Tea with Aldridge

This week’s Monday for Tea post is a little bit of backstory to A Baron for Becky. The Duchess of Haverford interferes in the love life of her son, whose life as a rake has been interrupted by his devotion to his mistress.

“Mama?”

At the sound of Aldridge’s voice, Eleanor, Duchess of Haverford composed her face, smoothing the slight frown that creased her forehead and forcing a smile as she greeted this beloved guest.

“My love,” she said, as he crossed to press a kiss on the hand she raised for him, and then on one cheek. The boy looked well. He had a spring to his step that had long been missing, his eyes were clear and bright, and his cheerful grin had lost the cynical twist so pronounced a bare few months ago—to her eye, at least.

Eleanor hoped what she had to say would not cast him back into melancholy.

Aldridge had been raised with the finest manners money could buy. He took the seat he was offered, complimented her on the success of her most recent entertainment, asked about the book her companion was reading, discussed the likelihood of rain on Tuesday next, and generally kept up his end of the conversation without once showing impatience or asking why she had sent for him.

He must be wondering, though. “Cousin Judith,” Eleanor said to her companion, “I would like a few minutes of private conversation with my son. Would you leave us, please? I will send when I want you.”

“What do you plan for that one, Mama?” Aldridge asked. Haverford had an army of indigent relatives, with nothing to do but hang on the ducal coat tails. Eleanor had long since formed the habit of taking the women one by one as companions, finding their talents and interests, and helping them into positions that suited their skills.

“Not, I think, a marriage, my dear. A library perhaps. She is happiest with her head in a book. Or, I begin to think, perhaps she might be persuaded to try her hand at a memoir or a Gothick. She writes the most delightful letters. I can see her living with Cousin Harriet in a comfortable little house, writing spine-chilling stories and having a most wonderful time.”

Aldridge chuckled. “Cousin Harriet, is it? The one that breeds dogs and hates men? Mama, you are a complete hand.”

“I collect that is a cant expression, Aldridge darling,” she said attempting to be disapproving, but twinkling back at him. He really was a sweet boy.

“You must be wondering why I sent for you,” she began.

He leaned over to kiss her cheek again. “Because you missed me?” he suggested. “I have neglected you shamefully, Mama, these past weeks.”

An opening. Eleanor took it. “These past six months, Aldridge. Since you took Mrs Winstanley into your keeping. You have been much engrossed, I take it.”

Aldridge sat back, his eyes suddenly wary. “I am sure discussing one’s mistress with one’s mother is not de rigueur,” he complained.

“Introducing one’s mistress to one’s Mama opens one to such comments, dear,” Eleanor teased, ignoring the subtle withdrawal evidenced in the suddenly bland voice, the stiffness of his posture.

As she’d hoped, Aldridge relaxed, a fleeting grin lifting one corner of his mouth.

But the matter was serious enough. “One hears remarks, my dear. Hostesses who lack the Merry Marquis at their affairs; gentlemen who must play their cheerful japes without their boon companion; even His Grace your father has commented you have abandoned your usual pursuits.”

“His Grace has no reason to complain. I do my work.”

“Yes, my love. You are an excellent manager. But, Aldridge, I am concerned.”

“You have nothing to be concerned about, Mama.” It would be an exaggeration to say her tall elegant son flung himself to his feet, but he certainly rose more quickly and less smoothly than usual, and then stalked with controlled deliberation to the brandy decanter she kept for him on the sideboard. “May I…?”

She nodded her permission, and he poured a drink while she decided how to approach her topic. It was harder than she expected. She yearned to tell him to do what pleased him, to stay in the fools’ paradise he was building with the lovely Becky.

But she could not ignore the duty owed to the young woman. Eleanor, who seldom allowed herself to feel such a plebeian and useless emotion as guilt, was aware she should have given Becky the means to escape when they met six months earlier. She had quite deliberately put Aldridge’s need for Becky’s brand of comfort ahead of Becky’s evident desire to abandon the life of a courtesan. She did not feel guilty. But she did acknowledge a debt.

“You are not the one for whom I am concerned, Aldridge,” she said.

He had been studying his brandy, but glanced up at that, a quick look from beneath level brows before he drew them into something of a frown.

“Who, then?”

“Mrs Winstanley, dear. I am concerned for Mrs Winstanley.”

Another quick movement, this one sending the brandy sloshing in the tumbler, but he steadied his hand before it spilled. “No need, Mama. Becky and I are very happy.”

“You spend all your time with her, Aldridge. If you are not at her townhouse, she is in the heir’s wing. If you travel, she travels with you. Last time you went to Margate, you stayed with her in the town rather than at Haverford Castle.”

“You are very well informed, my dear.” Eleanor knew that cold ducal tone, but from her husband’s lips, not her son’s. Almost, she stopped. But no; she would do her duty; she had always done her duty.

She matched his tone with her own. “You employ Haverford servants, Aldridge. They answer my questions, as they should.” But this was not to the point. Better to just spit it out.

“If you continue as you are, you will break Rebecca Winstanley’s heart, Aldridge. She deserves better from you.”

Whatever he expected, that wasn’t it. He was too controlled to openly gape, but the muscles of his jaw relaxed. He recovered himself and took a sip of his brandy, gaining time while he thought. It was a trick she used herself.

“What can you offer her, Aldridge? A year? Two? And then what? You cannot marry her, of course…” Was that a flare of longing she saw, quickly suppressed? Merciful heavens, had it gone so far, then?

“You cannot, Aldridge. Even if we could find a way to conceal her past—and with the interest your marriage will attract, every tiny detail of your wife’s history will be uncovered and inspected—she is lower gentry, if gentry at all.”

“Lower gentry,” he conceded, reluctantly. “But what does that matter, Mama? Peers have married beneath them before. What of Chandos? Or, if you want a more recent example, Marquis Wellesley? ”

Eleanor struggled to show no hint of her alarm, keeping her voice level as she said, “And their wives have suffered for it, Aldridge. Their estates, too. You would be doing Mrs Winstanley no favour, Aldridge, even if her past did not come to light. And it would.

“Besides, your duty to your name precludes such an action. You will be Haverford. Your wife will be mother of the next Haverford.

“And consider your little half-sisters, who will only be able to overcome the circumstances of their birth if Society continues to pretend they are my protégées and not your father’s base-born daughters.

“You cannot marry your mistress.”

He opened his mouth to argue, but suddenly the fight drained out of him, taking, it seemed, his ability to stay upright. He sank into a chair, all the joy gone from his face leaving it bleak and lonely.

“I know, Mama. Truly.”

He fell silent again, cradling his brandy in front of his chin and staring into nothing.

She had to ask. “Does she seek marriage, my son?”

Aldridge’s short laugh was unamused. “Becky? Of course not. She has no expectations at all. Not even of common courtesy or kindness, let alone of being treated like the lady she is. And I am a scoundrel for taking advantage of that. Were I the gentleman I pretend to be, I’d set her up as a widow somewhere and leave her alone. After the life she has had… I doubt she would marry me even if I asked. She is grateful to me, but gratitude only goes so far.”

He glared at his mother. “But I will not give her up, Mama. We have the rest of this contract term, and another after that if I can persuade her to a second term.”

“I am not asking you to surrender your domestic happiness, my dear. Just to reduce it a little for Mrs Winstanley’s sake.”

Aldridge cocked one eyebrow in question, but said nothing.

Should she tell Aldridge his mistress was in love with him? She had seen them in the park:  Becky, her little daughter, and Aldridge—by chance as she returned from an unusually early errand and then deliberately several more times. Her son was so absorbed in the woman and the little girl he never noticed the stopped carriage where she sat observing the three of them together.

No. She would say nothing. If he had already considered the logistics of marrying the woman… “You will have to let her go, Aldridge—at the end of the contract, or in any case when you find a suitable bride. The parting will be much harder, for both of you, if she fancies herself in love with you.”

“Spend a few nights a week away from her, my dear. Let her know you are seeing other women. Help her to armour her heart against you, if you love her.”

“Love, Mama? Can Grenfords love? I like her. I respect her. I enjoy being with her. She makes me happy, Mama. Is that so terrible? I’m not sure I know what love is, but I know I don’t want Becky to leave me, or—worse—to hate me and stay.”

“I have every faith in your charm, Aldridge. You will be kind. You will be gentle. And you will do your duty by your mistress as you always do your duty in all things.”

As Eleanor always did hers, she reflected after her son left, and duty could be a cold and thankless  master. Aldridge would not soon forget her role in this day’s work, and Becky would be ungrateful if she ever found out. But it was for the best. She had to believe it was for the best—not just for the Grenford family, but for Aldridge and Becky as well. She hoped it was for the best.

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Tea with Morag and Caitlinn

London, 1790

Eleanor Haverford welcomed her guests to her private sitting room. Thank goodness the duke was not in residence! He would never approve of such company for her.

In the three years since news of their marriages rocked the ton, the two women before her had made no attempt to join Society. Instead, they had remained on the the most northern of the Duke of Kendal’s holdings; a Scots estate, complete with castle, that had formerly belonged to the most ancient enemies of his family, the Lorimers of Lorne.

As had her guests. The remaining two women of the Lorimer family had married the last surviving men of their traditional foes.

Society had been beside itself when the news broke. Michael Normington, Duke of Kendal, had wed his housekeeper, disappointing dozens of marriage-minded mamas and their tedious offspring. Worse, the housekeeper was worthy of the position, even though she had been hiding her own lofty origins for twenty years. And if she had been concealed in the duke’s household, no one suggested for a moment she had been up to anything unseemly, unless it was with the duke himself. Marriage covered any such sins.

Worse, for those who wanted the ducal title for a grandchild, the duke had found evidence for his first marriage, elevating his base-born son to legitimacy and a courtesy earldom. Which would have been good news if Lord Farringhurst, the new earl, had not married his new step-mother’s cousin, the two couples plighting their troth in a dual ceremony weeks before the news made its way south to Town.

“Scots ways,” her husband had declared. “Barbarians the lot of them. Even Kendal, who is English born. No idea of the proper way to behave.”

But now the Kendals and Farringhursts were in London, and a chance meeting at an inn had led them to accept Eleanor’s hospitality when the roof on their own house proved to be leaky. How her rivals in Society would seethe to know she had stolen a march on them. And Eleanor would be happy to help smooth the way of these new friends if she could. She very much liked what she’d seen of them. Why, the duchess and countess fed their own babies at the breast, and spent every spare minute in the nursery!

Eleanor placed a hand on her abdomen as she swore silently that this child, if it lived, would have the same maternal care.

“We must thank you again, duchess,” said her grace of Kendall. “We will not long trouble you. Our husbands swear the repairs will be completed in a week.”

“Indeed, an inn would have been difficult for the children,” Lady Farringhurst agreed. “We cannot thank you enough.” Upstairs in the Haverford nursery, four Normington infants were being tended by a small army of servants, from both ducal households. Her own nursemaids were glad of something to do, her son, the Marquis of Aldridge having long since been released to the schoolroom.

“It is no trouble,” Eleanor assured them. “I am delighted to have the company.” She blushed. “I do not go much into Society at this time.” With a bare two months until her confinement, and four babies lost in the ten years since Aldridge was born, she would obey her doctor’s every directive.

“Then you must call me Caitlin, and my daughter-in-law is Morag, and we shall be comfortable together,” the duchess declared.

Eleanor smiled broadly. If these were Scots ways, then she much preferred them to the ways of the haut ton. “I am Eleanor,” she said.

Morag and Caitlin, and their husbands, are the lead characters in The Lost Treasure of Lorne, which will form part of my next collection of stories, Lost in the Tale. Lost in the Tale will also include The Lost Wife, My Lost Highland Lass, and possibly one or two others. If I get myself into gear, this will come out late next month or early in September.

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Tea with the Wentworth ladies

“Smooth your hair, young ladies. You are going to meet a duchess, for Heaven’s sake.” Anne Wentworth chided her daughters as the Earl of Strafford helped them each alight from the carriage in front of Haverford House in London. Although Anne had presided over two mansions of her own back in Philadelphia, and she was currently living in one as the guest of the Earl and Countess of Strafford, she had never seen a home as stately—as large—as this. Her hand twitched just slightly, as it always did before she entered a social event where she was expected to reflect well upon her husband, the illustrious writer, P.H. Wentworth III. Though such onus was no longer on her shoulders, the habit was deeply ingrained after 20 years of marriage.

The earl offered her his arm, and she gratefully slipped her hand under his elbow. Her husband’s cousin had been a stalwart support to her since they had arrived in England, hardly what she had expected, given their past, but she couldn’t be more appreciative.

The enormously stressful situation had been almost more than she could bear. Packed off to Europe by her husband, without so much as a by your leave, expected to sit out the American conflict in England, leaving her son to his fate, and her parents and sisters. She would not even have the comfort of her daughters, as she would escort them to Paris to their new finishing school in less than a sennight, to leave them for a year. And then to find that Palmer had not given her access to his accounts in London as he had promised, but rather expected her to live on an allowance, like a child, at the mercy of a banker who had no idea of her needs or her social standing. It was intolerable.

“You need not dwell, my dear,” Strafford whispered in her ear. “The frown does not suit your lovely face, and we shall find a way to alleviate your cares. I promise you, my cousin cannot abandon his wife in so callous a manner. I will not allow it.”

She squeezed his fingers and pasted on the smile she had perfected before she was fifteen, that had charmed presidents and prime ministers, and half the nobility of Europe, on those few occasions Palmer agreed to such trips.

“Much better,” Strafford murmured. “You will be fine with the duchess. She is a kind woman, underneath her steel, and I am afraid I must speak to her son, Lord Aldridge, with some urgency, or I would be pleased to take tea with you ladies.”

“It is fine, Strafford. We shall be fine. Thank you. Girls?”

Strafford slipped off around the side of the house, for Lord Aldridge had a separate entrance to his portion of the house, and Anne rapped lightly with the door knocker. Before the door was opened, she took one last look at her daughters’ deportment, straightening a ribbon on Fleur’s dress, tucking a curl back behind Belle’s ear. As long as they behaved themselves, they would do credit to her. And to their father, not that he cared.

The butler showed them into a parlour larger than Anne’s dining room at home. No, no longer her home, since Palmer had sold it right out from under her. No sooner had they taken seats in a grouping of chairs set around a tea table than the duchess swept in. Greying hair perfectly coiffed, and a dress that must have cost three times Anne’s and her daughters’ combined.

All three women stood immediately, and Fleur’s and Belle’s curtseys were all their mother could have asked. It was a moment before she realized she was tardy in making her own bow, so she rectified the social blunder immediately. “Your Grace, it is so very kind of you to ask us for tea before the girls leave for school.”

“The pleasure is mine, Mrs Wentworth. Your daughters are charming.”

“Thank you, Your Grace,” the girls recited in unison.

“Please do be seated, my dears, Mrs. Wentworth. Tell me; you are as matched as a pair of bookends, but which of you is the elder?”

“I am,” Belle said, and Fleur finished the thought with, “I am only younger by eight minutes, Your Grace.”

“And I believe I recall from our brief meeting at Lady Bannister’s party that the yellow hair ribbon is Miss Fleur’s and the green Miss Wentworth’s?” With a small giggle, both girls nodded.

“Would you care for a cup of tea, young ladies, or shall I send for some lemonade?”

“Tea will be lovely, I’m sure,” Anne replied, nudging Belle to sit up straighter.

Belle opened her mouth and then closed it again, with a sidelong look at her mother. While the duchess arranged with a maid to bring more refreshments than were available on the sizable tea tray, Anne narrowed her eyes at the girls. They had, perhaps, not spent enough time in society before they left America, and, since they had arrived in England, had shown a propensity for countermanding their mother in company.

When the duchess turned back, Anne, who had conversed with the wives of the most important men in the world, to say nothing of the wealthiest industrialists in America, found herself a bit tongue-tied. Her Grace of Haverford was among the most influential of the nobility. A word from her and the girls’ presentation to the queen next year would be a success, no matter how likely they were to switch hair ribbons and make fools of the gentlemen who would wish to meet them.

“Cream and sugar, Mrs Wentworth?”

“Cream, please,” Anne said. Belle began to ask for sugar, but Anne spoke over her. “None for the young ladies. They are watching their weight.”

The duchess passed the first cup to the maid and prepared the second as it was delivered to Anne.

“You are leaving for school in France soon, I believe you said when last we met?” the duchess began. “I am so pleased you could spare the time for this visit. I do enjoy the company of young ladies. Are you looking forward to your new school, Miss Wentworth? Miss Fleur?

“Yes, Your Grace,” Belle said in a perfectly modulated tone, but before Anne could stop her, Fleur added, “But we’ve heard Madame LaPointe is terribly strict.”

Thankfully, the duchess did not seem disturbed by the outburst. “But very elegant, my dear,” Eleanor assured Fleur. “If one wishes to make a stir in Society, one could do much worse than to learn from the mistress of a French finishing school.”

Turning back to Anne, who couldn’t help thinking this was where the duchess’ attention should have been all along, rather than indulging young ladies not even presented yet, the duchess said, “I met your husband when he worked in London, Mrs Wentworth. Many years ago, of course, but I still follow his occasional columns in the Financial Times. I find his commentary intriguing.”

Anne struggled to keep a smile on her face, but just managed it. “Indeed? A great many people seem to find his commentary useful. Straff–er, Lord Strafford has been investing on Mr. Wentworth’s advice since they were young men.” It would not do for the duchess to think her on intimate terms with her husband’s cousin, no matter that they were sleeping under the same roof. And it would not hurt to remind anyone in the nobility that while she might be from the “colonies,” her husband was a man of global influence. “It has been ten years since we were in London last, but I am given to understand the royal family still follows his columns.”

“I have heard that. My sons, as well. You must be very proud of your father, young ladies.”

“Oh, yes,” Fleur gushed, while Belle merely glanced at her mother before she rightly held her tongue. “Of course, we are too silly to understand all of the things he writes, but everyone says how brilliant he is. My friend Fanny’s papa has been trying to convince him to join Mr. Lincoln’s cabinet.”

“Fleur refers to Fanny Seward, the Secretary of State’s daughter. My husband is close friends with Mr. Seward, and our families often visit.”

“But I understand he insists on remaining neutral in your current conflict?”

“He is, he says.” Anne’s smile slips. “Though it is difficult to see how when he also insists upon living among the slave-trading heathens.”

“I daresay he must live on one side of the conflict or the other, or in another country entirely,” the duchess pointed out. “I doubt his views are popular with the Confederacy, however.”

“His views are not popular with anyone,” Anne said curtly.

At a nod from the duchess, the maid passed each of the girls a plate filled with delicately iced cakes. Anne could not gainsay a duchess, but she hoped Fleur and Belle recalled they were not to be eating sweets.

“But let us speak of pleasanter things,” the duchess offered, seemingly as a peace offering. “Do you intend for the girls to be presented here in London, Mrs Wentworth, when they have finished their schooling? You are remaining here with the Straffords, I believe?”

Schooling her face into a more serene expression, Anne agreed, “Lady Strafford has graciously offered to sponsor the young ladies once they have finished school next year. I… I am not certain of my plans. We have engaged a town house, but I may be… needed in Philadelphia. Strafford—Lord Strafford—is making enquiries on my behalf.”

Her Grace gave no sign that she had heard any of the gossip that had arisen briefly during their last visit to London, which Strafford had promptly put down. Instead, she smiled at the girls. “You shall certainly set the young gentlemen on their ears, my dears. Two such lovely young ladies, and each the image of the other. I shall make certain to ask my friend, Lady Strafford, which of my entertainments might be suitable for you.”

As she spoke, the two gentleman joined the party. Anne cast her eyes down at her teacup at the heated glance Strafford sent her way, hoping the duchess hadn’t noticed.

“We are just in time, I see,” Lord Aldridge said. “Strafford, you sly dog. You did not tell me your cousins were so lovely.”

Fleur and Belle both blushed identically, glancing at the terribly handsome new addition to the party from under their lashes. Anne, however, once she looked up again, saw the same sort of heated stare directed toward her daughters by this new arrival. Milord or no, it would not do. She sat up straighter, clearing her throat to recall the girls’ attention.

“Your Lordship,” she said, standing and smoothing her skirt. “I am Anne Wentworth. Mrs. Palmer Wentworth,” she emphasized. She gave a brief curtsy. “Delighted to meet you, I’m sure.”

Both girls stood up in a rustle of silk, waiting to be introduced. They could wait a lifetime, if their mother had anything to say about it.

“And these lovely young ladies must be your sisters,” Lord Aldridge said, bowing to them.

Anne felt a flush rise to her cheeks as Strafford’s lips twitched. She narrowed her eyes, but it didn’t stop Belle from stepping forward with another deep curtsy, “I am Belle Wentworth, Your Lordship.” Gesturing to Fleur, she added, “And this is my sister, Fleur.”

“How appropriate,” Lord Aldridge said. “Two beautiful flowers transplanted to our English shores.”

“Will you be at Lady Beckett’s ball this evening, Your Lordship?” Fleur asked with more animation than she had yet shown.

Anne gasped and snapped, “Fleur Wentworth, that is inappropriate in the extreme.” Turning to Lord Aldridge, she apologized, with a speaking glance at the duchess. “I am sorry my daughter is so forward, my lord.”

“I am sorry my son is so forward,” said the duchess, amusement colouring her dry tone. With a son who looked like… this, she must see ladies lose their heads on a daily basis. No, hourly.

“You must forgive them, Mrs Wentworth,” Lord Aldridge said with a small smile. “London is very exciting, is it not, ladies? But alas, I shall not be at the ball. How fortunate that your cousin Strafford and I finished our business in time for me to meet you before you left.”

“Indeed, my lord,” Anne said, both girls frowning at the news he would not be availing himself of a dance. “It has been a pleasure, but I am quite certain we have overstayed. I am afraid we must leave before the young ladies forget their manners entirely.”

Lord Strafford stepped forward to take Anne’s hand, tucking it under his elbow, and she let out a sigh of relief. Strafford could keep this wolf at bay. Fleur and Belle kept their eyes trained on Lord Aldridge until Anne’s gesture forced them into another curtsy, murmuring, “A pleasure, my lord.” Finally, not a moment too soon for their mother, they turned back to the duchess with only a pair of warm glances back over their shoulders.

Eleanor smiled at each of the girls in turn. “Miss Wentworth, Miss Fleur, perhaps you will be kind enough to call again when you return from Paris. I shall speak with Lady Strafford to arrange it.” With a spare nod at Anne, she added, “Mrs Wentworth, thank you for calling. Perhaps we shall meet again if you stay in London. But you must be anxious to return to Charleston and your husband.”

Before Anne can decide if she is being cut, Fleur and Belle both curtsied again. Belle said, “It was lovely to meet you, Your Grace,” and Fleur followed with, “Thank you ever so much for the lovely tea, Your Grace. We shall look forward to calling when we return.”

Anne made a much shallower curtsy, in the event the duchess was subtly insulting her. “We thank you for your time and your most gracious hospitality, Your Grace.” Strafford patted her hand on his arm and directed her to the door, the girls following.

Blind Tribute

Every newspaper editor may owe tribute to the devil, but Harry Wentworth’s bill just came due.

As America marches toward the Civil War, Harry Wentworth, gentleman of distinction and journalist of renown, finds his calls for peaceful resolution have fallen on deaf—nay, hostile—ears, so he must finally resolve his own moral quandary. Comment on the war from his influential—and safe—position in Northern Society, or make a news story and a target of himself South of the Mason-Dixon Line, in a city haunted by a life he has long since left behind?

The day-to-day struggle against countervailing forces, his personal and professional tragedies on both sides of the conflict, and the elegant and emotive writings that define him, all serve to illuminate the trials of this newsman’s crusade, irreparably altering his mind, his body, his spirit, and his purpose as an honorable man. Blind Tribute exposes the shifting stones of the moral high ground, as Harry’s family and friendships, North and South, are shattered by his acts of conscience.

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Meet Mari Anne Christie

Mari was “raised up” in journalism (mostly raising her glass at the Denver Press Club bar) after the advent of the web press, but before the desktop computer. She has since plied her trade as a writer, editor, and designer across many different fields, and currently works as a technical writer and editor.

Under the name Mari Christie, she has released a book-length epic poem, Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness: Poetry of the Mayan Underworld, and under pen name Mariana Gabrielle, she has written several Regency romances, including the Sailing Home Series and La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess. Blind Tribute is her first mainstream historical novel. She expects to release the first book in a new family saga, The Lion’s Club, in 2018.

She holds a BA in Writing, summa cum laude and With Distinction, from the University of Colorado Denver, and is a member of the Speakeasy Scribes, the Historical Novel Society, and the Denver Press Club. She has a long family history in Charleston, South Carolina, and is the great-great niece of a man in the mold of Harry Wentworth.

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Tea with Jonathan

Lord Jonathan Grenford, younger son of Her Grace the Duchess of Haverford, was doing his best to lounge with nonchalant ease, in imitation of his more sophisticated brother. But his interview with his progenitor had left him fizzing with frustration and anger.

Impossible to discharge such energies in the presence of the duke, who was the absolute ruler of his household. His Grace would respond to any perceived disrespect with a retribution whose ripples would touch everyone Gren cared for, from his mother and brother to the most insignificant tweeny and the merest acquaintances.

Impossible also in the dainty sitting room that was his mother’s retreat. He and Aldridge had long ago agreed that Mama had suffered enough from the insults, neglect and disrespect heaped on her by His Grace. Both would rather die than unleash their own helping of the Haverford temper in her presence.

But if he had to keep his tone calm and dispassionate, his body must express the energy of his wrath. As soon as the servant with the tea trolley exited the room and he was free to tell Mama his troubles, he leapt to his feet to pace and prowl, his arms shaping the emotions he was careful to keep from his voice.

She knew, none better, the attempts he had made at freedom, the counter measures taken by his family’s despot, the arguments he had presented in this last distressing interview. But he repeated them all, concluding: “He will never let me go, Mama. I shall be kept here in England, bored out of my mind, kept on a short leash with nothing worthwhile to occupy me until I am as old, as fat, and as dissolute as Prinny.”

The duchess, whose part so far had been to murmur occasional platitudes, lifted an elegant brow at that. “Not fat, my dear one, surely?” She smiled slightly at his reluctant huff of laughter, then turned serious again. “I will speak to him again, Jonathan. But I cannot promise anything. He may not listen.”

“He will not listen. He never listens.” He sat beside her, and kissed her cheek, taking her tea cup from her hands and enclosing them in his own. “Do not make trouble for yourself, Mama. Leave it alone.”

As always, sharing his troubles with the duchess had soothed them, and his natural optimism had surged once more to the fore. There must be a way to achieve his freedom; one that could not reflect on Mama or Aldridge.  All he had to do was find it.

Lord Jonathan Grenford, known to his friends as Gren, is a supporting character in Revealed in Mist, which stars his illegitimate half brother David Wakefield. Haverford’s heir, the Marquis of Aldridge, also has a supporting role in the book. More information and buy links if you click on the title.

 

Excerpt from Revealed in Mist

His next appointment arrived late, apologising as he approached the table, hand extended to shake. David ignored the open and guileless smile and focused on the eyes. Careful, considering, watching to see if the charm was having the desired effect.

“Lord Jonathan.” His own face would give the young man no clues about what David was thinking and feeling. He returned a firm press of the hand, and waved Lord Jonathan to a seat.

“Please. Call me Gren. Or Jon, if you prefer, as Aldridge does. After all, you’re my brother too.” Another friendly grin, of no more depth than the first.

A surprise attack might prompt a reaction David could use. “Is there a reason I shouldn’t tell Aldridge about your plan to get yourself exiled?”

Bare shock for a moment, quickly turning to calculation.

“Mrs. Worth is your informer. Of course. I thought her of too fine a quality to be a whore’s housekeeper.”

The boy was quick; David had to give him that.

The smile turned self-deprecating. “I’d rather you didn’t tell Aldridge. With luck, things have gone too far for him to fix, but I wouldn’t want to count on it. The magic ducal wand.”

“Aldridge wants to protect Her Grace,” David said. And he did, too, come to that.

“Aldridge wants to protect everyone. It’s been bred into him. Yes, and beaten into him, too.” Lord Jonathan—Gren—waved a casual hand, “His Grace is not a gentle father.”

He leaned forward, confidingly, the grin gone and his face suddenly open and sincere. “Aldridge doesn’t understand. I can’t live this life—this meaningless, idiotic life. He has work. I am allowed none. He has purpose. Mine is to simply exist until he marries and has children. After that, I’m redundant. Aldridge thinks I should be happy to drink and gamble and swive myself silly, then get up the next day and do it again. He can’t believe I’m not. But he wouldn’t like having nothing useful to do nearly as much as he thinks.”

Lord Jonathan shook his head thoughtfully. “Do you know how many younger sons die in pointless, stupid accidents, doing something crazy because they’re bored? Now, that would certainly upset Mama!”

David wasn’t sympathetic. “Then do something productive. Join the army. Take up employment.”

“I tried to join the army. His Grace refused his permission. So I joined under a false name. His Grace had me hunted down, bought me out, and confined me until I gave my word not to do it again.

“I went to work for an architect. His Grace had the man beaten. I changed my name again, and found work as a factory clerk. He threatened to ruin the man if I wasn’t fired. He told me that if I tried it again, he’d throw my old nanny out of the cottage she has retired to.”

Despite himself, David could feel for the lad.

“He wants me dependent. Which is partly your fault, by the way.”

The reproach was unexpected. “How do you draw that conclusion?”

Lord Jonathan shrugged. “You’ve made your own way. Refused all help, or so I’ve heard. His Grace doesn’t control you. With everyone else, he says jump, and they ask for instructions on how high and far, and for permission to come down. You just ignore him.”

“Not exactly,” David said. “I stay out of his way, that’s all.”

 

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Tea with Rede

Another excerpt post. Rede has been kicking his heels at Haverford Castle while waiting for his aunt to arrive home.  The book is Farewell to Kindness, and blurb and buy links  are at the link from the book title. The first two chapters are on my excerpts page.

The sun was setting on Saturday evening, and Rede was beside himself with frustration, before the Duchess of Haverford’s coach was finally seen tooling up the road to the castle. 

He was waiting when she entered the front door, and she greeted him with pleasure. “Rede, darling. What a lovely surprise. Have you been waiting for me long?  

“Such a circus in Deal. The electors were inclined to listen to the merchants, and the merchants did not favour Haverford’s man. Not at all.  

“So I had to visit every shop in the town and buy something. The carriage, I can assure you, is laden. But Haverford believes that it may have done the trick.  

“Just as well, dear, for I have enough Christmas presents for every one of my godchildren for the next three years. And some of them are not of the best quality, I can assure you.” 

She was talking as she ascended the stairs, giving her cloak to a maid as she passed, her bonnet to a footman, and her reticule to another maid. 

“You want something, I expect. Well, you shall tell me all about it at dinner. I left most of the food I purchased at the orphanage in Margate, but I kept a pineapple for dessert. Such fun, my dear, have you tried one?” 

“No, dear aunt,” he managed to say, sliding his comment in as she paused to give her gloves to yet another maid. Or it may have been the first maid again. 

“Well, today you shall. Join me in the dining room in—shall we say one hour?” And she sailed away towards her apartments, leaving him, as always, feeling as if he had been assaulted by a friendly and affectionate hurricane. 

Over dinner, he laid all honestly before her. Well, perhaps not all. The lovely widow, betrayed by George, the three sisters, the little daughter. No need to mention that he’d played fast and loose himself with the lady’s virtue. Just that he needed to rehabilitate her. Just that he wanted to marry her and she had refused. 

“She has refused you, Rede?” Her Grace was surprised. “But you are handsome, wealthy and charming. And rich. What does she object to?” 

Rede hadn’t been able to work it out, either. “I know she cares for me, Aunt Eleanor. But she keeps saying no. The first time—to be honest, the first time I made a disaster of it. I told her… I gave her the impression that I only wanted her for a wife because she was too virtuous to be my mistress.” 

Her Grace gave a peal of laughter. “Oh Rede, you didn’t.” 

“I’m afraid I did. But the second time I assured her I wanted her for my Countess.” 

“And you told her you loved her,” the Duchess stated. 

“No. Not exactly. I told her I wanted to keep her safe. I told her I wanted to protect her.” 

“I see. And I suppose you think if you bring her into society, she will consent to marry you?” 

“I don’t know, aunt. I only know that she deserves a better life than stuck in a worker’s cottage in the back of nowhere working as a teacher so she can one day give her sister a decent life. If she won’t have me… Well, she has been to see a lawyer about a small inheritance she has coming. I thought perhaps I could make it a bit bigger. Without her knowing.” 

“You do love her,” said the Duchess, with great satisfaction. 

“Yes, but… Yes.” There were no buts. He loved her. At least he hadn’t told her so. He had no taste for laying his heart on the floor for her to walk on. 

“You need to tell her so.” The Duchess echoed and denied his thinking, all in one short sentence. “She is probably afraid you are marrying her out of a misplaced sense of duty. You are far too responsible, Rede.” 

“No, she couldn’t think that. Could she?” 

“Who knows? Well, I will do it. I cannot have my niece-in-law having her babies in scandal. I take it there is the possibility of a baby? You would not be feeling so guilty otherwise.” 

Rede was without a response for a long moment, finally huffing a laugh. “Aunt Eleanor, a hundred years ago you would have burnt as a witch,” he told her. 

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Tea with Sally

Today’s post is an excerpt from Never Kiss a Toad, a novel I’m writing with Mariana Gabrielle. Mari and I are posting it one chapter at a time on Wattpad, and this scene comes eleven chapters in.

Never Kiss a Toad on my Wattpad profile

Never Kiss a Toad on Mari’s Wattpad profile (we’re taking it in turn to post chapters, and she has the latest.

SPOILER ALERT: This book is set thirty years after my other books that include the Duchess of Haverford. You’ll note that Her Grace has remarried, and the the Marquis of Aldridge is now Duke of Haverford, married, and the father of a debutante daughter. If you’ve read my other books, feel free to guess their respective spouses.

Sally waited for a letter, but no letter arrived. Were the mothers right? She could not forget that David had said himself that he did not wish to marry. No. Not David. Toad. He has left, and he does not love me as I love him. I will never call him David again. Toad.

Sally was out of patience with her own tears, but did not seem to be able to control them.

Then, at last, the Duchess of Winshire came, chased everyone out of the room, and folded Sally in her silken embrace.

“Tell Grandmama about it, Sarah.” Her soothing voice opened the floodgates.

“He has gone, Grandmama. Toad has gone.” The last word was a wail.

“To school in Paris, my dear. Is that such a cause for grief? He has been away to school before, and will return.”

Sally pulled back to see the duchess’s face. Did she not know? “Papa says he will not be allowed near me again. So does Uncle Wellbridge.”

“Indeed?”

Grandmama coaxed the whole story from Sally, more even than Mama or Papa knew. Sally blushed to admit she had hoped to bind Toad to her, but somehow she told her grandmother nearly everything. Not exactly what Toad had done. Not that. But everything else.

The telling seemed to exhaust the tears. At the end, she waited patiently for Grandmama’s verdict, her heart calm for the first time since that night.

“Hmm,” Grandmama said. “It is not to be denied, dear Sally, that you have been very foolish. Young Abersham, too. As have all in this sorry situation, even your Mama and Aunt Bella; my son and Wellbridge perhaps most of all. Now, what to do?”

“Will you help us, Grandmama? Will you help us to marry?”

Grandmama patted her hand. “One day, my dear, when you and Abersham have both matured a bit, if you still want it. Not yet. You both have some growing up to do. But one day.”

Sally shook her head. “But I told you. Papa says he will choose a husband for me. I would rather die, Grandmama.”

Grandmama gave her a hug. “Do not worry, child. I will talk to Haverford about this ridiculous notion of marrying you against your will. And you barely out of the schoolroom. No. There shall be no forced marriage. Now. Wash your face, my dear, while I go and talk to your mother.”

Several years ago, Papa had installed a heating system, such as those used in factories where cold fingers might lead to mistakes that damaged the work. A series of brick stoves in the basement heated air that passed up through ducts into the rooms above. Sally had quickly realised that the duct feeding hot air into her sitting room ran past her mother’s private parlour on the floor below. If she lay on the floor next to the opening with the damper fully open, she could hear all that was said.

“I hope Mother Winshire can talk some sense into the child.” That was Aunt Bella.

“Heaven knows she will not listen to me or Anthony.” Mama, heaving a sigh.

“Ah. Bella. I am glad to find you with Cherry.” Grandmama had arrived. “I can say this once, and to both of you.” Last time Sally had heard that tone, she and Toad had just broken a vase in the drawing room at Wind’s Gate, after stealing Uncle Sutton’s fencing foils for a practice match while they thought the adults otherwise occupied.

“I am deeply disappointed in you both. My granddaughter is upstairs fading away because she misses her dear friend, and that sweet boy of yours is in Paris, undoubtedly throwing himself into every dissipation the city can offer because he misses her.”

Sally’s brow creased as she thought about that. She had been trying not to think of what Toad might be doing with other women. Because he missed her? That reason had not occurred to her.

The senior duchess continued. “I blame the two of you very much for allowing things to come to this pass. No, Bella, you will have your opportunity to speak, but you shall not interrupt. That the two fathers behaved like idiots goes without saying. Men can be fools when they are upset. But really, Cherry? Bella? Split them entirely? Refuse them any contact or any hope? Do you want them to imagine themselves star-crossed lovers, united against a cruel world? For undoubtedly, that is what you have achieved.”

Sally, her ear against the vent, could not easily nod, but Grandmama was right. She and Toad were alone and without allies. She heaved a sigh. It was so very sad.

“And as for this threat from my son to choose a husband for Sally, it is intolerable. You should have put a stop to it, Cherry, and since you have not, I will. To hand Sally off to another man when her heart is fixed on Abersham? Ridiculous.”

Cherry’s voice was more uncertain than Sally had heard it. “I have told Anthony so, Mother. He is concerned that Sally will behave with another man as she did—”

“I trust you told him he should be ashamed of himself. Thinking such things of his own daughter. She loves Abersham, of course, or she would never have invited such liberties as he would take.”

“He should not have taken any liberties,” Aunt Bella insisted. “I am ashamed of him.”

“He loves her. Loves her enough, I gather, to leave her a maid. Would you tell me Wellbridge took no liberties with you, Bella? Or Haverford with you, Cherry?”

“They are barely more than children, Eleanor,” Aunt Bella protested. “It is not the same thing.”

“I was fifteen when I fell in love with Winshire,” Grandmama said, her voice going soft with memory, “and seventeen—just Sally’s age—when my father and his conspired to exile him overseas and marry me to Haverford’s father.” Her tone sharpened. “I shall not see my granddaughter suffer as I did.”

“Should we have let them marry, then, as they demanded?” Mama protested. “Mother, they are not—

“No, no. I agree they are not ready to wed. Either of them. But to leave them without hope? That is not acceptable, my dears. Let them lead their separate lives for a while: Abersham at his studies, Sally in Society making her debut. Let them learn a little, grow a little. And if they are still of the same mind in a few years? If their feelings have not changed? Well. It is the match you always wanted, you cannot deny it.”

A few years. Sally would have fought that two weeks ago, but now it felt like a gift.

“Where is my son? I have a scold for him, too.”

“He is in his study with Wellbridge,” Mama said.

“Excellent. Come, ladies, we shall present a united front, bring these stubborn men into line, and then discuss what is best to be done.”

The room below fell silent as its occupants left, and Sally sat up from her uncomfortable position by the wainscoting. Hope. She could feel it taking root, spreading peace. She would not change, she was certain. She could not be so sure of Toad. David.

But if she were just allowed the right to refuse her suitors, there was hope.

 

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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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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.

Website & Books: http://www.SherryEwing.com

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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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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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Tea with Alexandra

When Alex Graham enters the Duchess of Haverford’s elegant salon, she can’t quite contain an admiring gasp. “It’s so…modern,” she says, taking in the plush chairs, the elegant drapes.

Her Grace: Why, thank you my dear. I just had it redecorated—after all, one must keep up with the times, must one not?

Alex (sitting down tentatively on one of the chairs): I suppose that depends on what times, my lady.

Her Grace: Your Grace, actually. But you may call me Eleanor if you wish, and I, in return shall call you Alexandra.

Alex: No one calls me Alexandra—it’s Alex. (She extends her hand. The duchess looks at it with raised brows. Alex drops her hand) No handshakes?

Her Grace: No. (She smiles) Now, I hear you have a hankering for tea. (She gestures at the cups and the pot) As I understand it, tea is a rare commodity in your time.

Alex: Once again, depends on what time.

Her Grace: Ah, yes: you’re the time traveller, aren’t you?

Alex: Most reluctantly. (She studies her surroundings) Imagine if one day you were thrown out of this comfortable existence and sent flying through time to land in the 17th century. That wouldn’t be much fun, would it?

Her Grace: I’d say it depends on where I landed—and with whom. (She winks and hands Alex a cup)

Alex (takes a moment to inhale the aroma of her tea, looking quite blissful while doing so): I landed on a moor in 17th century Scotland. (She shivers) Just like that, all modern amenities were gone. No cars, no washing machines, no hot showers…

Her Grace: Mmm, that does sound awful—even if I have no idea what a car is, and I have laundry maids to do the washing. (Sips at her tea) Was there no compensation at all?

Alex (fidgets): Well, there was Matthew. (Laughs) You know, the first time I saw him, I thought he might be some sort of hermit, a wacko determined to live outside the confines of modern society.

Her Grace: A wacko?

Alex: Someone who’s slightly insane.

Her Grace: Ah. And was he a…wacko?

Alex: No. (She touches the ring she is wearing) No, he was my destiny, my fate—however pathetic that might sound.

Her Grace: It doesn’t sound pathetic to me. But it must have been difficult, adapting to a new life and a new man.

Alex: Tell me about it. It didn’t exactly help when Matthew was abducted and sold as a slave on a Virginia plantation.

Her Grace: Oh, my! How awful!

Alex: Or when he almost got himself killed trying to save his brethren in faith from deportation and death. (She glances at the duchess) Matthew’s sort of devout—well, a very devout Presbyterian, proud member of the Scottish Kirk and all that. (She grins) It causes a lot of arguments between us: he thinks I’m borderline heathen, I consider him far too rigid at times.

Her Grace: I find men of convictions to be rather attractive.

Alex: So do I—until those convictions threatened me and our children. (She sighs, picking at the heavy fabric of her woollen skirts) Ultimately, we were forced to emigrate, which is how we ended up in Maryland.

Her Grace: Is it a nice place?

Alex: If you’re into woods, yes. Neither St Mary’s City or Providence qualify as major must-sees in my book. Small, colonial towns—one with a predominantly Catholic population, the other chockfull of dour Puritans. (She chuckles) Matthew doesn’t like it when I call him dour.

Her Grace: One wonders why.

Matthew: Mayhap because I’m not? (He strides into the room, all six feet and three of him. In breeches and boots, no coat over his shirt, he’s quite the sight) Your Grace. (He bows)

Her Grace: A man with manners—how lovely.

Alex (somewhat sarcastically): Manners and convictions—what else can one ask for?

Her Grace: A fortune, perhaps?

Matthew: No fortune, Your Grace. (He turns to look at his wife) Undying devotion, perhaps? (He takes Alex’s hand and lifts it to his mouth. She blushes, making him smile as he kisses her digits)

Her Grace:  How sweet! Now, where can one read about all this?

Alex: Well, Anna Belfrage has written eight books about our undying, time-transcending love and our various adventures. Mind you, at times I do feel she makes things excessively exciting. (She clasps Matthew’s hand) She puts us through so much loss, so much heartbreak, and sometimes… (Her voice breaks)

Matthew: Shush, lass. (His long mouth curves into the softest of smiles) As long as we have each other, we can handle whatever life—and Anna—throws our way.

Alex (wiping her eyes): Yeah, I guess we can.

Her Grace: Some more tea, my dear? (She pats Alex’s hand) I find it has such a soothing effect. (Addresses Matthew) What are the names of these books?

Matthew: Well, the first one is called A Rip in the Veil, and collectively they’re called The Graham Saga (chuckles) No points to Anna for dazzling creativity there.

Her Grace: Maybe not—but I see the books are available on…Amazon, is it?

Matthew: Aye, they are. They’re also available on other online—odd word, isn’t it?—bookstores. Here’s the blurb—yet another odd word, that—for the first book:

On a muggy August day in 2002 Alex Lind disappears without a trace. On an equally stifling August day in 1658, Matthew Graham finds her on an empty Scottish moor.  Life will never be the same for Alex – or for Matthew.

Due to a series of rare occurrences, Alexandra Lind is thrown three centuries backwards in time. She lands at the feet of Matthew Graham – an escaped convict making his way home to Scotland in this the year of our Lord, 1658.

Matthew doesn’t quite know what to make of this concussed and injured woman who has seemingly fallen from the skies- what is she, a witch?

Alex gawks at this tall, gaunt man with hazel eyes, dressed in what to her mostly looks like rags. At first she thinks he might be some sort of hermit, an oddball, but she quickly realises the odd one out is she, not he.

Catapulted from a life of modern comfort, Alex grapples with this new existence, further complicated by the dawning realization that someone from her time has followed her here – and not exactly to extend a helping hand.

Potential compensation for this brutal shift in fate comes in the shape of Matthew – a man she should never have met, not when she was born three centuries after him. But for all that Matthew quickly proves himself a willing and most capable protector he comes with baggage of his own, and on occasion it seems his past will see him killed. At times Alex finds it all excessively exciting, longing for the structured life she used to have.

How will she ever get back? And more importantly, does she want to?

Her Grace: Utterly Intriguing! Well, my dears, it has been a pleasure to meet you both, but I fear I must prepare for my evening event. (She stands. Matthew immediately follows suit, bowing yet again)

Matthew: The pleasure is ours, Your Grace. (He lifts her hand, kisses it)

Her Grace: Such a charmer! (She smiles and bats her eyelashes) I must congratulate Anna on your creation. For a 17th century devout Presbyterian, you carry yourself well in the salons of the rich and powerful.

Alex (stands up as well): Yes, my man is quite something, isn’t he? (Major emphasis on the possessive pronoun)

And there, dear readers, we leave the salon. But before we go, here’s some additional information about the author:

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing.

Presently, Anna is hard at work with The King’s Greatest Enemy, a series set in the 1320s featuring Adam de Guirande, his wife Kit, and their adventures and misfortunes in connection with Roger Mortimer’s rise to power.

When Anna is not stuck in the 14th century, chances are she’ll be visiting in the 17th century, more specifically with Alex and Matthew Graham, the protagonists of the acclaimed The Graham Saga. This series is the story of two people who should never have met – not when she was born three centuries after him. A ninth instalment is on its way, despite Anna having thought eight books were enough. Turns out her 17th century dreamboat and his time travelling wife didn’t agree…

Anna can be found on her website, on Facebook and on her blog. Or on twitter and Amazon.

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