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Author: Susana Ellis (Page 1 of 3)

The Inverness Marriage Maker Strikes Again

“Lorena, my dear, you’ll never believe what I just read in this morning’s issue of The Teatime Tattler!

“That old rag? Sister dear, I’ve told you time and time again that Mr. Clemens’s newspaper is nothing but a scandal sheet. I don’t know why it is you waste your pocket money on such rubbish.”

Lavinia Forrester rolled her eyes. “Rubbish it may be, dear sister, but I’m quite certain there is something here you would find of considerable interest.”

Lorena Clapham put down her sewing and gave her sister a glassy stare. “I am equally certain there is nothing there that I care to hear, Lavinia. Do put it down before the servants see you reading it.”

The Tattler has it on good authority that Miss Cornelia Hardcastle, daughter of Admiral and Mrs. Cornelius Hardcastle was married on Friday last to Mr. Preston Warrington, brother of William, Viscount Warrington, of Cheshire.” She paused in order to witness her sister’s reaction.

She wasn’t disappointed. Lorena’s head jerked back and her sewing clattered to the floor. “Miss Hardcastle, you say? But that can’t be true!”

“After a seaside honeymoon at Brighton, the newlyweds will return to London to take up residence at the Hardcastle home on Leicester Square, which will soon be vacated when the Admiral and his wife sail for Canada where he will take up the post of Governor General of British North America.”

Lorena snatched the newspaper out of her sister’s hands and continued reading, her fury giving her words an angry intensity.

“Our confidential correspondent claims that this is the latest of a long line of successful matches coordinated by Sir Stirling James, popularly styled “The Inverness Marriage Maker” whose own marriage to a duke’s daughter was the result of one of his most challenging schemes. One has to wonder from whence this particular power emanates and how far it can be taken. It is the opinion of this writer that there will soon be an exodus of carriages of desperate parents taking to the Great North Road to avail themselves of Sir Stirling’s skills for their recalcitrant sons and daughters.”

“Miss Hardcastle swore to my son she would never, ever marry. She broke his heart and he’s never been the same since!”

It’s not her fault she didn’t return his affection. And who can blame her? He’s always been such a nitwit. 

“Perhaps now he’ll look for another young lady.”  Not a chance. A wife would interfere with his drinking, gaming, and whoring.

Lorena dropped the newspaper on the table, a faraway look in her eyes. “A marriage maker, eh? You don’t suppose…”

Lavinia’s eyes widened. “Surely you don’t intend to engage the Inverness Marriage Maker? Why, you don’t even know him—and he’s in Scotland.”

Her sister shrugged. “He must travel to London on occasion. How else did he manage to induce Miss Hardcastle into marriage when she has sworn against it? I daresay he won’t have half so much trouble with my darling Robin. Oh Sister, he will be ever so much more steady with a sensible wife.”

Lavinia groaned. Poor Sir Stirling. After this seemingly innocent piece in The Tattler, she suspected he was going to be inundated with mail from desperate parents all over the British Isles.

The Marriage Maker Goes Undercover

Fall 2017

Lady Elana Gallaway, known as master spy The Raven, has made a career of navigating enemy territory and risking her life in situations and places no gentlewoman should know exist. She possesses all the social graces, and is adept at sweeping into glittering royal courts on the Continent, then vanishing without a trace after she’s ferreted out the treacherous secrets that drew her there in the name of duty. She’s equally accomplished in London and Edinburgh, or wherever the British King requires her service. But never has a mission struck so close to her heart—or proved so daunting—as finding love for four retired spies.

These operatives have helped her many times, once or twice, even saving her from certain death at risk to their own lives. 

Now, they live solitary lives, lonely lives while surrounded by throngs. Luckily, Elana hasn’t forgotten them. Her career has introduced her to more than enemies. Among her close friends is Sir Stirling James, the famous Inverness marriage maker. He’s just the man she needs.

The Marriage Obligation by Susana Ellis

Cornelia Hardcastle has been determined never to marry since she was eighteen and discovered an ugly family secret. Now that she’s twenty-four, however, her parents want to see her settled so they can move to Canada for her father’s prestigious new government post. Not a chance!

The second son of a viscount, Preston Warrington is more than happy to leave the viscount business to his brother so he can travel the world in search of adventure. His recent stint as a spy for the British in the War with the French has come to an end, and he’s getting pressured to marry and settle down. Hell no!

How could the notorious Marriage Maker from Inverness all the way in Scotland possibly know that these two marriage-averse individuals are perfect for each other?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Vauxhall Vixens: A Sneak Peak at Peter and Alice’s story

Peter de Luca, violinist, had been employed at the Royal Vauxhall Gardens for nearly a week before he caught sight of the lady gardener. She was tall, her dark hair caught up in a white cap, and wore a brown apron over her dark gray skirt. He had seen few females at Vauxhall in the afternoons before the gates opened, and this one stood out from the rest because she seemed to have authority over the other gardeners. He saw her unrolling a sketch and giving instructions to two young men who listened respectfully and showed no signs of resentment at being ruled by a woman. She wasn’t simply a supervisor, however, as he later saw her viciously attack a shrub with a shovel and her own considerable strength.

“A strong one, for a filly,” said a voice behind him.

Peter wheeled around to find himself facing a short, rather stout gray-bearded man with friendly brown eyes and an approving smile.

“Nathaniel Stephens,” he said, extending his hand. “I have the honor of being head gardener here. Miss Crocker there is my assistant.”

Peter shook his hand and nodded. “She is at that,” he agreed. “Miss Crocker. She’s not married, then,” he observed.

Mr. Stephens cocked his head and gave Peter a speculative look. “Calls herself a spinster. Lives with her grandfather. Wouldn’t take no guff from any man, not my Alice.”

Peter raised an eyebrow. “I’m quite sure no man would dare to.” Her name is Alice.

The older man chuckled. “Don’t get me wrong. Alice is a lovely, sweet-tempered young woman. Would make some lucky man an excellent wife,” he added, with a side-long glance at Peter. “But I told her when I hired her that she’d have to be iron-fisted from the start. Demand respect and all that. Men don’t usually like taking orders from a woman, but they come to respect her. Gal’s real talent is design. She could go far if she were a man.” He rubbed his chin. “Might do it even so,” he added.

Peter nodded and was about to respond when he heard the first notes of instruments being tuned. “Peter de Luca,” he said, by way of introduction. “Violinist. Rehearsal time, so I must go. Honored to meet you, Mr. Stephens.”

“Nathaniel.”

The old man had a twinkle in his eye, and Peter suspected he had matchmaking on his mind. Too bad, because Peter could not consider marriage… at least not until he’d cleared his name.

***

Alice found her feet tapping in time to the music of the orchestra rehearsal while she inspected the site for the new illumination, which would honor the new Duke of Wellington after his victory over Bonaparte at the Battle of Paris. If only the designer had included the measurements! It was difficult to decide how to arrange the plantings without some inkling of the space requirements. With luck, the fellow himself would arrive soon, since the spectacle was planned to open the next day.

Miss Catherine Stephens, Vauxhall soprano

Miss Stephens must be singing tonight, she thought as she found herself humming the tune of the popular Northumberland ballad about a brave lass who rowed out in a storm to save her shipwrecked sailor beau.

O! merry row, O! merry row the bonnie, bonnie bark, 

Bring back my love to calm my woe, 

Before the night grows dark. 

She liked the idea of a woman rescuing her man instead of the other way around. It might seem romantic to be rescued by a handsome prince, but one could not always be a damsel in distress, could one?  Alice knew from her mother’s marriage that there was no happiness or romance in a marriage where one partner held all the power. She herself had no intention of placing herself in the power of any man. She would be responsible to no one but herself… and perhaps her employer, as long as she was permitted to work for a living. A pinched expression came over her face. She could work as well as any man, better than some, in fact. Why did so many men feel threatened by that?

Tucking the rolled-up plans under her arm, she made her way down the covered walk toward the Orchestra building to check on the new flowerbeds, unconsciously swinging her head to the music.

A storm arose the waves ran high, the waves ran high, the waves ran high,

And dark and murky was the sky, the wind did loudly roar,

But merry row’d, O! merry row’d the bonnie, bonnie bark,

O! merry row’d the bonnie, bonnie bark

And brought her love on shore.

When the music stopped, she smiled her appreciation to the musicians, most of whom she knew by sight. There was a new violinist, though—one whose dark good looks even she could not ignore—and he was staring right at her!

I must look a mess, she thought, her hand moving involuntarily to her hair. The band struck up another tune and she came to her senses.

Don’t be a nitwit, Alice! You’re a gardener and gardeners get dirt on them. 

Why did she care what a musician thought of her? In any case, it was rude to stare, and staring back could be mistaken for an invitation for dalliance. She’d learned to take care not to show too much friendliness to any of the men, and even then it was tricky.

She took a turn to the left and nearly barreled into her supervisor, who was arranging potted plants in eating-area.

“Whoa! Best watch where you’re a-goin’, Miss Alice. Were you dreamin’ of an admirer? Or perhaps it was that new violinist, Mr. de Luca. Showed some interest in ‘the lady gardener,’ he did.”

He did? 

Alice felt heat creeping across her cheeks. Not for the first time, she lamented her inability to control her blushes. The last thing she wanted was to encourage Mr. Stephens in his matchmaking. A happily-married man himself, he had a tendency to wish the married state on those around him as well.

“A new violinist? I had not noticed,” she lied.

Mr. Stephens chuckled.

A Vauxhall Collaboration: Susana Ellis and Jonathan Tyers

Susana: I’d like to introduce Mr. Jonathan Tyers, the entrepreneur who transformed the “Old and New Spring Gardens” from a disreputable outdoor adult park into the lovely Vauxhall Gardens, popular among all levels of society. Mr. Tyers has graciously agreed to assist me in my quest to bring the gardens back to life for Anglophiles and history lovers everywhere.

Mr. Tyers: Indeed, it is so gratifying to make the acquaintance of someone who shares my passion for bringing back the simpler pleasures of life. I understand that you wish to feature some of my employees in your romantic novels?

Susana: Yes, a series of novellas and short stories, spanning the length and breadth of its existence, from the 1730’s until 1859. I-er-understand that you kept a close vigil on it even after it passed from you to your children and others over the years.

Mr. Tyers [shaking his head]: I did so as long as I could, but toward the end… well, it was too painful. Nothing lasts forever, of course.

Susana: Nonetheless, I would like to highlight the memory of Vauxhall by creating stories about some of the workers and performers who contributed to its success.

Mr. Tyers [with a knowing grin]: A capital idea! I like to believe that I had a small part in encouraging suitable matches among my deserving employees.

Susana: I believe I recall that you provided wedding rings and a fabulous dinner at your own home for two happy couples.

Mr. Tyers [chest thrust out]: Yes, indeed. We put on a feast for fifty employees to celebrate the union of two of my bar-men with two bar-maids. Provided transportation all the way to Denbies, in Dorking—more than twenty miles, you know.

Susana: I knew you would be just the one to assist me with my project!

Mr. Tyers [leaning forward]: I shall certainly do what I can, Miss Ellis. What do you wish to know?

Susana: The first story is about a woman who worked as an under-gardener in 1814, and Peter de Luca, a musician.

Mr. Tyers: Ah yes, Alice Crocker. As I recall, Nat Stephens, the head gardener at the time, insisted on hiring her as his assistant even though there were plenty of able-bodied men who could have filled the position. He insisted she could handle the physical labor required as well as anyone, and she had a knack for design like none other. Singular, I thought at the time. But she had no husband to object, and Stephens was pleased with her. A bit of a distraction for the men at first, I noticed.

Susana [grimacing]: Couldn’t keep their minds on their work, eh? She was too pretty or something?

Mr. Tyers: Not pretty. Attractive, I suppose. A Long Meg, solid and strong too. [Chuckles] Gal knew how to handle herself around lecherous men, she did.

Susana: Intriguing. I take it she wasn’t fresh out of the schoolroom, then.

Mr. Tyers [scratching his head]: Don’t know if she went to school, but she was in her caps. Near thirty, I’d guess, when she came.

Susana: I must find out more about her… her family, where she grew up, what she did before she came to work at Vauxhall, and most of all, how she learned to manage men at a time when lone women were considered fair game for predatory men.

Mr. Tyers [stepping backward]: Pray recall, Miss Ellis, that not all men were guilty of such appalling behavior.

Susana [smiling sweetly]: Of course not, Mr. Tyers. I appreciate your constant efforts to prevent such incidents during your tenure as manager of Vauxhall.

Mr. Tyers [nodding]: Indeed I did. We hired watchmen and constables…

Susana: Yes, yes. I am sure no one could have done more. Now tell me what you know of this Peter de Luca. He was a musician, I believe.

Tyers: Played the violin in the orchestra at Drury Lane. I believe Mr. Hook brought him in with several other new players at the time. Most of our musicians worked in theaters during the colder months and came to us in the summer to earn a little extra coin. Not well paid at all, musicians. Passionate about their art, though. I like to think I helped them out a bit, too, as well as entertaining the visitors. Families have to eat, you know.

Orchestra at Drury Lane, 1843

Susana: Of course. About Peter de Luca…

Mr. Tyers: Yes, well, he was Italian—popish, you know. A widower, I believe. Brought his little tyke with him at times, never caused a problem. Quite well-looking, he was. Caught the attention of many a maid. Why even Mrs. Billington fluttered her eyelashes at him…

Susana [gritting her teeth]: A womanizer? That will never do. I cannot have a hero who was a womanizer.

Mr. Tyers [opening and then closing his mouth]: Womanizer? You mean, a philanderer? I really can’t say. I saw no sign of it. Nothing outside of the usual.

Susana [with a deep sigh]: The usual. Hmm, sounds like a double-standard. I shall have to investigate this Peter de Luca more thoroughly before I match him with the excellent Miss Crocker.

Mr. Tyers [narrowing his eyes]: You are a most singular lady, Miss Ellis. Er—is this characteristic of all ladies of the future?

Susana [chuckling]: I wish! No, seriously, I just like to make sure my heroines get a hero capable of giving them their HEA.

Mr. Tyers: HEA?

Susana: Happy-ever-after. You know, the happy couple stays together into their golden years and beyond. A requirement of every genuine romance.

Mr. Tyers [smiling]: Yes, well, that is what we all hope for, do we not? By all means, let us do what we can to make suitable matches among my worthy employees.

Stay tuned for further news about Susana’s and Mr. Tyers’s matchmaking efforts in Susana’s new series, The Vauxhall Vixens.

Intrigued by Vauxhall Gardens? Join Susana on Facebook for daily tidbits about Jonathan Tyers’s successful creation.

https://www.facebook.com/vauxhallgardens/

A former teacher, Susana lives in Toledo, Ohio in the summer and Florida in the winter. She is a member of the Central Florida Romance Writers and the Beau Monde chapters of RWA, Maumee Valley Romance Inc., and is a member of the (in)famous Bluestocking Belles.

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Felicia: her thoughts as she contemplates retrieving her lost daughter

In Chapter 15, Anthony, Lord Kendall, calls upon Felicia to inform her that he believes her long-lost daughter may be at the Foundling Hospital. She and her maid Maris, a loyal friend from their days at the Pleasure House, reflect on the possibility that the much-anticipated reunion may take place that very day!

The Foundling Restored to Its Mother

Felicia [eyes glowing]: Oh Maris, can this really be happening? I’ve dreamed of this moment for ever, but always in the end believing it to be impossible. [Swallowing] If she had found a suitable home, where she would be nurtured and loved, I should, of course, have been glad for her and refrained from interfering. But I had to know!

Maris [tugging a brush through Felicia’s thick, curly locks]: ‘Twas ol’ Beazley that stole ‘er from ya, may she rot in ‘ell. And tol’ ya she was dead, besides. Witch!

Felicia [nostrils flaring]: I can’t tell you how that troubled my thoughts, dear Maris, worrying over in what manner such a woman might dispose of my child, and all of them so very disheartening.

Maris: As bad as that was, ’twas better than thinkin’ ‘er dead. Gave ya somethin’ ta live fer.

Felicia [clasping Maris’s hands in hers]: It did indeed. I shall always be grateful to you for reminding me of that fact at a time when the world was black and I had no hope.

Maris [tearfully]: No need, miss. ‘Twas out of selfishness, not wantin’ ta lose the only friend I had.

Felicia [turning and giving Maris a quick kiss on the cheek]: We have been through a lot together, have we not? I could not have made it through all those months at the whorehouse without you reminding me of my responsibility to my child. I should never have met and loved Charles, God rest his generous soul, and never have obtained the means to support myself respectably.

Maris [with a secret smile]: Or met Mr. Jamison, er, Lord Kendall ‘e is now, who seemed that eager ta find yer daughter fer ya, miss.

Felicia [flushing]: Don’t tease, Maris. There can be nothing between us. He is very kind, that is all.

Maris [snorting]: Kind? Kind, you say? Ye’ve called ‘im a jackass more ‘n once, and so ‘e was too!

Felicia [tugging at her neckline]: Yes, well, perhaps he was rather disagreeable in the beginning, but it had to be a bit of a shock to discover that his uncle left half of his fortune to his mistress. I’m inclined to forgive him for all that, especially now that he has sought to reunite me with my daughter. [Rises from the chair.] Cynthia. Oh Maris, she is three years old already and her name is Cynthia! How will I ever explain how I lost her?

Maris: Jis’ like that. She was lost and ya found ‘er.

Felicia: Or Anthony did. How can I ever thank him? [Maris chuckles.] No, no, not that way. Never again that way! I shall ever after be a respectable lady, for myself first, and also for my daughter. Cynthia. She shall have everything I can give her, that I never had myself.

Maris: A father?

Felicia [turning pale]: No, but a doting mother will surely be enough. We shall be very happy, just the two of us. And you, of course, Maris. We shall find a house in the country, near a village, with children and cows and fresh air.

Maris: And Anthony?

Felicia [folding her arms across her chest]: What about him? Anthony will go on with his life, take his seat in Parliament, marry some noble young lady with whom he will have a passel of children, and become a bastion of London society. He and I will never cross paths again. And that is the way it should be.

Maris: If you say so, miss.

Felicia: I do say so. [Looks toward the window.] Is that a carriage, Maris? Where is my bonnet? Oh Maris, I’m going to be a mother! Do you think she’ll like me? What if…? If she’s been abominably treated, I shall never forgive myself. Has Mrs. Grey finished preparing the nursery, do you think?

Find out what happens when Felicia and Anthony visit the Foundling Hospital in an attempt to retrieve her daughter in the next installment of Susana’s Resilience, on wattpad.

 

Resilience: Moving House and an Unexpected Visitor

After a flurry of activity, Felicia, her daughter, and Maris arrived at Brook Street on the appointed day. As the house was to be sold soon, only a handful of servants remained to wait on them, the others having found positions elsewhere. Having assumed a new identity, Felicia could not offer them positions in her new home and risk someone letting slip a hint of her scandalous past. Maris, however, shared a long history with her mistress, and her loyalty to Felicia was unquestionable.

***

Being required to assist in conveying the luggage, neither John, the coachman, nor Richards, the armed footman,  remarked the presence of the small tattered boy huddled behind the street lamp, his discerning eyes focused with interest on the new arrivals. This development would be worth a coin or two when relayed to the folks at the Pleasure House. He remained in his position until long after the coachman had driven the rig around the back to the stable area, observing that although no other activity appeared to be taking place there, the heavyset footman with a bulge in his pocket that could have been a pistol maintained constant vigilance over the house’s entrance from the parlor window, relaxing his duties only for a few minutes while he accepted a cup of tea from another servant. As darkness came and the house appeared to be settled for the night, the boy left his post, visions of jingling coins occupying his thoughts.

***

The next few days were busy ones indeed, as Felicia and the few remaining servants were engrossed in packing up the contents of the house to be either sold or conveyed to Weldon Park. Felicia had her hands full with Cynthia, as well, since it had been decided to leave the nursemaid behind and there were no servants to spare for minding the child. It was actually a blessing, she thought, as she finished doing up the buttons on the pretty pink frock and took a brush to her daughter’s unruly reddish blonde curls. There was far too much to do to allow for painful thoughts, such as bidding a final farewell to Charles and their life together, and also, she realized in surprise, disappointment that Anthony had failed to call on them since their arrival.

Nor had he been present at her meeting with the solicitor, who had discussed the sale of the house and presented her with several documents to sign, remarking that Lord Kendall had overseen the entire process personally, and that all that was necessary was Felicia’s approval.

Personally? thought Felicia. Not hardly, since she hadn’t seen hide nor hair of him since their arrival. Well, why should he, she argued with herself? He was a Lord of the Realm who—if the Pendergast chits were correct—was much too occupied in courting a wife to be bothered with one such as her. In any case, once wed, his wife would see to it that any friendship between them was severed, so it was well and good to put some distance between them now. Or so she told herself.

“Ouch!” complained Cynthia. “Mama, you’re hurting me!”

Instantly contrite, Felicia hugged her daughter. “I’m sorry, poppet. I’m hopeless with hair. But Maris is occupied with the linens at present, so you’ll have to make do with me instead. I shall try to be a bit more gentle.”

She had noticed before that Cynthia’s hair, although with a tinge of strawberry, was as lush and curly blonde as her own. Felicia had always struggled to keep hers tamed, and it seemed her daughter would be fated to do so as well. She did wonder where the red had come from, as Cynthia’s natural father had been very fair. But she had never seen his parents, or, for that matter, her own natural parents. No doubt some ancestor up the line had been red-headed.

As she turned her daughter loose in the nursery to play with her dolls, Felicia started down the stairs and halted suddenly when she saw a stranger on the landing, a middle-aged lady dressed in finery from head to toe, wearing a dashing pelisse of peacock blue, in the process of removing a stylish bonnet of matching hue, to reveal a head of abundant strawberry blonde locks that appeared to be an exact match to Cynthia’s.

A maid rushed in and took the new arrival’s hat and pelisse, apologizing when she saw Felicia. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Hammond, but we’re so short-handed there weren’t nobody ter send fer ye ter say that Lady Middlemarch has come ter call.”

Lady Middlemarch looked up at Felicia with bright eyes that looked suspiciously like tears. “I’m sorry to have come at an inconvenient time, Mrs. Hammond. Perhaps I should come back at another time?”

“Oh no, of course not,” Felicia insisted. “Please come and sit in the parlor.” Turning to the maid, she asked, “Kate, do you think you could manage to bring us some tea?” At the maid’s curtsy of assent, she turned to her unexpected guest.

“I apologize that I am unable to offer you anything more, Lady Middlemarch, but as you see, we are in the process of packing up the house and we are in a state of upheaval at present.”

“Yes,” said the older woman, “I-I-I understand that you are removing to the country.” Her blatant stare unnerved Felicia.

As they sat facing one another, Felicia was struck by the woman’s resemblance to herself and her daughter: the thick, curly hair, the clear blue eyes, the pert nose, the pale skin. What could she think but that this elegant lady might be… no, of course not.

Breaking the silence, she began. “Lady Middlemarch…”

“Mrs. Hammond,” began the other woman at the same moment, wringing her hands nervously. “Mrs. Hammond, I think you must comprehend by our resemblance that I—” she paused, “—that I am your mother. Your natural mother, that is.” And then she broke down into uncontrollable weeping as an astonished Kate carried in the tea tray.

Resilience is the story of a prostitute and demimondaine who escapes to the peace and respectability of country life with her young daughter.

I wrote this story in 2010 during my “summer of practice retirement” where I wanted to prove to myself I could become a productive writer and not a coach potato. I got so into the story that I had dreams about it and got up at 4 a.m. (once school started) to write them down.

It’s been languishing in my pile of unfinished manuscripts, but I was just thinking the other day that it might be time to resurrect it. So that’s what I’m doing on Wattpad. You can read more here.

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