Sabrina York: Defiant (Noble Passions Book Five)

About Defiant

When rakish Ned falls in with the wrong crowd, his brother decides to send him to the Continent for “seasoning”. For Sophia, this just won’t do. She’s loved Ned for ages—and also longed for adventure. She runs away from her boring suitors and disguises herself as a cabin boy on the Defiant, the ship sailing Ned to Italy.

Ned knows he’s not good enough for Sophia, but once they’re on the Defiant, he can’t stop himself from touching her, tasting her, loving her. Not when a wild tempest and a band of ruthless pirates threaten them. Not when every look from her gives him such pleasure. And certainly not when she comes, warm and wild and willing, to his bed.

If they survive their voyage, Sophia’s brother might kill him, but it will have been worth every moment and every hot, sweet kiss.

A Romantica® Regency historical erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave

Ellora’s Cave • Amazon


Sophia stood on the bow of the boat in the dark as the wind and rain lashed her face. She loved it. Loved it. Not only was the storm elemental and fierce, it hid her tears.

Surely she hadn’t expected Ned to greet her with open arms. Not when she had barged in on his adventure as she had. But she certainly hadn’t expected him to be so horrid. His expression had devastated her.

defiant copyFoolish girl, it said.

But then, her heart agreed.

She was foolish.

Foolish to ever think that he—

“You’re soaked.”

She whirled around, though she knew what she’d see. More glowering.

She was right.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m reveling.” She thrust out her chin, in case he didn’t believe her.

He gaped at her. “Reveling?”

“Yes.” She didn’t mean to shout, but his wintry demeanor annoyed her tremendously. She threw out her arms. “Look at this!”

“It’s a storm.”

“It’s beautiful. The waves are wild, untamed—”

“You could be swept overboard.”

“The wind is howling and the rain is savage. It’s glorious.”

“It’s freezing. Come inside.”

“It’s not freezing. It’s summer.”

I’m cold.”

“Then you go inside.”

“Sophia Fiona—”

“Don’t call me that.”

“It’s your name.”

“You sound like Ewan.”

“I’m starting to think Ewan is a saint.”

She glared at him. “What a beastly thing to say.” She hated that her chin wobbled a little. Hated that he winced.

“I’m sorry, Sophia. This has been trying for me.” He sluiced the water from his face. “Won’t you please come inside?”

“All right. Fine.”

“You will?”

“You did say please.”

He blew out a breath and offered her his arm. She frowned at it. “I’m a cabin boy, remember? You don’t offer a cabin boy your arm.” When he didn’t lower it, she smacked it. “Someone will see.”

That caught his attention and he slowly lowered his arm. “Right then. Come inside.” He followed her back to the cabin, his stride decidedly unsteady. If anyone was tipping overboard, it was most likely him.

When she once again stood in his chambers, she realized the folly of her actions. She hadn’t brought a change of clothes and she was drenched. So was he. Without a word, he relit the lamp and then opened his trunk and pulled out several shirts, two of which he tossed to her. “Change.”

That was it. One word. Just “change” and then he presented her with his back. She huffed a breath, but did as he asked because she was really rather cold. The feel of the cloth falling over her chilled flesh warmed her. Because it was his shirt. It had touched his skin. She wasn’t sure why the thought sent heat scudding through her belly.

“Use the other shirt to dry your hair,” he suggested, as he began toweling off as well.

She huffed a laugh. “All of your clothes will be wet.”

“They’ll dry. Are you clothed?”


He turned. And froze. His gaze locked onto her bare legs. “I-I thought you said you were clothed.” A squawk.

“I am.” But the intensity of his stare made her self-conscious, so she slipped into the bed.

“Close your eyes,” he said as he unbuttoned the damp linen clinging to his chest.


“I need to change as well. I’m f-freezing.”

“Okay.” She did. But she peeked.

He ripped off his wet shirt and her breath caught at the sight of his broad back. Muscles rippled as he moved and she swallowed. He was beautiful. He tugged the fresh shirt over his head and she nearly whimpered as that magnificent vision disappeared. But then, he unfastened his trousers.

All pretense of not peeking evaporated.

He sat and took a moment to work off his boots. And then he stood. His trousers were tight, as was the fashion, and he had to peel them off. As he bent, she caught a flash of his bare behind.

She must have made a noise because he whirled around. His cheek bunched when he saw her watching. “You’re supposed to have your eyes closed.”

She hunkered in the covers, as though that would disguise the fact that her eyes were open wide.


It was probably wrong to grin at him, but she couldn’t help it.

“Sophia Fiona!”

“Stop calling me that. It always makes me think I’m in trouble.”

“You are in trouble. You have no idea how much trouble you’re in.”

She tipped her head to the side. “We both know Ewan will be so relieved to see me, he’ll forget how angry he is—”

Ned stilled and fixed her with a dark glare. “What makes you think I’m talking about Ewan?”

“I… ah…”

“I’ve a mind to bend you over my knee.”

Why a shiver rippled through her, she had no idea. She’d been spanked once or twice as a child and she hadn’t cared for it in the slightest. But something dark and domineering in Ned’s tone made her womb warm.

“You-you wouldn’t.”

“Wouldn’t I? Now, look away. Your brother would skewer me if I gave you the education you’re about to have.”

She attempted not to snort. Ned—and everyone—thought her a prim and innocent miss on account of the polish she’d acquired at Lady Satterlee’s. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a child, before Ewan had made his fortune, they’d lived a hand-to-mouth existence in the slums of Perth. She’d seen more than one couple rutting against a wall in a dingy alleyway. And at one point, she and her brother had taken refuge in a bordello. She’d been only seven, but if she’d had an education, she got it there. She could probably teach Ned a few things.

Still, because he seemed to expect it, she squeezed her eyes tight and didn’t hardly peek at all as he finished changing. Besides which, the spot she was interested in was mostly shadows.

With a great huff, he threw himself back into the chair. “Now, go to sleep.”

“Don’t you want me to put out the light?”

“No. I want to be able to see where you are.”

“I’m not leaving again tonight.” Probably. Unless her despair overcame her once more.

“Leave it on.” A grunt, and not a very nice one at that. Why he had call to be annoyed, she couldn’t fathom.

Blast and damn, he was an annoying man. Sophia grunted as well and rolled over, facing the wall of the cabin. She studied the patterns the swinging lamp made for a long while, listening as he shifted one way and then the other.

It was really unfair for him to have to sleep in the chair. This was his room. But he would never share her bed. She grimaced at the way the words came out, but it was true. He wouldn’t. Unless…

She rolled over again and watched him twist in the chair. He caught her eye and frowned.


An impatient groan. “Yes, Sophia?”

“Ned, I’m cold.”

He stilled. Then barked, “Put on another blanket.”

“There aren’t any more.” She faked a shiver. She wasn’t cold in the slightest. She never was. Ewan said she ran hot. “Brr. My teeth are chattering.”

His glower became a frown.

“I hope I don’t get ill.”

He paled. “You shouldn’t have gone out in the rain. Why did you go out in the rain?”

She sneezed. Or something like it. “I don’t know.”


“Am I running a fever?” She put her palm to her forehead. “I think I’m running a fever.”

His brow wrinkled. He stood and made his way across the tiny chamber as though on his death march. He set the backs of his fingers to her cheeks. His frown darkened. “You are warm.”

“No. I’m cold.” She shivered and peered up at him, her eyes as wide as she could make them. “Won’t you warm me?”

He wrenched his hand away as though she’d burned him. “What?”

“Lie here beside me and warm me up?”

“There’s not enough room for both of us.”

“I’m small.”

“Sophia.” She’d never heard her name in such a strangled voice, not even when Ewan was at his wit’s end.

“Just for a bit? You can be on top of the covers. Surely that is decent.”

The muscle in his cheek bunched again, as though he were grinding his teeth.


He gusted a sigh. “All right, Sophia. Scoot over and make room.”

She did. With alacrity.

“And roll over, facing the wall.”

She frowned at him “Why?”

“Just do it. Please.”

“Oh, all right.” But only because he said please. And because, when she was facing the other way, he couldn’t see her grin.

He settled in behind her and a shiver rocked her. He was warm. And he smelled delicious. Not fishy in the slightest. It was delightful, lying here with him. She closed her eyes and imagined he wanted this as much as she.

If only. If only.

Check out the other books in the Noble Passions Series from Sabrina York


Follow the decadent exploits of friends and enemies as they find love and passion in the glittering world of the Regency—and its dark underbelly.

folly_msr (final) copyBook 1: Folly

2014 EPIC eBook Award Finalist

2013 Passionate Plume Finalist

Widowed and threatened with penury by her heartless in-laws, Eleanor–Lady Ulster–hatches a plot to save herself. Determined to produce the Ulster “heir”, she seduces a stranger at a tawdry masquerade. Little does she know, this magnificent masked lover is none other than her husband’s greatest nemesis. And God knows Ulster had plenty.

Ethan Pennington is mortified to arrive at a house party and discover Lady Ulster in attendance. He has wanted her and hated wanting her–his enemy’s bride–for years. When he overhears Eleanor’s predicament and her plans to place a cuckoo in the Ulster nest, he is more than willing to oblige. The opportunity to finally claim her–while taking the revenge he craves–is more than he can resist. Ethan strikes a bargain with Eleanor, promising to provide her with the heir she so desperately needs…if she will meet his needs in return. Every decadent one of them.

darkduke_msrBook 2: Dark Fancy

The sizzling prequel to Folly

2014 Winner of the Carolyn Readers’ Choice Award

When Lady Helena Simpson flees an unwanted marriage to a revolting lord, she finds refuge with James, a charming, handsome man unlike any she’s ever known. Helena concocts the perfect solution to her problem. She asks—begs—James to ruin her. Surely her betrothed will repudiate her if she is no longer pure. And if all her efforts fail and she still ends up married to a horrid man until the end of her days, she will at least once have known true passion.

But James is not all he seems. He is, in fact, a wicked lord with a dark fancy. When Helena awakens his desire, he becomes determined to take everything she has to offer and more. No matter the cost.

darkfancy_msrBook 3: Dark Duke

Edward Wyeth, the Dark Duke of Moncrieff’s life has been turned on its end. His well-ordered home has been invaded. By destitute relatives. From Scotland. How on earth can he write Lord Hedon’s salacious novels with hellions battling in the garden and starting fires in the library? But with the onslaught has come a delicious diversion. His cousin’s companion, the surprisingly intriguing Kaitlin MacAllister. He is determined to seduce her. Using her desperate need for funds and her talents as an artist, he convinces her to draw naughty pictures for his naughtier books…and he draws her into his decadent web.

But Kaitlin has a secret. She’s fled Scotland—and a very determined betrothed. When Edward’s cousin is kidnapped and held in her stead, Kaitlin is honor-bound to return to her homeland and rescue her—much to Edward’s chagrin.

Because suddenly he can’t bear the thought of Kaitlin marrying another man. He can’t bear the thought of losing her at all.

brigand_msrBook 4: Brigand

Kidnapped and held prisoner by menacing Scottish brigand, the notorious McCloud, Violet Wyeth does her best to persevere…and resist his rakish charms. But when she realizes The McCloud is really Ewan St. Andrews, the boy who once saved her life, the boy who once kissed her and made her heart flutter, she is lost.

Ewan has every intention of marrying Lady Kaitlin MacAllister. He desperately needs the entrée into the ton this bride can provide. But when his bride is delivered—bound and gagged—it’s not Kaitlin. It’s Violet Wyeth—the girl who betrayed him and ruined his life when he was a boy. He keeps her, determined to punish her for her sins. But when he discovers the truth about what really happened so long ago, and seething passion rises between them, he can no longer hold on to his rusty grudge. By the time he realizes how much he loves Violet—that he always has—he’s lost her.

All he can do is follow her. Follow her into the bowels of hell—and partake in the torment of the glittering London Season, where the harpies are far more dangerous than a Scottish brigand.

About Sabrina York

Sabrina_head_smHer Royal Hotness, Sabrina York is the award winning author of over 20 hot, humorous stories for smart and sexy readers. Her titles range from sweet & sexy erotic romance to scorching BDSM. Connect with her on twitter @sabrina_york, on Facebook or on Pintrest. Check out Sabrina’s books and read an excerpt on Amazon or wherever e-books are sold. Visit her webpage at to check out her books, excerpts and contests.

Free Teaser Book: And don’t forget to enter to win the royal tiara!

The Bath Road: Lacock Abbey

The following post is the third of a series based on information obtained from a fascinating book Susana recently obtained for research purposes. Coaching Days & Coaching Ways by W. Outram Tristram, first published in 1888, is chock full of commentary about travel and roads and social history told in an entertaining manner, along with a great many fabulous illustrations. A great find for anyone seriously interested in English history!

dust jacket

Lacock Abbey and Romance

While I’ve visited the village of Lacock, wandering through the charming little town which was filmed as Meriton in the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice on two occasions, both were group tours not allowing enough time to visit the Abbey. All I could do was peer longingly through the iron gates and vow someday to return. Next time.

For the Kings Favor by Elizabeth Chadwick - CoverIt was on one of the tours that I learned the connection between Lacock Abbey and a book I had recently read by Elizabeth Chadwick, For the King’s Favor. Highly recommended for any fan of British history! It’s the story of a former mistress of Henry II who is torn away from her son and married off to another. A small part in the story is played by the illegitimate son, William Longespée, brought up in the king’s household. It turns out that William married Ela, 3rd Countess of Salisbury and became the 3rd Earl of Salisbury. (Yep, a title that could be inherited by a female, believe or not!)

It must have been a happy marriage, not only because they had at least eight children (not that unusual in those days), but because when he died, his widow founded an abbey in his honor, endowing it with rich farmlands which returned large profits from wool. The inscription on her tombstone indicates that she was a very well-loved lady:

Below lie buried the bones of the venerable Ela, who gave this sacred house as a home for the nuns. She also had lived here as holy abbess and Countess of Salisbury, full of good works.

In the sixteenth century during Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries, Lacock Abbey was fortunate to escape destruction when it was sold to Sir William Sharington for 783 pounds, and he turned it into a private residence, demolishing the church and making extensive renovations, apparently showing quite good taste. His tastes were expensive, however, and later on he was convicted of embezzling from the Bristol Mint.



A Famous Elopement (Don’t try this at home!)

From Coaching Days and Coaching Ways:

Here [Lacock] there is an Abbey with a romance attached to it, which tells how a young lady, discoursing one night to her lover from the battlements of the Abbey church, though strictly forbidden to do so by her papa, remarked “I will leap down to you” (which was surely very unwise), and leapt. The wind came to the rescue and “got under her coates” (the ulster I presume of the 16th century) and thus assisted, the young lady, whose name was Sherington [sic], flopped into the arms of the young man, whose name was Talbot, and killed him to all appearances fatally dead on the spot, at which she sat down and wept. Upon this the defunct Talbot, who had been only temporarily deprived of breath, came to life again, and at the same moment the lady’s father, with a fine instinct for a melodramatic situation, jumped out of a bush and observed that “as his daughter had made such a leap to him she should e’en marry him,” meaning Talbot, which was rather obscure, but exactly what the young lady wanted, and married she was to Talbot, whose Christian name was John, brought him the Abbey as a dowry, and lived happily ever after.”

As much as I enjoy Mr. Tristram’s turn of phrase, there are times when I have doubts about the accuracy of his statements. While it is true that a Sharington owned Lacock Abbey, I cannot find that he ever had any children. Nonetheless, it is true that Lacock Abbey was owned by Talbots in its later years, including the famous William Henry Fox Talbot, who is credited with the invention of the calotype process, a precursor of photographic processes of the 19th and 20th centuries. I even saw his grave at the Lacock cemetery just outside the village. So…who knows? It might be true!

William Henry Fox Talbot

William Henry Fox Talbot


Visiting Lacock, Lacock Abbey, and the Fox Talbot Museum

cottageWhile you’re there, why not stay in a timber-framed cottage located right in the heart of the village? A bit pricey, perhaps, but it has four bedrooms and sleeps six, and what better way to relive the past than to live in a charming cottage in a quaint little town for a couple of days! (You might also check out the bed and breakfast establishments available in the village.)

Anybody recognize the cloisters from a famous movie?

Anybody recognize the cloisters from a famous movie?

Update: Lacock Abbey stumbled upon this post and informed me that the young lady who accidentally “killed” her lover was Olive Sharington, daughter of Henry Sharington, who inherited the Abbey from his brother William, who had no children. Mystery solved!


Piper Huguley: The Lawyer’s Luck (Home To Mitford College Series)

Lawyer copy

About The Lawyer’s Luck

Oberlin, Ohio – 1844

Lawrence Stewart is a rare man. Raised with his grandmother’s Miami Indian tribe, he’s a Negro with brown skin, and has consistently walked between two worlds most of his life. He devotes his time and study to becoming a lawyer, fully intending to obtain justice for the ousted Miami Indians. No Negro man has accomplished these things before, but he is not daunted. His life is perfectly set until one June day….

Aurelia “Realie” Baxter made her way from enslavement in Georgia to the free land Lake Huron in Ohio. Far from happy as a slave doing the bidding of a woman cooped up in a house all day, Realie is a bona fide tomboy with a special gift with horses. Now, she is so close to freedom in Canada, she can smell it, but her plans are interrupted when Lawrence shoots her…by mistake….

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About the Author

piper-huguley-rigginsPiper G Huguley is the author of “Migrations of the Heart,” a five-book series of inspirational historical romances set in the early 20th century featuring African American characters.  Book one in the series, A Virtuous Ruby won the Golden Rose contest in Historical Romance in 2013 and is a Golden Heart finalist in 2014.  Book four in the series, A Champion’s Heart, was a Golden Heart finalist in 2013.

On release, the prequel novella to the “Home To Milford College” series, The Lawyer’s Luck reached #1 Amazon Bestseller status on the African American Christian Fiction charts.

She blogs about the history behind her novels at She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son.

The Frost of Springtime: Rachel L. Demeter

BBT The Frost of Sprintime Banner copy 2

Rachel will be awarding a $15 Amazon gift card and 5 autographed bookmarks via rafflecopter during the tour (US ONLY). Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click on the banner above to follow the tour and increase your chances of winning.

About The Frost of Springtime

To rescue her was to rescue his own soul.

On a cold Parisian night, Vicomte Aleksender de Lefèvre forges an everlasting bond with a broken girl during her darkest hour, rescuing her from a life of abuse and misery. Tormented by his own demons, he finds his first bit of solace in sheltering little Sofia Rose.

But when Aleksender is drawn away by the Franco-Prussian war, the seasons pass. And in that long year, Sofia matures into a stunning young woman—a dancer with an understanding of devotion and redemption far surpassing her age.

Alongside his closest friend, Aleksender returns home to find that “home” is gone—replaced by revolution, bloodshed, betrayal—and a love always out of reach. Scarred inside and out, he’s thrust into a world of sensuality and violence—a world in which all his hours have now grown dark, and where only Sofia might bring an end to the winter in his heart.

Inspired by the 1871 Paris Commune, The Frost of Springtime is a poignant tale of revolution, redemption, and the healing power of love.


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Sofia saw the memories buried within his eyes. Gunshots. Screams. Rolling cannons and the faded cries of despair. They lodged inside Aleksender, battling for his soul.

MEDIA KIT Teaser 1 PAIN IS IN THE MIND - TEASER QUOTE copySofia rose from the ground and tentatively crouched behind him. Remaining silent, her hands sunk below the material of his dress shirt and encouraged him with gentle caresses.

“Disease and death were everywhere. Men with boils and rashes the size of saucers. Anyway, we almost managed to escape. It was a good mile away that we were spotted. They were corrupt soldiers, nothing but hungry dogs with a taste for blood-lust. We were tied at the wrists and ankles, crammed inside a tent. Whether it was days or weeks, I cannot say.” Scoffing under his breath, he spat, “The fools demanded answers. They demanded our plans. Strategies. We refused each time. Even so none of us knew anything.”

“Oh, Alek. Why didn’t you tell them? To think you could have avoided so much pain.”

His shoulders lifted into a dry shrug. “I suppose we took a morbid delight in their frustration.” His voice was icy, harsh and void of all emotion. “And besides—it was the prospect of whipping information from our skin that kept us alive. But we were eventually returned to the camp. Bloodied, battered and burned—but alive.” Aleksender passed fingertips through his hairline. “Till this day, I have no idea what changed their minds …” Aleksender sighed and gave an afterthought, “Word had spread of their rather unorthodox methods, so to speak. According to rumor, they’d paid dearly.”

“I pray they burn in hell,” Sofia gasped. “Every last one of them!”

Aleksender laughed, amused by her goodhearted blasphemy. “Ah, Sofia, ma chérie. You do wonders for me.” And then a sudden thought came to his mind. “Christophe was there with me.”

“In the tents?” Sofia murmured, her heart reaching out to both heroes.

Aleksender merely nodded.

Although she’d never had the pleasure of meeting Monsieur Cleef, his name inspired a strange twinge of nostalgia inside her gut. Aleksender had often spoken of his dear friend—a rather admirable man of big ideas and too little restraint. From what she knew of the roguish skirt-chaser, she’d always admired him very much.

“Such wonderfully brave men,” she crooned, caressing one of many scars. “You have a soldier’s heart.”

Cloaked beneath the darkness, Sofia’s fingertips moved over his back in hypnotic motions, not leaving an inch of him unloved. “Do they pain you much?”

“No,” he hoarsely answered, “they are no bother.” His body trembled within her arms. “Not any longer.”

Between tentative kisses and muffled sniffles, she whispered, “To think of the pain you endured. The cruelty—your suffering.”

Aligning their two bodies, Aleksender cradled Sofia’s face between his palms and sweetly stroked her skin. Sofia’s toes curled against the barrier of her slippers. It was intoxicating. By far the sweetest moment in her nineteen years of life. With a last kiss, he whispered into her mouth, “Pain is in the mind. And, in my mind, ma chérie … I was with you.”

Additional Excerpts

About the Author

MEDIA KIT RachelDemeter_portrait copyRachel L. Demeter lives in the beautiful hills of Anaheim, California with Teddy, her goofy lowland sheepdog, and high school sweetheart of ten years. She enjoys writing dark, edgy romances that challenge the reader’s emotions and examine the redeeming power of love.

Imagining stories and characters has been Rachel’s passion for longer than she can remember. Before learning how to read or write, she would dictate stories while her mom would jot them down for her. She has a special affinity for the tortured hero and unconventional romances. Whether sculpting the protagonist or antagonist, she always ensures that every character is given a soul.

Rachel strives to intricately blend elements of romance, suspense, and horror. Some common themes her stories never stray too far from: forbidden romance, soul mates, the power of love to redeem, mend all wounds, and triumph over darkness. Her dream is to move readers and leave an emotional impact through her words.

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The Bath Road: Littlecote and Wild William Darrell

The following post is the second of a series based on information obtained from a fascinating book Susana recently obtained for research purposes. Coaching Days & Coaching Ways by W. Outram Tristram, first published in 1888, is chock full of commentary about travel and roads and social history told in an entertaining manner, along with a great many fabulous illustrations. A great find for anyone seriously interested in English history!


Littlecote House

Littlecote House

Littlecote House, near Ramsbury, Wiltshire, was first a medieval mansion, built around 1290 by the de Calstone family. It fell into the hands of William Darrell in 1415 when he married Elizabeth de Calstone. The Tudor mansion was built in the mid-sixteenth century. Henry VIII courted his third wife Jane Seymour here; her grandmother was a Darrell. Elizabeth I, James I, Charles II and William of Orange stayed here.


Wild William Darrell (1539-89)

The last Darrell at Littlecote is best remembered for his contentiousness and scandals. His father having left Littlecote to his mistress, Mary Fortescue (who liked to call herself Lady Darrell), William set in motion a series of lawsuits to wrest it away from her. This was the first of countless lawsuits filed in his lifetime, which ended by draining him of his fortune and forcing him to mortgage or sell most of the 25 manors inherited from his father. Litigation with his mother’s family over one such manor lasted 20 years!

Not the sort of man you’d want as a neighbor!

Darrell was also known for his amorous exploits. The most famous was his affair with the wife of Sir Walter Hungerford, who was subsequently abandoned by her husband when she wrote this to Darrell:

“I, by the oath I have sworn upon the holy evangelist, do acknowledge that if Sir Walter Hungerford, my husband now living, do depart out of this life … I will take you to my husband.”

An Elizabethan Horror Story

Enjoy Mr. Tristram’s dramatic narration in Coaching Days & Coaching Ways:

The whole story would pass before us under a ghostly, shimmering, ghoul-like glamour: the midwife at Shefford, a village seven miles off, waked in the dead of night, with a promise of high pay for her office on condition that she should be blindfolded! the headlong ride through the wild weather behind the silent serving man! the arrival at a large house which was strange to her! the mounting of the long stairs, which the woman, shadowed already with some grim foreboding, counted carefully as she passed up them! the delivery in a gloomy, richly furnished room of a masked lady! the entrance of a tall man “of ferocious aspect”, who seized the newborn child, thrust it into the fire that was blazing on the hearth, ground it under his heavy boot till it was cinders! then the trembling departure of the pale spectator of the hideous scene, blindfolded as she had come, aghast, speechless, carrying a heavy bribe with her as the price of guilty silence, but carrying also a piece of the curtain which she had cut out of the bed—all this scene of horror how the author of The Dragon Volant would have described it for us! And all this horror is history!

The original deposition made on her death-bed by the midwife, whose name was Mrs. Barnes, and committed to writing by Mr. Bridges, magistrate of Great Shefford, is in existence to this day, and is proof beyond cavil. It is from this point that rumour begins. That rumour, backed in my opinion by damning circumstance, has for two hundred years connected the tragedy with Littlecote House and William Darrell, commonly called Wild Darrell, then its proprietor. It is alleged that the midwife’s depositions set justice on the murderer’s track, and that the fitting of the piece of curtain which Mrs. Barnes had taken away with her into a rent found in the curtain of the Haunted Room at Littlecote, marked the scene of the murder. Wild Darrell was tried for his life, it is said, but escaped by bribing the officers of the law with the reversion of his large estates. But—so runs the rumour—the memory of his crime pursued him. He was haunted by ghastly spectres which he tried to forget in wild excesses, but which no seas of claret would lay. Finally as he was riding recklessly down the steep downs, with the scene of his atrocity in sight, at headlong speed, the reins loose, his body swaying in the saddle, pale, wild-eyed, unkempt, the very picture of debauched and guilty recklessness, tearing from the Furies of the past, that past confronted him. The apparition of a babe burning in a flame barred his path. The horse reared violently at the supernatural sight. Darrell was violently thrown, and the wicked neck, which had escaped the halter by a bribe, was broken at last as it deserved to be.

Wild Darrell is remembered but as a name now, and as a name for all that is wicked. (Coaching Days & Coaching Ways, pp. 38-41)

Sir Walter Scott recounted this story in the notes to his narrative poem, Rokeby. (Free on Google, check out p. 400).

Littlecote House Hotel

Guess what? Not only can you visit Littlecote House, but you can stay overnight in the Tudor mansion, as Susana did recently at Chatsworth, Hever Castle, and Leeds Castle! Besides the house and gardens (and ghosts, perhaps?), there are remains of a Roman villa and a lovely mosaic as well. Check it out!

The Great Hall

The Great Hall

The garden of Littlecote House Hotel in Wiltshire

The gardens

Roman mosaic

Roman mosaic

Ruins of Roman Villa

Ruins of Roman Villa

The Bath Road: The (True) Legend of the Berkshire Lady

The following post is the first of a series based on information obtained from a fascinating book Susana recently obtained for research purposes. Coaching Days & Coaching Ways by W. Outram Tristram, first published in 1888, is chock full of commentary about travel and roads and social history told in an entertaining manner, along with a great many fabulous illustrations. A wonderful find for anyone seriously interested in English history!

dust jacket

Frances Kendrick: The Berkshire Lady


As we follow the Bath Road, Tristram recounts the story of Frances Kendrick, a nineteen-year-old young lady who is fortunate to be not only beautiful and gracious, but also very wealthy and, atypical for the time, retains full control of her life and her fortune. Not surprisingly, nearly every young man she meets falls in love with her and offers her marriage. Many of them are exceedingly eligible, but she turns them all down because she doesn’t reciprocate their feelings. Most young ladies would have felt under pressure to choose one, but Frances has no parents and thus no reason to do so.

Eventually, the rejected suitors get together and start a rumor that Miss Kendrick deliberately leads them on so that she can enjoy their misery when she refuses their offers of marriage. It is all nonsense done out of spite, of course, but it has the effect of nearly ruining her chance of finding true love.

Benjamin Child, Esq. is a workaholic, poverty-stricken barrister who also happens to be unpretentious and quite good-looking himself. Like all the rest, he is instantly attracted to the lovely heiress, and she to him, to the point where her rejected suitors decide to put a spanner in the works by taking him aside and telling him that Miss Kendrick is a soulless thief of hearts. Benjamin doesn’t like the idea of being considered a fortune-hunter anyway, so he takes off for London and tries unsuccessfully to forget about Frances Kendrick.

Poor Frances is heartbroken. She has finally found the gentleman of her dreams, and he doesn’t seem to share her feelings. After discovering the rumors being circulated about her, she is desperate to find a way to prove to him that her character has been unfairly tarnished and that she truly loves him. But how can she do that when he won’t come near her?


Fight me or marry me!

What she does sounds like a scenario in a historical romance, but it really did happen! Frances issues a challenge to Mr. Child to fight a mortal duel in Calcott Park (part of her estate). Despite the fact that the challenge gives no pretext for the duel, Mr. Child shows up and finds himself facing a masked, cloaked young lady with a sword who tells him in no uncertain terms that he can either fight her or marry her. By this time, he has discerned her identity and, pleased to find that she returns his feelings, agrees to marry her with a special license in St. Mary’s Church, Walgrave.

Prospect Park, the site of the famous (non) duel

Prospect Park, the site of the famous (non) duel

I love a good legend, and what a treat to discover it really did happen!

Frances Kendrick and Benjamin Child were married March 28, 1707 at St. Mary’s Church in Wargrave, as you can see for yourself in the parish register. When Frances died in 1722, her eccentric husband had her placed in a lead coffin shaped to follow exactly the lines of her body, which was laid to rest in the Kendrick family vault at St. Mary’s Church in Reading. (The coffin was found and examined in 1820.)

Benjamin sold Calcott House (although he later refused to move out of it and the new owner had to destroy the house to get him out of it), and later moved to a farm on the estate that he remodeled and became what is now known as Prospect House. It is here where the ghost of the Berkshire Lady is said to roam, seeking her true love.

Prospect Park Mansion House

Prospect Park Mansion House

You can read the famous ballad of the Berkshire Lady here. Even better, you can read an 1879 fictionalized version of the story by Katherine Sarah MacQuoid on Google here. (I heartily recommend it!) More details about the story behind the legend are here.

Through the tollgate: an example of the illustrations

Through the tollgate: an example of the illustrations in the book

Lily’s Leap: Téa Cooper

It’s all about the dress.

My heroines seem to spend most of their time galloping around on horses and getting themselves into all kind of scrapes. Their day-to-day clothes are very much based on those worn by some of the more notorious female characters of Australian history.

Mary Ann Bugg was the sometime wife of one of Australia’s more famous bushrangers, Captain Moonlight. Newspaper reports of the time describe her as looking like a young boy, wearing moleskin trousers, a thick shirt, a monkey jacket, knee length boots and a cabbage tree hat. The type of clothes a stockman of the day wore.

Both my heroines in Lily’s Leap and Matilda’s Freedom are fiercely independent women, born and bred in the Australian bush. Although Lily grew up with many of the privileges of wealth, Matilda is the daughter of convict parents.

Nevertheless, as we all know, at some point every girl needs a party dress.

After a week on the road with a motley crew of bushrangers Lily arrives at her aunt’s house in Sydney and she has to conform. I chose this example from the Powerhouse Museum Collection as “her” dress.

A few years later Matilda borrows it when she arrives in Sydney with only the clothes on her back after her family’s farm has been destroyed by fire.

It’s fun to slip a little bit of reality into a story.

This dress has an interesting history. It belonged to a Sarah Thomas. She brought it with her from England when she arrived in Australia with her husband as a free settler in the late 1830s.

Lily's Dress copy

Women’s day dress, 1840 – 1850 Collection: Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. Photo: Sue Stafford

Sarah Thomas was an interesting individual and obviously (like me) had a preference for checks! She made herself this skirt en route to Australia and wore it until her death in 1878 which, since she had ten children, is pretty amazing! You can find out more about Sarah, her story and her skirt here.

Tartan-skirt-895x1024 copy

Check taffeta skirt worn by Sarah Thomas, c. 1839 Collection: Tongarra Museum, Photo: Rebecca Evans

Excerpt from Lily’s Leap

Lily pushed back the blankets and peered around her in horror. The sun streaming in through the fine lawn curtains told her it was long past dawn and the time the horses should have been loaded. She reached her hand out to the pot of tea next to a cup on the bedside table. It was cold to the touch.

Shouting a string of curses she’d picked up from Jem, she scampered from the bed searching for her riding breeches, and failing to find them threw the checked silk taffeta dress over her head and shook her hair back while she fumbled with the mass of intricate buttons. With a pair of slippers clasped in her hands she ran down the stairs barefooted.

‘Good morning, Lily.’

She ignored her aunt’s greeting. Panic laced her chest tighter than the hurriedly fastened buttons of her unaccustomed dress. “The horses. Are we too late? They should have been loaded hours ago.”

And from Matilda’s Freedom

His blood warmed as she approached and he saw the way her breeches hugged the sculpted curves of her thighs.

‘Good morning. I hope I haven’t kept you waiting.’ She turned to greet the horses and threw a smile at him over her shoulder.

The outline of her buttocks as she turned away from him took his breath away. She was not even remotely self-conscious and looked more comfortable now than in the tartan dress she’d worn on the evening they’d first met. Her supple fingers caressed the neck of her bay mare, and the horse whinnied its approval.

Kit understood why.

Note: Matilda is helping celebrate Lily’s release, and for a short time, Matilda’s Freedom is only 99¢ on Amazon!

About Lily’s Leap

From Escape’s Queen of Australian historical romance comes a story about a privileged member of Australian’s squattocracy, a bushranger, and a very special horse.

Born into the rough, but privileged society of the Australian colonial landowners, Lilibeth Dungarven finds herself married, widowed, and, much to her distress, back under her father’s thumb, all before her twenty-first birthday. Determined not to forgo her dream of breeding the perfect racehorse, Lilibeth ignores propriety and sets out to restore the family’s flagging fortunes.

When Captain Tom and his mismatched band of bushrangers stumble across a mob of the best horses they’ve ever seen, and the daughter of the famed Dungarven horse stud, they know their fortunes have changed. Their catch is worth a king’s ransom. All they have to do is hold her for seven days. How hard can it be to control the pampered daughter of a colonial upstart?

 Harlequin EscapeAmazon Amazon.aus iTunes • Kobo


Forget work, forget all your responsibilities and slide into this delicious story … a well-written book by a talented writer … since I doubt I’ll be visiting Australia, it was a treat to feel like I was there, herding horses to market across the Australian Outback. The landscape assumes the position of a character in this exciting romance; playing a pivotal role in Lily’s adventure. A fabulous read by a very talented Aussie author … I have no hesitation in HIGHLY recommending Lily’s Leap.”


Hunter Valley, Australia 1848

LilysLeap_TeaCooper small copyLilibeth Dungarven’s cry of pure pleasure soared skywards as the massive black stallion rose to clear the fallen tree, sending the horrors of the last four years scuttling into the dirt of the ancient land.

Clenching her knees against Nero’s heaving flanks she bent low, ducking the overhanging branches framing the bush track, her cheek pressed to the warmth of his muscular neck. When the erratic pounding in her chest settled she drew Nero to a shuddering halt and pushed the damp curls back from her forehead.

A pair of black cockatoos, disturbed by her madcap gallop, shrieked their annoyance and resettled in the whispering casuarina trees. The crack of their beaks as they threw the mangled nuts to the ground filled the silence. Below her the ribbon of sandstone road weaved its way towards Payne’s Crossing and she shielded her eyes from the sun, searching for her mob of horses.

A glint of reflected sunlight drew her eye to a mounted figure in the middle of the road. Despite the hat pulled low shadowing his face, the stockwhip crack of his words registered deep in her belly.

‘Bail up! Guns down and off the horses.’

‘What do you think you…?’ Constricted by the tension in her throat her words petered out. No one would dare steal such a valuable mob of horses. They were branded. Everyone in the colony knew the Dungarven brand. To lose them was unthinkable. Years of breeding — the first pure Dungarven bloodlines. Months proving herself capable of managing the sale and the trip to Sydney. And now a hold up! It would not happen. Not if Lilibeth Dungarven had any say in the matter.

About the Author

TeaCoopersmall copyTéa Cooper lives in a stone cottage on one hundred acres of bushland, just outside the time-warp village of Wollombi, NSW Australia. When she isn’t writing, Téa can be found haunting the local museum or chatting to the locals, who offer a never-ending source of inspiration.

Lily’s Leap is Téa’s second Australian historical romance set in Wollombi. Her first, Matilda’s Freedom is available now.

In October, Jazz Baby, a 1920s rags to riches story set in Sydney will be released and in February 2015, Forgotten Fragrance, Book I of a family saga entitled From the Ocean to the Outback. At the moment she is working on a parallel time-line series called The Adventures of Miss Abigail Wynter. She has also written three contemporary romances.