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An Encounter in the Cyder Cellars

In the basement of 21 Maiden Lane in London, the great metropolis, there is a tavern called the Cyder Cellars, much frequented by writers and artists, and the young men about Town. After curtain in the nearby theatres, it tends to be packed with men desiring supper and some old-fashioned glee-singing. It was there that Mr. Clemens of the Teatime Tattler ran into his flame-haired colleague Mr. William MacNeil from that esteemed Victorian magazine Allan’s Miscellany.

The Great Mac was in a gloomy mood. “I envy you, Mr. Clemens,” he said, staring into his mug of cheap beer. “I do envy you. In your time you don’t yet have to endure the dreadful consequences of Mr. Scott’s medieval flights of fancy in all their full extent. You don’t have to endure your chief artist — well, only artist, really — and your publisher ganging up on you and force you to travel to the Scottish wilderness to attend a [redacted] tournament.”

Mr. Clemens raised a brow. “A tournament?” he asked mildly.

“A tournament.” MacNeil shuddered. “Lord Eglinton’s medieval tomfoolery. With lords of the realm and members of the gentry donning all the impediments of chivalry to joust like knights of old, giving themselves silly names — the Knight of the Swan and the like — and generally making fools of themselves. Old England forever, and all that.”


“Well you may say, ‘Ah,’ but you did not have to travel to Ayrshire on roads crammed full with ten thousands of carriages, totter around a village in desperate search for a room and a bed, where no more beds were to be had for miles and miles. And everybody milling around in the most ridiculous costumes imaginable.”

“I say!” said Mr. Clemens.

“But that wasn’t the worst,” MacNeil continued, his voice becoming even gloomier. “No, the worst was when I sat on that gallery amidst all the chivalric gaiety and had to watch my chief artist and best friend”—he leaned closer as if to divulge a terrible secret—“fall in love.”

“But that is very romantic, is it not?”

MacNeil reared back and cast the other man a baleful glance. “Romantic! What nonsense! As if one ought to take delight in one’s best friend turning into a veritable mooncalf! A detestable spectacle, if I ever saw one.” He drank from his beer. “And on top of everything else,” he muttered, “we had forgotten to take our umbrellas.”

 The Bride Prize: Allan’s Miscellany 1839

A medieval tournament in Victorian Britain,

two unlikely lovers, a very grumpy editor,

& an unfortunate dearth of umbrellas.

It’s 1839, and Lord Eglinton’s tournament in Scotland is the most anticipated event of the year: he and a group of his noble friends will don medieval armor and joust like knights of old.

Does this mean a revival of true chivalry? Miss Florence Marsh thinks it might.

Or is the tournament mere tomfoolery and the greatest folly of the century? Mr. Robert Beaton thinks it is.

But when Flo and Robbie meet at Eglinton Park, they’ll learn that a dash of romance can overcome the greatest differences and that true love might find you in the most unlikely place.

If only Robbie wasn’t working for that scandalous new magazine Allan’s Miscellany! If only Flo’s father didn’t detest the periodical press!

And if only they had remembered to bring an umbrella!


“[T]hese books are dang cute. So freaking cute. You just get happy by reading.”

~ Blodeuedd, Book Girl of Mur-y-Castell


The Bride Prize is free on Amazon US | UK | AUS as well as on B&N | Apple | Kobo

Or download the novella from Instafreebie (until 28 September 2017)


St. John’s Wood, London, 13 July 1839

Charging down the lists towards the wooden dummy on wheels, the noble Knight of the Swan suddenly lost both his balance and the control over his horse. One moment he was a shining star of chivalry, his armor glinting in the sun, and the next he was flying over the head of his horse and landed in the mud in an undignified sprawl.

A groan rippled through the crowd of spectators, then laughter as the Knight of the Swan—the Honorable Mr. Jerningham—heaved himself upright, unhurt, with nary a dent in his fine armor.

Robert Beaton, writer and chief—indeed, only—artist of that hopeful new periodical Allan’s Miscellany scribbled into his notebook, his boyishly round face crunched up in concentration. He added a few lines, a hasty sketch…

Drat, we need somebody to do satirical illustrations, he thought, glancing up to see how the next knight riding against the wooden dummy would fare.

Once again, he was struck by the incongruity of the scene: The gardens of the Eyre Arms had been transformed into a jousting ground, with elevated benches on either side to accommodate the spectators, members of the gentry and the aristocracy. There were several thousand people present this afternoon to watch the chivalric proceedings—and this was merely the final rehearsal before the tournament proper!

There was no question: he needed to get Mac up to Ayrshire next month. All the papers and periodicals would be writing about Lord Eglinton’s medieval spectacle. Unthinkable that Allan’s Miscellany should not!

Down at the grounds, the dummy knight was cleared away and preparations were made for the main event of this rehearsal: the tilting between the Lords Eglinton and Waterford.

Lud! It’s Ivanhoe sprung up to life! Or rather, Astley’s in St. John’s Wood. A circus show with buffoons in sparkling armor, who took their chivalric endeavor very, very seriously indeed. They had even given themselves names—the Knight of the Swan, the Knight of the Dragon; there were a few lions as well—as if they were children playing at dressing up.

Robbie snorted.

Oh, Mac would just love this—he would get that glittering look in his eyes as if he wished nothing more than to level somebody. Or at very least demolish them with words. He was very good at that, Mac was. It had been his sarcastic wit which had made Allan’s Miscellany notorious these past months. Good for making people talk about the magazine, but not necessarily something which would secure them a wider audience. Hence it fell to Robbie to tune down his friend’s more caustic outbursts.

A flourish of trumpets sounded, and amidst the cheering of the crowd, the two noble lords…eh, knights charged at each other. Or rather, trotted towards each other and passed each other with a good few yards in between them. If anybody had expected the thunder of galloping hooves from a historical novel, they would be sorely disappointed.

Robbie chuckled. They should have taken some lessons from the performers at Astley’s!


Award-winning author Sandra Schwab started writing her first novel when she was seven years old. Thirty-odd years later, telling stories is still her greatest passion, even though by now, she has exchanged her pink fountain pen of old for a black computer keyboard. Since the release of her debut novel in 2005, she has enchanted readers worldwide with her unusual historical romances (some of which she now uses to shamelessly fangirl over Punch, her favorite Victorian magazine).

She holds a PhD in English literature, and in autumn 2015, she appeared on the BBC documentary Great Continental Railway Journeys to talk about another favorite topic of hers, the Grimms’ fairy tales (while walking through a rather muddy stretch of the Black Forest) (there were a lot of slugs, too).

She lives in Frankfurt am Main / Germany with a sketchbook, a sewing machine, and an ever-expanding library.

Website ♠ Twitter ♣ Facebook ♣ Instagram


The mistress and the wife

“Have you heard the way the master’s wife snaps at Katarina?” Sara asked. “Katarina not only has to listen to her complaints, she has to do all sorts of senseless chores.”

Anna set two mugs on the table in the kitchen of the workers’ house. “I just made some tea. Set yourself a moment.”

Sara crumpled up her soiled apron, threw it in the basket and joined Anna on the bench. “Katarina is not coping well at all. She usually enjoys the run of the house. Who would have thought that Herr Tucher would allow his wife to come out to the farm for such a long stay?”

Anna slid a wooden plate with fresh-baked honey cakes in between the two of them. “The last time Frau Tucher came to visit, she hopped right back into that coach of hers and ordered the driver back to Nuremberg. The fine lady would never live in the country.”

“Tanner said Nuremberg is much too dangerous for her and the children. The city is full of all sorts escaping the war. That’s where she really wants to be.”

“Have you heard the tone the two take when they speak to each other?” Anna asked. “I thought Frau Tucher was sharp with Katarina, but she’s worse with Herr Tucher!”

Sara took a sip of tea. “My husband would never talk to me like that.”

“Tanner’s father says she never wanted to marry Herr Tucher,” Anna said. “He says the only reason she married him was because her father forced her, to secure business ties. She wanted someone with a bit more status, not this dreamer who lives on a farm.”

“Well, Herr Tucher was also a bit of a carouser when he was younger,” Sara said. “When Tanner and I lived in Nuremberg, he was always in the Stork’s Nest tavern. Likes his drink, that one. And, Katarina was the barmaid there. Herr Tucher won her in a dice throw.”

“That’s not what Katarina says,” Anna said. “Katarina acts like they were truly in love. She says they had a proper courtship. I say she forgets who she is. Herr Tucher is a married man!”

“Herr Tucher was always smitten with Katarina,” Sara said. “He hated the way her fiancée treated her.”

“Bjarne said Herr Tucher had the man killed so he could have Katarina.”

Sara laughed and shook her head. “He wished him dead but that’s not how it happened. Don’t listen to Bjarne.”

“Well, Katarina should remember her place here.” Anna poured the rest of the tea. “She’s his maid. She must do what the master’s wife says. Frau Tucher could make her life hell.”

“Katarina knows she’s only his maid but she has been too comfortable,” Sara said. “He gives her too much freedom to speak her mind…”

Sshh! someone’s coming….”

Excerpt from The Soldier’s Return:

“I hate that boy!” Isabeau said, stormed into the kitchen of the workers’ house and shoved the door closed with a fury.

Katarina managed to stop the door with her foot before it hit her in the face. “Isabeau, you almost knocked me over!”

Water spilled out of Katarina’s buckets and onto the front step outside. She kicked the door and it swung open, banging against a chair. Sara and Anna sat at the table, heads together. They stopped their whispering abruptly and looked at Katarina. They had obviously spoken about her.

It had been two weeks since Frau Tucher arrived with the children. Over the years, Isabeau had always been patient with the spoiled Christoph Tucher, who was only a few months younger than she was. When Christoph stayed on the farm without his mother, he was a cordial boy. But Frau Tucher’s influence and the intrusion her indefinite stay posed on Katarina and Isabeau was now apparent. Isabeau was used to being Herr Tucher’s little girl and had all of his attention. She was not coping with her displacement out of Herr Tucher’s daily life any better than Katarina was.

“Would you mind…” Katarina huffed and glared at Isabeau.

“He’s horrible,” Isabeau ranted on. “He spilled wine all over the kitchen floor and when that thin horse woman came in, he blamed it on me!”

“Then stay away from the main house,” Katarina yelled back.

“Herr Tucher called me in,” Isabeau said. “He had a book for me. But his wife took it away and gave it to Christoph. Then they left and Christoph spilled the wine. Not me. Then that thin horse woman came in. I would have gotten the whip if Herr Tucher hadn’t come back down and stopped her.”

“Just stay away from them altogether,” Katarina said and sat down on the bench.

Anna quieted Elsbeth’s fussing baby by putting her finger in the baby’s mouth. “Just keep your head down, do what they say,” she said to Isabeau.

Elsbeth’s girl Hannah sat at the table and sucked her thumb, her face lethargic, gray and sunken. Sara poured Katarina a mug of tea and turned away.

“Yesterday Christoph wanted to play Executioner again,” Isabeau said. “He wants me to kneel down and beg for my soul. He says he’s Meister Franz. He said I’m no better than a dirty wench.”

Sara fingered the white cap on the table, her face almost pitying. She set the cap on her head and pushed a few of the loose strands of hair back under it. Suddenly her face sparked up as she got an idea.

“Katarina, it’s going to be a lovely day.” Sara pushed one of the baskets on the table towards Katarina. “Bjarne needs help with the sheep up at the pasture beyond the North Hill. And he needs his lunch. He could use some company, too. Take his bread to him for me. And a bit of meat, too. Get out and get some air.”

Sara stood, grabbed a huge knife and sliced a hunk of bread from the round loaf. “Isabeau will stay here. She can go with Albin and help him find some tinder.”

“I want to go out with my horse!” Isabeau said, her face red and shiny.

“You have work to do, young lady,” Sara said.

Isabeau tried to stomp away but Sara caught her by the elbow and spun her around. Dragging Isabeau behind her, she opened the door and whistled. Albin appeared within a moment. She grabbed the other basket from the table, handed it to Albin, whispered to the two and they ran off.

“That settles that!” Sara smiled, satisfied with herself.

Sara set a thin slab of dried meat on the table and Katarina packed that and the bread into the basket. She filled a jug with beer and Katarina packed that as well. Anna, still holding the baby, grabbed Hannah by the hand and disappeared behind the wood stove into Sara’s room. Katarina lifted the basket and headed for the door. She looked back at Sara, who absently brushed some bread crumbs from the table into her hand. Sara’s smile was gone and the pitying expression was on her face again. Katarina felt an instant pang of anger.

“What’s that look supposed to mean?” Katarina moved back to the table.

“Oh, I’m just so sorry. I know you’re upset.”

“I can’t believe he’s doing this to me.”

“But she’s his wife,” Sara said. “You’ve always known this could happen.”

“But why now?” Katarina said. “After all these years.”

“Don’t act so surprised. You…”

“But that’s my house!”

“It is not,” Sara said. “You’re just his…”

“Say it.” Katarina slammed the basket on the table. “Just say it. I’m his mistress. I’m his whore. What else do you think I am?”

“You’re his maid, Katarina!”

Katarina closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

“Do you love him?” Sara said.

“Hmpff,” Katarina said.

“Do you?” Sara said.

“Do you love Tanner?”

“Of course, I do. He’s the father of my children. He’s my husband!”

Katarina grabbed the basket. She walked back to the open doorway and hesitated. She turned back to Sara, wishing Sara would make this all right again, the way she settled fights between children. Sara just whispered an apology and turned away.

Katarina made towards the North Hill, taking the time she normally didn’t have to appreciate the spring day. She had no reason to rush. No one was waiting for her. The day was cool and the birds were twittering and flying about. Pale blue sky struggled to show itself from behind stubborn clouds. Katarina strolled along the path up the North Hill observing the changes spring had made. Tiny green shoots peeked through the compressed earth. She picked a twig from a willow tree and rubbed the furry catkin on her cheek. A slight breeze fluttered through the dried leaves that had refused to fall from the trees.

Her heart pounded empty, heavy beats. Of course Katarina loved him! She loved him more than she could allow herself to feel. Her love for him encompassed her and overwhelmed her and the thought of being away from him even for the afternoon made her sick. Now she wanted to wretch. She felt like her best friend had died. Maybe, in a way, he had.

The Soldier’s Return Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/XZ_lVzMYqXE

The Soldier’s Return is book 2 in the Heaven’s Pond trilogy.

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The unwanted child

In a Teatime Tattler exclusive, our staff has learned of a most unusual tale. It seems, Levison Davids, the 17th Earl of Remmington, of Tegen Castle, Yorkshire, has been summoned home from his duties with the Home Office on the Continent to assume the guardianship of an Irish baron’s, one Lord Kavanagh’s, six-year-old daughter. Speculation has always surrounded the birth of the child, as Lord Kavanagh’s marriage to Miss Delia Phillips took place before anyone even knew they were courting. Moreover, our sources in Dublin say although the child was declared full term by the midwife, the baron and his baroness declared that Lady Kavanagh delivered the babe early.

“The child’s mother had the worst of the agreement between her and Lord Kavanagh,” a source close to the family, but who wishes to remain anonymous, shared. “The baron used his wife as a brood mare until a son and heir to the barony was safely delivered. The lady bore his lordship four children in a little over six years. Those within the baron’s household speak of how often he would beat his wife and call her vile name for her delivering only female children. We all grieved for the abuse Lady Kavanagh suffered, but legally there was little any of us could do, other than to issue a caution to his lordship. At length, the former Miss Phillips delivered forth a son. Only then did she know any surcease. But her gains were never celebrated, for unfortunately, the lady survived the last of her children’s births by only some three weeks.”

“Poor Miss Phillips,” the housekeeper at Phillips Hall lamented when we spoke to her last week. “Viscount Phillips’s daughter swore that the father of her first child was none other than her long-time beau, Mr. Levison Davids. The young miss and Mr. Davids held an understanding that he would marry her after his service with Wellington was complete. I don’t know how it come about that Miss Phillips and Mr. Davids knew…. I shan’t say the words. You know perfectly well what occurred without my explaining it. All I know is that the old earl, Lord Morland Davids, refused to believe that Miss Phillips carried his second son’s child, and so Viscount Phillips had no other choice but to arrange a marriage with Lord Kavanagh. Terrible situation, for Lord Kavanagh refused both Viscount and Viscountess Phillips contact with their only child and their grandchildren. His lordship sold Phillips Hall to some man none of us have ever seen, but Lord Phillips had no choice. He and the viscountess required the money from the sale of all their unentailed lands that were associated with his title to convince Lord Kavanagh to claim another man’s child as his own.”

One of Lord Remmington’s associates with the Home Office, Sir Alexander Chandler, one of the most powerful men in England, has declared, “I know Remmington’s character. He was more than a bit upset to learn that Miss Phillips had chosen to marry elsewhere. My younger brother sent me word of the arrangement when Remmington and I were serving upon the Spanish front with the English forces. It was I who delivered the news to his lordship. And as the earl and I were up to our waists with Froggies charging us left and right for months before Remmington learned of Miss Phillips’s defection, there was no means for him to be the child’s father.”

When cornered by one of our reporters, Lord Remmington said, “Despite the child and I having the same colored eyes, I am not Miss Deirdre’s father. Even so, unlike Lord Kavanagh, who labeled his firstborn with the most derogatory of terms possible, I will not abandon the child, who is not at fault in this matter. I can afford to assume the girl’s guardianship and to keep her off the parish roles. Miss Deirdre will have a home in Northumberland with my mother, the Countess of Remmington.”

So, we at Teatime Tattler wonder, if Lord Remmington and Sir Alexander are to be believed (and who would not believe two such illustrious gentlemen, certainly King George IV names them both as honorable), then who did sire the child? How did Miss Dierdre Kavanagh manage to possess the same silver-gray eyes (a most unusual shade, to be certain) as does Lord Remmington? Even his lordship would agree that he has the look of his maternal grandfather; therefore, neither Lord Remmington’s late brother nor his cousin and heir presumptive Lord Howard can be the child’s father.

As always, we at Teatime Tattler will stay on the trail and bring you more details as they come in.


The Earl Claims His Comfort

Introducing The Earl Claims His Comfort: Book 2 in the Twins’ Trilogy, releasing September 16, 2017, from Black Opal Books — a 2016 Hot Prospects finalist in Romantic Suspense

Hurrying home to Tegen Castle from the Continent to assume guardianship of a child not his, but one who holds his countenance, Levison Davids, Earl of Remmington, is shot and left to die upon the road leading to his manor house. The incident has Remmington chasing after a man who remains one step ahead and who claims a distinct similarity—a man who wishes to replace Remmington as the rightful earl. Rem must solve the mystery of how a stranger’s life parallels his, while protecting his title, the child, and the woman he loves.

Comfort Neville has escorted Deirdre Kavanaugh from Ireland to England, in hopes that the Earl of Remmington will prove a better guardian for the girl than did the child’s father. When she discovers the earl’s body upon a road backing the castle, it is she who nurses him to health. As the daughter of a minor son of an Irish baron, Comfort is impossibly removed from the earl’s sphere, but the man claims her affections. She will do anything for him, including confronting his enemies. When she is kidnapped as part of a plot for revenge against the earl, she must protect Rem’s life, while guarding her heart.

Amazon preorder link


Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep: Book 1 of the Twins’ Trilogy

-a 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense finalist

-a SOLA’s Eighth Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Award finalist for Historical Romance

Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart–and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?

The story is charming, with interesting and realistic characters, a complex plot with plenty of surprises, and a sweet romance woven through it all. The author has a good command of what it was like to be a woman in nineteenth-century England–almost as if she had been there. She really did her research for this one. ~ Suspended Reality Reviews

If you enjoy a romance with plenty of murder and mayhem and one with delightful characters and a villain that you will never guess, then you will love Angel Comes to Devil’s Keep.  ~ Vikki Vaught

Nook ♦ Kobo ♦ Smashwords ♦ Amazon ♦ Kindle ♦ B&N ♦ iTunes ♦ Regency Reader



The girl he had ruined

This author has learned Miss S—- H— has returned from her extended sojourn on the Continent. Tattler readers may remember Miss H— from the Unfortunate Incident a decade past that precipitated such a journey. One wonders how a certain earl will take her return, although when last they knew each other, she was a debutante while he was a mere viscount and the architect of her disgrace.

Readers may recall the scandal, though ten years have passed. Some noted at the time the then-viscount displayed a distinct preference for Miss H—-. He was often seen partnering her in a dance, or offering an arm to walk with her in a garden. Many a brow was raised at the sight, as the viscount had seemed determined to set upon a path of ruination and sin. The lure of the ostensibly innocent Miss H—-, however, had society wondering if perhaps the viscount would set upon a new path, this one leading to respectability and, indeed, matrimony.

However, blood will out, and the viscount’s had always been bad. Caught in clandestine embrace, the viscount disavowed Miss H—-, who had clearly forgotten the lessons learned by many an unfortunate lady before her. Such impropriety shredded her reputation, and only a quick decampment to the continent brought an end to whispers and speculation. There she remained…or she had until her recent return to London.

This author will be watching with baited breath for the reunion of debutant and earl. With the myriad of events planned for this season, surely such an encounter is inevitable?


Cassandra Dean

Part of SECOND CHANCES: A Romance Writers of America Collection

The dissolute Earl of Edgington is last man Miss Sofia Hargrove ever wanted to see again. Ten years ago, she fell foolishly in love and, worse, she thought he loved her in return. Recklessly, she indulged her passion in a moonlit garden….and was caught. Ruined, she ran to the Continent, and then was devastated again when he didn’t follow. Now, at a London ball, he stands before her and begs for a chance to explain.

Edgington knows Sofie will never forgive him. For ten years, memories of her have haunted him, but his memories pale next to the bright, vibrant woman she’s become. The chance to explain, to ask her forgiveness, burns inside him, alongside the dormant passion he’s never forgotten and a long-held love that will no longer be denied.

Cassandra Dean, author of the bestselling Teach Me, entices readers once more with a tale of passion, love and second chances.


Hidden in the crowd, Edgington watched her. Now, it was obvious why he’d come to the ball—for the slight chance he would see her.

He’d heard about her return. It had been in all the papers, the triumphant return of Viscount Hargrove’s sister. They’d been full of her exploits on the Continent, the countries she’d seen, the society she’d kept. Each article he’d devoured, unable to keep the distance he maintained with everyone else, but then, that was nothing new. He’d never been able to distance himself from her.

Ten years since he’d seen her, and she hadn’t changed. Maybe she was a bit older, her hair a bit more gold, but she still looked as she did when he was a callow youth of twenty-one and more than a little infatuated. He remembered every curve of her face, the softness of her skin. The way her mouth moved under his.

Her gaze wandered to the dancing, and a wistful kind of smile occupied her face. His pulse a thunder in his ears, he wanted, quite stupidly, to ask her to dance.

Closing his eyes briefly, he shook himself. As if she would say yes. If he were to approach her, the smile would disappear from her features, as would all emotion. He knew. He’d seen it happen before.

Her gaze moved again and their eyes locked.

For a moment, a split second, her smile remained, and he had an insane hope that all had been forgiven, that, perhaps, he could approach her. Then, all expression bled from her face, and she regarded him coolly, her joy in the evening gone.
His heart sank. He’d known she’d react so, though a part of him had hoped he’d been wrong. A part of him had hoped he could approach her, could ask her to dance, could ask for her hand.

But, of course, he couldn’t. She was Miss Sofia Hargrove. The girl he’d ruined.

Buy links:

Amazon: AU | US | UK

Cassandra Dean is a best-selling, multi-published author of historical and fantasy romance and is a 2016 finalist in the Romance Writers of Australia’s coveted R*BY Award. Her latest novel, SILK & SCHOLAR, is book 4 of her popular Silk Series featuring law-loving peeps and their happily ever after.

Cassandra is proud to call South Australia her home, where she regularly cheers on her AFL football team and creates her next tale.

Visit Cassandra’s website at http://cassandradean.com

Join Cassandra’s mailing list at http://cassandradean.com/extras/newsletter-postcard-mailing-list

Follow Cassandra on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCassandraDean and on Twitter @authorCassDean

Contact Cassandra at cassandra@cassandradean.com


The bogus seamstress: Madame Latour eavesdrops in her own dress shop…

Mimi Latour paused at the top of the stairs to the kitchen and listened to the voices of her workers drifting upwards. Thank le bon Dieu there were no customers.

“What do you think of the new seamstress?” Dolly Isaacs asked.

Peggy O’Shea snorted audibly. “Seamstress, me fine fanny. If she’s a seamstress, then I’m the bloody duchess of Connemara.”

Dolly giggled. “I know. Did you see her hands? All smooth and white and not a callous on them.”

“That won’t last. Wait till she stabs them with a needle a few times. She can’t even sew a straight hem.”

“But she does beautiful embroidery,” Dolly said.

“And who learns to embroider, I ask ye?”

“Ladies!” they chorused.

Scare bleu! How could Lady Elinor Ashworth think she could blend in as a seamstress? She was nobly born, but no one could know that. If only her mama were still alive…

“And the way she talks, like the grand lady of the manner,” Peggy went on. “And who give her that black eye? That’s what I’d like to know.”

“Madame said what she’s a widow.”

Peggy snorted again. “Runaway wife, more like. I’ve seen men do their wives like that afore. Can’t blame her for leaving the blighter.”

“But why is she here?” Dolly asked. “She’s awful friendly with Madame, even sleeping upstairs. You don’t suppose…”

“That one of us is about to get the boot?” Peggy asked her tone glum. “Aye, maybe. Ma needs on me wages to feed the little ones. I dunno what we’ll do if I’m let go.”

“You’re a good seamstress,” Dolly said. “We can find other work.”

Peggy sighed. “Easy for ye to say. Ye’re English. What other shop would hire an Irish seamstress?”

Mimi had heard enough. It was time to nip this in the blossom, as the English say. She started down the stairs, her knees complaining at every step. The voices below stopped.

“Time to go back to work, girls,” she announced. “But first I wish to talk to you.”

Dolly and Peggy exchanged guilty looks.

“Yes, I heard you.” Mimi glared at them. “Such talk is très mal, very bad. Madame Brown will be with us for a short time only, so no one’s job is in jeopardy. But if I hear more gossip from either of you…” She let the threat trail off unspoken. “Now back to work.”

The girls scrambled up the stairs at breakneck speed. When they were gone, Mimi sank into a chair. “Oh, Ellie, what were you thinking?”

Lady Elinor’s Escape

By Linda McLaughlin


Lady Elinor Ashworth always longed for adventure, but when she runs away from her abusive aunt, she finds more than she bargained for. Elinor fears her aunt who is irrational and dangerous, threatening Elinor and anyone she associates with. When she encounters an inquisitive gentleman, she accepts his help, but fearing for his safety, hides her identity by pretending to be a seamstress. She resists his every attempt to draw her out, all the while fighting her attraction to him.

There are too many women in barrister Stephen Chaplin’s life, but he has never been able to turn his back on a damsel in distress. The younger son of a baronet is a rescuer of troubled females, an unusual vocation fueled by guilt over his failure to save the woman he loved from her brutal husband. He cannot help falling in love with the secretive seamstress, but to his dismay, the truth of her background reveals Stephen as the ineligible party.

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“Excuse me, madam, but I could not help overhearing you say that you must leave for London immediately. Allow me to introduce myself. Stephen Chaplin, Esquire, at your service.”

Elinor turned to face the gentleman who had suddenly appeared. She stared at him through a haze of black, taking advantage of her veil to get a closer look at this tall, dark-haired, seemingly well bred gentleman. He was above average height, with finely chiseled features, and while he could not, strictly speaking, be deemed handsome, there was something in the intense scrutiny of his light brown eyes that drew her to him. By the cut of his bottle green Superfine coat, which emphasized his broad shoulders, but was not so tight as to hamper movement, and his casually tied neckcloth, she surmised he was no society dandy.

“How do you do?” she said politely, extending one black-gloved hand.

“Fine, thank you.”

As he took her hand and bowed over it, Elinor savored the warmth of his touch for a moment. It had been a long time since someone had touched her out of kindness. Suddenly realizing she was clutching his hand, she withdrew hers. He studied her, his gaze seeming to penetrate the veil, and she could only stand like the veriest lump under his scrutiny.

“I beg your pardon, madam, but what did you say your name was?”

“Eli—” Elinor broke off and feigned a cough, panic bubbling up inside. Her name. Dear heavens, she needed a new name. If she told him who she was, he would never agree to take her to Mimi. She stared down at the gentleman’s yellow nankeen trousers and shiny brown boots. “Brown,” she stammered. “Ellie Brown.”

“Mrs. Brown, may I offer my assistance? I’m heading for London myself and would be pleased to convey you as far as Chippenham, where you may pick up another stage coach.”

Relief flooded through her at his offer, but could she trust him? No proper young lady rides in a closed carriage with a gentleman who is not related to her. The words of her governess rang in her ears. “I do not think—”

“Of course, you are cautious,” he interrupted smoothly. “Any genteel lady would hesitate to trust a strange gentleman.”

“But I am not a lady,” she blurted. If Aunt Sarah learned that a ‘lady’ had been here, she would know where to look for her. “I am merely a seamstress.”

“Really,” he drawled, doubt evident in his tone.

“Yes, I have a position awaiting me in London.” She was surprised, and a bit uncomfortable, at how easily the lies flowed from her lips, but they were necessary.

Meet Linda McLaughlin

Linda McLaughlin grew up with a love of books and history, so it’s only natural she prefers writing historical romance. She loves transporting her readers into the past where her characters learn that, in the journey of life, love is the sweetest reward. Linda also writes steamy to erotic romance under the name Lyndi Lamont, and is one half of the writing team of Lyn O’Farrell. She lives in Orange County, California.

You can find her online at:

Website: http://lindalyndi.com

Blog: http://lindalyndi.com/reading-room-blog/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LindaMcLaughlinAuthor

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/lindamclaughlin

Twitter: @Lyndi Lamont https://twitter.com/LyndiLamont

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