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Author: Caroline Warfield (Page 1 of 4)

Miss Atherton’s Misfortune and Sad Entanglements

A letter from Miss Lucretia Atherton to Mr. Henry Atherton, steward of Viscount Saybrook’s Lincolnshire estate. Brighton, May 1821.

My dear nephew:

If the physician be correct in his prognostications, by the time you read this letter I will be dead. Rejoicing, I trust, along with my Maker, if our Lord can find it in his heart to forgive the mistakes of a woman whose sins lie far in the past. I flatter myself that my keeping of your daughter for all these years—more than ten, now, since the passing of my own dear niece, your wife!—will stand me in good stead as I face my day of judgment.

But now I must return poor Harriot to your care, as it has been her misfortune not to secure herself a husband during these years she has lived with me as my companion. Although the primary purpose in removing her from Lincolnshire was to prevent any unfortunate entanglements with the sons of Lord Saybrook, I did advise you that she would have a far better chance of securing herself a suitable husband if she came to me, rather than stayed with your widowed self. But she has not. Why this should be so, I cannot begin to fathom. She has been taught how to run a small household, and how to best keep its accounts; she has a kind, selfless sort of temperament; and, though not a diamond of the first water, she can be pleasing when she makes a proper effort with her toilette. Surely the demands I placed upon her as my companion could not have so occupied her mind as to it leave it no room for wooing.

Misfortune

Brighton, 1883, complements of Antiquemapsandprints.com

I cannot account it my fault. My political work here in Brighton has often brought us into company with gentlemen of the proper social standing, but Harriot would have none of them. Nor did the sons of any of the local gentry seem to catch her eye, nor she theirs. At least we may be thankful her head was not turned by any in the Prince Regent’s dissolute set, who parade about the town in their ridiculous fashions and dandified airs, preening as if they were peacocks wooing a hen. I do not look kindly on our current King for bringing such a dissolute set to my poor Brighton, even if their patronage has contributed to the economy of the town.

I did think at one time Harriot might harbor a tendre for a young officer whose regiment had been stationed in the town. But despite my continual urging, she failed to bring him to the point, and his regiment left town without his having made the expected declaration. Miss Terpent, Brighton’s most determined gossip, dared to put it about that Harriot had allowed Lieutenant Chamberlayne liberties that no lady ought, but for my part, I cannot believe it of my niece. You can be certain I squashed such ill-bred, groundless rumors as soon as they came to my ears, and no word of such things should follow her home.

I understand from Harriot that you have seen little of the new Lord Saybrook at the estate since the passing of his father. I do hope he continues to spend the bulk of his time in London; it would be a pity to send Harriot away for a decade to avoid an inappropriate entanglement with a boy above her station, only to have the grown man persuade her into a dalliance upon her return. I understand from my friends in the city that your new lord is of a low, dissolute character, particularly in his relations with the gentler sex, and have warned your daughter accordingly.

Although I did think from some remarks Harriot let drop that it was not the heir, but his brother, whom she recalled with some fondness—

Be that as it may. I am at peace, knowing I have done all I could for your child.

I will recommend your soul to your wife when we meet in Heaven, and pray it will be many years before you join us there.

I remain, your dutiful Aunt,

Lucretia Atherton

MisfortuneAbout the Book:  A Lady without a Lord

Book #3 in The Penningtons series

A viscount convinced he’s a failure

For years, Theodosius Pennington has tried to forget his myriad shortcomings by indulging in wine, women, and witty bonhomie. But now that he’s inherited the title of Viscount Saybrook, it’s time to stop ignoring his responsibilities. Finding the perfect husband for his headstrong younger sister seems a good first step. Until, that is, his sister’s dowry goes missing . . .

A lady determined to succeed

Harriot Atherton has a secret: it is she, not her steward father, who maintains the Saybrook account books. But Harry’s precarious balancing act begins to totter when the irresponsible new viscount unexpectedly returns to Lincolnshire, the painfully awkward boy of her childhood now a charming yet vulnerable man. Unfortunately, Theo is also claiming financial malfeasance. Can her father’s wandering wits be responsible for the lost funds? Or is she?

As unlikely attraction flairs between dutiful Harry and playful Theo, each learns there is far more to the other than devoted daughter and happy-go-lucky lord. But if Harry succeeds at protecting her father, discovering the missing money, and keeping all her secrets, will she be in danger of failing at something equally important—finding love?

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An excerpt in which Theo offers Harry a long-overdue apology

“I know it’s not much,” he said, gesturing to the flowers. “But rue is supposed to symbolize regret, is it not?”

“Yes. But how could I ever regret receiving my first bouquet from a gentleman?”

“What? No flowers, ever? Why, those fops down in Brighton must be slow tops, indeed.”

“Slower than you, certainly,” she answered, a smile in her voice.

An even worse thought entered his head. Theo clasped his hands in front of his heart in exaggerated entreaty. “Please tell me the boys of Lincolnshire weren’t as dilatory. An entire field full of meadow rue wouldn’t come close to conveying my regrets if your very first kiss came from my bumbling adolescent self.”

“Best start gathering ye rue while ye may, then, sir,” she teased. “And your sin was even more reprehensible than that. For I’d been nursing the most painful case of calf-love for your brother Benedict at the time.”

Theo groaned. “And instead you got me, the careless, foolish brother. How utterly demoralizing, both for you and myself. But only say the word and I’ll dash off a missive this moment, inviting Benedict back to the family manse so you can exert your feminine wiles on the boy.”

Yes, a sensible plan, that, masterminding a match between his brother and the daughter of his steward. Why, then, did the idea of Harry kissing Benedict make him so ill at ease? And not only, he feared, because he worried Ben’s attentions were fixed on someone else entirely.

“Please, do not trouble yourself,” Harry said with a laugh. “As an old Friesian general of my great aunt’s acquaintance used to say, ‘calf-love, half-love, old love, cold love.’”

Theo leaned an arm against a hay bale. “Ah, found a better swain in Brighton than old Ben, did you? One who gave you no flowers, the dunderhead. But perhaps a few kisses, to erase the memory of mine?”

A small, secret smile lit her face. “No need to worry, sir. Yours is not the only kiss I’ve ever received.”

“Ah, you did have a love in Brighton,” Theo said, struggling to make his tone as light as his words. “So why did you leave?”

Harry bent over his drab little bouquet as if she expected to find some hidden scent amongst its wilting blooms. When she raised her head, that private smile was gone, replaced by one wider, but far more brittle. “Not every kiss leads to lasting love, sir. As I’m certain you are well aware, if even a tiny portion of the tales of your London escapades are true.”

The false cheer in her voice, the way she turned the subject away from herself and back on to him—was not it just like her, to insist her own feelings were of no matter? But she had been hurt by her faithless swain, of that he was certain. Damn the perfidious cur to hell and back.

“Of course not,” he said. “Some kisses are simply for pleasure. And some are to dissipate tension, or anger. Some can even offer comfort. Like this.”

Cupping her nape in his hand, he set his lips against hers, pressing all the solace he could into the simple touch.

He had meant it to ease her cares, but the warmth and stillness of her beneath him seemed to calm him, too. Almost as if the tranquility of the lavender about which she’d sung resided somehow within her.

After a long, quiet moment, he raised his head. Stroking a thumb over her cheek, he gazed into her wide, wide eyes.

“Whoever he is, Harry, he is not worth your regrets. Not if he let you go without a fight.”

Then, before impetuosity and rising lust drove him to demand more, he scrambled down the ladder and out into the starless night.

About the Author

Misfortune

Bliss Bennet writes smart, edgy novels for readers who love history as much as they love romance. Her Regency-set series The Penningtons has been praised by the Historical Novel Society’s Indie Reviews as “a series well worth following”; its books have been described by USA Today as “savvy, sensual, and engrossing”; by Heroes and Heartbreakers as “captivating,” and by The Reading Wench as having “everything you want in a great historical romance.” The latest book in the series is A Lady without a Lord.

Death in Dallas

Some Juicy Gossip From Vikki McGlory Ward in Dallas

DallasSpring 1964

The day President Kennedy was assassinated, my husband Jack also died mysteriously. They ruled it a drowning—in a Dallas bathtub. But he wasn’t supposed to be in Dallas that day, and he never took baths. Determined to find out who killed Jack, because I wouldn’t accept the Dallas Police’s lame drowning ruling and shutting his case, I went from grieving widow to sleuth—and along the way, fell in love with the bodyguard my godfather hired to protect me. His name is Aldobrandi Po, a Sicilian who looks like Michelangelo chiseled him out of Carrera marble.

My journey as a sleuth brought me to a wide range of venues, from the Dallas County Jail to speak with Jack Ruby to a Plaza Hotel suite to confront a reptile by the name of Gio Bati, a lowlife gangster who just might have murdered my Jack.

I went to his suite with Al and my friend Polly, Bati’s ex. But I couldn’t meet him as Vikki Ward. Because we’d gone there on the pretense of offering him a business venture, I had to take on an assumed name and play a role. I’m no actress, and I could have been the next victim to drown in a bathtub if I blew this, but I did it for Jack.

We approached the double doors of Bati’s suite. Polly rang the doorbell, and I held my breath for the six seconds it took him to answer it. The door opened and there he stood—the bastard who’d plunged me into the agony of grief and changed my life.

He didn’t flaunt a greasy gangster look. His eyes weren’t shifty or beady; his lips weren’t fixed into a sneer. He was clean shaven, his shirt was crisp, his pants creased, his tie silk. Everything about his appearance reflected respectability and breeding. He stepped aside and swept his hand through the air in a welcome gesture.

I tried to keep my hatred in check. It wasn’t easy. This was an acting role in more ways than one.

“Hiya, mon cher,” Polly greeted him and Bati gave her a swat on the ass like an old married couple.

“You’re lookin’ good, vamp.” After a quick scan of Polly’s upper anatomy, he turned to me. “And this is Miz Daisy?” His eyes lingered on my décolletage. I tried not to let it repulse me.

“Right you are, but just plain Daisy to you.” Getting into character, I gracefully placed a cigarette in a diamond-inlaid holder and waited for him to light it. He plucked a lighter from his monogrammed shirt pocket. “Allow me. Hey, you’re one right purty filly, dawlin’.”

Al stepped between us and stuck out his hand. I expected his fist. “Aldobrandi Po. I’ll be a silent partner in our venture.”

Polly stood to leave and I knew we had to get down to business. As I fought down nausea, I silently vowed, I’m doing this for you, Jack.

“So—Ben—I hope this venture will be profitable for all of us. I purchased the personal telephone directory of a retiring Park Avenue madam. I caught some high-powered names in there. If this pans out, I’d like to start a male escort service, too.” Stay in character! I silently urged.

DallasWe clinked glasses and I made a sipping gesture but didn’t drink. He sank into an easy chair and took a sip of his drink, running his tongue over his lips. “Sounds like a noble way to make a living. But I’m hoping to make a hefty profit on this venture without having to do much physical labor.”

“You will,” I assured him. “That’s why Polly looked you up for this venture. Said you’d be a great asset to the business.”

“Well, I always steered business Polly’s way and never asked for a finder’s fee.” He stretched his legs out.

“You’re very generous.”

He looked down. “It’s just the way I’m sitting.”

“No, I mean—not wanting to be compensated.” I took another bogus sip. Al stood within shooting range of Bati’s head.

“So—take a seat, Al, and Daisy, was it? Cute.” He snickered. “Not too original, but cute. So drop the curtain and tell me your real name.”

I swept off the hat, making sure the wig stayed on. “My real name’s Cynthia Van Meegeren.”

Bati stood, reached for my hand, and brought me to my feet. “You’re a living doll.”

Al patted the pistol under his jacket.

I told myself to stay in character! “I wouldn’t kick you out of the boudoir, either, Ben.” I felt around until I touched the reassuring coolness of my .22. “You’d make a good male escort, too, if you’re, uh—up to it.”

“So, what brought you to this field of endeavor?” He refilled his glass.

“Well, I don’t know if Polly told you, but I was a call girl a while back, in Washington, D.C.” I recited my rehearsed lines. “I still maintain some contacts in Washington and entertain them when they come this way. Never did get to meet the Kennedy brothers, though. Isn’t it one of the blackest marks on our country’s history the way Kennedy was killed, right there in the open, with his wife right next to him?” I forced nonchalance into my tone, when in reality the memories tore my heart apart.

“Depends on who you’re askin’.” Bati dropped ice cubes into his glass with tongs.

This segue into Jack’s murder was easier than I’d rehearsed it. I pushed the excruciating memories away. Stay in character! “Jack Ward was far better than that youngster at the anchor desk now. Isn’t it terrible how he drowned?” I sallied forth, in agony reciting these lines. But it’s all for you, Jack.

Bati didn’t respond, just unlaced his spit-shined shoes and slid out of them. Like a snake, I kept thinking. A cold-blooded reptile.

“Did you know Jack Ward at all, Ben?” I ventured, going for broke now.

“How would I know him?” Bati glanced at his watch.

“I thought you might’ve traveled in the same circles.”

“They’re pretty big circles. If you ask me, Ward was a nosy sumbitch. Did the world a favor by croaking.” His tone remained detached, like he was talking about some historical figure he’d read about in American Heritage.

I wanted to choke him. Staying in character like this pushed me to the limit of human endurance. “I ask because Ward was one of my best clients. He told me he was onto the JFK plot.”

Bati shot me a quizzical glance. Now he looked interested.

I ventured on, “Ward was on the inside of the whole thing. Do you think he was silenced because of what he knew? Like Dorothy Kilgallen and all those other poor victims?”

“Yeah, so were a few whores with big mouths. I knew a few of ’em personally: Kandi Kane from N’awlins, who threatened to write a book about it, and Theresa Norton, one of Ruby’s gals.” His answer tore through me like a bullet.

On one level, I reveled in self-satisfaction at how well I was pulling this off. On a deeper level, I shuddered in revulsion at who this man actually was. Goosebumps sprouted on my arms. The hairs stood on the back of my neck. Dear God, how did actors do it? Stay in character!

Bati strode up to me and stood so close, I could smell the booze on his breath. “I hope you’re not always all business, Cyn, or sis, or whoever you are.” He bent his head over mine to kiss me. I couldn’t stop him. I tried to push him away, but it was like trying to move a rock.

Al yanked him off me, spun him around, and slugged him in the jaw. Knuckle cracked against bone.

Bati held his jaw with one hand, reaching inside his jacket with the other. Faster than she could blink, he whipped out a gun and aimed it at Al’s heart.

“No, don’t shoot him, please!” I pleaded.

“All right, let’s have it.” His voice grated like steel on concrete. “You might be a whore, but now I know—” He pointed at Al, “—he’s no goddamn pimp. You two and Polly are up to somethin’ no good, and I wanna know what it is.”

The jig is up. “Put the gun down, and I’ll tell you.”

His mirthless laugh made my skin crawl. “Nothin’ doin’. I know you’re both packin’, Bonnie and Clyde. Now tell me what’s goin’ on, and if I don’t believe it, he gets it first, then you.”

“Tell him everything, Vikki,” Al said as Bati raised his gun and aimed it at Al’s heart.

“All right, I’ll tell you!” I shook so hard my jewelry rattled. “Just please don’t shoot him!”

Bati kept a steady aim on Al as I trembled. “Having us followed, shooting at us in New Orleans…” I gulped air. “You killed the detective I hired and you drowned my husband. I had a lot of brushes with death finding out what happened. I want you to spare Al—please—he’s just my bodyguard. But you know what? Right now I don’t give a damn if I die, because I’ll be with Jack again. But first just tell me why you killed him. Tell me!” Hands outstretched, I grasped Bati’s lapels and shook him.

He didn’t make a move to push me away. I opened my palm and smacked him across the face. “You heartless, murdering bastard!”

Bati stared me down without a blink. “What in the holy name of hell are you babbling about, woman?” His voice stayed calm and even.

“My husband, Jack Ward.” I gritted my teeth. “Tell me what happened. For once, just find a shred of decency in that sick mind of yours and tell me why you had to drown Jack!” I raised my fists to pound at him. This time he caught them in one hand and threw them to my sides.

“I didn’t drown your husband, you fruitcake.” His tone was as calm as if he were telling the time.

“Stop denying it, you damn liar!” My breaths came in gasps. “I took a long time to track you down. You followed my husband to Dallas and drowned him in that bathtub. Now, if you kill me, I can accept that. But just tell me why you killed Jack. Why?” So desperate for the truth, I was willing to die for it.

“I don’t know what you’re yip-yappin’ about, and I didn’t drown your husband in no bathtub.” He looked down at me as if I were insane. “I never even met your husband.”

For a crazed instant, I almost believed him. His voice said it all.

“Okay, I’ll tell you.” His voice gentled, but his hand didn’t waver. “Your husband started showing up at JFK rallies and things, and following me and my associates around. I figgered he was onto us. He was a nosy, like I said. Typical vulture reporter. I work for whoever’ll hire me. For the Kennedy hit it was a branch of the CIA in cahoots with the New Orleans mob. I never met your husband, don’t know how the hell he got into a bathtub and drowned or what happened to him, I swear it.” He raised his right hand as if taking an oath on the witness stand.

“Look. Look at me!” Struggling to keep the trembling out of my voice, I tried to get him to take his attention off Al and onto me. Now I shook with fury, not fear. “Don’t you know me? You’ve never seen me before?”

“Nope.”

I yanked off the wig and my hair tumbled to my shoulders. “Now do you recognize me, Jack Ward’s widow? You’ve never seen my picture?”

“You ever pose for Playboy?” He leered, his eyes on my cleavage again.

“Certainly not!”

A wild, brash idea hit me like lightning. “Then maybe you’ll recognize me from the photo you took out of Jack’s wallet.” With one fluid motion, I ripped my blouse open and thrust out my bared breasts. Buttons flew across the room. “Now do you recognize me?”

He blinked, startled. His eyes bugged out. His mouth fell open.

Al lunged for him and knocked him off his feet with a karate kick. As Al grabbed Bati’s gun, I pulled out my .22, aimed, and fired. The silenced gunshot pierced Bati’s chest. He gurgled and gasped. Blood gushed from the wound. The metallic odor stung my nose and throat.

His lifeless body pitched forward. As he crumpled to the floor, I jumped aside and reached for Al.

“My God, Vikki, you saved my life.” His voice cracked.

“I’m glad you kept your wits about you when I yanked my dress open.” I swept my bra off the floor.

“I’m more of an ass man, myself.”

To this day, I don’t know what made me think to whip off my blouse and bare my breasts to distract that monster. I thought he’d seen a topless photo of me in Jack’s wallet. But I was in such a daze, I don’t think I remembered that, at that instant. We never told a soul, and his murder remains unsolved. But all these years later, as I’m in my 80s now, I told my grandkids about it. They trawl the internet for juicy gossip, and now they’ve heard the most salacious gossip of all, from their own Nana. And they promised not to Tweet about it or post it on Facebook.

By the way, I finally found Jack’s killer and he went to prison for life. But that’s juicy gossip for another day.

An Interview with Our Source, Vikki Ward

Vikki, what is your family like?

A bit crazier than others, mainly because my father was in the rackets in the 1930s and he’s a composer of Broadway show tunes. I had an unforgettable childhood. My father took me to every Broadway musical that came out. We had famous people to the house all the time for dinner and cocktails, and to me, they were just folks, I didn’t care how famous they were, or if their albums played in the background. Dad gave me piano lessons, although it wasn’t my calling the way it was his—I preferred painting, sewing and designing fashions as a creative outlet. I never knew my mom, she died tragically and suddenly when I was an infant. But my father’s second wife Greta treated me like her own daughter. We went everywhere together, museums, hair salons, shopping, for long strolls through Central Park. But in school nobody cared whose kid I was. It was a strict Catholic school and I was in a uniform like everybody else. My family is Roman Catholic and we still have all the saints’ statues in the hallways and backyards

Do you have any hobbies? What do you enjoy doing?

Designing costumes, going for bicycle rides with my husband and kids. I love to sing opera arias, although I’m not trained, and I make sure I’m alone when I do it. Fortunately, Al and I share a lot of interests – opera, painting, fashion—and one that most couples don’t share—guns. We have contests at the shooting range to see who’s the best shot. He also likes to hunt, which I don’t. But I’m good at cooking the venison he brings home

What is your greatest dream?

To write my father’s memoirs with the notes he won’t let me see until, as he says, “I’m planted.”

What kind of person do you wish you could be? What is stopping you?

I want to be more introspective, to look within and find my spiritual path. But I’m always out there doing something with the kids—it never ends. I’m too exhausted at night to meditate or do any soul-searching.

DallasAbout The Book   

The third in the New York Saga, The End of Camelot centers on Billy McGlory’s daughter Vikki, whose husband is murdered trying to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Vikki uses her detective skills to trace the conspiracy, from New York to New Orleans to Dallas, and at the same time, tricks her husband’s murderer into a confession. A romance with her bodyguard makes her life complete.

November 22, 1963: The assassination of a president devastates America. But a phone call brings even more tragic news to Vikki Ward—her TV reporter husband was found dead in his Dallas hotel room that morning.

Finding his notes, Vikki realizes her husband was embroiled in the plot to kill JFK—but his mission was to prevent it. When the Dallas police rule his death accidental, Vikki vows to find out who was behind the murders of JFK and her husband. With the help of her father and godfather, she sets out to uncover the truth.

Aldobrandi Po , the bodyguard hired to protect Vikki, falls in love with her almost as soon as he sets eyes on her. But he’s engaged to be married, and she’s still mourning her husband. Can they ever hope to find happiness in the wake of all this tragedy?

An excerpt from The End of Camelot

November 22, 1963

Larchmont, New York

Vikki entered her foyer and dropped her shopping bags on the floor. As she locked the door and kicked off her alligator pumps, the phone rang. She answered it in the kitchen, so she could raid the pastry box while she chatted.

“Vikki, it’s Linc Benjamin.” His ragged voice came over the line. “I have terrible news. Jack is dead.”

“What?” She couldn’t have heard right. “What did you say?”

“Jack was found in the bathtub of his hotel room this morning—”

She dropped the phone and slid down against the wall. Her glasses fell off her face. The room spun. Sunlight glared. She smelled the new coat of wax on the kitchen floor.

“Vikki? Vikki?” came faintly from the dangling receiver. She crawled over and grasped it. He would tell her it was a mistake, they had the wrong man, or it was another of Jack’s practical jokes.

“My Jack?” she whispered.

“Vikki, I’m so sorry,” he sobbed.

“Linc—no, please. Tell me it wasn’t Jack. Are you sure? There must be a mistake. Not Jack.” Her heart thudded like a hammer. A stabbing pain pierced her chest. She held the receiver away from her ear.

“Vikki, are you there?” His voice came through the earpiece. “If you want, I’ll be right over. I can tell you everything when I get there, or right now, whatever you want.”

“Now!” she demanded.

“The Dallas police found him drowned in his hotel bathtub—”

“Dallas? What was he doing in Dallas? He’s supposed to be in Chicago doing a story on the FBI!” she screeched, beyond rational thought. No, this had to be a mistake!

“I don’t know, Vikki. The maid found him. The Dallas police tried to call you all morning, but you weren’t home, so they called here, at the network. Do you want me to come over and—”

“Wait!” She squeezed her eyes shut. “Now—where is he now?”

“Parkland Hospital. They’re going to bring the bod—er, bring him back to New York after the autopsy.” His voice broke again. “God, Vikki, I’m so sorry. I feel like I lost my brother.”

She went blank, too stunned to think. Her hands shook so much she could hardly hold the phone.

“Vikki, do you want me to come over—”

“No.” She released the receiver. It swung away and banged against the wall. She curled up on the floor as the ticking clock echoed the thudding of her heart.

She wept in unbearable grief. Shutting her eyes tight, she cradled her head in her arms. A jumble of thoughts rendered her helpless.

“Please, God,” she prayed, “Let it be a mistake and Jack will come walking through the door.”

The doorbell rang. “Jack?” She forced her eyes open.

“Vikki!”

Her head throbbed with each pound on the door.

“Vikki! Are you okay? Can you hear me?”

The voice was her father’s, and as much as she wanted him with her, holding her, rocking her, the present was too much to bear. She wanted one last visit to the past with Jack, happy and alive and free from harm.

But the raw truth seared her soul: The past is gone, and so is your beloved Jack!

Too weak to walk, she crawled to the door, reached up, and unlocked it.

Her father rushed in and knelt beside her. “Vikki, honey?”

She collapsed into his arms, heaving gut-wrenching sobs.

“It’s okay, I’m here,” he crooned, like he was singing the songs he wrote for her.

“Dad—Jack…”

“I know.” He nodded. “JFK was shot in the head. The governor of Texas was shot, too.”

“No. My Jack! They found him—” Sobs burst from the depths of her soul.

“Huh? What…your Jack?”

Unable to speak any further, she nodded.

“Something happened to him?” He sat her down on the couch.

She drew in a ragged breath and he grasped her hands.

“Oh, God.” He held her and stroked her hair as she sobbed, her tears staining his scarf. “Okay, Dad’s here, I’ll stay with you. I’m sorry, I thought you were talking about President Kennedy. He just got shot.”

“President Kennedy?” She shook her head in disbelief. “No. Jack’s friend from the network called, and—” She couldn’t go on.

“Don’t talk. I’ll get you a brandy or something.” He glanced over at her liquor cabinet.

She didn’t even want him leaving her for a few seconds. He hung her phone up and it started ringing instantly. She heard spurts of conversation. His voice sounded like an echo in a marble tomb. He finally stopped talking and came back with a brandy bottle, a snifter, and her eyeglasses. “I found your glasses on the floor.” He took her into his arms and rocked her back and forth. “You’ll be okay, you’re strong, you’re my girl,” he murmured, and she wished he’d sing to her.

Instead he explained that President Kennedy had been shot on the motorcade route in Dallas.

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About the Author

Diana Rubino says, “My passion for history has taken me to every setting of my historicals. The “Yorkist Saga” and two time travels are set in England. My contemporary fantasy “Fakin’ It”, set in Manhattan, won a Romantic Times Top Pick award. My Italian vampire romance “A Bloody Good Cruise” is set on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean.

When I’m not writing, I’m running my engineering business, CostPro Inc., with my husband Chris. I’m a golfer, racquetballer, work out with weights, enjoy bicycling and playing my piano.

I spend as much time as possible just livin’ the dream on my beloved Cape Cod.

Visit Diana:

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Whispers in a Corner of Cairo

The dining room of the Hotel des Anglais in Cairo hummed with conversation and bustled with activity. Waiters in white saw to every comfort. Gentlemen in formal dress surveyed the diners from their perch near the door, ready to step in if needed. Della Faulkner thought that they well should. A baronet’s granddaughter, she had fine sense of what was due her sort.

Cairo

The Dining Room, Hotel des Anglais, Cairo (later Shepheard’s Hotel)

She huddled at a table in the far corner with two other ladies in perfectly proper English dress, and perfectly proper English bonnets, their faces bright with a sheen brought on by Egypt’s oppressive heat. They lingered over after-dinner cordials, their husbands having departed in search of something more fortifying. After a voyage on the new mail steamer and a harrowing trip across the desert from Suez, they were in great need of civilized comforts.

“Tell me exactly what you heard Mr. Badawi say,” Della demanded for the second time. As the eldest and, in her opinion, highest ranking of their number, she assumed the right to demand. Frustration that she had missed a confrontation between the Egyptian manager for the Nile and Oriental Company, their local contact, with a scandalous fellow passenger gave her voice more force than normal.

Alice Fuller, the nervous woman next to her, jumped at the sound. A tiny woman, she blinked several times while she babbled, “He said, ‘if you are not married.’ I heard that distinctly, didn’t you Bertha? ‘If’ he said.”

Cairo

The Lobby, Hotel des Anglais, Cairo (later Shepheard’s Hotel)

The third woman, a sour-faced matron of indeterminable years glowered at Alice and sighed deeply. “We weren’t eavesdropping, mind, but when we saw Captain Wheatly conversing with Mr. Badawi in the lobby, we feared yet more difficulties and moved closer. This entire journey has been a nightmare. I so regret letting Albert talk me into the overland route.”

Della brushed that aside. “Yes, yes, but what did you hear?”

“He all but accused Wheatly of lying to him, but I did not hear the proof.”

“Tell me ladies, did the couple act as if they were married when aboard ship?” The speaker, the lone man in their company, leaned forward. Della detected an unattractive eagerness behind his air of unconcern. Egbert Weaver appeared encroaching to her, though the others professed to find his quiet manner charming. Quiet he may be, but the man didn’t miss much that went on, always hovering nearby listening.

“Well, the way they carried on on deck, they should be married,” Alice giggled. “Remember Bertha? Right there in front of us?”

Della sniffed. “No better than she ought to be if you ask me, latching on to an officer and pretending to care for those children of his.” She shuddered.

“Is there something odd about his children?” Weaver asked, his face a mask of sympathy.

Alice leaned toward him to whisper, “They are dark. Indian, no doubt. His but not hers—you know…” She raised her eyebrows.

“Oh say the word, Alice! Bastards, Mr. Weaver. I would bet my bonnet on it,” Della proclaimed. “And if he isn’t married to the woman traveling with them—well!”

“We don’t know that, Della. He told me he was widowed. As to his current companion, they had two cabins, as I recall,” Bertha pointed out.

cairo steamship

Della rolled her eyes. “You are too softhearted, Bertha. None of that means squat and you know it. Who slept in which bed and why, I should like to know,” she hissed under her breath.
“Are you saying they are married, but slept apart,” Weaver began, “Or—”

“Look!” Alice said bouncing in her seat and wagging her head toward the door. All eyes followed her direction. The subject of their little talk, Captain Frederick Wheatly, led his “wife,” Clare into the dinning room. Two dark-skinned girls followed, gazing around at the room and the diners.

“Who is that young man who stood up to greet them?” Alice whispered, when the boy seated the two little girls as if they were grand ladies.

“I don’t know, but the fool acts like they belong here.”

All four pairs of eyes watched the tableau on the far side of the room, as if trying to ferret out the truth. Moments later, an older man with the air of great consequence entered accompanied by an outburst of excessive bowing and fussing on the part of staff. He stood well over six feet tall, his white-blond hair reflecting candlelight. He walked directly to the Wheatlys’ table, and the diners rose to greet him.

Della gasped.

“What is it?” Bertha asked anxiously.

“Not what. Who. Wheatly just introduced that woman to the Duke of Sudbury. I believe that young man dining with them is his nephew, Richard Mallet.”

Alice covered her mouth with her serviette, eyes wide, unable to speak. Bertha, too, stared back at the group. Before their fascinated eyes, the duke smiled at the children, spoke briefly with Wheatly and his companion, and left, taking the captain with him.

“Well!” Della declared. “I should like to hear that conversation.” She turned her attention back to her companions only to sigh with an irritation she didn’t attempt to disguise. “Mr. Weaver, what are you scribbling?” The little man bent over a small notebook writing rapidly.

“Merely taking a few notes, ladies,” he said ,snapping the notebook shut and rising to his feet. “If you will excuse me, I think I’ll have a chat with Badawi before I turn in to catch up on my correspondence.”

“Correspondence with whom, Mr. Weaver?” Della demanded.

A slow smile lit his face. “Why, with my friend Mr. Clemens, editor of The Teatime Tattler. He will love what I have to share.” With a tip of his hat, he left them.

cairo empire reluctant About the Book

The Reluctant Wife:  Children of Empire, Book 2

When all else fails, love succeeds…

Captain Fred Wheatly’s comfortable life on the fringes of Bengal comes crashing down around him when his mistress dies, leaving him with two children he never expected to have to raise. When he chooses justice over army regulations, he’s forced to resign his position, leaving him with no way to support his unexpected family. He’s already had enough failures in his life. The last thing he needs is an attractive, interfering woman bedeviling his steps, reminding him of his duties.

All widowed Clare Armbruster needs is her brother’s signature on a legal document to be free of her past. After a failed marriage, and still mourning the loss of a child, she’s had it up to her ears with the assumptions she doesn’t know how to take care of herself, that what she needs is a husband. She certainly doesn’t need a great lout of a captain who can’t figure out what to do with his daughters. If only the frightened little girls didn’t need her help so badly.

Clare has made mistakes in the past. Can she trust Fred now? Can she trust herself? Captain Wheatly isn’t ashamed of his aristocratic heritage, but he doesn’t need his family and they’ve certainly never needed him. But with no more military career and two half-caste daughters to support, Fred must turn once more—as a failure—to the family he let down so often in the past. Can two hearts rise above past failures to forge a future together?

Find it here: https://www.amazon.com/Reluctant-Wife-Children-Empire-Book-ebook/dp/B06XYRRR1R/

Children of Empire: Three cousins, torn apart by lies and deceit and driven to the far reaches of the empire, struggle to find their way home. The first book is The Renegade Wife

About Caroline Warfield

Traveler, poet, librarian, technology manager—Caroline Warfield has been many things, 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.

Caroline is of course, a Bluestocking Belles. In addition to  The Teatime Tattler, she regularly writes for  History Imagined.

Website http://www.carolinewarfield.com/

Amazon Author http://www.amazon.com/Caroline-Warfield/e/B00N9PZZZS/

Good Reads http://bit.ly/1C5blTm

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/carolinewarfield7

Twitter @CaroWarfield

Email warfieldcaro@gmail.com

 

 

Whispers From Calcutta

A Missive from Calcutta, seat of the Bengal Presidency

The Colonel's Wife CalcuttaMost of England’s fine young men, who labor far from home and are faced daily with coarseness and Foreign Influence on all sides, hunger for the refinement and civility of Proper Company. Know that the Respectable Ladies of Calcutta take it as our Sacred Duty to be exemplars of Culture in this outpost. We take our role with the utmost seriousness.

Unfortunately those who lack beneficial influences sometimes succumb to the specious charms of Hindustan and stray from right behavior. We bring one such incident to your attention lest you think we fail in our Christian Duty.

calcutta

Girl by S Elayaraja

While, as we said, most True Gentlemen welcome the tender hand of English Womanhood, the occasional clerk—even the rare officer—strays from right behavior in this heathenish climate. We have been disheartened lately over the behavior of a certain Captain who parades his mixed-blood by-blows across Calcutta and attempts to impose them on some of the Better Schools. Those fine institutions are not deceived and have shut their doors to the two imps of Satan whose behavior is reported to be forward and pushing, with little apprehension of Conduct Expected of their Proper Place.

Clare Armbruster CalcuttaUnfortunately a Certain Woman hinders our efforts to ensure that we protect the Children of Respectable English Families from such influences. Miss Clare Armbruster thrust herself into our company upon the recommendation of her brother, a fine major of my husband’s regiment. The brother, being sadly misled regarding his sister’s character, although wise in the ways of the world, commended her to my Influence. The Impulsive and Obdurate young woman resisted wisdom at every turn.

Fred Wheatly CalcuttaOne puzzled where she might fit in our company—certainly not a Senior in Precedence and yet, owing to the rank of her brother, not to be consigned to the Lower Rungs with the wives of subalterns. Still we accepted her into our society, and yet she refused to be led. She stubbornly evaded all efforts to introduce her to the right sort of unmarried officer and was seen consorting with the very captain who brazenly flaunted his base-born children among us.

We provided a companion, a meek and Respectable Widow, to accompany Miss Armbruster home to England in the hopes that removal from this heathenish clime would curb her tendencies, but word has reached us that she evaded the woman who sailed without her. Miss Armbruster has in fact set herself up to care for the Captain’s bastards (forgive my coarse language, but there truly is no other word for this Regrettable Condition) even as Captain Wheatly himself stands before a disciplinary hearing for Gross Negligence and Violation of Duty.

We wash our hands of the woman, Gentle Readers. I write to assure you that the Respectable Ladies of Calcutta did our best in this matter should word of it reach London. As wife of the regimental colonel I speak for the senior wives of the Bengal Army officer corps. Standards will be upheld even in this outpost.

Mrs. Walton Davis
______________________________________________

About the Book

When all else fails, love succeeds…

Captain Fred Wheatly’s comfortable life on the fringes of Bengal comes crashing down around him when his mistress dies, leaving him with two children he never expected to have to raise. When he chooses justice over army regulations, he’s forced to resign his position, leaving him with no way to support his unexpected family. He’s already had enough failures in his life. The last thing he needs is an attractive, interfering woman bedeviling his steps, reminding him of his duties.

All widowed Clare Armbruster needs is her brother’s signature on a legal document to be free of her past. After a failed marriage, and still mourning the loss of a child, she’s had it up to her ears with the assumptions she doesn’t know how to take care of herself, that what she needs is a husband. She certainly doesn’t need a great lout of a captain who can’t figure out what to do with his daughters. If only the frightened little girls didn’t need her help so badly.

Clare has made mistakes in the past. Can she trust Fred now? Can she trust herself? Captain Wheatly isn’t ashamed of his aristocratic heritage, but he doesn’t need his family and they’ve certainly never needed him. But with no more military career and two half-caste daughters to support, Fred must turn once more—as a failure—to the family he let down so often in the past. Can two hearts rise above past failures to forge a future together?

Find it on Amazon

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of The Reluctant Wife, Caroline will give a kindle copy to one randomly selectedperson who leaves a comment.

The prequel to this book, A Dangerous Nativity, is always **FREE**. You can get a copy here: http://www.carolinewarfield.com/bookshelf/a-dangerous-nativity-1815/

Excerpt

“Steamer? Here?”

The shipping agent nodded. “Why not? It’s the coming thing. It cuts the trip from six months to two if conditions are right.”

“Two months! But Suez? What happens then?” Clare’s mind spun with images. Shortening time shipboard with two girls had obvious appeal.

“In Suez, the company arranges with a local pasha for overland travel to Cairo. From there, travel down the Nile and to Alexandria via the Mahmoudiyah Canal,” he said, watching her reactions.

“And from Alexandria to England,” Clare said. The agent nodded. “Another steamer?” At his nod, she remembered something else. “You did say ‘mail service,’ did you not?”

“Indeed. Steamship companies start with government backing for the mail but rarely make a profit at it. The Pharaoh is designed with 120 passenger cabins, all first class.” He leaned forward. “The thing is, Miss Armbruster, while a few people are eager to try the next new thing, others are more reluctant. It leaves in ten days and isn’t full. I can get you a cabin—or two if you prefer—for half price.”

He had her attention. Ten days! What if Fred isn’t back on time? And they will want a deposit. She weighed the time saved against keeping Meghal from falling prey to Nile crocodiles.

“As tempting as your offer is, I fear we need to secure a berth on The Madras Queen. I can only put one pound on deposit now, but when the, ah, girls’ father returns, I’ll manage the full amount.”

A subtle shift in posture and expression were the only clues that he found her answer troubling. She suspected his sudden reluctance had nothing to do with money.

“Mr. Wheatly, the girls’ father, wishes me to convey them to family in London. His connections are highly respectable, I assure you.”

He took her money. A wrinkled brow marred his effort to smile, but when he spoke she heard compassion and understanding in his tone. “The Madras Queen is your best choice. A woman traveling alone with children might not find the overland route suitable.”

That settled, she led the girls back to their temporary home, stopping only to lunch on naan with a delightful paste of chickpea and curry. She would miss the spices of India. She would miss many things.

Meghal continued to speculate about steamships and elephants all the way back and up the stairs.

“If not an elephant, then why not a camel? I would so like to ride a camel,” she declared, rounding the top of the stairs and approaching their door. It opened before Clare could touch it.

She stopped breathing for a moment at the sight of him—one hand on the door handle, the other holding a satchel—smiling through a coating of road dust.

“What’s this about a camel?” he demanded. “Who plans to travel by camel?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lascivious Duchess

The Hare and Ewe Public House, Wheatton

July 1834

Rob Wilkens came in acting like a bug on the edge of a hot kettle the morning the duke left the Hall. We all knew it would be thus and had warned him, but he would insist on taking a job in the big old barn that is Eversham Hall. Fancied the footman’s livery, he did.

“His Grace always leaves as soon as he gets wind the duchess is coming back,” we warned him. I warned him. Warren the blacksmith warned him. Peck from up at the Hall warned him. Hell, even his mother warned him. The Duchess of Murnane is a harpy and that’s a fact.

“She left with some Italian count this time,” he had answered, fool that he was. “Maybe she won’t come back. Italy is so far from Wiltshire, she may as be going to the moon,” he said.

That were two years ago, when the duke came back and his cousin Rand married the Indian woman before they returned to Canada. Lots o’ folks took work at the Hall. His Grace always fills the jobs after she leaves, not that he has to. There are always them that are stupid enough to take her coin until she works ’em half to death, gives ’em the sharp edge of her tongue one time too many, or poisons ’em with her lies.

In the case of comely lads like Rob, she does worse, at least worse for the innocent ones. Some of ’em take what she offers and laugh behind her back, strutting around yard like roosters who got one over on their fellows. Danny Sullivan, though, he fancied himself in love with the woman. When she used him and moved on, she fired him for complaining. His father claimed the gun that killed him was an accident from cleaning the thing, but there were those who thought otherwise.

“What are you going to do?” Warren asked Rob that morning.

“What can I do? My mother needs the coin I send,” Rob said glumly. Danny’d been his friend. I hoped that made him think hard about working there.

“I can be wary, but—” he raised his hands looking helpless.

“What can she do if she comes after you and you say no?” One of the farmers asked him.

“She’ll fire him,” Peck said. “He may as well quit first.” Peck would know. Tough old bastard was too much gristle for the lady’s taste, so he stayed on during the comings and goings, trying to keep things up for the duke’s sake.

We all like the duke well enough, but the county could use his attention. Between the duchess’s outrages and his boy’s illness, he don’t pay much attention to the estate, much less the neighborhood. Even when he’s here he hares off to London often enough, with some government work. “Affairs of State,” Peck called it. It wasn’t like the old days when at least Miss Catherine, she who’s now a countess, lived over at Songbird Cottage and Squire Archer across the river.

“You in charge now?” I asked Peck.

“I can’t manage the books and such, but I keep the boys working,” Peck answered, “Them as stay on. His Grace hired another steward. Starts next week before she comes.”

We all stared into our ale for a while after that. She goes after the stewards first. We figured this one wouldn’t last a year.

“So,” Peck said to Rob, “Are you quitting or staying? Old Banks will help you duck out of her attention.” We all knew the butler, Banks, was useless against the duchess. Rob did too. Peck raised his tankard and gave Rob a sly look over the top before he took a sip. “You can just take what she offers. Some do.”

Rob shuddered. “Makes me feel dirty just thinking about being used like that.”

Ellen the barmaid snorted when she slammed down three tankards of ale on our table. “Now you know how the lasses feel when you sniff under their skirts.” She sashayed away with her nose in the air, and Rob’s eyes followed her across the room.

I glanced at Ellen and back at him. “I can use a lad willing to work hard,” I said, though I didn’t know it until that very moment. “I can’t pay the Hall’s wages, but I’ll hire you.”

He stared into his drink a while, then gazed over at Ellen standing in the kitchen door. “Thank you kindly Mr. Doughty. I think I’ll take you up on that.”

___________________________________________________

The Duke of Murnane’s cousin Rand is the hero of Caroline Warfield’s The Renegade Wife. The duchess caused a rift between the two of them in their youth before moving on to other game. The duke appears in that book and also its sequel, The Reluctant Wife, coming in April 2017. The duchess does not, but her pernicious influence permeates both books.

About The Renegade Wife

Desperate and afraid, Meggy Blair will do whatever it takes to protect her children. She’d hoped to find sanctuary from her abusive husband with her Ojibwa grandmother, but can’t locate her. When her children fall ill, she seeks shelter in an isolated cabin in Upper Canada. But when the owner unexpectedly returns, he’s furious to find squatters disrupting his self-imposed solitude.

Reclusive businessman Rand Wheatly had good reason to put an ocean between himself and the cousin that betrayed him. He just wants the intrusive woman gone, but it isn’t long before Meggy and her little ones begin breaking down the defensive walls he’s built. But their fragile interlude is shattered when Meggy’s husband appears to claim his children, threatening to have Rand jailed.

The only way for Meggy to protect Rand is to leave him. But when her husband takes her and the children to England, Meggy discovers he’s far more than an abuser; what he’s involved in endangers all their lives. To rescue the woman who has stolen his heart, Rand must follow her and do what he swore he’d never do: reconcile with his aristocratic family and finally uncover the truth behind all the lies. But time is running out for them all.

Read it for FREE with Kindle Unlimited or buy a copy by clicking here.

 

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