Tea with Minerva Avery

The Duchess of Haverford’s manner to her guest was, perhaps, a little warmer than usual. While she would never embarrass Lady Avery nor dishonour her husband by apologising for the duke’s behaviour, she was very aware that the Haverfords were indebted to the lady.

Minerva Avery was every inch a lady, whatever her origins, and whatever His Grace had implied when he took delivery of the wonderful new invalid chair that would give the insensitive, autocratic, lecherous old snake freedom from being confined to one room unless carried by a pair of robust footmen.

And to think that this dainty young woman had made the chair with her own delicate hands!

“Lord Avery must be very proud of you, my dear Lady Avery,” she said, as she poured the tea for which her guest had admitted a thirst.

Minerva coloured prettily. “Lord Avery is biased, Your Grace. He thinks anything I wish to do is perfectly acceptable. I know my work is not considered at all the thing in higher circles. I should be satisfied to supervise my servants, socialise with my peers, and shop.”

A ridiculous view in the duchess’s opinion. As if ladies did not work! And the greater the estate and the social position, the harder their role.

“People can be very foolish. I daresay your husband—Candle, is it not?—suggests that you ignore them.”

“Randal, Your Grace. But he has been called Candle since he was at school.”

Yes. The boy was long, thin, and pale, with a head of fiery hair. But a nice lad, and doing very well by his viscountcy and the trading enterprise he inherited from his mother’s family. His choice of bride had set the dovecotes fluttering. A carriage-maker’s daughter, and one with her own enterprise creating invalid chairs? The doors of Society were largely closed to the young couple.

The duchess smiled. Young Minerva had helped the Haverfords with the fruit of her labours. Now it was time to return the favour. Those closed doors would open soon enough when it was clear the Averys were her protégés.

“Tell me, my dear, do you have an engagement for this Friday? I am giving a ball, and I would be delighted if you and your Candle could attend.”

Min is the heroine of Candle’s Christmas Chair, which I’m currently giving away in a promotion. A number of my friends are also part of this week-long giveaway, including fellow Bluestocking Belles Caroline Warfield and Elizabeth Ellen Carter. Enter to win 45 Regency Romances, and to be in the draw for a Kindle Fire.

Here’s the link to enter: https://www.booksweeps.com/enter-win-45-regency-romances-feb-17/

 

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Tea with David

The servant showed David Wakefield onto the terrace, where Eleanor Haverford waited.

The visit to the child in the nursery upstairs had calmed him, somewhat; his anger was banked though the duchess had no doubt it still burned under the controlled exterior.

“How did you find Antonia?” she asked, indicating that he should take the chair beside her.

“Worried about her mother.” He jerked as if he would leap to his feet again, but controlled the impulse. “What are you planning to do with her? Keep her here?”

Eleanor had already decided that the little girl would be better with her aunt, and would persuade David to that point of view if he did not agree, but he needed to hear that she acknowledged his claim. “It is not up to me, David. I am just a family friend. You and her aunt must make this decision, since her mother is… unavailable.”

He relaxed, fractionally, but at the last word he let out a huff of air that sounded almost like a sob. “Unavailable,” he repeated, bitterly.

“You intend to go after her, I assume.” Eleanor made it a statement, not a question. He had declared his intention an hour ago, when he had burst in unannounced, demanding to see his lover’s daughter and swearing vengeance on the Marquis of Aldridge.

“Yes. Yes, of course. I already have men on the docks trying to find the ship’s destination. Sailors talk. If the captain told his men, someone will know.”

“What can we do to help?” Eleanor handed David a cup of tea and began piling a plate with small savouries. He would need food and drink, and was unlikely to stop again today to find them.

“Your family has helped quite enough,” David snapped, then lowered his hazel eyes, so like those of her two sons, his half-brothers. “I beg your pardon, Your Grace. That was uncalled for.”

“You are upset, David. I am sure that Aldridge did not intend–”

David’s manners were usually impeccable, and it was a measure of his distress that he interrupted her. “Of course he didn’t. He would never deliberately put Gren in danger. Or Prue either, I suppose. I don’t blame him for choosing the wrong ship for your younger son’s journey. I blame him for suggesting that Prue left of her own accord.”

That raised Eleanor’s eyebrows. “Of her own… he thought it was an elopement?”

“Yes. He had the nerve to suggest Gren has legitimacy and wealth and so…”

“For an intelligent boy, my son Aldridge can occasionally be extremely stupid. No wonder you are cross with him.”

That, as she had hoped, fetched an amused quirk of the lips, though the smile did not reach his worried eyes.

David finished his tea, and stood to leave. “I’ll go after Prue, Your Grace, and Gren, too. Will you send Antonia to her aunt? She is at home there, and the wait will be easier for her. I’ll send word as soon as I can; as soon as I know whether they are…”

He trailed off, and the words he did not say hung between them. Dead or alive. Murdered or merely kidnapped.

In the months to come, Eleanor clung to the promise her husband’s base-born son had made her. No news at all was surely better than certain news of the deaths of her younger son and the young woman she had come to love almost as a daughter. But where were they, and had David found them?

This scene doesn’t appear in Concealed in Shadow, but it clearly happened. Here’s where it fits. After the end of Revealed in Mist, David arrives in London and finds that Prue has been missing for over a week and that the Marquis of Aldridge, heir to the Duke of Haverford, was the last person to see her. He questions Aldridge, to find that Prue had gone down to the wharves to farewell Lord Jonathan Grenford, Aldridge’s younger brother. Aldridge has his own jaundiced view of the couple’s disappearance. David ends up punching the man and storming off. It was inevitable that, after initiating the investigation into the ship on which Gren and Prue left, he’d head to Haverford House where Prue had left her daughter visiting for the day with the Duchess of Haverford.

I’m currently researching and writing character outlines and heroes’ journeys for Concealed in Shadow.

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Tea with Susan


Unrelieved black suits few women, but Susan Cunningham is one of those whose beauty it enhances, her guinea-gold hair glowing under the black lace that covered it, her porcelain skin looking whiter by contrast.

“I sent my condolences when I heard, Susan, but may I say in person how sorry I was to hear that your husband’s ship was lost?” the Duchess of Haverford says, as she takes the younger woman’s hand and kisses her cheek.

“I still do not believe it,” Susan answers, taking her seat once the duchess does. “I keep expecting to get another letter from him, or have some false friend commiserate about his misbehaviour in some foreign port or see him walk in the door, upset the children, and waltz back out to find someone to get drunk with.”

She flushes. “Oh dear. I have no idea why I just said that, Aunt Eleanor.”

“Because you know that I knew the Captain,” the duchess says dryly, “and because you are tired of pretending to agree with all those false comforters that want only to sing his virtues.”

“His mother has him fitted for a halo,” Susan agrees, “but then, she never could see a fault in him.”

“Which is undoubtedly why he had so many.” Her Grace’s tone is drier still.

“He had virtues too, Aunt Eleanor. And I find I miss him far more than I expected. It is odd. He was seldom home, and that was just how I like it after we grew so far apart. But now that he will never come home again, I miss him.”

 

 

 

Today’s visitor appears in Farewell to Kindness and A Raging Madness as a support character. She is Rede’s cousin and Alex’s sister. She will be the heroine of The Realm of Silence, which is the next book in the Golden Redepennings series. She was not looking for a second husband. But I have my eye on her.

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Tea with Prue Virtue

Today’s post is an excerpt from my latest novel, Revealed in Mist. (Click on the link to read the blurb and find buy links.)

Prue hesitated in the street outside her next destination. Callers needed to present their card at the gate, be escorted to the front door and delivered to the butler, then wait to be announced. On most days of the week, uninvited guests below a certain rank in society would have difficulty making it past the first obstacle, but on Thursday afternoons, the Duchess of Haverford was ‘at home’ to petitioners.

Past encounters had always been initiated by Her Grace. A scented note would arrive by footman, and Prue would obey the summons and receive the duchess’s commission. Though she was always gracious, never, by word or deed, had Her Grace indicated that she and Prue had any closer relationship than employer and agent.

The entrance and public rooms of Haverford House were designed to impress lesser mortals with the greatness of the family—and their own lesser status. Prue was ushered to a room just off the lofty entrance hall. Small by Haverford standards, this waiting area nonetheless dwarfed the people waiting to see the duchess.

Two women, one middle-aged and the other a copy some twenty years younger, nervously perched on two of the ladder-backed chairs lining one wall. Next to them, but several chairs along, a lean young man with an anxious frown pretended to read some papers, shuffling them frequently, peering over the tops of his spectacles at the door to the next room. Two men strolled slowly along the wall, examining the large paintings and conversing in low whispers. A lone woman walked back and forth before the small window, hushing the baby fretting on her shoulder.

Prue took a seat and prepared for a wait. She would not tremble. She had nothing to fear. Both Tolliver and David said so, and Aldridge, too. But how she wished the waiting was over.

It seemed a long time but was only a few minutes, before a servant hurried in and approached her.

“Miss Virtue? Her Grace will see you now.”

Prue gave the other occupants an apologetic nod and followed the servant.

The duchess received her in a pretty parlour, somehow cosy despite its grand scale. Prue curtseyed to her and the woman with her. Were all petitioners waved to a seat on an elegant sofa facing Her Grace? Addressed as ‘my dear’? Asked if they should care for a cup of tea?

“Miss Virtue takes her tea black, with a slice of lemon,” the duchess told her companion. Or was the woman her secretary?

“Miss Virtue, my companion, Miss Grant. Miss Grant, Miss Virtue has been of great service to me and to those I love. I am always at home to her.”

Was Miss Grant one of the army of relatives for whom Her Grace had found employment, or perhaps one of the dozens of noble godchildren she sponsored? The young woman did not have the look of either Aldridge or his brother, nor of their parents. Prue murmured a greeting.

“I was not expecting you, Miss Virtue, was I? Is anything wrong?”

“Nothing is wrong, Your Grace. I just… I have some questions, Ma’am.”

“You should have sent a note, my dear. I will always take time to see you. I was happy to give a good report of you to my friend Lady Georgiana, of course.” As she spoke, the duchess took the tea cup from Miss Grant and passed it to her.

“Your Grace, I would like to speak with you alone, if I may. I beg your pardon, Miss Grant. I do not mean to be discourteous.”

The duchess stopped her own cup partway to her lips and put it carefully back into the saucer, examining Prue’s face carefully.

When she spoke, it was to Miss Grant. “Celia, my dear, will you let those waiting know that I will be delayed…” she consulted her lapel watch, “…thirty-five minutes, but I will see them all today? Perhaps you could arrange refreshments for them? Return on the half hour, please. That is all the time I can spare, Miss Virtue. If you need longer, I will ask you to wait or return another day.”

Prue shook her head. “The time will be ample, Ma’am. Thank you.”

As Miss Grant left the room, Prue was silent, collecting her thoughts. The duchess waited.

“You knew. You have known all along.” Prue shifted uneasily. She had not intended to sound accusing.

The duchess inclined her head in agreement, her face showing nothing but calm.

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Tea with [Name of your heroine here]

To the Characters of Historical Romance

From the hand of Jude Knight
Amanuensis to Her Grace, the Duchess of Haverford

Subject: Promotional opportunity for you and your author

Dear heroine, hero, or supporting character

Her Grace has charged me with letting you know she is At Home to visitors on Mondays (USA time), and would be delighted to welcome you for conversation and a cup of tea, coffee, hot chocolate, or the beverage of your choice.

Characters from any historical fiction, any era or place, may apply. While Her Grace’s lifetime spans the late Georgian and early Victorian, and she is delighted to meet her own contemporaries from different fictional worlds, she particularly enjoys time travelers. Be warned that all metal and weapons must be left at the door. No exceptions. Not even armoured knights and Chicago gangsters.

A typical post would have a few paragraphs of conversation between you and the duchess, then your book’s blurb, buy links, and an excerpt.

I keep Her Grace’s calendar, and would love to hear from you or your author. If you wish to participate, please send the dates of three Mondays to jude [at] judeknightauthor.com (replace [at] with @). Include your name, your author’s name and pen name, and your book title.

Kindest regards

 

Judy Knight

(for Eleanor Haverford)

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Tea with Rose

Rose checked her appearance in the mirror over the kitchen fire, for perhaps the tenth time in the past half hour. “I do not even know how to address a duchess, Thomas.”

No one on the Dunstan fields moved in such elevated circles. She had checked at the little circulating library, but they had no books covering the eventuality that a merchant’s wife from New Zealand’s gold fields would be summoned to take tea with an English duchess.

An English duchess, furthermore, who had invited Rose to join her sixty years in the past and on the other side of the world, and how that was to work, Rose had no idea. But she held the scented letter in her hand, and it had been delivered by a footman, all in livery, who stepped out of her own pantry and frightened her cook almost into hysterics.

Thomas doubted the whole thing, suggesting that they had dreamt the incident, though he could not explain the note, nor the fact that they’d clearly both had the same dream. Still, he had dressed in his best church-going suit; the one he wore when he needed to impress bankers or investors.

Even after five years of marriage, Rose was still humbled and thrilled that Thomas would always support her.  After her father’s neglect and her uncle’s abuse, she had never thought to find a man she could trust as she trusted Thomas.

“If the footman comes, you can ask him,” he said patiently.

And it was at that moment, the pantry door opened, not onto their shelves, comfortably stocked with all the provisions the growing family of a successful merchant might need. No. There before them was a stone-flagged terrace, looking out over extensive formal gardens filled with summer flowers.

Directly before them, not ten feet away, a table and chairs waited, and a woman elegantly dressed in the fashions of the time of the Prince Regent.

“Good Heavens.” Thomas had gone slightly pale.

“It is astounding, is it not,” said the woman. “Do come in Mr and Mrs O’Bryan. Or is it out? I am so pleased you were able to accept my invitation.”

Rose curtseyed, and led the way through the door, leaving her winter coat and shawl behind in the kitchen. And Thomas, dear Thomas, followed, as she knew he would.

“I am Eleanor Haverford, my dears. You are welcome to address me as ‘duchess’, or ‘ma’am’ is appropriate if you prefer. Please. Take a seat. We have a wonderful opportunity, and I wish to hear all about you.

Thomas and Rose are the hero and heroine of All that Glisters, a novelette in Hand-Turned Tales. Hand-Turned Tales contains two short stories, this novelette, and a novella, and is free to download from most eretailers. Read more about it on my book page, which also has download links.

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Tea with Min

“The duchess is a charming, gracious lady, Min,” Viscount Avery assured his wife, when he dropped her to the front entrance of Haverford House. He immediately undercut his own assumption of confidence. “I can stay if you wish. Do you want me to stay?”

Minerva Avery looked around the grand entrance hall, the full height of the house, with majestic flights of stairs rising on either side and curving to meet at spacious landings, only to part again to swerve to the next level. The hall was designed to intimidate and impress, and it worked.

But she was Lady Avery, wife to Lord Randal Avery, and was here by invitation. “Her Grace asked to see me, Candle. I will be perfectly fine.”

She stood on tiptoe to kiss her tall husband, who bent to meet her part way, and turned his face so that her peck on the cheek became a loving salute to the lips. Had this august space seen other aristocrats show affection in public? Probably not, but in this she was proud to be true to her tradesman heritage. People of her class loved their spouses.

She shot a defiant glance sideways to the butler who waited to conduct her to the duchess, and surprised an indulgent smile before he wiped it from his face. “This way, my lady,” he said.

“I’ll just take the horses on a circuit around the park and will be waiting when you are finished,” Candle promised.

Min followed the butler up the first flight of stairs and along a sumptuously carpeted hall wide enough for three of her invalid chairs to race side by side, without bumping the elegant furniture and beautifully carved statues that lined both sides.

They passed room after room, until at last they came to a small sitting room, richly furnished but somehow warmly welcoming. Her Grace the Duchess of Haverford rose from a sofa by the fire.

“Lady Randal Avery,” the butler announced, and Min sank into the deep curtsey that her friend Anne, Lady Chirbury, had been schooling her in all week.

“Lady Avery, how very kind of you to call.” The duchess smiled, and took her seat again, patting the cushions beside her. “Come. Sit with me and tell me how you take your tea.”

They spoke commonplaces while Her Grace made and poured the tea, Min following the duchess’s conversational lead.

“Now,” Her Grace said, once they were both served. “you must be wondering why I asked you to visit, and I shall not keep you in suspense, Minerva. May I call you Minerva?”

Min nodded, her tongue suddenly frozen at the thought of such familiarity from so grand a lady.

“Minerva, I shall get straight to the point. I am the patroness of a hospital for servicemen, and I am in need of a large number of invalid chairs. My nephew Chirbury tells me that the one you provided for his cousin, Major Redepenning, was the best he has ever seen. Are you still in that business, my dear? For I should dearly appreciate your help.”

Min is the heroine of Candle’s Christmas Chair, a holiday novella that was my first published book. You can read all about it on my book page, at the link. I first met Min and her viscount in Farewell to Kindness (which is Rede’s, the Earl of Chirbury’s, story). Min provided the invalid chair that Rede’s cousin, Alex Redepenning, has collapse under him during a vigorous chair based rendition of a line dance. I wondered how a carriage-maker’s daughter with a business making invalid chairs came to marry a viscount, and next thing I knew, a tall skinny viscount with bright red hair turned up at her carriage-maker’s shop to order a chair as a Christmas present for his mother.

The first two chapters are linked to the book page, so please go and enjoy.

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Tea with Mary

Mary was a daughter of the navy, raised aboard ship by her admiral father and a succession of nurses. She had learned her company manners from the gentlemen’s sons who vied to sit at her father’s table, and had them polished almost to breaking point during her one London Season.

Since then, she’d become wife to her own captain, and in her own world of naval wives, she knew precisely how to behave. She had even — her husband being grandson to an earl — become comfortable with those aristocrats she counted as family, counting among her close friends the wife of the current earl.

But having afternoon tea tête–à–tête with a duchess was outside of her experience. She had met the Duchess of Haverford at various entertainments in London. Her Grace’s sister had been mother to the current earl, so they had even attended some of the same family events. But she would never dare to presume on such a distant acquaintance were the circumstances not — what they were.

Summoned in response to a note asking Her Grace for an audience, she had expected to be seen as a petitioner, with perhaps a secretary on hand to make notes. Instead, she had been shown to a private sitting room, where two chairs waited in a sunny window overlooking a garden, the great lady herself occupying one.

“Mrs Alexander Redepenning, ma’am,” the butler announced, and the duchess rose to greet her.

Mary took the hand offered, and curtseyed. “Thank you for agreeing to see me, Your Grace.”

“But of course. You are family, my dear, and I always have time for family.”

“It is in that hope I have come, Your Grace.”

Shrewd hazel eyes examined her, then the duchess seated herself again, saying decidedly, “Then be seated, Mary — I may call you ‘Mary’, may I not? Tell me how you have your tea, and then tell me what I may do to help you with whatever distresses you.”

Mary obeyed, and was very soon sipping tea with lemon from a cup of delicate china.

“Well, Mary?” the duchess prompted.

“It is a long story, ma’am. It concerns Susan, my sister-in-law, her daughter Amelia, and my son James. I am not sure where to begin.”

“At the beginning, my dear,” Her Grace suggested.

Mary Redepenning is the heroine of Gingerbread Bride, a Christmas novella written for the Bluestocking Belles holiday box set in 2015. Gingerbread Bride is free this month as part of a promotion with 149 other novellas and novellas.

This scene, though, takes place some twelve years later, when Mary’s 11 year old son and her 16 year old niece go missing, and her sister-in-law Susan disappears in pursuit. These events won’t happen until The Realm of Silence, which will be book three of The Golden Redepenning series.

The Duchess of Haverford appears in many of my books, first helping her nephew with his love affair in Farewell to Kindness. She also aided and abetted the not-quite-hero, her son, in A Baron for Becky. Most recently, she has been the hostess of the Christmas house party in the Bluestocking Belles box set Holly and Hopeful Hearts, which is also on special for December, at only 99c.

You can read the first two chapters of Gingerbride Bride here.

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Tea with Charity

Charity Smith waited in the beautiful parlour to which she had been shown. Built to a more human scale than the gargantuan halls and stairways along which the butler had whisked her, the parlour was still rich and elegant, but she sensed that the paintings had been chosen to suit the pleasure of the room’s owner; that the duchess herself had the pretty wallpaper above the carved wainscoting and the plush drapes that picked out the cornflower blue of the wallpaper pattern. The chairs and sofas had been upholstered in darker blues or sea greens; here a floral, there a stripe. And here and there a bold red vase or cushion set off the more muted colours. And gold, or at least gilt, was everywhere: in the frames of paintings, on cupboard doors, inlaid into table tops, gilding the curves of carving.

Above, the same colours repeated in the ornately painted ceiling. This room was a far cry from the humble cottage in which she had been hidden for six years, or the farmhouse in Oxfordshire she shared with two other women and all their children. She stiffened her spine. The Charity of six months ago would have slunk away, intimidated by the gap between her and the woman she was about to meet. But the loss of her reputation, her marriage, and her home had paradoxically taught her her own strength. She would not be returning home without the child.

She stood and curtseyed when the Duchess of Haverford entered the room, unconsciously squaring her shoulders ready to fight. But the duchess surprised her. “Mrs Smith, I am so sorry to have kept you waiting. You must be beside yourself with worry about your dear sister. But I am confident that David will find her, and all will be well in the end. And, of course, you shall take your niece home with you when you go.”

As she spoke, she took a seat and patted the place at her side. “But come and sit down. Take tea with me and tell me about your children. Did you leave them well?”

Charity is the sister of Prudence Virtue, my heroine in Revealed in Mist. This scene happens after the end of Revealed in Mist, and during the events that start Concealed in Shadow. The first (which is a complete romance and thriller plot, and a stand-alone story) is released tomorrow. Follow the links to find out more, or read on for an excerpt.

“Are you sure Mr. Wakefield will not mind?” Charity asked for the hundredth time.

Prue reassured her again. Of course he would not object to her bringing Charity to his town house for a few days. Would he? Weeks of separation had left her yearning for him, but had it given him time for second thoughts? One slightly used spy, no longer in the first flush of youth, and with a secret that would surely give him a disgust of her, if he ever discovered it.

But Mrs. Allen made them welcome and told Prue the mail had brought a letter from David yesterday, saying he and Gren were leaving for London. They should be home tomorrow or the next day. Prue left Charity to settle into the bedroom Mrs. Allen prepared for her, while Prue wrote a note to Lady Georgiana, asking for permission to call.

They had talked it over at length while with Charissa, and in the carriage on the way from Essex. At inordinate length.

Charity could not, would not, stay in Selby’s cottage. She would go somewhere she was not known and introduce herself as a widow, using another name. Mrs. Smith, she said, for who was to find one Mrs. Smith among thousands?

But how she and the children were to live was a problem. Prue would help, of course. She could double the allowance she was paying, would triple it if Charity would allow. Tolliver’s work paid well enough, and she had a little set aside.

Charity wanted to borrow Prue’s nest egg. She had some idea of setting up a milliner’s shop. Not in London, but somewhere cheaper to live and safer for the children. “Even you said I make beautiful hats, Prue,” she argued.

True enough, but running a business required more than an eye for fashion and an artistic touch with a needle. Prue didn’t want her savings to be frittered away and leave Charity and the girls in a worse situation than before.

“We need somewhere for you and the children to stay while we consider how best to make your plan work,” she told Charity. “I know a lady who supports women in your sort of trouble. She may have a place.” Or she may never wish to speak to Prue again, in which case they needed to think of something else.

On one thing Charity was determined: Prue was not to ask Selby to support his daughters until they moved somewhere he could not find them. “It is not as if he is going to give us any money, anyway, Prue. He barely gave us a thing when I thought I was his wife. Just a few pounds now and again, when he visited. The servants’ pay is several quarters in arrears. Oh, dear. Should I not pay them before I let them go?” Another problem for her to worry at, until Prue was ready to leap screaming from the carriage with her hands over her ears.

The note sent, Prue went to check that Charity had everything she needed.

Her sister was sitting next to the window in her bedchamber, looking out.

“It is very grand, Prue, is it not? Not your David’s town house, though that is finer than I expected. But the streets, the carriages, the people. We are not even in London here, are we? Not really?”

“This is Chelsea,” Prue told her. “We are not in the City, but nor are we far. What would you like to see while we are here, Charity?”

“I will just stay here, Prue, please, except when we go to visit your friend. I want to make arrangements for somewhere to live, then go and collect the girls to take them to their new home. I miss them so much. Besides, imagine if I bumped into Selby!” Charity shuddered.

Perhaps she was wise, though in a city the size of London, the chances of her meeting Selby were slender.

“I need to go out, Charity. I received a note from the agency.”

Prue had told Charity about the mythical agency that placed her with people who needed temporary staff to fill a particular short-term need, and Charity anxiously grasped Prue’s hand.

“You are not going alone, Prue? Is there a footman you can take to protect you?” She shook her head, dismissing whatever thoughts of assault and robbery had entered them. “How silly of me. You know how to…” She made a vague gesture with one hand. Prue had been teaching Charity a few tricks to save herself from attack, some of which would discourage the most persistent man. Charity had been both repelled and intrigued.

“I will take a hackney, Charity, and my little gun.” And the knife strapped to her calf. And the pins in her hair.

“They will not want to send you away, will they? Oh, I am being so selfish. But Prue, I do not know what I would have done these past weeks without you.”

“I will not leave until you and the girls are safe,” Prue assured her. “If it is a job, I will tell them to find someone else.”

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Tea with Anne

monday-for-tea

Lady Anne Stocke and her governess present themselves on the terrace at precisely three in the afternoon to find Her Grace already waiting for them.

“Anne, my dear. And Miss Henwood. Do take a seat. Are the little girls happily amused?”

Anne seats herself next to the duchess. “Indeed, Aunt Eleanor. Kitty has gone down into the village with Miss Stirling, and Meg is helping cook make gingerbread.”

farewell-to-kindness-ebook“Would you be kind enough to pour the tea, Anne?” the duchess asked, and sat back to watch the pretty picture that the girl made as she concentrated on the ritual. She was almost seventeen, and would make her debut not this Season but the next, sponsored by the duchess as her godmother. She would ‘take’, beyond a doubt. She was pretty and lively, with a good wit and a kind heart. And she was the daughter and sister of an earl, with a healthy inheritance in trust, to be paid on marriage or when Anne turned twenty-five.

Her brother the young Earl of Selby was a foolish young man,, barely more than a boy, and far too much in the company of the dissolute Earl of Chirbury for the Duchess of Haverford’s liking. And what Anne’s father had been thinking making Chirbury guardian to his children, she could not imagine! But he would not have the disposition of the Stocke girls. The duchess might not be able to do much about Chirbury’s influence over Anne’s brother, but she was determined that neither bachelor would have a voice in who was permitted to court dear Anne. Or Kitty either, when the time came.

“Thank you, dear,” she said, accepting the tea, made just the way she liked it. Yes. Anne would take very well.

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Little does Her Grace know, but Anne’s life is about to take a dramatic turn. Read Farewell to Kindness to meet her again seven years in the future.

Farewell to Kindness won the Romance Writers of New Zealand Great Beginnings Award in 2015. Click on the link to see the blurb and read the first three chapters.

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