Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles: Téa Cooper and The Caper Merchant

Truth is Often Stranger Than Fiction

I have to admit to being in two minds about the Beaux, Battles & Ballrooms project when Susana asked me if I would like become involved. Not because I have anything against Regency romances or the Duke of Wellington for that matter. Generally I write Australian historical romances – oz-itoricals as they are sometimes called. This would be very different.

Apart from anything else I didn’t even know if there had been any Australians at the Battle of Waterloo and I wanted a link to Australia. I knew that many Waterloo veterans had settled in Australia after the battle but had any Australians fought at Waterloo?

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Battle of Waterloo

I started digging around and imagine my delight when I discovered that there was one, and only one Australian at the Battle of Waterloo.

His name was Andrew Douglas White. He didn’t become the hero of my story, The Caper Merchant, but I felt it gave me license to involve an Australian.

And so the fictitious Samuel Blue, the hero of The Caper Merchant, was born. He inherited some of the irreverent, larrikin aspects of the Australians I have come to know and love.

But let’s leave fiction for a moment and let me tell you about Andrew because, as always, truth is stranger than fiction!

Andrew Douglas White was born in Sydney Cove in 1793 when the Australian colony was only five years old, the bastard son of a convict mother. His father, John White was chief surgeon on the expedition to establish the convict settlement at Botany Bay. His mother a convict, Rachel Turner, sentenced to seven years transportation for the theft of some clothing. She arrived in Sydney Cove in 1790 and served her sentence as Surgeon White’s housekeeper.

Sydney 1796

Sydney 1796

In 1794 the married John White returned to England but continued to support Rachel and his Australian son. In 1800 Andrew, then aged six and a half, was sent to England to join his father, step-mother and half-siblings.

Andrew was educated in England and joined the Royal Engineers as a second lieutenant in 1812. He went to Flanders in late 1813 as part of the British force and remained there serving as a junior officer on the Royal Engineer Staff at Waterloo. He survived the battle unscathed and returned to England to receive his Waterloo medal in 1816.

But the story doesn’t end there.

In 1823 Andrew returned Sydney and to the mother he could barely remember. The reunion was obviously a successful one, as he gave her his most prized possession, his Waterloo medal. She treasured it until her death.

Needless to say Andrew’s story set my mind racing and I’m currently working on a story called The Great Platypus Hoax—nothing to do with the Battle of Waterloo but it seemed such a shame to waste all the wonderful stories I had unearthed.

And Susana, thank you for your invitation to join in this great project. It’s been a fascinating ride!

Photos: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

 

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June 18, 1815 was the day Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grande Armée was definitively routed by the ragtag band of soldiers from the Duke of Wellington’s Allied Army in a little Belgian town called Waterloo. The cost in men’s lives was high—22,000 dead or wounded for the Allied Army and 24,000 for the French. But the war with Napoleon that had dragged on for a dozen years was over for good, and the British people once more felt secure on their island shores.

The bicentenary of the famous battle seemed like an excellent opportunity to use that setting for a story, and before we knew it, we had nine authors eager to join in, and on April 1, 2015 our Waterloo-themed anthology was released to the world.

You are all invited to

About The Caper Merchant

The moon in Gemini is a fertile field of dreams, ideas and adventure but when the Dark Lady wanes into solitude and looks to the shadows life can take an unexpected turn.

For Pandora Wellingham the astrological predictions couldn’t be more fortuitous, especially if they enable her to spread her wings and escape the domineering control of her godparents. When Monsieur Cagneaux, caper merchant to the rich and famous, introduces her to the handsome dragoon, she believes her stars have aligned.

Career soldier Samuel Blue has lived much of his life in the shadows embroiled in the cloak and dagger world of ciphers and intelligence. It is during such a mission on behalf of his country that he meets the beautiful Pandora and inadvertently compromises her. But no matter how much he yearns to remain longer to secure the affections of the stargazing girl who has captivated his heart, Samuel has no time to dream of love and happy endings. He has information to deliver that may prove vital in the upcoming confrontation in Belgium.

Samuel’s journey takes him from the ballrooms of Grosvenor Square to the battlefield of Waterloo, with the sinister caper merchant dancing hot on his heels to prevent him from completing his mission. The stakes are high, and now that Pandora is in the picture, they’ve mounted even higher.

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Excerpt

The evening of Thursday, 8th June 1815

Grosvenor Square, London

“Dora, are you touched or simply playing the fool?”

Pan-dora. My name is Pandora.

“I believe you are doing this on purpose. Since your father’s death you have done everything in your power to make my life a misery.” Aunt Audra’s reddened nose disappeared behind a pathetic scrap of lace. “What are we to do?” The peacock feathers attached to her over structured hair wilted in sympathy. “Everyone saw you. It is scandalous, simply scandalous.”

“Just a dance,” Pandora muttered under her breath. A waltz—nothing more than a waltz. It wasn’t as though they were the only couple on the dance floor.

A muted squawk of horror burst from Aunt Audra. “You hadn’t been introduced.”

In actual fact they had, although not in the manner Aunt Audra would have preferred. From all the fuss and commotion it appeared no one knew very much about Captain Samuel Blue other than the obvious. Tall, exceptionally good looking with his loose black curls and startling blue eyes, and from his dress uniform and the easy length of the body inhabiting it, a cavalry officer.

“When I suggested you enter the marriage mart I did not, in my remotest dreams, imagine you would disgrace yourself with the nearest available young man.”

Stifling a yawn, Pandora moved to the window and gazed out onto the terrace and the gardens where couples strolled along arm in arm. The sky, an inky velvet cape, arched above the vista. Soon the moon would rise. The new moon in Gemini. Her moon. A time of promise and rebirth.

Not if Aunt Audra had any say in the matter. “I have no idea what we are going to do.” She wrung her hands performing an admirable impersonation of Lady Macbeth.

Pandora clenched hers and restrained the desire to cover her ears. She knew what she would like to do. Somehow now didn’t seem the best moment to suggest repeating the entire waltz all over again. The dizzying sensation when he’d put his arm around her waist and drawn her to him before sweeping her across the room still made her pulse pound. Distinctly more scintillating than any of the dance lessons she’d received from the odious Monsieur Cagneaux.

With a crack like gunshot the door flew open. “What is all this nonsense?” Her uncle rested his vast bulk against the timber panels, preventing interruption.

Pandora sucked in a steadying breath. No one would be coming to her rescue. An entire battalion would find it difficult to dislodge him.

“I hope, young lady, you are feeling suitably ashamed.”

She swallowed back an honest response and bowed her head. Aunt Audra’s tears were an almost daily occurrence and easily ignored. However her godfather, the esteemed Lord Harold Smotherington, in full flight, commanded her full attention.

“Well?”

She lifted her shoulders and offered a conciliatory smile.

“Don’t you shrug at me, you silly little chit. Whatever possessed you?”

Aunt Audra emitted another strangled sob and dabbed ineffectually with her sodden handkerchief.

“For goodness sake, Audra, pull yourself together. I have made arrangements. Someone must institute recompense.”

Made arrangements? Recompense? What in heaven’s name had happened?

Our Stories

Jillian Chantal: Jeremiah’s Charge

Emmaline Rothesay has her eye on Jeremiah Denby as a potential suitor. When Captain Denby experiences a life-altering incident during the course of events surrounding the Battle of Waterloo, it throws a damper on Emmaline’s plans.

Téa Cooper: The Caper Merchant

The moon in Gemini is a fertile field of dreams, ideas and adventure and Pandora Wellingham is more than ready to spread her wings. When Monsieur Cagneaux, caper merchant to the rich and famous, introduces her to the handsome dragoon she believes her stars have aligned.

Susana Ellis: Lost and Found Lady

Catalina and Rupert fell in love in Spain in the aftermath of a battle, only to be separated by circumstances. Years later, they find each other again, just as another battle is brewing, but is it too late?

Aileen Fish: Captain Lumley’s Angel

Charged with the duty of keeping his friend’s widow safe, Captain Sam Lumley watches over Ellen Staverton as she recovers from her loss, growing fonder of her as each month passes. When Ellen takes a position as a companion, Sam must confront his feelings before she’s completely gone from his life.

Victoria Hinshaw: Folie Bleue

On the night of the 30th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, Aimée, Lady Prescott, reminisces about meeting her husband in Bruxelles on the eve of the fighting. She had avoided the dashing scarlet-clad British officers, but she could not resist the tempting smile and spellbinding charm of Captain Robert Prescott of the 16th Light Dragoons who— dangerously to Aimée— wore blue.

Heather King: Copenhagen’s Last Charge

When Meg Lacy finds herself riding through the streets of Brussels only hours after the Battle of Waterloo, romance is the last thing on her mind, especially with surly Lieutenant James Cooper. However, their bickering uncovers a strange empathy – until, that is, the lieutenant makes a grave error of judgment that jeopardizes their budding friendship…

Christa Paige: One Last Kiss

The moment Colin held Beatrice in his arms he wanted one last kiss to take with him into battle and an uncertain future. Despite the threat of a soldier’s death, he must survive, for he promises to return to her because one kiss from Beatrice would never be enough.

Sophia Strathmore: A Soldier Lay Dying

Amelia and Anne Evans find themselves orphaned when their father, General Evans, dies. With no other options available, Amelia accepts the deathbed proposal of Oliver Brighton, Earl of Montford, a long time family friend. When Lord Montford recovers from his battle wounds, can the two find lasting love?

David W. Wilkin: Not a Close Run Thing at All

Years, a decade. And now, Robert had come back into her life. Shortly before battle was to bring together more than three hundred thousand soldiers. They had but moments after all those years, and now, would they have anymore after?

About the Author

TeaCoopersmall copyBest-selling Australian author Téa Cooper lives in a stone cottage on one hundred acres of bushland, just outside the time-warp village of Wollombi, New South Wales. Although Téa was born and raised in England the majority of her books, both contemporary and historical, are set in Australia, the country she now calls home. When she isn’t writing Téa can usually be found haunting the local museum or chatting to the locals, who provide her with a never-ending source of inspiration. She is a member of Romance Writers Australia and Hunter Romance Writers and is a 2014 finalist in the Australian Romance Readers Awards for her historical romance, Jazz Baby.

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