Tea with Mary

Mary was a daughter of the navy, raised aboard ship by her admiral father and a succession of nurses. She had learned her company manners from the gentlemen’s sons who vied to sit at her father’s table, and had them polished almost to breaking point during her one London Season.

Since then, she’d become wife to her own captain, and in her own world of naval wives, she knew precisely how to behave. She had even — her husband being grandson to an earl — become comfortable with those aristocrats she counted as family, counting among her close friends the wife of the current earl.

But having afternoon tea tête–à–tête with a duchess was outside of her experience. She had met the Duchess of Haverford at various entertainments in London. Her Grace’s sister had been mother to the current earl, so they had even attended some of the same family events. But she would never dare to presume on such a distant acquaintance were the circumstances not — what they were.

Summoned in response to a note asking Her Grace for an audience, she had expected to be seen as a petitioner, with perhaps a secretary on hand to make notes. Instead, she had been shown to a private sitting room, where two chairs waited in a sunny window overlooking a garden, the great lady herself occupying one.

“Mrs Alexander Redepenning, ma’am,” the butler announced, and the duchess rose to greet her.

Mary took the hand offered, and curtseyed. “Thank you for agreeing to see me, Your Grace.”

“But of course. You are family, my dear, and I always have time for family.”

“It is in that hope I have come, Your Grace.”

Shrewd hazel eyes examined her, then the duchess seated herself again, saying decidedly, “Then be seated, Mary — I may call you ‘Mary’, may I not? Tell me how you have your tea, and then tell me what I may do to help you with whatever distresses you.”

Mary obeyed, and was very soon sipping tea with lemon from a cup of delicate china.

“Well, Mary?” the duchess prompted.

“It is a long story, ma’am. It concerns Susan, my sister-in-law, her daughter Amelia, and my son James. I am not sure where to begin.”

“At the beginning, my dear,” Her Grace suggested.

Mary Redepenning is the heroine of Gingerbread Bride, a Christmas novella written for the Bluestocking Belles holiday box set in 2015. Gingerbread Bride is free this month as part of a promotion with 149 other novellas and novellas.

This scene, though, takes place some twelve years later, when Mary’s 11 year old son and her 16 year old niece go missing, and her sister-in-law Susan disappears in pursuit. These events won’t happen until The Realm of Silence, which will be book three of The Golden Redepenning series.

The Duchess of Haverford appears in many of my books, first helping her nephew with his love affair in Farewell to Kindness. She also aided and abetted the not-quite-hero, her son, in A Baron for Becky. Most recently, she has been the hostess of the Christmas house party in the Bluestocking Belles box set Holly and Hopeful Hearts, which is also on special for December, at only 99c.

You can read the first two chapters of Gingerbride Bride here.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

Tea with Sophia

monday-for-tea

On this fine afternoon in September, the duchess had ordered tea served on the terrace overlooking the rose garden. “We should enjoy the sunshine while we can,” she told her goddaughter, Lady Sophia Belvoir.

Sophia had been surprised—and somewhat disconcerted—to find she was the only guest. What was Aunt Eleanor up to?

But Her Grace discussed only the weather and the roses as she poured the tea and passed the cucumber sandwiches; tiny triangles of finely sliced bread with the cool crisp vegetable melting on the tongue.

Sophia took a sip of her tea. Ah. The finest oolong with just a touch of lemon. Aunt Eleanor never forgot.

At that moment, the duchess pounced. “Tell me about Lord Elfingham, my dear.”

Sophia’s hand jerked as she returned her cup to its saucer, and it clicked loudly. She blushed. At her clumsiness, of course, not at the mention of the young viscount who had been everywhere she went for months

“You met him even before most of London, his aunt tells me,” the duchess prompted.

“Not met, exactly,” she demurred. “We were not introduced.”

Aunt Eleanor said nothing; just raised her brows in question, and after a moment Sophia added, “I was visiting the orphanage at Bentwick. A child ran out of the gate into the road, and was almost run down by racing curricles. Lord Elfingham rescued the child and returned him to the- the orphanage servants.”

Appearing from nowhere just as she emerged from the gate and saw disaster unfolding before her. Riding down on the cowering boy right under the noses of the teams that threatened to trample the child underfoot. Scooping up the runaway and leaping to safety on his magnificent stallion. Fixing her in place with a fervent gaze from his dark eyes. Haunting her in dreams ever since.

“He has been pursuing Felicity,” she told Her Grace. “Hythe will not consider it.”

The duchess’s brows rose again. “Your sister Felicity? Are you certain? It is you his eyes follow when you are at the same entertainments, Sophia.”

For a moment, Sophia’s heart leapt, but Aunt Eleanor was wrong. She was too old for the marriage mart, and had not been as beautiful as Felicity even when she was a fresh young debutante. Besides, her brother the Earl of Hythe would not countenance the connection, whichever sister was being courted.

She shook her head, not trusting her voice. “May we speak of something else?” Which was rude, but Aunt Eleanor graciously allowed it.

“Very well. Let us discuss next week’s meeting to set up the fund for the education of girls. You will take the chair, my dear?”

******

Sophia is the heroine of The Bluestocking and the Barbarian in the Belle’s box set Holly and Hopeful Hearts, now on sale.

the-bluestocking-and-the-barbarian-fb

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

Tea with Esther

monday-for-tea

Esther Baumann squeezed her fingers together in a futile effort to control her nerves when Miss Cedrica Grenford approached her in the anteroom to the Duchess of Haverford’s drawing room. The woman’s kind eyes behind wire-rimmed spectacles reassured her, however. She took a deep breath.

“Her Grace is so pleased you came,” Miss Grenford told her.

Esther rose to her feet, hoping she did it as gracefully as she intended. This caused Reba, her ever present companion, to do so as well.

“Would you care for refreshments, miss?” the duchess’s companion asked Reba.

esther-baumannEsther put her hand on the woman’s arm. “I’ll be fine Reba. Do let Miss Grenford see to your comfort.”

A moment later the door closed softly behind her, and she found herself alone with the Duchess of Haverford.

“Miss Baumann, how lovely of you to come. Your message requesting an interview pleased me.” The duchess gestured to the seat next to her with a graceful hand. Afte pouring tea, offering biscuits, and making sure of Esther’s comfort she went on, “How may I help you?”

“Oh, you already have, Your Grace. I asked to see you to thank you for your invitation to the Hollystone Hall house party and to give you my acceptance in person.” Esther handed a sweetly scented missive to the woman she admired so greatly.

“I’m delighted you will come! May I hope this means your parents have accepted my invitation as well?” the duchess asked turning the little missive over in her hand.

“I fear not, Your Grace. That is the reason I wished to speak to you face to face. My mother is not well.” Esther felt tears well up. When the duchess reached over an put a sympathetic hand on her arm they spilled over, earning her the use of a lace trimmed linen handkerchief.

After a moment to gather her emotions, Esther went on. “She worries about me attending a house party without her, and I’m loathe to worry her. Still, I want badly to come; my father has arranged for my Aunt Dinah to attend come with me.”

“Please assure your mother I will happily stand in her place while you are my guest, Miss Baumann. Will your father accompany you?”

Esther shook her head. “He tells me the demands of business forbid it.” She stiffened at that and watched for the other woman’s reaction. Many looked down on bankers like Nathaniel Baumann, and Esther would not hesitate to defend him if she had to. She didn’t.

“Men like your father are much needed in these difficult times,” the duchess replied.

Esther had a surge of pride, even greater than her relief at the woman’s sensitivity. “Yes! Even the government—” She snapped her mouth shut, aware she had almost revealed things she should not.

The duchess laughed, leaned closer, and whispered. “Yes I understand your father’s young assistant has accompanied Viscount Rochlin to Spain. Such delicate matters must weigh on Mr. Baumann.”

“How do you know that?” Esther gasped. “Adam left only last week!”

“I fear there is little my son Aldridge doesn’t know, at least a it applies to the country. Adam is it? Well, well.” The duchess’s eyes twinkled. “I will look forward to meeting this courageous young man. Shall I invite him as well?”

“He won’t come,” Esther responded morosely. “Adam… that is, Mr. Halevy, has very traditional views and a narrow circle of friends.”

“Oh dear. That must be difficult for one as outgoing as you,” the duchess replied sympathetically.

Her mood had turned gloomy, an unfamiliar situation for Esther. She took a deep breath and reached into her reticule and retrieved a heavy vellum packet, eager to change the subject. “My father asked me to deliver this to you in person as well.”

The duchess glanced over at Esther once or twice while she opened Baumann’s message. At the sight of the enclosed cheque her eyes grew wide. “My goodness, this is extremely generous.”

Esther grinned broadly. “My father is always happy to contribute. He believes very strongly in education.”

“Does he know our charity supports education for women and girls?”

“Certainly. He is…”

“Learning?” the duchess asked with a laugh.

“Conflicted,” Esther replied. “He will also contribute directly to Mr. Montefiore’s project to build a Hebrew school in London.”

“One that won’t admit girls.”

“No. It won’t.” Esther couldn’t keep the irritation out of her voice.

“You sound unhappy about that. Did you wish for that sort of education?”

“I would have liked to study the Torah at the feet of the rabbis, but I know of no girls who do. ”

The duchess sighed. “Perhaps some do and we don’t know about it yet. She raised her chin and went on, suddenly radiating the power of her position. “It is the same for all girls. We will change that. Maybe not overnight, but it will change.”

The fire in her eyes softened when she looked at Esther. “I will send my gratitude to your father and assure him he is welcome at the house party, even if he can only come for the ball.”

Esther smiled back. The duchess and the banker’s daughter’s eyes met in perfect accord.

__________________________________

It might have surprised Esther to know that some girls did have the opportunity she longed for, as Adam is about to find out.

an-open-heart-fbAn Open Heart, by Caroline Warfield

Esther Baumann longs for a loving husband who will help her create a home where they will teach their children to value the traditions of their people, but she wants a man who is also open to new ideas and happy to make friends outside their narrow circle. Is it so unreasonable to ask for toe curling passion as well?

Adam Halevy prospered under the tutelage of his distant cousin, powerful banker Nathaniel Baumann. He’s ready to find a suitable wife, someone who understands a woman’s role, and will make a traditional home. Why is Baumann’s outspoken, independent daughter the one woman who haunts his nights?

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

About the Author

carol-roddyTraveler, poet, librarian, technology manager—award winning 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 while she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

Tea with Charlotte

monday-for-teaAs the Duchess of Haverford topped up their tea from a fresh pot, Charlotte helped herself to her fifth petit four. Though she had been nervous to meet Her Grace on her own, there were advantages to having tea with a Duchess. Monsieur Fournier’s little cakes were at the top of that list, with the delicious orange pekoe coming in at a close second.

Her Grace smiled indulgently. “Marvelous, aren’t they?”

Reproduced under a CCC. Artist, Victor Nizovtsev

Reproduced under a CCC. Artist, Victor Nizovtsev

Charlotte’s eyes rolled in ecstasy as she bit into the smooth pink icing. “I can’t get enough of them. I have dreams about them. The baby already has expensive tastes, God help me.” She idly stroked her enormous belly. “I eat them as fast as Cedrica brings them.”

“Do you see her often?” She lit up at the mention of her relation.

“As often as she can get away. She has been occupied with Fournier’s, of course, but stops by for tea perhaps once a week.” She finished the cake with a sip of her tea. “Mrs. Phillips says I ought to cultivate more ‘advantageous’ friendships to ease my way into the ton, but who could be better than the wife of a French chef?” She laughed. “Cedrica is my dearest friend and I so look forward to our talks.”

Her Grace looked up from her tea with gentle concern. “How has the ton been treating you? Have you had many invitations?”

Charlotte sighed. She had been a countess for all of six months, a change she had embraced with rather more enthusiasm than society had accepted her. Actresses did not marry earls, after all. London’s shopkeepers, on the other hand, had embraced her with open arms. “I have had some,” she said carefully. “Apollo’s friends, mainly. Aldridge has been lovely.”

“I would certainly hope so.” There was pride in her voice as she spoke of her son. “He and Apollo have been friends for years. They used to spar in the parlour.”

“Now they spar in ours!” Charlotte laughed.

“More tea?”

“Please.”

“Apollo is a dear boy. I wanted to thank you both for your generous donation to the girls’ school.” Her Grace stirred a drop of cream into her tea.

“Of course! I was hoping to speak to you about the school, actually.”

Her Grace smiled. “I would be delighted to talk about the school. It’s one of my favorite subjects.”

“As you know we have the orphanage in Southwark. We have more children than we have space to keep them, and so many of them are little girls. We were wondering if perhaps we might be able to sponsor a number of them to have places at the school. They’re bright enough, and I know if they have the right education, they might be able improve their situation–”

“Say no more.”

Charlotte stiffened, unsure of how the Duchess would react. Would she object to admitting working class orphans into her beloved school?

“I think it’s a wonderful idea.”

Charlotte sighed in relief. The orphans were fast becoming a crusade of hers; just the thought of helping them brought tears to her eyes. She could not be happier that she was now in a position to help them. “I’m so pleased.”

“What shall we call it?”

“Call it?”

“Scholarships often have names, sometimes in memory of the person leaving it. As you and Somerton are thankfully in good health, is there someone else you might name it for?”

Charlotte grinned as it came to her, her heart so full of joy she thought it could burst. “Might we call it the Artemis Rothschild Fund? In memory of Apollo’s late sister.”

Her Grace smiled indulgently, and Charlotte wondered how much she knew of Apollo’s family history. “Of course.”

artemis-fb

HOLLY AND HOPEFUL HEART 

Read the story of Charlotte Halfpenny and the Earl of Somerton in the Bluestocking Belles’ box set, Holly and Hopeful Hearts.                                                                                

When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?

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

About Jessica Cale

Jessica Cale is the award-winning author of the historical romance series, The Southwark Saga. Originally from Minnesota, she lived in Wales for several years where she earned a BA in History and an MFA in Creative Writing while climbing castles and photographing mines for history magazines. She kidnapped (“married”) her very own British prince (close enough) and is enjoying her happily ever after with him in North Carolina. Visit her history blog at www.dirtysexyhistory.com.

Website: http://www.authorjessicacale.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JessicaCale

Pinterest: https://au.pinterest.com/rainbowcarnage/

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

Win a kitten in the Holly and Hopeful Hearts kitten tour

A kitten from the Bluestocking Belle’s box set Holly and Hopeful Hearts needs a home.

Meet Snowball, the kitten who captured the heart of the Earl of Hythe

Meet Snowball, the kitten who captured the heart of the Earl of Hythe

In my story, The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, Snowball is tempted from hiding by dangling gold tassels on James’ boots.

“I reckon gold tassels on the boots would be right proper, my lord,” the footman ventured.

He was right, too. Gold tassels that swung as James walked, catching and then losing the light. Not that gold tassels were going to make up the ground he’d lost with Sophia, but still…

“See what you can find,” he told the servant. “Adam, go on ahead and find your lady. I’ll be down in a minute.”

So it was that when he left his chamber, three gold tassels dangled from the front of each boot and proved a tempting target. A white kitten darted out from under an occasional table when James stopped to close the door behind him and took a flying leap at the tassels, as James discovered when he felt the sudden weight.

He took a careful step, expecting the small passenger to drop away, but it buried its claws and its teeth into its golden prey and glared up at him.

“Foolish creature,” he told it, going down onto the knee of the other leg so he could remove it, carefully lifting each paw to detach the tangled claws. “These gaudy baubles are to attract my lady, not a fierce little furry warrior.” He lifted the kitten in one hand and held it up to continue his lecture face to face. “Now where do you belong, hmmnhmmn? Have you wandered off from your mama? Do you belong to this house, I wonder, or did you come with a guest?”

The kitten squeaked a tiny meow.

“No, little one. I will not put you down to chew my tassels, or to trip one of the great ladies or to be trodden on by one of the gentlemen. You are a pretty little fellow, are you not?” He tucked the cat against his chest and rubbed behind its ears, prompting a loud rusty purr incongruously large for the small frame of the kitten.

Although focused on the kitten, he was aware of footsteps approaching. It was Hythe, who looked uncomfortable in a tight-fitting jerkin over short ballooning breeches that allowed several inches of clocked stocking to show between the hem of the breeches and the thigh-length fitted boots. The short robe, flat cap, and heavy flat chain gave a further clue, and Hythe had tried for authenticity by stuffing padding under the jerkin—a pillow, perhaps?

“Henry the Eighth?” James ventured, half-expecting Hythe to walk past without speaking or make another intemperate verbal attack.

Instead, the younger man nodded. “My sister Felicity picked it. Er… I wanted to speak with you… I owe you an apology, Winder… Er… Elfingham. My sister Felicity told me that… Well, the fact is I made an accusation without checking my facts.” Hythe nodded again, clearly feeling that he had said what he needed to say.

“Very handsome of you, Hythe,” James said.

Hythe ran a finger around inside his collar, flushing slightly. “Yes, well. The thing is… You will tell Sophia that I apologized, will you not?”

Ah. Clearly Sophia had expressed her discontent.

“Sisters can be a trial, can they not?” James said, and Hythe warmed to the sympathy.

“Just because she is older, she thinks she can…” He visibly remembered his audience. “Sophia is of age and will make her own decisions, but I think it only fair to tell you that I have advised her to wait until after the hearing at the Privileges Committee before she makes any decision.”

James inclined his head. “I understand your position.” Which would not prevent him from doing his best to persuade Sophia to ignore the advice.

Time to change the subject. He held up the little kitten. “Do you happen to know where this little chap belongs?”

Hythe flushed still deeper. “So that’s where he got to. He… ah… appears to be mine. In a way. The housekeeper’s cat had kittens, and this one seems to have adopted me. Little nuisance.”

But Hythe’s hands were gentle as he took the kitten from James, and he tucked it under his chin, his other hand coming up to fondle the furry head.

“I’ll just put him back in my room so he doesn’t get in anyone’s way. Foolish boy, Snowball. Do you wish to be lost? Was the fish not to your taste?”

Hythe retreated back down the hall. James could not hear individual words, but from the sound of his voice, he was continuing his loving scold. And James had managed to have what almost amounted to a conversation with his intended brother-in-law. He would count that as a win.

Follow the book links to learn more about the stories. Enter the rafflecopter below to be entered for the random draw to win the kitten.

the-bluestocking-and-the-barbarian-fb

The winner will be announced at the Book Launch Party on November 13th. The other kittens in the novellas are also looking for new homes, so be sure to keep an eye out for them! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

Tea with Vanessa

monday-for-tea

Vanessa’s tea with the duchess
OR
A widowed father must be in want of a wife

vanessa“Welcome, Miss Sedgely! I am so pleased you could take tea with me today.”

The Duchess of Haverford was sitting at the far end of two rows of elegant chairs and settees facing each other, looking regal in her own chair of scarlet and gold as she waved Vanessa to the chair at her right. Vanessa swallowed nervously as she made a small curtsey before complying with her hostess’s wishes.

“On the contrary, Your Grace. It was kind of you to extend me an invitation.”

It was true. The Sedgelys’ tended to socialize on the fringes of the ton, not in its upper circles. Vanessa had met a duchess or two before, but never this particular one, who had a reputation for being both astute and compassionate at the same time. No doubt her purpose in inviting Vanessa to tea was to learn more about her work with the Foundling Hospital in order to determine if it was indeed a worthy charity to promote at her New Year’s ball.

The duchess smiled. “It was gratifying to see so many serious young ladies taking an interest in charitable endeavors at the meeting at Miss Clemens’s Book Palace last week. It’s not the usual thing for unmarried ladies, is it?”

Vanessa took a deep breath before answering what was to her a loaded question.

“I’m sure many would agree with you that unmarried ladies would be better occupied in searching for a husband, Your Grace. However, for ladies who choose not to marry, or who have not yet found a suitable match, I cannot think their concern for the less fortunate should be denied. If I am able to help even a few abandoned children live to be respectable and worthy citizens—”

“Which are you, Miss Sedgley?”

Vanessa stared at her blankly. “I beg your pardon?”

The duchess tilted her head to the side. “A lady who has chosen not to marry or one who has not yet found a suitable match.”

A flush crept across Vanessa’s cheeks. Until recently, she would have easily confessed to the former, but since meeting a certain widowed solicitor, she had begun to believe the married state might be for her after all.
“I-uh…”

At that point the tea trolley was wheeled in, and Her Grace favored Vanessa with a request to pour the tea.

Fortunately, she was able to manage that small task without trembling, and for a short time, there was silence as the two ladies sipped their tea and bit into the delicious lemon biscuits.

“I found it exceedingly interesting that Mr. Durand remained for the entire meeting, although he was the only gentleman to do so.”

Her Grace set her cup down on its saucer on the small table between them.

Vanessa’s face felt impossibly hot.

“Er, yes,” she said, taking another sip of tea.

The duchess’s eyebrows furrowed and released. “I find it commendable that he seems so determined to raise his daughter himself,” she said casually as she reached for another biscuit. “I understand he could have left her indefinitely with his sister.”

teatrolleyVanessa poured herself another cup of tea. Her Grace’s tea service was exquisite, but the cups were tiny and the conversation was making Vanessa’s mouth feel dry.

“Indeed.”

“A girl of that age needs a mother, of course.”

“I’m sure that Mr. Durand will do what is necessary for his daughter,” Vanessa defended. “Now, perhaps we might discuss the needs of the Foundling Hospital?”

Her Grace burst out laughing. “I really must stop teasing you, my dear. It’s rather a dreadful habit of mine. Along with matchmaking, of course. But what happens between you and Mr. Durand is really not my concern.” She shrugged. “Although I do think you could be of great help to that worthy gentleman.”

Vanessa gave her a weak smile, wishing the floor would open up and swallow her.

The duchess rang for the tea trolley to be removed.

“Now,” she said. “Do tell me more about your work with the foundlings. We have an orphanage at our Hollystone Hall estate. I’m sure Miss Grenford will organize a visit for us during the house party.”

Gratified at the turn of conversation, Vanessa took a deep breath to give her time to organize her thoughts. Now this was a topic she could handle. Speculating on her matrimonial prospects with George Durand was quite definitely not.

valuing-vanessa-fb

Vanessa is heroine of Susana Ellis’s Valuing Vanessa, a novella in Holly and Hopeful Hearts. For more about Holly and Hopeful Hearts, including blurbs for all eight stories and preorder links, see the website of the Bluestocking Belles.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss

Tea with Lady Anna

monday-for-tea

Lady Anna Wycliff follows the servant into the parlor. The lovely Duchess of Haverford is standing by a table, already laid out with tea and biscuits.

“Do come join me,” the duchess says warmly. “I am so glad you could join me for tea.”

“Of course.” Anna smiles.

“How is your mother?”

“Good. Good. She sends her regards.”

The duchess picks up her bluebell patterned teacup but did not drink. “She mentioned to me that you enjoy to write stories.”

Anna’s smile grows even wider until her cheeks almost pain her. “Oh, yes! There’re just silly little stories. I mostly write for myself and share some with the children at orphanages. It makes them happy, which makes me happy.”

The duchess leans forward. “I would love to hear more about your stories. Perhaps you could read me one some day.”

“Oh, I would like that very much!”

An excerpt from Christmas Kisses:

Throughout the meal, Anna found herself sneaking glances at the marchioness’s son, Lord Pershore. She had nearly tripped over her feet when she walked into the parlor to see a strapping young man there, gazing upon her portrait. He had shockingly black hair, his eyes gray and without much warmth. His words were polite but a little terse, and she could not help imagining him into a story. Not as a hero. More a villain. Yes. He had plans to spirit away the beautiful heroine, and the dashing duke…er…the dashing hero had to save her from his vile clutches. Now when would the villain kidnap her? From where?

She could make him a pirate. The last time she had visited the orphanage, she had regaled them with several already penned stories by other writers, but a few of the tales had been ones she had conjured in her own mind, and she had a feeling the boys might appreciate a tale told partially by sea. Yes. Anna could easily see Lord Pershore’s black hair fluttering about in a strong breeze as he stood on the deck of his ship.

Anna could feel her cheeks flush. She couldn’t tell the duchess about the pirate tale with the villainous Lord Pershore! But she had plenty of ideas for more stories, including a few romances. Maybe one day she would have a romance all of her own…

decorative-text-divider-1

Lady Anna Wycliff is the heroine of Nicole Zoltack’s story Christmas Kisses, which appears in the Bluestocking Belles’ holiday box set for 2016, Holly and Hopeful Hearts.

christmas-kisses-fb

BUY LINKS for HOLLY AND HOPEFUL HEARTS

Amazon US http://ow.ly/INwa3049Ey3

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

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

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/holly-and-hopeful-hearts

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

Holly and Hopeful Hearts

Today is the day, people. At last we’re ready to reveal the box set the Belles have been working on for so many months. I give you:

holly-and-hopeful-hearts

When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?

Read about all eight novellas, and find pre-order links, on the Bluestocking Belles Holly & Hopeful Hearts page.

Today, meet my hero and heroine, James and Sophia.

the-bluestocking-and-the-barbarian-fb

james-bbJames must marry to please his grandfather, the duke, and to win social acceptance for himself and his father’s other foreign-born children. But only Lady Sophia Belvoir makes his heart sing, and to win her he must invite himself to spend Christmas at the home of his father’s greatest enemy.

Sophia keeps secret her tendre for James, Lord Elfingham. After all, the whole of Society knows he is pursuing the younger Belvoir sister, not the older one left on the shelf after two failed betrothals.

An Excerpt from The Bluestocking and the Barbarian

Chapter One

A country road in Oxfordshire
April 1812

curricle-vs-phaeton

They heard the two curricles before they saw them, the galloping hooves, the cacophony of harness and bounding wheels, the drivers shouting encouragement to their teams and insults to one another.

The Earl of Sutton turned his own horse to the shoulder of the road and the rest of the party followed his lead. As first one racing carriage and then the other careened by, James Winderfield murmured soothingly to his horse. “Stand, Seistan. Stand still, my prince.”

Seistan obeyed, only a stamp of the hind foot and muscles so tense he quivered displaying his eagerness to pursue the presumptuous British steeds and feed them his dust.

From their position at the top of what these English laughably called a hill, James could see the long curve of the road switching back at the junction with the road north and descending further until it passed through the village directly below them.

One of the fool drivers was trying to pass, standing at the reins—legs broadly astride. James hoped no hapless farmer tried to exit a gate in their path!

Seistan clearly decided that the idiots were beneath his contempt, for he relaxed as James continued to murmur to him.  “You magnificent fellow. You have left us some foals, have you not, my beauty? You and Xander, there?”

The earl heard his horse’s name and flashed his son a grin. “A good crop of foals, if their handlers are right. And honors evenly divided between Seistan and Xander. Except for the stolen mares.” He laughed, then, and James laughed with him.

Once the herd recovered from the long sea voyage, many of the mares had come into season. Not satisfied with his allotment, Seistan had leapt several of the fences on the land they had rented near Portsmouth, and covered two mares belonging to other gentlemen. And most indignant their owners had been.

“They did not fully understand the honor Seistan had done them, Father,” James said. Which was putting it mildly. When James arrived, they had been demanding that the owner of the boarding stable shoot the stallion for his trespass.

The earl laughed again. “I wish I had been there to hear you explain it, my son.”

ikon-_golden_akhal_teke-stallionA thirty-minute demonstration of Seistan’s skills as a hunter, a racer, and a war horse had been more convincing than any words of James’s, and a reminder of the famous oriental stallions who founded the lines of English thoroughbreds did the rest. In the end, he almost thought they would pay him the stud fee he had offered to magnanimously cut by half.

But he waived any fee at all, and they parted friends. Now two noblemen looked forward to the birth of their half-Turkmen foals, while James had delivered the herd to his father’s property in Oxfordshire and was now riding back to London to be put to stud himself.

“Nothing can be done about his mother, Sutton,” his grandfather, the Duke of Winshire, had grumbled, “but marry him to a girl from a good English family, and people will forget he is part cloth-head.”

The dust had settled. The earl gave the signal to move on, and his mount Xander took the lead back onto the road. James lingered a moment more, brooding on the coming Season, when he would be put through his paces before the maidens of the ton and their guardians. One viscount. Young, healthy, and well-travelled. Rich and titled. Available to any bride prepared to overlook foreign blood for the chance of one day being Duchess of Winshire.

Where was the love the traveling musicians spoke of? At least his cousins had adamantly turned him down. Not that he had anything against the twin daughters of the uncle whose inconvenient death had made his father heir and him next in line. But they did not make his heart sing.

The racing curricles had negotiated the bend without disaster and were now hurtling towards the village. Long habit had James studying the path, looking to make sure the villagers were safely out of the way, and an instant later, he put Seistan at the slope.

It was steep, but nothing to the mountains they had lived in all their lives, he and his horse, and Seistan was as sure-footed as any goat. Straight down by the shortest route they hurtled, for in the path of the thoughtless lackwits and their carriages was a child—a boy, by the trousers—who had just escaped through a gate from the village’s one large house, tripped as he crossed the road, and now lay still.

It would be close. As he cleared one stone fence and then another, he could see the child beginning to sit up, shaking his head. Just winded then, and easier to reach than lying flat, thank all the angels and saints.

Out of sight for a moment as he rounded a cottage, he could hear the carriages drawing closer. Had the child recovered enough to run? No. He was still sitting in the road, mouth open, white-faced, looking as his doom approached. What kind of selfish madmen raced breast to breast, wheel to wheel, into a village?

With hand, body and voice, James set Seistan at the child, and dropped off the saddle, trusting to the horse to sweep past in the right place for James to hoist the child out of harm’s way.

One mighty heave, and they were back in the saddle. James’ shoulders would feel the weight of the boy for days, but Seistan had continued across the road, so close to the racers that James could feel the wind of their passing.

They didn’t stop. Didn’t even slow. In moments, they were gone.

The boy shaking in his arms, James turned Seistan with his knees, and walked the horse back to the gates of the big house. A crowd of women waited for them, but only one came forward as he dismounted.

“How can we ever thank you enough, sir?” She took the child from him, and handed him off to be scolded and hugged and wept over by a bevy of other females.

sophia-rembrandt_peale_-_portrait_of_rosalba_pealeThe woman lingered, and James too. He could hear his father and the others riding towards them, but he couldn’t take his eyes off hers. He was drowning in a pool of blue-gray. Did she feel it too? The Greeks said that true lovers had one soul, split at birth and placed in two bodies. He had thought it a nice conceit, until now.

“James!” His father’s voice broke him out of his trance. “James, your grandfather expects us in London.” The earl lifted his top hat with courtly grace to the woman, and rode on, certain that James would follow. Not the woman; the lady, as her voice and clothes proclaimed, though James had not noticed until now.

A lady, and by the rules of this Society, one to whom he had not been introduced. He took off his telpek, the large shaggy sheepskin hat.

“My lady, I am Elfingham. May I have the honor of knowing whom I have served this day?”

She seemed as dazed as he, which soothed him a little, and she stuttered slightly as she gave him her name. “L-L-Lady Sophia. Belvoir.” Unmarried, he hoped. For most married ladies were known by their husband’s name or title. And a lady. He beamed at her as he remounted. He had a name. He would be able to find her.

“Thank you, sir. Lord Elfingham.”

“My lady,” James told her, “I am yours to command.”

For more of our stories, see our individual blogs:

A Suitable Husband, by Jude Knight (this story links the others and is featured in the Teatime Tattler)

Valuing Vanessa, by Susana Ellis

A Kiss for Charity, by Sherry Ewing

Artemis, by Jessica Cale

The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, by Jude Knight

Christmas Kisses, by Nicole Zoltack

An Open Heart, by Caroline Warfield

Dashing Through the Snow, by Amy Rose Bennett

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail
rss