Tag Archive | Regency romance

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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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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Patricia Kiyono: Three French Inns

Thank you, Susana, for inviting me back to your lovely blog! I’m so excited about the chance to share my newest Christmas novella, Three French Inns. This is the third book in a series of holiday regencies – The Partridge and the Peartree and Two Tutor Doves are the first two. I’ve had great fun working on these novellas. Several people have asked how I came up with the idea to base a series on a familiar Christmas carol, so I thought I’d explain how this came about.

I never really intended to write a series. The Partridge and the Peartree was my contribution to a call-out for regency novellas set in 1812. I’d never written a regency, but I wanted to try. Originally, the request was for stories to be included in a multi-author series to be titled The Twelve Dukes of Christmas. Having spent many years teaching elementary music, the series title immediately made me think of the words to the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. I wrote a story about Lady Amelia Partridge and Phillip Peartree, Duke of Bartlett.

Happily, the book did quite well, although a few reviewers took me to task for creating events that would not have happened in that time period. So three years later, when I got my rights back, I did a lot of editing and re-released what I hope is a more historically accurate story. And then, the ideas started coming. What would happen after Phillip and Amelia married? I decided that the duke’s valet Robert and Amelia’s maid Jeanne needed their own story, and Two Tutor Doves was written and released last year. Robert and Jeanne’s story provided new problems. Since neither Robert or Jeanne are nobles, they had to speak and behave in different ways than their employers. This second book ended with Jeanne vowing to look for her missing brother, so of course that brother Peter became the hero for the next story, Three French Inns.

Researching this third story was an even greater challenge. Most available information about this time period is about the gentry, specifically English gentry. Most of my characters are French, and they aren’t nobles – so I spent a lot of time searching for the details I needed. Fortunately, I was able to reach out to a few author friends – one is English, and had already done research for a regency era book set in France. Another fabulous resource I stumbled on was a very kind history professor at a nearby university. Between them, I was able to produce what I hope is a believable story.

Will I continue the series? Probably. I have a few ideas simmering for the next book. But I’m quite sure I won’t continue all the way to Twelve Lords a-Leaping!

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About Three French Inns

Peter Brown joined His Majesty’s Army in the fight against Napoleon, but when he was wounded, a lovely French woman tended him. She was a recent widow, and they were on opposing sides of the war, so they went their separate ways. But he never forgot his “bel ange” — his beautiful angel.

Caroline Bouchard Duval marched with her husband in Napoleon’s army, eager to leave her sleepy village and see the world. But after being widowed, she returned to her childhood home in the French Alps. When a bloody traveler enters her father’s inn, she recognizes him immediately. Could this man give her another chance to fulfill her dreams?

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Excerpt

threefrenchinns-500x750-copyOn the long road out of Lyon, her wagon had broken a wheel, and she’d had to walk the rest of the way. Three years of traveling with the army had prepared her well, and she’d trudged along, eating berries and whatever she could find along the way.

She’d been traveling alone and was within a day’s journey to her home when she’d heard a weak cry for help. She’d found him in the bushes. The stranger had been wounded — not badly, but enough that he wasn’t able to walk. A musket ball had pierced his calf and had done a lot of damage, though it had missed the bone. She’d dragged him to a clearing so that she could see well enough to clean the wound, remove the musket ball, and wrap his leg.

She’d found a rusty wheelbarrow and taken him to an abandoned barn, where she’d stayed with him until she was sure he’d recover. For two days they’d talked, told stories, and learned a lot about each other. He’d sympathized about the loss of her husband. She’d expressed sadness that he had no family waiting for him at home.

They hadn’t exchanged family names or any other information. Both of them had known that their meeting was a special moment in time meant to be remembered fondly.

She’d continued on to Ambérieu, back to her life as an innkeeper’s daughter. When her mother died, she’d taken over as cook and maid. But she’d never forgotten the handsome stranger. The man who now lay in her father’s inn.

headshots16-7-copyAbout the Author

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level.

She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures.

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CL Gaber’s Before the Holidays Giveaway Hop

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Hosted by Teaser Addicts Book Blog

.•*´(¸.•*´(¸.•*´★`*•.¸)`*•.¸)`*•.¸

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

Each stop is a NEW chance to WIN something great.

Susana’s Giveaway

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

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

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

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

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

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8 novellas – 578 pages – $2.99

$0.99 through December!

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A Suitable Husband, by Jude Knight

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

Valuing Vanessa, by Susana Ellis

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

A Kiss for Charity, by Sherry Ewing

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

Artemis, by Jessica Cale

Actress Charlotte Halfpenny is in trouble. Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and out of a job, Charlotte faces eviction two weeks before Christmas. When the reclusive Earl of Somerton makes her an outrageous offer, she has no choice but to accept. Could he be the man of her dreams, or is the nightmare just beginning?

The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, by Jude Knight

James must marry to please his grandfather, the duke, and to win social acceptance for himself and his father’s other foreign-born children. But only Lady Sophia Belvoir makes his heart sing, and to win her he must invite himself to spend Christmas at the home of his father’s greatest enemy.

Christmas Kisses, by Nicole Zoltack

Louisa Wycliff, Dowager Countess of Exeter wants only for her darling daughter, Anna, to find a man she can love and marry. Appallingly, Anna has her sights on a scoundrel of a duke who chases after every skirt he sees. Anna truly thinks the dashing duke cares for her, but her mother has her doubts.

An Open Heart, by Caroline Warfield

Esther Baumann longs for a loving husband who will help her create a home where they will teach their children to value the traditions of their people, but she wants a man who is also open to new ideas and happy to make friends outside their narrow circle. Is it so unreasonable to ask for toe curling passion as well?

Dashing Through the Snow, by Amy Rose Bennett

Headstrong bluestocking, Miss Kate Woodville, never thought her Christmas would be spent racing across England with a viscount hell-bent on vengeance. She certainly never expected to find love…

About the Belles

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

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

About Amy Rose Bennett

Amy Rose Bennett has always wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember. An avid reader with a particular love for historical romance, it seemed only natural to write stories in her favorite genre. She has a passion for creating emotion-packed—and sometimes a little racy—stories set in the Georgian and Regency periods. Of course, her strong-willed heroines and rakish heroes always find their happily ever after.

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About Jessica Cale

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

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About Susana Ellis

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

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

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About Sherry Ewing

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

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About Jude Knight

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

A late starter, she now has the wind in her sails and a head full of strong determined heroines, heroes with the sense to appreciate them, and villains you’ll love to loathe.

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About Caroline Warfield

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

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About Nicole Zoltack

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

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Alina K. Field: The Marquess and the Midwife

Thank you, Susana, for hosting me today!

My Regency Christmas novella, The Marquess and the Midwife, tells the story of a Waterloo hero pursuing the woman he can’t forget, a woman who, by all the standards of polite society, has fallen out of his reach. After losing her position as a genteel companion in the home of a marquess, Ameline Dawes, the heroine of The Marquess and the Midwife, has taken up the practice of midwifery.

Prior to the late Georgian era, childbirth was generally the realm of women, though there were some men involved in the profession. The Chamberlen family of surgeons developed the use of obstetrical forceps and kept their family secret for 150 years. Another earlier male practitioner was a medical doctor, the Scottish physician, William Smellie. An 1876 annotated edition of Smellie’s Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Midwifery is available free on Google Books, and makes for fascinating reading if you’re researching this topic.

By the late eighteenth to early nineteenth century more and more male practitioners were invading this lucrative profession. Medical doctors or physicians did not provide hands-on care, so most of these man-midwifes or accoucheurs, were surgeons, like the man Ameline and her mentor call in to help with a difficult birth.

Ameline’s new profession has provided her with a purpose and a way of supporting her twin girls, and she doesn’t want to give it up, not even for the new marquess, the man who loved her, left her, and now is determined to win her back.

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About The Marquess and the Midwife

Finding the woman he lost turned out to be easy. Winning her is another matter.

Once upon a time, the younger brother of a marquess fell in love with his sister’s companion. He was sent off to war, and she was just sent off, and they both landed in very different worlds.

Now Virgil Radcliffe has returned from his self-imposed exile on the Continent to take up his late brother’s title and discover the whereabouts of the only woman he’s ever loved.

Abandoned by her lover and dismissed by her employer, Ameline Dawes has found a respectable identity as a Waterloo widow, a new life as a midwife, and a safe, secure home for her twin girls. Called to London at Christmas to attend her benefactress’s lying-in, she finds herself confronted by an unexpected house guest–a man determined to woo her anew and win her again.

But, is loving the new Marquess of Wallingford a mistake Ameline cannot afford to repeat?

The Marquess and the Midwife is specially priced at 99 cents through December 31, 2016.

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Excerpt

He released her and leaned back, and his shirt gaped around a starburst scar, corded and jagged right above his heart.

She gasped and reached to touch it, but he clasped her hand and pushed it away.

“Waterloo?” she whispered. “I’d heard you were wounded, but—”

“I survived,” he said in a tight voice.

Her lungs squeezed and her heart quickened. Had he? If so, it was just barely. He’d been stabbed or speared, or shot, and somehow, somehow, his great heart had carried on. This had been no minor wound. Virgil had suffered terribly.

“I want to see.” She pushed his hand away and grasped his collar. He grabbed for her hand, but she dodged him and ripped the fine cotton, rending the shirt down the front.

Ameline—”

“You have a trunk full of shirts. I want to see.” She knelt before him on the sofa, yanked the shirt down his arms, and studied his chest. Small cuts marked his side and his belly, but the mottled scar was the worst. It would have taken months to fully heal a wound like this from the inside out. He should have died.

Her vision blurred so she couldn’t see. But her hands, trained to examine a babe in the womb, they could see. She flattened her palms and set a course over the ridges knots, and hard ripples.

He surely had almost died. A world without Virgil, without his laughter, and his generally kind heart. He’d used her, true, as men did. It was in a man’s animal nature, wasn’t it? And she’d used him also, hadn’t she? Both of them grieving over his sister’s death, and comforting each other. And she was left with her girls, and things had turned out all right, hadn’t they?

Her hands cupped his shoulders and slipped over to his back. No scars there that she could feel. The ball, or saber, or… what else did men use to kill each other?… had not gone clean through. It had merely dredged a hole in his front and wreaked havoc inside him.

And nearly killed him.

She’d always pictured a wounded Virgil, binding up a minor slash and heading off to the Continent to charm actresses and diplomats’ wives, maybe taking a wife there himself, and bringing her back to breed pretty, cheerful children. Virgil, rich, content and happy.

How she’d wallowed in that vision.

The feel of the scarred skin melted away her resentment. Let him have that happy life with his marchioness and heirs. And perhaps, on a rare occasion, he could come down to Longview and visit his twins.

“Ameline.” Virgil’s breath touched her cheek.

Large hands cupped both of her hips.

Warmth spurted through her. Too late, she realized her error. She’d got too close again.

She pulled the sides of his shirt up, her gaze sliding over the rip and…

Right. He was fully erect. Of course he was.

Hot need shrieked inside her, and she battered it down and found her breath. “I apologize. My infernal curiosity.” She patted his shoulders and eased away.

His eyes had gone dark and feral, his lips parted like a hungry man ready to chomp down on a long-awaited meal. Inside, she melted more.

She took in a great breath. She must keep him talking. “How did the wound happen?” she asked.

His eyes shuttered and he yanked her hard against him, smashing his lips to hers.

About the Author

Alina K. Field copyAward winning author Alina K. Field earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English and German literature, but her true passion is the much happier world of romance fiction. Though her roots are in the Midwestern U.S., after six very, very, very cold years in Chicago, she moved to Southern California and hasn’t looked back. She shares a midcentury home with her husband, her spunky, blonde, rescued terrier, and the blue-eyed cat who conned his way in for dinner one day and decided the food was too good to leave.

She is the author of the 2014 Book Buyer’s Best winner, Rosalyn’s Ring, a 2015 RONE Award finalist, Bella’s Band, and a 2016 National Reader’s Choice Award finalist, Liliana’s Letter, as well as her latest release, The Marquess and the Midwife. She is hard at work on her next series of Regency romances, but loves to hear from readers!

Visit her at:

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Diane Dario: An Earl’s Christmas Embrace (The Men of Waterloo)

Regency Christmas

Now that the countdown has begun for the Holiday season, it had me wondering how did they celebrate this festive season during the Regency era.

Throughout Europe, England being no exception, the custom of giving a gift on the 6 of December, in commemoration of St. Nicholas, was widespread. Eventually, however, separate customs tended to become condensed. Thus a gift was given for New Year or Twelfth Night.

Traditional decorations included holly and evergreens. The decorations of homes was not just for the gentry: poor families also brought greenery indoors to decorate their homes but not until Christmas Eve. It was considered unlucky to bring greenery into the house before then. By the late 18th century, kissing boughs and balls were popular, usually made from holly, ivy, mistletoe and rosemary. These were often also decorated with spices, apples, oranges, candles or ribbons

Once Twelfth Night was over, all the decorations were taken down and the greenery burned, or the house risked bad luck.

The Christmas holidays lasted for several weeks, due in part to the long, cold journeys undertaken to visit family for the holidays and the guests were reluctant to leave again. This put a strain on the cook and housewife alike, and a varied and full menu had to be prepared for guests, and for the possibility of those same guests being snowbound, and not being able to depart.

Christmas pudding as we now know it first appeared in the reign of King George III. It was said to have been invented especially for him by his chief, because of his inordinate love of English puddings. Before this, the pudding was more of a pottage or porridge, with all the right ingredients we attend to associate with the traditional Christmas pudding but cooked in a large cloth and rather sloppy. Which leads us to Bullet Pudding which was a family name for Christmas Pudding or should I say, the name given to a particular pudding which turned out to be as hard as a bullet.

Imagine putting on a fine ball gown decollété, floaty and clinging, leaving no room for flannel petticoats, your hair dressed in such a way that only the flimsiest scarf can protect your head from the cold night. The coach offers little protection, draughty. What you need when you arrive at the Christmas Ball is a bowl of white soup to put color in your cheeks before greeting the other guests and old acquaintances there, already glowing from their own partaking of the soup, mulled wine and the dancing.

Anyone care for a glass of Wassail?

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Excerpt

Turning toward an alcove he had spotted earlier, he couldn’t stop the tension from leaking into his voice at her teasing about the “Lord of Darkness” nonsense. “Beware, Lady Emma. Do not scoff at my actions. There is darkness in my soul. A good friend and officer died in my arms during the Battle of Hougoumont, leaving behind a widow and child. I hope you never experience the despair I’ve known, that haunts me whether I am asleep or awake. Now allow me.”

Ravenstone changed topics —and directions—abruptly, before she could respond. Touching her elbow lightly, he walked her across the ballroom to an alcove, discretely screened by potted palms. He escorted her to a green velvet chaise longue, and Lady Emma smoothed a hand over her already neatly coiffed hair. He knew her reputation would be in ruins if someone from the ton should stumble upon them in such an intimate situation without benefit of a chaperone. At this moment, though, he only wanted to be with her. His thoughts went to the painting displayed in a place of honor this very night. Of course Emma couldn’t have known it was an image of the very day he had experienced his descent into hell. His thoughts must have shown on his face, for she placed her hand lightly over his.

He abruptly changed the subject, “By the way, where is Lady Lettice? Do you think you could introduce her to me?”

Lettice felt her heart skip a beat before she thought to ask, “Hasn’t my cousin, Lord Foxington, introduced you?”

Ravenstone’s chuckle cut her off abruptly.

“Ah, look what hangs above us,” he said, lifting his eyes towards the ceiling. “I believe it’s mistletoe. You know what this means don’t you? Legend says you must accept a kiss, lest you be doomed not to receive any marriage proposals for a full year, and scorned for the lack. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to invite public disdain by denying my holiday kissing privileges.”

He slowly, slowly, took her hand, turned it over, and kissed her palm. He noticed a blush staining her décolletage. Her breath caught as his eyes fixed on the rosy glow that spread upward, and he asked, “Did you ever hear about the tradition that for every berry in the mistletoe I may give you a separate kiss?”

She slowly moved her head side to side, her eyes locked on his lips. He licked his lips, loving the way her eyes dilated at the teasing motion, then continued. “I kiss you first, then I pluck off a berry. When all the berries are gone, so are the kisses.”

With that, Ravenstone lowered his head, “First kiss.”

He spoke against the softness of her skin, and planted his lips tenderly on her forehead.

Reaching up to pluck one of the white berries, “Kiss number two,” he whispered, then kissed each eyelid in turn, finally pressing his lips on her mouth. His hands wrapped tightly in her hair, holding her head at exactly the right angle for his ministrations. His body pressed her back against the upholstered arm of the chaise, and he welcomed the heat she generated. Her response was creating such amazing sensations that he simply pressed closer.            She swayed, and he swayed with her, wrapping his arms around her, intoxicated. He just wanted to hold her close. To absorb her sweetness. Light burst inside him for the first time since that fateful day in France. He had thought he’d rather face an army of Napoleon’s men than consider marriage. But when he was with Emma, anything seemed possible.

When he was with her, he never wanted to let her out of his sight. He loved how she challenged him. Unlike the other women on the marriage mart, Emma wasn’t frightened of his stern expression. He wasn’t sure when he’d started to think of her in such intimate terms, but it felt right. She didn’t pout or flutter her eyelashes ridiculously in an attempt to make him smile. She had enough joi de vivre for them both. A few curls tumbled loose from her coiffeur. He heard her breath catch, but she remained within his embrace, and her eyes fluttered open.

“What?” Ravenstone asked.

Lettice shook her head, then giggled.

***

Mad? She must be. Lettice felt as though she were losing all sense of reality. His kisses sent her into a state of bliss that she hoped would last forever. She should stop him from taking any more liberties, push him away, but her body wanted more. For once in her life, she wanted to experience what others had. Lettice had read and overheard enough to realize what could transpire between a man and a woman. This—whatever this was—was worth the consequences.

For once in her life, she wanted to break the rules. To be very naughty. Hang the gossip. Ravenstone was so much more than she’d thought. He had depths that were calling to her at some visceral level she’d never felt before. If only…

Lettice felt Ravenstone’s lips on her neck, and her heart skipped a beat when he whispered, “Kiss number two.”

An Earl’s Christmas Embrace will be released on November 23rd.

About The Author

img_0001-copyI have been reading romance novels since my aunt introduced me at the age of fourteen and I have not stopped reading them.

Regency romances are one of my all-time favorite eras (grand ballrooms, dinner parties while sitting next to a grand duke or war hero just returned from fighting against Napoleon and the French. Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?).

When I am not reading (or writing the stories I have visions in my head and are now writing), I am enjoying the joyful moments with my growing family, the ballet and romantic movies.

Writing has always been a great passion for me, a long road of many ups and downs (and lots of online writing classes) and the years it took to get the craft right, finally, all my time and efforts paid off and now my dream of becoming a published author is going to become a reality thanks to a great opportunity of winning a first chapter Facebook contest.

It just goes to prove dreams can come true as long as you do not give up on them.

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Laurie Alice Eakes: My Enemy, My Heart

A Silly War

Well, maybe most or all war is silly, and the War of 1812 has to be among the silliest. Tiny little United States, with our 18 naval vessels, not all in commission, declared war on powerful Great Britain, with its 506 naval vessels in commission. Our Army was a joke, and half the country was against the war. Yet President Madison and Congress declared war on our old enemy to prove a point. In other words, England was messing with our sailors and our trade freedom, and we didn’t like it. In two and a half years, we got a treaty with everything we wanted. Why?

That why has fascinated me since I first learned of the war way back in the dark ages. The answer ends up being pretty simple: Money.

The USA didn’t have a Navy to speak of, but we still built great sailing vessels—fast and seaworthy. We also had experienced and tough sailors. This means we ended up with a fleet of independent privateers that took so many British merchantmen prizes, the men in England with the money, the merchants, cried “Uncle” and Great Britain promised to cease impressing our sailors and stopping us from trading with France.

That GB was embroiled with Napoleon didn’t hurt either.

Despite our prowess at sea, our land battles were embarrassing losses, yet we walked away with the Northwest Territory, which includes my home state of Michigan, probably one reason for my fascination with the time period.

But another time period with which I am forever fascinated is the Regency. Hmm. The two time periods coincide, yet one rarely ever hears a mention of fighting Americans from Regency authors. This, too, has piqued my interest and set off the “What if—“ factor. From these “What ifs–?” sprang My Enemy, My Heart.

How could I set the War of 1812 in England, when the war barely touched those hallowed—at least to a Regency reader—shores? More reading and research unearthed a place called Dartmoor Prison set—yes, of course—on Dartmoor in Devonshire.

Built in 1809, the walled enclosure was intended for French prisoners. By 1812, it was crowded with the French captured at sea. Then the new war began, and the British crammed American prisoners into the damp, cold, and filthy quarters. These were barracks-like structures and prison yards, plus a marketplace.

A What?

Yes, prisoners could buy and sell goods in a yard, where the public came and went to buy and sell.

Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me, thinking from the point of view of a British guard. And it was. Prisoners escaped fairly often.

Onto an island.

Getting off that island could prove rather difficult. If he was French, he gave himself away the minute he opened his mouth. By 1812, the same went for most Americans, who had been separated from England long enough to be forming very distinct accents.

But my heroine, raised on an American merchantman that is captured, insists she will free her crew from Dartmoor and get them to safety in France. The problem is, she has married an Englishman for her protection, and freeing her crew is treason. Yet they are her family. And so are the parents and sisters of her husband, not to mention how she is beginning to feel about him.

Writing about war is not fun, heart-wrenching, and exciting because of bloody battles, but because of the people and human nature. How far do we take loyalty? Is an American truly doing something wrong to free Americans from her country of origin just because she is married to an Englishman? Yet that Englishman took a great risk with his family to marry her and rescue her from a bad situation, so does she not owe him loyalty?

We often think of war as good guys and bad guys, and often this is true; however, sometimes the lines of demarcation blur. Exploring these harder to define areas and making everything come out happily ever after in the end is the absolutely most fun about writing novels.

Thank you for reading this post. I would love your feedback. I’m not doing a traditional give-away, but have a little gift for anyone who will send me a land address through the contact form on my web site. Below is a snippet of my book. You can read the first chapter on my web site as well.

http://www.lauriealiceeakes.com

About My Enemy, My Heart

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The sea has always been Deirdre MacKenzie’s home, and the crew of her father’s Baltimore clipper is the only family she loves. She’s happier wearing breeches and climbing the rigging of the Maid of Alexandria than donning a dress and learning to curtsey. But, when the War of 1812 erupts, the ship is captured by a British privateer . With her father, the captain, dead, Deirdre sees her crew herded into the hold as prisoners-of-war. Their fate is the notorious Dartmoor prison in England. Her fate as a noncombatant prisoner is uncertain, but the one thing she knows—she must find a way to free her crew.

Kieran Ashford has caused his family one too many scandals. On his way to exile in America, he is waylaid by the declaration of war and a chance to turn privateer and make his own fortune. But he regrets his actions as soon as the rich prize is secured. Kieran figures his best chance at redeeming himself in the eyes of his family is to offer Deidre the protection of his name in marriage. He has no idea that secrets from his parents’ past and Deirdre’s determination to free her crew are on a disastrous collision course.

Love and loyalty clash, as Kieran begins to win Deirdre’s heart despite her plot to betray him and his family. While Kieran works to mend the relationship with his family, he begins to love his bride in spite of what lies between them.

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Excerpt

From My Enemy, My Heart Chapter 12

England was cold. It was wet. It reeked of too many men packed in dark, dank quarters upon the half-dozen naval vessels anchored in Plymouth Harbor along with countless brigs, schooners, and single-masted pinnaces. Garbage floated on the murky water around which bung boats steered, selling wares ranging from fresh vegetables to doxies.

Though her only coat proved inadequate to the damp chill permeating to her bone marrow, Deirdre stood amidships in the tumbling rain and watched yet one more kind of boat draw away from the Maid of Alexandria—longboats. Rowed by men in the tarred hats, striped shirts, and white duck trousers of British sailors, the two craft carried her crew toward shore, toward prison.

Tears blending with the rain, icy on her face, she waved until the boats vanished around the looming hull of a seventy-four-gun ship-of-the-line. They couldn’t wave back. Their hands and feet were shackled. Neither did they look at her.

Not one of them had looked at her in the six weeks since she had gone ashore with Kieran Ashford at St. George’s and returned two days later with his ring on her finger. She had tried to talk to Ross once.

“I did it for your sakes.” She had pleaded for Ross’s understanding.

Ross spat into the sea. “You’re lying with the enemy.”

“I’m his wife. He has a right to me.”

“And you look like you hate every minute of it.” He had walked away from her without a glance back.

With that, and with every head turned away from her, her heart had torn and her resolve to free them had hardened. All but two of them had given up their chance to escape there on Bermuda in order to rescue her and Kieran from the harbor waters. They had saved her and Kieran’s lives. Freeing them was the least she could do. Once she was settled, once she knew the lay of the land, she would get her men out of prison if it killed her. If the English didn’t hang her for treason, now that she was wed to one of their own, her conscience might.

About the Author

alice-photo“Eakes has a charming way of making her novels come to life without being over the top,” writes Romantic times of bestselling, award-winning author Laurie Alice Eakes. Since she lay in bed as a child telling herself stories, she has fulfilled her dream of becoming a published author, with more than two dozen books in print and several award wins and nominations to her credit, including winning the National Readers Choice Award for Best Regency and being chosen as a 2016 RITA®

She has recently relocated to a cold climate because she is weird enough to like snow and icy lake water. When she isn’t basking in the glory of being cold, she likes to read, visit museums, and take long walks, preferably with her husband, though the cats make her feel guilty every time she leaves the house.

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Rachel Miles: Tempting the Earl

The backdrop of Tempting the Earl is sedition. Who is leaking government information to the press? To what end? And how can he (or she) be stopped?

In the fall of 1819, the government openly began to repress voices critical of its laws and policies. Though reforming societies had been meeting peaceably for months across the nation, magistrates in Manchester balked at the large numbers of protesters who gathered in St. Peter’s Field. On August 19th, before the speeches could begin, the yeomanry violently dispersed the peaceful group, killing almost a dozen and maiming hundreds. The action gained the derisive name the Peterloo Massacre.

By the end of November, a fearful Parliament had passed the Six Acts, a group of laws restricting large meetings, limiting the rights of the press in what could be said, and narrowing what publishers could print or sell.

The stakes were quite high for those found to be publishing works critical of the government. Fines, imprisonment, deportation, execution—all were possible punishments. As a result, it wasn’t uncommon for journalists (thought that word wasn’t in use yet) to hide behind assumed names, or for publishers to refuse to put their names on books (as John Murray did with Byron’s Don Juan), or to print a European place of publication on a book to hide its origins.

On this day in 1819, in fact, booksellers were tried for selling inappropriate materials. Here’s the story from the London Times.

Marlborough-Street. – Seditious Publications. The vestry of the parish of St. James having lately received information, that certain persons were in the habit of meeting for treasonable practices, they are using every effort to prevent such proceedings; and, fearful that the public mind or morals should be contaminated by the circulation of seditious or blasphemous publications, have instituted proceedings against some of these venders in the parish by information.

Mr. Collinson yesterday attended on the part of St. James’s parish, and suggested to the Magistrate, R. Baker, Esq., that the decision of the present case would prove of some importance to the public; the proceeding was against certain individuals who were in the habit of placarding the outside of their shop windows on the Lord’s-day, announcing that certain seditious pamphlets were sold there, which induced persons to enter and purchase them. He attended at the request of the Vestry and had witnesses to prove the act of selling the works.

Mr William Swainsley, of Pulteney-court, Golden-square, was charged under the same statute with a similar offence. In his defense he said that he did not belong to the shop; his son was a cripple, not able to work, and he set him up in the business of a newspaper-seller, to procure an honest livelihood, which he always had, but he found that the more honestly a man got his living, he was the worst treated: none but rogues were protected.

Magistrate. — That language, I suppose, you think will serve you?

Defendant. — I am under bail at present, for my son, for selling The Republican.

Magistrate. — What, for selling libels?

Defendant. — Your Worship may think it a libel; but for myself, I can see no libel in its contents

The magistrate, said he could not convict the father for the action of the son, but suggested to Mr. Collinson, if the practice was continued, to proceed against them by a fresh information; and intimated to the parties, that they would not be allowed to sell the papers on Sundays, or to have placards outside their windows.

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Tempting the Earl

A double life…

Olivia Walgrave is finished with being a countess. Writing under a pen name, her controversial column for the scandal sheets provides her with some income and far more excitement than managing a country estate. Besides, in the three years since the wars have ended, her dashing husband hasn’t spent one night under their roof. So Olivia has prepared a plan, and an annulment. All she needs is his consent…

Lord Harrison Walgrave let his father coerce him into marriage—but his devotion is to his Parliamentary career—and his secret work for the Home Office. Yet now, with freedom in his grasp, he finds he cannot so easily release his wife. Seeing her stirs a hunger no other woman has reached. A distraction now, when he is a breath away from revealing a ring of traitors, could be deadly. Still, wherever his investigations lead, the thought of Olivia lingers. It might be obsession. It might be treason. But the only way to escape the temptation is to succumb…

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Excerpt

The man pursued her from the other side of the street, tracking her every step. Olivia had been lucky to notice him, or she would have led him straight to her next meeting. Now she needed to go somewhere—a market, a crowded shop—anywhere to give herself a chance to escape. If he hadn’t already recognized her, then all could still be well.

But the street was quiet, and the shops too small. Nowhere to hide. She looked for her pursuer in the reflection of a shop window as she passed. Still there. She forced herself not to increase her pace. If she hurried, he would know she’d seen him.

Ahead, a carriage pulled to her side of the street, and two footmen carrying packages stepped out of a shop. Footmen and packages meant women shopping.

She looked at the shop’s sign—an open book beside a stack of papers and a jar filled with quills. A bookshop and stationer. She could just read the name of the shop: The African’s Daughter.

A chance.

Olivia eyed the distance to the carriage, estimating how long it would take for the women to leave the shop and step into the coach, and for the coach to pull away. Each moment the women delayed leaving the shop became a moment gained for Olivia to reach the coach.

The footman opened the door to the shop and two women, well-dressed and laughing, stepped out. Olivia clenched her fingers on her worn reticule, holding it close to her belly. In the lining, she’d tucked the instructions for meeting her informant. Usually she memorized the complicated dance of sign and countersign, but she had told herself it wouldn’t matter, this once. But if he caught her, if he found the paper, then it would matter a great deal. And not just for herself.

More than a year had passed since she penned an essay on the struggles of returning soldiers and sent it off to the fashionable newspaper, the World. If she had believed the editor would publish it, she would have chosen a better pseudonym than “An Honest Gentleman.” She hadn’t intended to become the banner bearer for the rights of man. But her essay struck a chord with the British, weary from the wars and the ensuing poor economy. Her correspondence with the editor, a Mrs. Helena Wells, known for her deft editing of the World and her charismatic performances on the Drury Lane stage, had quickly turned to friendship. And soon her essays began appearing every week. Not long after, her former employers at the Home Office found a use for her new work. Having discovered that old enemies of England were using the periodical press to convey state secrets abroad, they asked her to pay careful attention to the path of the information that came her way. She’d almost refused, wishing to be free to advocate for political reform, but they’d assured her—and she believed them—that their aim was only to find those who wished to destroy, not mend. She’d agreed, with the promise that she would be allowed to tell the truth. From corruption in Parliament to abuse on the docks, An Honest Gentleman brought it to a public hungry for an honest voice.

Soon she was receiving correspondence from across the land, asking for her help—or rather An Honest Gentleman’s help—in revealing this or that wrong. From one informant in the London hells, she now had more than twenty across Britain. She’d become—according to Tories—the greatest threat to a peaceable England since Napoleon. But no one expected a short, softly rounded woman with a middle-class accent to wield the pen that caused MPs to shudder. She—and her old employers–had believed anonymity would be protect her. Now, she was not so sure.

She looked ahead, dismayed by the remaining distance to the carriage. The women stood outside the bookshop, their heads bowed in conversation. Keep talking, she willed them. But they moved forward, where a waiting footman handed each one up a three-stepped stool, into the carriage.

She glanced at the nearest window. He still followed. She tamped down on her welling panic. What would she do if he caught her? Him, of all people? It was crucial that An Honest Gentleman’s next essay appear before the upcoming Parliamentary session. One of her trusted correspondents had written that a bill widely supported by the conservative MPs was financed by a group of powerful criminals. But he’d refused to send the name through the mail. If she missed their first meeting, her correspondent might never agree to another.

Before her, the door to the carriage remained open, the footman still waiting. Olivia’s heart rose. Someone else was in the shop!

Instinctively she quickened her pace, then slowed. But it was too late; he had increased his pace as well. With each long step, he narrowed the distance between them. But he had not yet crossed to her side of the street. The carriage would hide her escape.

Only four more shops and she’d be there.

The footman opened the shop door again, and a young woman with a brightly colored feather in her hat moved slowly toward the open carriage door. At the carriage, the younger woman stopped before the steps, then held out her hand. The postilion placed it on his shoulder, and the woman raised her right foot slowly to the first step, bringing her left up to meet it, then repeated the deliberate action. Another time Olivia would have wondered at the young woman’s slow movements, but not today. No, all that mattered was reaching the shop. And she was almost there.

The footman opened the shop door once more, stepping back to let yet another woman out of the shop. Olivia’s eyes met his, pleading, and he held the door another fraction of a second, long enough for her to leap into the bookstore. As the door shut behind her, she heard the coachman call out to the postilion to lash the steps on tight. For another moment or two, the carriage would hide her escape.

To the right of the entrance, two kind-faced women stood at a counter, one an aristocrat, the other a shopkeeper.

“I need . . .” She saw the carriage begin to pull away from the sidewalk, and just past it, the man crossing the street to the shop. She turned back to the women, who waited expectantly. “A man is following me. Can you help?”

Neither woman looked startled. The shopkeeper spoke quickly. “Follow me.”

The aristocrat turned confident gray eyes to Olivia. “I’ll give you time. Go.”

Olivia obeyed without thinking.

“This whole row of buildings backs up to a marsh.” The bookseller spoke softly, as they hurried toward the back of the shop. “No back exit.”

Olivia felt her stomach tighten. He would find her. If she had time, she could hide the instructions in a book. But which one?

“The roof, however, connects this row of buildings almost to the tollbooth beyond the marsh.”

“The roof?” Olivia felt her throat tighten. He’d found her on a roof once before. She pushed the memory away. He’d been angry enough then. This time he had more cause.

“If you are afraid of the roof, lock the attic door behind you and hide until I return.”

“I’m not afraid.”

“Good. On the roof, you’ll find a path of sorts. Stay near the back of the buildings. That way, no one will see you from the street. At the end, climb down a series of lower roofs and balconies until you reach the ground—the descent is protected from view by the curve of the buildings. From there, you can slip into the street unnoticed. It isn’t too hard.” The woman smiled, then added, “If you have a bit of a tomboy in you.”

The shop doorbell rang. Olivia looked toward the salesroom, the woman following her eyes. “I have more than a bit. Where do I start?”

The bookseller motioned to Olivia’s right. A piece of heavy brocade pinned with dozens of broadsides covered the wall between two book cases. The bookseller pushed against it. Not a wall. A door. The woman stepped into a small office, and Olivia, with a last quick glance over her shoulder, closed the office door behind them.

“He’s here. I hear his voice.”

“Go up three flights. My rooms, then the attic, then the roof.” The bookseller opened a smaller door leading to a stairway, then held out a key. “Lock the door behind you. Leave the key on the hook beside the door.”

“How will you retrieve it?”

“I have a second key. You must hurry.” The bookseller paused, searching Olivia’s face. “If you need help again, you will find it. The African’s Daughter turns no one away. Now, you must go.”

Olivia clasped the woman’s hand gratefully, then ran up the stairs.

About the Author

rm-1-dsc_7961-copyRachael Miles writes witty, sexy romance novels set in the British Regency. Booklist describes Miles’ debut series The Muses’ Salon as “impeccably researched and beautifully crafted.” Tempting the Earl – the third standalone novel in the series – received a 4/5 stars Top Pick from RT Book Reviews. It was chosen as one of Amazon’s Editor’s Best Books for November. Compared to Jo Beverley and Mary Jo Putney, Miles is a former professor of book history and nineteenth-century literature. She lives in the woods with her indulgent husband, three rescued dogs,  an ancient cat, and a herd of deer who love her vegetable garden .

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