Home of the Bluestocking Belles

Because history is fun and love is worth working for

Author: Elizabeth Ellen Carter

A Promise Kept; A Friend Mourned

August 1816
on board the Calliope

I made a promise this week to a man I had every reason to fear, but who I now know was a friend.

This report, before God and for posterity, tells the story of two lovers whom the fates conspired against, but who are now forever united in the life hereafter.

Yasmeen was stolen from her home in Somalia when she was aged but less than twelve years old and became, first an odalisque and then a concubine to Selim Omar, a cousin to Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. She had lived in his harem for at least ten years, for she was my age when I first met her in Sicily.

She tried to warn us about Selim Omar and his wife Rabia, but we did not know how thoroughly the trap had been set. Our story is recorded elsewhere in this journal.

Given charge of Yasmeen’s care was a black eunuch by the name of Malik.

It is not known how or when their romance began, but when when my cousin and I were abducted, it was clear they were very much in love. But they did not speak of it. In fact, I had believed that Malik could not speak at all.

They hid their feelings so well, it was only my cousin Laura’s keen observation of people that revealed the truth to me.

If anyone else knew of the love between the concubine and the eunuch, it would mean death for them both.

And death did come, but it came in a way none of us expected.

Every woman in the harem knows her fate rests on the indulgence of her master. She may be ordered to provide entertainment, she may be ordered to service her master, or his guests.

The man may be generous or he may be cruel. But the worst fate of all is to be given away to such a man.

That was Yasmeen’s fate.

But this remarkable woman decided to take charge of her destiny in the most dramatic and deadly way possible. In doing so, she gave Laura and I our chance at freedom.

The account of mine and Laura’s escape from Al-Min is recorded in the blue journal if curious minds wish to know it. I will not go into it here, suffice to say that our escape from the palace itself could not have happened without Malik.

I am ashamed to admit of having been afraid of this man and to think of him as my oppressor when he too was as much a slave as any of us.

I will never forget his words – the first he had ever spoken:

“Do not let her name be forgotten.”

This will be her record, Yasmeen and Malik’s.

And for as long as Laura and I live, their names will never be forgotten.

Signed this day by
Sophia Hardacre

Excerpt

Her heart fell when she saw the flash of red of the eunuch’s uniform cross her line of sight. Kit saw it, too. He handed her his knife.

“Use it if you have to,” he whispered, “and if I tell you to run, do it and don’t look back.”

She accepted the weapon and watched him pull a second blade from his boot. They cautiously opened the door a little wider. Kit eased her towards a large rosemary bush, tall enough to hide them both. The way before them was clear now.

Kit sprinted and she followed. They nearly made it to the external gate when a large man stepped in front of them. Kit pulled up short, the knife in his hand a puny defense against the two scimitars now wielded by the giant advancing toward him.

“Malik!” The man stopped, startled. Sophia swept back her head covering so he could see her. The wicked blades in each hand lowered. Sophia moved forward to stand by Kit’s side. Anguish was writ large on Malik’s face, the expression of torment she’d witnessed in the harem having only increased. She hesitated only for a moment before stepping forward and resting a hand on his arm.

“I’m so sorry about Yasmeen. I know how much you loved her and I know how much she loved you. My cousin and I owe her a great debt. I only wish I knew how to repay her kindness. But we cannot stay.”

The eunuch’s eyes shimmered with unshed tears. He sheathed his blades. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see tension leaving Kit’s shoulders. Malik turned to Kit and said the first words she had ever heard him utter.

“Are you the man who records the stories of the tormented?”

Kit stood to attention. Malik held out his hand and, after a moment, the men clasped forearms. Sophia was conscious of the size difference between them. Malik could squeeze the life out of Kit if he so chose.

“I am.”

“Do not let her name be forgotten.”

“You have my vow. You will both be remembered.”

Malik turned his back to them then without a further word and walked towards the palace building. Kit wasted no time in pulling Sophia through the external gate. And as they went through, she heard Malik’s loud cry of anguish. Tears streamed down her own face.

Blurb

Bluestocking Sophia Green’s future is uncertain. Orphaned as a child and raised by the wealthy Cappleman family, she has become the companion to her attractive younger cousin, Laura, while harboring to her breast an unrequited love for Laura’s diffident brother.

Sea captain Kit Hardacre’s past is a mystery – even to him. Kidnapped by Barbary Coast pirates at the age of 10, he does not remember his parents or even his real name. All he recalls are things he would rather forget.

When Laura’s reputation is threatened by a scandal, Sophia suggests weathering the storm in Sicily with their elderly uncle, a prominent archaeologist.

Their passage to Palermo is aboard Hardacre’s ship, but the Calliope, like its captain, is not all it seems. Both have only one mission – to rid the world of the evil pirate slaver Kaddouri or die in the attempt.

Initially disdainful of the captain’s devil-may-care attitude, Sophia can’t deny a growing attraction. And Kit begins to see in her a woman who could help him forget the horrors of his past.

Sophia allows herself to be drawn into the shallows of Kit’s world, but when the naive misjudgment of her cousins sees Laura abducted, Sophia is dragged into dangerous depths that could cost her life or her sanity in a living hell.

Pre-orders

Captive of the Corsairs is available to pre-order for 99c on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B0721NSPJ6

English Sea Captain Creates An International Incident!

Lord William Bentinck, pictured here as Captain in a portrait painted by George Romney. William Bentinck was ambassador to the Kingdom of Two Naples 1812-1816

Despatches from Palermo (Part 1)
by Lord William Bentinck, English Ambassador to the Kingdom of Two Naples

My dear Lord Chamberlain,
I enclose this letter to you privately, so it will not appear in official correspondence.

It is a season for political misjudgements as I know you will be quick to remind me, but if this matter escalates, I would rather you hear about early and directly from me.

As you know, Sicily recently welcomed the arrival of a new envoy, Sheik Selim Omar, a cousin to the Ottoman emperor. He is keen to know, as we all are, when this bloody war with France will be over.

Last week I agreed to sponsor a party at the request of his Majesty the King of Naples and the University of Palermo and invite the Ottoman envoy as our guest.

It seemed an ideal opportunity to warm relationships between our three nations.

The party was the idea of one of our citizens, a Professor Jonas Fenton from Cambridge who, along  with Professor Giovanni Mazzara from the university here in Palermo wanted to stage a tableaux vivants to show off some Greek and Roman history.

I didn’t see the harm in it, so I agreed.

The two young ladies involved in the tableaux were Jonas Fenton’s English nieces – quite unusual beauties too.

Miss Sophia Green is a raven haired beauty, part-Spanish I was told, and apparently a first rate antiquities student. The other girl, Laura Cappleman is a perfect flower of England, fair hair and fair complexion.

As you may remember from other correspondence, I have cultivated the acquaintance of a young Englishman, Captain Christopher Hardacre who owns a schooner called the Calliope based out of Palermo.

He’s always been a bit of a hot head, but never fails to come back with some interesting intelligence about the Barbary Coast pirates which I have passed on to the Admiralty.

Today, I had to suffer two hours of bluster and threats from the Emir because Hardacre had insulted the envoy in his own language right in front of the tableaux.

You can be assured I called Hardacre to account for his actions and man had the audacity to refuse to apologise either to me or to Sheik Selim Omar. He claims the man had grievously insulted the young ladies but refuses to tell me exactly what was said.

For what information might be of use, Hardacre tells me that there is to be a gathering of Barbary pirates in Tunisia before the end of summer. His source tells him they are to met with a wealthy patron.

You’ll not be surprised to learn that Hardacre thinks Selim Omar is the man they are waiting for but he offers no proof.

I’ll write when I have more news,

William

Excerpt

“I had an official complaint this morning from the Ottoman envoy over your behavior at the reception.”

Kit allowed his contempt to show. “And he was so overcome by my rudeness it took him three days to lodge his complaint? The man’s an arse.”

“He might be an arse, but he’s close to his cousin, who, need I remind you, is the Sultan of the entire bloody Ottoman Empire! If Turkey switches sides to France, once more, then we’re really screwed.”

While Bentinck raged, he raised his eyes to stare at the portrait of the Prince Regent hung on the wall behind the desk. Kit had weathered greater storms than this one. And like the ones he’d sailed in the Atlantic, this, too, would blow itself out. It did with a long, put-upon sigh.

“Pour us some of that sherry you brought me back from Spain, and tell me the news from the African coast.”

Kit bit back another smart retort, swallowed his indignation and poured the amber liquid into two dainty twist-stemmed glasses.

“It’s been quiet.”

“That would suit us all.” Bentinck raised his glass and saluted Kit. “We’re bloody tired of this war with Napoleon. At least our navy can concentrate fighting the Frenchies instead of fighting a war on two fronts with those Barbary pirates nipping at our heels.”

“Unfortunately, it’s not going to stay quiet for long. My contact tells me Kaddouri has a powerful and influential ally who has helped finance a stronghold on the Tunisian coast.”

“Ah yes, Kaddouri. You never did explain your particular obsession with that man.” Bentinck waited for a justification Kit knew he would never give. His reasons were his own – as was the vengeance he planned. After a moment of silence, Bentinck tried a different question.

“Where on the Tunisian coast?”

Kit shook his head and lied. “That I’ve yet to determine. The Calliope will be in the area again in a few weeks. If we see anything, we’ll let you know.”

Bentinck’s look was unwavering; he seemed to know he was not being told the truth. But with no other explanation forthcoming, the ambassador picked up his pen and waved at the mounds of correspondence on his table. “Well then, if that’s all you have to report, then go. I have work to do. Stay out of trouble and don’t harass His Majesty’s foreign guests.”

That was just a dig too far.

“I don’t trust Selim Omar and I suggest you don’t either.”

Bentinck set the quill back into its holder. “Why? Because you thought he and his party were rude to Jonas Fenton’s nieces? I never saw you as a gallant.”

“The Ottomans ravage the coastlines of Europe, plunder villages, put men in chains, and work them to death. The depraved savagery you hear of is nothing until you’ve witnessed it yourself. Consider yourself lucky you and your good lady wife are childless, for what they do to daughters—”

Bentinck rose to his feet.

“—You’ve made your feelings amply clear on the matter, but unless you have something His Majesty’s government can act upon, keep your opinions to yourself. Stay out of the man’s way if he bothers you so much.”

Blurb

Bluestocking Sophia Green’s future is uncertain. Orphaned as a child and raised by the wealthy Cappleman family, she has become the companion to her attractive younger cousin, Laura, while harboring to her breast an unrequited love for Laura’s diffident brother.

Sea captain Kit Hardacre’s past is a mystery – even to him. Kidnapped by Barbary Coast pirates at the age of 10, he does not remember his parents or even his real name. All he recalls are things he would rather forget.

When Laura’s reputation is threatened by a scandal, Sophia suggests weathering the storm in Sicily with their elderly uncle, a prominent archaeologist.

Their passage to Palermo is aboard Hardacre’s ship, but the Calliope, like its captain, is not all it seems. Both have only one mission – to rid the world of the evil pirate slaver Kaddouri or die in the attempt.

Initially disdainful of the captain’s devil-may-care attitude, Sophia can’t deny a growing attraction. And Kit begins to see in her a woman who could help him forget the horrors of his past.

Sophia allows herself to be drawn into the shallows of Kit’s world, but when the naive misjudgment of her cousins sees Laura abducted, Sophia is dragged into dangerous depths that could cost her life or her sanity in a living hell.

Pre-orders

Captive of the Corsairs is available to pre-order for 99c on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B0721NSPJ6

Roman Magistrate And Slave On The Run

The Litterae
your daily source of news in Rome – the Eternal City
Dateline: the first year in the reign of Maximinus Thrax
(that’s 235 AD for you pesky Christian types)

Roman Forum. The reconstruction of the 19th century. Painter Becchetti. Watercolour.

The Senate today has announced a warrant for the arrest of Marcus Cornelius Drusus, one of Rome’s senior magistrates.

The praetor is wanted for questioning in relation to providing material aid to Senator Cato Claudius Germanicus, who was executed last month following a summary trail at which he was accused of treason against His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Maximinus Thrax.

The Magistrate is described as aged in his early 30s. He is tall, muscularly built with black hair and silver-blue eyes. He is known to be an accomplished swimmer and may be found in upmarket Baths in major cities.

Baiae on the Coast of Naples. The acclaimed Seneca calls it a ‘resort of vice’

Reports from the provinces suggest that Marcus Cornelius is headed south towards the coastal resort city of Baiae where news has just reached us of the suspicious death of Agrippina Messalina Plinia, the magistrate’s ex-wife. It is not known whether there is a connection.

Sources close to the Magistrate say his absence from Rome may be related to his investigation into the mysterious Cult of Elagabalus.

The Litterae has learned that before his arrest, Senator Cato had been prepared to publicly name senior Roman officials involved in the group believed responsible for the murders of six boys as well as the death of a Greek doctor, Philomen Erasmus, in the past three months.

Ettore Forti (1850-1940)

Marcus Cornelius is thought to be traveling in the company of a medicae, a female doctor by the name of Kyna who was a protege of Philomen Erasmus and has herself been questioned over her former master’s death.

Kyna (last name not known) is originally from Britannia. She described as aged late 20s, short stature, slim build with long red hair.

We will be updating this story as news comes to hand. The next update will be on Aprilis XXVIII (April 28). Look for Dark Heart by Elizabeth Ellen Carter.


About The Book

Can love survive a dark heart?

Rome, 235 A.D.

A series of ritual murders of young boys recalls memories of Rome’s most wicked emperor. Magistrate Marcus Cornelius Drusus has discovered the cult extends to the very heart of Roman society.

Despite his personal wealth and authority, Marcus is a slave to his past – conflicted by his status as an adopted son, bitterly betrayed by his wife and forced to give up his child.

Kyna knows all about betrayal. Sold into slavery by her husband to pay a gambling debt, she found herself in Rome, far from her home in Britannia. Bought by a doctor, she is taught his trade and is about to gain her freedom when her mentor is murdered by the cult.

When the same group makes an attempt on her life, Kyna is forced to give up her freedom and accept Marcus’ protection. With no one to trust but each other, mutual attraction ignites into passion. But how far will Marcus go for vengeance when he learns the cult’s next victim is his son?

Can the woman who is free in her heart save the man who is a slave in his?

Dark Heart will be released on April 28 through Dragonblade Publishing.

Excerpt

“This is the place,” she said, more to herself than to Marcus who now stood behind her.

He leaned around her. She felt the heat of his body, exercised by the ride, as he pushed on the door.

It remained held fast.

“Open it,” he said brusquely to the unhappy Hadrianus who lingered at the top of the stairs.

“I… I don’t have the key,” the man stuttered.

“Find one!”

The volume of the yell amplified in the stone stairwell. Kyna jumped at its suddenness and volume, and noted with satisfaction that Hadrianus did as well. The man ran down the stairs with more alacrity than she would have credited him.

“You’re sure?” Marcus asked, his voice now soft by her ear.

“Certain,” she said, her voice matching his. “Behind this door is a dormitory of some sort with a fireplace set into the wall. High windows let in plenty of light. There is a courtyard with raised gardens.”

Hadrianus returned with an iron key.

“This is one of our disused wings, Magistrate. I can’t imagine what interest it has for you,” he said, fussing at the lock.

The door swung open, the squeaking of the hinges reverberating around the room. Dust motes danced in the air lit by the angled shaft of light through the high windows.

The room was deserted. Worse still, it was empty. Only a small table by the fireplace showed there had ever been any habitation.

Kyna walked into the room stiffly, a somnambulist in a horrible waking nightmare as fiendishly real as the ones that plagued her in the villa.

The pallets were gone; so were the boys. She moved to the large shutters at one end of the room and pulled open a panel. There was the courtyard, its blood red geraniums in bloom.

“They were here,” she breathed, softly at first and then again, louder. “They were here!”

She swung around and pointed a finger at Hadrianus. “They were here! Where are they?”

A flash of fear crossed the old doctor’s face as Kyna took another step toward him.

“I… I have no idea what you’re talking about. There’s no one here.”

Hadrianus turned to appeal to the magistrate.

“My lord, the woman is quite clearly disturbed. You can see for yourself no one is here – this room hasn’t been used in a long time – months, in fact.”

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