Tea with a gossip columnist

Note from J. Swann, newspaper reporter, to H. Markham, editor: Eleanor Grenford, Duchess of Haverford, seldom consents to an interview. Though she lives, perforce, in the public eye—as wife to one of the most powerful men in England and mother to two of England’s most notable rakes—she carefully guards her private life.

She agreed to invite this columnist to tea and answer my questions only after being assured that I am from the future, not the fictional Georgian (later Victorian) world she inhabits.

Born Eleanor Creydon, eldest daughter of the Earl of Farnmouth, she is related by birth or marriage to most of the noble houses of England and many in the wider United Kingdom and Europe. She married the Duke of Haverford before she attained the 18th anniversary of her nativity, and has since become one of the ton’s leading hostesses.

  1. What are you most proud of about your life?

Aldridge

“My two sons,” says the duchess, without hesitation. “Aldridge—the Marquis of Aldridge, my elder son and Haverford’s heir—is responsible and caring. And Jonathan, too. They are, I cannot deny, a little careless. But they are not heartless, dear. I’ve always thought that being heartless is the defining feature of a true rake.

“They take responsibility for their by-blows, which is so important in a gentleman, do you not agree? And neither of them has ever turned a mistress off without providing for her, or at least not since they were very young.

Jonathan

“Sadly, the example set by His Grace their father was not positive in this respect. I flatter myself that I have been of some influence in helping them to understand that they have a duty to be kind to those less fortunate and less powerful than themselves.”

  1. What are you most ashamed of in your life?

The duchess does not answer immediately. She seems to be turning over several possibilities. “I neglected him, you know. I neglected Aldridge. When he was born, I left him to his servants. I thought that was normal, and Haverford… he was very angry when I suggested I should stay at the castle instead of going to London for the season.

“Why; even his name… Haverford insisted everyone call him by his title. But I could have called him ‘Anthony’ in private, could I not?

“Dear Aldridge had no-one but his staff. I was seldom at Margate, and when I was… His Grace thought it my duty to spend my time with him. I saw Aldridge once a day, brought to me clean and quiet of an evening before his bedtime.

“I had no idea what I had done until Jonathan was born. He timed his birth for the end of the season, and His Grace left for his usual round of house parties, so I could do as I wished. I wished to be in the nursery with my sons.

“After that, I found ways to bring them to London with me, and to spend time with them at play as often as several times a week! Even so, I did not dare go against the duke’s orders, and I call my son by his title to this day. Everyone does. Poor dear boy.”

  1. What impression do you make on people when they first meet you?

“People don’t see me, my dear. They see the Duchess of Haverford. I cannot blame them, of course. I am at pains to project the image of ‘duchess’. I have cultivated it my entire adult life. Why! If people truly saw me, they would be very surprised, I think.”

  1. Do you think you have turned out the way your parents expected?

“My parents expected me to marry well and to present my husband with heirs. Had I married beneath their expectations, I daresay I would never have seen them again. I cannot say, dear, that such an outcome would have been entirely a bad thing.”

  1. What is the worst thing that has happened in your life? What did you learn from it?

James, Duke of Winshire, once Kagan of a mountain kingdom north of Persia, and before that a suitor beloved by Eleanor and rejected by her father.

“I could say losing James, or I could say marrying Haverford, but it is all of a piece. I cannot tell you where the one ends and the other starts. I gave my heart to James, but he was a second son. My father gave my hand to Haverford.

“And by ‘hand’ I mean the rest of me, dear. Imagine a sheltered seventeen-year-old, innocent but for a stolen kiss with the man she hoped to wed. And instead of that man, I spent my wedding night in the hands of a hardened roué with no patience… He is two decades my senior, dear. Thirteen years older than James.

“I believe my sons are known for their skills. (I speak of bed sports, dear, and do not blush for it, for at our age we should scorn to be coy, and this article will be published, you have assured me, some two hundred years in my future.) If Haverford has such skills, and the rumour is not just flattery aimed at money to be made from his patronage, he did not feel inclined to waste it on a mere wife.”

  1. How do you feel about your life right now? What, if anything, would you like to change?

“I am fortunate. I live in luxury. I have my sons (or, at least, I have Aldridge close by and regular letters from Jonathan, who is on the Tour, dear). I have the little girls, too—Haverford’s by-blows, but I love them dearly. I can give them an education, respectability, a little dowry… I do these things, too, for my poorer godchildren, and I love nothing better than to present one of my goddaughters for her Season.

“I enjoy entertaining—balls, musical evenings, garden parties and picnics in London, and house parties at our other estates. My entertainments are famous. I have promised to be honest with you, so I will say ‘not without reason’.” The duchess laughs, her eyes for a moment showing glints of the self-deprecating humour that is part of her elder son’s attraction.

“And, dear, I have come to an accommodation with Haverford. He leaves me to live my own life, while he carries on with his. Between you and me, my dear, my life is pleasanter without him in it.”

  1. What have you always wanted to do but have not done? Why?

“I have always wondered what my life might have been like had I defied my father and eloped with James. He came to me, you know, after the duel; after his own father exiled him. I turned him away. And then, six months later we heard he was dead. I didn’t care what happened to me after that, so I gave in to my father’s demands and married Haverford.

“It wasn’t true, as it turned out. He arrived back in London not long ago, with a great band of wild children. I could have been their mother, had I been brave enough to go with him.

“But there. Had I married James, I would not have Aldridge and Jonathan. Perhaps all is as it should be.

“You asked what I have always wanted to do? I want to see James again; to talk to him, just the two of us. Haverford… he and James do not speak. We Grenfords do not acknowledge the Winderfields and they do not acknowledge us. If people are inviting James or his offspring to their social gathering, they do not invite us. If us, then not him. We do not meet.

“But Society is surprisingly small. One day… one day…”

Note from Jude

Her Grace appears in all my novels and many of my novellas and short stories, often smoothing the path of a romance. She is also the hostess of the house party that is at the centre of the 2016 Belle’s box set, Holly and Hopeful Hearts.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

Tea with Anne

monday-for-tea

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

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

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

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

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

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

decorative-text-divider-1

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

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

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

Tea with Nicholas

monday-for-tea

Lord Nicholas Lacey hesitated at the threshold to Her Grace’s salon. The appointed hour had at last arrived when his hostess agreed to meet with him. However, Nicholas felt like a misbehaving school boy about to be reprimanded for some silly childhood prank. His cravat, of a sudden, seemed entirely too tight about his neck giving him reason to have a word later with his valet about learning the technique of tying a proper knot.

He gave the cloth a slight tug and raised his hand to the door before him, only for it to open as though the servant on the other side knew he was present.

“Lord Nicholas, you are right on time I see. I do so appreciate punctuality,” the Duchess of Haverford declared from her place before the fireplace.

lord-nicholasNicholas stepped into the room as the servant closed the door leaving him alone with his hostess. “You are kind to see me at such short notice, especially with your home full of other guests.”

“Do come in and join me for a cup of tea,” Her Grace bid with a wave of her hand to the empty seat across from her, “or will we need something stronger to fortify us for the conversation ahead?”

Nicholas might, indeed, need something stronger than tea but he refrained from her suggestion. He needed to keep his wits together. “I have a most unusual request that involves another here at Hollystone.”

The duchess perused him most thoroughly before a hint of a smile escaped her. “And which one of the lovely ladies present is this regarding, Lord Nicholas?” she asked pouring a cup of tea and handing it to him.

“Grace… Lady de Courtenay,” he answered taking a sip.

She watched him carefully over the rim of her own cup before she set the china back down upon the trolley. “Your intentions are honorable, are they not?” she inquired in a tone that implied much.

“Yes, of course, Your Grace. I have only the utmost respect for Lady de Courtenay.”

The duchess picked up her tea again and took another sip. “Good. Then tell me how you met your lady and why you have asked for this meeting. I do so enjoy a good love story.”

Nicholas relaxed into his chair as memories of Grace ran across his mind. “It all began with a kiss…”

snowflake-row

Lord Nicholas Lacey is the hero in Sherry Ewing’s novella, A Kiss for Charity from the Bluestocking Belles’ holiday box set Holly and Hopeful Hearts.

Young widow, Grace, Lady de Courtenay, is more concerned with improving her mind than finding another husband. But how was she to know that a close encounter with a rake at a masquerade ball would spark her interest and make her yearn for love again?

Lord Nicholas Lacey has been on his own for far too long after losing his wife in a tragic accident. After a rare trip to a masquerade, his attention is captivated by a lovely young woman. Considering the dubious company she keeps, perhaps she might be interested in becoming his mistress…

From the darkened paths of Vauxhall Gardens to a countryside estate called Hollystone Hall, Nicholas and Grace must set aside their differences in order to let love into their hearts. It will take more than a dose of holiday cheer to see these two on the road to finding their happily-ever-after and a kiss for charity may just be what they both need.

About 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 and time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time.

Website and Blog: http://www.SherryEwing.com

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

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sherry_Ewing

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/SherryLEwing

 

BUY LINKS for HOLLY AND HOPEFUL HEARTS

Amazon UShttp://ow.ly/INwa3049Ey3

Amazon UK: http://ow.ly/ZMuH3049ELM

Amazon Australiahttp://ow.ly/TczG3049EQ2
Amazon Canadahttp://ow.ly/IERm3049EYM

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/664559

Kobo: http://ow.ly/Vx1n304jGzj

Barnes & Noble: http://ow.ly/LqCI304jGuS

iBooks: http://ow.ly/JcSI304jGWE

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

Tea with Prue

monday-for-tea

Eleanor, Duchess of Haverford, feels a strong sense of obligation to today’s caller. Not that she will say so. Her Grace has engineered a dozen meetings in the past five years, and not once has Miss Virtue raised the connection between them. Perhaps she is unaware of it? No, surely not. But if she wishes to ignore it, then the duchess will comply. The young lady is entitled to her privacy.

The butler escorts Miss Virtue into the conservatory, where Her Grace and her guest can enjoy the autumn sun and the splendid views of the gardens without suffering the chilly breeze. The duchess rises in greeting.

“Miss Virtue. How kind of you to come.”

Her caller curtseys gracefully, without comment, and seats herself when the duchess invites her to do so. For a few minutes they discuss courteous nothings: the weather, the number of people in Town, the War on the Continent, how Miss Virtue would prefer her tea.

But once she has a fine bone china cup in her hands, Miss Virtue cuts directly to the point in the way the duchess has come to expect and admire. “But I do not wish to take up too much of your valuable time, Your Grace. How may I be of service to you.”

Her Grace suppresses a sigh—will the child never trust her? “I have a commission for you, Miss Virtue, if you are free to undertake it. My godson, the Earl of Penworth, appears to have gone missing…”

castle-silhouette-vector-954843-small

Prue Virtue is a spy for the Crown, but occasionally undertakes freelance commissions. The following excerpt is from The Prisoners of Wyvern Castle, a novella in my free book Hand-Turned Tales (click here for buy links). Prue, disguised as the nurse Miss Tyler, is here on the duchess’s errand, looking for the Earl of Penworth. She finds that he has acquired not only a prison but also a wife.

Prue is also the heroine of Revealed in Mist, coming in December 2016.

prisoners-of-wyvern-smallSeveral minutes passed, and all remained quiet. This might actually work! First, she needed to find a boat small enough for her to handle. Hugging the walls, keeping to the shadows, she began to circle the courtyard toward the deeper darkness that signalled the passageway through the walls. Beyond, the road led down to the docks.

She was nearly there when a woman’s voice spoke behind her. “Do not be alarmed, Lady Penworth.”

Madeline spun around, one hand to her chest to hold her pounding heart in place.

“Who is it?” She could see a vague shape in the darkness, but no details.

“A friend.”

It was not Lady Wyvern, nor—from the accent, which was aristocratic—one of the servants. As she froze, trying to decide whether to run or speak, she heard footsteps and voices approaching from the other end of the passage.

“Quick. This way.” The woman took her hand and pulled her through a doorway, into the room beyond. Just in time. Pressed against the wall inside the door, she could hear them clearly: several men arguing in hushed voices.

“It was the White Lady, I tell you.”

“Rubbish.”

“She was coming out that window. I saw her with my own eyes. It was like a long coil of smoke, twisting in the wind.”

“A long coil of smoke. Listen to him. Next, you’ll be telling us she’s off to join her husband in the dungeon.”

A chorus of guffaws.

“You’ve heard what the islanders say, same as me,” the first voice insisted.

“Yes, and right fools they are, too.”  The speaker pitched his voice in a falsetto. “Ooooh! Moaning in the dungeon. It must be the ghost!” Then, reverting to his own low rumble. “Silly tossers. A good thing Her Ladyship sent the whole lot of them packing.”

The first voice began, “If you ask me…”

Another man interrupted. “You can stand around talking about ghosts all night if you want. I’m for the kitchen and a tot of something hot and strong. Securing those boats was cold work.”

She could make out no more. They were across the courtyard and… yes, they had gone down the steps into the servants’ area Rupert had pointed out from their window.

“Come,” her companion said. “Lord Wyvern is awake and wishes to speak with you.”

“Let me go,” Madeline pleaded. “Now, while the courtyard is clear.”

“I will help you, my lady. That is why I am here. But first, we need to share information. Come with me and see Lord Wyvern.”

“Who are you?” Madeline asked, but the woman gave her no answer, just moved away, surefooted in the dark.

After a moment, Madeline followed her. They climbed the stair until they reached the room where Lord Wyvern lay, propped up on pillows, looking—by the light of the lamp at his bedside—more alert than he had earlier in the day.

The light allowed Madeline to recognise her companion. “You are the nurse. Miss Tyler. You work for Lady Wyvern.”

“I work for Lord Wyvern,” Miss Tyler corrected. “I am here to rescue him, and you and the earl.”

“Lady Wyvern took the earl away. I don’t know where.”

“Dun… jin,” Lord Wyvern said, and Miss Tyler nodded. “They were keeping Lord Wyvern in the dungeon when I was brought here to care for him. I expect that is where they have your husband and the other two men.”

Lord Wyvern was a frail shadow of the hearty man Rupert had described, and pale enough to have been in a dungeon these six months. Madeline didn’t understand how his own servants could have allowed such a thing.

“Why did your people let it happen?” she asked him, but it was Miss Tyler who answered.

“His Lordship had an apoplexy. Lady Wyvern saw her moment and removed anyone who might object to her regency while he was ill. Then, when he began to recover… well, she made sure to keep him bedridden. And she hid him, so those loyal to him would not know what she was doing.”

“How could the Ice Dragon hope to get away with it?”

Goodness. She was so used to Rupert’s name for his sister that she said it without thinking. But Lord Wyvern was laughing silently, and even the nurse was smiling.

“A good name for her,” Miss Tyler said. “She is an arrogant woman, Your Ladyship. She makes her plans and assumes the rest of the world will fall into line. She must have been horrified when the King sent Lord Morpeth to see what was happening here, but she and Sir James decided to bully their way through.

“They sent most of the islanders away, to keep complaints and rumours from reaching Lord Morpeth’s ears. That may yet work to her disadvantage, since they are now on the mainland and will be talking to all their friends and relatives. Word will reach the ears of the gentry sooner or later, and people with authority will start asking questions.”

“I cannot wait for that,” Madeline said. “I need to rescue the earl now.”

“Plan?” Lord Wyvern asked.

“Yes, my lady. What was your plan? Do you have a helper? Somewhere to go?”

Madeline shook her head. She and Rupert had no one to help them. But they had a plan, of sorts, and she intended to carry it out.

Miss Tyler saw her hesitation. “Lady Penworth, you are wise to be cautious, but you can trust us. Lord Wyvern, as you know, is as much a victim of the conspirators as you and your husband. And I have been sent by the earl’s godmother to find out what is happening and help if I can.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

Her Grace is At Home on Mondays

eleanor-duchess-of-haverford

Eleanor, Duchess of Haverford

wishes to announce that she shall be home to callers

on Mondays.

Any heroine of any work of fiction

is welcome to send a message to

Jude Knight

to arrange a date.

Any era, any genre, any story.

Her Grace would be delighted to converse,

read an excerpt of her guest’s story

or both.

visiting

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

Hero’s sidekick on WIP Wednesday

Mary Duchess of GloucesterI’m late getting up my work-in-progress Wednesday post. Because, life. I’ve been thinking about all the people who surround the hero and the heroine, and I thought I’d make today’s post about them. Please bring us seven to ten lines of your work-in-progress that focuses on a secondary character. If your hero doesn’t have a sidekick, how about your heroine? And if neither them has a close friend and confidante, pick a piece about another secondary character.

Here are seven sentences from A Baron for Becky about the Duchess of Haverford. Not a sidekick, exactly, but certainly a significant secondary character.

The duchess ignored them both to focus on Becky.

She insisted on Becky sitting beside her.

“Are you keeping well, my dear? Are you eating?”

“Yes, Your Grace.” Becky’s voice was so quiet Hugh had to lean forward to hear.

“You must eat several times a day, dear. More as the baby takes up more room…” she trailed off as Becky blushed scarlet. “And when do you expect the little one to arrive?”

“At Yuletide, Ma’am. Or perhaps early January.”

“What of sleep, Mrs Winstanley? Are you able to rest in the afternoons?” She turned to Hugh. “An afternoon rest is most efficacious for women who are increasing, Lord Overton. I will expect you to keep her in bed in the afternoon.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Hugh replied, blushing in his turn.

The Duchess silenced her sniggering son with a raised eyebrow.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss