Quarrels on WIP Wednesday

This week is about quarrels. Or fights, or arguments, or any kind of disagreement. It might be serious or trivial, between secondary characters or protagonists. But quarrels are a frequent element of storytelling, a way to display character, disclose unexpected plot points, and ratchet up the tension. 

As always, I’m inviting you to share your excerpt in the comments.

My piece is from The Realm of Silence, the next book in the Golden Redepennings. 

Once they had asked every question they could think of in several ways each, they let the boy go. Gil had requisitioned a private parlour for their interview, but of course Susan could not remain here alone with him. Nor could she follow her burning urge to leave immediately for the answers that must surely lie in Stamford; not on a moonless night. She would thank Gil for his help and go up to her room.

As if he heard her thoughts, Gil turned from a low-voiced conversation with the inn-keeper’s stout daughter and said, “I’ve ordered us a dinner. No point in us leaving until the morning.”

The urge to stay surprised Susan with its strength and made her refusal less graceful than it might have been. “I cannot have dinner alone with you, Lord Rutledge.”

A flicker of uncertainty before the granite face settled again. “Do you want to send for your maid? To protect your name?” His voice was as calm and emotionless as ever, and it was unfair of her to read a sneer into that last remark.

“I do not have a maid with me. Just my groom. He has a room above the stables.” She had sent her other carriages on ahead when she chose to detour to Cambridge, figuring she and Amy could have lunch together before Susan followed her younger children and her servants to London.

Gil regarded her gravely, and Susan waited for him to berate her for foolishness, impetuosity, or arrogance in thinking she could run her own life as she pleased, and without the interference of a man. But he merely nodded once. “And my man is entirely trustworthy. So if you sit down and eat, no one but you and I will know. And you need to eat. Have you eaten today?”

Susan was about to disclaim appetite when her stomach made her liar by rumbling with considerable enthusiasm. Was that a twinkle in Lord Rock Ledge’s eye? Surely not.

She surrendered, at least this battle, returning to the seat she had just vacated. “Very well. But I shall pay for my own meal.”

Gil made no reply. Just took his place in the chair on the other side of the hearth, as two maids carried in laden trays and began transferring their contents to the room’s table.

While the servants set the dishes out, and laid a place for each of them, Susan made some commonplace remarks about the weather during her journey from Wessex, and Gil said nothing. Was he even listening? She seemed to have his attention; certainly he did not move his gaze from her; barely blinked. But what thoughts seethed under that still surface? Even as a boy, he had been grave and silent, speaking seldom but always to good purpose.

As he did now, as soon as the maids left the room, closing the door behind them.

“So by now your other children are safely at home in London with their nurse. I will go after Miss Cunningham and Miss Foster, of course, but you had better come with me.”

“Come with you? I am going alone, with my groom. I am not your problem to solve, Lord Rutledge. My daughter is not your problem to solve.” He might look like a stone carving, all hewn planes and angles, but he had never been a fool. Surely he must realise how impossible it was for the two of them to travel together.

Gil stood. “We should eat.” He suited action to words by pulling out a chair at the table, standing with one hand on the back, waiting for Susan to take her place. It would be childish and counter productive to refuse to sit, purely because he expected her to do so. She quelled but did not extinguish the spirit of opposition that consumed her whenever one of the men in her life tried to organise her. She would eat with him, but he would not be coming north with her.

 

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Tea with Jake

Jake Cohen followed the footman through the manor house as fast as his leg would carry him, so lost in thought he barely noticed the fine art and sumptuous furnishings. When the invitation had arrived from the Duchess of Haverford, his wife had read it three times to be sure it had come to the right person. What on earth would a duchess want with an innkeeper?

Meg had shrugged. “She’s probably seen you fight.”

“Didn’t see a lot of duchesses in Bear Gardens.” He shrugged it off. In the past months he had already done so many things he thought he never would, and tea with a duchess would not be strangest. He had come from wealth, but of course the duchess had no way of knowing that. Or did she? “Do you want to come with?”

“Lord, no. They wouldn’t let me in the door, assuming I’d fit.” She rested her hands on her swollen belly as though feeling the burden of her sensitive state, though her expression was nothing if not serene. “You go, darling. See what she wants. If she’s looking for a different Jake, pinch some cakes and come home. Don’t let her run off with you, now.”

He smirked, flattered in spite of himself. Meg regularly told him he was the handsomest man ever to walk the earth, and he knew she believed it. The fact no one else seemed to share her opinion didn’t keep him from enjoying it. He was a very fortunate man. He’d kissed her on his way out. “As if she could.”

Now, walking through a house finer than any he’d visited, the question bothered him again. In his thirty-nine years, he’s been a goldsmith, a boxer, and an innkeeper. What would a duchess want with any of them?

She waited in a room that seemed to exist for just such a purpose, sunlight pouring through a huge window with panes of glass so fine and clean he could hardly see them. They had finally replaced their broken windows at the inn, but the filth of the street had immediately dimmed their shine.

The duchess’s smile was pleasantly bemused, as if she hadn’t been certain he would come. “Mister Cohen.”

He bowed. Wasn’t one meant to bow at times like these? “Your Grace.”

She opened her mouth to say something, then emitted a sound not unlike nervous laughter. “Forgive me, Mr. Cohen, I confess I am faintly stunned to meet you in person. The engravings did not do you justice.”

His stomach sank with dread. “Engravings?”

“Quite so. They were completed when you were a little older, I believe. Won’t you join me? You’ve come a long way, you must be exhausted.”

Jake frowned. What had she meant by “when you were a little older”? He’d thought his English was fluent, but he’d never heard that particular turn of phrase. As far as he was aware, there were no engravings of him anywhere. “I beg your pardon, Your Grace. Are you quite certain you have the right man?”

“Oh, yes. Quite certain. Please, come.”

He took the chair she offered and watching silently as she poured two cups of tea from a beautiful white pot covered all over in painted blue flowers. He had never seen a matching set of china before, let alone tea cups with little handles. They must have been designed for ladies; he could barely hook a fingertip through the delicate loop. He smiled at the lovely absurdity of the design.

“You like the tea cups?”

“I do,” he replied. “The pattern is very distinctive, it looks like some I saw back in Amsterdam. Is it Dutch?”

“Danish,” she supplied. “Royal Copenhagen. It’s all the rage.”

“I have not seen these before.”

“I should think not.” Her cheek quirked as she suppressed a laugh. “They are not yet sold in England, and have only been produced in Denmark since perhaps 1775.”

He choked on his tea.

She gave no indication she noticed, but offered a plate of small iced pastries “Cake?”

He coughed to clear his throat. “Thank you.” The cake was light as a dream and tasted faintly of vanilla and cardamom. The orange-scented black tea complimented it perfectly. If this was a dream, the tea tasted very real. “Did you say these cups were produced in 1775?”

“Not this precise set, no, but I believe that was when the factory was founded. Forgive me, I’ve shocked you. What year is it, where you live?”

He almost laughed. “It is 1679, Your Grace.”

“That would make you…?”

He flushed slightly. “Thirty-nine.”

A secret, knowing smile crept across her face. “Still a young man, for all that. Half your life is still ahead of you.”

Who was this duchess, who drank from cups not yet manufactured and seemed to know the future? “Where am I?”

“You are at Haverford House, and it is 1797.”

He felt light-headed as the blood drained from his face. “Impossible.”

“Quite possible, Mister Cohen. I am resolved to hire only the best tutors for my sons, even if that means procuring them from the previous century.”

He was just about to open his mouth to make his excuses and leave the company of this mad duchess when she produced a set of engravings from the sideboard. She passed them to him with no little reverence.

In the first, he was depicted stripped to the waist, demonstrating his fighting stance before a crowd of gentlemen. He did look older, but he knew he was looking at himself—fortunately for them, no one had a face quite like his. The artist had made him enormously muscular and rakishly handsome, with longer, curling hair and a serious expression. He smiled in spite of himself. It was rather flattering.

His smile faded when he looked at the second engraving. He stood proudly next to a handsome young man, as if showing him off. Their hands were wrapped to fight and they were surrounded by an audience.

“I suspected you might not believe me, so I wanted to show you these…”

“When were these done?” he asked, too quickly.

“The date is on the back. I believe they were part of a series published in 1690.”

“1690,” he repeated to himself, eyes on that second engraving. The young man in the picture looked a bit like Tom Callaghan, but less mad. He was younger, softer, and he had his mother’s smile. Tears sprung to his eyes as he realized who he was looking at. “This is Tommy.”

The duchess grinned. “Tom Henshawe, your son. He made quite an impression in his day. Sired by one legend and raised by another. What could he be but a pugilist? Tom Henshawe was undoubtedly the finest of his generation, but you’re the man who trained him. I want you to teach my son the art of pugilism.”

He blinked. “Assuming this is not some fever dream—“

“It is not.”

“—you would like me to come here, to 1797, to teach your son to fight?”

“Quite so, Mister Cohen. You will be handsomely compensated. I daresay your wages will go a bit further in 1679. The inn still needs some work, does it not?”

He nodded. “It does.”

“There you have it. My driver will collect you for one afternoon once per week and bring you here. Would Monday next suit? Aldridge is already seventeen and he is most anxious to begin.”

Jake ran a hand over his face. A duchess was offering to pay him handsomely to go to the future to teach a future duke to box. “I would be happy to oblige, Your Grace, but are you certain this is what you want? Boxing is not a gentlemanly sport. Would he not be more suited to fencing?”

“Things have changed, Mister Cohen. Pugilism is very popular among young gentlemen, and I am resolved my son shall excel at it.” As he excels at everything else, he heard, even though she didn’t say it aloud. “At any rate, he’s been fencing for years. Say you’ll consider it?” 

“I would be happy to oblige, but I am struggling to believe this is 1797. How is it possible I am here?”

“Never underestimate a mother’s love, Mister Cohen.”

He raised his eyebrows. “I do not. Forgive me for asking, but is there any other way you might prove this is real?”

The duchess nodded to a footman who produced a printed broadsheet unlike any he’d ever seen. He was still learning to read English, but he could make the date out clearly enough. 21 May, 1797. He looked up sharply. “What do you know of my life?”

She sipped her tea. “Perhaps men are not meant to know these things. Suffice to say, you live a long, prosperous life and enjoy a good deal of fame in your later years. As you have seen, Tom becomes a boxer, and your daughter—“

“Daughter?” His heart sped up as he thought of Meg at home, mere weeks away from giving birth.

The duchess smiled. “Your daughter will do many great deeds, and will live an exceptional life. I will say no more.”

It was madness, but he knew in his bones she told the truth. He didn’t know how it was possible, but he wanted to believe it. “Very well. If you are correct and my wife gives birth to a girl, I will return and teach your son to fight.”

“Excellent.” She grinned. “I have taken the liberty of packing some cakes for you to take home to your wife. She’ll want them after the day she’s had.”

He accepted the parcel as he rose to leave, wondering what else this mad duchess knew that he didn’t. “What of Meg? Is she well?”

The duchess smiled her secret smile. “Oh yes, but perhaps you ought to hurry back.”

Jake’s heart hammered all the way back to Southwark—back to his time, if the duchess was to be believed—terrified she knew something about Meg he didn’t. Had something happened while he was away?

The inn was in a flurry of activity when he returned. Clouds of steam billowed from the kitchen and Achille, Judith’s odd Frenchman, hurried past with his arms full of clean linen. He broke into a wide smile as he saw them. “My felicitations. You have a daughter.”

Jake almost dropped the cakes in his shock. He gripped the doorjamb with his free hand to keep from fainting. As he looked at his boots, the room spinning around him, a pristine note was pushed beneath the door. He grabbed it and broke the Dunchess of Haverford’s seal. Inside was only one word: 

Monday?

 

Broken Things

By Jessica Cale

Rival. Sister. Barmaid. Whore.

Meg Henshawe has been a lot of things in her life, and few of them good. As proprietress of The Rose and Crown in Restoration Southwark, she has squandered her life catering to the comfort of workmen and thieves. Famous for her beauty as much as her reputation for rage, Meg has been coveted, abused, and discarded more than once. She is resigned to fighting alone until a passing boxer offers a helping hand.

Jake Cohen needs a job. When an injury forces him out of the ring for good, all he’s left with is a pair of smashed hands and a bad leg. Keeping the peace at The Rose is easy, especially with a boss as beautiful—and wickedly funny—as Meg Henshawe. In her way, she’s as much of an outcast as Jake, and she offers him three things he thought he’d never see again: a home, family, and love.

After Meg’s estranged cousin turns up and seizes the inn, Meg and Jake must work together to protect their jobs and keep The Rose running. The future is uncertain at best, and their pasts won’t stay buried. Faced with one setback after another, they must decide if what they have is worth the fight to keep it. Can broken things ever really be fixed?

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Meet Jessica Cale

Jessica Cale is a historical romance author and journalist based in North Carolina. Originally from Minnesota, she lived in Wales for several years where she earned a BA in History and an MFA in Creative Writing while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She kidnapped (“married”) her very own British prince (close enough) and is enjoying her happily ever after with him in a place where no one understands his accent. She is the editor of Dirty, Sexy History and you can visit her at dirtysexyhistory.com.

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Sunday Spotlight: The Hills of Gold Unchanging

I’ve just been Facebook partying with Lizzi Tremayne, whose Long Trail series I’ve featured before on this blog. You may remember her Xavier and her Aleksandra visiting Her Grace the Duchess of Haverford.

Lizzi is about to publish A Sea of Green Unfolding, book 3 in the series. Which reminded me that I haven’t posted my review for book 2, The Hills of Gold Unchanging. So here it is.

The Hills of Gold Unchanging is superb storytelling. As Aleksandra and Xavier faced and survived human malevolence, natural disaster and accidents, and their own doubts and insecurities, I kept turning pages to find out what happened next. I love books in which adversity sculptures character and where challenges to relationships bend them to breaking point and rebuild them stronger. This is one of those books. I can’t wait to read the sequel.

Buy A Long Trail Rolling, and The Hills of Gold Unchanging, and preorder A Sea of Green Unfolding

Amazon * Nook * Kobo  * Smashwords 

FIND LIZZI AT:

Lizzi’s Website * Lizzi’s Blog * Twitter * Facebook * Pinterest * Goodreads * Amazon Author Page * Instagram

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Travel on WIP Wednesday

We historical writers have history on our side when it comes to putting our heroes and heroines in close proximity for long periods. Our own ease of travel, with cars, trains, buses, and airplanes makes it a feat of the imagination to envision day-long trips to the shops, week long trips to house parties, and trips lasting months to places further afield.

This week, I’m looking for posts about journeys. Mine is from my story for the Bluestocking Belles’ 2017 Christmas box set. I’d love you to post yours in the comments.

Mrs Bletherow was castigating her poor companion again, oblivious to her audience.

Every group was different, and most groups had someone who was troublesome. Tad Berry could cheerfully handle the drunkards, the would-be Casanovas, the know-it-alls. But he hated bullies. His muscles burned with the effort it took to keep from rescuing the Bletherow hag’s drab shadow. Not his place. She was a free adult woman, and if she chose to stay with an employer who treated her so poorly, it was nothing to do with him.

His partner nudged him. “She don’t run out of steam, that one, eh?”

“Miss Thompson should tell her to go soak her head, Atame. Old crow.”

Tad and Atame had met them in Auckland two days ago, eight tourists seeking to view what Rotorua billed as the eighth wonder of the world. Tomorrow, they’d make their way to Te Wairoa, and the day after the locals would convey them to the Pink and White Terraces, dimpled with hot pools and cascading down the shores of a peaceful lake.

All through the boat trip to Tauranga and the coach journey to this Rotorua guest house, Mrs Bletherow had found fault with everything Miss Thompson did or failed to do. She had brought her employer the wrong book, failed to block out the sun, been too slow in the queue for food, put too much milk in Mrs Bletherow’s tea. Tad wouldn’t have blamed Miss Thompson for adding arsenic.

The withered wiry maid was as sour as her mistress, and attracted none of the old harridan’s contempt. She stood now at Mrs Bletherow’s elbow, nodding along with the woman’s complaints. “You knew we would be dining properly this evening. You deliberately packed the green gown in the large trunk. You must go and find it this instant, do you hear me?”

“Yes, Mrs Bletherow,” Miss Thompson said.

“See that you are quick. Parrish shall attend me in my room, and I want my gown by the time I am washed.” Mrs Bletherow sailed up the stairs, Parrish scurrying along in her wake.

Tad unfolded himself from the wall as Miss Thompson approached, her rather fine hazel eyes downcast. She began apologising while she was still several paces away. “I am very sorry for the inconvenience, Mr Berry, but I need to ask you to offload another of Mrs Bletherow’s trunks.”

“Of course, Miss Thompson. If you tell me which one, I shall bring it up to her room.”

She looked up at that, her brows drawing slightly together. “I am not sure, Mr Berry. I know which one it should be in, but Parrish finished the packing. May I come with you?”

He nodded, though the stables were no place for a lady. And Miss Thompson was a lady, and of better birth than Dame Bletherow, unless he missed his guess. Which, come to think of it, might be part of the reason for her illtreatment. Not that a bully needed a reason, beyond opportunity and a suitable victim.

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Tea with Lady Gwendolyn

Lady Gwendolyn Marie Worthington made her way through the richly appointed manor home of Her Grace, the Duchess of Haverford. Why she had been summoned at such a time was beyond her understanding. She had more important concerns, like her unfortunate wedding days from now, but one did not easily dismiss an invitation, no matter how untimely, from Her Grace.

She continued following the footman, largely ignoring paintings of several generations of Haverfords upon the walls. The house and its furnishings were no different than the ones she herself grew up with. being the daughter of a duke. Even so, she could still appreciate several unique pieces of artwork that caught her eye as they continued through several hallways to meet Her Grace.

Gwendolyn began to wonder just how large the house was when they at last rounded a corner and stopped before an open doorway of a salon. The servant announced her as she entered the room, and she saw the duchess sitting behind a desk attending to her correspondence.

“Lady Gwendolyn, so nice of you to join me,” Her Grace said, placing her seal upon her letter and then giving Gwendolyn her full attention. “I do so admire promptness in my guests.”

Gwendolyn curtseyed. “Thank you for receiving me, Your Grace.”

The duchess stood and came to sit in a chair near the hearth just as a trolley cart was wheeled in by another ever-efficient maid. She motioned to the vacant chair. “Do be seated and join me for a cup of tea, Lady Gwendolyn.”

Gwendolyn sat as the duchess began to pour and offered her a cup of tea. She gave a nod of thanks and they sat in silence for several minutes, leaving Gwendolyn concern as to what this meeting was all about. She took a sip of her tea and waited.

“Gwendolyn, my dear, I will get straight to the matter of why I have invited you here today,” Her Grace began.

“I was concerned about why you wished to see me,” Gwendolyn replied setting down her cup. The duchess focused on her and Gwendolyn swallowed hard. Those eyes. She seems to know my deepest secrets, she thought.

“I would be remiss in my duties as a friend to your mother, if I did not voice my concerns about your impending nuptials to Lord Sandhurst.”

“My marriage was decided upon years ago before my father passed.”

“I understand you had given your consent.”

Gwendolyn gave a heavy sigh trying not to shiver at the thought of being wed to a man she would never come to love. “Being a dutiful daughter, I would not go against my father’s wishes. For reasons known to him, he favored Lord Sandhurst’s suit.”

“And your brother continues to honor the commitment.” Her Grace took another sip of her tea.

Her Grace looked none too pleased with her brother’s decision. “I attempted to plead my case to Hartford but was unsuccessful at changing his mind. I have no idea why he was so adamant we honor the contract.”

The duchess tapped a finger along the brim of her cup. “So your mother has informed me. I thought if anyone would be able to persuade your brother, it would be her. There must be some underlying reasoning behind his decision.”

“I am afraid that still does not get me out of a marriage to a man I loathe.”

“If Hartford will not agree—and I understand you have no money of your own. Very improvident of your father.”

Her Grace’s comment did not require an answer. Gwendolyn stared at the hands holding the cup, blushing a little.

“If you are willing, my dear, I will help you run away. My friend Lady Grace Winderfield provides a—what can I call it—a refuge for women suffering from the power that men use so carelessly.”

“A refuge?” Gwendolyn had never heard of such a thing.

“Indeed. I must warn you, it would not be what a duke’s daughter is used to. You would be encouraged to find another name. You would need to work.”

“And– and leave my family?”

The duchess’s gaze was compassionate.

“It would need to be a complete new beginning, my dear. Those my friend helps rely on no one discovering their whereabouts. Everyone who joins the group must cut all ties with the past.”

Gwendolyn’s heart sank. She could not do it. Never see her mother again? Or Brandon? Or even Hartford, annoyed though she was with him at the moment?

“I cannot,” she replied. “Thank you, Your Grace, but I cannot. Surely things are not that bad?”

“Yours will not be the first marriage to start off under such circumstances. But you are your mother’s daughter and shall make the best of a horrendous situation,” Her Grace informed her, setting down her cup.

“Yes, of course, Your Grace.” Gwendolyn finished her tea and could tell her meeting with the duchess was at an end. “Thank you for receiving me today.”

“Thank you for coming,” the duchess replied before leaning over to take Gwendolyn’s hand. “These things have a way of working out, my dear. Somehow, I have the feeling life will throw you an opportunity when you least expect it and did not even see coming.”

Gwendolyn rose, curtseyed, and excused herself. She began mumbling to herself as she left about the injustice of her life and being married to a man she could not love. How she could look forward to some unknown opportunity in her future was beyond her. Two days later, she was a married woman and her descent into hell had just begun.

Nothing But Time: A Family of Worth, Book One

They will risk everything for their forbidden love…

When Lady Gwendolyn Marie Worthington is forced to marry a man old enough to be her father, she concludes love will never enter her life. Her husband is a cruel man who blames her for his own failings. Then she meets her brother’s attractive business associate and all those longings she had thought gone forever suddenly reappear.

A long-term romance holds no appeal for Neville Quinn, Earl of Drayton until an unexpected encounter with the sister of the Duke of Hartford. Still, he resists giving his heart to another woman, especially one who belongs to another man.

Chance encounters lead to intimate dinners, until Neville and Gwendolyn flee to Berwyck Castle at Scotland’s border hoping beyond reason their fragile love will survive the vindictive reach of Gwendolyn’s possessive husband. Before their journey is over, Gwendolyn will risk losing the only love she has ever known.

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Excerpt:

Lady Gwendolyn Marie Worthington strode across the floor of her brother’s study, carelessly threw her bonnet onto a high backed leather chair, and crossed her arms. The missive she held in her hand had driven all thoughts of a trip to the milliner with her friend Lady Calliope out of her head. Her shoe tapped a rapid staccato on the wooden floorboards. Her brother remained indifferent to her demand for his attention whilst he continued writing. The insufferable lout did not even have the decency to acknowledge her presence in his pursuit to finish his correspondence. She cleared her throat, hoping to gain his notice.

He continued whatever business he was attending to without a pause, except to say, in a barely civil and flat monotone, “You did not knock.” His disinterest in her presence served as a reminder of his place within his household, as if she could ever forget she was subject to his directives.

Her brother had had the arrogance to send a servant to deliver his note to her bedroom. He should have come there himself to speak with her, given the news he wished to impart. She tossed the crumbled parchment onto his desk. He, in turn, swatted it aside like it was nothing but a pesky insect.

“You have been given your instructions, Gwendolyn. We have nothing further to discuss.”

“Do not take that tone with me, Edmond. You may hold our father’s title, but that in no way gives you leave to treat me as if I must comply with demands such as these,” she fumed. Where had her carefree older brother of years past gone? Surely some measure of the young man she had adored in their youth lurked behind the expressionless mask of this unfeeling cad before her?

Edmond Gerard Worthington, 9th Duke of Hartford, set his quill down. The blue eyes he at last bothered to turn upon her were just as cold as his voice. Since he had inherited his rightful title of duke after their father’s passing, along with all the responsibilities such a position held, Gwendolyn hardly recognized her brother. She swallowed hard, knowing she could not easily sway this uncaring man. Still, she had to try.

“Mother will hear of this,” she warned. “She will not allow her only daughter to be wed to a man in order to fulfill some business deal made years ago.”

“Mother is fully aware of the obligations that must be met. I should not have to explain how things of this nature are done, sister. Arranged marriages happen every day within the ton. Yours will be no exception.”

“Brandon, then. Surely my younger brother cares what happens to his sister since you have made it painfully obvious you do not,” Gwendolyn retorted sharply.

“He is my brother, too, if you would care to remember.” Edmond sighed heavily. “Both mother and Brandon have been summoned to return to London immediately. The marriage contract was agreed years ago and bears the signatures of all parties, including your own. You would have already been wed, had it not been for father’s death.”

Edmond leaned his elbows upon his desk, fingers forming a steeple as if contemplating his next counter to whatever argument she could muster.

She quickly thought of the first excuse that crossed her mind. “I am still in mourning,” Gwendolyn declared through clenched lips.

His eyes roamed down the length of her pink floral gown and his brows rose in unsuppressed amusement. “Your mourning period is long since over, as your garments surely attest. Resign yourself to wedding Lord Sandhurst.”

She stomped her foot in frustration. “Bernard Sandhurst is a lecherous old man and ancient enough to be my father.” She barely held back a cry of despair. “How can you condemn me to a life with that horrible person, however long the vermin will still remain on this earth?”

“I am doing the best I can to save this family from financial ruin. You should be grateful Sandhurst will still have you, given the limited amount I could spare for your dowry. I will not be swayed in my decision, Gwendolyn, and Sandhurst can no longer be put off. He has all but stated his time waiting for you is over. He has been as patient as one could ask of a man getting on in years. You are now twenty years of age and should have been wed with children of your own by now.”

Thoughts of being intimate with a man who repulsed Gwendolyn made her shudder. The few times she had had the displeasure of being alone in the same room with Lord Bernard Sandhurst, he had mauled her with his cool clammy hands. He reminded her of a fish, and an unappealing one at that.

“Edmond─”

Her brother cut her off with a wave of his hand. “Father made this decision and you must abide by it, along with the rest of us.” Edmond picked up his quill and examined the tip before dipping it into the inkwell.

“You are a duke, Edmond. Surely you can pay the man off so I can find a worthy man to love.” She silently pleaded with him, and, for the briefest instant, she held the smallest measure of hope he would accede to her wishes.

His piercing blue eyes leveled on her but briefly. “Love is for fools. Better to marry for wealth and a decent position in society than to lose your heart to such a frivolous emotion as love.” Edmond returned to his work, the quill scratching across the parchment. The sound echoed in her head as though the missive sealed her fate. “Resign yourself to your marriage Gwendolyn. Sandhurst has made arrangements for the wedding to take place two weeks hence.”

Meet Sherry Ewing

Sherry Ewing picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. A bestselling author, she writes historical & time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time. Always wanting to write a novel but busy raising her children, she finally took the plunge in 2008 and wrote her first Regency. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Beau Monde & the Bluestocking Belles. Sherry is currently working on her next novel and when not writing, she can be found in the San Francisco area at her day job as an Information Technology Specialist. You can learn more about Sherry and her published work at www.SherryEwing.com.

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Sunday Spotlight on Broken Things

Broken Things is Meg Henshawe’s book. Hers and Jake Cohen’s. If you’ve read the early books in Jessica Cale’s Southwark Saga (especially Virtue’s Lady), you’ll remember Meg. Loud, coarse, ready to trample over everyone to get what she wants, known far and wide for her beauty and her lovers. And if you haven’t read the earlier books, get them first, because this book will change everything you thought you knew about Southwark’s favourite whore.

Cale takes us into London’s worst slum in the years after the Great Fire. Her characters are irreverent, coarse, often violent, always real and compelling. Her training as an historian shows in the depth and texture of the life she portrays. Her skill as a novelist means we simply enter that life, never aware of Cale the scholar as we live the story with Meg and Jake.

What’s broken in this book? Meg and her hopes for the future. The Rose and Crown, the inn that she runs with those of her sisters still under her fierce protection. Her relationship with her son’s father. Jake’s hands, his job (for a second time—in the Great Fire, he had lost his family, his betrothal, and his future as a goldsmith), his sense of himself.

This book is about two people who have little to lose, and that about to be ripped from them. Alone, Jake is ready to give up and Meg can see no way out. Together, they find a reason to hope; a reason to keep fighting and to win.

If you read only one book this month, make it this one.

About Broken Things

Rival. Sister. Barmaid. Whore.

Meg Henshawe has been a lot of things in her life, and few of them good. As proprietress of The Rose and Crown in Restoration Southwark, she has squandered her life catering to the comfort of workmen and thieves. Famous for her beauty as much as her reputation for rage, Meg has been coveted, abused, and discarded more than once. She is resigned to fighting alone until a passing boxer offers a helping hand.

Jake Cohen needs a job. When an injury forces him out of the ring for good, all he’s left with is a pair of smashed hands and a bad leg. Keeping the peace at The Rose is easy, especially with a boss as beautiful—and wickedly funny—as Meg Henshawe. In her way, she’s as much of an outcast as Jake, and she offers him three things he thought he’d never see again: a home, family, and love.

After Meg’s estranged cousin turns up and seizes the inn, Meg and Jake must work together to protect their jobs and keep The Rose running. The future is uncertain at best, and their pasts won’t stay buried. Faced with one setback after another, they must decide if what they have is worth the fight to keep it. Can broken things ever really be fixed?

Content notes: Diverse characters, profanity, violence, graphic sex

Amazon buy link

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How to be a child in Regency England

Today, I welcome Quenby Olsen to the blog, to talk about her research into Regency childhood. Over to you, Quen.

While writing The Firstborn (a story that features a very chubby, very assertive infant named George) I fell down the frequent rabbit hole of research about how babies and children were regarded in the nineteenth century. The fact that stood about above everything else? If you were a child born in Regency-era England, then your childhood was most likely remarkably different from only one generation before you.

In the eighteenth century, the prevailing belief about children was that they should be treated (and be expected to behave) as miniature adults. The advice we hear today, to let kids be kids? Not something you would have heard in the early Georgian-era of powdered wigs and telling French peasants to eat cake. But round and about the turn of the nineteenth century, there was a tremendous change in not only how children were brought into the world, but how they were raised.

Obstetricians began to take the place of midwives, and women were encouraged to “lie in” for at least a month after giving birth, taking on help from neighbors and family. Many households still sent their young children off to be cared for by wet nurses from about the age of three months (poorer households would most likely not have this option) presumably to give the mother freedom to re-enter society and also to bring about the ability to have more children quickly. (Jane Austen, for instance, was sent to live with another family from the age of three months to two years. As dire as this sounds, she was visited by one or both of her parents every day. Though this practice was looked down on by the generations immediately followed.)

The tight, constraining swaddling of an infant that had been the norm in the eighteenth century was pushed aside in an effort to give babies more freedom of movement. Swaddling had also been used in an effort to keep babies calm and quiet, as if the crying of a child was a bad thing. In the nineteenth century, adults began to understand that crying was a normal part of infancy and childhood, often a result of the baby and child still learning how to express themselves.

Play and games were encouraged as being essential towards a child’s development, and children’s clothing reflected these changing attitudes. While babies were kept in long gowns to keep them warm, as soon as they reached the age of crawling and walking, they were placed in “short clothes” to give their chubby little legs room to maneuver. Pudding caps were used as well, a slightly padded helmet, of sorts, to help prevent the bumps and bruises that came with learning to walk and run and jump. (And just when you thought overprotective parenting was a modern invention…)

Children were also drawn tighter into the bosom of the family, and many households all ate their meals together rather than keeping the children separate with a nursemaid round the clock. The belief was that they would better learn to socialize and grow into better adults by seeing the behavior of their elders and to “practice” with them. But it had the added benefit of keeping the family together and letting the parents and children play a larger part in each other’s lives.

By the age of eight is when things would begin to change in the child’s life. If you were a boy, your education went into overdrive. Being sent off to school, the hiring of a tutor, or being sent to learn from the local parson were all popular options. Girls, on the other hand, were more likely to be kept at home for their education (especially as a girl’s education consisted of things like needlework, painting, music, and less history, science, and languages than their brothers). A governess would often be added to the household staff (though we all remember Lady Catherine De Bourgh’s horror at discovering that all five Bennet daughters were raised without the aid of a governess).

As the nineteenth century moved forward, the role of motherhood and the importance of children being children only progressed further. A short while after the Regency period, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert arrived, two people who both reportedly doted on their children (all nine of them!) and all while running an empire. Now, nearly two centuries later, it is remarkable how many things have changed, and yet how with the upswing in popularity of cloth diapers and midwives and ensuring that kids have ample time to play, just how many things have remained the same.

The Firstborn

Sophia has sacrificed everything for her younger sister, Lucy. She has removed them from the only home they ever knew, taken on the care of Lucy’s illegitimate son, George, and even assumed the role of a widow and mother in order to erase all hint of scandal from the boy’s birth. But rumor continues to follow them like the darkest of clouds, and Sophia must adapt to her new existence as a false widow with no prospects beyond the doors of her small cottage.

Lord Haughton will stop at nothing to prevent the slightest whiff of disgrace from tainting his family’s name. When he learns of his younger brother’s latest indiscretion-one that leaves a bastard child in his wake-Haughton rushes across the country to offer the boy’s mother a comfortable living in exchange for her silence about the child’s true parentage. But he arrives only to have his generous offer thrown back in his face by Sophia Brixton, a sharp-tongued and sharper-witted woman who proceeds to toss him out of her house. But just because he is banished from her home does not mean he is so easily banished from her life.

Buy Links: Amazon

Excerpt:

Finnian shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Up to this point, nothing had transpired in the way he’d imagined it would. And as for Sophia, she was too blunt, and too intelligent. And that was what worried him most.

He gestured towards the recently vacated table. “Will you be seated?”

Her shoulders pressed back. “I’ll stand, thank you.”

He cleared his throat. She was not going to make this easy for him. A point for her, since he doubted she had any idea what had brought him all this way. “The child—”

“George,” she said, interrupting him. “His name is George, after our father.”

“Of course.”

“No,” she spoke again, while his next words still danced on the tip of his tongue. “Not ‘of course’. Such a phrase denotes your being aware that our father’s name was George, or knowing what type of man he was and why we would choose to honor him in such a way. But here you are, darkening my doorstep nine months after his birth. A fact which proves to me that either you didn’t know about him before now, or you simply didn’t care.”

He inclined his head, yet dared not take his eyes off of her, not for a second. “My apologies. I assure you it was the former, and as soon as I discovered that my brother had a son—”

“And where is your brother? And why are you here in his stead?”

Finnian could feel his temper beginning to rise. Never before had he allowed himself to show anger in front of a woman, and yet she was the most infuriating creature he’d ever encountered. “He is in London. I assume.”

“You assume?” To his surprise, her mouth broke into a smile and a soft laugh emanated from the back of her throat. “In other words, you have about as much sway over the life of your brother as I have over my sister.”

“I’m not here to discuss my family,” he said, his voice taking on a note of warning he hadn’t even intended to be there.

“Oh, but I’m sure you’re here with the sole purpose of discussing mine. Or am I wrong?” A flash in her eyes countered the steel in his voice. “The mere fact that you’ve arrived today with a prior knowledge of not only both our names, our location, George’s existence, and no doubt a myriad other trivial items concerning our past and present life tells me that you’ve gone to great lengths to find out all you could before traveling here from…” She waved her right hand in a vague circle. “… wherever you call home. Which means, no doubt, that you wanted the upper hand in this discussion. Which also means that I will most likely not care for whatever it is you’ve come to tell me.”

Finnian fumed in silence. If the baby’s mother was even half as maddening as the woman standing before him, he wondered how David had survived with his manhood and his sanity intact. “I had come here with the intention of speaking to the mother of my brother’s child,” he ground out between clenched teeth.

“But she is not here,” she said, delivering the confession with the precision of a wielded weapon. “And she is not like to be anytime soon. And since your appearance here is most likely connected with George, then you will have to make do with speaking to me.”

Meet Quenby Olsen

Quenby Olson lives in Central Pennsylvania where she writes, homeschools, glares at baskets of unfolded laundry, and chases the cat off the kitchen counters. After training to be a ballet dancer, she turned towards her love of fiction, penning everything from romance to fantasy, historical to mystery. She spends her days with her husband and children, who do nothing to dampen her love of the outdoors, immersing herself in historical minutiae, and staying up late to watch old episodes of Doctor Who.

Twitter * Facebook * Website * Goodreads * Amazon

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Complications on WIP Wednesday

I can think of several plot complications from this scene: a painting called The Knight at the Crossroads. Talking raven? His bride’s tombstone? He is really a she?

The devious plotter’s mantra is ‘What can possibly go wrong?’ And I’m nothing if not a devious plotter.

I love to throw complications at my poor characters, the more snarled the better. And I’d enjoy seeing yours. Give me an extract where things are just getting more and more complicated. Here’s mine, a scene from the little story I wrote for my April/May newsletter.

Helen sat holding Olivia until she fell asleep again, and only then tucked her back into the bed. Helen should try to rest herself, but her fears and her plans kept her awake, chasing one another around inside her skull as she lay in the dark staring towards the slightly lighter rectangle of the window.

Eventually, she got up and lit a candle. She wished she had a book to read. If she had known Collingwood had intended to abduct her, she could have put one in her basket. The foolish thought brought a wry smile. If she had known, she and Olivia would have sought her step-son’s escort to the village, or stayed at home. She had thought nothing of the carriage that crept up behind her on the road, just moving to the grass beside the road, while trying to keep Olivia under her umbrella. She had not noticed the two bullies until they seized her and hurled her into the carriage where Edward Collingwood had waited.

It was only the second time she had seen him since she fled her aunt’s house after her father’s death. The first time had been at her husband’s funeral six months ago. For weeks after, she had waited for him to storm in and claim her, though Rick said he would not let it happen. “My father left you to my care, Helen,” he assured her.

The Bancrofts owned their own farm, and were not answerable to the local baron. Dickon Bancroft had married her to protect her and Olivia when Edward uncovered her hiding place with her aunt. But she doubted he could have prevented Edward taking her if Edward had known where she lived. The Collingwoods were gentry, and no-one, common or gentry, had ever held Edward Collingwood accountable for his misdeeds except his cousin Jacob, who had suffered for it when his own father and brother took the villain’s side. The former Lord Collingwood had exiled Jacob because of Edward’s lies. Yes, and Colin Marfield, Jacob’s closest friend.

Helen had always known that staying hidden among the yeoman farmers’ wives was her greatest protection. Who would have thought that paying her last respects to the man she had married would be her downfall?

The inn was quiet. Helen snuffed the candle and stood at the window to study the inn forecourt. The rain had eased to a drizzle, but the creeper-clad walls still dripped their burden of water. All the better. This late on so foul a night, no-one would be tempted into the outdoors, to witness Helen and Olivia as they made their escape.

She eased up the window, taking care to make no noise. She could hear the angry grumble of the river that churned between her and Bancroft Farm, but no matter. It was not worth risking the bridge tonight. Her home this past six years was no longer safe.

Helen had no idea where to go next, but time enough to worry about that. She could only plan as far ahead as she could see. She would get them safely out of this room. She would take shelter somewhere hidden, and wait for the storm and her enemy to go away.

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Tea with Lady Emma

Lady Emma Landrum curtseyed deeply when the Duchess of Haverford’s secretary announced her. Puzzling over the invitation during the carriage ride over had brought her no conclusions, and she had no more idea why the duchess wished to see her than she did when the summons arrived. Summons it had been. An invitation can be declined politely.

She ought to have sent regrets, but didn’t dare, even if it did force her to delay her return to Chadbourn Park by a day. Mother would worry and Papa would rant when she failed to appear as expected.

How on earth did Her Grace know I raced to town for a fitting? We didn’t even put the knocker out. How did the woman know everything? Emma feared the duchess somehow found out about her little unauthorized excursion the day before. She prayed not. A woman of eighteen years with one season behind her ought to be allowed a bit of freedom for pity’s sake.

“Lady Emma, my dear, stop gazing at me owlishly and take a seat.” If the duchess’s knowing eyes rattled her a bit, the amused expression reassured her. Emma sat, and let the age-old ritual of the tea service calm her nerves.

“I don’t bite, you know,” Her Grace said after a particularly long silence when polite comments on the weather petered out. “But I expect you wonder why I wanted to speak with you.”

“I have been wondering,” Emma replied. “I know you have more important concerns than my opinion of Mme. Delacroix’s latest designs.”

The duchess laughed out loud at that. She did enjoy young people, and this one was a particular favorite. Emma Landrum had backbone and plenty of opinions. Her Grace was certain the girl would be a force to be reckoned with in a few years.

“I understand your uncle has returned from India.”

Emma felt her shoulders relax. Fred? This is about Fred? She grinned at the duchess. “He has indeed. With no notice, two heretofore unknown daughters, and a charming companion.”

The duchess’s eyebrows shot up. “I hardly know which question to ask first,” she said.

“Mama quite likes Clare—that’s the woman’s name. Apparently Uncle Fred engaged her to accompany his daughters to us. Mama says he expected—these are her exact words—to foist them off on us. But Clare forced him to come as well, at least until he introduced them to us. Mama is determined he will stay and—her words again—do his duty by those darling girls.”

“If the Countess is determined, your uncle has no chance. She finds the daughters ‘darling?'”

“Oh, Your Grace, they are charming! Meghal has more wit than those twice her age, and backbone too. Mama says Meghal alone will make sure Fred stays where he belongs. She adores the girl.”

“Meghal? Is that Bengali?”

“I believe so. They lived in West Bengal.” She dropped her voice to a whisper. “Their mother was Fred’s mistress in Dehrapur.”

Her Grace’s lips twitched with suppressed laughter. She whispered back, “So I had guessed.”

“But how did you—Oh. Cousin Charles was here.”

“He was indeed. I’m afraid he ended our tête-à-tête rather abruptly before I could ask him why he hired an enquiry agent. Is there trouble at Eversham Hall?”

Emma shrugged helplessly. “No one tells me anything. A man died in a haying incident. There were whispers it was no accident, but when I asked they hushed me up as if I was a moony ten-year-old.”

“Being protected can be a dreadful bore,” the duchess murmured. “I tell Aldridge that often.” She did so on the rare occasion her son thought he might keep something unpleasant from her.

“You’re right, Your Grace. I hate it,” Emma exclaimed. “As if that wasn’t bad enough, Fred and Charles forbade us to leave the house without an army of footmen and grooms. Would they tell me why? No! Peck said it was about the nabob who bought the Archer place across the river, but that’s all I know.”

The duchess caught her lower lip between her teeth, nodding. “Nabob,” she said at last. “Someone Fred knew in India?”

“I have no idea.”

The duchess deftly turned the conversation to fashion after that. Emma did indeed have opinions about this year’s fashion, all of them astute and some wickedly funny. When the girl departed she called for her secretary.

“I need to pen a message to Walter Stewart. I believe the Duke of Murnane and his cousin Fred may be his current employers. Let’s ask him to call for tea.”

The Reluctant Wife

Children of Empire, Book 2

Genre: Pre Victorian, Historical Romance  µ Heat rating: 3 of 5 (two brief -mild- sexual encounters)

ISBN:  978-1-61935-349-9 µ ASIN:  B06Y4BGMX1 µ Page count: 275 pages

Pub date: April 26, 2017

When all else fails, love succeeds…

When Captain Fred Wheatly, a soldier with more honor than sense, is forced to resign from the Bengal army, and his mistress dies leaving him with two half-caste daughters to raise, he reluctantly turns to Clare Armbruster for help. But the interfering widow has her own problems, and a past she would rather forget. With no more military career and two half-caste daughters to support, Fred must return to England and turn once more—as a failure—to the family he let down so often in the past. Can two hearts rise above the past to forge a future together.

Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Reluctant-Wife-Children-Empire-Book-ebook/dp/B06Y4BGMX1/

And click here for my review.

About Caroline Warfield

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

Website http://www.carolinewarfield.com/

Amazon Author http://www.amazon.com/Caroline-Warfield/e/B00N9PZZZS/

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Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/carolinewarfield7

Twitter @CaroWarfield

Email warfieldcaro@gmail.com

Giveaway

Caroline is sponsoring a grand prize in celebration of her release. You can enter it here: http://www.carolinewarfield.com/2017blogtourpackage/

The prequel to this book, A Dangerous Nativity, is always **FREE**. You can get a copy here: http://www.carolinewarfield.com/bookshelf/a-dangerous-nativity-1815/

Excerpt

Before they reached the top, the door swung open. There stood a stiff-backed English butler in a high white collar and black coat. His chin pointed upward, he wore a perfectly professional glower, but his eyes held the slightest gleam of curiosity. Meghal startled him before he could speak.

“Are you my uncle?”

The old man frowned ferociously and said, “I beg your pardon?”

Clare let go of the girl’s hand and pulled her close. “We are . . . that is, these young ladies are Mr. Frederick Wheatly’s daughters. He has been delayed by an accident with a hay wagon, and we’ve come on ahead. He sent word to his family.” Did he? Now she wasn’t sure. Even if he did, would it have reached them here?

“We know of the accident. Men have been sent to help.” The butler’s brows drew together, and he frowned at the girls, unable to speak.

“Fred’s children? Truly?” came a voice from behind the man. A blond head peered around him, a vision with laughing eyes and a beguiling smile.

“Lady Emma, I am not sure,” the butler said cautiously.

“Of course they are! How perfectly marvelous! Bring them in, Banks. Don’t leave them standing there.”

The butler escorted them into an immense foyer from which a wide marble stairway curved upward; its heavy wooden railing gleamed with polish. Clare wondered that they permitted anyone to walk across the stunning parquetry, much less three travel-stained strangers.

The young woman who had welcomed them rocked up on the balls of her feet in excitement, hands clasped in front of her. She had carefully coifed blond hair and wore a pink gown with a cinched waist and expansive skirt which Clare assumed was the height of fashion. She wasn’t exactly sure since she had been away more than a year.

“Oh dear,” Lady Emma exclaimed. “Who shall make introductions? Rules of proper behavior leave this situation out,” she laughed. “I am Emma Landrum, your cousin.”

Lady Emma, Clare remembered. “This is Miss Meghal Wheatly and Miss Ananya Wheatly,” she said, studying the young woman, who demonstrated no sign of distress, rejection, or even surprise that her uncle had brought two half-caste children home unannounced. On the contrary, Clare saw nothing but joy in her face. Both girls stared back at her.

“Are you a princess?” Ananya lisped.

“You survived your come out with body parts intact,” Meghal said, quoting Catherine’s letter and causing Lady Emma to burst out laughing.

“I did indeed! Who told you that?” Lady Emma asked, eyes dancing with delight.

“It was in a letter from Catherine. She is my aunt.”

“That sounds like something she would say.” She drew up, suddenly remembering something. “Oh! Yes. Mother. Banks, please let the countess know we have visitors.” That settled, Emma looked expectantly at Clare. “And you are?”

“I’m Clare Armbruster,” she said. She had to think for a moment. What am I? Nanny? Governess? I am nothing. “The girls’ escort. I will leave once they are settled.”

“But you did say Uncle Fred is coming,” the young woman reminded her, worrying her lower lip between her teeth. Clare assured her he was.

Emma reached out both hands toward the girls to lead them to the drawing room. “Come, cousins, let’s get acquainted.”

Clare took a step backward. Perhaps I should go back out and wait for Fred, she thought and then chided herself for acting like a ninny.

“Were you expecting us?” she asked.

Emma paused to smile back at her over her shoulder. “Not in the slightest, although I should say yes. My mother has expected Uncle Fred any time for nine years. Do come and rest, Miss Armbruster. You must be exhausted. I’ll ring for refreshments.”

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Sunday Spotlight on What the Scot Hears

Amy Quinton has produced another fun romp in her Agents of Change series. MacLeod, the Scot of the title is superb: gloomy, pessimistic, suspicious, and totally befuddled by the brash American woman who keeps stumbling across his work as a spy for the British Crown.

For all her cheerful outgoing personality, Amelia hides secrets of her own, not least her identity and her background.

Read this book to discover how this mismatched pair discover they are perfect for one another, while negotiating people determined to kill them and MacLeod’s reaction to Amelia’s lies. Better still, read the series. Two other couples already matched are in this novel, and it was fun to see them again. I very much enjoyed What the Duke Wants, and am now itching to read What the Marquis Sees, which I’ve skipped. See? The books can be read independently and out of order, but I want to see how Beatrice won her man. I’ve a suspicion she may be my favourite of the three heroines so far.

I’d have loved a bit more of a sense we were in 1814. The voice is very modern, and there’s little period detail. But still a rollicking good yarn, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

What the Scot Hears

Agents of Change, Book 3

England 1814: Reticent Scottish Lord pursues Mouthy, Independent, American Woman… She is an outspoken American orphan with a questionable past and a dubious purpose. He is a man of few words on the lookout for a traitor. How could they NOT get along?

Mrs. Amelia Chase is a highly-opinionated, 23-year-old woman from America on the run from her past with a penchant for self-preservation and a healthy love for Shakespearean insults. Much to a certain Scotsman’s dismay:

She isn’t:

  • Quiet – not with her tendency to talk to everyone about anything…
  • Demure – highly overrated if one cannot wear red and show off one’s curves…
  • Equine-savvy – she once fled some currish, toad-spotted, coxcombs – er, villains – in a stolen carriage at a pace slower than a meandering walk. Oh, and mistook a common mule for a thoroughbred. But other than that…

And she is:

  • Brave – Smart, Loyal, Witty. Er, charming. Plus, Modest, Lonely, Secretive – Um, forget that last part…
  • And In love – with a distrustful Highlander of all things…

Lord Alaistair MacLeod is an agent for the Crown and a man with secrets. He doesn’t speak of them, he doesn’t dwell on them, and he certainly doesn’t let them define his future. Much. One thing is for certain, he definitely doesn’t share his confidences with a peery, outspoken American woman who is obviously trouble, acts highly suspicious, and is far too nosy for her own good… No matter:

He is always:

  • Focused – men who cannot stay to task are foolish…
  • Pointed and Reserved – enough said…

And he isn’t:

  • Cheeky – like a certain American firebrand…
  • Led by his… ahem…even when following on the heels of a curvy, red-wearing… ahem
  • Or In love… especially not with a Troublesome, Meddlesome, so-called Independent American Woman…

Can he trust enough to embrace such an enigmatic woman? Can she awaken the passions of such an intensely private man?

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