Jude: Today, I’m here in Susana’s Parlour with Mary Pritchard, the heroine of Gingerbread Bride, which is my novella in the Bluestocking Belles’ holiday collection Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem.
Jude: Mary, you have had an unusual upbringing. Can you tell us little about where you grew up?
Mary: Pretty much everywhere, Jude. May I call you ‘Jude’? I do not wish to be disrespectful, but I feel that I know you well. I travelled with my father’s fleet wherever he was posted, so I grew up with the wide world on my doorstep.
Jude: It is surely not common for a lady of gentle birth to be raised by her father aboard ship.
Mary: Many people do not know how common it is for families to travel aboard with their fathers and husbands. Merchant captains often take their wives with them, at least until they have children of age for schooling, and many respectable women also travel with the navy, even though Admiralty Regulations frown on them being taken to sea.
Papa had just been made captain when he married Mama, and he and his new ship were posted almost immediately to South Africa. He did not wish to leave his new bride, so he simply took her with him. He thought, I imagine, that she would go home to live with his sisters, or her own, when she was with child.
I have heard the tale from him many times about how she refused point-blank to leave him, and so I was born aboard, and my father’s ship was my nursery and my playground. Mama died when I was small, along with my little brother. Perhaps another man would have sent me home then, but Papa could not bear to be parted from me, and so that is how I came to grow up with an entire shipload of sailors for my nursemaids and guardians.
Jude: You had an unusual education, then.
Mary: I did, indeed. Not only did I grow up learning geography and botany at first hand, as it were. My father also placed no foolish restrictions on the subjects I learned, in deference to some fable about the ‘female mind’. My succession of nursemaids, hired from the countries we visited, taught me the languages of the towns in which my father took lodgings. I learned mathematics and navigation along with the midshipmen. And various governesses saw to it that I studied the so-called ladylike accomplishments.
Jude: How restrictive London must have seemed when you arrived, Mary.
Mary: London Society is restrictive. So many rules! I suspect they are designed purely to pick out those who defy them or do not know them, so that the gossips and scandalmongers can enjoy their favourite sport of tearing apart other people’s reputation.
I am a great disappointment to my aunt. I would rather read and go to the museums than waste an afternoon at a fashionable event where the only entertainment is seeing and being seen. I enjoy pretty clothes, but I have no desire to spend my entire life dressing and undressing, or shopping for something new when I have a wardrobe full of perfectly suitable garments. And, above all, I will not marry her son, Viscount Bosville. I cannot like the man, and I am fairly certain that he does not like me, either.
Jude: You like Lieutenant Richard Redepenning, I say to Mary, and she flushes and presses her lips together. At first, I think she is not going to answer, but she takes a deep breath and shakes her head, so vigorously that her copper-coloured curls bounce.
Mary: The Lieutenant was my friend when we were children. One would think, would one not, that a friend could call upon another when they were in the same town? But he has been in London this two months, I have had no word from him.
At first, he was confined to bed. He was invalided home, you understand, after being injured by a falling spar. I wanted to go and see him at his sister’s, but my aunt would not allow it. The Rules, you know.
Then he began to go out in Society, and I thought ‘surely he will come to visit’. [She shakes her head again, and shifts in her seat to straighten her spine.] It would be more true to say, Jude, that I liked Lieutenant Redepenning once. I no longer know him.
About Gingerbread Bride
Travelling with her father’s fleet has not prepared Mary Pritchard for London Society. When she strikes out on her own, she finds adventure, trouble, and her girlhood hero, riding once more to her rescue.
Naval Lieutenant Rick Redepenning has been saving his admiral’s intrepid daughter from danger since she was nine and he was fourteen. Today’s greatest danger is to his heart. How can he convince her to see him as a suitor, and not just a childhood friend?
Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem: A Bluestocking Belles Collection
In this collection of novellas, the Bluestocking Belles bring you seven runaway Regency brides resisting and romancing their holiday heroes under the mistletoe. Whether scampering away or dashing toward their destinies, avoiding a rogue or chasing after a scoundrel, these ladies and their gentlemen leave miles of mayhem behind them on the slippery road to a happy-ever-after.
***All proceeds benefit the Malala Fund.***
Whatever those two were up to, it was time to stop it. Mary, with some effort, managed to push out the ornamental trellis that blocked the window. As it crashed to the ground, Rick stopped in his tracks, looked up at the tower, then turned and went hurrying back towards the house.
Bother. Was she going to have to rescue herself? But as she thought that, the top legs of a ladder appeared. Looking over the side of the tower, she saw Rick holding the ladder steady.
“Your stair awaits, fair princess,” he joked.
Dressed, or rather undressed, as she was? She looked back at the inside wall. Perhaps she could climb back down, and he could let her out. But she’d only just made the climb and her arms were still trembling; she wasn’t sure she could get back.
Rick was looking anxious. “Is there a problem?”
“Shut your eyes, please?”
His face cleared. “Of course.” And he screwed his eyes shut, rather more dramatically than she thought necessary.
The ladder made the descent easy, and she breathed a sigh of relief as first one foot, then the other, reached the ground. She stopped breathing altogether when Rick’s arms came round her waist.
“Do you have any idea what it does to me to see you clambering around a roof, Mary Pritchard?” he asked, holding her so tight she squeaked. He didn’t release her, but instead, bent his head to rub his cheek on her hair. “I’m confident you had an excellent reason, but I swear, I’ve aged ten years in the last five minutes.”
She had had a reason, but for the moment it escaped her. “Rick?” she asked.
He let her go, stepping backwards. “I beg your pardon. For a moment I… I take it you didn’t send the note your nasty cousin gave me?”
About the Author
Jude Knight has been telling stories all her life: making up serial tales to amuse her friends and children, imagining sequels to books that have moved her and left her wanting more, occasionally submitting short stories to magazines and the radio, starting more than a dozen novels set in different times and places.
She has devoted most of the last forty years to a career in commercial writing and raising a large family. She wrote and published her first historical romance in 2014, and now has the wind in her sails and a head full of strong determined heroines, heroes with the sense to appreciate them, and villains you’ll love to loathe.