Win a kitten in the Holly and Hopeful Hearts kitten tour

A kitten from the Bluestocking Belle’s box set Holly and Hopeful Hearts needs a home.

Meet Snowball, the kitten who captured the heart of the Earl of Hythe

Meet Snowball, the kitten who captured the heart of the Earl of Hythe

In my story, The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, Snowball is tempted from hiding by dangling gold tassels on James’ boots.

“I reckon gold tassels on the boots would be right proper, my lord,” the footman ventured.

He was right, too. Gold tassels that swung as James walked, catching and then losing the light. Not that gold tassels were going to make up the ground he’d lost with Sophia, but still…

“See what you can find,” he told the servant. “Adam, go on ahead and find your lady. I’ll be down in a minute.”

So it was that when he left his chamber, three gold tassels dangled from the front of each boot and proved a tempting target. A white kitten darted out from under an occasional table when James stopped to close the door behind him and took a flying leap at the tassels, as James discovered when he felt the sudden weight.

He took a careful step, expecting the small passenger to drop away, but it buried its claws and its teeth into its golden prey and glared up at him.

“Foolish creature,” he told it, going down onto the knee of the other leg so he could remove it, carefully lifting each paw to detach the tangled claws. “These gaudy baubles are to attract my lady, not a fierce little furry warrior.” He lifted the kitten in one hand and held it up to continue his lecture face to face. “Now where do you belong, hmmnhmmn? Have you wandered off from your mama? Do you belong to this house, I wonder, or did you come with a guest?”

The kitten squeaked a tiny meow.

“No, little one. I will not put you down to chew my tassels, or to trip one of the great ladies or to be trodden on by one of the gentlemen. You are a pretty little fellow, are you not?” He tucked the cat against his chest and rubbed behind its ears, prompting a loud rusty purr incongruously large for the small frame of the kitten.

Although focused on the kitten, he was aware of footsteps approaching. It was Hythe, who looked uncomfortable in a tight-fitting jerkin over short ballooning breeches that allowed several inches of clocked stocking to show between the hem of the breeches and the thigh-length fitted boots. The short robe, flat cap, and heavy flat chain gave a further clue, and Hythe had tried for authenticity by stuffing padding under the jerkin—a pillow, perhaps?

“Henry the Eighth?” James ventured, half-expecting Hythe to walk past without speaking or make another intemperate verbal attack.

Instead, the younger man nodded. “My sister Felicity picked it. Er… I wanted to speak with you… I owe you an apology, Winder… Er… Elfingham. My sister Felicity told me that… Well, the fact is I made an accusation without checking my facts.” Hythe nodded again, clearly feeling that he had said what he needed to say.

“Very handsome of you, Hythe,” James said.

Hythe ran a finger around inside his collar, flushing slightly. “Yes, well. The thing is… You will tell Sophia that I apologized, will you not?”

Ah. Clearly Sophia had expressed her discontent.

“Sisters can be a trial, can they not?” James said, and Hythe warmed to the sympathy.

“Just because she is older, she thinks she can…” He visibly remembered his audience. “Sophia is of age and will make her own decisions, but I think it only fair to tell you that I have advised her to wait until after the hearing at the Privileges Committee before she makes any decision.”

James inclined his head. “I understand your position.” Which would not prevent him from doing his best to persuade Sophia to ignore the advice.

Time to change the subject. He held up the little kitten. “Do you happen to know where this little chap belongs?”

Hythe flushed still deeper. “So that’s where he got to. He… ah… appears to be mine. In a way. The housekeeper’s cat had kittens, and this one seems to have adopted me. Little nuisance.”

But Hythe’s hands were gentle as he took the kitten from James, and he tucked it under his chin, his other hand coming up to fondle the furry head.

“I’ll just put him back in my room so he doesn’t get in anyone’s way. Foolish boy, Snowball. Do you wish to be lost? Was the fish not to your taste?”

Hythe retreated back down the hall. James could not hear individual words, but from the sound of his voice, he was continuing his loving scold. And James had managed to have what almost amounted to a conversation with his intended brother-in-law. He would count that as a win.

Follow the book links to learn more about the stories. Enter the rafflecopter below to be entered for the random draw to win the kitten.


The winner will be announced at the Book Launch Party on November 13th. The other kittens in the novellas are also looking for new homes, so be sure to keep an eye out for them! Good luck!

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Tender moments on WIP Wednesday

After several weeks of focusing on mayhem, I’m taking a gentler theme this week. Give me your tender moments. Perhaps between your hero and heroine, perhaps not. Two friends? A mother and child? Show me what you’ve got, and I’ll show you mine — this is from A Suitable Husband, one of my stories in Holly and Hopeful Hearts, and features my heroine in a vulnerable moment, being comforted by two friends. None of them know that my hero is listening at the door.


“Do not cry, Cedrica. You are doing wonderfully well, and the duchess knows it. Lady Stanton will receive no support there.”

Cedrica? That cold-hearted bitch had upset his Mademoiselle?

“I agree with Grace, Cedrica. Aunt Eleanor shall give one of her deadly little set downs, and I should dearly like to see it. Here. Dry your eyes, darling. It shall all be well, you will see.”

consolationThen Mademoiselle’s voice, trembling with unshed tears. “You are right. I know you are. I do not know why I allowed her to upset me so. Only… I am just so tired of stupid conflict. This gentleman does not want to share a room with his wife. That one has kept every guest in his wing awake with his snoring. This lady cannot have the same breakfast as that one, and another must be served the identical tray, right down to the colour of the inlay. And as for the war between the kitchens! I swear, if I have to referee one more battle over who has first use of the lemon zester, I shall scream.”

Really? She was not enjoying their little dramas as much as the two combatants? Marcel frowned, and shot a glance both ways down the hallway to make sure he was not observed as he leant closer.

The two other ladies were making soothing noises, and offering to take up Mademoiselle’s duties while she rested.

“No, no. Aunt Eleanor would be so disappointed in me. Besides, you have your own tangles to straighten. Making sure that Lady Stanton and her cronies are not in a position to bully Miss Baumann, that Lord Trevor is dissuaded from taking out a gun, since he cannot see beyond the end of his arm and refuses to wear glasses, and that Lady Marchand can only cheat at cards with those who know her little ways.”

The three ladies laughed together, Mademoiselle’s chuckle still a little watery.

Her voice was forlorn when she said, “It was the other that hurt most, you know. Because it is true.”

More soothing noises, which she rejected.

“No. I am not a fool. I know that I have dwindled into an old maid. Well, look at me. Plain ordinary Cedrica Grenford. A useful person to have on a committee, but not one man has ever looked at me twice nor is likely to. I know Aunt Eleanor thinks dressing me up like a fashion doll and sending me in to talk to all these lords will turn me into a… a swan. But I am just a plain barnyard hen when you come down to it.”

Lady de Courtenay disagreed. “Oh but surely Lord Hythe—”

Another heart-wrenching chuckle. “See, his sister is shaking her head. And you are right, Sophia. Hythe is polite to everyone, and kind to me because I was at school with Felicity. He treats me as a lady, which is nice of him when I am, as Lady Stanton so kindly pointed out, merely hanging onto gentility by the charity of Her Grace.”

“Oh Cedrica…” That was both ladies. Marcel’s response to Lady Stanton’s cruel words would have been much more forceful.

“He does not look at me and see a woman. No one does.”

Lady Sophia spoke decisively. “You are blue-devilled, my dear. Who knows whether any of us will meet a man who can see past our elderly exteriors to the treasures we all are? And if we do not, you and I shall be old maids together.”

“Yes,” Lady de Courtenay agreed. “Perhaps we should set up house together? Certainly Sophia and I have no more wish to live forever on the sufferance of our brothers than you do on the Haverfords. Who needs men, after all? Selfish, conceited creatures, always jumping to conclusions.”

This time, Mademoiselle’s laugh was more genuine.

Lady Sophia said, “Rest for an hour. Read a book. I will order a pot of tea and some cakes, and Grace and I shall deal with anything that arises.”


Tea with Georgiana

monday-for-teaGeorgiana, the widowed Duchess of Darby, greets the Duchess of Haverford with a carefree smile even though her insides are fluttering about like the autumn leaves falling from the plane trees outside. The duchess has been her friend and mentor since the early days of Georgie’s marriage, proclaiming herself an honorary aunt, but she is far too perceptive and she is sure to notice Georgie’s unease even though this is just a morning call. But will she know why? Of course, Aunt Eleanor is much too dignified to pay any attention to salacious gossip… isn’t she?

However Aunt Eleanor doesn’t seem to notice that anything is amiss; she clasps Georgie’s hand warmly and places a gentle kiss upon her cheek before stepping back to study her face. “My dear,” she says gently, her soft blue eyes regarding her with genuine fondness. “It is wonderful to see you in Town again.”

“Thank you, Aunt Eleanor. It has been too long hasn’t it?”

“Quite understandable given the circumstances.” With an elegant wave of her hand, the Duchess of Haverford indicates they should both take a seat before the crackling fire in her sitting room where tea things and all manner of delightful morsels—tiny cakes, sandwiches and delicate biscuits—have been set out on a low mahogany table.

“Yes… indeed,” Georgie replies as she chooses a damask upholstered wingchair and then busies herself with smoothing the folds of her blue silk gown and removing her gloves. For all the heartfelt concern in Aunt Eleanor’s direct gaze, Georgie doesn’t wish to talk about the passing of her husband, Teddy, the Duke of Darby. He might have been a husband in name only but he was also her best friend. And my twin brother’s lover. Not that Aunt Eleanor knows any of that… She might a good friend to Georgie ever since her marriage, but it was but one of the many secrets Georgie vigilantly keeps under lock and key. Raising her own gaze to meet Aunt Eleanor’s again, she adds, “My brother, Sir Jonathon, and Helena, Lady Maxwell have been keeping me busy this past week.”

“Ah yes, the recent ball at Latimer House. How lovely it was for Lord and Lady Maxwell to welcome you back in such a fashion. I understand it was a lively occasion…”

Was that a twinkle of interest in Eleanor’s blue eyes? What if she had heard some of the on-dits floating around London this past week? On-dits involving Georgie and the mysterious Rafe, Lord Markham… Not only did he flirt outrageously with her during the ball, he’d also trounced her at piquet not once but twice. The indomitable Ice Duchess had been well and truly vanquished. Thank heavens Eleanor didn’t know the man had also kissed her… Even now the memory of that kiss made her stomach flip and her pulse skitter about. If only Lord Markham weren’t so attractive…

In an attempt to hide her blush, Georgie pretends to scrutinize the cakes before randomly choosing a pale pink petit-four.

But perhaps Aunt Eleanor does know something as she next remarks in an all too innocent tone as she adroitly dispenses tea and milk, “And I also heard that the company was most diverting.”

Georgie places her untasted cake on a fine bone china plate then sighs. “You know me too well, Aunt Eleanor. And if truth be told, ‘diverting’ is rather an understatement.”

Aunt Eleanor smiles conspiratorially as she hands her a cup of tea. “So, tell me all about Lord Markham.”


theiceduchess_med-copyGeorgie took her seat at one of the piquet tables in the card room and removed her gloves, hoping that Phillip, Lord Maxwell, wouldn’t notice her slightly trembling fingers when he joined her. It seemed absurd to be so nervous. Where was her famous sang-froid?

It probably didn’t help that a hush had descended over the card room as Jonathon had escorted her in, and at this very moment, she could feel at least a dozen pairs of eyes, if not more upon her. The unvanquished Ice Duchess—the woman who barely ever lost a game—was about to play cards again. Of course people were going to notice.

Curse her brother and Helena. She would have attracted much less notice if she had simply decided to dance after all. Lemonade in the ladies’ retiring room seemed more appealing by the second. And where in heaven’s name was Phillip? She glanced about the room but could not spy Helena’s husband anywhere.

Not only that, she could see Jonathon disappearing out of the card room, no doubt chasing the dapper young buck he’d been making calf’s eyes at earlier.

If Phillip didn’t appear within the next thirty seconds, she would cut and run.

“May I join you, Your Grace?” A soft baritone drew Georgie’s attention away from the ornately arched doorway of the card room and back to the table.

She glanced up. And it was all she could do not to gasp.

A dark-haired, lean-jawed rake was smiling down at her. Her dastardly brother and friends had set her up after all.
Blast them all to hell.

Drawing in a steadying breath she summoned a slight smile. Her well-practiced, cool duchess’s smile—a smile that had sustained her for almost a decade in the face of such obvious raw masculinity. Thank God she still had it.

“And you are?” she asked smoothly, arching an eyebrow. “I believe we’ve never been introduced.” She thought she knew most rakes of the ton and she had only been away from London for a year. But this tall, handsome man with smoke-gray eyes and a dark velvet voice, she didn’t know at all.

The corner of his wide, well-shaped mouth lifted into a smile. “Forgive my boldness, Your Grace. I am Rafe Landsbury, Lord Markham. Lord Maxwell has been… detained and offers his apologies. He asked me to stand in, in his stead.” His eyes held hers—a question or perhaps it was a spark of challenge flared in their gray depths. “If you don’t mind of course.”

As if she could refuse with everyone watching. She’d gleefully strangle Phillip, Helena and Jonathon later for putting Lord Markham up to this. They probably thought she’d build up a rapport with the man over cards. Then he’d suggest they dance or perhaps peruse the supper table together. His large hand would touch her elbow, the small of her back. His fingers would brush against hers as he passed her a glass of champagne… She knew all the ploys he would use to try and get her hot and bothered. But she wouldn’t fall for any of them. Never again. Just because she was a widow, it didn’t mean she was fair game.

Lord Markham was still watching her expectantly so she affected a small tinkling laugh and shrugged a shoulder. “Of course I don’t mind. Please, take a seat.”

“Thank you, Your Grace.”

Georgie tried not to stare as the nobleman folded his long, lean frame onto the damask covered Adams chair opposite her. Markham, Markham. No, not a memory of him stirred at all. Where had such a man been hiding for the last decade? He exuded such a quiet self-assurance as he watched her reach for the deck of cards, a completely unexpected and most disconcerting wave of heat swept over her face.

She hadn’t blushed in years. What is wrong with me?

The Ice Duchess (Scandalous Regency Widows, Book 2) by Amy Rose Bennett:

Georgiana Dudley, the ‘Ice Duchess’, has just emerged from mourning after a nine-year marriage of convenience to the Duke of Darby, her twin brother’s lover. Deeply hurt by a scoundrel a decade ago, Georgie swore she would never turn her head for any man, let alone another rakehell. But then she encounters the wickedly handsome and all too charming Rafe Landsbury, the Earl of Markham and against her better judgment, her interest is reluctantly aroused. An affair may be impossible to resist but dare she trust Lord Markham with her most intimate secrets… and her heart?

Society believes Rafe to be a diplomat but for many years he has been working on the Continent as a spy for the Crown. Leaving the shadowy world of espionage behind, he returns to London with the intention of finding a wife. When he is paired with the frosty yet fascinating Duchess of Darby at the piquet table during a ton ball, he is intrigued. Do-or-die man that he is, he’s certainly not going to let her cool demeanor dissuade him from pursuing her.

When Rafe’s dark past returns to endanger Georgie, he is determined to protect her at all costs, even if that means hiding who he once was. With the stakes so high, both Georgie and Rafe must decide if love is a risk worth taking…

Length: Novel (109,500 words)

Heat Level: Hot. This story is a Regency romance with open-door love-making scenes and frank language is used.

Amazon Buy Link

Meet the author

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

Amy is happily married to her own Alpha male hero, has two beautiful daughters, and a rather loopy Rhodesian Ridgeback. She has been a speech pathologist for many years but is currently devoting her time to her one other true calling—writing romance.

Social Media Links:
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How a disease of cows saved hundreds of millions of lives

Would people innoculated with cowpox become cows? The cartoonist James Gillray lampooned the fear.

Would people inoculated with cowpox become cows? The cartoonist James Gillray lampooned the fear.

I’ve been looking back over 250 years of growing knowledge about the human body, the ills that befall us, and how to treat them. In her book Smallpox, Syphilis, and Salvation, Sheryl Persson points out that the idea of curing disease is a very new one. For most of history, and for many illnesses even today, physicians have treated symptoms and tried to keep the body alive long enough for it to cure itself.

smallpoxAs for eradicating a disease, we’ve managed to get rid of one, and it took us 180 years from the time a country doctor in England first published a pamphlet suggesting not just the possibility, but the method.

How can we who live in the West in the 21st Century imagine a society where a single illness killed one tenth of the population every year? Where a quarter of the entire population was killed or permanently scarred by that same illness?
Smallpox was no respecter of persons, killing kings and street beggars alike. It was responsible for one out of every three deaths in childhood at a time when a third of children died before they were nine.

It changed the course of history several times, contributing to the fall of Rome, altering the succession of the British throne and ushering in the Georgian era, killing the rulers of the Aztec and Incan nations and crippling their nations so the conquistadors could sweep all before them… The list goes on and on.

Death among the Mezo-Americans

Death among the Mezo-Americans

By the middle of the 18th century, England had learned the practice of variolation; fundamentally, the practice of rubbing a cut or scratch with material from a smallpox scab to give a healthy person a case of smallpox. As long as the person administering the treatment avoided both of the two major risks, the person had a far better chance of surviving the disease, and then they wouldn’t catch it again.

The risks? Doctors tried to find milder strains of smallpox by looking for people who were recovering, but sometimes they got it wrong. And—without a germ theory of disease transmission—some of them weren’t that careful about washing their instruments (or even their hands) between patients. Variolation was common during a smallpox epidemic, and doctors carried contagion from their dying patients to their well ones.

George III of England lost two infant sons to variolation within six months of one another. Still, a death rate of less than one in fifty was an improvement over the status quo.

A physician inspects the growth of cowpox on a milking maid' Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images A physician inspects the growth of cowpox on a milking maid's hand while a farmer (?) passes another physician a lancet. Coloured etching, c. 1800. Published: [ca. 1800]

A physician inspects the growth of cowpox on a milking maid’
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images,

Edward Jenner, the country doctor I mentioned, drew on folklore to find a better way. While not the first to inoculate healthy patients with cowpox, he was the first to press his treatment on the medical community. Cowpox was a related disease, seldom fatal or even serious, and country folk had long known that milkmaids were immune to smallpox.

When, in 1796, Jenner inoculated his gardener’s son with cowpox taken from a local milkmaid, he founded the science of vaccination, and took the first step in the long road to the last natural case of smallpox, a hospital cook in Somalia in 1977.


I’ve been reading about illnesses and deaths in the 18th and 19th centuries, and about medical knowledge, for some of my books. In A Raging Madness, (Book 2 of the The Golden Redepennings) the hero is crippled after being hit by a canister shell (today we’d call it shrapnel) and the heroine is a doctor’s daughter and was her father’s apprentice. In the Mountain King series, the next book after The Bluestocking and the Barbarian is The Hermit and the Healer. My healer takes on a cholera epidemic at a girls’ boarding school, and needs to deal with the prejudice of the locals as well as the suspicion and anger of the reclusive parent of one of the girls.

I have one of my regular background characters dying of syphilis (the great pox—more about the medical history of that scourge next week).

And I’m still working out what will kill Mia Redepenning’s husband’s Javanese wife so that Mia can finally have her happy ending in Unkept Promises, Book 4 of The Golden Redepennings. (Something lingering, so she has time to send a letter halfway around the world to her English ‘sister wife’ to beg Mia to be a mother to her four little children.)

The first vaccination

The first vaccination


Scolds, gossips and harpies on WIP Wednesday

VFS109732 Ladies Gossiping at the Opera (oil on canvas) by Barnard, Frederick (1846-1896) (attr. to) oil on canvas 39.3x37.4 Private Collection English, out of copyright

Ladies Gossiping at the Opera, by Barnard, Frederick (1846-1896)
English, out of copyright

The scandalmonger is a staple of Regency romance. I like my protagonists (of either sex) with a bit more meanness to them, and lean therefore to malicious gossiping. But maybe yours is just a garrulous person, or a mother with a bit too much interest in the actions of her adult children. Or maybe your work in progress has an outright villain (male or female) who uses social position to exert power.


Please share. Mine is an ex-lover of my hero, expressing her jealousy by supporting an attack on poor Ella, the heroine of A Raging Madness.

Ella, watching Alex treating a crowd of admiring females to his best imitation of a man pleased with his lot, was surprised when Mrs Fullerton spoke at her elbow. “Silly . He is being polite, of course, but I dare say our new Lord Renshaw is hating every minute.”

Ella controlled her surge of irritation. She had no place objecting to Mrs Fullerton’s possessive ‘our’, or her implicit claim to understand Alex. Diplomatically, she replied, “I was surprised at how quickly the news had travelled. He only heard this afternoon.”

“I owe you an apology, Lady Melville. I was very rude when we last met. I was jealous, you see. Alex never looked at me the way he looks at you.” Mrs Fullerton gave a deep sigh. “But one must accept reality. He has eyes only for you, and I was quite horrid. I am ashamed of myself, truly.”

She seemed sincere, her eyes meeting Ella’s, a tentative and apologetic smile just touching the corner of her lips. Ella suppressed the urge to ask how Alex looked at her, and gave way to the impulse not to correct Mrs Fullerton’s misconception about Ella’s and Alex’s relationship.

“We all do things we later regret, Mrs Fullerton. Think nothing of it.”

“You are very gracious.” Mrs Fullerton lifted her glass to her lips. “Bother!”  Somehow she had managed to spill quite a large splash of the drink on one shoulder of her gown, a red spreading stain against the pastel green. “Lady Melville, I hate to impose, but could you…”

What could Ella say? She accompanied Mrs Fullerton to the ladies’ retiring room, helped her sponge out the liquid, and waited by the door to the large drawing room while Mrs Fullerton went out to the front hall to retrieve a shawl to cover her shoulders.

She returned with a footman in tow. “Have you tried the punch, Lady Melville? It is strongly spiced, but hot and quite pleasant.”

She collected two glasses from the footman’s tray and pushed one into Ella’s hand.

“Drink up, Lady Melville, and then we shall go and rescue Lord Renshaw.”

It was over spiced, but Ella did not wish to be rude. She took a large sip, and another.

An instant before the drug in the drink hit her, she saw the flare of triumph in Mrs Fullerton’s eyes, and knew she had made a mistake. She opened her mouth to shout for Alex, but suddenly the footman had a hand over her mouth and another under her elbow, and was hustling, half carrying her through the door Mrs Fullerton held open.

“I will give you a few minutes to make it look good,” she said, and whipped out of the room, shutting the door behind her.

Ella was struggling against the footman and the fog trying to close in on her mind, the dizziness that wanted to consume her. She stamped at his foot, kicked back at his chin, but her soft indoor slippers made no impression. She squirmed, trying to jab her free arm as low as possible, and he twisted away with an oath, pushing her from him so that she fell face forward onto a sofa.

In an instant he was on her, tugging her head back by the hair, straddling her torso. “This will do well enough,” he commented, lifting himself enough that he could push up her skirt and petticoats.

Ella fought to retain consciousness, the pain of her pulled hair helping to keep her from sinking into the fog. “Scream,” she instructed herself, as her assailant’s free hand fumbled at her buttocks, and she shrieked as loud as she could.

Doors burst open: the one onto the hall and a double set into the drawing room next door, and the room filled with people.

It was her worst nightmare come again: the indrawn breaths of shock, the buzz of excited comments, the avid staring eyes. The last thing Ella heard before she sank into oblivion was the amused drawl of the man on her back. “Oh dear, Lady Melville. It seems we have been caught.”


Release day for The Renegade Wife

Today is release day for the first book in Caroline Warfield’s new series, Children of Empire. I was privileged to be an early reader for The Renegade Wife, and if you don’t already have it, rush out and get it now! Amazon link at the bottom of the page after a word from Caroline, the blurbs, my review and an excerpt.

Caroline, you know I love the book, and now everyone else knows it too, because there’s a quote from me on the front cover. Congratulations, and I wish you every success.

A message from Caroline

Meggy visited the Duchess of Haverford last week on Monday for Tea. Check that post for more insight into this gripping book.

Meggy visited the Duchess of Haverstock last week on Monday for Tea.

Thank you, Jude, for hosting me on my book’s release day. I tend to almost hop up and down with excitement over a new release, and I’m delighted to have the chance to introduce it to your readers. Here are seven things they might like to know about The Renegade Wife.

1. The characters may be familiar. The elders who assemble to brainstorm ways to get Rand and Meggy out of trouble are the heroes of my Dangerous books. Rand himself appears in A Dangerous Nativity as a boy.

2. Meggy, as quickly becomes apparent, is an abused wife. Faced with such abuse, she stands up and takes control. You’ll like her.

3. Rand’s heart isn’t as hard as he likes to pretend.

4. There are children. Somehow my books always have children.

5. It’s the first of a new series, The Children of Empire. This one begins in His Majesty’s colony in Upper Canada. The empire spanned the globe. The next book begins in India.

6. The story is set in 1832, too late to be Georgian and too early to be Victorian. Let’s just call it “historical.”

7. I plan to celebrate the launch with a Facebook party on Sunday, October 16. You’re all welcome to join us. There will be prizes!
A side note (Because Caroline can never resist a side note):
Why “Upper” Canada, you may ask? When the British took Quebec in 1760 the entire territory was called Canada. The Quebec Act made it French in law, language, and religion. The influx of loyalists in the 1780s prompted a need for a colony with English language and law with some religious tolerance, and so they divided into parts up river (Upper Canada, which we now call Ontario) from the parts down river (Lower Canada, or the current province of Quebec). As to the other provinces and eventual union, that’s probably a story for another novel.


The Renegade Wife

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

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

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

Children of Empire

Raised with all the privilege of the English aristocracy, forged on the edges of the British Empire, men and woman of the early Victorian age seek their own destiny and make their mark on history. The heroes and heroines of Caroline’s Dangerous Series overcame challenges even after their happy ending. Their children seek their own happiness in distant lands in Children of Empire.

Jude Knight on The Renegade Bride

I love Caroline’s writing, and was not at all surprised when her Dangerous Secrets won a RONE in this year’s awards. I’ve read each of the Dangerous books, thrilled with their heroine, and fallen in love with their hero.

This is the best yet. Her writing is superb, and her characters are hugely likable (except for Blair and his offsider, who are not). I particularly enjoyed the double vision effect at the beginning: Rand as cat rescuer and altogether nice fellow vs Rand as scary monster.

No spoilers, but suffice to say that Meggy would do anything to protect her children. And with a husband like Blair, they need protection. And Rand is heart-sore and hiding out in the woods, avoiding all people. But the children and then the woman herself get under his defenses.

Can these two damaged souls heal one another? Not if Blair has anything to do with it.

And then there is Charles. Charles is Rand’s cousin; the one that Rand hates even as he loves him. To save Meggy, Charles and Rand have to work together. Charles is every kind of darling, and deserves the happiest of endings. I can barely wait for his book, which is the third of the new series.

I was privileged to receive a beta copy of this book, and am waiting breathlessly for my purchased copy to download so I can read it again.

An excerpt from the book

“Let go of her, Blair, or I’ll shoot you like the dog you are. God knows you deserve it.” For untold minutes all Rand heard was the wind in the trees, and Lena’s whimper behind Pratt’s back. Even Meggy seemed to hold her breath.
Blair let go of her arm so suddenly she stumbled before running back to her children. “The slut and her children are mine, Wheatly, and that makes you a thief.”

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

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

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

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

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

“You would be safe from him.”

“And you would be in jail or worse.”

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


Buy The Renegade Wife on Amazon.

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Tea with Vanessa


Vanessa’s tea with the duchess
A widowed father must be in want of a wife

vanessa“Welcome, Miss Sedgely! I am so pleased you could take tea with me today.”

The Duchess of Haverford was sitting at the far end of two rows of elegant chairs and settees facing each other, looking regal in her own chair of scarlet and gold as she waved Vanessa to the chair at her right. Vanessa swallowed nervously as she made a small curtsey before complying with her hostess’s wishes.

“On the contrary, Your Grace. It was kind of you to extend me an invitation.”

It was true. The Sedgelys’ tended to socialize on the fringes of the ton, not in its upper circles. Vanessa had met a duchess or two before, but never this particular one, who had a reputation for being both astute and compassionate at the same time. No doubt her purpose in inviting Vanessa to tea was to learn more about her work with the Foundling Hospital in order to determine if it was indeed a worthy charity to promote at her New Year’s ball.

The duchess smiled. “It was gratifying to see so many serious young ladies taking an interest in charitable endeavors at the meeting at Miss Clemens’s Book Palace last week. It’s not the usual thing for unmarried ladies, is it?”

Vanessa took a deep breath before answering what was to her a loaded question.

“I’m sure many would agree with you that unmarried ladies would be better occupied in searching for a husband, Your Grace. However, for ladies who choose not to marry, or who have not yet found a suitable match, I cannot think their concern for the less fortunate should be denied. If I am able to help even a few abandoned children live to be respectable and worthy citizens—”

“Which are you, Miss Sedgley?”

Vanessa stared at her blankly. “I beg your pardon?”

The duchess tilted her head to the side. “A lady who has chosen not to marry or one who has not yet found a suitable match.”

A flush crept across Vanessa’s cheeks. Until recently, she would have easily confessed to the former, but since meeting a certain widowed solicitor, she had begun to believe the married state might be for her after all.

At that point the tea trolley was wheeled in, and Her Grace favored Vanessa with a request to pour the tea.

Fortunately, she was able to manage that small task without trembling, and for a short time, there was silence as the two ladies sipped their tea and bit into the delicious lemon biscuits.

“I found it exceedingly interesting that Mr. Durand remained for the entire meeting, although he was the only gentleman to do so.”

Her Grace set her cup down on its saucer on the small table between them.

Vanessa’s face felt impossibly hot.

“Er, yes,” she said, taking another sip of tea.

The duchess’s eyebrows furrowed and released. “I find it commendable that he seems so determined to raise his daughter himself,” she said casually as she reached for another biscuit. “I understand he could have left her indefinitely with his sister.”

teatrolleyVanessa poured herself another cup of tea. Her Grace’s tea service was exquisite, but the cups were tiny and the conversation was making Vanessa’s mouth feel dry.


“A girl of that age needs a mother, of course.”

“I’m sure that Mr. Durand will do what is necessary for his daughter,” Vanessa defended. “Now, perhaps we might discuss the needs of the Foundling Hospital?”

Her Grace burst out laughing. “I really must stop teasing you, my dear. It’s rather a dreadful habit of mine. Along with matchmaking, of course. But what happens between you and Mr. Durand is really not my concern.” She shrugged. “Although I do think you could be of great help to that worthy gentleman.”

Vanessa gave her a weak smile, wishing the floor would open up and swallow her.

The duchess rang for the tea trolley to be removed.

“Now,” she said. “Do tell me more about your work with the foundlings. We have an orphanage at our Hollystone Hall estate. I’m sure Miss Grenford will organize a visit for us during the house party.”

Gratified at the turn of conversation, Vanessa took a deep breath to give her time to organize her thoughts. Now this was a topic she could handle. Speculating on her matrimonial prospects with George Durand was quite definitely not.


Vanessa is heroine of Susana Ellis’s Valuing Vanessa, a novella in Holly and Hopeful Hearts. For more about Holly and Hopeful Hearts, including blurbs for all eight stories and preorder links, see the website of the Bluestocking Belles.


What have you learned from this experience?

book-1012275_960_720The headline is a quote from the man I adore: “What have you learned from this experience?” (Not, incidentally, what you want to hear when you’ve just bumped your toe or broken your heart. But I love you, darling.)

Two years ago this December, I published my first historical romance, a novella. I’ve since published two novels, three novellas, and multiple short stories. I am about to publish another two novellas (in a box set) and another novel.

I am learning all the time, but here are my top five lessons from this first venture into the wild and wonderful world of Indie.

Lesson 1: We do better together than apart

In the past two years, I’ve ‘met’ many wonderful authors. My to-read list has expanded at an alarming rate, but I’ve also been privileged to share their insights, tidbits from their research, and their encouragement as I’ve dipped my toes into the indie publishing water.  I’m also part of a collaborative of historical romance writers, the Bluestocking Belles.

Without the retweeting and sharing of my friends, far fewer people would have heard of my books. And I am keen to return the service whenever I can. Readers are not a scarce resource to be hoarded; an enthusiastic reader will devour the books of many authors. When we share, when we support one another, we grow a larger market to benefit us all.

Lesson 2: 20 December is a terrible date to launch a new book

The 1st; maybe the 10th; maybe the 30th. But I launched my first book on the 20th.

The 20th was a really, really, bad idea, and very nearly did me in. So many competing demands. We have a habit of giving the grandchildren a craft day, and the year I published Candle’s Christmas Chair, we did two (one full Saturday for the older children, and one for the younger). I work full-time in commercial publishing, and 30 years of experience should have taught me that clients pile on the deadlines in the three weeks leading up to Christmas and the New Zealand summer holidays. And that doesn’t even begin to touch on Christmas shopping and baking.

I did all my own editing, cover design, formatting, marketing, and so on. The week leading up to 20 December was insane, and the next week, as I publicised the book, even crazier. And that week included Christmas Day.

I’m not planning to do that again, but check with me later this year and I’ll let you know how 13 December worked out for me.

Lesson 3: Don’t leave the cover till the last week

I’ve done a lot of research on covers, and looked at hundreds trying to work out what I like and what I don’t.  To make the cover of Candle’s Christmas Chair, I downloaded Pixelmator for the Mac, and my PRH transferred across a heap of fonts from the ancient version of InDesign on our old publishing company’s computer. We experimented with fonts till we found some we liked. But – with final tweaks on the image — the cover I actually used wasn’t completely ready until 12 December, just a couple of days before I uploaded to Smashwords and Amazon.

More pressure than I needed.

You’d think I’d learn, but when the wonderful Mari Christie suggested that my semi-professional baker in Gingerbread Bride needed a better biscuit on the front cover, I spent a fortnight hunting down a member of the Cake Decorator’s Guild, baking her some gingerbread biscuits to ice, and then photographing them; and the cover was ready right at the last minute.

Lesson 4: Distribution takes time – preorder is the way to go

I uploaded the first book on 16 December my time. The book began to be downloaded from Smashwords straight away. Somehow, I’d managed not to take that into my calculations, but hey — a download is a download, right? It took several days to filter through to the resellers from Smashwords. Apple finally started showing the book on 27 December, and didn’t really pick up speed for several days.

Amazon started selling immediately, too, but didn’t really begin to move until I managed to get them to make the book free.

Putting Farewell to Kindness up for preorder five weeks before release definitely lightened my stress load. A Baron for Becky  went up nearly three months in advance, and so did Revealed in Mist.

Lesson 5: Ask for what you want; it’s less stressful than waiting

Ask for reviews. Ask for ratings. People can say ‘no’. But you lose nothing by asking for an honest review. One thing I’ve asked for a couple of times was a free listing on Amazon. I was giving away a novella, and am now giving away a book of three shorter stories and a novella, to give people a taste of my writing style, but Amazon insisted on a price of 99c.

I’d been told that Amazon would price match, and that I should ask people to request price matching. So I did. And nothing happened. I read discussions on forums where authors talked about how hard it was to get price matching. But then I thought ‘why not ask’?

So I emailed Amazon, told them that the book I wanted price matched was free at Apple and Barnes & Noble, that my strategy was to give it away free to publicise the next few books, and that — if they price matched — we’d both benefit in the long term. Within 24 hours, it was free on Amazon to US purchasers, and that slowly spread to their other stores.

So ask. People just might say ‘yes’.


Running away very very slowly

xa6t0jrcjgosmeiapcjbThis is a rerun of a post I wrote for Caroline Warfield’s Highlighting Historical Research blog, several months ago.

I love research. I even love research when I have a perfectly delightful plot that falls apart when research proves it couldn’t have happened. Working out what might be historically probable instead, or at least plausible, has allowed me to drop down many an exciting rabbit hole into research wonderland.

For example, in my current work-in-progress, A Raging Madness, my hero Alex has a leg full of shrapnel, and is currently helping my heroine to escape from relatives who are determined to lock her up in an asylum for the mentally unwell.

Shrapnel? What kind of shrapnel? What munitions carried shrapnel at that time? What battles were they used in? How were shrapnel wounds treated? What was the long term prognosis? How about complications?

It took me a while to find a suitable battle, but eventually I put Alex the right place to be on the business end of a canister shell, a cannon ball with a weak outer shell filled with scrap metal. When the cannon fired, the shell burst apart, and a broad fan of metal caused devastation among the enemy troops. And, in my case, on the body of the assigned escort of a British diplomat who was observing the battle. (And, no, it was not called shrapnel at the time.)

Ella, my heroine, was the daughter of an army doctor, and I figured she’d solve all of Alex’s problems by removing the shrapnel. But not so. Then, even more than now, removing shrapnel or even bullets (unless they are lead) was a very bad idea.

Even today, going in after a splinter of metal might cause more harm than good, and the world is full of people walking around with bomb fragments buried inside. Back then, with no antibiotics and no anaesthetics, the treatment of choice was to leave the mess alone.

Over time, one of three things would happen. The body and the shrapnel would adjust to one another. The body would reject the shrapnel, moving it piece by piece slowly out to the surface. An abscess would form, and the poisons from the infection would kill the patient unless someone acted to drain the abscess.

Hurrah! I had my intervention. Poor Alex developed an abscess.

But escape? Alex can barely walk, let alone ride. Ella is recovering from addiction to the laudanum that her relatives have been force-feeding her. (Another rabbit-hole: what does laudanum withdrawal look like? Feel like?)

I needed a plausible way for two such invalids to escape.

I chose a canal narrowboat for a number of reasons.

The narrowboats were designed at the maximum size to fit in the smallest locks. An inch too big, and they couldn’t go wherever they needed to for the operator to earn his living. The early designers decided on a boat around seven foot wide, up to ten times as long as wide, and drawing about three feet of water when fully loaded.

The narrowboats were designed at the maximum size to fit in the smallest locks. An inch too big, and they couldn’t go wherever they needed to for the operator to earn his living. The early designers decided on a boat around seven foot wide, up to ten times as long as wide, and drawing about three feet of water when fully loaded.

One: I loved the idea of the villains haring all over the countryside looking for them while they ran away by the slowest form of non-pedestrian transport ever invented.

Two: I’ve always wanted to go on a canal cruise, and this way I got to watch YouTube clips and call it working.

Most of the boat was given over to cargo, covered by canvas. In the cabin at the rear, everything did double service, with fold down beds and tables. Some boats also had a small cabin at the bow.

Most of the boat was given over to cargo, covered by canvas. In the cabin at the rear, everything did double service, with fold down beds and tables. Some boats also had a small cabin at the bow.

Three: By 1807, when my story is set, the canal network stretched from the Mersey (with access to Manchester and Liverpool) all the way to London. Travelling by narrowboat was feasible. Canals were a supremely profitable way to move goods in the early 19th century, and had been for a number of years. At a steady walking speed, a horse could move fifty times as much weight on a boat as it could on a road. The canals provided still water and tow paths to ease the travel, and locks, tunnels, and viaducts to overcome obstacles. Later, canal boats were mechanised, and later still the railways put the canals out of business. But in 1807, Alex and Ella hitched a lift with a charming Liverpool Irishman called Big Dan.

Four: I could put my hero and my heroine in close confines, calling themselves married, for five to six weeks. Not only did they have heaps of time to talk and even to succumb (or nearly succumb) to their

A healthy strong horse was vital. Each horse needed a stall in a stable each night, and copious quantities of high energy food.

A healthy strong horse was vital. Each horse needed a stall in a stable each night, and copious quantities of high energy food.

mutual attraction, they were also in deep trouble (or Ella was) if anyone found out. They used false names. They stayed away from fashionable places. But even so, their novelist made sure that someone with no love for Alex saw enough to cause trouble.

Five: The time frame let Alex develop an abscess and recover from the operation, all before he needed to be on hand to save Ella when rumours spread about the two of them and their canal interlude.

And down the rabbit hole I went.