Ok, for reference, this is THE freaking Hatchard’s that is THE book store in all of the Regency Romances, and I brought in Mary Wollenscraft (original in "Women’s Rights) and Mary Shelly (her daughter, Frankenstein’s author) into this snippet. I’m going to trim it down, I suspect, but this is 1st draft.
The elder Mary is brought up in many of the “bookworm wallflower” stories about marrying Dukes and whatnot, for reference.
over 1400 words
Hatchard’s was a short walk from where they spent the night. This was the quintessential book store of London, and all the memorable bits of many love stories gossiped over by avid readers, but Avery wasn’t sure of it making as grand an impression on her as some of the other shops. The black-trimmed entrance, the cement facade sandwiched between two red-bricked buildings? She wondered at how many floors would be an homage to the bound covers. It was a little fear that kept her from stepping in, and becoming a part of this particular piece of history. “Has it been here from the start?”
“No…” Lucian wasn’t looking at the store. Her reprimand over his confusing behavior stung, and a part of him realized that he could be better storing how she looked at London’s history like he intended. It was all to remind him of who she was, in the bleak future he was more accustomed to. “It moved a few buildings over right before I was born.”
Avery smirked at the way that would be taken by any other passerby, before being distracted by the fact that they were back by Fortnam and Mason—Hatchard’s neighbor. They had approached it from the opposite end of the street, this time. Perhaps if she lived here, she’d spend all her time in a very tiny area of the city, and never be tired of it.
Lucian moved his arm up behind her, as a guide. He loved the way his palm braced her back, with that silly hat on her head. She had made the right choice because the damned thing made him want to claim her as his, very publicly. “Look up, before we go in. That’s the Royal Warrant.”
A decorative work of a crown as large as the doorway was anchored to the facade, above the black. Next to the door was a gold scroll-work frame with a list of events displayed next to windows displaying books and framed commentary. It looked like a Librarian made a love letter of her collection.
Inside the entrance, the floor was a light gray tile, and the walls were white. Black book shelves lined available wallspace by the door, jackets of hardbacks facing the public. Little tabs of tightly spaced descriptions were below each book. Cards were just beyond that as was a display of fine pens and their bags and wrap. As this was the ground floor, it was set up for the casual perusal of the shop. The further back, the shelving broke into the chaos of any bookstore. Some books were spine out, others on display with their little notes, leaving every inch of the space very hard to take in at only a glance. The saving grace? Each of these shelves were titled with what should be in that case. A good number of the shelves also had the bottom two shelves tilted, so no one had to squat down to read titles, just glance down, read them easily. Despite this bump-out, the path through the books were only a modest bedroom wide, allowing for tables to display various novels, as the ground floor transitioned into a light gray patterned carpet.
“Wait, are the fireplaces real?” Avery asked Lucian as he rubbed her back in front of the first one they found.
“Well, they obviously aren’t in use anymore, but a bookstore that couldn’t keep it’s guests warm in winter wouldn’t sell books. So, some were certainly in use when I was a child, but as to how many of them are real, but converted to these displays, I’m not sure. Trying to keep the soot off the books would have been a trial, I’m sure. One of the many reasons dust-covers and gilding were invented.”
The bottom half-dozen steps or so curved off to the sides, with a short landing that must have been the staging of quite a few first awkward meetings that weren’t meant to be, as it was three directions in one small space—almost an altar to the wall. And below it? More steps going down, in tandem.
How many times had a man stopped a woman on these stairs to return a dropped handkerchief? How many times had men watched women walk up the stairs for a top-down view of the more heavenly displays?
Avery hadn’t thought of stairs as titillating before, but then she realized that Lucien had lived it, and that put a little wild grin on her face. One day, she’d ask him about it, but not today, not with so much shop to go.
“There’s a little green lift towards the back.”
“So, they’ve done a ton of remodeling…”
“Yes, well, I don’t know how old theirs is, but there were a few lifts in my 80s, and believe me, I’ve been grateful.”
“I can see that.”
Lucian softly hissed in amusement, trying not to laugh. “I am not that soft, and you know it.”
“Mmm…” was the only response she gave because he was the one distracting her from the books. She glanced back by the register to complete the circuit: first and modern editions ran back towards the door, by the cashier’s.
The basement, after it’s grand stairs, was much the same layout as the main floor. Down in a natural alcove had shelves in their natural wood, not the black, but the cut of the shelves was the same as the well-lacquered ones. Biographys and travel lived int his lower world.
The first floor, where the fiction and it’s criticism was, had both black and brown shelves, as well. 2nd was children and cookery. Right across from the flight to the 3rd was the Potter books. Winnie the Pooh, Peter Rabbit, Paddington started the London Blue alcove, opening up into the younger reader’s section. The 3rd was considered the top floor, covering art, gardening, and fashion, the great picture books of the adult world.
“Did you come here with your wife, Lucian?” Avery asked on their way back down the stairs—which Lucian didn’t let her head down first.
“No. I was sent here for her.” Lucian kept an even and sedate pace down the stairs, as was his habit… “She feared that the fireplaces were too close to people and that the steps were an obstacle for dresses. I suspect Gwenneth would have adored pants, if she could ever get used to them.”
“Was she always worried about such things?”
“Stairs?” Lucian waited as they made the 2nd floor’s landing. “Only narrow winding ones, and tiny rooms with fires too close if she was in anything more than a chemise. I never understood her trust in me, with how she feared fire.”
As soon as they set foot on the ground floor, he looked at Avery. “If you could have one thing from here, what would it be?”
“I like the idea of at least ordering a book by Mary Wollenscraft from Hatchard’s.”
“I didn’t really think you’d be into that sort of thing?” Lucian winced, not knowing where this would take them.
Not that Lucian knew what Avery’s politics would cover, there wasn’t many woman, even staunch feminists who would deeply study the roots of the women’s movement. The younger generations always worried him when they sounded like a flock of seagulls, only talking about their contemporaries…and Mary? She was a decade older than he was, and one of those women who honestly dominated conversations when men weren’t ready for them.
But the darker seam was who her daughter was, and one of two books that condemned him to being exposed as the living dead, time and time again. Did Avery know? He’d not say a thing, to avoid that abuse.
It would be safer if she thought he flinched because he hated Wollenscraft’s works.
“Well, not normally, as I live my life like a man, working the same jobs as men do, living alone, supporting myself.” Avery shook her head at his weird reaction. It was much better than trying to have such conversations with guys her own age, especially those who couldn’t support themselves, though, so she went on. “But Hatchard’s and Mary are iconic in period pieces, and I think it’s fitting.”
“They may not have it in shop, but I’m sure they have access to her works.” The habits of a lifetime, Lucian offered his arm for her last few steps. “We should be able to order it at the entrance and have them ship it to your home.”