Victorian Writing Challenge


Earlier this week, I got a writing challenge from my mother, which was weird enough as it was but it got weirder.

First she asked that I write her a romance (and she knows I don’t do mushy), then she got more specific.

She wanted it to:

  • Be set in the Victorian era
  • Be unpredictable
  • Have a happy ending

Clearly my mother is suffering from ‘not enough romance novels in the house’ syndrome but I was titillated enough to try.

So here is my first attempt at this challenge:


“To what do I owe this honour?”

“I beg of you; mercy.”

Victoria sank to her knees. She had nothing now. No title. No home. No dowry. Her family name would be dragged through the gutter and the mire for years. But her responsibilities remained constant – there was still her brother and her mother to take care of. Her pride had no value now.

She could feel the Duke’s eyes trained on her bowed head. She must appear to him a shadow of the creature she once was. The last time she had been in his company she had been wearing an evening gown with all the bustle, puff and drape that society demanded. It had been a rich olive and gold affair and it had flattered her slender frame. Today she was adorned in a black polonaise under which she wore a black skirt and white bodice. Her hair which she was accustomed to twisting and twirling lay in a simple French braid down her back.

She was still pretty, she knew. She would always be pretty but perhaps she was no longer attractive. Lack of a dowry could quickly change how fascinated gentlemen were with you. The colour under your skin could do that too.

The silence was spreading heat across her face and neck. She glanced up to meet his chocolate coloured eyes. She remembered when it had been he on his knee, and oh how she had shunned him!

“Get up Victoria, and sit down. You are impassioned.” She took the hand he offered her and rose. He led her to an armchair and she lowered herself into it. “You are hot; feverish. This is not you.”

“My circumstances have changed and so must I, your grace.” He was looking at her again. She avoided his gaze. She heard the ringing of a bell as her eyes traced the pattern of the rug – it was a beastly rug – green and white and red. Of all the ugly things…

“Yes, your grace?” she looked up to see the Duke’s butler.

“Lady Victoria and I would like some tea. And have Martha come and help the Lady with her coat and gloves.”

“Yes, your grace.” The butler left.

“You are too kind, your grace.” She was grateful that he had still referred to her as she was accustomed to. It was a small thing but it brought tears to her eyes. She felt the events of the last few weeks wash over her and she relaxed into the chair.

“And how is Lady Morgana?”

“My mother is well.” Thoughts of her mother made her more tired than she already was. The Lady of Chattery was not coping with the changes well. The maid came into the room and assisted Victoria in the removal of her coat and gloves. The Duke had remained standing the entire time and now his back was to her. He seemed to be searching for something in his cabinet. She heard him mutter an ‘ah! Yes!” and then he poured the contents of an odd looking bottle into a small glass.

“Drink this.” He held the glass before her

“What is it?” he didn’t respond to her enquiry but waited patiently for her to take the glass. She took a sip. It was horrible and it burned her chest.

“All of it.” So she held her breath and poured it down her throat.

“What was that?”

“Whisky.” She wanted to ask why he had insisted she drink it but her limbs were beginning to feel heavy.

“I do apologize, your grace. I must lie down, I feel faint.” She hoped the words had come out of the mouth. The maid was in the room again. She wondered about the tea. She dreamt.


Let me know what your thoughts are at my attempt at the Victorian romance novel.

Also, if you have ANY ideas as to how to make this story unpredictable, I’d be happy to read them.

About the author

Oyinkan Braithwaite


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June 2019
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