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.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Amazon

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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.

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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.

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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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Spotlight on The Demon Duke

Today’s guest is Margaret Locke, and her new release The Demon Duke.

Behind every good man is a great secret.

Banished to Yorkshire as a boy for faults his father failed to beat out of him, Damon Blackbourne has no use for English society and had vowed never to return to his family’s estate at Thorne Hill, much less London. However, when his father and brother die in a freak carriage accident, it falls on Damon to take up the mantle of the Malford dukedom and to introduce his sisters to London Society–his worst nightmare come to life.

He never planned on Lady Grace Mattersley. The beautiful debutante stirs him body and soul with her deep chocolate eyes and hesitant smiles. Until she stumbles across his dark secret.

Bookish Grace much prefers solitude and reading to social just-about-anything. Her family may be pressuring her to take on the London Season to find herself a husband, but she has other ideas. Such as writing a novel of her own. But she has no idea how to deal with the Duke of Malford.

Will she betray him to the world? Or will she be his saving Grace?

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Meet Margaret Locke

As a teen, Margaret pledged to write romances when she was older. Once an adult, however, she figured she ought to be doing grownup things, not penning stories. Thank goodness turning forty cured her of that silly notion.
Now happily ensconced again in the clutches of her first crush (romance novels!), Margaret is never happier than when sharing her passion for a grand Happy Ever After. Because love matters.
Margaret lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia with her fantastic husband, two fabulous kids, and three fat cats. You can usually find her in front of some sort of screen (electronic or window); she’s come to terms with the fact she’s not an outdoors person.
You can find here here:

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Excerpt

Rexborough Ball, London Early April, 1814

Grace squeezed nearer to the wall, surveying the crowded room from her cramped corner. Bodies moved around each other as everyone jockeyed for position. It was the first grand ball of the Season, a mad crush at the Marquess of Rexborough’s expansive London estate. There was hardly space to dance, though the orchestra played gaily.

If only she could go home. Her sister Emmeline danced by with Lord Everton, a vivacious smile lighting her face. Even Rebecca’s eyes sparkled with happiness as she carefully executed her steps opposite the handsome Marquess of Emerlin.

Why could Grace not feel the same excitement?

Matilda, standing next to Grace, beamed at her other two daughters, delighting in their successes in snagging eligible men so early in the evening.

“They’re merely dancing, Mother. No need to plan the weddings.”

The dowager duchess sniffed. “At least they’re dancing. You have begged off three invitations so far.”

“Lord Oglesby has two left feet, quite possibly three, if my toes have any say. Lord Featherstone is old enough to be my grandfather. And Lord Emerlin only asked because you wished him to. You know he’s had his sights on Becca for waltzing.”

Her mother aired her face with the elaborate fan in her right hand. “I suppose it wouldn’t be a bad match. Though he is so much her elder.”

“A marquess and the eventual heir to a dukedom. Not such a bad match, indeed. And ten is not so many years. Many a young lady has married a far older gentleman.”

Matilda Mattersley opened her mouth as if to respond when a commotion started amongst the ball goers. They gave a collective gasp as a man entered the room. He was clad entirely in black—black pantaloons, black coat and waistcoat, even an ebony shirt and cravat. Thick black hair tousled wildly over his forehead. Two young ladies next to Grace tittered.

“He is of fine countenance,” one gushed.

“Who is he?” said the other.

A matron broke in, speaking sharply. “Did you not hear him announced? That’s the Duke of Malford.” She made the sign of the cross. “They say he is a devil. They call him the Demon Duke.”

“Really?” the first girl exclaimed.

The older woman slapped the girl’s knuckles with her fan. “Don’t even think about it, Alice. Come, let us seek some lemonade.”

The girl obediently followed the matron, no doubt her mother, through the mass of people.

“The Demon Duke,” Grace murmured.

The man moved farther into the room. His grin was wicked, but his shoulders tight, his eyes . . . sad. Did he notice how people edged away? How whispers raced across the room? How eyes peeped at him while pretending not to do so?

How could he not?

Sympathy flooded through Grace. “He doesn’t look devilish to me,” she said to her mother. “He looks uncomfortable. Like he wishes he were anywhere else but here.” How she could relate.

Matilda sucked a breath. “However he looks is not your concern. The Duke of Malford is not an option.”

“I do not think you have anything to fear, Mother. A man such as that would never be interested in a mouse such as me.”

A smile leaked through the dowager duchess’s pursed lips. “A mouse, indeed. It’s good to see this mouse knows to stay away from a cat. He looks rather feral.”

He is a panther, sleek and black. With the mien of a lion.

“If you’ll pardon me, Mama, I am in need of the retiring room.”

Grace slipped from the room. With everyone’s attention on the Duke, this was a good time to sneak away to the library, as she’d done at Rexborough balls a time or two before.

She pulled a book from the shelf. Ah yes. Aesop’s fables. She settled in near a window, her thoughts on the man in the ballroom.

Hadn’t Aesop said it was the mouse who saved the lion?

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Sunday Spotlight on Broken Things

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

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

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

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

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

About Broken Things

Rival. Sister. Barmaid. Whore.

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

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

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

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

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Sunday Spotlight on What the Scot Hears

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

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

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

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

What the Scot Hears

Agents of Change, Book 3

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

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

She isn’t:

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

And she is:

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

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

He is always:

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

And he isn’t:

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

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

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Spotlight on Nothing But Time

In today’s Sunday Spotlight is Sherry Ewing’s Nothing But Time.

This short Regency novel is the tale of Gwendolyn, married despite her protests to a nasty old man who bullies and abuses her, and cuts her off from contact with her friends. It’s also the story of Neville, the successful investor and rising aristocrat who falls in love, quite against his will, with another man’s wife.

Adultery is a daring topic for a romance. To keep our sympathy, the writer needs to give us extenuating circumstances, and Ms Ewing does so to the max. The story has it all: thwarted love, a villain,  a mad chase north, a heart-wrenching  separation, and a few passionate interludes to give us hope that all will be well.

I liked Gwendolyn’s compassion for her ungrateful spouse, and how hard she tried to be true to the vows she didn’t want to make. But Neville was my favourite of the two. He was not an innocent, but he was in love for the first time, and he was putty in Gwendolyn’s hands, as well as charming, determined, faithful, and brave.

The book was short and the characters only lightly painted. The horrible husband was a caricature, but the boorish elder brother and the mischievous younger one both show promise. I look forward to more stories of the Worth family.

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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Neville’s first glance at Gwendolyn

He held her stare. How could he not when he had been admiring her beauty just a short while ago? He did not dally with women whose husbands were living, and certainly not one who was associated with a potential business associate. The last thing he needed was some man breathing down his neck challenging him to a duel, and that most assuredly included her brothers as well as her husband.

To say she was beautiful would not have done the lady justice. She was young, perhaps no more than twenty. Her light brown hair was swept up into a pleasing coiffure and one long curling ringlet cascaded down her left shoulder. He could not tell the color of her eyes from this distance but they were framed in a round face with a clear complexion. Neville should not let his gaze linger on those lips for long. They were meant to be kissed and kissed often.

Something about the lady continued to pull at his heart, and, for the life of him, he could not look away. She seemed sad, and he could only ponder the cause. Why her disposition was important to him he could not say, and yet, he had a sudden desire to sweep her away and fill her days with happiness. He squashed down the notion of what he would like to do with her nights.

They continued staring, one to the other, and he watched in fascination as her chest rose and fell as if she were attempting to catch her breath. Neville had been tempted long enough and he gave into the impulse by offering her the slightest of nods. She must have at last come to her senses at his gesture, for she quickly turned away, but not before Neville witnessed a lovely blush rising to color her cheeks.

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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