Tag Archive | historical romance

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:

Amazon

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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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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.

Website and Home of the Teatime Tattler

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Caroline Warfield: The Renegade Wife (Giveaway)

Lieutenant-Colonel John By, Royal Engineers, 1779-1836

John By [Source: By, John, 1832. Unknown Artist, Kingston Picture Collection, Queen’s University Archives, accession number V23 P-58]

John By [Source: By, John, 1832. Unknown Artist, Kingston Picture Collection, Queen’s University Archives, accession number V23 P-58]

After a modestly successful military career, John By was given an assignment the he might well have believed would bring him promotion and renown. He came from modest origins and, while competent, had never achieved the heights of success. He is in some ways a typical professional soldier of the Napoleonic Era. He died in obscurity. So why is he remembered today?

He was assigned to design an entirely navigable waterway to serve as a supply line between Montreal and Kingston using the Rideau and Ottawa rivers. It was to be cut 126 miles through a wilderness of forest, swamps, and rocky terrain far enough removed from the Saint Lawrence River to be easily defended in case of invasion by the Americans to the south. For By, it didn’t work out as he hoped. For Canada, By’s canal is a treasure.

Born at Lambeth in 1779, to a family of watermen, By entered the Royal Military Academy, Woolrich, in 1797 and was commissioned two years later. Initially commissioned to the artillery, he transferred to the Royal Engineers later that year. He served in Plymouth for two years before being sent to Canada in 1802 where he worked on the first small locks on the Saint Lawrence and on the citadel at Quebec. Beginning in late 1810 he served under Wellington in the Peninsula but was recalled in 1812 when the Inspector General of Fortifications, Lt. General Gother Mann, appointed him commanding engineer of the new Royal Gunpowder Mills. After Waterloo, the need for engineers lessened, and By retired.

First Camp at Bytown By John By [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

First Camp at Bytown By John By [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

John By was 47 when he was called out of retirement to build the canal. There’s every reason to believe he jumped at it. The Duke of Wellington is said to have chosen him specifically, but the orders came from General Mann who had also been his commanding officer during his previous stay in Canada. Both men had confidence with him at the beginning.

Never one to take the easy or obvious way, By began making controversial decisions almost immediately upon arrival in 1826. Instead of setting up housekeeping in Kingston, which already boasted not only a fort and navy base, but also a growing town, he moved his family and set up at the mouth of the Ottawa where there were at most a half dozen households. Even as the Royal Engineers began laying out the plans for the waterway, By laid out plans for a town to be called Bytown to house his headquarters, his home, barracks, and housing for workers. His town is now called Ottawa and is the capital of Canada.

There had been earlier surveys of the country, and some recommendations for much more modest plans than those ultimately carried out. By resurveyed and determined to lay out the waterway using the Rideau River and lakes, canalizing the route where needed, building locks and dams along the way. Contract labor began clearing land that winter.

Entrance of the Rideau Canal at Bytown, 1839, By Ainslie, Henry Francis 1803-1879 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Entrance of the Rideau Canal at Bytown, 1839, By Ainslie, Henry Francis 1803-1879 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The single most important decision was to build the locks and canals wide and deep enough to handle the new naval steamships. The original, narrower plans were designed for typical river craft such as Durham boats. In spite of opposition in London, a compromise plan dictated only slightly smaller construction. Building for steam power is typical of By’s far-sighted approach.

In six years By, the engineers, and the contractors had managed the project, with most of the work done by hand by primarily Irish and French workers. They built approximately 50 dams, 47 locks, and blockhouses for defense. The Stone Dam at Jones Falls was the third largest dam in the world when it was built. The eight massive locks at Bytown are still a wonder, and, yes, it accommodated navel steamships. An estimated 1000 men died in the process. By himself contracted malaria, probably as a result of his insistence on inspecting work camps himself. He demanded money for a hospital and housing, and his requests were not always well received.

Lt. Colonel By statue overlooking the locks in Ottawa (my own photo)

Lt. Colonel By statue overlooking the locks in Ottawa (my own photo)

In May 1832 John By was able to sail through the locks by steamship, his work essentially finished. It appears he planned to settle permanently in Bytown, but it was not to be. Precisely at the time of his great triumph, a move was underfoot in London to remove him. He received notice in August:

My Lords further desire that Colonel By may be forthwith ordered to return to this country, that he may be called upon to afford such explanation as My Lords may consider necessary upon this important subject.

The “important subject” was cost overruns and questionable permissions. The committee that examined him grudgingly allowed that the work had been done with care and that most of the cost was unavoidable, but in the end they issued a reprimand for allegedly unauthorized expenditures, which he denied. Instead of the commendations he expected, By was forced out. He struggled to clear his name unsuccessfully. In failing health, he retired to his home in Sussex. Even as he lay ill, his wife continued to write to people begging for help removing the stigma which she believe contributed to his decline. He died, probably of malaria, in 1836.

John By artist unknown (not from life)

John By artist unknown (not from life)

And the canal? It never served the military purpose for which it was intended, but it opened Ontario to settlement and served as a commercial highway throughout the nineteenth century. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, largely used for recreation, and those pesky Americans are welcome to come up and enjoy the still functioning locks and canals.

Want to know more? Try these.

The Virtual Museum of Canada http://bit.ly/2ej9lzX

The Rideau Canal World Heritage Site http://www.rideau-info.com/canal/tales/bye-by.html

The Bytown Museum http://www.bytownmuseum.com/en/engr.html

Robert Passfield, Military Paternalism. https://books.google.com/books?id=CSTSAQAAQBAJ

Giveaway

To celebrate the launch, Caroline will give a copy of one of her Dangerous Series books to one randomly selected person who comments. The winner can choose from the books found here:

http://www.carolinewarfield.com/bookshelf/

About The Renegade Wife

therenegadewifeBetrayed by his cousin and the woman he loved, Rand Wheatly fled England, his dreams of a loving family shattered. He clings to his solitude in an isolated cabin in Upper Canada. Returning from a business trip to find a widow and two children squatting in his house, he flies into a rage. He wants her gone, but her children are sick and injured, and his heart is not as hard as he likes to pretend.

Meggy Blair harbors a secret, and she’ll do whatever it takes to keep her children safe. She’d hopes to hide with her Ojibwa grandmother, if she can find the woman and her people. She doesn’t expect to find shelter with a quiet, solitary man, a man who lowers his defensive walls enough to let Meggy and her children in.

Their idyllic interlude is shattered when Meggy’s brutal husband appears to claim his children. She isn’t a widow, but a wife, a woman who betrayed the man she was supposed to love, just as Rand’s sweetheart betrayed him. He soon discovers why Meggy is on the run, but time is running out. To save them all, Rand must return and face his demons.

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Excerpt

“Let go of her, Blair, or I’ll shoot you like the dog you are. God knows you deserve it.” For untold minutes all Rand heard was the wind in the trees, and Lena’s whimper behind Pratt’s back. Even Meggy seemed to hold her breath.

Blair let go of her arm so suddenly she stumbled before running back to her children. “The slut and her children are mine, Wheatly, and that makes you a thief.”

“Get on your horse, Blair, and get out of here before I change my mind and shoot you anyway. You too, Pratt.”

Rand kept his pistol aimed at Blair while the men mounted and turn their horses to the lane. Pratt and Martin galloped up the hill and into the woods, but Blair turned half way up and pointed back at Meggy hugging the children in Rand’s doorway.

“They’re mine, Wheatly. I have a writ. I’ll be back with the magistrate and the deputy to have you jailed for resisting. Won’t your fancy relatives like that?” He turned and galloped off.

Rand eased back the hammer of his pistol, when the men cleared the trees. He slid it into a holster, jumped down, and ran to Meggy and the children, pulling all of them into an embrace. Meggy began to weep almost as soon as his hand came around her back, pulling her close with Lena between them and Drew in the crook of his arm.

“You might have killed him, and then where would we be?” she sobbed.

“You would be safe from him.”

“And you would be in jail or worse.”

He didn’t deny it. He kissed the top of her head and down her cheek.

About the Author

Carol Roddy - Author

Award winning author Caroline Warfield has been many things: traveler, librarian, poet, raiser of children, bird watcher, Internet and Web services manager, conference speaker, indexer, tech writer, genealogist—even a nun. 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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Cover Reveal: Holly and Hopeful Hearts by the Bluestocking Belles

cover-of-holly-and-hopeful-hearts-copy

About Holly and Hopeful Hearts

When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?

A Suitable Husband, by Jude Knight

As the Duchess of Haverford’s companion, Cedrica Grenford is not treated as a poor relation and is encouraged to mingle with Her Grace’s guests. Surely she can find a suitable husband amongst the gentlemen gathered for the duchess’s house party. Above stairs or possibly below.

Valuing Vanessa, by Susana Ellis

Facing a dim future as a spinster under her mother’s thumb, Vanessa Sedgely makes a practical decision to attach an amiable gentleman who will not try to rule her life.

A Kiss for Charity, by Sherry Ewing

Young widow Grace, Lady de Courtenay, has no idea how a close encounter with a rake at a masquerade ball would make her yearn for love again. Can she learn to forgive Lord Nicholas Lacey and set aside their differences to let love into her heart?

Excerpt

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?

Excerpt

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.

Excerpt

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.

Excerpt

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?

Excerpt

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…

Excerpt

Coming November 8.

Eight original stories, 578 pages of diverse characters,  complex relationships, and happily-ever-afters for $2.99.

Pre-order Now!

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Excerpt from Valuing Vanessa

“Are you certain it is not an imposition, Miss Sedgely? Because I shouldn’t mind showing the ladies around myself, in Mrs. Seavers’s absence.”

Vanessa’s chin rose as she directed a firm gaze at the institution’s housekeeper. “I assure you there is no imposition whatsoever, Mrs. Barnes. I shall be pleased to guide the ladies on their tour this morning, as Matron directed.”

Mrs. Barnes flushed. Obviously she considered the task her own prerogative, but Vanessa had not taken the trouble to get the hospital matron out of town just to be foiled by the housekeeper.

“But what about your class, Miss Sedgely? The children do so look forward to them! Why, they will be exceedingly disappointed to miss them today.” She leaned in closer, her eyes gleaming. “I hear that little Willie had prepared a special passage to read for you. He is quite partial to you, you know.”

Vanessa refused to allow herself to be diverted, in spite of the tiny twinge of guilt she felt deep inside. “My maid has agreed to take my classes for today. She has assisted me previously, you know, and thus is well-known to the children.”

She gave a curt nod to the housekeeper, who took it as the dismissal it was meant to be, and walked out of the room.

The Board of Governors were conducting a meeting in a quarter hour’s time, and Vanessa had taken great pains to find a reason to be lingering in the foyer as the gentlemen arrived. It was Mr. George Durand she wished to encounter, of course. During the week since the masquerade at Vauxhall, she had unearthed a great deal of information about the attractive gentleman.

George William Durand was the grandson of a viscount, his late father being the younger son, who had made law his profession. Durand’s cousin William had become the 4th Viscount Faringdon five years ago following his father’s death, and he had four healthy sons to follow him, which meant the title was unlikely to fall to George. George had followed his father into the law profession, although interestingly, he had briefly studied landscape gardening with one of Capability Brown’s former associates. That ended after his marriage, however, when young George set himself to becoming a successful solicitor like his father. His wife, Geneviève d’Aumale, was a French émigrée, the daughter of a comte who had lost his head on the Place de la Concorde at the hands of revolutionaries. She, her sister Juliette, and their mother the comtesse had lost their lives in a carriage accident which had arisen from an attack of highwaymen.

So dreadful. Life was so ephemeral. In a matter of minutes, three ladies’ lives had been snuffed out in such a horrific manner, leaving their husbands to bear the loss as best they could. And their adolescent daughters, of course. Both Durand and Lord Nicholas had daughters, approximately the same age. And perhaps not surprisingly, both had been residing with relatives since the tragedy. Men were notoriously helpless when it came to their maturing daughters. But in retrospect, Vanessa thought it rather pitiable that the girls had effectively lost both parents in that one disastrous moment.

One thing was certain, however. A well-off gentleman with a near-grown daughter was clearly in need of a wife. And Vanessa thought she might suit this one very well indeed.

Susanna Craig: To Kiss a Thief (Giveaway)

A Place in Time

When you turn the last page and close the book, what sticks with you? An intriguing character? A shocking plot twist?

What about the setting?

I’m a firm believer that historical romance should capture a place in time, or else it’s not really historical romance. Whether it’s Victorian London or Tang Dynasty China, a story’s setting, when done well, shapes everything the characters—and readers—experience.

For my Runaway Desires series, I chose the late Georgian period, specifically the 1790s, because I knew that tumultuous decade would offer plenty of built-in tension and conflict, including political and economic uncertainties, war, and the fight to end slavery. It’s a slightly edgier cousin of the much-beloved Regency period. It’s also when Jane Austen’s first three novels were written (and arguably set).

In To Kiss a Thief, the first book in the series, the heroine, Sarah, is suspected of infidelity and involvement in the disappearance of a priceless sapphire necklace. Rather than face the scandal, she runs away. Three years later, her husband finds her on the northern coast of Devonshire and wonders why on earth Sarah had chosen such a place to hide away… She would almost certainly have been better able to disappear in London, where one could very nearly get away with anything under cover of anonymity. But in a fishing village of a few hundred souls, her arrival would have been remarked by all.

And it has. From the baker to the apothecary’s wife, everyone in Haverhythe has an opinion about Sarah. At heart, To Kiss a Thief is a small-town romance, and as my hero and heroine reconnect with one another, they are confronted and comforted by the members of this close-knit community.

Because I wanted the place and its people to leap off the page, I was determined to ground my fictional village in reality. I chose the general location of Britain’s West Country for its proximity to Bristol, where Sarah’s parents live. I wanted the temptation to go home to be always on her horizon—literally. Then, one evening, as I idly scanned that coastal region via Google Earth looking for inspiration, I stumbled upon Clovelly.

320px-Clovelly_-_Harbour02

Clovelly harbor

From its appearance in the Domesday Book to the present day, Clovelly has enjoyed a long and interesting history. The picturesque village of fewer than 500 people has been a popular tourist destination since the Victorian period, thanks in part to one of its most famous residents, novelist Charles Kingsley. It is privately owned, and has belonged to just three different families since the thirteenth century.

I made use of several of Clovelly’s distinctive elements in constructing the fictional Haverhythe. One is its unique geography. Built into a cliff overlooking the Bristol Channel, the village consists primarily of a single, cottage-lined street that descends some 400 feet to the water. In the harbor lies another striking feature: a massive stone quay, built in in the fourteenth century. Once the ships’ cargo has been offloaded, it is transported overland via sledges drawn by donkeys.

Clovelly main street

Clovelly, main street

In To Kiss a Thief, characters travel the steep main street of Haverhythe under the watchful eye of all the village. Gossip travels “up-along” and “down-along” more quickly than the donkeys. And several memorable moments for my hero and heroine take place on the quay that curls into the harbor.

Unfortunately, I haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting Clovelly in person. But I’ve never visited the late eighteenth century, either. Like most writers of historical fiction, I find extensive research essential to crafting the best stories I can. I read about Clovelly’s history and geography, pored over the treasure trove of pictures online, and combined that information with my own experience of another coastal town, Tenby (Wales), to create my heroine’s perfectly imperfect hiding spot.

Travel, even in the pages of a book, makes us richer. Wherever your next reading adventure takes you, I hope you enjoy your visit!

What’s the most memorable setting of a book you’ve read? Or what’s your favorite real-life travel destination? One person will be chosen at random from the comments on this post to receive an e-book of To Kiss a Thief. The giveaway ends at midnight on August 21st.

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About To Kiss a Thief

TO KISS A THIEF low res copyIn the first book of a captivating new series set in Georgian England, a disgraced woman hides from her marriage—for better or worse…

Sarah Pevensey had hoped her arranged marriage to St. John Sutliffe, Viscount Fairfax, could become something more. But almost before it began, it ended in a scandal that shocked London society. Accused of being a jewel thief, Sarah fled to a small fishing village to rebuild her life.

The last time St. John saw his new wife, she was nestled in the lap of a soldier, disheveled, and no longer in possession of his family’s heirloom sapphire necklace. Now, three years later, he has located Sarah and is determined she pay for her crimes. But the woman he finds is far from what he expected. Humble and hardworking, Sarah has nothing to hide from her husband—or so it appears. Yet as he attempts to woo her to uncover her secrets, St. John soon realizes that if he’s not careful, she’ll steal his heart…

Excerpt

About the Author

IMG_8280_2 copyA love affair with historical romances led Susanna Craig to a degree (okay, three degrees) in literature and a career as an English professor. When she’s not teaching or writing academic essays about Jane Austen and her contemporaries, she enjoys putting her fascination with words and knowledge of the period to better use: writing Regency-era romances she hopes readers will find both smart and sexy. She makes her home among the rolling hills of Kentucky horse country, along with her historian husband, their unstoppable little girl, and a genuinely grumpy cat.

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