Tea with Lady Gwendolyn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I understand you had given your consent.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And– and leave my family?”

The duchess’s gaze was compassionate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing But Time: A Family of Worth, Book One

They will risk everything for their forbidden love…

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Edmond─”

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

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

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

Meet Sherry Ewing

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

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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/

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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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Tea with Xavier

Her Grace of Haverford smiled at the strangely-dressed young man who has suddenly materialised in her private sitting room.

¿Como? ¿Donde estoy?” he said, staring around himself. “I was just locked in a gaol on a ship, en route to New Zealand, and…???”

Her Grace nodded. Such things often happen on a Monday, and the duchess has learned to take them in her stride. “Then I daresay you would like a cup of tea. Or perhaps coffee?” She repressed the urge to sniff. He didn’t smell too fresh, but undoubtedly the chair cushions could be cleaned.

The young man blinked. “Dios mío, but I would die for a coffee,” he said, grateful tears filling his eyes. “I wondered if I’d ever have any again…or if I’d get out of that gaol stateroom alive”

“I am Eleanor Haverford, and you are temporarily in 1811, in England. I do not know how it works, señor, but you will be here long enough for some refreshments, so please, make the most of the opportunity.”

He stared now, then remembered his manners. “Your Grace,” he bowed over her hand. “My Aleksandra told me of you,” he shook his head, “and of your wondrous mansion, and of ‘taking tea’ with you. I’m so pleased to be here…much better than where I was. So to what do I owe this,” he gazed over the spread on the table before him, “unexpected pleasure?”

“I am always At Home on a Monday, my dear. I seldom know who to expect or where or when they will come from, but someone always arrives. It is most fascinating. And some are even hungrier than you!” (And less fragrant, she thought, and did not say.)

“That is hard to believe,” he said, as he stayed his hand from reaching for the little cakes.

“Please, help yourself,” the duchess pours him a coffee and hands him a place. “I hope and trust the food will remain with you on your return, but even if it does not, you will have had the flavour.”

“I apologise for the state of my clothing, I’ve been on a ship for nearly three months. And I’m sure,” he gave her a twisted grin, “that I smell atrocious.”

“It is of no matter. You are Xavier, of course! How is dear Aleksandra?”

Xavier bit his lip. “I was hoping you could tell me. If you can pull me into the past, can you tell the future? I’ve just left 1863.”

An elegant shrug of one tiny shoulder. “I do not control who visits or how, my dear. I am so sorry. You and she are not together then?”

“If together means being together somewhere in the Pacific on the same barque, headed for New Zealand, yes, we are. Unfortunately, the scoundrel of a first mate has likely killed the captain and locked me in the brig for something I didn’t do. I worry about that madman Brockhurst out there, with my wife.”

“Oh dear! But your wife is a very resourceful woman. I expect she has plans of her own.”

“She is fantastic with her shashka, but even she can be overcome by a stronger man or two…especially if they’re armed with laudanum, as well as whatever else they had to hand.”

“You are now many years in her past, my dear,” the duchess said, topping up her coffee. “If I understand how this works, you will be returned to the time you left. Aleksandra will use her wits, and you must trust her. Tell me, what are you doing on a ship? Have you left California for good?”

“We’re headed for a new life in the peaceful country of New Zealand.” Xavier took another sip, and helped himself to one of the little pies from the plate she put before him, before continuing, “My newspaper friend Gustavus von Tempsky says New Zealand is a wonderful place to start a new life.”

The duchess was fascinated. “I know little of New Zealand, except that a savage chieftain from there visited the Court several years ago.”

“We’re heading to meet von Tempsky in the town of Coromandel, where he’s offered us a share in his gold mine. He says the natives of the place, the Maori, and the settlers live in peace and harmony.”

“A town! Things must have changed in the last fifty years! Are there many towns in New Zealand?”

“Ah, yes, there are, and the missionaries have apparently been there since the 30’s. Apparently, the Maori have wonderful crops and farms… it is said they even supply most of the wheat for the settlements in Australia, on their own ships!”

Her Grace leaned forward, her eyes shining. “It will be very different to my England or your California. How exciting for you and your family.”

“It will,” Xavier agreed. “It is meant to be so very green!”

The duchess passed the plates of sweet cakes, each individually iced and topped with a candied flower. Xavier took one.

“Take another,” the duchess recommended. “My chef purchases them from M. Fournier’s , and he makes the finest in London.”

Xavier grinned and put too more on his plate. “Oh, thank you! I’ve not seen a petit four since my graduation from high school in San Francisco!”

He took the first tiny cake in a bite and continued, “So our new life will be wonderful. Once we find von Tempsky, we’ll settle in and have the quiet life we’ve both wanted, which seems to have escaped us in the past, and start a family…” silence…”again,” he adds, in a whisper.

The duchess patted his hand. “You will, I am certain, overcome your challenges and find the happiness you seek. You and Aleksandra deserve it.”

“Thank you. I can only hope you are right.” He stared pensively at his hands.

Her Grace broke the silence. “And how will you and Aleksandra support yourselves in New Zealand?”

“We have adequate funds to support ourselves.” Xavier grinned, suddenly, and added “and we will, of course, strike it rich in the Coromandel mine, like every other miner.”

“Of course!” The duchess returned his grin, then added, her eyes twinkly, “My son would say that the best way to become rich in a gold rush is to sell shovels.”

“Ah, an enterprising son you must have. My mother would have said the same.”

At this description of the Marquis of Aldridge, the duchess laughed aloud. “Enterprising. Yes, some might describe him so. Have some more to eat, Xavier. I am delighted to see your excellent appetite.”

Xavier filled his plate again. “Thank you, Your Grace. It’s been a while since I’ve had anything but hardtack and stale water.”

A SEA OF GREEN UNFOLDING, BOOK THREE IN THE LONG TRAILS SERIES, FOLLOWING THE HILLS OF GOLD UNCHANGING.

In the multiply-awarded A Long Trail Rolling, Lizzi Tremayne told the story of Aleksandra Lekarski, a trapper’s daughter who finds herself alone—and running to prevent her father’s killer from discovering their family secret. The tale continues in The Hills of Gold Unchanging

The third story, A Sea of Green Unfolding,picks up Aleksandra and Xavier in the San Francisco Bay Area.

1862, Rancho de las Pulgas, San Francisco Bay Tragedy strikes in Aleksandra and Xavier’s newly-found paradise on their California Rancho. Their friend, von Tempsky, invites them on a journey to adventure and a new life in peaceful New Zealand, but change is in the wind. They reach Aotearoa, only to discover the place is a turbulent wilderness—where the land wars between the European settlers and the local Māori have only just begun.

This is the third novel in the series of historical romantic suspense sagas following Aleksandra and Xavier from the wilderness of 1860 Utah to Colonial New Zealand.

With Book One, A Long Trail Rolling, Lizzi Tremayne was: Finalist 2013 RWNZ Great Beginnings; Winner 2014 RWNZ Pacific Hearts Award; Winner 2015 RWNZ Koru Award for Best First Novel plus third in Koru Long Novel section; and finalist in the 2015 Best Indie Book Award.

In the story, tragedy strikes in Aleksandra and Xavier’s newly-found paradise on their California Rancho de las Pulgas. Von Tempsky invites them on a journey to a new life in peaceful New Zealand, but change is in the wind. When they reach Aotearoa, they disembark into a turbulent wilderness—where the wars between the European settlers and the local Māori have only just begun. It will be released in May 2017 and is available for preorder on the regular sites.

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Tea with Sarahjane and Felix

When Sarahjane Collias and Felix Gryffith step through the door from the late nineteenth century, they are not completely surprised to find themselves greeted by a mature lady dressed in the height of Regency fashion. After all, the invitation that requested their company for tea was dated 1810, and bore the crest and signature of Eleanor, Duchess of Haverford.

Eleanor Haverford: Welcome, my dears! Won’t you come in? The tea is ready and I’ve been so looking forward to seeing you!

Felix: You’re too kind, Madame.

Sarahjane: We’ve looked forward to this afternoon for a while.

Eleanor Haverford: Now then, I hear you two have some interesting pastimes. Sarahjane Collias is a—now what was the word? Photographer, I believe.

Sarahjane: Painter. Although, I must admit, the new technology does intrigue me.

Eleanor Haverford: Ah yes, painter. My apologies, Miss Collias. And you, Mr. Gryffith?

Felix: Felix, please.

Eleanor Haverford: Yes, Felix. You are… involved with the steam power?

Felix: Electrical lights, yes.

Eleanor Haverford: Not steam power?

Felix: No, not exactly. Electrical power is the wave of the future, madame.

Eleanor Haverford: Future… Oh, yes. You come from far in my future, do you not? And you have a queen? One not born yet, I am told.

Sarahjane: 1888, yes. And Queen  [Sarahjane sniffs] Dear, don’t make our hostess’s head explode so soon with your technical jargon. She won’t be hearing about such things for another 60 years or so.

Felix [blinking]: How else should I answer her question?

Sarahjane [laying a hand on his]: Succinctly, Your Grace, he works with technology too. Much more deeply than I, I must admit.

Eleanor Haverford: I see… Well maybe we will bring that up a little later. Tell me something that won’t ‘make my head explode’. Where did you two meet? The late nineteenth century! I must say, I can’t begin to imagine. Did your father arrange your marriage?

Felix: Sarahjane’s? By God, no. He’d rather roast me.

Sarahjane: We were friends long ago, Felix and I. But we had a bit of a falling out.

Felix: That’s putting it nicely.

Eleanor Haverford: Oh?

Felix: We had such a “falling out” that she left not only London, but Britain altogether.

Eleanor Haverford: Did you?

[Sarahjane nods]

Sarahjane: Felix, really! Did you have to bring that up?

Felix [frowning]:  Sarahjane spent the time studying in Italy, you see.

Eleanor Haverford: My goodness!

Sarahjane [returning the frown]: While he went off to god knows where.

Felix: Russia. I had a job offer there, you see.

Eleanor Haverford: A long way away from her. Did you court her via post, then?

Sarahjane: No. We met up again, last year.

Felix: Via Lady Morville.

Eleanor Haverford: Ah, yes, I’ve heard of her. Quite the philanthropist. Fine woman.

Felix: She is.

Sarahjane [blushing]: I daresay. Stubborn too. I’d say she threw us together on purpose, if I didn’t know better. Felix was working for her, at the time. How was I to know she’d send him to York on business? Right to Mr. Keane’s house. My then-tutor.

Eleanor Haverford [covering a laugh with her hand]: She didn’t!

Sarahjane: Alas, it’s true.

Felix: Good thing, too. Where would you be if she hadn’t?

Sarahjane [picking up her tea]: I shudder to think. Do you know Keane, my lady?

Eleanor Haverford: No, my dear, I do not.

Felix: Believe me, you’re better off not knowing him.

Sarahjane: Felix is right, though I still think his paintings are divine.

Felix: Never mind, that. He’s a devil, who tried to force you to marry into his family.

Eleanor Haverford: Oh my! He didn’t!

Eleanor Haverford: Yes, marry his brother, to be more precise. The Keane brothers turned out to be dreadful. If it wasn’t for Felix, I don’t know where I’d be.

Eleanor Haverford: Dear me. That is just the sort of incident our gossip columnists delight in. I hope you did not suffer unfortunate coverage in the paper.

Felix [patting Sarahjane’s hand]: Doesn’t matter. We’re heading back to North Carolina tonight.

Sarahjane: He has work to do. He has to figure out how to keep storms from blowing out his mechanisms.

Eleanor Haverford: Sounds intriguing!

Felix [picking up his tea]: Damnable things, is what they are.

Sarahjane: Don’t listen to him. He already onto an idea to help that, I daresay.

Felix: [stares]

Sarahjane: Don’t play innocent, dear.

Eleanor Haverford: You don’t think you’ll succeed?

Felix: Oh, I will. One day the whole earth will be lit by electricity.

Duchess: Sounds exciting! And I understand you married in the summer, so there was a bright side to all your trouble. I must say, it has been a pleasure to meet with you both. Thank you so much for accepting my invitation to tea. Before you go, I hear a talented young lady wrote your story down…in a book that’s currently available at a bookshop called Amazon. Can you tell me something about it?

Sarahjane [huffs]: Oh, that’s right. Ms. Juli D. Revezzo wouldn’t be happy with me if I forgot to mention that. She named it…some dreadful thing. What was it, dear?

Felix: I think it was House of Dark Envy. Appropriate, since Keane was….

Sarahjane: Yes, I know. The story, House of Dark Envy, goes a bit like this:

Surely, lightning can’t strike twice…

1888: When Sarahjane attends Lady Morville’s costume party, she never expects to learn her old beau Felix Gryffith is under the illustrious woman’s patronage and stands on the cusp of making a world-changing discovery. Felix, whose lies disgraced her in the eyes of the London elite by labeling her a flirt.

Felix’s love for Sarahjane has never wavered, despite the scandal that forced them apart. He’s desperate to tell her the truth, if he can convince her to listen.

Fate lurked in the shadows that night, years ago. Has it returned to grant Sarahjane and Felix their wishes, or terrorize them?

House of Dark Envy is available in ebook and paperback at: https://www.amazon.com/House-Dark-Envy-Juli-Revezzo-ebook/dp/B06WWM8T8R/

Sarahjane: So that’s our story. Thanks for inviting us here, Your Grace.

Felix: Yes, indeed. It’s been a pleasure, dear lady. *kisses Duchess’ hand* And if you or your friends would like to find out more about fr—er, author, you’re welcome to visit her lovely home websites:

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Juli-D.-Revezzo/e/B008AHVTLO/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Homepage: https://www.julidrevezzo.com/

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

Good Reads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5782712.Juli_D_Revezzo

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/111476709039805267272/posts

Instagram: http://instagram.com/julidrevezzo

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jewelsraven/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/julidrevezzo

Sign up for her newsletter at: http://bit.ly/SNI5K6

Duchess: Before I go, dear readers, if you’re curious about Juli, here’s what Sarahjane told me about her:

Juli D. Revezzo loves fantasy and Celtic mythology and writing stories with all kinds of fantastical elements. She is the author of the historical romances, House of Dark Envy, Watchmaker’s Heart, and Lady of the Tarot, the Antique Magic paranormal series and Celtic Stewards Chronicles series and more. She is also a member of the Independent Author Network and the Magic Appreciation Tour.

 

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Tea with Alex

The best way to move Alex downstairs, his sister had decreed, was to press a chair into use and set a stout footman on each leg. Susan insisted he spend part of each day out of his room, and in truth he was going mad with only the same four walls, the same ceiling, to distract him from the pain and the craving for the oblivion of poppy juice. To which he would not surrender. He might be in agony, but at least he was in his right mind.

So here he was, dressed at least above the waist, ensconced on a sofa in the smaller of the two drawing rooms with a view out over the early Spring garden.

The blanket draped over his bandaged broken legs to hide them from sight and protect the modesty of the maids was the lightest Susan could find, most of its weight taken on cushions either side of the useless appendages. They would heal. Or so the doctors promised, though weeks ago they had proclaimed he was certain to die, so perhaps they were wrong again.

Susan had left him with a pile of books and a pack of cards, all within easy reach, and had promised him visitors to amuse him. Even so, he did not expect the butler’s announcement.

“Her Grace the Duchess of Haverford. The Marquis of Aldridge.”

Decades of conditioning had him attempting to rise—a poor effort that died in a white blaze of pain, and the gracious lady had seated herself and was holding his hand in a firm grip before he fought it back enough to be conscious of her again. And of her son, who was returning across the room from the brandy decanter, a glass in his hand.

“Redepenning,” he said, in greeting, handing over the drink. Alex let it burn down his throat, not waiting for it to warm. Breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth. And again.

“Don’t try to talk until you are ready, Major Redepenning,” Her Grace cautioned. “The sick bed is no place for conventional manners. Besides, Aldridge and I have come to entertain you, not make you feel worse.”

Even a serving officer (at least one from his family) knew the Duchess of Haverford entertained visitors At Home on a Monday, and surely today was a Monday?

But Her Grace answered the unasked question. “I have been anxiously waiting to see for myself how you are, and today is the first that Mrs Cunningham allowed you to have visitors. So here I am, though it is a Monday, and Aldridge swears that the world shall wobble in its orbit at my departure from practice.”

“But one would not wish to be predictable, Mama,” Aldridge teased.

Alex cracked open an eyelid and then another. The room was no longer spinning, and the brandy had helped settle his nausea. He had been wrestling with his pain for long enough that the servants had brought in a tea trolley.

“Thank you for your good wishes,” he said, his voice calm, if a little strained.

The duchess gave his hand another squeeze and released it so that she could prepare herself a cup of tea. Aldridge, Alex noted, had helped himself to the brandy.

“I can see you are in pain, and look half-starved, my dear,” Her Grace said, “so I will need to take your sister’s word that your condition has improved, and forgive her for being so protective. Now. We shall not remain long, so what do you wish from us on this first visit? Shall Aldridge give you the news? Or shall I show you what we have brought to amuse you?”

“I have war, government, and court news,” Aldridge offered, “and Mama knows more than me about what is newsworthy in Society. If you want to hear about less disreputable matters,” he slid a glance sideways at his Mama, “we will ask Her Grace to step into the next room.”

The world was carrying on without him, and Alex could not summon the energy to care. “Presents, Your Grace? You are too kind.”

“My dear Major, you were raised almost a brother to my dear nephew, you are my good friend’s son, and I have known you from the cradle. I can spoil you if I wish. Besides…” She lowered her voice, “Her Majesty has told me something of the circumstances of your injury, and I am grateful on her behalf.”

Alex grimaced. All the gratitude in the world wouldn’t give him back the use of his legs.

But the duchess intended him to make the most of sitting in one place. In the ten minutes that was all she allowed herself, she loaded him with gifts, some purchased and others made specifically for him.

First, she had Aldridge and a footman bring in a table made with two legs so that it would fit across the sofa, and informed him that one with higher legs had been delivered to his bedroom.

“Now that you can sit up, Major Redepenning, you will find this surface more stable than a tray for taking meals, keeping up with your correspondence, playing cards, or whatever pleases you.”

A long procession of packages followed: books, a games board marked for backgammon on one side and chess on the other, the pieces in a matching box, several packs of cards, note paper, an inkwell that Aldridge assured him was non-spill.

So many, each showing the giver’s awareness of his interests and his limited abilities, but when Alex roused himself to express his gratitude, the duchess claimed that Aldridge had been her deputy in choosing what to bring, and Aldridge brushed off his thanks with a challenge to a game of backgammon “In a day or too, when you are more the thing.”

By the time Susan returned from whatever errand had taken her out, Alex had slept for a restless half hour and was laying out a solitaire game of patience on his new table. He greeted her with a smile, and she exclaimed with delight, “You are feeling better, Alex. I hoped you would.”

And he was, he discovered. The pain was no less, the legs no more co-operative, but the visit had done him good, reminding him that he had friends who loved him, and that the wide world still waited on the other side of this long stretch in the sickroom. He would get better. He vowed it. He owed it, after all, to the doctors, having confounded their expectations once.

This scene takes place some time in March 1807. Readers of Farewell to Kindness will see Alex, a secondary character in that book, still recovering but able to get around on crutches and in an invalid chair. My forthcoming novel, A Raging Madness (published 9 May 2017), begins in October of that same year, as does A Baron for Becky. Alex is the hero of A Raging Madness, and Aldridge could have been the hero of A Baron for Becky, but chose to please his family rather than follow his heart. Poor Aldridge.

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Tea with Ruth

Ruth Henwood had taken tea with the Duchess of Haverford several times, and each time had felt out of place; a pit pony in a herd of thoroughbreds; no, a metal kitchen mug somehow displaced in among the exquisite oriental tea cups.

Today was a thousand times worse. On every previous occasion, she had trailed along as companion to Lady Chirbury or one of her sisters, to be included in the conversation not because she belonged, but because the ladies she worked for loved her and because the duchess was kind. Today, she was alone, and here by personal invitation.

She had reread the perfumed note several times; checked that the inscribed name was indeed her own; traced the signature with one mystified finger. Eleanor Haverford. What did Her Grace want?

Had she somehow discovered Ruth’s less than stellar origins? She had been born into the lower reaches of gentry as her improvident father and foolish mother made the final fall into poverty, orphaned before she was twelve, and educated only through the mercy of a charity school and a sponsor with a kindness for her mother. At her very first job as a governess, she had failed to protect herself or her charges. Somehow, years later, she found herself treated as an extra sister by the ladies of an earl. Surely they would stand up for her if the duchess was inclined to expose her to Society as the fraud she was?

She shifted uncomfortably then stilled her limbs. A lady did not fidget. A lady sat with her hands folded neatly in her lap and her face composed and calm, not matter how much turmoil disturbed her mind and her heart.

“Miss Henwood? Her Grace will see you now.” Ruth rose and followed the maid from the little room where she had been deposited to await the duchess’s pleasure. No. That was a sour thought. She had arrived early, and had waited not above ten minutes, for all it felt like hours.

The duchess was waiting an elegant room Ruth had seen before, but it seemed somehow larger and richer with only the two of them present, for the maid simply opened the door for Ruth and withdrew.

At the duchess’s invitation to take a seat, Ruth realised she had been frozen just inside the room. Only years of practice at hiding her thoughts allowed her to cross to the indicated chair; to keep up her side of a harmless conversation about the weather and Ruth’s beverage preferences.

What was the duchess up to? Even if Ruth dared put that question to the exalted lady, she would not receive an answer until Her Grace was good and ready. The duchess was known both for her near omnipotent knowledge about those who were broadly called Society, and her ability to keep her own council. She would speak if and when she was ready, and not before.

Ruth finished her tea and accepted a second cup, ate one of the dainty savoury tarts, discussed the dangers and benefits of the new gas lighting, and agreed that the fashion for square necklines would be very flattering to Kitty, Lady Chirbury’s sister.

Indeed, several of the gowns ordered for Kitty’s coming Season had that neckline. Ruth managed not to frown; the duchess herself was sponsoring Kitty at the Queen’s first Drawing Room in the new year, with her debutante ball to follow right here at Haverford House. The social whirl Kitty had so eagerly anticipated for several years was almost upon them, but last summer’s experiences had sucked the joy from her.

“Yes; I am very pleased with our purchases so far,” the duchess commented. “I am not so pleased, however, with what I observe of our dear Kitty.” She held up a hand as if to stop Ruth from commenting. “She jumps at shadows, and I see shadows in her eyes, Miss Henwood. Something has happened. She manages to hide it very well, especially when her sister is watching, but she has consented to this Season to please Lady Chirbury and not because she wishes for it.”

That was true. Kitty had even cited Anne’s desire to give her a Season when Ruth had suggested they could postpone if Kitty felt unready.

“You must see that I need to know, so that I can protect and support her, Miss Henwood. I cannot ask Kitty herself; not when all I have is guesses and rumours. Nor will I ask Lady Chirbury, given her condition. So I depend on you. What happened to my protegée? And what did Lord Selby have to do with it?”

Ruth is a secondary character in Farewell to Kindness, and a witness to at least one of the experiences that changed Kitty from a carefree and confident young woman to one who is papering over the cracks in her composure by sheer force of will. Kitty will have her turn as heroine later in The Golden Redepenning series, in The Flavour of Our Deeds.

Also see Tea with Anne, Tea with Kitty, and Tea with Rede.

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Tea with Kitty

Her Grace paused for a moment in the doorway of the private sitting room where today’s guest was waiting. Kitty’s attention was currently caught by something outside the window, so Eleanor could examine her without embarrassing the young woman. Her popularity on the social rounds was not unexpected. She had wealth, youth, good looks, intelligence and excellent manners. Her beautiful voice charmed all who heard her sing. And the value of Eleanor’s sponsorship could not be discounted.

But something was wrong. She was too thin. Her eyes, when she thought herself unobserved, hinted at shadowed horrors. Eleanor’s servants reported that she kept a lamp burning in her room all night, and was besieged by nightmares even so. She flinched when touched unexpectedly, had to steel herself to accept the arm of gentlemen to whom she had just been introduced, and refused any but the most decorous of round and line dance.

Eleanor was determined to get to the bottom of it, for she could not help if she didn’t understand. So today she had sent Ruth, Kitty’s constant companion,  on an errand to allow her to see the girl alone.

Eleanor knew something of what had happened in June when her nephew, the Earl of Chirbury, had brought down a criminal gang run by people with the highest connections. The whole matter had been kept very quiet, though the death of two peers made complete secrecy impossible. Eleanor did not know why it affected Kitty, or how, but her knowledge of the younger of the two malefactors meant she could make an educated guess

Best, perhaps, just to ask.

“My dear Kitty,” she said, sweeping into the room. “Come and sit beside me. You shall make the tea, my dear, and tell me what you are most enjoying about London.”

A servant had already set out the tea makings, and a selection of savouries and sweet cakes. Eleanor kept the conversation light. Kitty’s pleasures, it seemed, were solitary or with a friend: visits to the bookshops, museums, and art displays; trips to the theatre; shopping for presents to send to her sisters and her niece.

“So tell me, Kitty,” Eleanor said, once they both had a cup of fragrant oolong, “what did the Earl of Selby do to you?”

Kitty is the younger sister of Anne, the heroine in Farewell to Kindness. The story discloses her relationship with the wicked Earl of Selby and the reason for her distress. Farewell to Kindness was published in 2015 and is the first book in the Golden Redepenning series. I’m publishing the second, A Raging Madness, in May this year, and am working on the third, The Realm of Silence. Kitty’s turn comes fifth in the series, in The Flavour of Our Deeds.

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Tea with the Duchess of Haverford

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

Jude Knight

(for Eleanor Haverford)

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Tea with the Rose of Frampton

And another excerpt post, this time from A Baron for Becky. My duchess has arrived at her nephew’s house to find her son in residence, and alone with a young woman; a rather scandalous young woman! Aldridge may be enamoured, but he will not disgrace his family. Will he?

After dinner, the ladies withdrew to the great parlour, leaving the two men to the port.

“I am travelling in the morning, so will go up to bed,” the duchess announced. “Mrs Darling, perhaps you would give me a few moments of your time?”

“Be nice, aunt,” warned Lady Chirbury, making Rose even more nervous. The duchess gave an enigmatic smile and led the way upstairs.

“Leave us, dear,” she said to the maid who was standing ready by the bed. “I shall ring when I want you.” She took a chair by the fire and waved Rose to the other.

“Do not look so nervous, Mrs Darling. I do not intend to bite you.”

Rose blushed scarlet. Aldridge had promised to bite her, and had explained exactly where. No. She must not think of that. She sat, as commanded.

“Mrs Darling, you were raised gentry, were you not?”

Rose nodded, cautiously. Where was the duchess going with this?

“The manners, the speech, the accomplishments—they can all be taught, of course. But one who has learned them from the cradle…” Her Grace waved a hand as if to flick away counterfeits.

“The usual story, I imagine? Seduction or rape? And no father to defend your honour?”

“My father…” Rose swallowed hard to remove the lump that closed her throat at the memories. “My father was a librarian. He took the part of his employer.”

“Ah.” Her Grace nodded. “And the employer was the cause of your downfall. Or his son, perhaps?”

“His son,” Rose confirmed. His sons, in fact, but she would not say that.

“And Sarah was the…?”

“No, Your Grace. Sarah… came later.”

“Mr. Darling?”

“There was no Mr. Darling,” Rose admitted.

The maid must have added a fresh log to the fire just before they arrived. The top was still uncharred, but flames licked up from the bed of hot embers. A twig that jutted from one side suddenly flared, turned black, and shrivelled. The bottom of the log began to glow red.

The duchess spoke again, startling Rose out of her flame-induced trance.

“What do you want for your daughter, Mrs Darling?”

“A better life,” Rose said immediately, suddenly fierce. “A chance to be respectable. A life that does not depend on the whims of a man.”

“The first two may be achievable,” the duchess said, dryly. “The third is highly unlikely for any woman of any station. You expect my son to help you to these goals, I take it.”

Rose was suddenly tired of polite circling. “I was saving so that I could leave this life, start again in another place under another name. But my last protector cheated me and stole from me.

“I do what I must, Your Grace. Should I have killed myself when I was disgraced? I had no skills anyone wanted to buy. I could play the piano, a little; sew, but others were faster and better; paint, but indifferently; parse a Latin sentence, but of what use was that in my circumstances? Should I have starved in the gutter where they threw me?

“Well, I was not given that choice. Those who took me from the gutter knew precisely what I had that others would pay for. As soon as I could, I began selling it for myself, and I. Will. Not. Be. Ashamed.”

Her vehemence did not ruffle the duchess’s calm. “We all do what we must, my dear. I am not judging you. Men have the power in this world, and women of the gentry are raised to depend on them for our survival. But you must know that Aldridge cannot offer marriage to a woman with your history.”

The mere thought startled a laugh out of Rose. Marriage had never crossed Aldridge’s mind. Of that she was certain. “His Lordship has offered me a two-year contract as his mistress,” she said, “with very favourable terms. If I accept, and if I save carefully, I will never need to take a protector again.”

“Two years!” The duchess arched a delicate eyebrow. “Aldridge seldom keeps a mistress beyond six months. He must be utterly besotted.”

“He has no thought of marriage,” Rose found herself reassuring the duchess. “And neither do I. I like him, but do not love him, and I think only love could make marriage tolerable.”

It was only partly true. She could easily fall in love with Aldridge… was, perhaps, beginning to do so already. That way, she knew, led to heartache, for the duchess was right. Aldridge would never offer her marriage, or even permanence.

The duchess nodded, decisively. “You are wise. I think you will be good for him, Mrs Darling—which is a ridiculous name. May I call you ‘Rose’?” Her Grace’s smile was a wonderful thing, another feature her son had inherited.

“Would you…” Rose had never imagined having such a conversation, but there was something about this woman. Nothing shocked her, and she listened. “Would you call me Becky? It is my real name.”

“Becky, then. Becky, as long as you remember that you will never be accepted as a fit mate for the future Duke of Haverford—which is a great shame, for you seem to be a fine young woman, but we must live in the world as it is—you and I shall be friends, and I shall support you and little Sarah to find the new life you seek when Aldridge is finished with you. He needs someone like you. He is not happy, poor boy.”

That squashed the nascent hope that the duchess’s sponsorship might mean she could avoid accepting Aldridge’s protection. Still, it was a good offer. Becky accepted the duchess’s outstretched hands. “Thank you, Your Grace. I will do my best to make him happy.”

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