly on its own. I walked into a whitewashed, robotic room. Two men greeted me. One possessed a wild beard and friendly brown eyes, and the other was nearly hairless. He wore heavy glasses.
“Victoria,” said the bearded man. “I’m Russ, and this is John. Please have a seat.”
That is much of what I recall, although at the end of the meeting, Russ sneaked me a biscuit. I also remember that one of the men smelled of strawberries. My next memory is of Nanny Flossie, quite some time later. I was perhaps seven years old. “Now, Victoria,” she said frowningly, “you really must listen to Mr. Burkus when he tells you to study your maths instead of writing stories about going to the stars.” I, of course, threw a fit, and Nanny Flossie spanked me so hard I cried.
I was ten years old when I discovered some of the truth about my life. Imagine growing up in an orphanage with forty-nine other children. We had women and a few men who tended to us. No one we called “Mother” or “Father.” We knew about these titles in an abstract manner from the books we read. We never really wondered about our own mothers and fathers, though. We were in an orphanage, well taken care of, and that was that. At least to me. Life to me was normal; I knew nothing else.
A woman with a severe gray bun came to meet with me on a fateful day that changed my life. Other women and men had come to meet with the rest of the children. Some of the women had quick smiles and pretty flowing hair. Some of the men laughed easily and heartily, and shook hands warmly. Unfortunately, my visitor was of the severe bun and thin, pinched lips.
“Well,” she said, peering at me over thin spectacles. Her eyes were a flint gray. “I’m Mrs. Rubberstone. I’m from England.” She sounded like Nanny Flossie, who too was from England. We clones were supposed to copy our nannies’ accents. As a result, many of us sounded different.
“Hello, Mrs. Rubberstone,” I said dutifully. “I’m Victoria. Pleased to meet you.” Nanny Flossie had tutored me in the art of greeting people. The art of manners.
Mrs. Rubberstone narrowed her eyes, her dislike of me evident. “I don’t want to be here,” she muttered. “I really don’t. This is sorcery!” She craned her neck as if she wanted to get out. To escape. We were in my study room where I did homework and the like. No escape possible, but what Nanny Flossie called magic eyes monitored us from several angles.
“Bollocks,” Mrs. Rubberstone said finally, and she leaned in. “It’s my son,” she said in a confidential whisper. “His gambling problems. They knew I wouldn’t be able to say no.”
Something about her words and the intensity in her eyes sent a thrill up my spine. Something bad, something illicit was going on. What was gambling? Who was they? How fortunate I was that Mrs. Rubberstone was choosing to trust me with a secret!
“What is your son’s name?” I asked eagerly.
Mrs. Rubberstone’s lip curled. The moment of shared suffering had passed. “Never you mind that,” she snapped. She brought out a thick book. QUEEN VICTORIA, it said in curling gold letters. It smelled of weighty matters. It also carried my name, and I had never met or known of anyone also named Victoria. The circular photo on the cover showed a dowdy, sour-looking woman. An unhappy woman. I assumed she was Victoria and wondered at the cause of her unhappiness. At the bottom of the cover were the words, “By Heather Rubberstone.”
“Oh,” I said, “you wrote this book.”
“Don’t touch it,” Mrs. Rubberstone cautioned. “But look at the woman here. Does she seem familiar? Do you feel strange inside as you look at her?”
I tried. The woman wore a small crown or tiara-type thing on her head, and ribbons adorned her dress. Could she be one of the nannies who no longer worked here, someone who had been here when I was very young?
“Well?” Mrs. Rubberstone prompted. “Anything?”
I wanted to please her. She expected something from me, but I abhorred lying. I was trying to determine the best way to balance my competing interests when Mrs. Rubberstone exhaled a heavy sigh. “I’m here to teach you about her. About this woman.”
“Why?”
Mrs. Rubberstone massaged her temples. “Because you’re her. You’re the second coming of Queen Victoria.”
That afternoon, I learned about DNA, about biological mothers and fathers, about biological sons and daughters. I learned about reproduction and cloning. I learned that growing up in orphanages was not normal. I learned that my biological mother and father were named Victoria and Edward, and that they had lived in the 1800s. Some of this Mrs. Rubberstone told me face to face, matter of factly. Some of it, especially the science material, she recited from densely packed pages with incomprehensible illustrations. All the while, Mrs. Rubberstone’s face grew longer and longer.
I learned that when I and the other clones turned sixteen years old, we were expected to put on plays for thousands of people. They would come see us because we were these other people, people like Queen Victoria and Mary Todd Lincoln and Lucrezia Borgia. We had to know everything about the life of our DNA source. We must sound alike, share the same mannerisms, look the same way and so on.
I suppose that shock dulled many of these blows because I do not remember how I felt that day. I only remember the mountains of information and the hard grayness of Mrs. Rubberstone’s eyes.
“Tomorrow,” Mrs. Rubberstone said at last. “We shall meet again. Tonight, read this article on the geography of England.” She handed over a staple of pages, the same unflattering photo of Queen Victoria fronting them.
I thought, “I do not want to look like that dowdy woman when I grow up! I do not want to!”

**
We clones’ sixteenth birthdays came and went. We had labored for weeks, months and years to do what was expected of us. But there would be no plays, not yet, we were told. Later, I realized it was because the world was horrified to find out about us. Russ Brendel and John Jameson had taken a huge gamble, and it backfired. On the Internet, Russ and John posted still photos of us. Videos. They posted clips of Mary, Abe and John re-enacting the assassination. They posted clips of me re-enacting the moment Victoria received the news of her accession to the throne. They posted a lot. (Only in a few years’ time would I learn what the Internet and these other mediums were.) Russ and John went into minute detail about DNA matching, DNA profiles. They wanted there to be no doubt. They allowed men and women dressed in white to visit us and poke needles into us, to swab our cheeks. They talked about how criminals crept into graves and stole DNA.
On our seventeenth birthdays, Russ and John, both grim-faced, addressed us. “We will open next month,” they said. “You must be strong. You must be tough. People say you are blights on God’s creation, that you are monsters. You are not. You are our children.” Russ’s face softened. “Do you understand? You are our children. We gave you life. We are your fathers.”
I was not sure I understood.
That evening, as I readied for the bedchamber, Nanny Flossie reassured me that I was no blight on God’s creation. “God knows you, Victoria,” she said. “Your sweetness, your goodness, your obedience. So do the people of Britain. They want to meet you.”
“Why have they waited so long to come, then?”
In the next few minutes, Nanny Flossie was uncharacteristically open. Maybe she felt sorry for me, or she realized that we had entered the beginning of the end and that a slight shift in loyalties was called for.
“Many reasons,” Nanny Flossie said. “Many reasons. I shall be honest. Yes, the clones in general are seen as blights. But not you, Victoria. Britain does love you. Some people even say that you, not Louise, are their rightful queen. Some say Queen Louise is frightened that you will attempt to wrest the crown from her.” A squeak of a smile sneaked into Nanny Flossie’s expression. “Many yearn for a future between you and Albert.”
“Impossible. There is no Albert clone.”
“Indeed,” Nanny Flossie concurred, “but as luck would have it, Louise’s elder son, the Prince of Wales, is named Albert. A steadfast group of the British hail your presence as the second coming of Albert and Victoria. It is why people love you. The timing. It is too extraordinary. It is nothing short of a message sent from the heavens. The opportunity for a new beginning, a new age. The opportunity for their bachelor prince to find his lady love at long last.”
“What do you think?”
Nanny Flossie stared at me for a heavy moment. “I think nothing,” she said at last. “Nothing at all.”
“What is this Albert like?”
“Mischievous. Breaks women’s hearts left and right. You’d do well to stay away from him.”
I would do well to stay away from him? Laughable. We would never meet. I would remain swaddled in Marslavia for life, or so I thought.
**
Opening night never did occur. I heard whispers from the cooks and nannies that Russ and John could not leave Marslavia or else they would be arrested. On the morning of the clones’ eighteenth birthdays, we received another visit from our “fathers.”
“There will be no shows,” Russ said, defeat pressing his shoulders downward. “We are, ahem, selling off rights to each of you. It is the only way to recoup a fraction of what we have invested.”
Selling off rights? What did he mean?
“As an example,” Russ said, eyeing me, “the British government is in talks to purchase Victoria.”
My pulse became thready. Purchase me? I did not understand. My life was here.
“A man from America,” Russ continued, making eye contact with Mary Todd Lincoln, “has made a sizeable bid on you, Mary. In fact, you’re…take a moment, Mary. Say goodbye. You leave now.”
Mary went pale.
“No!” screamed John Wilkes Booth. It was common knowledge among the clones that Mary and John were an item. They sneaked kisses and time together whenever they could, and Abe helped them find that private time.
“Can’t John and Abe come with me?” Mary pleaded.
“No,” Russ said.
**
“Did you know?” I demanded of Nanny Flossie later that afternoon. “That the British government is in talks to…to purchase me?” I directed rage toward her rather than dwell on Mary’s tearful goodbye hours previous. She and I had never been close, but we hugged goodbye as if our lives depended on it.
“Get me,” she wailed, men pulling her away. “When you’re out, come get me so we can be together! Please, Victoria! You are the queen of England! You have power, more than any of us! Come get me, and buy John and Abe!”
I was queen of England? Poor Mary had become delusional in her moment of panic.
“Well?” I demanded of Nanny Flossie again. “Did you know?”
“It does not matter,” Nanny Flossie said.
I studied her. The deep lines bracketing her dry lips. The stray white hairs escaping from her cap. She looked more unhappy than Queen Victoria  did in the dour picture, but I was angry, very angry. “Tell me about you,” I shouted. “Why did you leave England? Why are you here?” We had never discussed her life. For much of my childhood, it was because I never realized she could have had a life outside of what she did for me. When I became more self-aware and asked, Nanny Flossie simply said she did want to talk about it.
She swallowed. “It’s the same old tale. Woman works hard to support her family. She can’t, no matter how hard she tries. Someone representing a rich man approaches her and offers lots of money if she can be discreet and is willing to give up her life for the foreseeable future. She says yes. She will send the money back to England and ensure her family is taken care of.”
“How old are you?”
“Too old, Victoria. Too old. I have seen too much.”
A knock sounded on the door before she could elaborate. Russ and John wanted me.
**
“Have a seat,” Russ said.
“I will stand.”
“Suit yourself.” Hands in his pockets, Russ wandered to the window revealing the brown, uninspiring skyline of Wosnia.
“It’s done,” John announced. “You belong to the British as of nine a.m. tomorrow. The transition will occur over a few days. There is a grace period in case the British regret their decision.”
I squinted at the tallest point in Wosnia, a brown church steeple. Wosnia was a city of brownness, plain and unremarkable like me.
“Congratulations,” John said.
I wanted to cry. “What?” This had happened too suddenly and without warning. This Queen Victoria and her land of England were barely more real to me than my dreams. I had never touched the ocean. I had never ventured outside of the walled mini-city that Russ and John had made their own. I had never dined in the restaurants of Wosnia, never took worship in the brown steepled church. It seemed impossible that I was expected to leave, nor did I want to leave. Many clones hungered for freedom. Not me, obedient, quiet Victoria.
“We want you to be happy, Victoria,” John said gently. “Whatever people say about us, remember that we gave you life. We treated you well.”
“May I go now?”
Russ sighed. “Sure, sure. A few things first. Um, the queen’s set to appoint you a HRH. Her Royal Highness Alexandrina Victoria, the Countess of Lancaster. Takes effect the moment your plane leaves this godforsaken country.” He spit out the last words, and I studied him, a pathetic man doomed to live out the rest of his life in this plain brown country because he gave life to 50 monsters.
“Congratulations, Victoria,” he whispered. “I wish you the best. Who knows, you could be queen one day.”
I stiffened. “Alexandrina,” I said in my first act of rebellion. “I am Alexandrina. Victoria is dead.”



II.

“Great events make me quiet and calm; it is only trifles that irritate my nerves.”

-Queen Victoria

Three days later, two visitors peered at me. They were extremely important people, as Nanny Flossie took great pains to point out. In fact, they were so extremely important that Nanny Flossie admonished me to practice my curtsy until it was starchier than the white dresses she ironed.
I curtsied, bending my knees and sweeping my right foot behind the left. I straightened and gazed into the man’s eyes. He looked better in his pictures. Now, his comb-over made painfully obvious he was going bald. The woman looked much as she did in her photos: pixie-cut blond hair, blue eyes, a ready grin to balance her husband’s awkward smile.
“Oh,” she said easily, “there’s no need to curtsy.” She held out her hand. “I’m Caroline. This is Philip.” She was a few inches above my height of five feet. The man was much taller than us both.
I shook their hands. The woman’s skin was cool and confident. The man’s was hot and uncomfortable. I itched to wipe my palm against my dress.
“Such a pleasure to meet you,” I whispered.
“Likewise,” the woman said with a nod. “Yes, yes, likewise.” She indicated the table in the middle of the room. “Shall we sit? I see biscuits have been laid out.”
The man and woman were the Duke and Duchess of York. He was the second son of the queen of England, and she was his wife of five years. She and I were relatively close in age, me coming in at eighteen and she at twenty-six. He was thirty. He was British through and through, while she had been born and raised in the United States of America. She decided to go to college in London, met Prince Philip, and the rest was history.
“What do we call you?” the duchess asked as she strode to the table. Her skirt ended mid-thigh, a daring length I rarely witnessed. Her legs were lean and muscular. I admired the curve of her buttocks as she leaned over for a biscuit. As she turned around, I snapped my gaze to her face.
 “Alexandrina,” I stammered. “Call me Alexandrina.”
“Pretty name.” She nibbled on the biscuit and waved her husband over. “Good for you.”
“Pardon?”
“Your name. Good for you. They said to call you Victoria, but I have never been one to presume.”
I smiled with pretend nonchalance as the pink tip of Caroline’s tongue darted out to seize a crumb on her lip. That tongue, so pink and lithe! I had helped bake the biscuits; Nanny Flossie insisted. They were a mixture of shortbread fingers, Madeleines and financiers. I was glad to see Caroline enjoying them and yearned for more of her tongue.
“Regardless, I’m afraid we must call you Victoria,” the man said, his voice stern.
The duchess shot her husband a look. “Philip!”
He shrugged. “We must.”
“Nonsense.” She scoffed and grabbed my hand. “Don’t listen to him. He will come around.” A conspiratorial wink. “Show me your apartments. We’ll let Philip finish the biscuits. He rather adores his digestives.”
I was used to people, from nannies, tutors and doctors, grabbing my hands. My arms, my hair, my cheeks, my dresses. The duchess’s touch was different. It was not rough, impatient, greedy or demanding but rather the sympathetic touch of an equal. It made my throat go dry and my heart flutter.
“My apartments,” I echoed stupidly.
She beamed. “Would you mind terribly, Alexandrina? It’s stuffy in here.”
**
The Duchess of York and I left her husband in the visiting room and entered directly into the private sitting room of my apartments. The door snicked closed behind us.
“Incredible,” the duchess said in a breathy voice.
In contrast to the previous room, my private sitting room—my entire apartments—were replicas of various Buckingham Palace rooms during Queen Victoria’s lifetime. They were built during my fifteenth year, while Russ and John still had hope of success.
“I’m dying for a drink,” the duchess said. She drew a silver flask from her purse. “Care for a sip?”
I had never partaken of alcohol, but I would not admit such to the Duchess of York. Instead of waiting for me to answer, she found a cup on a side table. She sent clear white liquid tinkling into it and handed me the cup. “Let us toast! To what?”
“To, to, uh…” Already, this woman was unlike any person I had met.
“To Alexandrina,” she decided. “To you, dear Alexandrina.” She clinked her flask against my cup.
“To you also,” I responded. “To you, dear Caroline.”
Gratitude filled her expression. “That is so sweet. Thank you.” She tilted her head back and drank.
I brought my cup to my lips. The strong smell emanating from therein caused gooseflesh to invade my body.
“Whoo!” Caroline exclaimed, her eyes giddy. “That’s satisfactory.” She noticed my still-full cup and frowned. “Alex. Pardon me. Alexandrina. Drink up!”
“You can have it.”
She shook her head. “Please, enjoy.”
The liquid roiled down my throat, gagging it, choking it. It roared into my stomach, and I felt like vomiting. Nevertheless, a moment later, my stomach was pleasantly warm and alight. I felt like a butterfly in sunshine. Caroline produced another flask from her purse and poured a second round of drinks. I partook, and her voice came from a long way off.
“You don’t drink, do you?” she asked.
“A little,” I lied.
“I drink too much. You’d find that out eventually, so why hide it? Granted, I’ve done a smashing job keeping the journos in the dark.” She looked me over. “You’re a pretty girl, Alex. You and Albert will look splendid together. The tabloids have married you two off already, do you know that? So have Louise’s fortune tellers. Oh! Do you know what fortune tellers are?”
Yes. Oh yes. Visions of Heather Rubberstone fluttered through my mind. Many royals all over the world used fortune tellers, and after her husband Albert died, Queen Victoria became obsessed with the occult. Years before that, though, Victoria had been but a young girl nowhere near the throne. A fortune teller told her father, the Duke of Kent, that two members of the family were soon to die. They happened to be the duke himself and his father, the king. Still, Victoria remained a comfortable distance from the throne. Then, in 1830, another of her uncles, the king, died, and another uncle became king. Victoria, then eleven years old, became heir to the throne. Seven years later, this girl, eighteen years old, ascended to the throne of England one month after her birthday.
“Louise, bless her heart,” Caroline said, “loves her fortune tellers, and she takes what they say very seriously. They say that you and Albert are destined to be together.” Caroline chuckled. “Oh, Louise didn’t like that at first. She even stopped seeing her fortune tellers for a time, but that was last year. She’s warmed more to the idea now. She’s eager to see Albert settled, and pairing you with him resolves the pesky possibility of you setting up court somewhere else.”
This wealth of information was intriguing. Me, truly with Albert? Me, queen of England one day? Would I retrace Victoria’s footsteps? During the past few days, Nanny Flossie had told me more about the man Caroline spoke of, the man called Albert Bernard Edward Charles, Prince of Wales. He was thirty-one and a good sight more attractive than his year-younger brother. He was unmarried and infamous for leaving a trail of broken female hearts in his wake. He traveled the world and gave rousing, grandiose speeches. His voice was made of gold, his heart pure.
“He’s a good enough chap,” Caroline said. “If you and he do end up together, it won’t be the worst thing in the world. Age differences…pah.” She made a dismissive gesture. “They won’t matter for you and him.”
“Do they for you and Philip? Does four years matter?”
She gave a wolfish grin. “Philip and I are separated. Officially and unofficially.”
Oh. What did Caroline mean, separated? Why had they come together if they were separated?
She wagged a finger at me. “You’re trying to change the subject.”
“What? I was not.”
“I’m teasing. Anyway, do you happen to have alcohol?”
“No.”
Caroline bit her lip. “Just as well. I’ve a splitting headache. Tell me about yourself, Alex. Will you be happy to escape this place?”
“Perhaps.”
“Philip and I got the grand tour this morning. It was…interesting. Is life here fun?”
“It can be.”
“Have you got yourself a boyfriend?”
“A boyfriend?”
“Ah! You do.” Caroline leaned in, the flame of gossip heating her blue eyes. “Who?”
“No one. Truly.” I had seen clones such as Mary and John fall passionately in love and make fools of themselves. Much of the same happened in the books I read, so I preferred stories of adventure to tales of romance. I hoped that the romance foolishness would never happen to me, although it was possible that I would end up true to the source of my DNA. Queen Victoria passionately loved her husband and loved sex with him.
“A girlfriend, then?”
“A girlfriend? What do you mean?”
A glimmer of devilry in Caroline’s eyes. “A girlfriend. Being with a woman instead of being with a man.”
I had never heard of such a thing. “Of course not. That’s impossible.”
“Is it?” She gazed into my eyes. Her lips were full and pink, her blue eyes searching, and I remembered her muscular thighs. The tip of her wet, searching tongue.
I needed to change the subject. “What will my life be like out there?”
“At least for the time being, dreadfully dull, I’m afraid. Not much different from here, but your cage will be larger.” Her gaze turned shrewd. “Do you wonder why Philip and I were sent as opposed to someone like Albert or the queen?”
“Yes.”
“Any conclusions?”
“Some.”
A small grin. “Not a person of many words, are you? You will not offend me.” She sunk into a chair covered with floral patterns. “Anyhow, fortune tellers and Albert swoonings aside, you scare the crap out of the government, but we can’t leave you behind. If we do, some other person or entity will snap you up. Best you be under our control, but you can’t be seen as too important. Sure, you might marry Albert eventually and become queen, but matters are delicate and must progress gradually. Who better to send than the semi-black sheep of the family? You may be stuck with me and Philip for a long, long time, Alex. Oops. Alexandrina.”
“Alex is fine.” I could think of many worse things than being stuck with Caroline, Duchess of York, she of the shapely legs and firm buttocks.
She gave a theatrical sigh. “You won’t meet the queen for a while. As for Albert, he professes to not be interested. He’s a globetrotter. Savvy. Not one for fortune tellers and messages written in the stars. Tell you something, though. He’s smart and curious. He’ll come knocking sooner or later. He likes to drop in unexpectedly.”
“The queen—”
“Ah, yes,” Caroline said. “She is afraid you will bypass Albert altogether, claim a stake of the crown and set up your own court somewhere. A rival court.”
“I would not do that, Caroline.”
She quirked an eyebrow. “In a few years, you might. Who knows?”
“I know I would not.”
“People change. Are you sure you don’t have alcohol?”
“Yes.”
“She’s not a bad sort, the queen. Just old-fashioned and leery. Her fortune tellers say one thing, that you are the woman who will make her son happy. Her brain, though, still has some buying in to do. This clone business, it’s thrown a lot of people in a tizzy.”
“I imagine so.”
“You’ll live with me and Philip at Frogmore. We’ll have tremendous times. Good food, good alcohol, good company.”
A lump developed in my throat, and my chest squeezed. This building was my home, the only home I had known. Some of my clone brethren were restless and high-spirited. Not me. I was content with books and had made my peace with a limited world. True, gazing at the moon and at stars, hung brightly against the night sky, was one of my favorite activities. Only then did I dream of leaving my confines, but Caroline was wrong when she said I might try to seize the crown in a few years.
“You won’t be expected to do much. Or be wanted to do much, for that matter. A few functions for now. Moderation and moving gradually are the keys.” Caroline heaved herself up and rubbed nonexistent wrinkles out of her skirt. “We should get Philip, eh? He’ll have eaten all the biscuits. I’ll nip back to the kitchen and see if I can rustle up some spirits while you and Philip get acquainted.”
“Certainly.”
She spritzed freshener into her mouth. She smiled and took my hand into hers. Her breath smelled of vodka and cherries. I loved it. “I’ll try not to be too bad of an influence, Alex.” She winked, revealing a freckle on her eyelid. “But perhaps you need a bad influence?”

BLURB: The year is 2018, and fifty famous people from history were cloned nearly two decades ago to star in a sort of circus show. When the extravaganza folds before it can truly begin, its founders sell rights to the clones. Amid much controversy, the British government picks up the clone called Alexandrina Victoria, a.k.a. Queen Victoria. They designate the current queen’s second son, Philip, Duke of York, and his estranged wife, Caroline, Duchess of York, as stewards of the royal family’s newest addition.
Alexandrina, as Victoria has come to call herself, is instantly attracted to the duchess, who is a much-needed breath of fresh air. As Alex spends more time with the duchess, their feelings deepen into love. Do Caroline and Alex have a future, or could Alex end up with the queen’s dashing elder son, Albert, Prince of Wales, for the match that much of the public is already calling the second coming of Albert and Victoria?