Authors: Viveka Portman
The Journal of a Vicar’s Wife
The final instalment in Viveka Portman’s sexy, sinful Regency Diaries sees an unhappy wife desperately seeking love—and her taciturn husband who doesn’t know how to reach her.
“My husband, though I do not doubt his goodness, does not love nor want me. He married me for pure convenience. He needed a bride and I was the one offered to him. Thus I find my pleasures where I may…”
Mrs Maria Reeves has been married for six years. Six long, lonely years. She craves love and affection, but married to a handsome but pious vicar she receives little in the way of earthly pleasures. The Reverend Vicar Frederick Reeves is a man of principle and morals, and is more likely to provide his wife with suggested Bible readings than carnal knowledge.
If her husband will not please her, then she will find a man who will.
Viveka Portman is an author of romantic erotic fiction, and has a fascination about times past. With a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, Viveka weaves historical fact into fiction to create lively, realistic, and thrilling tales, sure to titillate and engage the most discerning reader. Considered an upstanding member of society, Viveka does not make a habit of eavesdropping, gossiping or making vulgar displays of impropriety — except, that is, in writing.
I would like to acknowledge and thank, as always, Kate Cuthbert and the Escape team for supporting these
. Your enthusiasm for my stories is pure magic. To Shona Husk – what a pair we make. I love your honest critiques and the fun we have together. Thanks for being a terrific friend. Also to Loretta Hill, another awesomely wonderful friend and critique partner, I cherish your honesty and friendship! Finally, to my family, without whom I’d be a very lost soul indeed.
For my readers
The Vicarage, Stanton, Wiltshire
Today started in an utterly dismal fashion. It has been raining, and there seems no sign of respite. Frederick has been absent most of the day seeing to his parish flock, and presumably boring them to death. Well, I should be glad.
Or should I not?
My husband’s absence gives me a level of freedom a wife may not otherwise be granted, and time to journal and record my thoughts, such as they are. As I write, I sit in this room, comfortable enough. I have a fire to ward off the inclement weather as the rain hammers against my window. Yet, as I look beyond that window into our sodden garden, I find my soul as soaked and miserable as the goat who huddles under her shelter there. I should be grateful, I know. I have this home, and a pious and forthright husband, yet I am not.
I am so far from grateful.
My husband, I believe, is the root of my melancholy. Oh, he is not a bad sort, I know. He is the Reverend Vicar of Stanton, under the patronage of Lord William Stanton, and I am well provided-for in all those necessary ways.
It is, however, an entirely loveless marriage. A marriage I accepted because it was expected and I had little choice.
I confess that I am bored. I am lonely. I yearn for something other than this life I find myself enduring. One may well say I am selfish and thoughtless to be so disparaging of my comfortable existence. I state with no pleasure that indeed I oft think these things of myself. Yet in every attempt to end this discontent, I have failed, and perhaps it is this failure that has turned me so thoughtless. I do not know. Mayhap if I had children I would have something other than my own melancholy to consider – but I have no children. In six years of marriage, we have not been so blessed.
Many a woman may put this down to her own fault, a barren womb or some such. I however believe myself blameless, and lay the fault entirely on my husband and his lack of potency. He is a handsome man, undeniably, yet he has not that passion and fire one assumes comes with male sex.
He comes to my bed but once or twice a month, and often I find myself indisposed at these times. The mechanisms of my womb seem to enjoy being perverse like this.
One should not assume that I dislike my conjugal duties. When my husband is in form, his ministrations upon me are powerful and evoke as much pleasure as I could wish. Yet these moods are so infrequent that I have come to believe that it is he, rather than I, who avoids them.
Thus, what is a woman to do? I have tried to speak to him of these intimate matters, but he schools me like the vicar he is, and sagely suggests that a child will come in time.
‘When shall that time be?’ I ask him, ‘for how can a child be made without a man’s seed joining with the receptacle to receive it?’ As ever, he blushes scarlet and chides me severely and our discussion ends there.
We had such a discussion today over our morning meal. ‘Did you sleep well?’ Frederick asked, and sipped his tea, watching me with ever-observant, hooded eyes.
‘Quite.’ I responded, ‘and you?’
We fell into that interminable silence that seems to forge a chasm betwixt us. I ate a little toast.
‘What of your plans for the day?’ I asked eventually, the restless tick of the mantle clock echoing in the otherwise-unbroken quiet.
‘Mrs Richards wishes that I attend to her newborn son. He is of a sickly constitution I am afraid, and she wishes that some prayers be said for him.’
I nodded slowly, forgetting myself a moment and finding my heart aching for the unfortunate babe, and also for my lack of one. Although I despise myself for it, I am envious of those women who hold their babes and walk about the village.
‘Do you suppose we shall be blessed with a child one day, Mr Reeves?’ I asked, as I often do.
He stiffened and caught my eye. ‘When God deems it fit,’ he replied, and resumed his breakfast.
I felt a flare of irritation at his lack of consideration, for had I not invited him to my rooms last night, only to be refused? I found myself responding without thought. ‘God shall never deem it fit, Mr Reeves, if you do not attend to the conjugal duties that are required for procreation.’
He gave me such a look then. ‘This is hardly an appropriate discussion for the table, Mrs Reeves,’ he reprimanded me, with all the authority of the righteous vicar he is. He was right, I knew, but still it rankled.
‘Mr Reeves, I do not understand why you find discussion of marital relations so vulgar a topic. We are man and wife, and we ought to…’
My husband disallowed any continuation of my monologue and spoke tersely. ‘There is more to the human condition than conjugality,’ he snapped. ‘It is said in I Thessalonians 4:4 that ‘each of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honour’, and, Mrs Reeves, part of the covenant I have with my Heavenly Father is that I do not, and shall not, suffer an overindulgence of pleasure.’ He took a deep inhalation of breath before continuing. ‘Abstinence is a holy method of controlling one’s body. You know it is my ardent wish that we both move closer to the Lord for it.’
His face had taken on that expression of fervent zeal it so frequently did when discussing matters of faith. I could scarce stifle a sigh.
He must truly think me a fool, for I have read passages in the Bible that support my
argument. There are words in that Holy Book that state he should indeed respond to his wife, just as a wife is duty-bound to respond to her husband! Yet he does not take particular note of these passages – indeed no.
I found it absurdly irritating this morning, and was not to be placated. ‘Yet, Mr Reeves, if we partake in marital intercourse but
more frequently, we may find ourselves blessed with a child sooner.’
His face grew taut. ‘You do not listen and I shall not repeat myself. I bid you good day.’
I suppose many a wife may find such curt and brutal sentiment offensive, but after six years I am well used to it. He stood with a great sweep of his jacket. I watched as he turned, his fine strong back outlined by the brightness beyond the door. My belly gripped with a physical longing to touch him.
‘Mr Reeves,’ I called.
He turned his head to face me and shook it. With his face angled just so he looked very much like the avenging angel. His eyes caught mine and my silly heart fluttered with hope.
‘I shall be late this evening. Good day to you madam, and God bless.’
Then he left.
* * *
With my husband absent there is little for me to do. Our home is well-tended by our staff, and unless I am called to assist with matters of the parish, there is naught for me to do with my time. Thus I have taken it upon myself to study medicine. Since childhood I have had an interest in matters of physiology and healing, and, with such long days of loneliness, I use the time to read texts on those matters I find most interesting. My husband indeed has been kind enough to purchase books for me on these very subjects and so I read them while I may.
This morning, however, I felt little interest in reading. Mrs Cartwright, our housekeeper, and Minny, our maid, left me alone in my misery. They are good sorts and have worked for Frederick since he came to Stanton. I do not make a habit of divulging my miseries to the servants; such habits are vulgar. The serving class are bound by duty as it is, and I think it unfair to burden them more. So, I keep much to myself, though I do not delude myself that the servants are ignorant of my unhappiness, indeed no. I find Mrs Cartwright and Minny as discreet and loyal a staff as anyone would wish. I am the Vicar’s wife, and it would not do at all to have word of my melancholia spread.
I do not believe many suspect it at all. On occasion, I am called upon to visit families in the village, to assist and provide advice, and on these occasions I possess a most charming and happy affectation. It is ludicrous, is it not? I have no happiness and no children of my own, yet the circumstance of my marriage allow me – above others much better qualified –to offer advice and administer care to those in need.
I do find, by and large, that these situations happen few and far between. The most recent involved Miss Tilbee, a young seamstress from Mrs Harding’s dress shop. The unfortunate girl found herself breeding out of wedlock due to an inopportune encounter with one of the grooms at the farriery.
Miss Tilbee was most adamant that she would not give the child up when it was born. It was her wish to raise it as her own, despite her lack of marriage and poor chances at further employment. My husband counselled that she offer the child up to the church, where it could be better provided for by the sisters there. Miss Tilbee had disagreed, so it was that I was sent to counsel her.
I had thought at the time how inappropriate it was that I, childless and unhappily married, was to advise a girl, young and breeding. Yet I did as I was bade, and at length, Miss Tilbee agreed. It was a decision that did not come easily to her, nor did the advice flow freely from me. Yet there was a simple, painful truth; Miss Tilbee could no more care for her baby than she could learn to fly. She had no funds, her reputation was ruined and Mrs Harding was no longer willing to employ her. At least if she offered her babe to the church, she could leave Wiltshire and start afresh elsewhere. To this end, after she’d lain in and born her babe, I offered her some of my own coin to send her on her way.
I had correspondence from her some weeks ago, saying she’d found employ as a seamstress in Bolton, and was being courted by a young farmer who lived nearby. This was a very pleasing turn of events, and one I had not expected. I responded that I ardently hoped the courtship was fruitful and that her unhappy chapter had now closed, though in my heart I wept for that poor babe, and ever since I have prayed for his health and happiness.
It was as I was musing on this that Minny came to tell me that Mr Goddard had arrived with the milk, and did I wish to see him?