Amy Rose Bennett: The Ice Duchess (Scandalous Regency Widows, Book 2)

In The Ice Duchess, my heroine, Georgiana, the widowed Duchess of Darby, prides herself on her ability to be a brilliant piquet player. Because of her past history—she suffered tremendous heartbreak at the hands of a scoundrel when she was a debutante—she became an adept player. She uses piquet as both a shield and a weapon during ton social events. In her mind, her fearsome card-playing reputation is a way to keep men, especially rakehells, at bay. Rather than converse, or worse still, flirt, she can just play cards. And it feels good to trounce the other player, particularly if he is a man!

Piquet was a popular card game during the Regency era and was often played at home, society events and even at the gaming table. A trick-taking game played by two players, it has quite a complicated scoring system. My hero, Lord Markham, and Georgie play several games during the story and as an author, it was quite a challenge to first of all, come to grips with the rules, and secondly, write the card playing scenes in a way that would be both entertaining and further the plot. I hope readers get a sense of the great strategy involved during the course of play as well as enjoy the banter between Georgie and Markham as both try to gain the ‘upper-hand’. And if any piquet experts out there read my story and find I haven’t got it quite right, I hope they’ll forgive me—it is a very tricky game to say the least!

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About The Ice Duchess

Georgiana Dudley, the ‘Ice Duchess’, has just emerged from mourning after a nine-year marriage of convenience to the Duke of Darby, her twin brother’s lover. Deeply hurt by a scoundrel a decade ago, Georgie swore she would never turn her head for any man, let alone another rakehell. But then she encounters the wickedly handsome and all too charming Rafe Landsbury, the Earl of Markham and against her better judgment, her interest is reluctantly aroused. An affair may be impossible to resist but dare she trust Lord Markham with her most intimate secrets… and her heart?

Society believes Rafe to be a diplomat but for many years he has been working on the Continent as a spy for the Crown. Leaving the shadowy world of espionage behind, he returns to London with the intention of finding a wife. When he is paired with the frosty yet fascinating Duchess of Darby at the piquet table during a ton ball, he is intrigued. Do-or-die man that he is, he’s certainly not going to let her cool demeanor dissuade him from pursuing her.

When Rafe’s dark past returns to endanger Georgie, he is determined to protect her at all costs, even if that means hiding who he once was. With the stakes so high, both Georgie and Rafe must decide if love is a risk worth taking…

Heat Level: Steamy to hot. This story is a Regency romance with open-door love-making scenes and frank language is used.

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Excerpt

To give you an idea of the game, I thought I’d share an excerpt from The Ice Duchess. In this scene, Georgie, and Rafe, Lord Markham, are engaging in a piquet re-match at the end of a dinner party. Both are skilled players and both are equally determined to put the other off their game by flirting, which is quite a novel thing for Georgie…

Whilst she shuffled, he deliberately raked her with an appreciative gaze, his eyes shamelessly lingering on her face, her delicious mouth and then her breasts. As he’d anticipated, color immediately rose to her cheeks. She glanced away from him, suddenly very interested in the cards in her hands.

Leaning forward a little, he drew her gaze to him again. “Because the rest of the company are otherwise engaged and we are still somewhat… alone,” he said in a low voice, “I thought I should take this opportunity to tell you how beautiful you look this evening, Your Grace.”

She affected a little laugh before she placed the cards on the table. Something hot and bright flashed beneath the cool blue of her eyes. Anger or desire, he couldn’t tell. “Heavens, you are full of compliments this evening, Lord Markham,” she said. Although she sounded a little breathless, she arched an eyebrow. “But you must realize by now that flattery will get you nowhere when it comes to playing. Only strategy will.”

Cutting the cards with a decided flip, she revealed the seven of clubs. Not good by any means. Her lips flattened, her displeasure clear.

“It would seem a modicum of good luck doesn’t go astray either,” Markham ventured with a wicked grin. He took his turn to shuffle and added, “I don’t know about you, Your Grace, but I’m feeling rather lucky tonight.” His cut revealed the knave of hearts. Although he wouldn’t have first choice from the talon in this first round, the advantage would be his in the sixth and final round of the partie. “I shall be the younger hand to begin with.”

“Of course. I wouldn’t have expected anything less.” The duchess observed him from beneath her eyelashes as he started dealing. “Playing with you again will be quite a romp I should expect, regardless of the outcome.”

The seductress was back. He couldn’t help but play the rake. “I can think of no lovelier woman to romp with than you, Duchess.”

This time, when she blushed, it was to the roots of her hair. There could be no mistaking what he meant by romp. He was a devil, but if she wanted to play with fire, she should expect to get a little burned.

Join Amy’s Release Day Party!

Friday, September 30, 2016 • 6:00 – 10:00 p.m. EDT

Guest Authors • Fun • Books • Prizes

https://www.facebook.com/events/944693238989915/

6-6:20pm EST- Amy Rose Bennett – Author
6:20-6:40pm EST- Susana Ellis
6:40-7pm EST- Jessica Cale
7-7:20pm EST- Nicole Zoltack
7:20-7:40pm EST- Jude Knight
7:40-8pm EST- Elizabeth Ellen Carter – Author
8-8:20pm EST- Sherry Ewing
8:20-8:40pm EST- Cerise DeLand
8:40-9pm EST- Amanda Mariel
9-9:20pm EST- Aurrora St. James
9:20-9:40pm EST- Gina Conkle, Writer
9:40-10pm EST- Amy Quinton

About the Author

AuthorPic copyAmy Rose Bennett has always wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember. An avid reader with a particular love for historical romance, it seemed only natural to write stories in her favorite genre. She has a passion for creating emotion-packed—and sometimes a little racy—stories set in the Georgian and Regency periods. Of course, her strong-willed heroines and rakish heroes always find their happily ever after.

Amy is happily married to her own Alpha male hero, has two beautiful daughters, and a rather loopy Rhodesian Ridgeback. She has been a speech pathologist for many years but is currently devoting her time to her one other true calling—writing romance.

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Susana’s Adventures in England: Arundel Castle

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Arundel Castle was established by Roger de Montgomery, a cousin of William the Conqueror, on Christmas Day in 1067 after he was given one-fifth of Sussex and the title of Earl of Arundel in return for his agreement to defend it. The castle was damaged in the English Civil War and restored in the 18th and 19th centuries. It has been the principal seat of the Dukes of Norfolk for almost 400 years.

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Stone apartments constructed for the Empress Matilda’s visit in 1139 still exist today.

The 11th Duke of Norfolk held a large party at Arundel in 1815 to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. Architect Frances Hiorne built a folly on the hill above Swanbourne Lake.

Hiorne's Tower (Folly)

Hiorne’s Tower (Folly)

Queen Victoria, when she and Prince Albert visited on 1 December 1846, did not appreciate the 11th Duke’s attempts at renovations, calling it “bad architecture.” Consequently, the 15th Duke, upon his inheritance of the Castle, carried on a “massive and scholarly renovation” of the entire house between 1875 and 1900, except for the library. This included carefully restoring the remains of the Norman castle.

The Keep

The Keep

During the second world war, the Castle was occupied by British, American, and Commonwealth troops right up to the 1944 D-Day landings.

The present 18th Duke lives in a private wing with his family. He had his wife, along with the Castle Trustees, have restored and redecorated the whole interior to its Victorian magnificence, as well as improved the visitor facilities. The gardens have been upgraded to match the historic authenticity of the Castle.

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On exhibit at the Castle are nearly all of the family’s collection of art and historic archives, including many brought from Worksop and Norfolk House.

For more photos of Arundel Castle, check out my Pinterest Page.

Valuing Vanessa: Griswold Finds a Home (Giveaway)

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Holly and Hopeful Hearts

When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?

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Griswold’s Story

from Valuing Vanessa

The second morning of their visit dawned sunny and unseasonably warm, so Louise and Blanche and her cousins Alice and Celia decided to explore the extensive grounds. Miss Grenford recommended that they stay within view of the house for the morning, but that the head groom should be able to provide mounts for them in the afternoon if they wished to go beyond.

There really was much to explore, Louise discovered. The fountains were drained for the winter, but the classic statuary was much to be admired.

“Mee-ouw!”

Louise stopped in her tracks, finding herself underneath a large beech tree.

“Mee-ouw!”

Casting about for the source of the sound, her eyes finally made out the presence of a small gray and white kitten on a branch about ten feet off the ground.

“Meee-ouww!” The kitten seemed to be demanding to be rescued.

“You’ve quite a shrill voice for such a tiny creature,” said Louise. “Not very sensible, are you? You might have thought you were brilliant to have managed to climb so high, but what now? Too afraid to come down again, are you?”

“Meee-ouww!”

“I believe that kitten is screaming at you,” said Blanche, as she reached Louise’s side.

Louise grinned. “I believe you are right,” she said, “a cheeky bit of fur, don’t you think?”

“There are half a dozen or so kittens running around the house and gardens,” said Alice. “I wonder if Papa will let me have one.”

“Well, you can’t have this one,” Louise said, at the same time tying up her skirts between her legs. “He found me, and I’m keeping him, so long as the duchess allows it.”

“She’s going to climb the tree!” said Celia. “I hope she doesn’t get stuck up there with the silly kitten,” she added with a chuckle.

Louise pulled herself up to the lowest branch, and carefully got to her feet while clutching the upper branch where the kitten was perched with her hands.

“Here, kitty.”

griswold2The kitten didn’t budge, but stared at her with its clear gray eyes.

“Well! You asked to be rescued, didn’t you? Here I am.”

“Mee-ouw!”

“What a silly fellow you are!” Louise reached over and carefully plucked the kitten off the branch. But as soon as she brought him close to her chest, he dug his claws into her coat, which was not quite thick enough to absorb them.

“Ouch!” she complained. “You are going to have to learn some manners, you know. Scratching someone upon first acquaintance is quite improper.”

One hand firmly supporting the kitten, she leaned her back against the trunk of the tree and slowly slid down to a sitting position on the lower branch, then hopped down to the ground.

“Now, let’s have a look at you. What a pretty little fellow you are!”

On top he was charcoal gray with striped ears and legs and a white throat and underbelly.

He seemed to be content to rest in her arms and look up at her with his curious eyes.

“I think he likes you,” said Alice.

“Of course he does. She just rescued him,” said Blanche. “Are you really going to keep him, Louise? I wonder I could have one too. Let’s go back to the house and find the rest of them.”

“I want one too,” said Celia.

“Don’t be silly,” chided her sister. “You have two cats at home.”

“Not in London. And they aren’t kittens anymore either.”

Duke’s daughters, thought Louise, shaking her head as she walked across the lawn with her kitten in her arms.

“Griswold,” she said. “His name is Griswold.”

“Are you sure it’s a boy?”

Louise frowned and turned the kitten over to check its white underbelly. “How can you tell?”

Blanche ran her finger down the kitten’s nether regions. “It’s a boy,” she pronounced. “Hello Griswold. Pleased to meet you.”

And for the remainder of the house party, Louise and Griswold were inseparable.

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Valuing Vanessa

Facing a dim future as a spinster under her mother’s thumb, Vanessa Sedgely makes a practical decision to attach an amiable gentleman who will not try to rule her life.

The last thing widower George Durand thinks he wants is another wife, but his difficult daughter is proving difficult to handle. In any case, the admirable Miss Sedgely is far too young for him.

A love match is not even a remote consideration for these two. Or is it?

Kitten Giveaway

Griswold’s twin is looking for a home. Check out the Rafflecopter link to enter the contest to be his new human.

Donna Hatch: Courting the Countess

In England, dueling was part of a long-standing code of honor, far beyond mere tradition. Gentlemen took their dueling very seriously; they would rather die than be dishonored. Does your heart go pitter patter just at the sound of that? I admit, at time, mine does. How many men that honorable do you know? Okay, maybe we’d call it misplaced pride, or an overdeveloped sense of vengeance, but hey, that was a different world with a different set of rules. And yeah, I’m glad they don’t do it these days.

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By the Regency era, dueling was outlawed. However, duels still happened more frequently than many people knew. The problem was, because courts were made up of peers, they were reluctant to charge another peer with murder as a result of a duel. There is a case where one nobleman was charged with murder and tried, but used the defense that his behavior was gentlemanly and honorable, meaning that he acted within the proper code of conduct. He was acquitted by his peers.

If they were socially equal, or at least similar, the gentleman who was offended would tell the man who’d wronged him that he should choose his “second,” a close friend or family member who would look out for his best interests. If he was really incensed, he might slap him with his glove, but that was considered extreme and beneath gentlemanly behavior, as it was the ultimate insult and probably resulted in a fight then and there.

The procedure for issuing a challenge was very specific. A gentleman never challenged a social inferior. For instance, a gentleman of significance with ties to the aristocracy or nobility would never challenge a commoner, such as a blacksmith or a farmer. Also, if there was a significant age difference, the duel would not be extended.

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After the verbal challenge–or perhaps warning would be a better word–was issued, depending on the severity of the offense, the other might have a choice; he could either apologize, or he could accept. Sometimes, the apology would not be accepted, often if there were a third person who’d been wronged such as a lady’s honor. (Okay, call me crazy but that almost makes me want to swoon.)

The next day, supposedly after heads had cooled, the wronged man who wished to duel would send his “second” with a written letter challenging the duel. The other may chose to apologize or accept the challenge. If accepted, he would choose swords or pistols and name the time and the place. In my humble opinion, swords was a more more gentlemanly way to duel. If they used pistols, they only used one shot which seems too much like cold-blooded murder. I’m sure they didn’t always shoot to kill, but there was some unwritten rule about the shot purposely going wide and that being bad form. *shrug*

When the allotted day arrived, they met, probably in a remote place where they wouldn’t be caught by the law, and the seconds inspected the weapons to be used. A final opportunity for an apology could be given. If not, the seconds decided if the duel should be fought to (a) first blood, or (b) until one can no longer stand, or (c) to the death. Once that was decided, the opponents dueled and the seconds watched to insure that nothing dishonorable happened.

If during a duel fought by swords, one of the duelers becomes too injured to continue, occasionally the second would step in and duel. Sometimes, the seconds were hot-headed or very angry (loyal?) and ended up dueling each other as well. To my knowledge, this never happened if the duel were fought with pistols.

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As horrible as it sounds to our modern selves, these gentlemen took their honor very seriously, and considered death preferable to living with the label of a coward, a label that would follow them and their families for years.

And, maybe it’s me, but there a certain romance about a gentleman brave enough and protective enough to be willing to risk death defending my honor from another man who’d besmirched it?

A duel is what leads to all the trouble for my hero in my Regency Romance novel, “Courting the Countess” and causes events he wishes desperately he could change, especially when the duel goes awry and causes pain to an entire family.

I’m sure glad my husband isn’t likely to try dueling…

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Available for pre-order on Amazon

About Courting the Countess

When charming rake Tristan Barrett sweeps Lady Elizabeth off her feet, stealing both her heart and a kiss in a secluded garden, her brother challenges Tristan to a duel. The only way to save her brother and Tristan from harm—not to mention preserve her reputation—is to get married. But her father, the Duke of Pemberton, refuses to allow his daughter to marry anyone but a titled lord. The duke demands that Elizabeth marry Tristan’s older brother, Richard, the Earl of Averston. Now Elizabeth must give up Tristan to marry a man who despises her, a man who loves another, a man she’ll never love.

Richard fears Elizabeth is as untrustworthy as his mother, who ran off with another man. However, to protect his brother from a duel and their family name from further scandal, he agrees to the wedding, certain his new bride will betray him. Yet when Elizabeth turns his house upside down and worms her way into his reluctant heart, Richard suspects he can’t live without his new countess. Will she stay with him or is it too little, too late?

Pre-order now on Amazon for Kindle.

About the Author

donna-2013-copyDonna Hatch, author of the best-selling “Rogue Hearts Series,” is a hopeless romantic and adventurer at heart, the force behind driving her to write and publish seventeen titles, to date. She is a multi-award winner, a sought-after workshop presenter, and juggles multiple volunteer positions as well as her six children. Also music lover, she sings and plays the harp. Though a native of Arizona, she and her family recently transplanted to the Pacific Northwest where she and her husband of over twenty years are living proof that there really is a happily ever after.

Mary Hampson: A Story of Domestic Violence

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Mary Hampson

Her Story of Marital Abuse and Defiance

in Seventeenth-Century England

by Jessica L. Malay

Amazon

A video interview of Ms. Malay

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The legal state of coverture

According to English law, after marriage, a woman was “covered” by the legal identity of her husband, meaning that everything she owned belonged to him. An independent wife was seen as a threat to marital harmony; therefore, it was better for the entire family if her rights and assets were entrusted to him. While the intent of this law was to ensure marital harmony, it often had the opposite effect if a marriage turned bad.

The early years

Mary Wingfield was seventeen when she married Robert Hampson, a twenty-nine-year-old lawyer from a prominent family who seemed to have a bright future. Mary’s late father had left her a jointure, a sort of “insurance policy” for the future, that was specifically designed to be hers and not transferred to her husband after marriage.

Robert Hampson’s father had invested heavily in the purchase of fenlands in East Anglia, which was expected to pay off handsomely after the lands were drained and the rich farmlands uncovered. Before his death, he directed Robert to sign an agreement to pay his sisters two thousand pounds as their share of the bonanza. Unfortunately, there were no rich farmlands uncovered, but Robert was still on the hook for two thousand pounds, which he did not have.

This situation—and Robert’s inability to get control of Mary’s jointure—was the inciting incident of the troubles between the two.

The marriage appeared to be satisfactory for the first few years. It wasn’t until Robert’s sisters started clamoring for their inheritance that things went wrong. Robert convinced Mary that she must sign her jointure over to him in order to keep him out of jail. She was only nineteen, though, and the judge refused to do it. Robert brought in a merchant who was willing to accept the deal, along with a signed statement from Mary, which she gave him, believing she was keeping her husband out of jail. Her maternal uncle, however, insisted that Robert give her another jointure—of fenlands and the house they lived in—so that Mary would still have an “insurance policy” of sorts.

The violence begins

As Robert’s financial woes continued, Mary eventually discovered the truth, and took him to task for his deceptions. He responded by putting her in lodgings with very little financial support and disappearing for weeks at a time on his legal circuit. A very pregnant Mary had to beg assistance from her mother, and wasn’t shy about protesting this treatment when Robert returned. She states in her pamphlet that he struck her on the breast, and then abandoned her until the child was born.

Soon after, Mary decided to go to France, upon a recommendation from a doctor. Robert agreed to give her thirty pounds for six months, which was a pittance, but Mary did have her family jewels. Until Robert demanded the jewels and the deed of her new jointure. She refused. He waylaid her trunk trying to find them, unsuccessfully, since she had them on her person, but he did get the deed. Once she was gone, he told everyone she had deserted him.

Upon her return to England, Robert’s first reaction was to throw her out of his residence. Then began a series of attempts to get her to sign away or sell some of her property. When she refused, her locked her in the home and tried to starve her until she would accede to his demands. Then he tried to throw her out so that he could charge her with abandonment. When she stood her ground, he put a pistol to her throat. A day or so later, he beat her so badly some folks from outside came to the door to protest.

Mary’s life was a misery. She discovered that her maid was being bribed by Robert to tell her lies about her mother’s health, so she dismissed her and hired a new one. After her mother’s death, Robert sent someone to her mother’s house to collect everything he could, saying that Mary had no right to anything. Mary got away with a few things, but not her mother’s will, which left her everything. It disappeared. Her mother’s maid testified falsely that the will she witnessed left everything to her son-in-law Robert.

After Mary’s mother’s death in 1669, Robert started selling her mother’s property and moved out of the house, abandoning his wife. Mary, afraid to leave for fear of being locked out, tasked her maid with selling some of the household goods for money to live on. Upon discovering this, Robert charged the maid with theft (since he owned everything), and the maid went to prison.

The legal battle begins

Mary’s pleas to the church leaders were decided in her favor. Robert was excommunicated and ordered to give her five pounds a week, which he never did. Mary’s attempts to seek justice from the legal system were long and drawn-out, at least partly because of Robert’s connections. According to her, he bribed judges and paid witnesses to counter her claims and besmirch her reputation. In the end, Mary resorted to writing her story and having it printed in a pamphlet that made the rounds of London and won her a handful of supporters.

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The courts eventually agreed that the marriage was over, and the couple better off separated, and awarded Mary alimony of a hundred pounds of year, which meant that the struggle between them was doomed to continue, as Robert would go to extreme lengths not to pay it, forcing her to find allies to help her make him pay. Mary went to live in France to try to escape from it all, but Robert made use of that by telling everyone she was dead and trying to steal her inheritance from her uncle, supposedly for her daughters.

Mary’s losses

Mary’s daughters—unsurprisingly since they had resided almost entirely with their father—sided with him, along with Elizabeth’s husband Charles Bill, in these legal battles. Their relationship never recovered, not even when Robert died in 1688, because Mary refused to give up her efforts to regain her inheritance from her uncle.

Although Mary gained the support of some influential people, including Mary and William Montagu, her reputation as a gentlewoman was irretrievably lost. No doubt that is why she chose to live on the continent at various points in her life—Europeans were much more sympathetic to an Englishwoman’s plight, and marital separations were not considered scandalous.

In the end, she chose to live with a mother and daughter, Mary Opaven and her daughter Mary, in the parish of St. Brides, London. Even after her death in 1698, the legal battles continued, as Mary bequeathed her property to the Opavens, and her daughters contested the will.

The other side of the story

The existence of a boatload of court documents filed on behalf of Mary and Robert, as well as their daughters and son-in-law, enables us to consider these events with more than just Mary’s assertions. Robert admitted to beating Mary, taking her property, keeping her children from her, throwing her out of the house, and refusing to pay maintenance for her, although he had his own version of the events to tell. But did he try to kill her? Did he hire a spy (Everard) to make false accusations of her conduct when she lived abroad? The evidence is inconclusive.

Through these legal documents we are given one final glimpse into Mary Hampson’s life, so often filled with conflict, poverty, and at times real danger. Her estrangement from her daughters and the loss of her social position reveal the inability of social institutions to protect women in troubled marriages. The actions of Robert Hampson, Charles Bill, Edmund Everard, and even William Baker illustrate how men could use legal and state institutions to protect their own interests at the expense of the vulnerable, especially women. There is little to respect or admire in the stories of any of these men, at least in their behavior toward Mary Hampson.

Cover Reveal: Holly and Hopeful Hearts by the Bluestocking Belles

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About Holly and Hopeful Hearts

When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?

A Suitable Husband, by Jude Knight

As the Duchess of Haverford’s companion, Cedrica Grenford is not treated as a poor relation and is encouraged to mingle with Her Grace’s guests. Surely she can find a suitable husband amongst the gentlemen gathered for the duchess’s house party. Above stairs or possibly below.

Valuing Vanessa, by Susana Ellis

Facing a dim future as a spinster under her mother’s thumb, Vanessa Sedgely makes a practical decision to attach an amiable gentleman who will not try to rule her life.

A Kiss for Charity, by Sherry Ewing

Young widow Grace, Lady de Courtenay, has no idea how a close encounter with a rake at a masquerade ball would make her yearn for love again. Can she learn to forgive Lord Nicholas Lacey and set aside their differences to let love into her heart?

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Artemis, by Jessica Cale

Actress Charlotte Halfpenny is in trouble. Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and out of a job, Charlotte faces eviction two weeks before Christmas. When the reclusive Earl of Somerton makes her an outrageous offer, she has no choice but to accept. Could he be the man of her dreams, or is the nightmare just beginning?

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The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, by Jude Knight

James must marry to please his grandfather, the duke, and to win social acceptance for himself and his father’s other foreign-born children. But only Lady Sophia Belvoir makes his heart sing, and to win her he must invite himself to spend Christmas at the home of his father’s greatest enemy.

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Christmas Kisses, by Nicole Zoltack

Louisa Wycliff, Dowager Countess of Exeter wants only for her darling daughter, Anna, to find a man she can love and marry. Appallingly, Anna has her sights on a scoundrel of a duke who chases after every skirt he sees. Anna truly thinks the dashing duke cares for her, but her mother has her doubts.

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An Open Heart, by Caroline Warfield

Esther Baumann longs for a loving husband who will help her create a home where they will teach their children to value the traditions of their people, but she wants a man who is also open to new ideas and happy to make friends outside their narrow circle. Is it so unreasonable to ask for toe curling passion as well?

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Dashing Through the Snow, by Amy Rose Bennett

Headstrong bluestocking, Miss Kate Woodville, never thought her Christmas would be spent racing across England with a viscount hell-bent on vengeance. She certainly never expected to find love…

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Coming November 8.

Eight original stories, 578 pages of diverse characters,  complex relationships, and happily-ever-afters for $2.99.

Pre-order Now!

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Excerpt from Valuing Vanessa

“Are you certain it is not an imposition, Miss Sedgely? Because I shouldn’t mind showing the ladies around myself, in Mrs. Seavers’s absence.”

Vanessa’s chin rose as she directed a firm gaze at the institution’s housekeeper. “I assure you there is no imposition whatsoever, Mrs. Barnes. I shall be pleased to guide the ladies on their tour this morning, as Matron directed.”

Mrs. Barnes flushed. Obviously she considered the task her own prerogative, but Vanessa had not taken the trouble to get the hospital matron out of town just to be foiled by the housekeeper.

“But what about your class, Miss Sedgely? The children do so look forward to them! Why, they will be exceedingly disappointed to miss them today.” She leaned in closer, her eyes gleaming. “I hear that little Willie had prepared a special passage to read for you. He is quite partial to you, you know.”

Vanessa refused to allow herself to be diverted, in spite of the tiny twinge of guilt she felt deep inside. “My maid has agreed to take my classes for today. She has assisted me previously, you know, and thus is well-known to the children.”

She gave a curt nod to the housekeeper, who took it as the dismissal it was meant to be, and walked out of the room.

The Board of Governors were conducting a meeting in a quarter hour’s time, and Vanessa had taken great pains to find a reason to be lingering in the foyer as the gentlemen arrived. It was Mr. George Durand she wished to encounter, of course. During the week since the masquerade at Vauxhall, she had unearthed a great deal of information about the attractive gentleman.

George William Durand was the grandson of a viscount, his late father being the younger son, who had made law his profession. Durand’s cousin William had become the 4th Viscount Faringdon five years ago following his father’s death, and he had four healthy sons to follow him, which meant the title was unlikely to fall to George. George had followed his father into the law profession, although interestingly, he had briefly studied landscape gardening with one of Capability Brown’s former associates. That ended after his marriage, however, when young George set himself to becoming a successful solicitor like his father. His wife, Geneviève d’Aumale, was a French émigrée, the daughter of a comte who had lost his head on the Place de la Concorde at the hands of revolutionaries. She, her sister Juliette, and their mother the comtesse had lost their lives in a carriage accident which had arisen from an attack of highwaymen.

So dreadful. Life was so ephemeral. In a matter of minutes, three ladies’ lives had been snuffed out in such a horrific manner, leaving their husbands to bear the loss as best they could. And their adolescent daughters, of course. Both Durand and Lord Nicholas had daughters, approximately the same age. And perhaps not surprisingly, both had been residing with relatives since the tragedy. Men were notoriously helpless when it came to their maturing daughters. But in retrospect, Vanessa thought it rather pitiable that the girls had effectively lost both parents in that one disastrous moment.

One thing was certain, however. A well-off gentleman with a near-grown daughter was clearly in need of a wife. And Vanessa thought she might suit this one very well indeed.

Alina K. Field: Bella’s Band (Giveaway)

Thank you, Susana, for hosting me today! This month I’m celebrating the second anniversary of the release of my Regency novel, Bella’s Band. This tale is romance and adventure in almost equal measures, with a murder mystery thrown into the mix. I’m giving away a Kindle copy of the book to one lucky commenter.

One of the pivotal scenes in Bella’s Band takes place during a perilous journey by coach through the English countryside, and the need for more information about Regency travel led me to an amazing work of nonfiction, English Country Life 1780-1830, by E. W. Bovill. I opened the book and plunged head first into the research rabbit hole: hunting, turnpikes, enclosures, highwaymen, servants, house parties, poaching, rioting and the birth of rail—there is much detail in this book to please both authors and readers of Regency romance!

For example, those familiar with travel in this era know about postilions, or postboys, the men who “steer” traveling chaises from one posting inn to the next by riding them. Bovill tells us that at a large inn, there would be one postboy to every four horses, and the postboys paid the inn’s horsekeeper, as much as eighteen pence a week each. Bovill says, “The postboy, who was seldom young and often a rather decrepit old man, had usually started life in a gentleman’s stables and come down in the world.” That certainly clashes with my image of a boy, perhaps a teenager, riding post.

As it turned out, my heroine, Annabelle Harris, has no need for postboys. She flees from the hero in a wealthy friend’s private coach with a coachman, a maid, and two little boys, on a perilous Christmas Eve journey. When the coachman falls ill at a stop, a new man steps in and her troubles begin.

Or perhaps I should say, begin anew! An earlier carriage ride, this one in London, is also fraught with peril for Annabelle (see excerpt below).

A random commenter will win an e-copy of one of Alina’s books.

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About Bella’s Band

Bullets, blades, and incendiary bombs—Major Steven Beauverde, the latest Earl of Hackwell, belongs in that world, and is determined to get back to it. His brother’s murder has forced Steven into a new and completely unwanted role, and worse, he has no idea how to salvage his family’s depleted estate. A rumor that his brother had a son by a woman who may be a) the murderer, and b) his brother’s secret wife, sets Steven on a mission to find her, the boy, and—Steven ardently hopes—the proof of a marriage that will set him free.

Confirmed spinster Annabelle Harris is a country heiress with a penchant for taking in orphans and helping the downtrodden. Her philanthropy hides her desperate search for her disgraced sister, the mistress to the Earl of Hackwell. When the Earl is murdered, her sister thrusts her child into Annabelle’s care and disappears. Now, with suspicion pointing at the sister, Annabelle has begun a new quest, to find the woman, and clear her name.

When their paths converge, the reluctant Earl and the independent spinster find themselves rethinking their goals, and battling the real murderer together.

Amazon

Excerpt

Surprise pinned Annabelle to the cracked leather seat of the carriage and finally her heart restarted and picked up its pounding.

“Good evening, my lady.” Lord Hackwell flashed her a wide, easy smile that made his face glow like a boy who had pulled a very fast one.

The shock eased. She realized she felt not one whit of fear.

“Is this an abduction, Lord Hackwell? I have never been abducted before. Shall I scream with alarm? Do you mean to harm me?”

His smile disappeared and his face grew too serious. “I mean to protect you, Miss Harris. This is an escort. I mean to see that you return home unharmed.”

“I see. Unharmed, except for the besmirching of my reputation. Shall we appear in the scandal sheets tomorrow, do you suppose?”

“In this bourgeois neighborhood? I think not. Unless, the man who helped you into the hackney is someone of interest?”

Oh, he was prying, and she was so tempted to lead him on. But of course, she had Robby to think about. “Very much so. He is my solicitor. He asked me to dinner to counterbalance his wife’s inquisitive aunt who is visiting from the country, and curious about all things criminal, political, and financial. The poor man has difficulty balancing his client’s confidentiality with his need to be polite to his children’s future benefactress. She is wealthy, I believe.”

“So he set her on you. And how did you maintain your secrets, Miss Harris?”

“We spoke of my home.”

“Which is?”

A ribbon of sensation uncurled in her secret places. The space between her and Lord Hackwell had shrunk, and his dark eyes showed more than an interest in her pedigree. Her nerves tingled with the anticipated pleasure of a repeat of the earlier kiss.

I must not.

“Yorkshire,” she said, as blandly as possible. “I grew up on a good-sized estate there.”

“Do you plan to take Robby there?”

Sudden tears pricked her eyes and she turned quickly to the window. Robby and Thomas would have loved Ryeland. With acres and acres of freedom and kind neighbors, they could have played for hours and had adventures that didn’t involve cutpurses and the Watch.

“Miss Harris?”

“No, Lord Hackwell. My family home was entailed. The cousin who inherited, I’ve only met once, at my father’s funeral.” And his invitation to linger had been merely perfunctory. Besides, staying in the district of her childhood would beg questions about Veronica.

“So you had no brothers. Is your mother living?”

He hadn’t asked about sisters. That was curious. Perhaps he suspected her relationship with Miss Miller was more than a friendship, and was coming to the question, inch by torturing inch.

“You are dancing again, Lord Hackwell. It is ever so tiresome. Let us get you to the facts. I am the eldest surviving child of Edward Harris, who died two years ago. I had a brother, who died many years before. I have a younger sister who has found a position and made a life with a distant cousin in Scotland. My mother has been gone since I was eighteen. I am twenty-seven years old now. I never had a coming out, because my father took ill, and needed me to manage the estate.”

His eyes widened and he went very still, examining her. The air around them seemed charged with a kind of explosive tension.

Oh heavens. He was finding fault with the country spinster. The gown was from her mourning two years previous, outdated of course, and she felt her hair slipping again, and she’d never been one to effect powders and pigments. “Yes. Well—”

You managed an estate?”

“Astonishing, isn’t it?” She waved a gloved hand in the air, and he captured it.

He dropped a kiss on her knuckle. “And you managed the household also?”

“Yes, of course.”

“And you don’t care for dancing?”

“I enjoy dancing very much, though my experience is limited to our local assembly. I have not been to a ball in so many ages, and never a town ball.”

“No Almack’s.”

She could only laugh at that and shake her head. She receive a voucher for Almack’s? Ridiculous.

“No waltzing, Miss Harris?” His manner remained intense.

“Sadly, no, Lord Hackwell, I have never waltzed.”

He straightened in his seat and his eyes looked ahead. “But you have counted ploughs,” he said thoughtfully.

Tears pricked again, suddenly and unexpectedly. What a dismal woman she was. Too plain, too proper, too practical. Alone in a closed hackney with a devastatingly handsome man, and they were talking about farm equipment.

Never had she felt more desire to be younger, prettier, more daring. This must have been how Veronica had felt.

Her heart filled with compassion and grief. “Ye—yes. Ploughs. Very important they’re correctly deployed. Fate of the tenants’ crops and the estate’s income depends upon them.” She sniffed.

“What’s this?” His large ungloved hand covered her smaller ones, enveloping her in his warmth. “I’ve distressed you?”

She shook her head and tried to compose herself.

“Of course I have, my dear. I’ve reminded you of your lost home.”

“It is fine, sir. My current home is—is not the best, but it is mine, and I can afford to move to something better if the neighborhood deteriorates further. You needn’t worry about Robby. I will give him a good life. Not, perhaps, an aristocratic one, but—”

“Shall I tell you about myself, Miss Harris? Yes. I believe I must.” He cocked his leg on the seat so he sat sideways, and extended his hand to caress the back of her neck. The other remained squarely over her folded hands. “I am twenty-nine. The younger son of the Earl of Hackwell. The very, as it has turned out, needful spare. My mother was the second of two wives. She died not long after I was born. My father sent me off to be fostered, then off to Eton, and then to university for a very short while. I’m not much of a scholar. I landed in the army, where I found I could do something of worth.”

His mouth had grown taut and his hand had tightened over hers, so that she could feel his tension.

“Thomas, the late, great, Lord Hackwell, aside from one lengthy grand tour, was kept close under the paternal wing and learned the business of managing the earldom, standing in the House of Lords, and immersing himself in society. From the state of the accounts, it was the last activity that drew most of his interest.”

He let his fingers caress her neck, distractedly, as though the gesture comforted him, like petting a favorite hound.

Comforting to him; deliciously unsettling to her. Pleasure rippled through her at each touch. She held her breath, lest his fingers pause too long in his search for his next words.

“I can bow properly and make reasonably polite conversation, but I was never much good in a ballroom or drawing room, Miss Harris. Still, like every gentleman with a purse, I had my share of immersing myself in pleasure. Here, and on the continent.” He lapsed into a momentary dark silence. “Not so much since my return.”

“You fought at Waterloo?”

“Yes. And before, on the peninsula.”

And before that too, at every step of his motherless, fatherless life, she’d warrant. As in the children’s game she played with the boys, Annabelle drew out a hand from the pile and pressed his between hers.

And her heart skipped with a realization. Lord Hackwell had no family except Robby.

She felt his eyes fixed on her. He drew her head closer and she could smell his woodsy clean scent, so intensely male. The carriage passed by a street lamp and into a dark stretch, and she could no longer discern the outline of his face.

Her heart tingled and her breath came in short little huffs of anticipated pleasure.

“Annabelle,” he whispered. “What do they call you? Anna? Belle?”

She tensed remembering her chat with Lady Rosalyn.

“It is Belle. How very appropriate.” He kissed her hand.

“Bella,” she whispered. “And not appropriate at all. How did you learn my name?”

“Bella.” He breathed her name in a brandy-laced murmur. “The maid at the Harley Street house gave me your last name. And by the way, she worships you.”

Dear Trish. Annabelle pushed at the seat and squirmed, with no success. He still held her fast.

“I’ve found that servants know everything and talk prodigiously.” He dropped a kiss on her nose.

Annabelle bit back a disagreement and stilled. In a properly run household, gossip was squashed. The poor man had never lived in a properly run household.

His lips hovered over her and she waited. He’d kissed her nose. Perhaps he’d been aiming for her mouth and missed. She wanted one more kiss. She would be safe. In a carriage on a public street, he wouldn’t attempt to take more.

***

Steven held himself an inch away from her lips. Her nose had been cold, but heat radiated between them, holding them in a warm cocoon. She smelled of plain soap and faint lavender. There was nothing cloying about Miss Harris. He’d breached a line of defense with the use of the pet name. Bella. She wanted him to kiss her.

Not yet. Not yet. She was lovely, and innocent, and perfect. He was known for his quick thinking under duress, and he’d made up his mind. He would do this honorably. He was not his brother. It would not be a seduction.

“Bella, you are right that we should dispense with the dance. You are right that we should speak to the point, and so I will. I think you and I, we should wed.”

What?” She jumped a full inch from the seat before settling back.

About the Author

Alina K. Field copyAward winning author Alina K. Field earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and German literature, but she found her true passion in reading and writing romance. Though her roots are in the Midwest, after six very, very, very cold years in Chicago, she moved to Southern California and hasn’t looked back. She shares a midcentury home with her husband and a blue-eyed cat who conned his way in for dinner one day and decided the food was too good to leave.

She is the author of the 2014 Book Buyer’s Best winner in the novella category, Rosalyn’s Ring, a Regency novella, the novel-length sequel, a 2015 RONE Award finalist, Bella’s Band, both Soul Mate Publishing releases, and a prequel novella, Liliana’s Letter, a 2016 National Reader’s Choice Award finalist.

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