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Never Too Late: A Bluestocking Belles Collection

Eight authors and eight different takes on four dramatic elements selected by our readers—an older heroine, a wise man, a Bible, and a compromising situation that isn’t.

Set in a variety of locations around the world over eight centuries, welcome to the romance of the Bluestocking Belles’ 2017 Holiday and More Anthology.

Special Pre-order Sale just $0.99 

After November 15th: $2.99

We’re still working on the rest of the retailer links but just in case you want to take advantage of our special pre-order price, jump on over to Amazon and order your copy now. The release date for NEVER TOO LATE is November 4th. Remember, 25% of the sales from the Belles’ box sets benefit our mutual charity, The Malala Fund. You, too, can make a difference in the life of a young woman or child by contributing to this worthy cause!

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The Piper’s Lady by Sherry Ewing

True love binds them. Deceit divides them. Will they choose love?
Coira does not regret traveling with her grandfather until she is too old to wed. But perhaps it is not too late? At Berwyck Castle, a dashing knight runs to her rescue. How can she resist?

Garrick can hold his own with the trained Knights of Berwyck, but they think of him as a piper, not a fighter. When his heart sings for the new resident of the castle, he dares to wish he is something he is not. Will failure to clear her misunderstanding doom their love before it begins?

Excerpt

“You saved me,” she whispered in a shaky tone. “You are truly a gallant knight to rescue me. Your liege lord must value you as one of his warriors.”

Warrior? Him? He opened his mouth to correct her assumption but could not find the words. He knew she would think less of him if she but knew he was only the clan’s piper.

“Are ye harmed?” he murmured, still holding the pleasing womanly curves of the lady who had not yet moved from atop him. Her brow rose, and Garrick inwardly cursed knowing there was no way to hide his Scottish accent.

“Nay, but only because of your ability to move so quickly. Thank you, Sir…” She left her sentence linger in the air between them.

“Garrick,” he answered, giving her his name, “of Clan MacLaren.”

“My thanks, Sir Garrick,” she replied with a kind smile.

They seemed to come to the realization the lists had become eerily silent with the exception of one person running in their direction.

“Get your hands off her!” a voice bellowed.

Before either of them could move, the woman was ripped from his arms, and Garrick saw her enveloped in the fierce embrace of Morgan. Her arms wrapped around his neck, and Garrick could not help the feeling of jealousy assaulting his emotions and tugging at his heartstrings.

“Coira! By St. Michael’s Wings you gave me such a fright, woman,” Morgan scolded in concern. Setting her down upon her feet, he proceeded to clasp both her cheeks afore placing kisses on each.

Her Wounded Heart by Nicole Zoltack

An injured knight trespassing on Mary Bennett’s land is a threat to the widow’s
already frail refuge. Even so, she cannot turn away a man in need and tells him he has her husband’s leave to stay until Christmas.

Doran Ward wishes only to survive for one more day. However, as he begins to
heal and to pay for his lodgings by fixing the rundown manor, the wounds to Mistress Bennett’s heart intrigue him.

Can two desperate souls find hope in time for Christmas?

Excerpt 

To her surprise, her guest had laid out a few vegetables, and she set about cutting them without saying a word to him.

At one point, he reached across her for another knife.

She stiffened and jerked back.

“My apologies,” he said. “I did not mean to startle you.”

“Do not touch me,” she said, fear melting into anger in her voice. “My husband is a very strong and angry man. He shall take exception to anyone who dares to touch me.”

“Will he be joining us for dinner?” he asked as if unfazed.

She did not like to lie to him. Lying, after all, was a sin. But she also must protect herself.

“No,” she said shortly. “He already ate and has retired for the evening.”

“So it shall be only the two of us?” He glanced over his shoulder at the chunks of meat he had cooking over the fierce fire.

“Aye. You can brine-cure the meat we do not eat.”

“Very well.” He never did grab the knife but returned to tending to the meat.

Soon enough, she added the vegetables to a pot, along with some of his meat. A short time later, the stew was finished.

The man brought over two bowls. She stared at the wooden spoons in her hands. Her husband had lost their silver in yet another game.

Another sign to alert him that all is not well here.

Head back, she took a deep breath. Matters such as they were, she had no other recourse. As cold as the house was despite fires, she could not imagine anyone surviving the night out of doors. Would her good intentions spell even more doom for herself?

A Year Without Christmas by Jessica Cale 

London, 1645

Edward Rothschild returns home from war defeated in more ways than one. His friends killed and his property seized, he is an earl in name only. His family and his servants have all deserted him– all except his housekeeper, Lillian Virtue.

Lillian feels like home in a way that nothing else does, but as his servant and a recent widow, it would be impossible for them to be together. Then again, Christmas has been banned and the social order fractured; can one more impossible thing happen this year?

Excerpt

Somerton’s smile was like a bolt of lightning, a sudden flash of terrifying intensity that surprised them both. One shot of light across the darkness of his face and it was gone.
Her knees failed her suddenly and Lillian caught herself on the edge of the table just as Somerton reached out to catch her arm. His hand closed around her elbow and sent a shock up her spine.

“Are you well?”

Lillian had always held her master in the highest regard, but some part of her had feared him, as well. It was not only that her position depended upon his good graces, but he had seemed more than human to her. His presence was overwhelming and perhaps otherworldly; he had a spark of the infinite that suggested a link to the Divine. She could have easily taken him for a priest or a saint.

She had known he was objectively handsome; what she had not realized was that she thought he was handsome.

She felt her blush deepen and took a steadying breath. “Quite well, my lord. Forgive me.”
He frowned as he examined her face. “You look peaked. Join me for coffee.”

Somerton wanted her—Lillian Page, no, Virtue—to sip coffee with him in his private bedchamber? It was inappropriate, to say the least, but when she opened her mouth to object, all that came out was, “I only brought one cup.”

The Night of the Feast by Elizabeth Ellen Carter

As a spy deep in the heart of Revolutionary France, Michael St. John hopes to make amends for a wasted life his by helping the citizens of the Vendée stage a counter-revolution.

Jacqueline Archambeau, tavern owner and cook, accepts that life and love have passed her by. She never dreamed she would fight her own countrymen for the right to keep her customs and traditions.

When they plot together to steal plans at a regimental dinner will they risk their lives—and their hearts?

Excerpt 

Bonjour.” The smile on Jacqueline’s face was unexpected, as was the greeting and he found himself returning it.

Until he felt the unmistakable press of a gun barrel at his lower back. It seemed that Madame Jacqueline was not alone.

“Your knife, monsieur.” Jacqueline held out her hand.

Michael obliged, handing the weapon over hilt first.

“So, Jacques is really Jacqueline?” he asked, feeling like the world’s greatest fool.

“And I’ll take any other weapons you might have on your person,” she continued.

He hesitated, and the barrel pressed at his back became silently insistent.

“Please?” she asked as pleasantly as if she had simply asked him to pass the butter.

Michael raised his arms, threaded his fingers, and placed them at the back of his head.

“You’ve completely disarmed me, madam, but you are welcome to check for yourself.”

Hazel eyes clouded with mistrust. Jacqueline glanced to the person behind him as though looking for instruction.

“Who sent you?”

The voice behind him was that of another woman.

Michael gritted his teeth. He would kill Colonel Jeffers when they next met. The man knew his contacts were women and thought it amusing not to tell him. To further his bona fides, Jeffers had even made him memorize the first stanza of a poem, Ode To Him Who Complains, no less, by scandalous poetess Mary Darby Robinson.

The Umbrella Chronicles: George & Dorothea’s Story

by Amy Quinton 

Lord George St. Vincent doesn’t realize it, but his days as a bachelor in good standing are numbered.

He has a fortnight, to be precise—the duration of the Marquess of Dansbury’s house party.

For I, Lady Harriett Ross, have committed to parting with several items of sentimental worth should I fail to orchestrate his downfall—er, betrothal—to Miss Dorothea Wythe, who is delightful, brilliant, and interested (or will be).

If I have anything to say about matters, and I always have something to say about matters, they’re both doomed.

Did I say doomed? I mean, destined—for a life filled with love.

Excerpt 

Without a doubt, he made her breath catch every single time he looked her way, even if only looking past her, which was pretty much all the time and kind of pitiful. But who cared? It was another secret that was all hers.

Besides, she was undoubtedly not the only woman who struggled to breathe in his presence.

Dory clenched her hands into fists and reminded herself for the millionth time that she was more of the glasses and books type (of which there were far too few in the world) than the roguish smile and flirty type (of which far too many abounded). Hence, her easy slide into spinsterhood at the ripe age of thirty-one.

Yes. St. George was blond and slender and solidly built. And he was beautiful, somehow elegantly masculine, and gloriously tall. She wasn’t the only person that understood this. Everyone acknowledged these traits as if they were all a set of facts that could be found in any book on science. Or a math fact, a proven geometrical theorem.

Like the bluestocking she was, Dory imagined writing proofs over the theory of his gentlemanly beauty. Given George St. Vincent is taller than most men. Given St. Vincent has blue eyes the color of the sky and blonde hair the color of wheat. Given George St. Vincent has a blinding smile and broad shoulders. Prove George St. Vincent is the most swoonworthy man in all of England.

Dory chuckled to herself, though she felt on the verge of hysterics.

But all of that didn’t mean he was a worthy man for her affections.

A Malicious Rumor by Susana Ellis

Vauxhall gardener Alice Crocker has had to defend herself from encroaching males all her life, but the new violinist is a different sort. So when she discovers that he is the victim of a malicious rumor, she naturally wants to help.

Peter de Luca greatly admires the lady gardener, but this is his problem to resolve.

What will it take to prove to this pair that they would be stronger together as a harmonious duo than two lonely solos?

Excerpt

Alice found her feet tapping in time to the music of the orchestra rehearsal while she inspected the site for the new illumination, which would honor the new Duke of Wellington after his victory over Bonaparte at the Battle of Paris. If only the designer had included the measurements! It was difficult to decide how to arrange the plantings without some inkling of the space requirements. With luck, the fellow himself would arrive soon, since the spectacle was planned to open the next day.

Miss Stephens must be singing tonight, she thought as she found herself humming the tune of the popular Northumberland ballad about a brave lass who rowed out in a storm to save her shipwrecked sailor beau.

O! merry row, O! merry row the bonnie, bonnie bark,

Bring back my love to calm my woe,

Before the night grows dark.

She liked the idea of a woman rescuing her man instead of the other way around. It might seem romantic to be rescued by a handsome prince, but one could not always be a damsel in distress, could one? Alice knew from her mother’s marriage that there was no happiness or romance in a marriage where one partner held all the power. She herself had no intention of placing herself in the power of any man. She would be responsible to no one but herself—and perhaps her employer, as long as she was permitted to work for a living. She narrowed her eyes. She could work as well as any man, better than some, in fact. Why did so many men feel threatened by that?

Forged in Fire by Jude Knight

Burned in their youth, neither Tad nor Lottie expected to feel the fires of love. The years have soothed the pain, and each has built a comfortable, if not fully satisfying, life, on paths that intersect and then diverge again.

But then the inferno of a volcanic eruption sears away the lies of the past and frees them to forge a future together.

Excerpt

She was nothing to him. He was sorry for her, that was all. As he’d be sorry for anyone stuck in her predicament. She’d be better off staying in New Zealand, where Mrs. Bletherow’s malice couldn’t reach her. There was work in Auckland, in shops and factories. Not that a proper English lady would consider such a thing.

She could do it, though. She wasn’t as meek as she pretended. He’d seen the steel in her, the fire in those pretty hazel eyes.

The word ‘pretty’ put a check in his stride, but it was true. She had lovely eyes. Not a pretty face, precisely. Her cheeks were too thin, her jaw too square, her nose too straight for merely ‘pretty’. But in her own way, she was magnificent. She was not as comfortably curved or as young as the females he used to chase when he was a wild youth, the sort he always thought he preferred. Not as gaudy as them, with their bright dresses and their brighter face paint. But considerably less drab than he had thought at first sight. She was a little brown hen that showed to disadvantage beside the showier feathers of the parrot, but whose feathers were a subtle symphony of shades and patterns. Besides, parrots, in his experience, were selfish, demanding creatures.

 

Roses in Picardy by Caroline Warfield

 After two years at war, Harry is out of metaphors for death, synonyms for brown, and images for darkness. Color among the floating islands of Amiens and life in the form of a widow and her little son surprise him with hope.

Rosemarie Legrand’s husband died, leaving her a tiny son, no money, and a savaged reputation. She struggles to simply feed the boy and has little to offer a lonely soldier.

Excerpt

Are men in Hell happier for a glimpse of Heaven?”

The piercing eyes gentled. “Perhaps not,” the old man said, “but a store of memories might be medicinal in coming months. Will you come back?”

Will I? He turned around to face forward, and the priest poled the boat out of the shallows, seemingly content to allow him his silence.

“How did you arrange my leave?” Harry asked at last, giving voice to a sudden insight.

“Prayer,” the priest said. Several moments later he, added, “And Col. Sutherland in the logistics office has become a friend. I suggested he had a pressing need for someone who could translate requests from villagers.”

“Don’t meddle, old man. Even if they use me, I’ll end up back in the trenches. Visits to Rosemarie Legrand would be futile in any case. The war is no closer to an end than it was two years ago.”

“Despair can be deadly in a soldier, corporal. You must hold on to hope. We all need hope, but to you, it can be life or death,” the priest said.

Life or death. He thought of the feel of the toddler on his shoulder and the colors of les hortillonnages. Life indeed.

The sound of the pole propelling them forward filled several minutes.

“So will you come back?” the old man asked softly. He didn’t appear discomforted by the long silence that followed.

“If I have a chance to come, I won’t be able to stay away,” Harry murmured, keeping his back to the priest.

“Then I will pray you have a chance,” the old man said softly.

Caroline Warfield: Lady Charlotte’s Christmas Vigil

This beautiful cover for Caroline Warfield’s 2017 Christmas novella comes with the announcement that the book is available for pre-order from various retailers.

Love is the best medicine and the sweetest things in life are worth the wait, especially at Christmastime in Venice for a stranded English Lady and a dedicated doctor.

About Lady Charlotte’s Christmas Vigil

Lady Charlotte Tyree clings to one dream—to see the splendor of Rome before settling for life as the spinster sister of an earl. But now her feckless brother forces her to wait again, stranded in Venice when he falls ill, halfway to the place of her dreams. She finds the city damp, moldy, and riddled with disease.

As a physician, Salvatore Caresini well knows the danger of putrid fever. He lost his young wife to it, leaving him alone to care for their rambunctious children. He isn’t about to let the lovely English lady risk her life nursing her brother.

But Christmas is coming, that season of miracles, and with it, perhaps, lessons for two lonely people: that love heals the deepest wounds and sometimes the deepest dreams aren’t what we expect. Pre-order it here:

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About the Author

Carol Roddy – Author

Traveler, poet, librarian, technology manager—award winning and Amazon best-selling author Caroline Warfield has been many things (even a nun), but above all she is a romantic. Having retired to the urban wilds of eastern Pennsylvania, she reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows where she lets her characters lead her to adventures while she nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart. She is enamored of history, owls, and gardens (but not the actual act of gardening). She is also a regular contributor to History Imagined, a blog at the intersection of history and fiction, and (on a much lighter note) The Teatime Tattler, a blog in the shape of a fictional nineteenth century gossip rag.

Her current series, Children of Empire, set in the late Georgian/early Victorian period, focuses on three cousins, driven apart by lies and deceit, who must find their way back from the distant reaches of the empire.

Click here to find out more.

Jude Knight: A Raging Madness (Giveaway)

Our improbable marriages

We Regency writers and readers do make sure our couples marry for love (or at least are in love by the end of the book); after all, ‘romance’ is the name on the box. One of the challenges we face is making a concept so unlikely for the times into something probable, even inevitable. Add the complication of marriage between the classes, as I have several times, and we raise the stakes considerably.

To be fair, people have always married for love, just not so much in the aristocracy or in other families where wealth and inheritance made marriage a matter of uniting families rather than joining husband and wife. With the growth of individualism in Northern Europe and Great Britain, this changed. By Regency times, arranged marriages were largely confined to royalty. However, this didn’t mean people selected their own marriage partners. Families had a huge say, at least in the upper and middle class. For both daughters and sons (particularly daughters), parents were likely to recommend suitors, and to exercise the power of veto.

But even if a young person’s family found the newly fashionable ideal of romantic love desirable, conventions around courtship made choosing a partner a bit of a crapshoot. While marrying for mutual affection was the ideal, the reality for many was a luke-warm attachment where one or both partners sought love elsewhere, however hot their initial attraction.

Marry in haste, repent at leisure

Several factors made a true love much less likely.

First, the available pool was limited: some 300 families in the aristocracy, and perhaps 27,000 in the broader class of gentry. This was further constrained by geography and social stratification. If you were wealthy, or the head of your family was titled, or both, you might attend the Season in London where you would mix exclusively with those like you. If you were from an untitled family or of modest means, your Season would probably consist of local Assemblies, where you would meet local people of your own class.

Second, courtship was constrained by the inability to get to know someone before proposing. The most important asset a gentlewoman had was her reputation, which families protected to the point that a would-be suitor would never be allowed a moment alone the object of his affection. Before he could even begin to court her, he would need to declare his desire to marry to the lady’s father and lady herself. Once the declaration was made, he could not, in all honour, cry off, but must hope that the lady would be kind enough to reject him, if the couple proved to be incompatible.

And that was the third problem. Men might be limited in their choices, but at least they could choose. A woman had to wait to be chosen. Her power was only to accept or reject, not to make a selection of her own.

Fourth, money came into it. A gentleman had few options for making ends meet, if he wanted to keep his social status. Landless younger sons could enter the clergy, the army or navy, or a limited number of other professions, or they could subsist on whatever allowance the head of the family allowed. Lack of money constrained their marital opportunities, and the eighteenth century saw a huge rise in the number of untitled men who never married.

The death toll in the Napoleonic wars further constrained the pool, leaving many woman spinsters.

You cannot marry beneath you!

People were strongly discouraged from ‘marrying down’. A son or daughter who married a middle-class or (heaven forbid) working class person risked being disinherited and even cut off entirely. Even if the family accepted the social descent, the rest of their acquaintances were unlikely to do so.

An aristocratic son taking a merchant wife might survive the social censure and even be received back into social favour, if her wealth was large and her manners good. A wife took her husband’s class, after all. She would need to learn to ignore the sneers and the none-too-subtle remarks about the smell of the shop, but her children would be accepted on the merits of their father.

But a wife took her husband’s class, so a gentlewoman who married a tradesman descended beneath the notice of her friends, family, and the rest of Society. Her children would be middle class, and only great wealth would redeem them and allow them to rise again (by marriage back into their maternal grandparents’ social status).

But all things are possible

For all of that, such marriages happened. Dukes did marry actresses, earls married courtesans, and younger sons married the daughters of carriage makers and mill owners. Indeed, by the Regency period, enterprising people had already begun schools and were writing books to teach the requisite manners to those who wished to rise in Society, and not to have their origins disclosed by using the wrong fork or the wrong form of address.

In my Golden Redepenning series, this generation of Redepennings are the grandchildren of the 6th Earl of Chirbury. Two of the grandsons fall in love with commoners, one in the novella Gingerbread Bride, and one in A Raging Madness, my latest novel. In both cases, the commoners refuse to believe it, and argue against the possibility. They have the support of their father, and the rest of the family is not at all ‘high in the instep’. But they still face challenges.

In each story, I show a little of the reaction of the ton, and this exchange between the two brothers more or less sums it up.

The next day was Monday, and Alex planned to visit Tattersalls to buy at least one carriage and team and keep his eyes open for decent bloodstock.

Rick declared himself keen to join the expedition, and the two set out to walk the couple of miles to the auction premises.

“Should we not take a carriage, Alex? To save your leg?” Rick asked.

“The leg is fine. Walking is good for it, though if I never had to have another carriage ride, I’d be happy. “I’d go everywhere by canal if possible, and when I get to Renwater Grange, there shall I stay for a good long while. If you want to see me, you’ll have to anchor off the Lincolnshire coast and hire an equipage to bring you up into the woods. Unless you want to row miles up the river I’m told the Grange is named for.”

“And will your lady wife be content marooned in the country?”

“Happier even than I, I suspect. She has not much taken to London, Rick.”

Rick snorted. “Nor did mine. But fashionable events and gossip are not the whole of London, Alex. Mary likes the bookshops, the art galleries, and the museums. And visiting friends. And even the balls and soirées can be fun with a husband or a wife to fend off the worst of the wolves and harpies.”

Undoubtedly true. Ella had seen only the least pleasant side of a London visit, and he’d like to show her some of the rest. “We might come up to Town from time to time. But for the moment, we have an estate to examine and to try and put on its feet.”

And here’s my hero arguing the point with my heroine.

“Don’t you see, Alex? I don’t belong in that company. I am still just little Eleanor Brownlie. Granddaughter of a tenant farmer and a country schoolteacher. My father was a charity scholar and only sat at the officers’ table out of courtesy. I reached well above my station to marry a baronet, Alex. I cannot mix comfortably with earls and countesses and goodness alone knows who else.”

“And I dare say Gervase, God rot him, reminded you of that every day of your life. Yes and those pernicious in-laws of yours, too. Ella, you are a most uncommon woman. The most uncommon woman I know and every inch a lady. You can hold your head high in any company. I will not make your choices for you—at least, I will try not to, and you shall correct me if I overstep—but I will not hear any disparagement of you, either. Not even from you.”

For a moment, Alex feared his vehemence would distress Ella still further, but she smiled.

“You have ever been my champion, Alex.”

Have I made it difficult for my heroes? Yes, but not harder than living without the woman they love.

So no apologies. Marrying for love? Of course. A commoner and an aristocrat? Why not.

A Raging Madness

Their marriage is a fiction. Their enemies are all too real.

Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return.

Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him.

In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.

Jude Knight’s Shop

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Giveaway

Free ecopy of each of the other Redepenning stories to one random commenter: Candle’s Christmas Chair and Gingerbread Bride (novellas) and Farewell to Kindness.

Plus chance to enter Rafflecopter for made-to-order story. Click here for the Rafflecopter.

Excerpt

Fear pierced the fog, and drove Ella across the carriage way and into the shrubbery beyond. The soft rain of the past few days had left branches laden with moisture, and puddles and mud underfoot. Every part of her not covered by the woollen blanket was soon drenched, but the chill kept her awake, kept her from falling back into the false happiness of the dream.

Every stone and twig bruised her feet. Her soft slippers were not made for outside walking, and would be in shreds before she reached the village. At least it was not still raining.

The carriage way turned onto the village road. She kept to the side, ready to hide in the ditch if anyone came. Alone, in her shift, and still dazed from the drug? Being returned to the Braxtons would be the best she could expect from a casual passer-by, and the worst… She shuddered. She had travelled with the army, worked as her father’s assistant, been Gervase Melville’s wife. She knew the worst that could happen to a woman at the mercy of the merciless.

A soft whicker caught her attention. Falcon’s Storm. He was a lighter shape above the hedgerow, stretching his neck to reach his mistress.

“Storm, my sweet, my champion.” She stopped to fuss over him for a minute that stretched into a timeless pause, crooning nonsense about having no treats in her pocket for she lacked a pocket. He lipped at her shoulder and her hair, but showed no offence at being denied the expected lump of carrot or apple.

“I missed you, too,” she assured him. “If only you were old enough, dearest, you would carry me away, would you not?”

He was solidly built for a two-year old, but so was she, for a woman. She walked away with a deep sigh. He was the one thing in the world that was solidly, legally, beyond a doubt hers; her only legacy from the swine she had married, born of her mare, Hawk of May, and Gervase’s charger.

But if she took him, how would she feed him? And if they were hunting for a woman and a colt… No, she could not take him with her, and opening the gate to set him loose was also out of consideration. He would follow her, for sure.

She continued on her way, praying that the Braxtons would leave him to the care of old Jake, the groom, or sell him to someone who appreciated him for the future champion he was.

Storm followed her to the corner of his field, and called after her until she was out of sight. She was hobbling by then. Even though the cold numbed them, her feet shot pain at her from a thousand bruises and cuts.

Then the rain began again. She pulled an edge of the blanket over her head, which kept off the worst of it, but it still sluiced down her cheeks and brow, gathered on her eyebrows, dripped over her eyes, and streamed down either side of her nose.

She passed the first house in Henbury village, keeping to the shadows. Then a row of cottages. The smithy, silent in the dark night. Another row, this one with shops on the street face and living spaces above.

The inn was ahead, the only building showing lights. She paused in the shelter of the last of the cottages, hiding in the doorway while deciding what to do next. Despite the lateness of the hour, people still came and went from the public room; not many, but one would be enough to destroy her escape.

Above, lights showed in two rooms on the second floor. Surely Alex would not climb the stairs that high?

The best rooms were at the back. Alex… She had no idea of his circumstances now, but he was a lord’s son. Gervase had often complained to her about the privileges Alex expected as of right, because he was well born and wealthy. Jealous nonsense, of course. It was Gervase who wanted special treatment while all the other officers suffered with their men. But Alex was grandson to an earl; that was true enough.

She would follow her hunch and hope her confidence was not born of the laudanum.

About the Author

Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.

She writes historical novels, novellas, and short stories, mostly set in the early 19th Century. She 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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Caroline Warfield: The Reluctant Wife

Map of Calcutta 1842, Government House to the left of the maidan

 

Government Houses

by Caroline Warfield

The Raj Bhavan, or Government House, dominates spacious grounds overlooking Calcutta’s maidan, a vast open park originally set aside for a military parade ground, in the vicinity of Fort William. Now the official residence of the Governor of West Bengal, its roots like deep in the history of English rule.

When Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley and older brother to the Duke of Wellington arrived in India as Governor General of Bengal in 1798 he discovered that his living quarters consisted of rented space on land formerly belonging to the Nawab of Chitpur. He found the situation unsuitable. Wellesley believed Bengal should be ruled from a palace, a visible seat of English power—and his own consequence. He initiated plans for such a structure soon after his arrival. The project would take over four years to complete and cost well over $4.5 million in today’s dollars.

“Palace of the Governor General at Calcutta,” The Illustrated London News, c.1850

The Bengal Presidency employed a civil engineer at the time, an Italian named Edward Tiretta. Wellesley gave responsibility for the design to a captain in the Bengal engineers, Charles Wyatt. Wyatt’s work had been primarily military, but he was, in fact, a member of a well-known family of architects. His uncle, Samuel Wyatt, had been Robert Adams’s clerk of works in the building of Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, home of he Curzon family, some years before, before going on to a number of major projects on his own.

Wyatt’s design, a central block with pavilions linked to the center by curving corridors, derived directly from the Kedleston plan, but on a grander scale to conform with Wellesley’s notions of imperial power. The expansive wings (four to Kedleston’s two) allowed good ventilation in the tropical climate and views of the twenty-seven acre park surrounding it. By 1802 the palace could be used for entertaining.

The interior of the central block included a throne room with a throne for Wellesley, council rooms, and banqueting halls. Even the drawing rooms were renowned for opulence and beauty. When Clare, heroine of my novel The Reluctant Wife, arrived for a ball in 1835 in what she had been told was one of the smaller salons, her thought was “The rest of this place must stagger visitors.”

That is precisely what Wellesley intended. From the massive facade to the four gates over which bronze lions prowled as if guarding British sovereignty, the place declared the relationship between overlord and subjects more eloquently than any document could.

James Bailie Fraser, Government House ,1824

In 1803, Wellesley took up residence. His educational projects and commercial policies—and likely his unauthorized building project as well—brought him into frequent conflict with the East India Company directors. He resigned in 1805, leaving Calcutta with a magnificent building.

When power in India transferred from the East India Company to the British Crown in 1858, the house became the residence of the Viceroy of India. When the capital of India was moved from Calcutta to Delhi in 1911, the house became the residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. Since Independence in 1947 it has been the official residence of the Governor of West Bengal. English power is gone; the house remains.

James Moffat, Southeast View, 1815

For more information:

“Government House, Calcutta.” Projects; The Association of Commonwealth Archivists and Records Managers, posted October 22, 2012. http://www.acarm.org/view.asp?ItemID=3&tname=tblComponent3&oname=Projects&pg=activities&opt=projects

“South East view of the New Government House ,Calcutta,” Online Gallery, The British Library. http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/onlineex/apac/other/019pzz000003101u00000000.html

Symons, N.V.H. The Story of Government House, Bengal Government Press, 1935. http://rajbhavankolkata.nic.in/html/storyofgovhouse.htm

About The Reluctant Wife

When all else fails, love succeeds…

Captain Fred Wheatly’s comfortable life on the fringes of Bengal comes crashing down around him when his mistress dies, leaving him with two children he never expected to have to raise. When he chooses justice over army regulations, he’s forced to resign his position, leaving him with no way to support his unexpected family. He’s already had enough failures in his life. The last thing he needs is an attractive, interfering woman bedeviling his steps, reminding him of his duties.

All widowed Clare Armbruster needs is her brother’s signature on a legal document to be free of her past. After a failed marriage, and still mourning the loss of a child, she’s had it up to her ears with the assumptions she doesn’t know how to take care of herself, that what she needs is a husband. She certainly doesn’t need a great lout of a captain who can’t figure out what to do with his daughters. If only the frightened little girls didn’t need her help so badly.

Clare has made mistakes in the past. Can she trust Fred now? Can she trust herself? Captain Wheatly isn’t ashamed of his aristocratic heritage, but he doesn’t need his family and they’ve certainly never needed him. But with no more military career and two half-caste daughters to support, Fred must turn once more—as a failure—to the family he let down so often in the past. Can two hearts rise above past failures to forge a future together?

Find it here

Excerpt

Clare had stopped listening. A prickle of awareness drew her gaze to the entrance where another man entered. He stood well above average height, he radiated coiled strength, and her eyes found his auburn hair unerringly. Captain Wheatly had come. The rapid acceleration of her heart took her off guard. Why should I care that he’s here?

“Clare? The lieutenant asked you a question.”

Lieutenant? Clare blinked to clear her head, only to see Mrs. Davis’s icy glare turned on Captain Wheatly. “Is that your strange captain from the black neighborhood?” she demanded in a faux whisper.

The lieutenant’s avid curiosity added to Clare’s discomfort. “Is that Wheatly in a captain’s uniform? I thought they might demote him after the business with Cornell,” he volunteered.

Clare forced herself to turn to the lieutenant. “Cornell?” she asked to deflect Mrs. Davis’s questions.

“Collector at Dehrapur. Wheatly assaulted the man. Unprovoked, I heard,” the lieutenant answered.

She looked back, unable to stop herself. Merciful angels, he’s seen me. She watched the captain start toward them. At least Gleason could make introductions.

The lieutenant went on as though he had her full attention. “He was in line for promotion, the one that went to your brother instead. Philip posted over there right after it happened.”

Clare found it impossible to look away. The captain gave an ironic smile when he saw her watching. Mrs. Davis gave a sharp intake of breath when she realized Wheatly’s intent. “He’s coming here? Clare, I think I should warn you that a man who has been passed over as this one was—”

Before she could finish, Colonel Davis, who had been coming from the other direction, met the captain and greeted him with a smile. Clare couldn’t hear the words, but Captain Wheatly’s self-deprecating grin seemed to indicate at least a modicum of respect. The two men approached together.

“Captain Frederick Wheatly, may I present my wife, Mrs. Davis.” The captain bowed properly, and the colonel went on, “And our house guest, Miss Armbruster.”

This time the captain’s eyes held a distinct twinkle. “Miss Armbruster and I are acquainted. I met her when she visited her brother in Dehrapur.”

“Of course, of course! I should have remembered,” the colonel said jovially. He leaned toward Clare and winked. “He’s a catch, this one. Doesn’t like to boast of his connections, but earls and dukes lurk in his pedigree. His cousin stepped down from Under-Secretary for War and the Colonies just last year!”

Captain Wheatly looked discomfited by that revelation.

Gleason looked skeptical. “The Duke of Murnane?” he gasped.

Before anyone could answer, the small orchestra hired for the occasion began to play, and the captain cocked an eyebrow as if to ask a question.

“I think the captain wants a dance, Miss Armbruster. It’s your patriotic duty to see to the morale of the troops,” the colonel said coyly.

Captain Wheatly put out a gloved hand, and she put her equally gloved hand in his. Walking away from Gleason and the Davises, she admitted two things to herself. She was glad he came, and she planned to enjoy the dance.

Children of Empire

Three cousins, torn apart by lies and deceit and driven to the far reaches of the empire, struggle to find their way home.

Giveaway

Caroline will give a kindle copy of The Renegade Wife, Book 1 in the series, to one person who comments. She is also sponsoring a grand prize in celebration of her release. You can enter it here: http://www.carolinewarfield.com/2017blogtourpackage/

The prequel to this book, A Dangerous Nativity, is always **FREE**. You can get a copy here: http://www.carolinewarfield.com/bookshelf/a-dangerous-nativity-1815/

About the Author

Caroline Warfield has been many things (even a nun), but above all she is a romantic. Having retired to the urban wilds of eastern Pennsylvania, she lets her characters lead her to adventures while she nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart. She is a regular contributor to History Imagined and to The Teatime Tattler, a blog in the shape of a fictional nineteenth century scandal sheet.

Her current series, Children of Empire, is set in the early Victorian era and focuses on three cousins, driven apart by lies and deceit, who must find their way back from the distant reaches of the empire. The second book in the series, The Reluctant Wife, set in India and England, will be released April 26.

Click here to find out more about her books.

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Jude Knight: Revealed in Mist

Revealed in Mist and the Sex Trade

In my new release, my heroine is a spy, assigned to work in the house of a courtesan. Courtesans were at the apex of the sex trade: highly-skilled entertainers who traded on their looks and sex appeal to earn a living. The book also includes a visit to a brothel, in the excerpt I share below this historical note.

At the time I write about, according to Dan Cruickshank’s The Secret History of Georgian London, one in five women in London earned income from the sale of sex. He called London:

a vast, hostile, soulless, wicked all-devouring but also fatally attractive place that makes and breaks, that tempts, inflames, satisfies, yet corrupts and ultimately kills.

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Sex workers—defined as those who made some or part of their living by selling sex—ranged from those offering a quick bang up against a wall in a slum alley to those accepting gifts from hopeful admirers while mixing on the fringes of Society. And everything in between.

Most prostitutes seem to have been working class girls who, having surrendered their virtue to a man of their own class, sought some profit from their lapse. One woman said:

she had got tired of service, wanted to see life and be independent; & so she had become a prostitute…She…enjoyed it very much, thought it might raise her & perhaps be profitable

Which it was, giving her enough savings to purchase a coffee house and set up in business. For others, prostitution was seasonal, or a temporary reaction to a financial crisis. Many worked for a year or two, then took their savings home, and married or set up in business. Prostitution might also be a way to supplement income from another job; seamstresses and milliners, in particular, were so poorly paid that many of them sold their bodies as well.

Those who worked in wealthier areas, such as the West End, were more likely to find wealthy clients, and those with bit parts in the theatre, who then—as now—might be turned off in a moment if the performance did not please the audience, were well positioned to find a wealthy admirer to keep them in the style to which they would like to become accustomed.

A clever, pretty, talented girl could hope to attract a generous protector, perhaps even an admirer so besotted he would marry her. It happened, though rarely. More commonly, a man would set his mistress up in a house or apartment, and visit her when he was at leisure until he tired of her or she of him.

Many sex workers, if not most, were in less fortunate circumstances. Those running the brothels sought constantly for fresh girls to please the appetites of their customers. A girl who accepted a job, or even a bed for the night, might find herself put to work whether she wished or not, her virginity auctioned to the highest bidder, and her share of the income withheld to pay for her food, board, clothing, and whatever else the brothel-keeper could imagine.

About Revealed in Mist

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Their pasts could bring them together or separate them forever.

Prue’s job is to uncover secrets, but she hides a few of her own. When she is framed for murder and cast into Newgate, her one-time lover comes to her rescue. Will revealing what she knows help in their hunt for blackmailers, traitors, and murderers? Or threaten all she holds dear?

Enquiry agent David solves problems for the ton, but will never be one of them. When his latest case includes his legitimate half-brothers as well as the lover who left him months ago, he finds the past and the circumstances of his birth difficult to ignore. Danger to Prue makes it impossible.

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Excerpt

Their first stop was, predictably, a brothel, The Dancing Dove—an expensive brothel, by the youth of the workers and the quality of the fittings, but with the same sickening smells of cheap perfume, sex, sweat, and despair as the others his work had taken him into. He allowed himself to be introduced to a statuesque redhead who was considerably older than she was made up to appear.

“Fanny, show my young friend a good time, eh?” Talbot commanded, and David followed her to one of the rooms.

He had a better use for the bed than the exercise Talbot imagined. He was beginning to feel the loss of a night’s sleep.

“Don’t bother,” he told the prostitute, as she began to unbutton her blouse. “When were the sheets last changed?”

“Maybe three days.” She looked uncertainly at the bed and back at him. “How do you want me then?”

David explained. “What I’d like you to do is sit in the chair over there and wake me in half an hour. Before we leave this room, I’ll give you double what I gave your bawd. And when we get back out there, you’ll pretend to everyone, especially my friend, that we’ve coupled.”

The prostitute frowned. “You’ll pay me. Just to sleep in the bed.”

“On the bed, but yes. Miss Fanny… or is it Miss Frances…? You’re very desirable, but I’m very, very tired, and I’d rather nobody knew…”

She nodded. “It’s Dorothea, really. But Old Hatchet-Face, who owns the place, she said that was not a good name for a whore.”

“Do you have a way to tell the hour, Miss Dorothea?” He’d removed his coat, but he laid it on the bed and stretched out beside it. No point in putting temptation in the woman’s way. He’d wake in an instant if she approached the bed to check his pockets.

She nodded. “I can hear the clock tower down the street. It chimes the quarters. It’ll be just on the half I wake you.”

“Good. Thank you.” His nose wrinkled, but he’d slept in places more rank. Willing his body to relax, he closed his eyes, and Mist was suddenly there stretched beside him. No. He was here to sleep, not to fantasise about the only woman he desired.

“Mister? Mr. Walker?” He woke to the woman’s whisper. “It’s been half an hour.”

Yes. The half was still chiming. Half an hour was not enough, but it took the edge off his weariness. He’d cope.

In the main sitting area, Dorothea poured him a glass of wine and perched on the arm of his chair, leaning against him while he waited for Talbot. Her silence money safely in the pocket she had tied to her waist under her skirt, she had obviously decided to throw herself fully into her part.

Talbot arrived some minutes later, buttoning his breeches. His companion was smiling admiringly up at him, but David caught the contemptuous grimace she passed to her companions behind Talbot’s back.

“That’s the ticket,” Talbot said to David, grinning at the way Dorothea was draped over him. “Can’t get enough of you here, can they? They should pay us for servicing them. Hah! That’s a good one. They should pay us, eh?” And he slapped the bottom of his companion with expansive glee.

“You want another round, Walker? Or what about an exotic dance? I know a place where the girls…” he gestured expansively, shaping improbably curvaceous shapes in the air.

“That sounds very exciting, Sir,” David said, back to being suitably grateful. “Is it a place we could get something to eat, Sir? All that exercise…”

“Good lad. Worked up an appetite, eh? Oh, to be young again. Come on, then, lad. The night is young. We’ll stop at a coffee house and then go on to Sultan’s Palace.”

David saluted Dorothea with a kiss on the cheek and received a warm smile in return. “Best half hour I ever spent in this place,” she told him loudly, “and that’s the truth.”

Meet Jude Knight

Jude Knight copyJude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.

Website and BlogFacebookTwitterPinterest 

Email Follow me on Amazon

CL Gaber’s Before the Holidays Giveaway Hop

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Hosted by Teaser Addicts Book Blog

.•*´(¸.•*´(¸.•*´★`*•.¸)`*•.¸)`*•.¸

We have 20 stops giving you a great chance to win AMAZING PRIZES from some Amazing ‪#‎Authors‬ and ‪#‎Bloggers‬.

Each stop is a NEW chance to WIN something great.

Susana’s Giveaway

clgaberprize

A print copy of A Twelfth Night Tale and two lovely ornaments from the UK.

Every stop is different and have different instructions to follow, BE SURE TO READ CAREFULLY SO THAT YOU ARE ENTERED CORRECTLY TO WIN.

✔Read the post below about the Bluestocking Belles’ Holiday Anthology, Holly and Hopeful Hearts and comment on the post. A random commenter will be chosen on December 13th to win the above prize. International participants welcome.

The next stop on the hop is Teaser’s Book Blog.

To enter their prize, jump to the next stop here – Teaser’s Book Blog.

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hhh-meme

8 novellas – 578 pages – $2.99

$0.99 through December!

Amazon US • Amazon UK • Amazon Australia • Amazon Canada

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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?

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?

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.

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.

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?

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…

About the Belles

bluestockingbelles_smallThe Bluestocking Belles, the “BellesInBlue”, are seven very different writers united by a love of history and a history of writing about love. From sweet to steamy, from light-hearted fun to dark tortured tales full of angst, from London ballrooms to country cottages to the sultan’s seraglio, one or more of us will have a tale to suit your tastes and mood. Come visit us at http://bluestockingbelles.net and kick up your bluestockinged heels!

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The Bluestocking Belles proudly support the Malala Fund charity. You can find out more on our website: http://bluestockingbelles.net/belles-joint-projects/the-bellesinblue-support-the-malala-fund/

About Amy Rose Bennett

Amy 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.

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About Jessica Cale

Jessica Cale is the award-winning author of the historical romance series, The Southwark Saga. Originally from Minnesota, she lived in Wales for several years where she earned a BA in History and an MFA in Creative Writing while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She kidnapped (“married”) her very own British prince (close enough) and is enjoying her happily ever after with him in North Carolina. Visit her history blog at www.dirtysexyhistory.com.

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About Susana Ellis

Susana has always had stories in her head waiting to come out, especially when she learned to read and her imagination began to soar.

A former teacher, Susana lives in Toledo, Ohio in the summer and Florida in the winter. She is a member of the Central Florida Romance Writers and the Beau Monde chapters of RWA and Maumee Valley Romance Inc.

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About Sherry Ewing

Sherry Ewing picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. A bestselling author, she writes historical and time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time.

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About Jude Knight

Jude Knight writes stories to transport you to another time, another place, where you can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, and delight in a happy ending.

A late starter, she 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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About Caroline Warfield

Traveler, poet, librarian, technology manager—award winning author Caroline Warfield has been many things (even a nun), but above all she is a romantic. Having retired to the urban wilds of eastern Pennsylvania, she reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows while she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.

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About Nicole Zoltack

Nicole Zoltack loves to write romances. When she’s not writing about gentlemen and their ladies, knights, or superheroes, she spends time with her growing family. She enjoys riding horses (pretending they’re unicorns, of course!) and visiting the PA Renaissance Faire. She’ll also read anything she can get her hands on.

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Jude Knight: Interview with the Marquis of Aldridge (Giveaway)

Today, we are with that renowned scion of the Grenford family, the Marquis of Aldridge. As the eldest son of the Duke of Haverford whose health is understood to be failing, he has taken over much of the business of the duchy. However, he continues a vigorous social life, and is as popular on his rare appearances in a Society ballroom as he is rumoured to be in less reputable establishments.

(LC stands for Lady Correspondent. The interviewer wishes to remain anonymous, and Aldridge has sworn not to disclose her identity.)

LC: Your lordship has recently returned from Hollystone Hall, where your mother has been holding a Yuletide house party. We are informed you arrived late and left early. Do you have a particular reason for avoiding such events?

(LC blushes. She was present at both the arrival and the departure, but her questions will be printed so she cannot say so. Beyond a twitch of his eyebrows and a quirk of his lips, Aldridge does not acknowledge her deception.)

aldridge-1Aldridge: Errands for my father and other business matters kept me in town, but Her Grace my mother knew not to expect me until Christmas Eve. I would, however, have avoided the party altogether if the duchess had not required my attendance. I find that I spend such occasions avoiding debutantes with a fancy for a ducal coronet. In any house other than my mother’s, I could have discouraged them by a blatant and scandalous pursuit of a willing widow or a straying wife.

I say pursuit… But if that is not sufficient, our behaviour once I have caught the lady who has temporarily attracted my attention tends to drive away the most title-hungry of virgins and their mamas.

You would be wise to believe that my reputation is well deserved, but it is also something of a protection against all but the most ambitious.

However, as I say, I was under my mother’s roof, so the usual avenue was not open to me.

LC: So what did you do instead?

Aldridge: In the event, I had my brother with me, and we protected one another. We even shared a bed chamber, so any blushing virgin who thought to conceal herself in my bed was as much at risk of ending up with the prodigal spare, as with the disreputable heir. (Grins)

The few days I was there proved very entertaining. The duchess’s stated aim for the fortnight was to raise money for her new charity fund, but she was playing matchmaker, of course—and very successfully.

regency-fashionLC: We understand the house party was the venue for several betrothals and a marriage.

Aldridge: Yes, the Earl and Countess of Somerton married at the local church just before Christmas.

LC: Society is aghast to learn that the Earl of Somerton married the actress, Charlotte Halfpenny.

Aldridge: A magnificent actress; possibly the finest of our generation. She will, I am sure, play the part of countess to my dear friend Somerton with as much artistry as she put into her earlier roles.

Two other weddings in those weeks were associated with the house party, though they did not take place at Hollystone Hall. Lady Sophia Belvoir wed Lord Elfingham in London in a private ceremony that received, we are told, the blessing of his dying grandfather, the Duke of Winshire. And the Stanton party were delayed (with the exception of Lady Stanton), because Lord Stanton’s little sister and Frederick Woodville wished to be married in Cumbria.

LC: There is a touch of scandal in both unions, is there not? Why was Lady Stanton not at her daughter’s wedding, and what happened on that wedding journey that caused her stepson to propose to Mr Woodville’s sister?

And Lord Elfingham was made Earl of Sutton by the death of his grandfather. Or was he? The Privileges Committee will soon decide whether the new Duke of Winshire was validly married to the Persian princess who bore his large brood of children.

Aldridge: All three couples are happy. (Aldridge looks surprisingly wistful. Perhaps his mother is not the only romantic in his family.) Our sort generally look for advantage in marriage; family links, or property, or wealth. We do not, as a rule, expect to marry someone with whom we share a deep affection. They are fortunate, Lady F-Lady Correspondent.

LC: Your brother was also hopeful of a betrothal, I believe, my lord.

Aldridge: That is so. We had intended to stay to the end of the house party, but my brother received a message that recalled him to–shall we say Eastern Europe? We have not yet heard the results. I hope that he, too, is happy.

As you mentioned, though, the house party also saw several betrothals, and part of the entertainment was watching the gentlemen and their ladies stumble their way to an understanding.

Mama can take no credit for the betrothal between Mr Durand and the lovely Miss Sedgely. Their affection was fixed prior to the house party, and their fate sealed when half of Society saw them k–. Well. Never mind.

But she was, I am certain, involved in unsnarling the misperception Lord Nicholas Lacey had conceived about Lady de Courtenay. I may have helped a little myself, although flirting outrageously with the lady did not have the intended effect.

Even Mama was uncertain which of her two suitors Lady Anna Wycliffe would choose: Lord Pershore or the Duke of Barnet. But one departed early, and the other remained to be happy.

The affection between Miss Baumann and Mr Halevy also predated the house party, but Mama is undoubtedly correct that she provided the setting for its very satisfactory outcome.

And, of course, Her Grace could hardly have expected the affair between my cousin Cedrica and the chef.

Still. Nothing makes my mother happier than a courtship successfully concluded in a love match.

L.C.: And when we might expect your own betrothal, Lord Aldridge?

Aldridge: (Laughs out loud.) Did my mother put you up to asking that? All I can say is that I do not advise holding your breath.

Giveaway

bfbcover-ebook-small
revealed-in-mist-smallThe Marquis of Aldridge appears in several of the stories in Holly and Hopeful Hearts. He is one of Jude Knight’s characters, and pops up in a number of her books, including A Baron for Becky (where he is not quite the hero) and Revealed in Mist (where he is almost a villain).

To win an ecopy of A Baron for Becky or an ARC of Revealed in Mist, put your answer to the following question in the comments below. I’ll choose a commenter at random.

What did Aldridge do to try to help Lady de Courtenay?

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?

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 Ewingcover-of-holly-and-hopeful-hearts-copy-2

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?

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?

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. 

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. 

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?

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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newlogoAbout the Bluestocking Belles

The Bluestocking Belles (the “BellesInBlue”) are seven very different writers united by a love of history and a history of writing about love. From sweet to steamy, from light-hearted fun to dark tortured tales full of angst, from London ballrooms to country cottages to the sultan’s seraglio, one or more of us will have a tale to suit your tastes and mood.

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