Foiled again on WIP Wednesday

cottageGiven how little actual writing I’ve done in the past fortnight, I thought an excerpt about frustrations would be a good idea. You know what I mean? Your characters are bowling along, their plans all in place, when bam. Something happens. Your villain sees his schemes come crashing down around his ears. Or your heroine’s dreams seem to dissolve in smoke. Or your hero’s future, which was secure, turns to custard.

Show me yours and I’ll show you mine. This one is from Revealed in Mist. The villain (one of them) and his cronies have the heroine and her sister trapped, and the villain is determined to show his power. He overreaches, of course, as villains do. The sister is not as cowed as she pretends. But just when we thought he was foiled, the tides turn again.

It was enough. As Charity grabbed the most vulnerable part of Selby’s anatomy and squeezed, Prue flung herself on the hand in which Annesley held the gun and knocked it upwards. From the stairs, Barnstable gave a yell at the same time as Selby’s anguished scream.

Prue had no time check how the other women were faring. Annesley was larger and stronger than her, and close quarters was not how she would win this fight. Still, if she could get the pistol off him, if Charity had enough wits about her to come to Prue’s aid, they might have a chance.

He was forcing the barrel around towards Prue when Charity hit him over the shoulder with an iron pot, and the gun went off with a loud reverberating bang, throwing him backwards.

Prue sprawled where he dropped her, but was gathering her feet beneath her to throw herself back into the fray, when Charity threw herself down between Prue and Annesley. “Prue? Are you hurt?”

The swine had missed, thanks to Charity, but she had not hit him hard enough. He was levelling the pistol again, grinning broadly. On the stairs, Barnstable was dancing in place, complaining. “She bit me! I was going to be nice, little girl, but…”

Selby’s voice was high and strained, as he dragged Charity away from Prue by her hair. “You’ll pay for this, Charrie, you filthy little trollop.”

 

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Entertainments on WIP Wednesday

_DDI5334At the weekend, I attended a workshop on Regency dance at the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference. And on the way home, I read Mary Balogh’s Only Beloved, which is partly set at a house party, where people find ways to entertain one another and themselves.

No tv, no internet, no radio. If you wanted music, you sang or played an instrument. The local sporting events were keenly followed. And gathering together often meant long journeys, so once people arrived, they made the most of it. The tutor at the dance class suggested that balls finished in the early hours of the morning, because people didn’t want to go home until dawn lit the sky and made travelling easier, and I’ve read that many country assemblies were scheduled for the two or three days around a full moon.

For today’s work-in-progress Wednesday, I have an excerpt from A Raging Madness. Alex and his family are taking Ella out in London. But any type of leisure activity anywhere in time or place is welcome. I’ll show you mine and you show me yours.

The event was a ball at Haverford House, a monstrous palace of a place and the home of the Duke of Haverford and his duchess. The Duchess of Haverford was an old friend of Lord Henry’s and welcomed Ella warmly.

“Henry has told me what you did for Alex, Lady Melville, and,” she gave her hand to Alex who bowed over it with courtly grace, “I can see for myself how much improved you are, you rogue. Lady Melville, you have my gratitude and my support.”

Her Grace was supported in the receiving line by the notorious Marquis of Aldridge, who greeted Alex with a nod, Susan with a peck on the cheek, and Ella with an elegant bow.

“I am delighted to make your acquaintance, Lady Melville,” he said, and Alex stiffened beside her, but the man’s flirting did not bother Ella. It was an automaton’s reflex, with no predator’s purpose behind it. Lord Aldridge was not interested in her.

Ella’s mourning precluded dancing, but she enjoyed watching the colourful couples turning and swooping in the patterns of the dance.

“Dance if you wish, Alex,” she told her escort when Susan had been swept onto the floor by a naval captain she knew. But Alex demurred. “I am claiming privilege of injury, Ella, and will beg you to come sit by me and keep me entertained while I rest.”

He did not look strained, or in pain. “Is your leg troubling you?” she asked, but he did not answer directly.

“Last time I danced, I could not walk at all. Did I tell you? I took to the floor in an invalid’s chair, with Jonno to provide the push.” He grinned at the memory. “Great fun, it was, with my partner standing on the platform of the chair to be twirled. It did not end well, sadly. A villain sabotaged the chair while I was at supper, and it collapsed as I threaded the line.”

He chose an alcove where they could continue to watch the dancers, and he told her more about his adventures in the resurrected chair.

“You may meet the maker when you come to Longford for Christmas. She is a frequent guest at the Court, I understand.”

Ella was intrigued. A maker of invalids’ chairs who was not only a welcome visitor to an earl and his countess but also a woman?

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The Birth Experience in the Regency Era

Today’s post is by special guest, Regina Jeffers. Welcome to the blog, Regina.

Charlotte_Augusta_of_WalesAngel Comes to the Devil’s Keep is the first book in a new romantic suspense trilogy: The Twins. It comes from Black Opal Books. In “Angel” there are several sets of twins. The hero, Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, is a twin. Malvern and his sister, Henrietta, Viscountess Stoke, are fraternal twins, as are Henrietta’s boys. She is in the family way a second time in the book and obviously expecting twins again. Her husband, Viscount Stoke, is also a twin. Malvern’s father, the Duke of Devilfoard, possesses a twin. The second book in the trilogy, which will be released soon, contains a set of identical twins. It is called The Earl Claims His Comfort, while the last book, Lady Chandler’s Sister, returns to the idea of fraternal twins.

So, what does all this have to do with the “birth experience” in the Regency Era? Did you realize that during this period a woman would experience pregnancy some ten times. The women gave birth an average of six times during their lifetimes. Edward Shorter in Women’s Bodies: A Social History of Women’s Encounter with Health, Ill-Health and Medicine says, “The indifference of men to the physical welfare of women is most striking in regard to childbirth. …child bearing was a woman’s event, occurring with the women’s culture; a man’s primary concern was to see a living heir brought forth. I am not [Shorter] trying to cast the husbands of traditional society as fiends but want merely to show what an unbridgeable sentimental distance separated them from their wives. Under these circumstances it is unrealistic to think that men would abstain from intercourse in order to save women from the physical consequences of repeated childbearing.”

In her book In the Family Way: Childbearing in the British Aristocracy, 1760-1860, Judith Schneid Lewis shares some interesting facts of the time period. Ms. Lewis studied 50 aristocratic women for the book. From these studies we learn that these 50 women averaged 8 children over an eighteen year period. The women in the group married typically at 21 and gave birth to her first child within 2.25 years. They continued to present their husbands with children until the age of 40.

Ms. Lewis tells us that 80% of the women gave birth within two years of marriage, with 50% presenting their husbands with a child within the first year of marriage. On my blog, I have been doing a series on the signers of the Declaration of Independence. It amazes me how many of these men were from large families. For example, Benjamin Franklin was the youngest of 17 (although there was more than one wife). But Franklin’s family could not hold a light to another of Lewis’s statistics. The Duchess of Leinster birthed 21 children over a 30 year span. She was 46 years of age when the last one was born.

Typical of the period, a male midwife would ask the woman if she were prepared to “take a pain,” meaning a vaginal examination. For this procedure, a pregnant woman would customarily lie on her left side upon a bed. She would be asked to draw her knees up to her abdomen. This was the position recommended by Doctor Thomas Denman, a prominent male midwife of the period. Denman also cautioned for discretion and tenderness during the examination.

From the examination, the midwife could determine how advanced was the pregnancy, whether the woman’s pelvis was deformed or not, and whether the baby had turned head down. If delivery occurred within 24 hours, it was considered natural. We see much of what happened to Princess Charlotte (daughter of the Prince Regent) as how it was for women during the Regency.

“About 7 o’clock on the evening of Monday, the 3rd of November, at 42 weeks and 3 days gestation, the membranes spontaneously ruptured and labor pains soon followed. The contractions were coming every 8 to 10 minutes and were very mild. Examination of the cervix at that time revealed the tip of the cervix to be about a half penny dilated. On Tuesday morning, around 3 a.m., the 4th of November, Princess Charlotte had a violent vomiting spell and Dr. Croft thinking that delivery was eminent, sent for the officers of the state and Dr. Matthew Baillie.

“The pains continued. They were weak and ineffectual but still sharp enough to be distressing, occurring about 8 minute intervals with little progress in the labor. Around 11:00 a.m. that morning after 16 hours of labor the cervix the size of a crown piece (probably 4 cm). At 6:00 p.m., Tuesday, she was noted to have just an anterior lip of cervix, and by 9:00 p.m., she was completely dilated. At this point, she had had about 26 hours of the first stage of labor.

“Labor advanced, but the progress was very slow. At noon, on Wednesday, the 5th of November after the second stage of labor had gone on for 15 hours, the uterine discharge became a dark green color, which made the medical attendants fear that the child might be dead. Between three and four p.m. after the second stage had gone on for 18 hours, the child’s head began to press on the external parts, and by 9:00 p.m., was born by the action of Charlotte’s pains only.

“The child, a 9 lb. boy, was dead and had evidently been dead for some hours. The umbilical cord was very small and was of a dark green or black color. About ten minutes after the delivery, Sir Richard Croft discovered that the uterus was contracted in the middle in an hourglass form. Approximately 20 minutes later, the princess began to hemorrhage. About 12:45 am. on the 6th of November she complained of great uneasiness in her chest and great difficulty in breathing. Her pulse became rapid, deep and irregular, and she extremely restless and was not able to remain still for a single moment.”(The Death of Princess Charlotte of Wales An Obstetric Tragedy, Charles R. Oberst, Spring 1984) Within hours, the Princess had passed. When we consider such, it is a wonder that any woman of the period would consider the “joys” of childbirth.

Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep

AngelCoverHuntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart–and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?

Early Review: The story is charming, with interesting and realistic characters, a complex plot with plenty of surprises, and a sweet romance woven through it all. The author has a good command of what it was like to be a woman in nineteenth-century England–almost as if she had been there. She really did her research for this one.

Nook * Kobo * Smashwords * Black Opal Books * Amazon

Giveaway: Leave a comment below to be eligible for a giveaway of an eBook of Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep. The giveaway ends at midnight EDST on August 18.

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Danger on WIP Wednesday

assaultI’ve finally found the right name for my novel about Prudence and David. Revealed in Mist, to be followed by Concealed in Shadow. The first one is sitting with the developmental editor, but I’ll announce a publication date as soon as I know one. Meanwhile, today I’m posting a piece from it: a moment when my heroine is in danger.

As always, I’m inviting you to post an excerpt from your WIP; any type of danger, and any level, from mild social embarrassment to death-threatening (or, as in this one, what has been called a fate worse than death).

Before she could react, he had ripped at her neckline, popping buttons, tearing the fabric, and exposing her corset and the curve of her breasts.

“Well, well,” he said. “You are a delicious little thing, aren’t you?”

Prue managed to keep her voice calm and level. “If you’ll wait downstairs with your friends, Sir, I will let Lord Jonathan know you are here.”

“Oh, let Annie wait. I’ve an appetite, and you’ll do to satisfy it.” He was pulling her skirts up as he spoke, and the hard shape pressing into her belly left no doubt about his intentions. “You’ll do very nicely.”

“No, thank you, Sir,” Prue said. “That is not part of my duties.”

“Don’t think about it as duty, little darling. Think about it as pleasure,” then, as she tried to twist sideways to escape him, “No, no, no. Naughty. Keep still or I’ll have to hurt you.”

“Let me go, Sir, or I’ll scream.”

“You think the whore will care? I’ve had her maids before. She growls a bit, but what’s she going to do? Serves her right for teasing us all and only dancing the kipples with Selby. And that bumptious squirt, Gren. Blame her, if you do not like it. Now keep still.”

Prue had been keeping her hands flat against the wall, not wanting him to immobilise them. Now she stilled her body as commanded, but let one hand creep carefully towards the cap that covered her hair.

She would need to be quick. He had her skirts bunched almost to the top of her thigh and was fumbling at the buttons of his fall with his other hand. If he noticed what she was doing… no, he was looking down, focused on the mounds he had exposed.

There. She found the long hat pin, a sharp pointed skewer made to her own specifications for occasions such as this. In one movement, she swept it out of her hair and in an arc, flipping it in her hand on the way, to jab it point first into the nearest buttock.

With an eldritch shriek, he let go of her, and she twisted under his arms and retreated up the next flight of stairs, facing him from that vantage point, the skewer at the ready.

“You bitch! You stabbed me!” he shouted.

The weapon he had intended to use on her, disclosed by the unbuttoned flap of his breeches, had not yet been discouraged by the sudden attack. She gestured at it with her hat pin.

“One step closer, and this goes into that.” The full length in the right place could kill, but a threat to his family jewels was more likely to get his attention than one to his life.

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Kisses on WIP Wednesday

kissing_by_splashofrainbowFirst, or one of many; gentle, passionate, hungry, demanding, or affectionate; welcome or not so much: hit me with a kiss from your work-in-progress.

Here’s mine, from the book that is with the editor and currently called Prudence in Love (which may, at any moment, become Revealed in Mist.)

Mrs. Allen was just enquiringly anxiously about whether she should hold dinner when Allen opened the door to Prue and her sister. David was in the hall in moments, barely aware of moving, but he halted, unwilling to embarrass Prue by embracing her in front of her sister and the servants.

Prue had no such qualms. She stopped in the midst of untying her bonnet and flung herself towards him, her face alight with welcome, stopping just within arms reach.

“You are here! I thought perhaps tomorrow… Oh, David, I am so glad to see you.” At that, as if she could not contain herself any longer, she held out both her hands, and he lifted them with both his own and pressed a kiss on the gloved backs, all the time drowning in the glow of her eyes.

“Let us give them a moment,” Prue’s sister murmured to the Allens, and she climbed the stairs while they went back downstairs to the service rooms.

David drew Prue into his study, and carefully shut the door before seizing her for the kiss he had been imagining this past month. She met his passion with her own, returning his assault on her lips with a bruising assault of her own, her hands meanwhile sliding up under his waistcoat to clutch him to her as if she would pull herself right inside his flesh.

He pressed her against the wall beside the door, one of his own hands cupping her buttocks and the other, at first clasped around her shoulders to hold her to him and protect her back, now creeping to lift her skirt that they might, indeed, bury themselves in one another.

Impatiently, she dropped one of her own hands to fumble at his buttons.

“Prue,” he murmured. “Oh, Prue, how I’ve missed this.”

A knock on the door froze them both. “Mrs. Allen will be serving dinner shortly, Prue,” her sister called. “Do you not wish to change? Or at least take off your bonnet and coat, and wash your face and hands?”

David met Prue’s eyes, smiling tenderly. Her redingote was in a heap on the floor behind her, and her bonnet was gone. Ah yes. There it was, tossed onto his desk on the other side of the room, though he had no memory of removing it.

“I had best take my hands off you, Prue, or I shall make us both late for dinner, and your sister shall scold.”

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Love is worth the risk…

The renegade wifeLove is worth the risk…

New cover, new release, new series! Coming in October

The heroes and heroines of Caroline Warfield’s DANGEROUS SERIES overcame challenges even after their happy ending. Their children seek their own happiness in distant lands in Warfield’s new CHILDREN OF EMPIRE SERIES. In THE RENEGADE WIFE, first of the new series, reclusive Rand Wheatly finds contentment in his remote cabin in Upper Canada, intent on making his fortune in timber, until his precious solitude is disrupted by a woman running from an ugly past. He quickly realizes she wasn’t what she claims, but now she’s on the run again and time is running out for him to save her.

Caroline is celebrating with a GIVEAWAY on her website.
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The villain’s sidekick

Ella's attacker The Maid George Lambert 1915Do you have a villain or villainess, out to wreak havoc in your protagonists’ lives? Or even just a slightly negative character who throws stumbling blocks in the way of their desires and intentions?

We’ve had villains before, so I thought today, I’d go down a step. Just as heroes and heroines have secondary characters to support them, so do most antagonists. Share an excerpt about one of the people who backs up your spoilsport, gossip, or outright villain.

Mine is from the first few pages of A Raging Madness. As you’ll see, Kerridge is dresser to Constance, Ella’s sister-in-law, and the wicked woman’s accomplice.

laudanum1Kerridge brought Ella’s evening dose of laudanum. Presumably Constance believed that Ella was still under the influence of the measure forced down her throat this morning, and would swallow Kerridge’s without offering a struggle.

Even though she’d managed to dribble at least part of what she secreted in her cheeks onto the pillow without Constance noticing, she was still mazed. Another dose would take her under, but Kerridge resented being forced to a task so beneath her dignity as a dresser, and would do no more than watch to see that Ella took the dose into her mouth. She would not insist on waiting until Ella swallowed, would not pinch her nose and hold her jaw shut.

Being too meek would be suspicious. Ella turned her head away from the spoon, her teeth clenched shut, but yelped at Kerridge’s sharp pinch and the dresser immediately forced the spoon into Ella’s mouth.

Glaring sullenly, she stopped struggling, and the dresser withdrew the spoon, stretching her thin lips into a smug smile.

Ella asleep“There, Lady Melville. This would go more easily for you if you would just do what you are told,” she said.

She turned to measure a second spoonful, and Ella let the first out of her mouth. The pillow reeked of the pernicious stuff, and still had damp patches though she dried it by the fire at every chance she had. She accepted the second mouthful without a struggle. Had she swallowed the first, she would be totally compliant by now, and Kerridge did not question her sudden obedience, but picked up the bottle and left the room.

As soon as the key turned in the lock, Ella slid out of bed to find the chamber pot, and spit the remaining laudanum into it. She washed her mouth once, twice, three times. She had ingested a little—enough to further fog her brain, but not enough to douse the sharp flame of purpose. She had to get away. She had to escape. She had no idea why her brother and sister-in-law were keeping her alive, but she could not count on it continuing.

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Letters on WIP Wednesday

letter writerIn these days of email, instant messaging, Skype, and a myriad of other ways to connect with our loved ones, we find it hard to imagine how much distant separated families and lovers in the past, and how important letters were to keep them connected.

I am working with my friend Mariana Gabrielle on Never Kiss a Toad (being published in parts on Wattpad), where the lovers are separated for years, with letters the only contact they’re permitted, and those vetted by the heroine’s father. But my piece today is not from Toad, but from one of my short stories. I wrote Magnus and the Christmas Angel for a prize as part of my support for Cat Day, and I’m currently rewriting it as a novella, to bring some of the backstory into the foreground.

As always, share your excerpts about keeping in touch: any method, from letters and verbal messages through modern social media and the telephone, to the ansible or whatever other sci-fi device your imagination has given future heroes and heroines.

Mine doesn’t quote a letter. Instead, they’re discussing years of lettersMagnus and the Christmas Angel.

Magnus remembered her letters? From the day he left, she had written to him. A few lines a day, a letter a week, a bundle of letters posted every month. Trivial stories of a country girl on her ordinary daily round. And he had written back, letters from all down the coast of Africa, then up the other side and into Asia, and across the Pacific. Letters full of exotic stories and drawings of strange and wonderful places.

How boring he must have found her dull and commonplace ramblings.

“I kept writing,” she blurted. Letter after letter, at first sent in the hopes the missing ship would finally appear, and later put into the chest where she kept the much read, much cried over letters he had written in return.

“After my ship went down?” Magnus asked, his eyes warm.

Until the evening before her date at the altar to marry Magnus’s cousin. That letter, much smudged where she wept on it, and creased where she crushed it in her hands, lay with the others in her chest at the Abbey.

Callie nodded.

“I should like to read them,” Magnus said.

Callie shook her head, helplessly. Her domestic ramblings, her outpouring of grief after her father died, her increasing desperation as her brother spiralled down into ruin, stripping the estate to spend his wealth and eventually her dowry on horses, gambling, drink, loose women, and ever more extravagant schemes to rescue their fortunes. Abetted and egged on by his dear friend Lewis Colbrooke, who somehow always seemed to be the winner in any game of chance, and to come unscathed out of any risky venture. Until the swine won even the deeds to Blessings, and Callie took refuge with Squire Ambrose and his wife.

Magnus took her shake as refusal. “Not if you do not wish me to,” he said, the warm eagerness in his eyes turning to disappointment.

“I am afraid you will find them dull,” she explained. And far too revealing. She had censored nothing, thinking no-one would ever see them.

“Never dull.” The warmth had returned to Magnus’s eyes, and his voice slowed to the meditative tones, like rich brandied honey, that always sent a shiver through her. “They were home to me, Callie. I read them over and over and again, until they were thin with touching, and they brought me here, to Blessings and to the Abbey; to my own land, and to you. When the ship went down, I had your latest package of letters with me, inside my shirt, and as they hauled me out of the water, all I could think of was that I had a little part of you still with me.”

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Looming disasters on WIP Wednesday

curricle raceIn the last few weeks I’ve written a warehouse explosion, a social nightmare, and a near traffic accident. Disasters are good for stories.

This week, how about sharing with me those moments when all looks grim, and perhaps even the instant when hero or heroine steps in to save the day.

Here is my hero James Winderfield, from The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, and the moment he meets his heroine.

The racing curricles had negotiated the bend without disaster and were now hurtling towards the village. Long habit had James studying the path, looking to make sure the villagers were safely out of the way, and an instant later, he put Seistan at the slope.

It was steep, but nothing to the mountains they had lived in all their lives, he and his horse, and Seistan was as sure-footed as any goat. Straight down by the shortest route they hurtled, for in the path of the thoughtless lackwits and their carriages was a child—a boy, by the trousers—who had just escaped through a gate from the village’s one large house, tripped as he crossed the road, and now lay still.

It would be close. As he cleared one stone fence and then another, he could see the child beginning to sit up, shaking his head. Just winded then, and easier to reach than lying flat, thank all the angels and saints.

Out of sight for a moment as he rounded a cottage, he could hear the carriages drawing closer. Had the child recovered enough to run? No. He was still sitting in the road, mouth open, white-faced, looking as his doom approached. What kind of selfish madmen raced breast to breast, wheel to wheel, into a village?

With hand, body and voice, James set Seistan at the child, and dropped off the saddle, trusting to the horse to sweep past in the right place for James to hoist the child out of harm’s way.

One mighty heave, and they were back in the saddle. James’ shoulders would feel the weight of the boy for days, but Seistan had continued across the road, so close to the racers that James could feel the wind of their passing.

They didn’t stop. Didn’t even slow. In moments, they were gone.

The boy shaking in his arms, James turned Seistan with his knees, and walked the horse back to the gates of the big house. A crowd of women waited for them, but only one came forward as he dismounted.

“How can we ever thank you enough, sir?” She took the child from him, and handed him off to be scolded and hugged and wept over by a bevy of other females.

The woman lingered, and James too. He could hear his father and the others riding towards them, but he couldn’t take his eyes off hers. He was drowning in their chocolate brown. Did she feel it too? The Greeks said that true lovers had one soul, split at birth and placed in two bodies. He had thought it a nice conceit, until now.

“James!” His father’s voice broke him out of his trance. “James, your grandfather expects us in London.” The earl lifted his top hat with courtly grace to the woman, and rode on, certain that James would follow. Not the woman; the lady, as her voice and clothes proclaimed, though James had not noticed until now.

A lady, and by the rules of this Society, one to whom he had not been introduced. He took off his telpek, the large shaggy sheepskin hat.

“My lady, I am Elfingham. May I have the honor of knowing whom I have served this day?”

She seemed as dazed as he, which soothed him a little, and she stuttered slightly as she gave him her name. “L-L-Lady Sophia. Belvoir.” Unmarried then, or she would be known by her husband’s name or title. And a lady. He beamed at her as he remounted. He had a name. He would be able to find her.

“Thank you, sir. Lord Elfingham.”

“My lady,” James told her, “I am yours to command.”

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Shopping on WIP Wednesday

regshopHow about shopping? Do your characters go to the market or buy clothes or go out for an icecream or to the local emporium? Mine do. In my excerpt (from Prudence in Love), David has arranged to meet Prue while she is out shopping. As always, post an excerpt in the comments. I’d love to read it.

David worried that he’d not find Mist in the crowded market, but it was easy. He turned to her like a needle to a lodestone, recognising her by her walk, though she was enveloped in a cloak and hampered by a large basket.

He fell into step beside her. “Here, let me carry that.” She relinquished the basket without comment.

“How long do you have?” David asked.

“Plenty of time if we talk while I run the last of my errands. I sent the maid home with the meat and vegetables. I need to buy spices, sugar, tea, and chocolate.”

High value items, trusted to the housekeeper but not to lesser members of the household. David nodded.

“I don’t have much to report, yet,” he said. “I’ve set people to watch each of the possible victims, and I followed Lord Selby for most of last night. He has an unpleasant taste in pleasures, that man. I’ve met with Aldridge, and heard how his brother became involved. Aldridge has told the boy to stay clear of Lily Diamond until this is all cleared up.”

“Then Lord Jonathan didn’t listen. He took Miss Diamond driving yesterday afternoon, attended her party last night, and then went up to bed with her. He’s there yet, I imagine.”

“The devil he is!” David opened the door to the tea emporium, and the fragrance of the tea enfolded them.

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