Tag Archive | Time Travel

A Home for Helena: Release Day is Here!

Home for Helena Cover 5-inches-2-20-16 copy

The Story Behind the Story

I wrote A Home for Helena and sent it out to my critique partners and beta readers around two years ago, but as with other projects, I put it aside in favor of working on new projects. Frankly, the initial first draft writing is much more exciting for me than making revisions. If I don’t have a deadline looming, I tend to leave past projects in limbo indefinitely. Fortunately, last year I got involved in three group projects with deadlines which forced me to actually finish things. Those were Lost and Found Lady (from Beaux, Ballrooms, and Battles), The Third MacPherson Sister (Sweet Summer Kisses), and  The Ultimate Escape (Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem).

The Ultimate Escape, the story of Lady Pendleton’s eldest daughter escaping to the future, revived my determination to get A Home for Helena out to readers. Because The Ultimate Escape takes place five years before A Home for Helena—even though the latter was written first—it became Book 1 in The Lady P Chronicles, with Helena becoming Book 2. As for Book 3, I’ve got a few ideas mulling about, but I’d like to get some of my other unfinished projects out there too.

Want to know how Lady Pendleton evolved? Check out my post on Caroline Warfield’s blog:  http://ow.ly/ZTiNP

I really, really hate deadlines

I know I have to get started right away, but I don’t feel like it. I’ll just have another cup of coffee first. Let me finish this one episode of Dateline first, and then I’ll work on my project. OMG, I forgot to get my blog post up today! I really should take care of the credit card bill first,  then I’ll get started on the project. Is it time for lunch already? I’ll just take a little break for Facebook games and then I know for sure I’ll be ready to write. The phone rings and I realize I haven’t talked to this friend for several weeks. People are more important than things, right? Suze Orman always says so. OMG, is it 5:00 already? I’m too tired to write. I’ll just get up early tomorrow and write twice as much…

But I can’t get things finished without them!

As you can see, deadlines are a necessary evil. Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em. Well, I probably could live without ’em, but I’d be a certified couch potato and a has-been writer. And no, that’s not the way I want to live.

So I am learning to set deadlines for myself. And even though I don’t always meet them exactly on the nose, I do get things done, which wouldn’t be the case otherwise. I’ve also learned that having the cover done is a great motivator. Mari Christie, who created the cover for Helena has also done several others for me, including my two stories with Ellora’s Cave that revert back to me in a couple of weeks. Treasuring Theresa will be Book 1 of the  Hertfordshire Hoydens series and Book 2 will be Cherishing Charlotte, which is another unfinished project I hope to have completed by the end of the summer. And I still have several others after that, which will keep both Mari and me busy for the foreseeable future.

About A Home for Helena

After a wise woman suggests that she has been misplaced in time, Helena Lloyd travels back two hundred years in an attempt to find out where she belongs.

Widowed father James Walker has no intention of remarrying until he makes the acquaintance of his daughter’s lovely new governess.

Lady Pendleton, a time-traveling Regency lady herself, suspects that these two belong together. First, however, she must help Helena discover her true origins—and hopefully, a home where she belongs.

A Home for Helena is Book 2 of The Lady P Chronicles.

Book 1, The Ultimate Escape, originally published in the Bluestocking Belles’ anthology, Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem, will soon be available individually.

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Excerpt

Newsome Grange

Kingswood, Kent

Later that morning

“Miss Dray is dead?”

James stared incredulously at Sir Henry, who, for once, was not wearing his normal easy-going expression. Instead, he leaned against the mantel of the fireplace of his study, studying the grate as though there were a fire blazing in it.

“Good God, what happened? Is Annabelle all right?”

“She’s fine, James.

Lady Sarah strolled through the doorway and into her husband’s arms. In spite of her words, she looked worn out. Strands of her blonde hair were falling out of her chignon, and he thought he saw the remains of tears on her cheeks.

“The girls are quite distressed, of course. They were fond of Miss Dray. As were we all,” she said with a glance at her husband, whose arm remained tightly clasped around her shoulders. “She was a dear thing, but very strict. The perfect governess. I don’t know how we shall go on without her.” Her voice broke and she buried her face on her husband’s chest.

“They found her in Abbey Wood,” Sir Henry explained. “Wednesday was her half-day, and when she didn’t return, we sent out a search party. No signs of foul play. The doctor says it was natural causes—her heart just gave out.”

His wife erupted in sobs again, and James decided he should find his daughter and leave the Newsomes to their grief, giving voice to that decision.

Lady Sarah turned to face him, accepting her husband’s handkerchief to dab her eyes with.

“Oh no, James, you needn’t do that. The nanny will manage until Mother can send us a replacement. Emily and Theodosia simply love having Annabelle around, and it will only distress them further if she leaves as well. And as for Colin, I’ve no doubt he thinks Annabelle’s his mother by now. She has a way with babies, it seems.”

James was not convinced. “Still, it takes time to find a governess.” He should know—the agency he’d consulted in London had yet to send him information on any potential candidates.

Sir Henry chuckled. “Have you met my mother-in-law?”

Lady Sarah smiled in spite of herself. “We sent an express requesting her aid. If I know her, she’ll come herself if she can’t find someone suitable to fill in until we find a permanent replacement.”

Sir Henry winked at him. “Perhaps she’ll bring along that pretty Miss Lloyd she has residing with her. I think she liked you well enough.” He chuckled. “Not looking for a husband, though. Or so she says.”

James frowned. He’d nearly succeeded in forcing the image of the forthright Miss Lloyd out of his mind, and now she had installed herself right back in again. If he were truthful with himself, he’d admit he wouldn’t be sorry to see her again. She was quite an eyeful.

It was really too bad he hadn’t been able to visit Violet while in London. It seemed her new protector demanded exclusivity, and he’d not been able to get past her burly butler. He hadn’t been near an attractive woman in ages, and this Miss Lloyd was proving strangely difficult to dismiss from his thoughts.

Lady Sarah looked thoughtful. “What do you know about this Miss Lloyd, Henry? Where did she come from? I don’t believe Mother has ever mentioned her before.”

Sir Henry grinned as he looked down at her. “She’s your mother, my dear. Surely you know by now how unpredictable she can be.”

Lady Sarah drew a deep breath. “I do know that. That’s precisely why I’m—concerned.”

James cleared his throat. “I appreciate your kindness in offering to keep my daughter, but you obviously have more than enough to deal with at present. If you would be so kind as to call her down… I can send for her things later.”

But the Newsomes wouldn’t hear of it. Lady Sarah was so vehement that he could see she was almost ready to burst into tears again, and after Sir Henry shook his head in warning, James visited his daughter briefly and left without her.

As he rode home, no matter how he fought it, his mind’s eye kept reverting to a pair of bright green eyes and the lovely face that went with them. Would he be seeing them again?

Susana’s March Events & Giveaways

A Home for Helena Rafflecopter: through March 31st

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Susana’s March Quiz: through March 31st

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Susana’s Newsletter Subscriber Drive: through March 31st

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A Home for Helena Release Party: March 29, 2016, 4:00-11:00 p.m. EDT

Guest authors • Prizes • Fabulous gowns • Swoonworthy heroes • Fun for everyone

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About Lady Pendleton

REAL LADY PLady Pendleton is a frequent guest of Susana’s in the 21st century, both in Toledo and Florida, where Susana splits her time. She began appearing in Susana’s blog, Susana’s Parlour, in 2013.

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

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

Pissarro_Hyde_Park

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

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

Agatha Tate, Lady Pendleton

Agatha Tate, Lady Pendleton

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary Pritchard

Mary Pritchard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

800px-Hyde_Park_London_from_1833_Schmollinger_map

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

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

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

“I’ve got it,” she said. “Tea!”

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

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

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

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

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

1948-TROTTING-HACKNEY-CARRIAGE-HORSE-PRINT_700_600_QVBO

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

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

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

tea table

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

teapot

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

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

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

Lady Julia Tate (at age 27)

Lady Julia Tate (at age 27)

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

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

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

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

“Of course not,” Mary agreed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Another Sneak Peak of “A Home For Helena”

Lady P

Lady P

Lady Pendleton: Dear me! Susana has a special treat for you today, dear readers. She’s been working long and hard to tell the story of a young girl called Helena who came to me from the 21st century seeking my help in finding the family from whose arms she was snatched when only a babe.

In this scene, Helena is recalling her consultation with the gypsy lady who offers to help her travel back to the past to discover the truth about her origins.

**********

The sign painted on the window read “Genuine Gipsy Fortune Telling” in large red letters with “Palm Reading • Tarot Cards” in smaller print underneath with the bottom line proclaiming “Séances Scheduled at Your Convenience”. A mannequin dressed flamboyantly in a red peasant blouse and gold skirt stood in the window with outstretched arms, no doubt meant to lure the bystander inside. Although an attempt had been made to give her a gypsy appearance—black wig tied back under a bright red headscarf, and glittery gold dripping from every possible place—her expression was the typical bland stare associated with mannequins.

It was cheesy. The sort of place an educated person would never deign to enter. Certainly not Helena, who didn’t believe in psychics or fortune telling, let alone time travel. Was her coincidental meeting with Mrs. Herne simply a scheme to drum up business?

If so, she had been very, very good at it. Her dark eyes seemed to probe into Helena’s very soul, seeing things she could not possibly have known otherwise. A lost soul, she had proclaimed. Wrenched out of her time. Isolated and alone because her soul was out of sync.

“I have a friend who might be able to help you,” she had said cautiously. When asked what she meant, the woman had turned cagey.

“Come to my shop”—she pushed a card toward Helena—“and we can discuss it.”

Helena’s eyes narrowed. “Why not now? Here?” she asked, indicating the lively sandwich shop. “Why must I go to your shop?” She wanted to believe. Mrs. Herne’s words struck a nerve. She’d never fit in, no matter how much she’d tried. Perhaps…there was a reason for it. Something she could do about it. But…travel through time? That sort of thing happened only in science fiction. As Dr. McCoy explained in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: “Sure, you slingshot around the Sun, pick up enough speed—you’re in time warp. If you don’t, you’re fried.

Helena and James

Helena and James

But here she was, standing outside Mrs. Herne’s fortune-telling shop, gathering up the courage to go inside. Well, she’d come this far. Might as well go for broke. She stepped forward.

The foyer was papered in red damask sprinkled with gold medallions. On a table between two gold satin wingback chairs was an antique ouiji board. On the adjacent wall was a showcase with a magnificent crystal ball in the center and zodiac plates on the side.

But what really drew Helena’s attention was the familiar-looking Zoltar fortune-telling machine in the corner. The gold-turbaned gypsy male had a narrow black beard and a thick mustache that turned up at the ends like a villain’s. He wore a black leather vest over a gold shirt, hoop earrings, and his eyes seemed to be laughing at her. The case of the machine was of elaborately-carved wood painted in black and gold, and the front of the glass box said “Zoltar” in gold-outlined red at the top, and “speaks” on the bottom. His right hand hovered over a crystal ball, and the left seemed to beckon her to come closer. Now where had she seen that before?

“It was the movie Big,

Mrs. Herne pushed aside some of the strands of colorful beads that obscured the interior of her shop as she approached Helena.

“They had one exactly like this, but mine is the original. I purchased it from Patty Astley herself when her husband refused to have it anywhere near his amphitheatre. She was a good friend of mine, was Patty. Quite the horsewoman, too. But then, Philip was an excellent teacher.”

Astley? Of Astley’s Amphitheatre? From upwards of two hundred years ago?

“How old are you, Mrs. Herne?”

She was tall and had a generous, but not zaftig, figure in her flowing crimson caftan. Her black hair was liberally streaked with gray, and her dusky face showed the beginnings of wrinkles. She certainly did not have the look of an aged woman.

Mrs. Herne threw back her head and laughed loudly.

“How old do you think I am?” she asked finally.

“Oh…well…forty-five?” Helena hedged, trying to be diplomatic. She actually figured the woman for about a decade older.

“Right you are, Miss Helena. I stopped aging on my fifty-fifth birthday.” She smiled at Helena’s startled reaction. “You were trying to be kind, of course. To a young person, fifty years seems a long time. In reality, fifty is the best age. You know yourself well by then, and aren’t always trying to become someone else. And you don’t take things so seriously. Life is meant to be enjoyed, after all.” She looked Helena directly in the eye. “After all, fifty is the new forty, or so they say.”

“Come inside, and sit for awhile, and I’ll fetch some tea.”

She was personable and kind, and her words carried the semblance of truth. The tea had long grown cold by the time Helena left the shop, carrying a round gray stone flecked with gold and a list of instructions—mostly preparations for the trip and suggestions for what to do when she arrived. Mrs. Herne’s clairvoyant power pointed to the year 1792 as her birth year, and it was decided that 1817 would be the most opportune time for her return.

“And my good friend Lady Pendleton will be there to assist you!” she had exclaimed. “How very fortunate that she is in Town for the Season this year!”

Helena wasn’t entirely certain who or what Lady Pendleton was, but then, she hadn’t quite figured out Mrs. Herne either. Was she a fool to trust either one of them? Perhaps, but it wasn’t like she had to jump off a cliff or anything. She only had to clasp the rock tightly in her hands and concentrate on thinking about where she wanted to travel to.

“But you must truly wish it,” Mrs. Herne cautioned. “Reflect on your desire to be reunited with your true family and live the life you were meant to live.”

And how to return if things didn’t work out in the 19th century?

“Oh, Agatha will help you. Lady Pendleton, that is. Or you can drop by my shop on Gracechurch Street. Only thing is, I was traveling quite a bit myself that year, so you may or may not find me there. You have a better chance with Lady Pendleton.”

And what if she couldn’t find Lady Pendleton?

“Oh well, you’re a bright girl. Not like the silly chits typical of the period. Keep your wits about you and learn from your surroundings. You’ll be fine.”

Would she? Helena recalled Claire Fraser being branded a witch in Outlander and wondered if they burned witches at the stake in that era. Oh no, they were dunking her, weren’t they, before Jamie came to the rescue.

Mrs. Herne was frowning. “That was nothing more than a book.”

It was eerie how easily the gypsy lady read her thoughts.

“If this is where you belong, you’ll adapt. In time.”

Helena didn’t like the sound of “if.”

But in the end, she couldn’t resist. The past was pulling at her, drawing her, and she finally let it take her into its mysterious lair.

**********

Lady Pendleton: Yes, well, time travel does have that effect on people. I find it rather addictive, actually.

Oh, I wanted to tell you that Susana and I are having a wonderful time in Florida. It’s a bit cold today, but sunny and beautiful, and I was simply over the moon to catch my first glimpse of the baby sand hill cranes. Here are some photos of them. I almost got close enough to touch them! Aren’t they adorable?

babycranes

Baby sand hill cranes

Mama Crane

Mama Crane

Crane Family Having Luncheon

Crane Family Having Luncheon

Lady P in Florida and a Sneak Preview of “A Home For Helena”

Susana: Lady P has been having a wonderful time with me this winter in central Florida. She gets along well with my parents, especially my mother.

Susana's mother, Mrs. Ellis

Susana’s mother, Mrs. Ellis

Lady P: In many ways, Mrs. Ellis and I are kindred spirits. Why, she even looks like me when she puts on that navy bonnet with the crimson trim. She dotes on her grandchildren, as I do, of course, and I even helped her make the most darling little dresses and skirts for them, as well as a vest and trousers for the boy. Did you know that Susana’s sister has eleven children, nine of them girls? Goodness, I don’t know how she manages without any servants. My own daughter Sarah cannot manage her three even with a houseful of servants.

Susana: I don’t think that’s fair, your ladyship. Having your mother there to nitpick over everything you do can be nerve-wracking for anyone. Especially when your mother—or your houseguest—thinks everything should be done her way

Lady P: Well really, Susana, your housekeeping skills are sadly lacking, and you don’t even have the sense to feel remorseful about it. If you refuse to clean your house yourself, the very least you could do is hire someone else to do it.

Susana [shrugging]: Cleaning is a waste of time. It’ll only get dirty again, after all. Besides, I don’t care to have some stranger in my house while I’m busy writing and need to concentrate. Your banging around is about as much as I can stand. In any case, Romeo Roomba does a fabulous job cleaning the floors. All I have to do is push the “on” button and when he’s finished he returns to his charging station and turns himself off. What could be better?

Lady P

Lady P

Lady P [clucking her tongue]: What is the world coming to when you have to get a machine to do such a simple task for you? Why, in my day, the maids had to take up the rugs and beat the dust out of them.

Susana: Oh yes, I’m sure everything was done much better in the 19th century. No doubt you had to walk three miles to school every day, and you and your siblings used to fight over the gizzard when roast chicken was served.

Lady P: Well! I can see you’re not in a proper mood for a conversation. Perhaps I shall indulge myself with a dip in the bathing pool.

Susana: A wonderful idea, Lady P! The other residents always enjoy chatting with you. Why, when you left the other day, it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, and several people got up and left out of sheer boredom.

Following Lady P’s Departure

Susana [chuckling]: And they do get a kick out of seeing her in her outlandish bathing costume too. She couldn’t find a proper one here, of course, so she made one out my mother’s old capri pants and a belted T-shirt. She insists she can’t possibly be seen in a modern bathing suit, not even one with a skirt.

Anyway, in spite of all our bickering, Lady P has been assisting me with my current work-in-progress, A Home For Helena. The story is loosely based on a true story in which Lady P played a pivotal role. Of course, the names and details have been changed to protect the innocent—and the guilty, I suppose.

A Home For Helena

Helena and James

Helena and James

Helena Lloyd grew up in foster homes until she was finally adopted by a kind old lady who loved her and taught her how to live by example. When she died, she left Helena enough money to attend college and get her MBA. But Helena discovered the business world was not for her, so she tried a few other things. When the story starts, she has just quit her job as a nanny for a wealthy couple in London, but is being stalked by her former employer. She runs into a gypsy lady who tells her that she is a soul lost in the wrong era. Sounds crazy, but when she thinks about it, there seems to be a ring of truth in it. So she agrees to travel to the era she supposedly “belongs” in, which is Regency-era England.

Helena doesn’t know the first thing about the Regency era, but fortunately, the gypsy lady gives her the address of a prominent London lady who has done a bit of time traveling herself. You guessed it—my own Lady Pendleton!

While staying with Lady P, an urgent message arrives from Lady P’s daughter in Kent. The Newsomes are in desperate need of a governess, and at Lady P’s urging, Helena agrees to travel there and fill in until a permanent governess can be found.

That’s when she meets James Walker, a neighboring widower whose daughter Annabelle is temporarily lodging with the Newsomes. His first marriage was a disaster, and he’s not keen on remarrying, but since he can’t seem to manage his young daughter on his own, everyone is telling him to find a wife.

The Newsomes’ new governess is about as un-governess-like as you can get. She’s young and beautiful, wears stylish clothing, and her teaching methods are decidedly odd. Not to mention her manner of speech, which is nothing like any American he has ever met. She is also quite free with her opinions, and James could never bear to have a wife like that. Not that he’s interested in marrying her. His next wife will be quiet and biddable and content with what he can offer her.

But is that what he really wants?

Helena finds James Walker devastatingly handsome, but she’s not there to find a husband. She doubts that a modern woman could bear to live in a period where women lived completely under their husband’s control. And even if she could, surely the knowledge of her journey through time would send him running in the opposite direction.

Wouldn’t it?

Who were Helena’s parents and how did she end up two hundred years in the future? Will Helena and James be able to resolve their differences and live happily ever after?

And most of all, what role will Lady P play in the final showdown?

Tune in later this year when A Home For Helena hits the digital shelves

If you could travel through time, where would you go and why? Do you think you could make the decision to remain there permanently?

Janice Bennett and “Catherine’s Star”

Long before becoming an author herself, Susana used to read just about every Signet and Zebra Regency that came out, not to mention older Fawcetts and Dells she found scouring eBay. How excited she was to discover Janice Bennett—an author whose books she’d read for years—in the group of Ellora’s Cave Blush Cotillion authors she herself joined a year ago! She finally screwed up the courage to ask Janice to write about what it was like to be an author in the days when print was supreme and New York ruled the publishing world. And how thrilled she was when Janice said yes!

Another surprise: Janice’s recently re-released book, Catherine’s Star, is a time travel, which is what I’m working on at present. I picked it up immediately and devoured it, hoping to pick up some tips. Excellent story—a very different approach from my A Home For Helena—but wonderfully engrossing and with a mystery to be solved as well!

If you’re a Janice Bennett fan, please stop and say hi. What did you think when publishers suddenly dropped traditional Regencies and went to the longer format? We’d love to hear from you!

So, what was it like to write during the heyday of Regencies? Very, very different from now. And in other ways, very much the same.

When I started writing, all romances were still considered “trashy little books” by everyone except those who wrote them—and the vast number of people who read and loved them. Regencies were a very minor sub-genre—we had the smallest print run of any type of romance—but we had incredibly loyal readers.

Very few of the houses even published Regencies, and each only released two or three of them each month. And since there were always more authors with well-written books than there were available slots, it was much harder to get published. But that also meant the reader had fewer choices, so each book that came out sold far more copies.

Many of the houses wouldn’t even look at a book unless it was presented by an agent. It made sense, as the agents weeded out the poorly written ones and only handled the ones they were sure were good enough. Agents were also good for the writer. Mine would call me up about once a month, just to pass on the latest gossip in the publishing world—which house was introducing which new lines, which editors were looking for what kind of book, that sort of thing.

As for promoting, a writer might hold a book signing at her local store, and some took out ads in the review magazines. Mostly, we relied on potential readers to walk into a store, browse the shelves, glance through the pages and find a book they thought they’d like. And if they did like it, they’d usually buy other books by that author. There was no such thing as the internet. No chats, no blogs, no contests, no websites—in short, none of the means writers must employ today just to be noticed.

The lack of the internet also made research much harder. We didn’t have access to hundreds of historical research sites. We couldn’t hop onto a chat group and ask other writers and history buffs a question—which might receive dozens of answers in a matter of hours, some of them even correct. We had to do the research ourselves. I have a shelf of books and novels written about—and during—the Regency era. Some are vague, some are less than accurate, very few actually answer the questions that came up while I was writing. And sometimes I’d have to wait months to receive a book I’d requested from a university library, which would arrive after my deadline.

Ah, yes. Deadlines. My agent told me never, ever, to write the whole book until after it was sold. But once it was, the publishing house expected it to be written. And by a particular date. I admit, I’m strange. I love deadlines. I can’t write without them. I need the terror of that rapidly approaching date to make me sit down and focus.

And to focus, I have to be deeply involved in my current WIP. I’ve tried to keep my ideas fresh, different, a delight to write. I’ve pushed the boundaries of traditional Regencies about as far as they can go—with adventure stories, murder mysteries, ghost stories, vampires, time travels, even a fairy godmother. I can hardly wait to see what new idea grabs me and demands to be written next.

About Catherine’s Star

Every Regency reader’s dream—going back in time for a London Season. But hidden dangers lurk as she searches for a lost fortune—and love.

Blush sensuality level: This is a suggestive romance (love scenes are not graphic).

catherine's starWhile searching London to find all the places mentioned in the Regency novels she adores, Andrea Wells spots an intriguing gentleman in historic costume who mysteriously appears and disappears. She becomes obsessed with him after finding his portrait in a scandal rag, accompanied by the story of his death in 1810 and the tale of a cursed Russian icon known as Catherine’s Star, and visits his home, Greythorne Court, to learn more about him.

The current occupant of Greythorne is convinced Andrea can travel back through time, and she says Andrea must go back and find the missing Catherine’s Star to save the Court.

However, when Andrea dreamed of living in Regency England, she didn’t count on murderous spies or falling in love with a man whose imminent death is tied to the fate of a priceless icon.

A Blush® paranormal romance from Ellora’s Cave

Publisher’s Note: This book was published elsewhere in 1990 under the title A Timely Affair. It has been edited for EC publication.

Available

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About the Author

Janice Bennett never intended to be a writer, but with B.A degrees in anthropology and classical civilizations and an M.A. in folklore and mythology, all from various campuses of the University of California, what choice did she have? Her first jobs included the usual abc’s—archaeology, bookkeeping and college craft instructor. Then in desperation she submitted her first novel, a Regency, and life took on a new and rather fascinating twist. Shortly thereafter, she began presenting workshops on a variety of writing topics, teaching novel writing at a community college, serving as a writing panel member at WorldCons…and then became an editor, as well. So far, she has written twenty-six novels and more than twenty novellas and received a number of awards, including two Lifetime Achievement awards from Romantic Times. She lives in a tiny, rural town with her husband, far too many cats, a huge dog, a large organic garden—and a computer she swears runs on chocolate chips, not silicon ones, which explains a lot about her.

Website

Lady P and Hyde Park

LadyP2Lady P is back! She stayed a bit longer with her grandchildren than expected, but hey, who wouldn’t want to spend Christmas with the little ones? But she became weary of cold English winters and couldn’t resist the temptation of spending the winter with Susana here in central Florida. Mrs. Barlow, who came for an interview in a previous post, had already spoken enthusiastically of the palm trees and alligators and orange trees, so she arrived post-haste this morning—Twelfth Day—following a lovely Twelfth Night celebration with her family in the 19th century.

Over a quick breakfast of coffee from Susana’s new Keurig (which fascinates her), yogurt and boiled eggs, they discussed the new story Susana is working on, which features Lady P herself and her daughter’s family. It’s a bit out of the usual thing for Susana, being a time travel with a heroine who travels back to the 19th century to find her family, and Lady P’s advice has been invaluable. For one thing, the heroine lands in 1817 Hyde Park, and right from the beginning Susana ran into problems trying to find out what Hyde Park looked like in 1817. For example, the Marble Arch wasn’t built until 1827.

Lady P: No rose garden either. Although that does seem a nice touch. I must mention it when next I encounter His Royal Highness.

Susana [sighing]: No, I’m going to have rewrite the entire first scene! I’m thinking she’ll have to land somewhere near Hyde Park Corner and the Rotten Row.

Lady P: Be sure to keep her well out of the way of the horses and carriages, then. Tattersall’s is there too, you know.

SandHillCrane.180184808_std

Susana: What about Sister Ignatia? Would a religious reformer be hanging about in Hyde Park, do you think?

Lady P: Generally, you don’t see the riffraff there. Hyde Park is primarily for the upper classes. But there are exceptions…servants who accompany their masters and mistresses, and there are Tattersall’s employees, of course. I have seen a few do-gooders handing out tracts from time to time.

Susana: Is it likely an unaccompanied young lady might be attacked by ruffians there?

Lady P [frowning]: An unaccompanied young lady might be attacked by ruffians anywhere, Susana! I regret to say that even gentlemen might try to take advantage. It’s not common, but crime in Hyde Park is not completely unknown.

Susana: Ah, so I won’t have to change the scene completely, then.

Lady P [peering out the window]: Are those ostriches out there? Do let us go for a stroll, Susana. And oh, what are those funny little vehicles with the canvas roofs? Can we ride in one?

Susana: Golf carts. People use them here to get around the park. I don’t have one myself, but I’m sure the neighbors will give you a ride. Oh, and the birds are sand hill cranes. Aren’t they pretty?

Regency Rites: Hyde Park

hyde-park-london-running-route-serpentine-rcOriginally, the Manor of Hyde was part of the Roman estate of Eia, and included what is now Green’s Park and Kensington Park. About 600 acres until the establishment of Kensington Park, it was given to Geoffrey de Mandeville by William the Conqueror. De Mandeville left it to the Holy Fathers of Westminster Abbey, where it remained for five centuries until Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries.

It was a great hunting ground, rich in deer, boar, hare, otter, wildfowl, and game birds.

Under Charles II, the route was called “the Ring” or “the Tour”. A French visitor said:

They take their rides in a coach in an open field where there is a circle, not very large, enclosed by rails. There, the coaches drive slowly round, some in one direction, others the opposite way, which, seen from a distance, produces as rather pretty effect, and proves clearly that they only come there in order to see and be seen.”

Paintings by pissarro3

Painting by Pissarro

Samuel Pepys wrote (of Charles II):

After dinner to Hyde Park. At the Park was the King and in another coach my lady Castlemaine , they greeting one another every turn:”

William II bought the manor at Kensington and Kensington house grew into Kensington Palace, and the western end of Hyde Park was taken for the Palace estate, which would one day become Kensington Gardens.

William III and Queen Mary used to drive along the road, and it became known as La Route du Roi, which became corrupted into Rotten Row.

For showing off coaches and their teams, Hyde Park remained the place to be.”

In 1730, George II laid down a radius of paths and his wife Queen Caroline had the Serpentine constructed by widening the Westbourne brook and draining its pools.

Hyde Park was also a popular location for duels, military floggings, and suicides (drownings). The gallows at nearby Tyburn was used for hangings until 1783, when it was moved to Newgate.

George-Leslie-Hunter-xx-Rotten-Row-Hyde-Park-xx-Private-collection

Painting by George Leslie Hunter

There were soldiers’ camps and military parades, and in 1814, 12,000 men marched past the Prince Regent, the Duke of York, the King of Prussia, the Emperor of Russia, General Blücher, and Lords Beresford and Hill. A reenactment of the Battle of Trafalgar was performed on the Serpentine.

In 1821, Hyde Park was the scene of an elaborate celebration of George IV’s coronation. There were Chinese lanterns, clowns, conjurors, swords swallowers, fire-eaters, acrobats, swings, roundabouts, fireworks, military bands, boat races, elephants, and dancing donkeys and dwarfs.

After John Loudon McAdam improved roads with stone broken small enough to make a hard smooth surface, all sorts of carriages appeared in Hyde Park, and being a good whip became a mark of social distinction. George IV was known to be an excellent whip, as was his daughter, Princess Charlotte of Wales. The Four-in-Hand Club made its appearance, with only the very best whipsters allowed as members.

Horse & Carriage: The Pageant of Hyde Park, J.N.P. Watson, London: The Sportsman’s Press, 1990.

Belles-and-beaus

Painting by William Heath

Susana Interviews Mrs. Barlow, the Mother of the Heroine of “A Twelfth Night Tale”

Susana is going all out to celebrate the release of A Twelfth Night Tale!

giant_treasure

Besides the Grand Prize—a Giant Treasure Box—she is giving away a Twelfth Night Tale Christmas charm bracelet (silver-plated) for one random commenter on each of the twelve stops of the tour.

Click here for the Rafflecopter for the Giant Treasure Box!

A Twelfth Night Tale Giant Treasure Box*

  • lovely gift box
  • A Twelfth Night Tale Christmas charm bracelet (silver-plated)
  • Father Christmas figurine
  • Three Wise Men figurine
  • Thomas Kinkade photo collage
  • Treasuring Theresa mug
  • Treasuring Theresa necklace
  • Treasuring Theresa keychain
  • two Christmas ornaments from Scotland (Mary Queen of Scots and fleur-de-lys)
  • two decks of Ellora’s Cave playing cards
  • two perfumed soaps from Scotland
  • fizzing bath salts from Scotland
  • Celtic pen from Scotland
  • “jeweled” soap
  • nail clipper keychain from London
  • stuffed toy bear

*In lieu of the treasure box, a winner from outside the U.S. will receive a gift card from the book retailer of their choice.

My time-traveling Regency lady, Lady Pendleton, came down with a stomach ailment and was unable to travel to Oxfordshire to complete the series of interviews she agreed to before returning to the 21st century. (Prior to that, however, she did manage to interview Jane Livingston, the hero’s sister, while they were both enjoying the Little Season in London.) And she somehow contrived to send Mrs. Barlow, Lucy’s mother, to me at my winter home in Florida for a brief interview. Someday I’m going to get her to tell me how she does these things. (And get her to take her back to Regency England with her—wouldn’t that be a historical researcher’s dream?)

Susana: Welcome to Florida, Mrs. Barlow. I hope you enjoy your stay. May I offer you some refreshments?

Mrs. Barlow: [looking around her in wonder] No thank you, Miss Ellis. My stomach is still a bit queasy from the journey.

Susana: Oh dear, I hope you are not coming down with the same ailment that has sidelined my friend Lady Pendleton.

Mrs. Barlow: Lady Pendleton? Oh yes, the…uh…woman who sent me here. She’s a bit…eccentric, is she not?

Susana: [hiding a smile] Indeed she is, Mrs. Barlow. But kindhearted and quite harmless, really.

Mrs. Barlow: [looking relieved] I’m glad to hear it, Miss Ellis. This is all quite a shock, you know. She said you wished to inquire about my daughter Lucy?

Susana: Er, yes. It’s research for a story I’m writing. I understand you have five daughters?

Mrs. Barlow: [Sighing] Indeed I do. Five daughters to marry off and no sons.

Susana: And Lucy is the eldest?

Mrs. Barlow: Yes, she is already eight and ten years of age and of an age to make her bow to Society, but unfortunately, her father and I have not the means to stake her. [Shaking her head] A house in London with servants is enormously expensive. We cannot even stand the cost of providing her with a suitable wardrobe. [Sighing] It is very sad, really. Lucy is a delightful girl who would be a splendid wife, but there are few eligible gentlemen here in Charlbury.

Susana: I understand the young man next door recently returned from service in the Peninsula. Livingston, I believe. Andrew Livingston. Could he be a prospect, do you think?

Mrs. Barlow: [Sighing deeply] No, unfortunately he’s betrothed to some London chit. Since before he took up his colors two years ago. I suppose they’ll be marrying posthoste now that he’s returned. A shame really, because Lucy has always had a tendre for him. The Livingstons are an unexceptionable family and quite well-to-heel, and it would be a great thing if Lucy were to be settled so near—but no, he’s never seen Lucy as anything but a child, and besides, he’s spoken for.

Susana: What a conundrum! Are there no other ways for young ladies to meet eligible gentlemen in the country?

Mrs. Barlow: Occasionally, someone’s cousin or nephew comes to town for a visit, but there are few eligibles in that lot. There are assemblies, of course. Oh, that reminds me. [Perking up] There was a quite agreeable viscount at the last assembly who seemed quite taken with Lucy. He danced twice with her. Perhaps he will come to call soon. Oh my, that would be a marvelous thing for my girls! To have their sister a viscountess who can sponsor them in London when the time comes! I must urge Lucy to encourage him!

Susana: Was she equally taken with him, then?

Mrs. Barlow: [shrugging] These things resolve themselves over time. I don’t believe she was repulsed by him. He looked well enough, for an older gentleman, and his manners were unexceptionable. It is said that he was a considerate husband to his late wife, and seems to be devoted to his three daughters.

Susana: Oh, he’s a widower. No doubt looking for a mother for his daughters.

Mrs. Barlow: And an heir, of course. He still needs a son to inherit, and Lucy is young enough to manage that.

Susana: [Doubtfully] I suppose so, and yet…one could wish a love match for her.

Mrs. Barlow: [Stiffening] Lucy is a practical girl, and not at all the sort to waste time dreaming of the impossible. She will make a wonderful wife and mother and take great pleasure in using her elevated circumstances to assist her sisters.

Susana: I’m sure she will, Mrs. Barlow. I did not mean to imply otherwise. Please forgive me if I offended you.

Mrs. Barlow: [Relaxing] Of course. I’m afraid this is a topic about which Mr. Barlow and I frequently cross swords. He says Lucy is still young and will find her own way. But he’s never been the most practical man, and I suspect he’d be just as glad to have all of them at home with us forever.

Susana: An indulgent father then. [Glances at the clock]. Oh dear, it’s almost time for our visit to end. I wonder if you’d like to take a walk around the park, Mrs. Barlow. It’s such a lovely day, and you might enjoy the flora and fauna here in central Florida. Perhaps we’ll even see an alligator in the lake.

Mrs. Barlow: An alligator! Goodness!

Susana: From a distance, of course. But there are palm trees and snake birds, and plenty of sun to warm you before you go back to chilly England

Mrs. Barlow: [shivering] Chilly indeed! The weather has been exceptionally cold this year. By all means, let us walk a bit in the sunshine.

And so ends the interview. It may interest you to know that the winter of 1813-1814, when A Twelfth Night Tale takes place, was one of the coldest on record, so much so that in February the Thames froze and a frost fair was held for four days, during which an elephant was led across the river under Blackfriars Bridge. 

About A Twelfth Night Tale

twelfthnighttale_4inchA wounded soldier and the girl next door find peace and love amidst a backdrop of rural Christmas traditions.

Without dowries and the opportunity to meet eligible gentlemen, the five Barlow sisters stand little chance of making advantageous marriages. But when the eldest attracts the attention of a wealthy viscount, suddenly it seems as though Fate is smiling upon them.

Lucy knows that she owes it to her younger sisters to encourage Lord Bexley’s attentions, since marriage to a peer will secure their futures as well as hers. The man of her dreams has always looked like Andrew Livingston, her best friend’s brother. But he’s always treated her like a child, and, in any case, is betrothed to another. Perhaps the time has come to put away childhood dreams and accept reality…and Lord Bexley.

Andrew has returned from the Peninsula with more emotional scars to deal with than just the lame arm. Surprisingly, it’s his sister’s friend “Little Lucy” who shows him the way out of his melancholy. He can’t help noticing that Lucy’s grown up into a lovely young woman, but with an eligible viscount courting her, he’ll need a little Christmas magic to win her for himself.

Available

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Excerpt

Jane was chatty as usual, prattling on about the wedding, her latest letter from Theodore and the coming events for the Christmas holidays.

“We are expecting you all at our house for Christmas dinner as usual,” Lucy broke in. “Mama has a new recipe for plum pudding and she’s anxious to see what you think of it.”

The Livingstons had been guests of the Barlows for every Christmas dinner since Mrs. Livingston’s death. Jane and Andrew’s mother had been a wonderful hostess and a great advocate for the Yuletide traditions, and after she had passed away,

Mrs. Barlow had begun the practice of sharing the family Christmas with their good friends and neighbors. There was never a dull moment in a household with five such lively daughters as the Barlow girls, and the Livingstons were not allowed the luxury of brooding over the past during a time of year meant to be joyful.

“Yes indeed,” piped up Mr. Livingston. “Your mother sets a fine table and it’s always a pleasure to be among so many pretty young lasses, is it not, Andrew?”

“Most assuredly,” said Andrew, with an appreciative smile at Lucy. “If Miss Barlow here is any indication, the Barlow girls must be growing up quite agreeably.”

Lucy flushed. “You must come to the church tomorrow night for the Christmas Eve pageant,” she put forward. “My sisters and I are all in the play, and Jane will need an escort.”

Andrew raised his eyebrows. “You are all five in the play? I don’t recall so many females involved in the nativity.”

Lucy laughed. “I’m the director,” she said. “Laura plays the part of Mary, Lydia is one of the wise men, Louisa is a shepherd, and Lila is a camel.” She grinned. “The script originally called for domestic animals, but Lila being Lila, refused to settle for anything so mundane.”

“Who, then, is the Christ Child?” inquired Andrew after the laughter had subsided.

“Louisa’s cat, Beau,” Lucy told him. “We meant to use the Tadsens’ baby in the beginning, but he wouldn’t stay still and kept crying, so we tried several dogs and cats for the part, and Beau was the most cooperative.”

More smiles circled the table, and Andrew agreed that he would be pleased to escort Jane to the pageant.

“How could I possibly refuse? This production is certain to be the highlight of the county. You should accompany us, Papa,” he said, turning to his father.

“Perhaps I shall,” said Mr. Livingston.

Jane and Lucy excused themselves, leaving the two gentlemen to their port.

“Oh Lucy!” Jane said when they reached the drawing room. “I’ve had the most marvelous idea! Well, it was your doing, really.”

“Me? What did I do?” Lucy was mystified.

“You invited Andrew to the pageant! Brilliant thinking! He’s been holed up in his bedchamber like a grumpy bear for weeks now, even before Cecilia jilted him. We need to get him out of the house. Encourage him to meet other people and stop feeling sorry for himself.”

She gave Lucy a speculative look. “And now that I think about it, you would be the best person to do it. Cheer him up, I mean. I haven’t seen Andrew in such a lively frame of mind since…well, before he went off to war.”

Lucy was horrified…and hopeful. “You want me to be in charge of cheering up Andrew? Why not you? You are his sister.”

“I’ve tried everything I know, and it’s no use. You are with him for an hour and he’s laughed twice!” She grasped Lucy’s shoulder. “Look, I’m not asking you to marry Andrew or anything like that. All you have to do is come for visits, bring your sisters, persuade him to get out of the house, things like that. You can do that, can’t you? For my sake?”

“Well…” said Lucy doubtfully.

“You do like Andrew, don’t you? Want him to regain his spirits?”

“Of course.” That was the problem. She liked him far too much. It wouldn’t do to get her hopes up and then have them dashed to pieces.

“Then it’s settled.”

And in spite of everything, Lucy was glad that it was.

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Susana’s Parlour (Regency Blog) • Susana’s Morning Room (Romance Blog)