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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.

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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.

Jude Knight: A notorious woman visits the Parlour

Rebecca, Lady Overton prefers to be out of the public eye. Before she consented to join her author for tea in Susana’s Parlour, she extracted a promise that this interview would not be published until more than 200 years in her future.

“I have had notoriety and notice enough for a lifetime, Jude,” she says. “You saw to that.”

Becky is right. As the Rose of Frampton, treasured mistress to the notorious Marquis of Aldridge, she was whispered about (but not acknowledged) the length and breadth of polite Society. It is no consolation to her that I was only doing my job, nor that I did not know anything about her history when I started. I thought to write a cheerful romp about a dissolute rake, not a story about how a woman with few choices nonetheless made the best ones she could, and eventually won her way to a happy marriage and a secure family.

She does not wait for an answer to her remark. “And you are still doing it,” she scolds. “This latest start of yours has spread my story to countries that did not even exist when I was alive. That smug look does not make me feel better, you know!”

I wipe the grin off my face. I have been posting A Baron for Becky on Wattpad for months, one chapter a week until it was completed. In the past month it has taken off, garnering hundreds of reads every day. I am particularly thrilled that 15% of my reads are from India, another 10% from the Philippines, and more than 50% overall from countries in Africa and Asia where I do not normally sell books.

“You have to admit,” Becky continues, “it is not at all a light, frothy read. Girlhood trauma? Years of suffering? Two heroes, Jude, and neither of them particularly heroic seen in a certain light.”

“It is a story of resilience, Becky. You survived, and eventually you thrived. And both your first hero and your second helped with that. More than they hindered, I am sure you will agree. Did you know that Susana, our hostess today, has a story on Wattpad that is actually called ‘Resilience’? You might enjoy meeting her heroine. You have some sad circumstances in common.”

“Ah,” Becky says. “Betrayed into a brothel, was she? Poor girl.”

“It comes right in the end,” I sooth. “After all, we write happy endings, Susana and I.”

Becky’s speaking look states her opinion as loudly as words. Perhaps that which does not kill you makes you stronger, but the memories and the scars remain, giving a dark underpinning the future happiness. I dream that people who have had their choices torn from them will find hope and the courage to find new choices by reading stories about heroines like Becky. But pain endured and overcome is still pain.

“We are about to start posting a new book, Mari Christie and I,” I tell Becky, hoping to change the direction of her thoughts.

It works. “Mari Christie? She writes as Mariana Gabrielle, does she not? She created my dear friend Kali. Is the book about her?”

“No, indeed. This is something different. Never Kiss a Toad is about the romance between Aldridge’s daughter Sal and his friend Wellbridge’s son David. The first part goes up next Friday.”

About Never Kiss a Toad

Never Kiss a Toad copyDavid “Toad” Northope, heir to the Duke of Wellbridge and rogue in the mold of his infamous father, knows Lady Sarah “Sal” Grenford, daughter of the once-profligate Duke of Haverford, will always hold his heart. But when the two teens are caught in bed together by their horrified parents, he is sent away to finish school on the Continent, and she is thrown into the depths of her first London Season.

Can two reformed rakes keep their children from making the same mistakes they did? The dukes decide keeping them apart will do the trick, so as the children reach their majority, Toad is put to work at sea, learning to manage his mother’s shipping concern, and Sal is taken to the other side of the world, as far from him as possible.

How will Toad and Sal’s love withstand long years of separation, not to mention nasty lies, vicious rumors, attractive other suitors, and well-meaning parents who threaten to destroy their future before it has begun?

To be published in weekly instalments on Wattpad, alternating between Mariana Gabrielle’s page and Jude Knight’s.

Jude Knight

Mariana Gabrielle

(Mariana Gabrielle is also posting Royal Regard, in which you can read about the fraught and beleaguered courtship of Toad’s parents, and Jude is posting stories from her collection Hand-Turned Tales.)

About A Baron for Becky

BfB cover final small copyBecky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde – the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.

Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?

The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn’t want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.

When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.

Follow A Baron for Becky on Wattpad, or purchase while it is on sale for 99c

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About the Author

Jude Knight copyJude 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 (most recently as grandmother-in-residence while a daughter was out of action for three years). She and her own personal romantic hero, with whom she has shared those forty+ years, now live with two cats and frequent visitors in a small town in rural New Zealand.

Judy 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.

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Jude Knight: Gingerbread Bride (Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem)

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 Pritchard

Mary Pritchard

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.

Knight - Gingerbread Bride - Rick Redepenning3

Lieutenant Richard Redepenning

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.

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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.

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***All proceeds benefit the Malala Fund.***

Excerpt

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 copyJude 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.

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Strange happenings in Hyde Park: a Bluestocking Belles cross-post

Today on Susana’s Parlour, Jude Knight and I have something special: a stand-alone short story with two characters from the Bluestocking Belles’ holiday box set, Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem. Mary, the heroine of Jude’s story, Gingerbread Bride, meets Agatha Tate, Lady Pendleton, the mother of Julia Tate, the heroine of my story, The Ultimate Escape. In this episode, Lady Pendleton is just returning from a two-week journey into the twentieth century. Yes, she is a time-traveling Regency lady (who has appeared on this blog on several occasions in the past).

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Agatha Tate staggered backwards as her feet touched the ground until, unable to reclaim her balance, she toppled over onto the soft grass at Hyde Park.

“Wh-at?” She put a hand to her aching temple and tried to regain her bearings. “Where am I?”

Agatha Tate, Lady Pendleton

Agatha Tate, Lady Pendleton

She opened her eyes and could see a vague image of a young girl in front of her. A girl who had likely seen her materialize out of nowhere, she realized as her wits were restored to her. Good heavens! How was she going to explain something was… well… unexplainable?

The girl—a young woman really, Agatha could see as her vision cleared—stepped forward, blinking rapidly. “May I help you?”

“Uh… who are you?” Agatha asked, her head still throbbing. “How long have you been there?”

Agatha pulled herself up into a sitting position and cast about for her shopping bag, which had landed in a nearby bush. “Oh my, can you get that for me, my dear? I need to change my attire before anyone sees me.”

She was still wearing her animal print leather jeans and denim jacket, which was certain to startle an inhabitant of London in 1799. Of course, she should have changed to her original clothing prior to leaving the twentieth century, but she’d been so stricken by the need to see her family again that she’d collected her bag, pulled out the stone, and uttered the gypsy’s spell before the thought could occur to her.

“Well, before anyone ELSE sees me. I shouldn’t want to cause a scandal.”

Mary Pritchard

Mary Pritchard

The bemused young lady fetched the bag and handed it to her. Agatha could see that her bright red hair was tousled and she seemed to be short of breath.

“Mary Pritchard, ma’am, at your service.” The young lady curtseyed politely.

“A pleasure to meet you, Miss Pritchard. Please allow me to introduce myself. I am not usually so rag-mannered, but since we have met in such unconventional circumstances…. Oh dear, there I go again! I am Lady Pendleton. My husband is Lord Pendleton, of Wittersham.”

“I am pleased to make your acquaintance, my lady.” She glanced at their surroundings, and returned her gaze toward Agatha with a reassuring smile. “We are hidden here, I think. I will keep a lookout un case Viscount B… in case anyone comes this way while you are changing.”

Agatha smiled, feeling a bit sheepish. “How very kind of you, Miss Pritchard. I was just about to ask if you would do me that small favor.”

She took the bag behind a bush and began to tug at the tight leather jeans. “Oh, I know I shouldn’t have had that last Big Mac,” she groaned.

Upon seeing the look of bewilderment on Miss Pritchard’s face, Agatha rolled her eyes. She already had a great deal to explain to the kind young woman. She’d better watch her tongue from her on in.

She coughed. “I’m afraid I’ve been over-indulging during the past fortnight. I hope my old clothes will still fit.”

“Have you traveled far?” Miss Pritchard asked politely.

Agatha grinned. “You could say that, I suppose.”

A crashing further back in the woods startled them, particularly Miss Pritchard, whose hand went to her chest as she turned toward the origin of the sound. She appeared frightened out of her skin.

Lady Pendleton pulled her yellow morning gown over her head. “Are you well, my child?”

I’m the one who has traveled 200 years and she’s the one who looks white enough to be a ghost.

“I… ah… you must wondering, ma’am, at my being here without an escort. That sound is, I think, my escort. If he finds me, would you be kind enough to say I am with you?”

The poor girl was trembling! Agatha stepped out from behind the bush and folded the girl into her embrace. Why she looked to be only a year or two older than her own daughter Julia!

“Your escort… attacked you? How did that happen?”

After a brief moment, Mary returned her embrace. She was a brave one—or perhaps foolish—to trust a complete stranger, particularly under these circumstances.

“I refused his proposal, and he thought to force me. I… ah… punched him in… ah… I distracted him and ran.”

What are Miss Pritchard’s parents thinking to allow her to be escorted by such a villain?

Miss Pritchard bit her lip. “I do not know what to do. If I tell my aunt, she will say that we must marry, and I would rather throw myself into the Thames than marry a man who only wants my money.” She sighed. “Actually, I would rather throw him into the Thames.”

Agatha straightened up. “This… this… Boswell won’t harm you as long as I’m here, my child.” She grinned. “The Serpentine is a great deal closer. Will that do instead, do you think?”

No. 42, Grosvenor Square, the Pendletons' London home

No. 42, Grosvenor Square, the Pendletons’ London home

She turned her back. “Hurry, do me up and we’ll away from here. I live in Grosvenor Square; it’s not too far.”

The girl chuckled and hastened to oblige. Agatha gathered her discarded clothing and stuffed them into the bag, realizing she would have to keep on her twentieth century boots since she had left the old ones behind.

“Ma’am, I could not help but notice the manner of your arrival and your attire. Would you think me impertinent if I asked where you came from?”

Agatha swallowed. What to say? Perhaps she could avoid the question… a little while longer.

“It’s a long story. What concerns me most at the moment is what your parents could have been thinking to leave you alone with such a rogue.”

Miss Pritchard sighed. “I came to live with my aunt when my papa died. The rogue is her son, I am afraid. She is as keen to have the inheritance my papa left me as her son is.”

Agatha’s nostrils flared. “How disgraceful! Clearly, she is not a fit guardian. Is there no one else who can offer you protection, my dear?” She pressed her lips together. “My husband and I don’t hold with arranged marriages. Not for our three daughters, or for anyone else, if it can possibly be helped.”

800px-Hyde_Park_London_from_1833_Schmollinger_map

She set a fast pace toward the Grosvenor Gate. She wasn’t about to allow this scoundrel to make off with Miss Pritchard under any circumstances, but it would be best if they avoid a direct confrontation.

“He doesn’t even want me,” her young charge burst out. “I heard him tell his friends that he would park me in the country while spent my lovely money!”

As they approached the gate, Agatha paused and looked cautiously behind her for any sign of a pursuer and sighed with relief at not seeing one. Followed by a moment of uncertainty. The more she thought about her own family and how they must have worried about her disappearance, the more eager she was to hurry home and beg their forgiveness. On the other hand, she wasn’t sure she was quite ready to confront them—particularly not her husband George. In any case, she couldn’t abandon this poor little dove to her mercenary aunt and odious cousin. What to do? What to do?

“I’ve got it,” she said. “Tea!”

“Tea would be very welcome,” said Mary. “I have no wish to go home until I decide what to do about beastly Bosville.”

Agatha knew of a delightful little bookshop on Mount Street that served tea, which frankly she had not enjoyed half so well during her travels into the future.

“Let us have a brief respite at my friend Mrs. Marlowe’s bookshop,” she suggested. “She is very cordial and serves the best tea and biscuits in Town.”

Mary’s face brightened. “I know it!” Mary said. “She has an excellent range of books.”

Suddenly she moved to one side, putting Agatha between her and the carriageway, where a dark-haired dandy was driving a phaeton at a furious pace out of the gate and into the street beyond.

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“Forgive me,” she said, “I am not usually so nervous, but that was my cousin, and I would rather he did not see me at present. Although,” she added, “I suppose it is silly of me, for what could he do in all this crowd? And I will take care not to be alone with him again, you may be sure.”

Agatha shook her head. “He looked very angry. It’s best to avoid a confrontation. Let’s away to Mount Street and refresh ourselves while we plan our strategy.” She was thinking “strategies”, because she had to come up with one for her own situation as well.

The bookshop was as busy as ever, with several customers waiting their turn at the counter. Mary led them up the stairs to the tearoom, where little tables invited friendly conversation.

tea table

“Lady Pendleton, I hope you do not think me rude, but I could not help but notice your attire when you—er—arrived. And—it cannot be true, can it? You seemed to appear out of nowhere!”

Agatha blanched. A more prudent woman would not have considered confiding her situation—as strange as it was—to a young girl such as Mary, but then, Agatha had never been known for her prudence.

“I’ll have a cup of Bohea,” she told the waiter. “And some strawberry tarts if you have them. What would you like, my dear?”

“Souchong, please,” Mary said. “And strawberry tarts sound wonderful.”

After the waiter had departed, Agatha turned to Mary. She might as well get it over with. “When you saw me earlier today, I was wearing clothing from the twentieth century. I-uh- was visiting there for the past two weeks. I suppose you might call me—a sort of time traveler.”

Agatha’s hands were clammy. It sounded so ridiculous to say such a thing, and she wouldn’t have believed it herself if she hadn’t experienced it firsthand. But she was going to have to say it again—soon—to her husband, so she’d best get over her fears now rather than later

Mary opened her mouth and closed it again. “How marvelous,” she said at last. “I have traveled much of the world, but to travel in time? How wonderful!” She sat up straight in her chair, her eyes widened.

“Marvelous, yes, it is at that,” Agatha agreed. “Quite fascinating. An amusing and rather unconventional manner of escaping one’s problems. But now… I find myself having to face them after all.”

Mary nodded. “Running away does not solve things. Though it can win you time to find a solution.”

Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of the tea. Agatha poured for both of them.

teapot

“You are wise for your age,” she commented as she passed her the plate of tarts.

Mary smiled. “Thank you, ma’am. I am on my own, you see, and must think for myself. And I am of age, though I know I look younger. My youth is a great disadvantage. Were I older, I could move to my own residence, and no one would be in the least scandalized.” She sighed.

Agatha leaned in and lightly stroked Mary’s arm. “I have three daughters at home. Julia, my eldest, is fourteen. I have missed them all so much, and my husband most of all. But I needed time to reflect on my situation, and knew my mother and aunts would only tell me to go back to my husband.”

Lady Julia Tate (at age 27)

Lady Julia Tate (at age 27)

She shook her head. “Marriage is not something to be rushed into. My George and I married for affection and fell in love later. And for the most part, we have rubbed along very well. I never thought he would turn into a—despot.” She winced, knowing in her heart that George was not a despot. Someone had wounded his pride. That holier-than-thou William Wilberforce, who despised some of her political friends because he disapproved of their morals.

Mary grimaced. “But are you going home now?”

Agatha’s mouth went dry and she took another sip of her tea.

“I am,” she said. “I must. I cannot abandon my daughters. Or my husband.”

“Of course not,” Mary agreed.

“But George must know that I won’t have a despot for a husband. While women do not have the sort of freedoms in this century that they will have in the future,”—she saw Mary’s eyes widen in surprised—“we do have options, and he must surely know I would not hesitate to take some of them, undesirable though they would be.”

She licked her lips with cautious hope. “If I know my George, though, he has long ago forgotten his anger amidst his concern for my absence.” She smiled as she imagined a tender reconciliation between them. She felt a sense of calm.

Taking the last sip of tea, she set her cup down. “It appears that my path is quite clear. I must return home and have a serious discussion with my husband. As for you, my dear, I wonder if you haven’t any other relatives you could appeal to, since clearly these Bosvilles are not suitable.”

Mary’s face brightened. “I wonder that I did not think of that! Yes, indeed! I have three more aunts, though I have not met them. Papa said I was to come to London. He thought Aunt Bosville might help me to find a husband.” Her color deepened, her fair skin showing her embarrassment. “I find I am not in the fashionable mode, however. Being raised on a naval ship does not prepare one to talk nonsense, and faint, and be ridiculously frilly and the like. And then…” she gestured at her bright red hair and freckles, “there is how I look.”

Agatha raised an eyebrow. “I see nothing amiss with your appearance. Your coloring may not be the fashion this year, but it does not prevent you from having an appeal of your own. Indeed, my eldest daughter is flame-haired and freckled, and I am quite certain she will grow into her own beauty when she past the tomboy phase.” She grinned. “Red hair is quite popular in the twentieth century. I observed that many of the younger ladies had deliberately colored their hair red, or at least a portion of it.” She frowned. “Of course, there were also shades of blue and green that I could not like at all, but that was the way of things—or will be, I should say. Society is so much more liberated in the future.”

Mary leaned forward. “Lady Pendleton, do you think… Could you tell me how you came to travel through time? Could I do it?”

Agatha wrinkled her brow. “Oh no, my dear! I think it would be quite ill-advised for someone so young to venture off into a completely different world. You may be certain I will not breathe a word of it to any of my daughters, at least not until they are old enough to have learned to resolve their problems rather than try to avoid them. No indeed, dear Mary, we must find a rather more conventional solution to your dilemma.”

“I am familiar with adventures, Lady Pendleton. I have been in a number of tight spots in many parts of the world. Though I have needed rescue from time to time, and I suppose I cannot expect Rick—Lieutenant Redepenning—to follow me two hundred years into the future.”

Now this was a promising development. “This Rick-er-Lieutenant Redepenning… you say he has come to your rescue in the past? Sounds like a delightful young man. The two of you appear to have a great deal in common. Is he eligible, do you think?” She winked. “I must confess that I would like to see my daughter Julia make a match with Oliver, who lives next door to us in Wittersham. They have been close friends forever.” She sighed. “Although it remains to be seen how well they deal with each other as adults.”

“Things can certainly change when one grows up, Mary sighed. “We were good friends when we were younger, but now… Lady Pendleton, a friend would visit a friend, would he not? If he were in London, and she were in London? A lady cannot call upon a gentleman, after all. Aunt would not even allow me to send a note! At first he was recovering from his injury, but he has been seen about Town these past six weeks and has not been to see me.” She sighed again, more deeply this time. “No, eligible or not, Rick the Rogue is not interested in plain Mary Pritchard.”

Then she brightened. “I will go to my aunts in Haslemere, Lady Pendleton. I will make the arrangements today.”

“Do you need a place to stay before you leave, Miss Pritchard?” Agatha patted her hand. “You would be welcome, if you think your return to Lady Bosville’s house would put you at risk.”

Mary shook her head. “I am quite sure that is not necessary, my lady. My cousin is unlikely to dare anything further. If he should return home, that is. He often stays away for days at a time.”

“I do hope that is the case, dear. However,” she added in a maternal tone, “Do not neglect to hire a post chaise, and your own outriders. You have a maid who can accompany you, I take it?”

“The public coach goes straight through to Haslemere, where my aunts live. Yes, I do believe it is the perfect solution. Thank you for your counsel, Lady Pendleton. And best of luck with your own reunion. I am certain your family will be over-the-top excited to have you back again!”

I hope so too, Agatha thought. In any case, it was time she found out. She rose from her seat and reached for Mary’s hand.

“It was a great pleasure to meet you, Miss Pritchard. My sincere thanks for your assistance in the park earlier. I can trust on your discretion, I suppose?”

At Mary’s nod, she clasped Mary’s shoulder. “I wish you well on your journey. And if you need any further assistance, please send for me at Grosvenor Square. Number forty-two.”

And the two of them departed the bookshop to face their own separate destinies.

Click here to read the story from Mary Pritchard’s point of view.

Click here for more information about Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem.

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The Bluestocking Belles: Mistletoe, Marriage & Mayhem

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The first joint volume of the Bluestocking Belles—seven Christmas novellas about runaway brides—will be released on November 1, 2015. We’re excited! It’s currently running #12 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases, and if you order it now, you’ll have it on your device by November 1 at only 99¢.

100% of royalties go to the Malala Fund. Find out more here.

About Mistletoe, Marriage & Mayhem

All She Wants for Christmas

Amy Rose Bennett

A frosty bluestocking and a hot-blooded rake. A stolen kiss and a Yuletide wedding. Sparks fly, but will hearts melt this Christmas?

The Ultimate Escape

Susana Ellis

Abandoned on his wedding day, Oliver must choose between losing his bride forever or crossing over two hundred years to find her and win her back.

‘Tis Her Season

Mariana Gabrielle

Charlotte Amberly returns a Christmas gift from her intended—the ring—then hares off to London to take husband-hunting into her own hands. Will she let herself be caught?

Gingerbread Bride

Jude Knight

Travelling with her father’s fleet has not prepared Mary Pritchard for London. When she strikes out on her own, she finds adventure, trouble, and her girlhood hero, riding once more to her rescue.

A Dangerous Nativity

Caroline Warfield

With Christmas coming, can the Earl of Chadbourn repair his widowed sister’s damaged estate, and far more damaged family? Dare he hope for love in the bargain?

Joy to the World

Nicole Zoltack

Eliza Berkeley discovers she is marrying the wrong man—on her wedding day. When the real duke turns up, will her chance at marital bliss be spoiled?

Under the Mistletoe

Sherry Ewing

Margaret Templeton will settle for Captain Morledge’s hand in marriage, until she sees the man she once loved at the Christmas party she presides over for her would-be betrothed.

Available now for pre-order price of 99¢

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About the Bluestocking Belles

The Bluestocking Belles’ books carry you into the past for your happy-ever-after. When you have turned the last page of our novels and novellas, keep up with us (and other historical romance authors) in the Teatime Tattler, a Regency scandal sheet, and join in with the characters you love for impromptu storytelling in the Bluestocking Bookshop on Facebook. Also, look for online games and contests and monthly book chats, and find us at BellesInBlue on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Come visit at http://www.BluestockingBelles.com and kick up your bluestockinged heels!

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The Bluestocking Belles’ Guide to a Good Time

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Jude Knight: A Baron for Becky

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Aldridge Interviews His Creator

by Jude Knight

In the rush to launch A Baron for Becky, this past month I’ve given the study no more than a flick with a duster and a lick and a promise from the vacuum. Every surface is covered with papers and books. The Marquis of Aldridge looks out of place, prowling the limited space between the clutter, the two computer stations, the stack of printers, and the bookshelves.

I can’t mistake him, though. This invention of my overactive mind is actually here, in the 21st century, in my work room, tipping his head to read the book spines, and picking up the pair of copper seals on the window ledge.

Aldridge

Anthony Grenville, Marquis of Aldridge

He is such a peacock, with his highly embroidered waistcoat, the jewelled pin placed just so in a cravat knot of his own devising, the pantaloons and coat fitting so tightly to to every muscled inch of him that my mouth goes dry. I have been happily married for forty-three and a half years, but I am neither blind nor dead, and anyone can admire the conformation of a fine thoroughbred.

What is he doing here? One of my friends had a similar visit when she offended a character by not knowing how to pronounce his name, and I must admit to providing Aldridge with plenty of reason to be annoyed with me.

“Good morning, Aldridge.”

He quirks one corner of his mouth, the signature half-grin I’ve seen so many times in my imagination. “So this is where you make us all,” he says.

“Here, on the way to and from the office, sitting up in bed, out in the lounge,” I tell him. I write all my first drafts on the iPad, which goes everywhere with me. And even when I’m not writing I’m often thinking about little bits of dialogue or ways to solve plot issues, or details of character background.

He nods as if I’ve said all that aloud. “We never leave you alone, do we?” His warm voice is sympathetic.

“Take a seat, Aldridge,” I suggest, but he shakes his head.

“There is only the one chair, ma’am,” he points out. True. I work at a standing desk and the room is small, so the only chair is the one my husband uses at his workstation. And Aldridge, whose manners are impeccable, would never sit while I remain standing.

“Fetch a chair from the next room,” I tell him, and he brings in a dining room chair, which he turns back on to the seat I’ve now taken and straddles, resting his elbows on the curved wooden top rail.

I return to his question. “You never do,” I agree. “You, in particular, Aldridge. This latest book was not on my publication schedule, but you insisted.” I have around 40 plots roughly sketched covering 20 years in the fictional world that Aldridge inhabits, and A Baron for Becky was not one of them.

He dismisses my complaint with a casual wave. “You are pleased with this book,” he reminds me. “And it is not my book, anyway. It is very much Becky’s book.”

This is true, but it was Aldridge who bothered me until I began writing. And his presence in the book is not inconsiderable.

“Is there something I can do for you, Aldridge?” I asked.

He widens his eyes, cocks his head to one side, and straightens his lips to look sincere. “I thought it would be nice to visit.” His guileless look wouldn’t fool me even if I had not made him. I raised six children. I know when someone is trying to feed me a line.

“You have some questions?” I ask.

I see the calculation in his eyes as he considers, and the moment when he decides to come clean; the relaxation of tiny muscles around the eyes and mouth, the sudden warmth in the gold flecks that lighten the brown of his eyes.

“How long do I have to wait?”

I know what he is asking, but I’m not sure what I can safely answer. It wouldn’t do to give him information he could use to avoid the stories to come. I had better find out what he already knows. “What year are you in, Aldridge?”

“1810, ma’am. The wedding was last week.”

Edward Archer by Andrew Plimer, 1815 copy

Anthony Grenville, Marquis of Aldridge

Ah. It will be a while then. In 1810, Aldridge’s happy ending was still four years in the future.

“I’m sorry, Aldridge. You will have to be patient. But trust me. I do believe in happy endings, you know.”

He stands abruptly, tipping the chair then catching it with a casual hand before pacing again—two paces to the paper store, two paces back to the bookshelf. With his back to me, he combs the fingers of one hand through his hair, a dearly familiar gesture that ripples the muscles of his shoulder in interesting ways.

When he turns again, his face is calm, set in its usual amused lines though the twinkle is missing from his eyes.

“I have no choice but to trust you, ma’am.” Then, suddenly wistful, “You will see us happy, will you not? As you did Rede and Anne, and their friends Candle and Min? A real marriage, with friendship and mutual respect as well as passion?” His brows draw together, and his voice is stern. “You are not always so kind to your characters, ma’am.”

I remember what happened to John, and am silent. Aldridge is right, but so am I. To be fair to my readers means being unfair to my characters, and happy endings for some may involve unhappy endings for others.

Aldridge will have his happy ending. I cannot promise him that, since his future must remain a mystery to him, but I know it. He has some trials to come, poor bedevilled rake that he is, but he will have his happy ending.

Perhaps he sees the truth in my eyes, because he leans over and kisses my cheek. “I know you will do your best,” he says. “I will talk to you soon.”

He fades from view, as if someone slid a transparency control, leaving nothing behind but the lingering scent of bergamot and wintergreen.

I have no doubt I’ll be hearing from him again; perhaps not in person, but certainly at 1.30am when I wake with his voice in my ears, telling me more of his personal story. Yes. Aldridge will certainly have his happy ending. In time.

A random commenter will receive a digital copy of A Baron for Becky.

About A Baron for Becky

Becky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde—the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.

Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?

The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn’t want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.

When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.

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Excerpt

The maid must have added a fresh log to the fire just before they arrived. The top was still uncharred, but flames licked up from the bed of hot embers. A twig that jutted from one side suddenly flared, turned black, and shrivelled. The bottom of the log began to glow red.

The duchess spoke again, startling Becky out of her flame-induced trance.

“What do you want for your daughter, Mrs Darling?”

“A better life,” Becky said, suddenly fierce. “A chance to be respectable. A life that does not depend on the whims of a man.”

“The first two may be achievable,” the duchess said, dryly. “The third is unlikely in the extreme. And you expect my son to help you to this goal, I take it.”

Becky was suddenly tired of polite circling. “I was saving so that I could leave this life; start again in another place under another name. But my last protector cheated me and stole from me.

“I do what I must, Your Grace. Should I have killed myself when I was disgraced? I had no skills anyone wanted to buy. I could play the piano, a little; sew, but others were faster and better; paint, but indifferently; parse a Latin sentence, but not well. Should I have starved in the gutter where they threw me?

“Well, I wasn’t given that choice. Those who took me from the gutter knew precisely what I had that others would pay for. As soon as I could, I began selling it for myself, and I Will. Not. Be. Ashamed.”

Her vehemence did not ruffle the duchess’s calm. “We all do what we must, my dear. I am not judging you. Men have the power in this world, and we women of the gentry are raised to depend on them for our survival. But you must know that Aldridge cannot offer marriage to a woman with your history.”

About the Author

Jude Knight copyJude Knight writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.

Jude Knight is the pen name of Judy Knighton. After a career in commercial writing, editing, and publishing, Jude is returning to her first love, fiction. Her novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair, was released in December 2014, and is in the top ten on several Amazon bestseller lists in the US and UK. Her first novel Farewell to Kindness, was released on 1 April, and is first in a series: The Golden Redepennings.

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Jude Knight: Farewell to Kindness

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A Hearty Welcome to Fellow Bluestocking Belle

Jude Knight

A short history of invalid chairs

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One of the many things I love about writing historical romance is the odd bits of knowledge I need to research.

In Farewell to Kindness, I needed a way for my hero’s cousin, an injured soldier, to get around the house under his own steam, which led me to invalid chairs, and ultimately to my little novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair.

Wheels on chairs for invalids go back a very long way. We have documentary evidence of them in a Chinese print reliably dated to AD 525, but human ingenuity quite possibly put chairs and wheels together long before that.

It’s likely, though, that only the rich had such chairs. Certainly, once wheeled chairs for invalids begin to regularly pop up in the documentary record, the posteriors seated in them belonged to the rich and the noble.

King Phillip's chair

King Phillip’s chair

In 1595, King Philip II of Spain was sketched sitting in a reclining chair with wheels on each leg. It was clunky and heavy, and he needed to be pushed around by a servant, but – hey – king, right?

Self-propelling chairs arrived remarkably quickly after that, unsurprisingly developed by someone who was himself in need of a chair. In 1655, Stephen Farfler, a paraplegic watchmaker, moved himself around in a chair with three wheels. He moved around by turning handles that worked on the geared front wheel.

Most of the sites I looked at when researching wheelchairs jump from Farfler to John Dawson of Bath. But wheelchairs – both ordinary chairs with wheels and more advanced chairs designed specifically to have wheels – continued right through.

And, in any case,  the Bath chair was invented around 1750 by James Heath.  Bath was becoming popular as a spa town, but it was not designed to easily get around in a carriage, and ordinary wheelchairs really only worked well on a flat surface such as inside the house.

Ad for the Bath Chair

The Bath chair was designed to take invalids out and about; primarily down to the Roman Baths for the treatment, and then back home again. Until then, invalids used the sedan chair, which required two attendants to carry. The Bath chair just needed one person at the back pushing. Furthermore, the occupant of the chair had the steering stick and could therefore directly control the direction of travel. I can see that would be appealing to the average wealthy dowager!

You can see from the advertisement that Heath also sold wheelchairs. The example shown appears to have wheels at the front and stabilising legs at the rear, so no doubt the attendant lifted slightly when he pushed.

The Merlin chair

The Merlin chair

But the self-propelling chair had not gone away. John Joseph Merlin, a Belgian inventor and watchmaker (and, perhaps not incidentally the inventor of the in-line skate) created a successful chair that became the model for others. Keith Armstrong, in A very short history of the bicycle and wheelchair, says:

In the mid 1770’s he invented roller-skates and presented his new creation by arriving at a London party playing his violin whilst gliding around the room. Merlin received rapacious applause and an encore, the party-goers demanded that he repeated his act, during the second attempt, he quickly discovered that he didn’t known how to stop and he had a major accident. The next we read about him is of the invention of a new type of self-propelled wheelchair… His design was so successful that 120 years later, a London catalogue of medical equipment was able to boast nine different ‘Merlin’ wheelchairs available on their books. Merlin died in 1803.

As far as I can tell, the Merlin chair had small handles on its arms. But the name “Merlin chair” was retained for later chairs where the occupant was able to turn the large rear wheels to get around, and – by the late 19th century – the smaller propelling wheel had arrived, to help people keep their hands clean.

Meanwhile, back at the end of the 18th century, let’s not forget John Dawson. The most prominent Bath chair maker of his time, his chairs outsold everyone else’s. Since, by all accounts, they were not very comfortable, we must assume that the others were worse!

About Farewell to Kindness

farewell to kindness RGB2 copyFor three years, Rede has been searching for those who ordered the murders of his wife and children. Now close to end of his quest, he travels to his country estate to be close to the investigation.

He is fascinated by the lovely widow who lives in one of the cottages he owns. A widow who pays no rent. A widow, moreover, with a small daughter whose distinctive eyes mark her as as the child of his predecessor as Earl.

Six years ago, Anne blackmailed Rede’s predecessor at arrow-point for an income and a place to livein hiding from her guardian’s sinister plans for her and her sisters. He no longer has legal rights over her, but the youngest sister is still only 18. He cannot be allowed to find her.

Rede is everything she has learned not to trust: a man, a peer, a Redepenning. If he discovers who she is, she may lose everything.

To build a future together, Rede and Anne must be prepared to face their pasts.

Regency noir

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Excerpt

George was drunk. But not nearly drunk enough. He still saw his young friend’s dying eyes everywhere. In half-caught glimpses of strangers reflected in windows along Bond Street, under the hats of coachmen that passed him along the silent streets to Bedford Square, in the flickering lamps that shone pallidly against the cold London dawn as he stumbled up the steps to his front door.

They followed his every waking hour: hot, angry, hate-filled eyes that had once been warm with admiration.

He drank to forget, but all he could do was remember.

One more flight of stairs, then through the half open door to his private sitting room, already reaching for the waiting decanter of brandy as he crossed the floor.

He had a glass of oblivion halfway to his lips before he noticed the painting.

It stood on an easel, lit by a carefully arranged tree of candles. George’s own face was illuminated—the golden shades of his hair, his intensely blue eyes. The artist had captured his high cheekbones and sculpted jaw. “One of London’s most beautiful men,” he’d been called.

He stalked to the easel, moving with great care to avoid spilling his drink.

Yes. The artist had talent. Who could have given him such a thing?

As he bent forward to look at it more closely, something whipped past his face. With a solid thunk, an arrow struck the painting, to stand quivering between the painted eyes.

Read the first three chapters here.

About the Author

Jude Knight copyJude Knight writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.

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