Home of the Bluestocking Belles

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Author: Jude Knight (Page 1 of 2)

Silver eyes. It’s uncanny

1st June 1794

Today, Town will be nearly empty as the ton streams to the border between Wales and England, to a remote valley where the reclusive Duke of Bleidrich rules a fiefdom older than the four kingdoms.

Seldom does His Grace honour Town with his presence, and then to the benefit of Westminster rather than the rounds of Society. Never in living memory has he held a ball. What can be the reason? Is the duke in search of a duchess? Or can the rumours be true? Seven years ago, the duke installed a ward in the castle schoolroom, a maiden understood to be a younger daughter of Baron Whitleaf of Northern Lancashire. Will Isadora Whitleaf defy her humble origins to become the next Duchess of Bleidrich?

And if she does? No one can give details, but all agree there is something uncanny about the Bleidrichs.

1st July 1794

As Society stream back from the celebrations in Bleidrichvale, the Teatime Tattler has been able to confirm that the rumours about Miss Whitleaf were unfounded. The stated reason for the ball was to celebrate the eighteenth birthday of Lord Nathaniel Marrock, younger brother of the duke, before he left for his Grand Tour of those parts of the continent still available to travellers.

The true reason? Our editor has been told in confidence by several Grande Dames of the ton that His Grace was most attentive to their own particular charge. We have also heard from some of the young maidens, who described the duke as remote and scary. Given the gentleman’s high estate, we do not see this as an insuperable bar to matrimony, and even those who shivered at his silver eyes, did not deny him beauty of form to an unearthly degree.

He may be uncanny, but he is rich, titled, and handsome.

 10th October 1794

In an update to our story several months ago about the Duke of Bleidrich and his ward, we have recently heard that Miss Whitleaf has married. And married not the master, but the schoolteacher. Marriage to the highest noble in the land would have been a considerable step up for Miss Whitleaf. Marriage to a village schoolmaster, even one who has been tutor to the younger son of a duke, must be seen as a descent.

But then, Miss Whitleaf, more than any, must know the truth about the Bleidrichs. Has she chosen the better part?

12th August 1804

Ten years ago, the Duke of Bleidrich raised hopes in the hearts of matchmaking mamas and their daughters, when he held a ball at his remote estate. And then, nothing. Until today.

Today, dear readers, the finest in the land have been stunned to receive an invitation to another ball in Bleidrichvale. What surprise has the duke in store for us? The Teatime Tattler will not venture to make a guess, but warns readers that the Bleidrichs are known to be uncanny.

24th August 1804

Isadora Harris, formerly Isadora Whitleaf, is the new Duchess of Bleidrich. Yes, dear reader, you read that aright. The Duke of Bleidrich has reached down into the commonality to lift up his bride.

His Grace travelled to the far reaches of Yorkshire to retrieve his widowed bride, marrying her by special license in York a scandalous five weeks after her husband’s death.

Furthermore, the lady comes with a considerable encumbrance in the way of a family. We have been unable to confirm how many are her own, and how many she and the eccentric Mr Harris added to their family by adoption, but we are told that the ducal nurseries, schoolroom, and dining table have been considerably expanded to add twenty-four place settings for the Harris children.

The correspondent we sent into Bleidrichvale has suffered an unaccountable memory lapse, and has been unable to tell us what else he has discovered. We will report soon.

24th September 1804

Sam Clemens sat at his desk, turning a sheet of paper over and over in his hand, staring at nothing.

Joe the printer, coming through from the workshop, stopped in the doorway.

“Fancy visitors, those, Sam.” Joe had stepped aside to let the lord and lady pass, being careful not to let his inky apron touch the lady’s fine silk.

Sam’s voice seemed to come from a distance. “Hmmm.”

“An advertisement? Not scandal. Not those two.” The man made Joe shiver: silver eyes under a dark wing of brow, and the lady was unusual, too. Eyes of forest green, and the loveliest face he’d ever seen. But they were no gossipmongers, that was for certain.

“I came for the front page, Sam. You said you were writing up the news from Yorkshire. About Bleidrich and the Harrises.”

Sam looked blankly at Joe, and then back at the sheet of paper. Joe moved closer, hoping it was the copy he needed, but it was blank.

“Story?” Sam seemed to shake himself awake. “No. There’s no story from Yorkshire.”

“No story? What am I to put on the front page?”

With a problem to solve, Sam was galvanised into action, and in the rush of moving things around, finding extra copy to fill spaces, and getting the paper to print, the weird incident was forgotten.

But later that night, as they sat over a celebratory mug of ale, Joe remembered where he had heard of silver eyes. “Sam,” he asked his editor, “was that the Duke of Bleidrich and his wife who came to see you today?”

“Yesterday,” Sam said, for it was three in the morning. And then his eyes went suddenly blank and he gave his head a quick shake as if to dislodge a blockage in his thoughts. “Bleidrich? Fine chance that would be. The duke in my newspaper office? No, Joe. You must have been dreaming.”

Someone was, Joe thought. But he wouldn’t mention it again. That way, there’d be no risk of drawing that silver gaze on him.

There was no doubt about it. There was something uncanny about the Bleidrichs.

To find out what happened ten years ago, and what brought about the marriage after a decade, read The Heart of a Wolf, a short story in Lost in the Tale. Lost in the Tale is released on 6 September. Buy links on Jude Knight’s website at http://judeknightauthor.com/books/lost-in-the-tale/

Come sample Jude’s wares in her second short story/novella collection

The Lost Wife: Teri’s refuge had been invaded: by the French, who were trying to conquer their land, and by wounded soldiers from the English forces sent to fight Napoleon’s armies. The latest injured man carried to her for nursing would be a bigger challenge than all the rest: he had once broken her heart. (short story)

The Heart of a Wolf: Ten years ago, Isadora lied to save her best friend, and lost her home and the man she loved when he would not listen to her. Ten years ago, Bastian caught his betrothed in the arms of another man, and her guilt was confirmed when she fled. Ten years on, both still burn with anger, but the lives of innocent children and the future of their werewolf kind demand that they work together. (short story)

My Lost Highland Love: Interfering relatives, misunderstandings, and mistranslations across a language barrier keep two lovers from finding one another again. The Earl of Chestlewick’s daughter comes to London from her beloved Highlands to please her father, planning to avoid the Englishman who married her and abandoned her. The Earl of Medford comes face-to-face with a ghost; a Society lady who bears the face of the Highland lass who saved his life and holds his heart. (short story)

Magnus and the Christmas Angel: Scarred by years in captivity, Magnus has fought English Society to be accepted as the true Earl of Fenchurch. Now he faces the hardest battle of all: to win the love of his wife. A night trapped in the snow with an orphaned kitten, gives Callie a Christmas gift: the chance to rediscover first love with the tattooed stranger she married. (short story)

The Lost Treasure of Lorne: For nearly 300 years, the Normingtons and the Lorimers have feuded, since a love affair ended in a curse that doomed dead Lorimers to haunt their home, the Castle of Lorne.

Now the last Marquis of Lorne, the last of the Lorimers, is one of those ghosts, and the Duke of Kendal, head of the House of Normington, holds the castle.

Kendal doesn’t care about the feud or the ghosts. He wants only to find the evidence that will legitimate the son his Lorimer bride bore him before her death, and to convince his stubborn housekeeper to marry him.

But the time allotted to the curse is running out, and his happiness depends on finding the Lost Treasure of Lorne before the 300 years draws to a close. (novella)

 

Rumours of a mad rival

Overheard in a London drawing room.
“To be fair, Lady Amelia, many females have run mad over a red coat.” Lady Fenella’s jibe—and Lady Amelia’s blush—reminded the others present of Lady Amelia’s own excesses last Season in pursuit of a certain officer of the Horse Guard.

“One officer might be a mistake,” Mrs Fullerton suggested, “but two seems a little excessive. It certainly sounds as if this poor mad sister of Braxton’s makes a habit of compromising situations with the cavalry.”

“Only one compromising situation, surely,” Lady Eustace Framley protested. “I thought she was the baronet’s widow. One can’t compromise oneself with one’s husband.”

“One can before he is her husband, darling.” Lady Fenella widened her eyes. “Or do you not remember how you came to marry Lord Eustace?”

“Is it true that this mysterious officer stole her from her bedroom in her chemise?” Lady Amelia wondered.

“It would be rather cold,” said Lady Eustace. “It was, after all, more than a month ago, and in the Spring. One would imagine the Cheshire weather would dampen the ardour.”

“Your innocence is so charming,” Lady Fenella said. “Do you practice it in front of the mirror?”

“I do not much like these Braxtons. If I lived with Mrs Braxton, I dare say I should be mad myself,” Lady Amelia declared.

“I would certainly prefer Major Alex Redepenning to Mr Braxton,” said Lady Fenella, watching Mrs Fullerton very closely.

“Anyone would,” Lady Amelia agreed. “At least one would have before he was crippled. Goodness, Fenella, you don’t mean that Alex Redepenning stole Melville’s widow away! But that’s…” Her voice trailed off and she, too, stared speculatively at Mrs Fullerton.

Lady Eustace proved her relative naivety by rushing to make the comment the other two women merely thought. “Melville’s widow? Sir Gervase Melville? Wasn’t he your particular friend once, Mrs Fullerton? Yes, and Major Redepenning, too!”

“Poor dear.” Lady Fenella took Mrs Fullerton’s hand and gave it a warm squeeze. “It can hardly be pleasant to know you are unlikely in love not once, but twice, and both times have lost to the same woman.”

Their marriage is a fiction. Their enemies are all too real.

Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return.

Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him.

In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.

A chance resemblance leads Society astray

EDITOR’S NOTE: DON’T PUBLISH WITHOUT REPLACING REAL NAMES WITH INITIALS. (Sam, it turned out not to be the scandal we thought, but you might be able to make something from my notes.)

Is the Baron marrying the Marquis’s mistress?

Date: 20 July 1810

Just last month, this paper reported on the scandalous behaviour of two of the ton’s most outrageous rakes. Lord Overton comes to Town for a mere three weeks per year, but his shocking exploits with the Merry Marquis during that time have given him a well deserved reputation almost equal to that of the master-rake himself.

We did not expect to see Lord O again in 1810, and can still barely believe the report we have received about the reason for his untimely return to the pleasures of the capital.

Is Lord O courting the Rose of Frampton, that glorious barque of frailty in the keeping of his dearest friend?

We cannot confirm the report, dear readers, as the Marquis has never flaunted his belle amie around town, preferring to keep her to himself. Only his closest friends have been allowed to meet the Rose, and they are almost as close lipped as the man himself, saying only that she is stunningly beautiful and devoted to the Marquis.

And yet, the lady seen at Gunthers with Lord O and a young child meets the description of the Rose in almost every particular.

Is Lord O courting the Rose of Frampton? And will this lead to a falling out between the friends?

Date: 27 July 1810

Sources in the household of the Duke of Haverford claim that Lord O and his mysterious lady were wed today in the chapel at Haverford House. The Duchess of Haverford and the Marquis of Aldridge witnessed the vows.

Dear readers, we have been assured by that the blushing bride is the same woman featured in a painting that hangs above the infamous bed of the Merry Marquis in the heir’s wing of Haverford House, scene of many a flagrant breach of decency and morals.

Date: 30 July 1810

Lord and Lady Overton were at dinner on Saturday night at the home of the Earl of Chirbury, cousin to the Merry Marquis, and on Sunday attended morning services at St George’s, where they were presented to His Grace the Duke of Haverford.

Dear readers, we had begun to conclude that Lady O’s resemblance to Lord Aldridge’s mistress was a mere coincidence when our speculations were confirmed beyond doubt. Lord A was seen out walking with the Rose of Frampton while Lord and Lady O were elsewhere in London, attending a musicale.

Yes, dear readers. The new Lady O is not the Rose of Frampton, and this newspaper apologises for any distress we may have caused by reporting the unfounded suspicions of gossipmongers and disgruntled servants.

Date: 1 August 1810

Dear readers, having been in Hyde Park at the time of the sad occasion that is the only story on everyone’s lips, we can confirm the astounding resemblance between the Rose of Frampton and Society’s newest ornament, the beautiful and gracious Lady Overton.

Yes, dear readers, the Marquis’s paramour was very like his best friend’s new wife, for we saw them both together when Lord A and the Rose rode past the Overton’s carriage.

Moments later, tragedy struck. Shall we ever know what spooked the Rose’s horse? And does it matter? It bolted, and the poor woman was thrown, dying later at Haverford House.

Date: October 1810

The Teatime Tattler is pleased distressed to confirm that Lord Aldridge, the Merry Marquis, is once again on the prowl. He still wears a black armband in mourning for his lost mistress (and in contravention of all social norms), but is once again savouring the delectable delights of the demimonde, as represented at the the Duke of Richport’s famous yearly masquerade.

Was she? Or wasn’t she? Who was the imposter? To find out more, read A Baron for Becky. (First chapter and buy links on Jude Knight’s website, at the link.)

Becky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde – the indulged Rose of Frampton, mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.

Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?

The devil-may-care face Hugh Overton shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn’t want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.

When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.

Gossip makes the march go faster

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, soldiers’ wives were the army support crew, scavenging for food, mending and washing clothes, nursing the wounded, and even working alongside the men.

“Thought you’d be with the wounded, Maggie,” Becky Watson said, trying but failing to keep the glee from her tone. Maggie Palmer had been lauding her extra income and increased status over the other women since she’d won the coveted nursing position, and Becky was not the only one to rejoice in her downfall.

Maggie glared at the girl who rode her donkey twenty yards in front of them. Fifteen years old, newly married, and taking up the duties of the real doctor, her father, who had collapsed with an apoplexy on the day she married Melville.

Lady Melville didn’t notice Maggie. All her attention was on the cart carrying those fit enough to be dragged along with the regiment to their winter quarters, her father among them. For the moment, she was the closest the regiment had to a regimental surgeon. 

“Wash, wash, wash. And every bucket needing to be carried from the river and heated over the fire. I washed this morning, I told her, and I’ll be damned if I wash again. And changing the sheets every day, and all that rubbish. Thinks she’s so much better than us just because she managed to snare a baronet.”

“Captain Brownlie always makes the nurses wash,” Becky pointed out. She’d been appointed nurse herself until little Freddie was born, but Captain Brownlie wouldn’t have women with children in the hospital quarters.

She hoisted the toddler higher onto her hip and kept trudging. The women had left camp as soon as possible after first light, and had been walking for an hour. They’d be another seven on the road. Becky could do with Lady Melville’s donkey, and that was a fact.

Maggie hadn’t finished complaining. “She isn’t her father. She’s not an officer, or even a proper doctor. She has no right to order me around.”

This charming painting purports to record a moment in history, when a child with a French regiment was put on the tomb of a knight to sleep, out of the way of a fight, covered by his father’s jacket.

Maggie was a fool. As long as the Colonel backed Lady Melville’s commands—as he had when Maggie went bleating to him with her complaints—the lady had every right to order the nurses about.

But all the wives knew Maggie was bitter because her former services to Lieutenant Sir Gervase Melville had stopped when he suddenly up and married. And Becky would bet her best iron pot that Maggie did a lot more for him than cooking and cleaning. Mind you, Lieutenant Melville didn’t confine himself to regimental widows like Maggie. He had dipped his toes in a lot of other soldiers’ bedrolls, as well as the local bits of fluff who came out to serve the regiment wherever it camped.

Swiving locals would be frowned on, but tupping the wives of his soldiers was worse. Mind you, it would be the woman who paid if anyone spoke out of turn. She’d be drummed out of the regiment and lucky if she was given the passage home. And the Lieutenant would get a rap on the knuckles.

“I’m going to tell the Lieutenant,” Maggie declared. “He’ll make her take me back.”

Becky stopped to move Freddie to the other hip, then hurried to catch up. “Don’t make trouble for her, Maggie. She has it hard enough. You know what he’s like.”

None of the wives believed the poor girl had suddenly started tripping over tent pegs and bumping into corners. Melville had been horrified when forced to marry the doctor’s daughter, and Melville in a temper was a nasty man.

But Maggie was obdurant. “Serves her right. She made her bed when she seduced him. She’ll just have to lie in it.”

Becky shook her head. No point in arguing. Maggie had her mind made up, but Becky didn’t believe Lady Melville seduced the baronet. Not her. As nice and as ladylike as the Colonel’s wife, who Becky had served as maid back when she first married Watson, while the regiment was still in England.

In any case, anyone with eyes would know it hadn’t been Melville that the doctor’s daughter wanted.

Becky sighed. She was a happily married woman, and a mother. But even she could see the appeal of Captain Alexander Redepenning. It was over now, of course. Lady Melville had made her choice and was stuck with it.

And how it happened, Becky couldn’t fathom.

“Yes. That’ll do. Gervase will help me.” Maggie slid her eyes sideways to see the effect of her use of the baronet’s personal name.

Suddenly sick of the other woman’s nastiness, Becky decided to take a stand. “Watson says the Colonel’s wife has come over to join him in winter quarters. Used to be her maid, I did, and she still has a fondness for me.”

“Not as fond as the Lieutenant is of me,” Maggie smirked.

“Yes, well, that’s the point, isn’t it. The Colonel will want her to check that the camp followers are,” Becky quoted the oft-repeated demand of the regimental regulations: “sober, industrious, and of good character. Don’t worry about it, Maggie Palmer. If they find out what you’ve done with the Lieutenant, you’d likely get your passage home. If the Colonel is in a good mood.”

Maggie frowned. “Are you threatening me?”

Becky shrugged. “Take it how you will. But leave Lady Melville alone.”

 

Their marriage is a fiction. Their enemies are all too real.

Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return.

Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him.

In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.

Jude Knight’s book pageSmashwords # iBooks # Barnes and NobleAmazon US

Hearts and Hope at Hollystone Hall

Sam Clemens, proprietor of The Teatime Tattler, bought the stablemaster another mug of dark bitter, his fifth by Sam’s count. It was a powerful brew, and Sam was still nursing his second. He wanted to keep his own wits, and befuddle those of his companion. Bellowes must have a head of pure oak, for he was still upright and coherent, though he was speaking a bit more loudly and gesturing wildly to punctuate his points.

“Not a beauty, not by our measure,” he was saying. “The head was too small and the back too long. But a magnificent beast, for all that. And what that there viscount could do with him! You’d not believe it, and that’s a fact.”

Viscount? The matter was in some dispute, since the man in question was the offspring of a ducal heir and a foreign woman, the marriage (if it happened at all) taking place in some place high in the mountains at the rear end of the Persian empire.

Bellowes would be of little use if he could not be persuaded to talk about anything but horses.

“I’m surprised the Haverfords invited Lord Elfingham,” Sam said. “It’s no secret that His Grace is behind the move to have his father’s marriage declared invalid.”

“As to that, he arrived unexpected,” Bellowes declared. “His horse came up lame, he said. Good trick that. He was courting one of the Belvoir ladies, and that’s the truth. Clever horse, like I told you.”

Not back to the horse again! Sam thought quickly. “He wasn’t the only unexpected arrival, I heard. You’d see them all, in the stables.”

“That I do. That I do. Let me see. There was the young Hebrew. Nice fellow. Turned up bright and early on one post horse, leading another. He came a courting too, by all accounts. Them up at the house say he’d been on a mission for the Duke of Wellington himself! Think of that. Well, he had his own mission at Hollystone Hall.”

Yes, Sam had heard about that. Some relative of Baumann the banker, and Baumann’s daughter was a guest at the party.

“And young Lord Jonathan, of course. He was only here for a couple of days, though, and then he and Lord Aldridge ordered the carriage, and took off for London. And Lady Sophia Belvoir went with them! A nice lady like that. Who’d have thought it.”

“House parties can be scandalous places,” Sam suggested, hoping Bellowes would confirm with some more gossip.

But Bellowes shook his head, saying staunchly, “Not parties run by the duchess. A lot of billing and cooing, mind you. But no hanky-panky. Let me see. We had Lord Nicholas Lacey exchanging a kiss for a big donation to Her Grace’s charity. That’s what the party was for, you understand. To raise money for education.” He shook his head again, more slowly this time. “Though what women need with an education I don’t know.”

Sam responded with a neutral sound that Bellowes could take as he liked, and Bellowes continued.

“His brother-in-law, too. Mr Durand was here with his betrothed, and they seemed like a fine couple. I got to know the young ladies a little, Lord Lacey’s daughter and Mr Durand’s. They used to come down with the other schoolroom chits to feed the horses. That oriental? Gentle as a lamb.”

Sam leapt in before Bellowes could return to the horse. “You had a wedding, I’m told.”

“That we did. An earl and an actress, if you can believe it!”

Sam, who had seen Miss Halfpenny on the stage, could easily believe that the reclusive Earl of Somerton was besotted, but marriage? Society was shocked, but rumour had it that the two most concerned were blissfully happy.

“His cousin wasn’t best pleased. Took off early, he did. Just as well, too, because we’d not have had room for the Woodville coach or Lord Stanton. They arrived just in time for the ball on the last night, though they’d been expected right at the beginning.”

Sam could smell a story, could all but taste it, but no one was talking. Lord Stanton, his sister Miss Lockhart, and his stepmother had left London together, as had Miss Woodville and her brother. Lady Stanton had arrived at the party at the beginning, Lord Stanton had later appeared on his own. Miss Lockhart had not only come with the Woodvilles, she was actually married to Mr Woodville. He would keep digging. Someone must know what had happened.

“Two weeks of romance,” he commented.

Bellowes eyes were drooping, but he opened them again. “That they were, and the servants’ hall abuzz with our own.” He chuckled. “The French chef and the duchess’s cousin. Who’d have thought it?” With that, he toppled forward onto the table, and in moments was snoring. Sam would get no more out of him tonight.

Mr Bellowes is talking about characters and stories from the anthology Holly and Hopeful Hearts. You can read the blurbs for each story here, and get the buy links. Furthermore, the collection is on special this month for only 99c, which is pretty good for 680 pages of fiction!

•*☆Holly & Hopeful Hearts is a RONE nominee☆*•

PLEASE VOTE!!
The Bluestocking Belles were thrilled to learn Holly and Hopeful Hearts became a RONE nominee with InD’Tale Magazine. Voting begins for the Anthology category from April 24th – April 30th but you have to be signed in to the website to vote at www.indtale.com. It is easy to register, and you won’t be sorry—it is a great little magazine.

The Bluestocking Belles would sincerely appreciate your support by voting for our box set since this round is reader based. Starting Monday after you sign in you can vote here: http://www.indtale.com/2017-rone-awards-week-two

Thank you for your support from the Bluestocking Belles.

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