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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 

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!


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:

Amazon

Smashwords

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.

Bow Street: Thomas de Veil’s London

A House in Bow Street

Crime and the Magistracy

London 1740-1881

Anthony Babington, 1969

Thomas de Veil’s London

Some time in 1740 Colonel Thomas De Veil, a justice of the peace for the Count of Middlesex and for the City and Liberty of Westminster, decided to move his magistrate’s office from Thrift Street, now called Frith Street, in Soho to a house at Bow Street in Covent Garden.

Thomas de Veil

The Covent Garden area was once pasture land owned by the Abbots of Westminster. Later, it became the site of Inigo Jones’s famous Piazza, with fashionable terraced houses and a small church. The nobility and the gentry scrambled to build homes here.

By the beginning of the eighteenth century the character of Covent Garden was undergoing a perceptible change. It was, perhaps, inevitable that the ultra-fashionable Piazza and the locality all about it should attract a swarm of tradesmen, artisans and others who were needed to cater for the requirements of the wealthy. At the same time the narrow passages, the darkened alleys, and the secluded courtyard which separated the streets and the houses drew in a far less respectable segment of the community. Another factor affecting the type of inhabitant settling in the neighbourhood was the continual tendency of the nobility and the aristocracy to drift westwards as other areas were developed further and fruther from the walls of the City. Soon after the Restoration the newly-built St. James’s Square superseded the Piazza as the centre of fashion, and in the early days of the eighteenth century Mayfair was further developed with the setting up the palatial mansions of Cavendish Square, Hanover Square and Grosevenor Square. However, one of the major factors which contributed to the transformation of Covent Garden was that it was becoming the principal artistic and theatrical locality of London.

Covent Garden in 1737, by Nebot

Actors and actresses and their audiences flocked to theaters such as Drury Lane, the Opera House, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and Covent Gardens. Literary folk and ‘wits’ flocked to the coffee-houses such as Will’s, Buttons’s, and Tom’s. When Tom King died, his widow turned his coffee-house into a brothel. And so it was that “the streets of Covent Garden and the Strand became the chosen haunts of the prostitutes.”

Royal Opera House

“An age of lawlessness and disorder in which the power of the mob and the violence of the criminal were ever paramount”

It was becoming obvious that the current system of policing was inadequate. Streets were especially dangerous at night due to the lack of a proper lighting system.

Pickpockets

A guidebook of the period warned its readers: “A man who saunters about the capital with pockets on the outside of his coat deserves no pity.” As shown by Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist, young boys and girls could be very deft at this particular offense. Richard Oakey would trip up a woman from behind and remove her pocket (pockets dangled from the waist on the outside of a woman’s dress) before she hit the ground. Mary Young had a pair of artificial arms made so that she could sit primly in a church pew with the artificial arms folded on her lap while she used her real arms to rob from those sitting next to her.

Footpads

Henry Fielding said that the alleys, courts and lanes in London were “like a vast wood of forest in which a thief may harbour with as great security as the wild beasts do in the deserts of Africa or Arabia.” And not just at night either. Fanny Burney complained about footpads and robbers before breakfast.

Criminals operating in gangs made the situation even worse. In 1712, a band of thugs called the Mohocks would greet people in the streets and if they responded, beat them up. They attacked the watch in Devereux Court and Essex Street; they also slit two people’s noses, and cut a woman in the arm with a pen-knife. One night about twenty of them stormed the Gatehouse, wounded the jailor, and released their confederate from the jail.

No person was safe and equally no home was secure. Madam Roland… said that when the wealthy left London in the summer they took with them all their articles of value or else sent the lot to their bankers, because ‘on their return they expect to find their houses robbed.’

Highwaymen

The highwaymen were regarded both by the public and amongst the criminal fraternity as being the princes of the underworld. It is difficult to understand why they had so glamorous a reputation in the eighteenth century and, indeed, why their image has been so romanticised ever since. By and large they were simply robbers on horseback and many of them had deplorable backgrounds. Dick Turpin’s gang, for example, was well-known for violence, terrorism, rape, and even murder.

Their favorite hunting-grounds were the roads just outside London. For that reason, dwellers of the suburban areas organized vigilante patrols, and in some areas, squads of soldiers were used to escort travelers in and out of town. Horace Walpole told of an attack on a post-chaise outside his home in Piccadilly, and also of a personal encounter with two of them in Hyde Park.

Why the mounting lawlessness?

Some blamed it on the “large numbers of disbanded soldiers and sailors roaming the country without work and without subsistence. Others held that it was due to drunkenness and cheap gin. A few—but a very few—saw a possible cause in the harsh administration of the Poor Laws and the way in which homeless and the destitute were hounded from parish to parish, coupled with the terrible social conditions of the poor.”

Whatever the reasons, the precincts of the capital and its approaches were deteriorating into a state of lawlessness which bordered on anarchy, and the machinery for preserving the peace was becoming increasingly impotent. The ancient system with its corner stones in the amateur magistrate and the part-time constable, had worked comparatively well throughout the ages in the rural areas of Britain but had proved completely unadaptable to an expanding urban community. At the beginning of the eighteenth century the basic problem remained unsolved—and barely appreciated.

It was in a London such as this that Colonel Thomas De Veil opened his Office at Bow Street.

The Four Times of the Day

The Four Times of the Day, a series of paintings by Hogarth in 1738, illustrated the sort of place Covent Garden had become. Read more about it here.

Georgian Era Artisans: the Gardenesque vs. the Picturesque

Beaudesert, Staffordshire, from Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, pub. 1816. Humphry Repton

The Gardenesque: Humphry Repton, John Claudius Loudon

Humphry Repton

The Picturesque aesthetic was a literary reaction to both the landscape legacy of Capability Brown and Humphry Repton’s ‘Gardenesque‘ of the close of the eighteenth century. First defined by John Claudius Loudon (1783-1843) in 1832, the Gardenesque was a style characteristic of the small-scale turn of the century garden, which emphasised formal features and botanical variety. Repton (1752-1818), a consummate snob, came to garden design relatively late in life, setting himself up as Brown’s successor in 1788. This precarious position brought him nothing but persecution from the Picturesque writers, and he was thrust headlong into their savage debates. Attacks rained down [from William Gilpin, Richard Payne Knight, and Uvedale Price]. There was no unanimous stylistic agreement among these, and yet all three expressed a preference for the diverse terrain of the Rococo garden and a violent dislike of Brown’s manicured landscapes… the Picturesque ideal was deemed an instinctual reaction to ‘rough’, ‘intricate’, or ‘broken’ Nature. It paved the way for a more Romantic appreciation of Gothic architecture and rough-hewn topography.

The Picturesque: William Gilpin, Richard Payne Knight, Uvedale Price

William Gilpin

Gilpin himself never owned or designed an actual landscape… Nevertheless, his ideas concerning the beauties of natural scenery underpinned the more complex theoretical arguments of Payne Knight and Price twenty years later. His influential reception was also aided by an established craze for domestic tourism. From the 1780’s, as a result of increasing outbreaks of war in Europe, Continental travel was deemed overly dangerous. Classically orientated tours were therefore abandoned in favour of the safer thrills offered by Britain’s mountains, cascades and cliffs, championed by the promulgators of the Picturesque. By the end of the eighteeneth century, Hoare had been forced to build a hotel at Stourton to accommodate his garden tourists.

The Gothic arch on top of Grotto Hill

The painterly qualities of Sir Rowland and Sir Richard Hill’s Shropshire estate, Hawkstone, and Valentine Morris’s Piercefield in Monmouthshire attracted Picturesque tourists in their hundreds. Hawkstone’s conventional landscape park was laid out in 1784-90 by William Emes. The separate pleasure grounds were arranged around a dramatic ravine of sandstone, complete with a ruinous Red Castle. Dr. Johnson surmised that Hawkstone’s Grotto Hill, with its panoramic views, forced upon the mind: ‘The sublime, the dreadful, and the vast. Above is inaccessible altitude, below, is horrible profundity.’ Piercefield, likewise, commands sandstone cliffs of 300 feet in height. Gilpin, Price and Repton all visited the estate, to marvel at its perilously winding river and steeply wooded bluffs. It was, after all, an established part of the Wye Tour.

View from Piercefield

Sir Uvedale Price

Sir Uvedale Price (1747-1829) accused [Capability] Brown of mechanically ‘smoothing and levelling the ground,’ where ‘in a few hours the rash hand of false taste completely demolishes what time only, and a thousand lucky accidents, can mature’. Price criticised the clump, ‘whose name, if the first letter was taken away, would most accurately describe its form and effect’. Picturesque taste equated ‘verdure and smoothness’ with monotony, instead of pronouncing ‘accident and neglect the sources of variety in unimproved parks and forests’. Brown and his followers had taken great care to conceal any roughness prevailing in their landscape parks. As a result, Gilpin railed, ‘How flat, and insipid is often the garden scene, how puerile, how absurd!’

River gorge at Knight’s home Downton. Drawing by Thomas Hearne

Payne Knight by Thomas Lawrence

[Knight] argued that the Picturesque defined a journey of aesthetic and emotional discovery, which united all the arts. [Richard] Payne Knight was a wealthy connoisseur and member of the Society of Dilettanti… At Downton, the half-Roman, half-Gothic estate Knight inherited in 1764, he believed he was ‘collecting and cherishing the accidental beauties of wild nature’. The sinister landscape included a hermitage and isolated cold bath. When Repton visited in 1789, he took in the ‘roaring in the dark abyss below’ of the River Teme, which was ‘enriched by caves and cells, hovels, and covered seats, or other buildings, in perfect harmony with the wild but pleasing horrors of the scene’.

Lacking both Brown’s personable, working-class nature and practical grounding in gardening, Repton nevertheless hit upon a winning strategy: the Red Book.

Pages from Repton’s Red Book

The triumph of these gimmicks, which were printed and found for each individual client between red Moroccan leather covers, was to give posterity an impression of wider landscape improvements than were ever achieved. Essentially, the Red Book was a detailed and persuasive contract for improvements, illustrated with seductive ‘before and after’ snapshots of the estate in question. An overlay allowed the prospective client to picture immediately the possibilities lying dormant within his grounds, should he choose to employ the services of Repton… [W]hen business was slow, Repton reproduced them in albums… Perhaps his most successfully realised Red Book design was for the Blaise Castle estate on the outskirts of Henbury in Bristol for the quaker banker, John Scandrett Harford, in 1795. The result trod a fine line between the ideal parkscape and the wilderness craved by the Picturesque tourist.

Payne Knight had promoted the reinstating of terraced gardens and other landscape features dismantled by Brown and his followers. Although ultimately Repton rejected the notions of the Picturesque, his cluttered compositions of pedestals, pergolas and fountains also drew on the formal gardens of the previous century for inspiration… The shift in emphasis from the park back to the designed garden anticipated the ‘Gardenesque’, as defined by Loudon. Repton’s designs triumphed because of their usefulness and attention to ‘the genius of the place.’ After all most English landscapes did not lend themselves to the Picturesque ideal of mountainous scenery half as easily as they did to the Reptonian concept of an adaptable space on a human scale… The truth was that the average landowner at the turn of the century wanted ‘bowling-greens, flowering shrubs, horse-ponds’, and hankered after the ‘shell-grottoes, & Chinée-rails’ of the Rococo Arcadias.

By 1816, Repton had seemingly turned against the ideal parkscape completely. ‘The Pleasures of a Garden have of late been very much neglected’, he wrote, because of ‘the prevailing custom of placing a House in the middle of a Park, detached from all objects, whether of convenience or magnificence’.

Collette Cameron: Passion and Plunder

Scottish Heather Honey

I never know what random thing my latest story will have me poking around the Internet in search of. For my Highland Heather Romancing a Scot Series, I’ve mentioned the use of heather in several of the books, hence the title. In books five and six, I ventured into the healing qualities of honey. I’d heard of the skin and medicinal benefits of honey before, and I was curious if honey from heather might have unusual properties. I was delighted at what I uncovered.

By Vicky Brock from Glasgow, UK – Honey Show 2, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35024402

As you no doubt already know, all honey provides many benefits:

  • Reduce throat irritation and cough
  • Heals wounds and burns
  • Reduce ulcers and other gastrointestinal disorders
  • Cancer and heart disease prevention
  • Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal

Made by bees brought to the Highlands in August for the express purpose of collecting nectar from heather blossoms, Scottish heather honey is touted as having “magical healing powers” and is referred to by the Scots as the “Champagne of all honeys.” Dubbed the “Rolls Royce” of honey in Britain, many claim it’s a cheaper alternative to New Zealand’s much praised Manuka honey. A recent study found heather honey to be more effective in treating topical infections than Manuka honey.

Scottish heather honey possesses an extraordinary antiseptic property, which makes it a favored natural remedy for treating cuts and wounds. I used that tidbit in book number six in the series. It has exceptional anti-bacteria fighting abilities and is known to treat MRSA as well as three other bacteria. It’s also a powerful anti-oxidant and contains high amount of minerals and proteins. An unusual feature of the dark amber honey is its texture, characterized by high thixotropy (extremely viscous). When at rest, it’s jelly-like, but when stirred or agitated, it becomes syrupy like other honeys until it settles into a gel again. It also has a high water content.

People either adore the medium-to-strong, even slightly bitter, woody taste and lingering peaty aftertaste, or dislike the flavor intently. Scottish Heather Honey is delicious in many dishes, but isn’t recommended for tea as the flavor is too strong for the brew. And yes, it’s used in the preparation of many alcoholic spirits such as mead. Those clever Scots.

Unfortunately, honey couldn’t cure my heroine’s father in Passion and Plunder, my fifth book in my Highland Heather Romancing a Scot series, but used in a salve in the sixth book, it helped heal my hero’s scars.

Are you a fan of honey? Any particular kind? Blackberry is mine. I love it in tea and with a special kind of biscuit made from my great-grandmother’s recipe. (You’ll find the recipe in my June 1 newsletter)

About Passion and Plunder (Highland Heather Romancing a Scot Series, #5)

Would you sacrifice everything for the person you love, knowing you can never be together?

A desperate Scottish lady

Lydia Farnsworth—the sole surviving heir to the Laird of Tornbury Fortress—has lost nearly everyone she loves. Now her father lies on his deathbed. And as if this isn’t dire enough, he’s invited men from the surrounding area to a warrior’s contest—the winner to claim Lydia as his bride.

A Scotsman dueling with his past

Alasdair McTavish, son of Craiglocky Keep’s war chief, is a seasoned warrior in his own right. So when he’s sent to Tornbury to train the Farnsworth soldiers, he’s more than equal to the task.

When a dangerous adversary makes a move against Lydia, a dastardly scheme comes to light, and Alasdair realizes only he can protect Lydia.

Don’t miss the 5th installment in this sweeping historical Highland romance series—get your copy of Passion and Plunder for a romantic Scottish adventure you won’t want to put down.

 

Passion and Plunder releases May 24, but you can pre-order it now.

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Excerpt

Mustering her courage, she reluctantly raised her focus from the soft, worn leather encompassing his ridiculously broad chest.

“Dinna look so woebegone, lass.”

“What are we to do?” She stared up at him, refusing to permit her surge of tears to fall. “Da wouldn’t have forced either of my brothers to marry before assuming the lairdship. This stipulation reveals his lack of faith in me. In my gender.”

“Nae, he wouldn’t, but I think he believes he be protectin’ ye.” A throaty quality deepened his voice as he drew her into his arms. One large hand framing a shoulder and the other cupping her waist, he pressed her near.

God help her, his strong, comforting embrace felt splendid, like a long overdue homecoming. So secure and safe.

And a bit terrifying too.

She wanted to wrap her hands around his large frame, bury her head in his shoulder, and stay snuggled there for hours.

Perchance days.

Forever.

Desire blazed in his eyes as he tilted her chin upward at the same moment he dipped his lower. Her woman’s intuition recognized the passion bubbling beneath his composed demeanor.

About the Author

A bestselling, award-winning author, Collette Cameron pens Scottish and Regency historicals featuring rogues, rapscallions, rakes, and the intelligent, intrepid damsels who reform them.

Blessed with three spectacular children, fantastic fans, and a compulsive, over-active, and witty Muse who won’t stop whispering new romantic romps in her ear, she still lives in Oregon with dachshunds, though she dreams of living in Scotland part-time.

Admitting to a quirky sense of humor, Collette enjoys inspiring quotes, adores castles and anything cobalt blue, and is a self-confessed Cadbury chocoholic. You’ll always find dogs, birds, occasionally naughty humor, and a dash of inspiration in her sweet-to-spicy timeless romances.

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An Evening at Vauxhall Gardens, Part V

In our last installment, Susana meets Lady Hertford and her son—and the Prince Regent himself!—and mortifies Lady P when she makes two embarrassing faux-pas in quick succession. 

Lady Pendleton [lips pressed together]: The Dark Walks are dark, Susana, and there is nothing of interest to be seen there.

Susana: But isn’t that where rakes meet loose women to—

Lady P: Indeed. Precisely why the place is of no interest to us.

Susana: But I want to—

Lady P: I know you do. But I refuse to countenance it.

Susana [scowling]: I never knew you were such a stick-in-the-mud, Agatha. As I recall, you were the one who insisted on going to that male strip-joint in Detroit. I was always looking over my shoulder hoping not to be seen by any of my former students.

Lady P [with a snort]: I shouldn’t think there was much likelihood of that, considering that outlandish mask you wore.

Susana: But I had to take it off to drink the piña colada. And that was when one of the dancers winked at me. [visibly sweating] He looked a lot like that kid who sat in the back row—what was his name—Jason something, I think. How humiliating!

Lady P: Poppycock! That-er gentleman bore no resemblance to an adolescent of ten and three. In any case, you are no longer teaching.

Susana [brightening]: That is true. Sometimes I forget that. So there’s no reason I can’t take a walk down the Dark Walk.

Lady P [hands on hips]: There most assuredly is! Do recall that I still must live here, with these people and their social mores. [Frowns at Susana’s snort]. Your conduct reflects on me, and I shan’t have you poking around the bushes gawking at ignominious behavior.

Susana [eyebrows raised]: Ignominius? What a great word! I shall have to use it more frequently.

Lady P [chin high and jaw set]: Susana…

Susana: All right, all right. I did promise to follow your lead. But I have to say I never knew you to be such a fuddy-duddy, Agatha. Especially considering your history with the Devonshire set…

Ignoring my last remark, she turned back toward the Orchestra, and after a longing look down the mysterious, shadowed walks, I followed her. I could hear sounds of tiny raindrops on the roof of the covered walk and wondered if the weather might prevent the fireworks display later in the evening. The sprinkle was accompanied by a light breeze, but it was nothing I hadn’t seen before on the Fourth of July. Still, fireworks were dangerous in general, and I wasn’t sure what safety precautions were taken in the nineteenth century. Not that that would dissuade me from watching them while I had the opportunity to do so; as a historical author, I was just as interested in watching the watchers of the spectacle).

The orchestra (musicians) had left the Orchestra (building), and standing on the stage was a single gentleman dressed in a red uniform with gold braids that reminded me of the Duke of Wellington’s portrait at Apsley House. A harmonica of sort was strapped around his neck (I think) so he could blow into it while his hands were free to strum the guitar, strike the triangle attached to the guitar or the Chinese cymbals on a tall stand next to him. A drumstick with a bell cymbal on the opposite end was attached to his knee for either striking the bass drum or the other bell cymbal, and I watched in fascination while he deftly reversed ends with a shake of the knee to switch from one to the other.

When the current piece ended, a boy of twelve or so came out with a wooden chair and deftly helped divest him of his other instruments so that he could accommodate the largish harp standing nearby. His voice as he sang Robin Adair—a song sung by Jane Fairfax in Emma—was clear and strong and and well-received. Members of the audience chimed in at the conclusion, whistling and cheering as he bowed and beamed.

“A pleasing rendition,” said a woman next to us, “but not as splendid as John Braham’s performance at the Lyceum in 1811.”

“No indeed,” I replied, “but I don’t suppose he played so many instruments.”

Robin Adair

After that he played “Sweet Gratitude” on the Pandean pipes while accompanying himself on the guitar. After the enthusiastic applause, there was an intermission of sorts and people began to move around and chat.

“He can do bird calls as well,” confided a lady next to me. “I heard him at the Concert-Room at Newcastle.”

“Signor Rivolta is awesome—er, astonishing,” I agreed, recalling my Regency persona just as Lady P’s elbow connected with my upper arm.

“Dear Agatha! Such a surprise to see you in Town after all!”

The second wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire

Lady P whirled around and her hands clenched briefly at the appearance of two women approaching them.

“Your Grace,” she said with a brief nod, “and Mrs. Lamb. I am sorry I could not attend your rout the other evening. Indeed, I was out of Town, but returned unexpectedly when my friend here—” she pointed at me with her chin— “insisted on visiting Vauxhall Gardens before she returns to America. Soon.”

The ladies gave me a quizzical look, and Lady P hurried to introduce me.

“Allow me to present to you my friend Susana Ellis, a friend of a friend, who is here on a very brief visit from our former Colonies. Miss Ellis, this is Her Grace the Duchess of Devonshire, and her daughter, Mrs. Caroline Lamb.”

I was stunned for a moment, aware that Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire, had been deceased more than ten years and had no daughter Caroline, besides. But then I recalled that the Duke had married his mistress, the third of their scandalous ménage à trois, after Georgiana’s death, and that prior to becoming the second duchess, Lady Elizabeth Foster had born him two illegitimate children, one of which was a daughter called Caroline. Who apparently had married one of the Melbourne miscellany. Something I had not known.

Lady P cleared her throat, and I became aware that something was expected of me.

I bobbed rather inelegantly. “A pleasure to meet you, Your Grace. And Mrs. Lamb too.” I craned my neck to survey the crowd. “Is the Duke around? I would love to meet him.”

There was silence until I remembered that the 5th Duke had died as well, and the 6th Duke, Georgiana’s son, disapproved of the Foster clan and wasn’t likely to have accompanied them on a pleasure outing.

“She’s American, you say?” said the Duchess at last, staring at me from beneath her eyelashes. “Peculiar, is she not?”

“Mama,” said the younger woman, whose cheeks were flushed, “You have met Americans before, you know.”

“Yes, but there is something very singular about this one,” replied the Dowager Duchess, as she studied my gown (Butterick pattern B6630 and not the most authentic of the bunch). “I’ve never seen trim quite like that on your pelisse, Miss Ellis.”

Of course not, because it was from the 21st century. Lady P was glaring at me, and I knew I was in trouble again. But she would not convince me to leave before the fireworks. Even if it started to rain cats and dogs.

“An American innovation,” I said sweetly. “Perhaps it will reach your own modistes in a year or two.”

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.

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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.

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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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