Tea with NarrAy

Captain NarrAy Jorlan of the All People’s Liberation Army ran the words through her mind again, trying to fathom the meaning. Was this some kind of rebel code? Or imperial? Why would a duchess be inviting her to… what was it again?

“I’m sorry, Brox. I’ve been invited to what?”

“Just ‘tea,’ ma’am.'” Her adjutant showed her his screen. “See? It says it right here.”

“Just ‘tea’ and nothing else?” She squinted at the device. “You’re right. Tea is all it says.”

“Maybe ‘tea’ is code.” Broxus lowered his voice. “NarrAy, have you been spying on the Empress again?”

“No.” She set a hand against her bosom. “At least, I hope not.”

“What do you mean you hope not?” Broxus’s voice had risen to a squeak. He coughed into a fist. “Please tell me you haven’t been working for another faction.”

“Oh, of course not!” She waved away his concern. “I have enough to do, working for the rebellion. Believe me. I wouldn’t be taking on any more work.” She stood and picked up his notereader, tapped the screen. “I wonder what being invited for tea actually means.”

“Maybe it’s like tea that you drink.”

NarrAy laughed. “I doubt that.” She handed him back the device. If this was a trap she would soon know. “Tell her yes and thanks and get directions for me. Maybe she wants to offer her support. Trust me, if this has anything to do with the Imperial Armada, I’m going to know about it.”

“Yes, ma’am, but be careful. After what happened to your parents…”

She stiffened. “I don’t need reminding about that.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He stood, head lowered. “I apologize, but I worry about you.”

“I know. I appreciate it, but the Empress is not going to take me out as easily as she took them. Send the coordinates to my ship.” She picked up her gloves and drew them on. “And anyway, if it’s just drinking tea with a nice lady, how much trouble could I get into?”

By-the-book Captain NarrAy Jorlan meets playful thief Senth Antonello in At the Mercy of Her Pleasure, Kayelle Allen’s rollicking science fiction romance set in the far future. Do opposites attract? Oh, mercy! This sweet romance contains action, adventure, danger, humor, and a malfunctioning automated suitcase that wreaks havoc everywhere it goes.

Available exclusively on Amazon or in print (autographed, shipping included) from Romance Lives Forever Books.

Kayelle Allen writes Sci Fi with misbehaving robots, mythic heroes, role playing immortal gamers, and warriors who purr. She’s a US Navy veteran and has been married so long she’s tenured.
https://kayelleallen.com
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The dangerous pen

David Skinner’s ‘Terry Pratchett Tribute Graffiti’, installed at Code Street, near Brick Lane, London

I write, at least in part, as a way to explore ideas and feelings that are bothering me. Once, being bothered, unhappy, sick or grieved would send me into books written by other people. Today, in a world riven by strife and fear, at whom and abroad, I am just as likely to transmute those feelings into a world I create myself.

When I write, I see things more clearly. I can also rewrite reality to give me a better result, which can be easing to the soul. I do like happy endings.

Which is all by way of introducing a book I’ve been reading. I have been a fan of Sir Terry Pratchett’s since Strata, one of his first books. I have just been reading Raising Postal, his second to last Discworld novel.

On one level, it is the story of the coming of the railway to Discworld. On another, it continues Pratchett’s burning indictment of the stupidity of prejudice based on racism, sexism, or any other ism. And it eviscerates the mindset behind terrorism that results from such prejudice.

Here’s a typical footnote:

Scouting for trolls, dwarfs and humans was brought in shortly after the Koom Valley Accord had been signed, on the suggestion of Lord Vetinari, to allow the young of the three dominant species to meet and hopefully get along together. Naturally the young of all species, when thrown together, instead of turning against one another would join forces against the real enemy, that is to say their parents, teachers and miscellaneous authority which was so old-fashioned. And up to a point, and amazingly, it had worked and that was Ankh-Morpork, wasn’t it? Mostly, nobody cared what shape you were, although they might be very interested in how much money you had.

And here are the terrorists, recruiting:

‘Nobody has to be hurt,’ they said, and it may have been too that people would murmur, ‘After all, it’s in his own interests,’ and there were other little giveaways such as ‘It’s time for fresh blood,’ and such things as ‘We must preserve our most hallowed ordinances,’ and if you were susceptible to atmospheres, you could see that dwarfs, perfectly sensible dwarfs, dwarfs who would consider themselves dwarfs of repute and fair dealing, were nevertheless slowly betraying allegiances they had formerly undertaken with great solemnity, because the hive was buzzing and they didn’t want to be the ones that got stung. The watchwords were ‘restoring order’ and ‘going back to the basics of true dwarfishness’.

To kill innocents in the name of politics is very warped. To kill innocents in the name of God is, in my view, both warped and risky, as Pratchett points out in this brief passage:

… and in the gloom the locomotive spat live steam, instantly filling the air with a pink fog . . . The dwarf waited, unable to move, and a sombre voice said, PLEASE DO NOT PANIC. YOU ARE MERELY DEAD. The vandal stared at the skeletal figure, managed to get himself in order and said to Death, ‘Oh . . . I don’t regret it, you know. I was doing the work of Tak, who will now welcome me into paradise with open arms!’ For a person who didn’t have a larynx Death made a good try at clearing his throat. WELL, YOU CAN HOPE, BUT CONSIDERING WHAT YOU INTENDED, IF I WERE YOU I WOULD START HOPING HARDER RIGHT NOW AND, PERHAPS, VERY QUICKLY INDEED. Death continued, in tones as dry as granite, TAK MIGHT INDEED BE GENTLE. STRIVE AS YOU HAVE NEVER STRIVEN. YES, TAK MIGHT BE GENTLE, OR . . . The vandal listened to the sound of silence, the sound like a bell with, alas, no clapper, but finally the dreadful silence ended in . . . NOT. [Tak being the deity of the dwarves]

Pratchett’s great genius was in making us laugh while making us think. Rest in peace, Sir Terry.

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Inheritance for illegitimate sons

The Rightful Heir, by George Smith

Today’s Footnotes on Friday post is by Regina Jeffers. Welcome, Regina, and congratulations on the new book.

Could an illegitimate son inherit during the Regency? Or should we say could the illegitimate son inherit his father’s property, and not necessarily his peerage/title? First one must realize that there is actually a rule against perpetuity (which is a restriction saying the estate cannot be taken away from or given away by the possessor for a period beyond certain limits fixed by law) which addresses an entail lasting more than the three lives (generally the grandfather who is the holder of the entailed property, his first born son, and his first born grandson) plus twenty-one years. Keep in mind that an entail can be renewed when the original owner’s son (meaning the first-born son), as described above, becomes the grandfather, the original grandson becomes the father, and there is a new grandson.

The rule against perpetuities

The common rule against perpetuities forbids instruments (contracts, wills, and so forth) from tying up property for too long a time beyond the lives of people living at the time the instrument was written. For instance, willing property to one’s great-great-great-great grandchildren (to be held in trust for them, but not fully owned, by the intervening generations) would normally violate the rule against perpetuities. The law is applied differently or not at all, and even contravened, in various jurisdictions and circumstances. Black’s Law Dictionary defines the rule against perpetuities as “[t]he common-law rule prohibiting a grant of an estate unless the interest must vest, if at all, no later than 21 years (plus a period of gestation to cover a posthumous birth) after the death of some person alive when the interest was created.” At common law, the length of time was fixed at 21 years after the death of an identifiable person alive at the time the interest was created. This is often expressed as “lives in being plus twenty-one years.” (Wells Law Blog http://wellslawoffice.com/2011/05/remember-the-rule-against-perpetuities/)

Property and peerages followed different rules

Another point to keep in mind is that property and peerages followed different rules of inheritance, so customarily matters were set up so that the family seat went along with the title.

Property was disposed of through deeds, marriage settlements, and wills. Trusts were established to hold property for the benefit of the real owners. The rules of descent and distribution of these trusts could be set up any way one wanted-—within reason, of course. If property was disposed of by a settlement that was in force for the three lives in being + 21 years (as described above), at the end of that time it would need to be resettled by creating a new entail. That is what many did. If the property was not resettled, or dealt with in a will, it descended through PROPERTY LAWS, not by LAWS GOVERNING PEERAGES. As long as the  property went from father to son or from grandfather to grandson along with the title, all was well. However, if there suddenly was no male heir in the direct line, other provisions were established for disposing of the property. The title might go to a cousin twice removed, but the property could even go to a daughter or the offspring of a daughter. [If there was no male heir, i.e., Mr. Collins, in Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bennet’s property could have been left to his daughters or the eldest son of one of the Bennet sisters. Interesting idea…]

Male heirs were preferred only because males, especially of the gentleman class, did not want the property to go to another family. Though daughters have as much family blood as a son, when a daughter married (at least, by law up until the 1870’s) her property came under the control of her husband. Her son would belong to a different family then.

The laws of descent and distribution and inheritance of real estate are complex. It should be remembered that property and peerage have different rules of descent. The family seat can be separated from the title. Property cannot be extinct, though titles could be. Property was rarely forfeited to the Crown due to lack of heirs. Usually it was due to a criminal action.

Illegitimate sons who inherited

For example, Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford, died without legitimate issue. In 1871, his illegitimate son, Richard Wallace, inherited all his father’s unentailed estates and an extensive collection of European art, while the title and a country estate passed to a distant cousin. Later, Wallace was made a baronet [not part of Hertford’s titles] for his services during the siege of Paris, when he equipped several ambulances (using his own funds), founded the Hertford British Hospital, and spent lavish sums to bring relief to those afflicted by the clash.

Another example of the illegitimate son inheriting comes to us from Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont, who was the eldest son and heir of Sir William Wyndham and Catherine Seymour, daughter of Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset. He succeeded to the Orchard Wyndham estates as 4th baronet on his father’s death in 1740, and in 1750, he succeeded by special remainder as 7th Duke of Somerset, 1st Earl of Egremont and received his share of the Seymour inheritance, the former Percy estates, including Egremont Castle in Cumbria, Leconfield Castle in Yorkshire, and the palatial Petworth House in Sussex. Charles’ son George, the 3rd Earl of Egremont, inherited in 1763, but after the 3rd earl’s death in 1837, his son inherited all but the title due to illegitimacy. How so, you may ask?

George Francis Wyndham, 4th Earl of Egremont was the son of William Frederick Wyndham (youngest son of Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont and Frances Mary Hartford, the illegitimate daughter of Frederick Calvert, 6th Baron Baltimore. George’s father’s eldest brother, George O’Brien Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont of Petworth House, Sussex, died without legitimate male issue and so George Francis Wyndham as the male heir succeeded him as Earl of Egremont, as well as Baron Wyndham and Baron Cockermouth. Unfortunately, George Francis Wyndham did not inherit the Petworth estate or mansion, which was inherited by the 2nd Earl Egremont from the Percy family). Instead, the 3rd Earl of Egremont bequeathed that property to his natural son, Colonel George Wyndham, who was created Baron Leconfield in 1859.

Royalty often bestowed titles upon their illegitimate children. King William IV, for example, presented his illegitimate son, George Augustus Frederick FitzClarence with the title(s) 1st Earl of Munster, 1st Viscount FitzClarence, and 1st Baron Tewkesbury on 4 June 1831.

For a more modern take on the law of perpetuities, check out this piece from CBS News, dated 9 May 2011. “Millionaire’s Heirs Get Inheritance After 92 Years.” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/millionaires-heirs-get-inheritance-after-92-years/

The Earl Claims His Comfort

Introducing The Earl Claims His Comfort: Book 2 of the Twins’ Trilogy (releasing September 16, 2017, from Black Opal Books)

Hurrying home to Tegen Castle from the Continent to assume guardianship of a child not his, but one who holds his countenance, Levison Davids, Earl of Remmington, is shot and left to die upon the road leading to his manor house. The incident has Remmington chasing after a man who remains one step ahead and who claims a distinct similarity—a man who wishes to replace Remmington as the rightful earl. Rem must solve the mystery of how Frederick Troutman’s life parallels his while protecting his title, the child, and the woman he loves.

Comfort Neville has escorted Deirdre Kavanaugh from Ireland to England, in hopes that the Earl of Remmington will prove a better guardian for the girl than did the child’s father. When she discovers the earl’s body upon road backing the castle, it is she who nurses him to health. As the daughter of a minor son of an Irish baron, Comfort is impossibly removed from the earl’s sphere, but the man claims her affections. She will do anything for him, including confronting his enemies. When she is kidnapped as part of a plot for revenge against the earl, she must protect Rem’s life, while guarding her heart.

Preorder on Amazon

Excerpt:

Howard’s expression became more serious. “In the beginning, I enjoyed the novelty of the situation. When we called in at the clubs, everyone thought Troutman was you. I knew a few meals would not break your credit, and so Frederick and I considered it amusing. But soon I heard rumors of your accepting invitations to some of the ton’s finest events. I am profoundly grieved, Remmington, that my lack of forethought encouraged Troutman’s deception.”

“So this Troutman fellow learned of my directions and my habits from you?”

“I fear so,” Howard admitted. “I beg you to extend your forgiveness.”

“When we finish our conversation,” Rem instructed, “I will expect you to repeat your story to Sir Alexander.”

Howard nodded his agreement. Rem had not offered his forgiveness, but eventually he would. He learned long ago to keep Howard on a short rope.

“How long did you remain Troutman’s associate?”

“No more than a fortnight,” Howard confided. “I enjoyed his company at first, but over the first sennight his interrogation regarding your comings and goings began to wear thin. In the midst of our second week of acquaintance, Troutman said something that set my hackles on alert.”

“And that was?” Rem asked suspiciously.

A vaguely disturbing smile crossed his cousin’s features. “One day in the midst of a conversation as we reviewed new quarters for my residence, Troutman said if he were the earl, then he would see that I did not go without, and that is was a grave oversight on your part that I was to know less than I deserved. I attempted to explain how my fortune came from a yearly allowance from my revered father, and I was not your dependent, but Troutman was adamant that I was your responsibility.

“Then he said it would serve you right to lose the earldom to a stranger with ties to the title. I explained that, with my father’s poor health, many saw me as your heir presumptive for even if father first succeeded, I would soon follow. I also explained that if another had a right to claim the earldom that it would not lessen your position in Society. Parliament accepted you as Remmington, and even if another proved to be the earl, the fortune and the unentailed lands would remain with you. The claimant would have Tegen Castle and Davids Hall and little else. From what could be salvaged from those properties, your mother retains her widow’s dower.”

Rem wondered if his pretender had aspirations of unseating him as the earl. “Is there anything else that I should know?”

“Yes,” Howard said as he set his glass upon a nearby table. “The remark that caused me to curtail my association with him was when Troutman asked if I thought you were the father of Lady Kavanagh’s daughter.”

Rem lifted his brows in surprise. He wondered who spoke so intimately to Troutman of Rem’s business.

Howard continued as if Rem had not reacted to the remark. “Certainly it is possible that Troutman overheard those awful rumors, but as many in Society thought Troutman were you, I cannot imagine any fool would speak so freely to your face.”

Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep: Book 1 of the Twins’ Trilogy

Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart–and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?

Meet Regina Jeffers

With 30+ books to her credit, Regina Jeffers is an award-winning author of historical cozy mysteries, Austenesque sequels and retellings, as well as Regency era-based romantic suspense. A teacher for 40 years, Jeffers often serves as a consultant for Language Arts and Media Literacy programs. With multiple degrees, Regina has been a Time Warner Star Teacher, Columbus (OH) Teacher of the Year, and a Martha Holden Jennings Scholar and a Smithsonian presenter.

Every Woman Dreams: https://reginajeffers.wordpress.com

Website: http://www.rjeffers.com

Austen Authors: http://austenauthors.net

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Regina-Jeffers-Author-Page-141407102548455/?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/reginajeffers

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Regina-Jeffers/e/B008G0UI0I/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1479079637&sr=8-1

Also on Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.

Now for the GIVEAWAY. I have two eBook copies of The Earl Claims His Comfort available to those who comment below. The giveaway will end at midnight EDST on Tuesday, September 19.

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Spotlight on Sunday: Caroline Warfield’s 2017 Christmas novella

This beautiful cover for Caroline Warfield’s 2017 Christmas Novella comes with the announcement that the book is available for pre-order from various retailers.

Love is the best medicine and the sweetest things in life are worth the wait, especially at Christmastime in Venice for a stranded English Lady and a dedicated doctor.

About the Book

Lady Charlotte Tyree clings to one dream—to see the splendor of Rome before settling for life as the spinster sister of an earl. But now her feckless brother forces her to wait again, stranded in Venice when he falls ill, halfway to the place of her dreams. She finds the city damp, moldy, and riddled with disease.

As a physician, Salvatore Caresini well knows the danger of putrid fever. He lost his young wife to it, leaving him alone to care for their rambunctious children. He isn’t about to let the lovely English lady risk her life nursing her brother.

But Christmas is coming, that season of miracles, and with it, perhaps, lessons for two lonely people: that love heals the deepest wounds and sometimes the deepest dreams aren’t what we expect.

Pre-order it on Amazon here. ♦ Pre-order it on Smashwords here.

About the Author

Traveler, poet, librarian, technology manager—award winning and Amazon best-selling author 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 where she lets her characters lead her to adventures while she nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart. She is enamored of history, owls, and gardens (but not the actual act of gardening). She is also a regular contributor to History Imagined, a blog at the intersection of history and fiction, and (on a much lighter note) The Teatime Tattler, a blog in the shape of a fictional nineteenth century gossip rag.

Her current series, Children of Empire, set in the late Georgian/early Victorian period, focuses on three cousins, driven apart by lies and deceit, who must find their way back from the distant reaches of the empire.

Click here to find out more here.

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The inspiration for Harry

In the following post, Mari Anne Christie tells us about a giant of American journalism who is little known today.

My great-great uncle, (Percy to friends and family, P.H. to readers) was rather a giant of a man in the world of letters, and was the inspiration for Harry Wentworth, protagonist of Blind Tribute. The writing of the book began with me envisioning him sitting at his desk, writing something. (I will defend to the death my contention that he placed himself at the start of the Civil War, most likely to be allowed to write the epistolary editorials and letters that were, more than any other part of the book, all but automatic writing at first draft stage.)

P.H. Whaley’s name, and his conjoined contribution to journalism and the business world, have been muted by history, but in his time, he was an internationally known journalist—before journalists were known internationally—recognized worldwide for the contributions of the Whaley-Eaton Business Service (W-E), an international newsgathering organization based in Washington, D.C, an entrepreneurial venture started with partner Henry M. Eaton.

My “Uncle Percy,” whom I never met, but who is—not incidentally—the caricature on the cover of Blind Tribute, is the man from whom Harry inherited his profession, his Charleston ancestry, his barrier-island plantation, his beloved (but not enslaved) black nursemaid, and his writing career (to say nothing of his monogram). My favorite story about him is the origin of Harry’s initials and “the delivery [Harry] used to roar across newsrooms and offices.” In his later years, beset with emphysema, Uncle Percy was known to bellow/growl at the telephone operator when calling Washington D.C. from the first (then, the only) telephone on Edisto Island, South Carolina, in the public post office: “P as in Peter, H as in Hell, Whaley!”

Educated at Hobart and Kenyon, he was admitted to the Louisiana Bar in 1905 and the Washington DC Bar in 1922, and received an honorary doctorate from Hobart in 1932. He served as an editorial writer for the Charleston News and Courier beginning in 1909, a reporter for the Philadelphia Public Ledger from 1913 to 1914, the first Executive Editor of the Philadelphia Evening Ledger from 1914 to 1918, and Founding Publisher of W-E from 1918 to 1957. He died in 1964 at Prospect Hill Plantation on Edisto Island, South Carolina, on land owned by our family since the 1700s.

Analogous to Wentworth and Hoyt Business Service in Blind Tribute—although almost 60 years after Harry’s venture— W-E was an international wire service headquartered at the Munsey Trust Building in Washington, DC. Over the years, W-E also had offices, at various times, in London, Paris, and Tokyo. As well as private economic and market research on behalf of business clients, and multiple periodicals through the years, W-E published bimonthly Whaley-Eaton Pamphlets on matters of interest to businessmen, and the Whaley-Eaton American Letter and Foreign Letter, the first widely circulated investment newsletters in the United States. These weekly publications were precursors to, and friendly competitors with, The Kiplinger Letter, still in circulation, often wrongly cited as the “first business newsletter” in America. (Some sources claim The Kiplinger Letter has never reached the same print circulation as the Whaley-Eaton American Letter, but this is disputable, and somewhat irrelevant in the age of the internet, which has broadened Kiplinger’s reach exponentially.)

A description of Whaley-Eaton from the Papers and Proceedings of the Forty-Third Annual Meeting of The American Library Association, June 20-25, 1921, from which I extracted excerpts as descriptions of Wentworth and Hoyt, would have been a point of particular pride for both Percy Whaley and Harry Wentworth, and might describe either of their business ventures.

“Mr. Whaley states: ‘Our object is to perform a distinctly personal service for our patrons in the form of a comprehensive study of tendencies and movements as they relate to the formulation of policies.’ [Whaley-Eaton] representatives are in close touch with people of importance and thus ascertain the pulse of sentiment. They decline in every way to perform the functions of lobbyists, confining themselves entirely to information. They keep in touch with European affairs, maintain a principal office in Paris and correspondents in all of the important European capitals. They publish a series of letters describing points of interest at Washington, administrative policies and congressional activities. They also furnish their clients with a series of foreign letters based upon information supplied by their London and Continental bureaus. Much of the data contained therein is of great commercial value. The information concerning European politics is well expressed and informative. The Whaley-Eaton Service is an unusual form of news gathering which is based upon confidence and the highest type of intelligent journalism.”

Eventually, in the 1980s, as Whaley-Eaton’s readership declined, the Kiplingers bought out the last vestiges of the company and its subscriber list. According to Knight Kiplinger, current CEO of Kiplinger, Inc., his grandfather made the decision to purchase the ailing company because “he didn’t want to see the name exploited by people who would discount Whaley-Eaton’s contributions to journalism.”

Through the course of my research for Blind Tribute, I found myself in touch with Mr. Kiplinger, who put me in touch with John Eaton, a noted jazz pianist and grandson of Henry Eaton. (One of the oddities of writing books is that small coincidental things crop up that the author never intended, but have much larger significance. I did not realize until very recently—after the July 2017 publication of the book—that Henry Eaton was called Harry. To be clear, this was not the genesis of Harry Wentworth’s name. Wentworth was so named because his middle name was Harrold, and to mirror Uncle Percy’s initials.)

It has become clear through my discussions with Mr. Eaton, that we are both interested in finding a way to dust off the W-E name and place our illustrious forebears in their proper context in the history of journalism. As such, although I had thought Blind Tribute was the vehicle by which I would honor the man who passed me the writer’s genetics, we will now be seeking out an academic library to open a special collection of the extremely rare W-E catalog. I am determined that the next person to do research on my great-great uncle will not find it so difficult to ferret out his legacy.

For further posts on Blind Tribute, including blurb and buy links, see:

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Spotlight on The Bride Price

I first read The Bride Price on Wattpad, following each episode and waiting impatiently for the next. Quenby has updated and polished , and I’m looking forward to reading it again now that it is published. It is a tale of ruination and recovery, of a fall from grace that opens the way to joy, of long hidden love finally rewarded. I loved it.

The Bride Price

To save her family from scandal, Emily Collicott must marry.

Ruined in her first season in London, she is given no choice but to wed her father’s pick for a husband, or be cast out from her home. Emily agrees to marry William Hazlitt, a man she hardly knows. But William remembers her. Growing up as a tenant on her father’s estate, he admired her from afar, their lives kept separate first by class, and then by loss.

Emily seeks to begin a new life with this quiet man to whom she finds herself wedded. But the scandal she escaped in London soon finds her again, the very man who destroyed her reputation threatening to tear down the happiness she’s found with her new husband. To keep from losing everything, she must either make a deal with a devil… or learn how to defeat one.

Amazon ♦ Amazon (UK) ♦ Amazon (Canada)

Excerpt

It did not take long for Emily to learn of her lowered status among the members of London society, many of whom had welcomed her into their homes only days before. Josephine relayed the gossip, much of which had to be amended throughout the day as another round of afternoon teas were concluded or a new report passed through the lower quarters of the house.

“Scandal is like a living, breathing thing,” Josephine informed her near the end of her second day in seclusion. “It grows and it changes, acquiring new features and discarding old ones as quickly as one changes a hat. Today, you might be viewed by some as nothing more than a naive young girl who was set loose on London without proper tutelage or guidance. By tomorrow, you could be the Whore of Babylon, come to destroy us all.”

By the beginning of the third day, Emily was made aware of the prevailing opinion currently soaring through every drawing room and traded over every breakfast table.

“A fortune hunter,” Josephine had told her, getting directly to the point without a hint of delay. “Come to London with the sole intention of trapping a wealthy husband, by any means necessary.”

Emily nodded. If she had been in another person’s place, hearing such salacious gossip from every corner, this would most likely be the easiest theory to believe. “So everyone thinks—”

“—that you sought out Marbley, hoping to be caught in a situation, of sorts.”

“Which I was,” Emily pointed out.

“And thus forcing him to make an offer for you. Except—”

“—he didn’t make an offer,” Emily finished for her. “Instead, he left me to bear the brunt of their condemnation.”

“While he is applauded and celebrated for having made an apparent escape.” Josephine twisted her mouth into an expression of displeasure. “If I were a man, I would call him out. A bullet in his shoulder would serve him very well, I believe.”

“Only his shoulder?” Emily looked up with some surprise.

“Oh, I wouldn’t wish to make a martyr out of him,” she replied, and pulled at a thread that had escaped from the edge of her sleeve. “But a nice, lingering wound would do. Perhaps something disfiguring.”

“The tip of his nose,” Emily chimed in, buoyed along by the sparkle of humor in her friend’s voice.

“Or maybe a chunk of ear,” Josephine said, all mock seriousness. “Only superficial injuries, of course.”

But the levity of that moment had faded too quickly, and Emily once again receded into a depression. Not from any sorrow at her own predicament or because of the opinions of those members of society with whom she was hardly acquainted, but rather from the feeling of absolute helplessness that threatened to overwhelm her.

She was a gentlewoman, and so raised to expect a life devoid of struggle and exertion. She’d been given no training for anything beyond embroidery, music, a vague smattering of French, and composing lengthy letters that covered such fascinating topics as the weather and inquiries about one’s health. And now. . .

Now she was a pariah. Her chances of making a fortunate match had been reduced to nothing. And so she was trapped, a prisoner to her own gentility and the infuriating fact that she’d been born a female.

Meet Quenby Olson

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

Facebook ♦ Twitter ♦ Website ♦ Goodreads ♦ Amazon Author Page

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Tea with Elizabeth

“Was the showing everything you hoped it would be, Miss Collington?” the Duchess of Haverford asked as she handed Elizabeth a cup of tea.

“I was quite pleased with its success, your Grace,” Elizabeth replied.

Elizabeth Blackwell, ‘The Curious Herbal’ 1737-39, Prunus Amygdalus from “A Passion for Plants”

To call it a success was an understatement. The crowd of finely dressed ladies and gentlemen had been larger than expected, most of the copies of her book on the natural wonders of Devonshire had been sold, as had many of her original watercolors, and she had received several new commissions in the days since.

“I am pleased the event went well,” the Duchess said, “and I look forward to examining your work.” She nodded toward the valise sitting unopened next to the chair in which Elizabeth sat. “But first, I hope you will satisfy a curiosity of mine.”

Elizabeth took a sip of her tea, hoping to quell the sinking feeling in her stomach. In the invitation to tea, the Duchess had mentioned her regret at not having been able to attend the showing, but that she had read and appreciated the favorable reviews. Elizabeth had assumed an interest in her work was the primary object of the invitation.

Her hopes had only received encouragement as a bespectacled secretary ushered her through the lavishly appointed rooms of the Duchess’s manor to the salon in which they now sat; surely the owner of such a place, which even surpassed that of her friend and neighbor, Lord Burnside, would have it in her power to purchase several new landscapes to accompany the artwork already adorning the walls. To see her own watercolors in such company!

Arum maculatum (Lords and Ladies) from Flora Londinensis (1777-87)
from National Museum Wales

Then she had caught herself, wondering with chagrin what her father, the Vicar of Leighton parish, would have to say about such mercenary ambition. He’d already made known his views of young ladies, much less his own daughter, earning their own living. A commission here or there was one thing, but to be constantly putting oneself forward in such a manner – it was neither genteel nor ladylike.

And perhaps he was right, perhaps she should have resisted pressure from Rebecca and from her publisher to put on such a public display – for this was not the first time her name had appeared in the news.

As Elizabeth had feared, it was to that previous notoriety that the Duchess now moved the conversation. “Am I right in guessing you are the same Miss Collington about whom we heard so much last summer?”

Exactly the connection Elizabeth had hoped to avoid. “Your Grace refers to my kidnapping?”

“I do, and I hope my curiosity does not offend. It’s only that the Burgundy Highwayman had such a gallant reputation when he worked the London roads.”

“Yes, I know – never harmed a soul, robbed only from the rich, and even the prettiest misses were safe when he and his gang robbed their carriages.”

“And it was even said that he gave half his booty to the poor. Not a few young ladies looked forward to having him rob their carriages, to experience for themselves the dark, flashing eyes, the gallant demeanor, and the gentle touch as he removed a necklace from about their pretty necks.”

“Yet I only learned that was his reputation after he accosted me. At the time, I had no idea who he was, as his fame had not yet spread as far as Devonshire. I thought only that he was a quite forward rogue when he pressed his lips against my own, with no warning at all.”

“Quite different from his usual behavior. Not a few of our fashionable young ladies were quite jealous that a simple country miss had won such attentions.”

“Perhaps they would like to trade me places,” Elizabeth said, trying not to sound too arch.

“Oh, they are silly, of course. But when I saw your name in the paper and made the connection, I simply had to see the young lady who could cause such a change in the highwayman’s behavior.”

It took all of Elizabeth’s self-mastery not to blush at receiving the Duchess’s notice for such a purpose. Clearly, Her Grace was used to getting her way, yet there was something of compassion about her as well. Elizabeth took a sip of tea and set her cup back down. “These tea cakes are marvelous, your Grace. My compliments to the cook.”

The Duchess would not be put off so easily. “But there are discrepancies between the public account and certain rumors making the rounds – rumors which, if I may be honest, are quite concerning. I have to wonder, which is the correct version?”

And so they came to the point. How much could Elizabeth risk telling her? She chose to take a light-hearted approach.

“Oh, there are many versions of the tale,” she said with a laugh. “One even has it that I made the ultimate sacrifice in order to warn the highwayman away from the inn where the redcoats held me. Something to do with a musket bound beneath my breast, if you can believe it. As you can see, the tale cannot be true, because here I am.”

The Duchess smiled. “No, I had not heard that version, and I am glad that it’s false. But it bears a similarity to other rumors. That you went willingly with the highwayman. That you were, in fact, his lover and accomplice.”

This time Elizabeth did feel warmth rising to her cheeks, but she returned the Duchess’s gaze in a forthright manner. “That is the story the redcoats put about, but their Captain did not believe it, nor did Lord Burnside, who came to rescue me at the old inn. No, the newspaper reports are true, as far as they go. Perhaps one day I will write a more detailed account, but for now, that is all I can say.”

The duchess was silent for a moment. “And yet these rumors persist, to the damage of your reputation.”

“Yes, my prospects are quite ruined. I must make my living as I may, even if I have to put myself forward in an unladylike manner.” She glanced down at her valise, wondering if her artwork was of any interest to the Duchess, or if she had been invited here as a mere subject for gossip.

The Duchess seemed to have read her mind, for she said, “I hope you will forgive me these impertinent questions, but I wished to judge for myself before offering my support. Surely the notice of the Duchess of Haverford will go some way to rehabilitating your reputation.”

“But why would you go to such lengths for me, your Grace, as I was a stranger to you until half an hour past?”

“Quite simple, my dear. I could see from the reviews of your showing that you are a young lady of talent and worth. It seems a pity for you to be held back by such a mere whiff of scandal. You may be having some success now, but fashions change in this town more quickly than the French change their rulers. You could find yourself reduced to taking silhouettes or drawing caricatures in the park; a sad waste of your talents.  But with an establishment, you could pursue your art for its own sake.”

“Yet I am but a vicar’s daughter, with only a paltry dowry.”

“I see you are quite unaware of your own charms, which tempted the highwayman from his usual course of behavior. If you are not too picky as to titles and ancient lineage, I can introduce you to several gentlemen, well-behaved in themselves, who would overlook whatever scandal is in your past.” Here she gave Elizabeth what seemed more than a knowing look.

Yet more bachelors to be paraded before her! Jamie had been bad enough on his current leave while his ship was under repair, trotting out one officer after another. Her brother was only worried for her future, but it became tiresome.

Could she risk telling all? The Duchess seemed so sympathetic and good-hearted. But on a first acquaintance? No, it was impossible.

“Begging your Grace’s pardon, but it is really quite unnecessary. I find that I enjoy the challenge placed before me, as improper as it may be. If you would truly be of service to me, I would ask only that you take notice of my watercolors. That would carry me farther than introductions to gentlemen possibly could.”

“It is remarkably brave of you, to look forward to depending entirely upon your own means of support.”

“Not entirely on my own, your Grace. My friend, Mrs. Rebecca Burgess, is the widow of a Naval captain, and has an independence through her widow’s pension. When the day of my father’s passing comes – a far-off day, God willing – we will pool our resources and share a household.”

The Duchess smiled. “I see you are quite the determined bluestocking.”

Elizabeth did not think she heard derision in the duchess’s voice, but could it possibly have been admiration? “I suppose I am,” she agreed, returning the smile.

“Well then, let us have a look at your drawings, shall we?” The Duchess held out her hand for the valise. “And I can only hope you will publish that more complete account of your experience with the highwayman without too much delay.”

“And if I do, your Grace can rest assured you will be the first to read it.”

Fortunately for the Duchess and the rest of us, Elizabeth did sit down many years later to recount her experiences with the highwayman. Daring and Decorum, the first volume in what the author hopes will become a series, is a highwayman’s tale with a delightful twist, due out August 1 from Supposed Crimes. Covering all the events about which Elizabeth is so coy with the Duchess, it features rambles across lonely moors, daring rides on horseback, sword-fights, unexpected desire, a bit of botany, and endless cups of tea.

The second volume, covering the period of Elizabeth’s first book publication and art showing in London, is entitled Silence and Secrecy. It deals with the secrets Elizabeth must keep to lead a life she never could have imagined choosing, but which now seems the only possible one for her. The author hopes to see it published sometime next year.

Both books feature as a background (and sometimes as a foreground) the political milieu of mid-1790s England: poverty contrasted with lavish wealth, bread riots, calls for political reform, counter-charges of treason and sedition, the movement for abolition, and above all, the fear of the French revolution being imported to British shores.

A separate story involving the highwayman will appear in an upcoming holiday box set from The Final Draft Tavern (which will also feature stories from Jude and Mari Christie!).

Buy Links for Daring and Decorum:

Amazon | Amazon UK | Website | Smashwords

Excerpt from Daring and Decorum

In this scene, the highwayman, fresh from taunting a band of redcoats, has come across Elizabeth, who had uncharacteristically become lost on a foggy moor. They are riding double on the highwayman’s horse, and the rogue has just upbraided her for walking on the moors without a compass.

Piqued by his criticism, I asked, “Whose carriage did you rob, to set the militia after you?”

“Why, none at all, for today the militia itself was our target.”

“Whatever could you want with those gallant young men?”

“Oh, it’s great fun to goad them. Today, we led them a merry chase and finally lured them into that bog down below.”

“I find it hard to believe you would engage in such foolish trickery for mere fun.”

“Stopping them from cracking the heads of unemployed weavers is a further inducement, I must admit.”

“Those soldiers are only trying to keep the peace! Surely a mob cannot be allowed to run wild.”

The Cornwood Maidens, photo by Richard Knights, similar to the fictional Whiddleston Moor where Elizabeth becomes lost in the fog.http://www.richkni.co.uk/dartmoor/relics.htm

He turned to look at me over his shoulder. His eyes, which I had thought black in the poor light of our earlier encounters, I now saw were brown. “Four children were made orphans last week, thanks to your gallant lads’ efforts. I don’t call that keeping the peace. It is not much, but if we can distract King George’s men, and perhaps make laughingstocks of them to cheer the people, it seems the least we can do.”

“Still, I fail to see what you could gain from such an endeavor.”

“Yes, for what motive could a highwayman possibly have, if not self-interest?” He uttered this statement with such a tone of derision that I saw no way to respond, and we fell into silence.

After a time, a rock wall loomed out of the fog, a narrow lane running beyond it. “That is Whiddleston Lane,” the highwayman said, his tone now decidedly cold. “A quarter-mile along it to the left is the village of Whiddleston. I trust you can make your way home from there? Surely you wouldn’t want to be seen in the company of outlaws.”

I wondered at the feeling of regret his demeanor provoked within me even as I agreed to his plan.

Throwing a leg over Juno’s neck, he dropped to the ground, then turned to lift me from my seat. The look he gave me had lost all its humor, and he seemed in fact quite grave and troubled. I tried to ignore the slight disappointment I felt when he turned away to retrieve my drawing case from his accomplice. Then he climbed over the stile and held out a hand to help me follow, all without a word.

I found his coldness provoking. “I assume, in mentioning your motive, you refer to your Robin Hood act?” I looked him boldly in the eye as I alighted next to him. “Yet I can think of many reasons for robbing the wealthiest. And now I discover that you are a traitor as well as an outlaw.”

He took a step forward, looming above me. “No, Miss Collington, never a traitor, for I am loyal to England and her people. It is only the decadence of the aristocracy which I detest, leeches sucking the lifeblood of the nation.” He turned as if he would leave, but then stopped, one hand on the rock wall next to the stile. “Would you believe that half our income goes to the poor and to those same orphans new-minted by the militia?”

Wondering why he felt such a need to justify his actions to me, I replied, “No, for I find it hard to believe that one who resorts to such villainy could harbor such selfless compassion.”

“Is that so?” He nodded at his ginger-haired associate. “Tell her, Jack.”

“Aye, it’s true, miss. Lord knows I’d be quit o’ this business by now if it weren’t.”

“That’s Jack for you,” said the highwayman, “always good for a cheery word. In due time, when we have saved enough, all of what we steal from the rich—or my portion, at least—will go to those most in need.”

“Yet it is hard to credit such beneficence in a common highwayman.”

“Ha!” exclaimed the one called Jack. “Robin, common! That’s a laugh.”

“Quiet, Jack,” the highwayman barked. “Why don’t the two of you stand farther off and keep a sharp eye?”

Jack and the other scoundrel rode off a bit, Jack singing a vulgar tune in a gravelly voice. I caught these words before he was out of earshot: “I’m a poor loom weaver, as many a one knows. I’ve naught t’eat, and I’ve wore out me clothes.”

The highwayman turned back to me. “It is as I told you before—I hope that good works will atone in some measure for the evil I have done. Perhaps if you knew my full story—”

“You are mistaken if you think I have any interest in hearing your self-justifications.”

“At the very least, I can promise you a story worth hearing, one equal to any gothic romance.”

“I do not stoop to reading romances.”

“No? Perhaps you should. They have more of actual life in them than all your Cowper and your Pope. Now, what say you?” His aspect, or what I could see of it above the mask, was one of such earnest pleading that it surprised me, coming from one usually so bold in taking what he wanted. “Will you agree to meet me, if only to hear my tale? I have more than repaid my debt to you, after all.”

A Mother and Child Seated in a Garden by one of Elizabeth’s inspirations, Paul Sandby
from WikiGallery

I should have given him a firm negative on the spot. But he had just saved me much discomfort, if not my very life, and I felt I owed him something for it. What harm could there be in hearing his story? I told myself it had nothing to do with our close contact of a few moments before, or with his earlier kisses.

“There is a great oak tree on the north boundary of Holbourne. Do you know it? You may find me there on any fine day, though of late I do not often walk there alone. If we happen to meet, I will listen to your story.” I removed his cloak and handed it to him.

“It is all I can ask,” he said. He leaned toward me for a moment, and I did not back away. Then he seemed to think better of himself, turning to step over the stile and leaping into his saddle with great alacrity. He turned back to look at me for a moment, then touched the brim of his hat. “Till we meet again, Miss Collington.” He rode off after his companions, leaving me with an unsettled feeling of regret at his not having kissed me a third time.

Meet Larry Hogue

Lawrence Hogue’s writing is all over the place and all over time. He started out in nonfiction/nature writing with a personal narrative/environmental history of the Anza-Borrego Desert called All the Wild and Lonely Places: Journeys in a Desert Landscape. After moving to Michigan, he switched to writing fiction, including contemporary stories set in the desert and fanfiction based on the videogame Skyrim. He’s a fan of folk music, and got the idea for Daring and Decorum while listening to Loreena McKennitt’s outstanding adaptation of Alfred Noyes’ poem, The Highwayman. When not speaking a word for nature or for forgotten LGBT people of history, he spends his white-knighting, gender-betraying energies on Twitter and Facebook, and sometimes on the streets of Lansing, MI, and Washington DC. He’s been called a Social Justice Warrior, but prefers Social Justice Wizard or perhaps Social Justice Lawful Neutral Rogue.

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Sunday Spotlight on Blind Tribute

The Battle of Fort Sumter was the first engagement in the American Civil War.

Today’s Sunday Spotlight is on Blind Tribute, by Mari Anne Christie.

Good non-fiction gives us a new perspective on the facts. Great fiction puts us into someone else’s shoes, letting us live a life so different from our own that we withdraw dazed and changed. The view from Blind Tribute will remain with me always.

Blind Tribute begins on the same day as the Battle of Fort Sumter, the start of the American Civil War, and the conflicts and attitudes underpinning the war are the central themes of the book.

Harry, the protagonist, has been a newspaper man since his university days, first in his hometown of Charleston, then in war zones around the world, and—for the past twenty years—in Philadelphia, as editor of its most successful newspaper. The conflict between the States is played out in his family, his birth family demanding allegiance to the South, and his wife and son castigating him for lack of loyalty to the North.

But Harry is loyal to the neutrality of the press, and determined to make of himself his greatest news story. When he returns to Charleston but refuses to take sides, he expects to offend. He wonders if he will survive. He almost doesn’t.

Blind Tribute is a book about integrity, about the real meaning of family, about pride and its costs, about who pays for our acts of conscience. The exploration of the relationship between government and media is timely in today’s political climate, but also timeless, applying as much today as it did when Lincoln and Davis saw newspapers as propaganda machines. Harry’s view of neutrality is no more popular today than then, and more needed than ever.

Blind Tribute is meticulously researched and brilliantly written. Mari Anne Christie’s characters are real, her plot lines compelling, and her descriptions vivid. The scene that describes Harry’s ordeal is one of the most grueling things I’ve ever read.

I’ve been reading bits of this book for three years, as Mari reshaped, rewrote, and polished every line. I’ve seen it grow from good to great. If you read one historical fiction book in 2017, make it this one.

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.

Universal Link

Buy from Mari’s website

Facebook Launch Party, July 28th, 2pm – 8 pm MDT

Giveaway

Mari will be giving away a quill pen (like Harry’s) and powdered ink, a swag pack including Harry’s Editorials Collection, and a e-copy of the book to one winner.

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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.

Author Website & blog: www.MariAnneChristie.com

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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.

Universal Link

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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.

Author Website & blog: www.MariAnneChristie.com

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Reading my way through a cold

I’m slowly surfacing from hibernation with a winter cold. The irritating cough lingers, and I still flake mid-afternoon and yearn for a nap, but at least the fog has lifted from my brain and the plot elves are functioning again.

I’ve put the time to good if lazy use by catching up on the books I’d downloaded to my kindle app but never read, and raiding my library’s electronic catalogue for entire series that I read years ago and wanted to read again. I’ve binge read most of Jo Beverly’s Company of Rogues, Shana Galen’s de Valère series, Elizabeth Boyle’s Brazen series, Stephanie Lauren’s Lester Family and her Adventurers’ Quartet, Anna Campbell’s Dashing Widows Club, and individual books by Shana Galen, Jane Ashford, Sally MacKenzie, Grace Burrowes, Allison Lane, Callie Hutton, Sandra Schwab, Tessa Dare, and others.

(Yes, I read fast.)

Who are your favourite go-to authors when you’re proper poorly?

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