The warrior returns... but he never really comes home. Allegra has longed for the return of her soldier husband. But when the war ends, he is more distant than ever. After months of trying to reach him, she leaves to chaperone her husband-hunting younger sister at a duchess's house party. Only then does Nicholas know that to win her, he must leave the war behind and truly come home to her for good.
Alicia Rasley: Interview with a Character From Allegra's Song, a Traditional Regency Novella.
(Nicholas is a soldier who has returned from the Peninsular war to a wife he hardly knows. Months later, he's still distracted and disoriented, and she has given up trying to reach him. He doesn't really wake up to her unhappiness until she's left him for a few days. Now what I'm going to do is start with an unthreatening question, and then, when I have the poor fella relaxed, get more intrusive. It's almost like I'm hypnotizing him. I'm also going to ask him to describe the exterior– where he was, what he saw, what he heard– so that I can use that to write the setting details later.
(Yes, I'm entirely aware that Nicholas is a figment of my imagination. I'm not crazy, you know. I'm just a fiction-writer. We have to be able to know we're inventing these people, and still let them become themselves. It's rather like parenting.)
How has it been, this peace?
Nicholas Trent speaks: Dull. Frankly, it's been dull. I'm still in the Army, training the troops, and we parade and do expeditions, but it seems rather futile.
But still, you must be glad to be home again with your family....
I don't know. It should be.... Those first months are rather a blur. I wasn't wounded, except for a slash on my arm, nothing much, but I felt feverish all the time. Not really feverish, just blurred. As if I were in a fog. It was just so strange, being home. It was my home, but it was so different from what I remember. My parents weren't there, that was the biggest change. They'd both died while I was gone. I knew it, of course, but I don't think I really understood it till I got home and they weren't there. And there we were, Allegra and I, in the master suite. My parents' room. It was... strange. I didn't like it. Foolish of me, I suppose. I couldn't sleep there. So I took to sleeping in my old room, down the hall. I'd visit Allegra, of course. Odd, isn't it, that I could do‑‑ that, but I couldn't sleep there afterwards.
I don't know. Guilt? No. Not guilt. My parents got sick and died; it wasn't to do with me. But I couldn't get caught up with the time. It's as if the whole world had moved on while I was at war. The house was redone, modernized. My parents grew old and died, and Timmy wasn't a baby any more, and Allegra‑‑
She was grown. A woman. I hadn't really noticed that. She'd been just a girl when I married her. You know. Foolish notions. Stars in her eyes. She used to write these letters to me, while I was away, and she'd dot her i's with little fat circles. The sort of things governesses tried to beat out of girls, you know. And I didn't really notice, but last week I was looking through all those letters‑‑ hundreds of them, almost seven years worth‑‑ and I realized somewhere a few years ago she stopped using those little circles.
Why were you looking through those old letters?
Looking for her. She's been gone for a couple weeks. And I'd forgotten what she is like. I felt like it had been years, not days, since I'd seen her. I couldn't remember what she looked like. Oh, I could remember her in a ballgown, with her hair up, a portrait‑sort of memory. But I couldn't remember her the other ways, like when she's frowning and biting her lip as she reads through a piece of music and imagines how it will sound. Or when she's feeling cross with Timothy, or when she's laughing with him. Or at night, in the moonlight, with her hair down on her bare shoulders. I couldn't remember any of those memories. So I read over her letters.
Tell me where you were, when you read the letters. What was it like, that scene?
I don't recall... come to think of it, I was in the attic. I went up to find a chair to replace a broken one in the dining room. And I saw that leather satchel, the one from when I was in Portugal, the one I used to put her letters in. It was hanging on a post on the wall, just dangling from the strap, and it was half open, so one letter was sticking out.
Did you take the letters downstairs to read?
I was going to, but when I started stuffing that letter back in, I saw her handwriting, and I sat down on that replacement chair, and opened the satchel, and started reading. I'd had them organized by year, and so I started with the earliest years.
Wasn't it dark in the attic?
Not at first. It was the middle of the afternoon, and the light was streaming in through the gable windows. You know how the light is that time of day? Kind of white golden, and up there in the attic, it sparkled on every bit of dust in the air. And there was a lot of dust. I wasn't choking on it, but I could taste it in my throat. But I didn't really mind. I just kept opening letters. Sometimes I could smell her perfume on them. You know how women do that– sprinkle a little bit of perfume on the page. I guess it's a hint that we should buy them more. But I could smell that perfume over the dusty smell, and sometimes it was almost like she was, oh, just behind me, so I could sense her but not see her.
Was there any noise?
It's an old house, so sometimes I could hear the rafters creaking. There was a breeze up that rattled at the windows too. You know how old glass rattles, like an old man coughing. Other than that, all I could hear was the paper crackling when I opened a letter.
It must have taken a long time.
Yes, but it was good. I could remember her better then, after I read them.
But you'd just been living with her for nearly a year since the war ended. You should have some fresh memories.
I should have, but I don't. She was there, I remember that‑‑ in the house, at the supper table, in the bed. And she made everything comfortable for me, which was pleasant‑‑ except I'm not used to comfort, and sometimes it was annoying, to have her keep asking what did I want to do. Did I want to redo my father's study, did I want to buy a few more mounts for the stables, did I want to go to
for the season. Did I want salt on my eggs. Did I want to hear that new sonata she'd learned. Did I want to have another child. Did I want to be alone. That's all I remember, really, all those questions. I reckon she wouldn't have asked them if she didn't want to know. But I was supposed to say yes or no, when‑‑ when I didn't really have an answer. So sometimes I said yes, and sometimes I said no, and she'd go off and do what she thought was best anyway. So I remember she asked me, do you want me to go, and I said‑‑ I don't remember. Yes or no, one of those two. And she did what she wanted to do, went her own way. That's the problem with us. We never needed each other. Oh, we thought we did, and each time we parted, I felt that need, sharp like an arrow, right in my heart. But we had to go on living, and we did, both of us, and so we just learned not to need each other. It hurt too much. So...well, she does well without me. She has her own interests, her own way. But it's time now, I think, for us to start needing each other again. London
Alicia Rasley is a RITA-award winning Regency novelist who has been published by major publishers such as Dell, NAL, and Kensington. Her women’s fiction novel The Year She Fell has been a Kindle bestseller in the fiction category.
Her articles on writing and the Regency period have been widely distributed, and many are collected on her website, www.rasley.com. She also blogs about writing and editing at www.edittorrent.blogspot.com. Currently she teaches and tutors writers at two state colleges and in workshops around
North America. She lives with her husband Jeff, another writer and a retired attorney. The elder of their sons is training to be a military officer, and the younger is a production assistant in . Hollywood
Check out the Amazon page for other Regencies by Rasley.
v Rakish heroes.
v Reckless heroines.
v Elegant stores.