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Scandal at the Chipping Niddwick Assembly

Dear Editor

Let me start by saying that I abhor gossip, and despise scandal-mongers above all things. However, I cannot fail to comment on the recent events at would should have been a decorous event in support of an excellent charity. As a good Christian gentleman, I am well aware that we gentry have a duty to set an example to the lesser sort, and part of that duty is to castigate outrageous behaviour on the part of those who should know better.

I speak, Sir, about the recent Whitsunweek Assembly at Chipping Niddwick. The committee who organised the event did us proud. Imagine the delight of our young ladies when not one by two earls attended the affair, both single gentlemen. A baron and viscount were also in attendance, with their respective wives. Such illustrious company for a small country town.

Or so we thought.

Before the night was out, all of them would show their true colours.

The younger of the two earls was observed in seclusion with the baroness (in circumstances that would have demanded the parson’s noose had the lady not already been married). It should have come as not surprise; both Lord S. and Lady Cgm. are often lampooned in printers windows in London for their outrageous behaviour. We regret that they brought their London ways to our virtuous town.

Meanwhile, Lord Cgm. was on a venture of his own, attempting to set up an assignation with a married lady who, we are told, rebuffed him. Lord Cgm. does not, as a rule, show an interest in married ladies, preferring much younger girls, to the extent that no parent will allow their daughter to take service in his house, and Lady Cgm. has to fetch her maids from the orphan asylums of Bristol and Bath.

The other earl. Lord Chby. returned from Canada claiming to be a widower, though rumour has it that his first wife, if the union was in fact blessed by the church, was a native woman. Fortunately for his esteemed name and title, the woman died several years agoand her brats with her.

We saw no signs of grieving last night, since Lord Chby. brought with him a woman (we do not consider her a lady) who could only be his mistress, given the heat with which he regarded her all evening. Mrs. H. is known in this community, and has until now been trusted despite her mysterious appearance here six years ago. Now questions are being asked about the resemblance between her daughter and Lord Chby.

Finally, a cousin of Lord Chby. caused a stir in an invalid’s chair, and inadvertently uncovered the clay feet of the last of our cast of peers. Major A. R., injured in the line of duty, was not content to merely watch the dancing from the sidelines, but insisted on joining in. When his chair collapsed under the unaccustomed exertion of the dance, its maker proclaimed herself. Imagine our shock when we discovered she was none other that Lady A., viscountess of Lord A.

I have, honoured Sir, ignored rumours that Lord A. has made his money from trade. His father was a much respected rider to hounds, though he did marry down. Apparently, the son takes after his father in his low taste in spouses and his mother in his prediliction for activities unbecoming to a gentleman.

Sir, I am advised that the committee thought long and hard before allowing Assembly tickets to be sold to anyone who could raise the price, fearing to lower the tone of the event by letting in the lower sort. May I suggest that next year they raise the tone of the event by excluding the higher sort.

I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,

Sir A. P-H. Bart.

A Raging Madness, the second book in the Golden Redepennings series, will be released in May

The Assembly at Chipping Niddwick is the highlight of the social calendar in my book Farewell to Kindness. If you want to know what Lord Selby did with the Bad Baroness, Lady Carrington, what Mia Redepenning told Lord Carrington, and whether or not Lord Chirbury succeeded in seducing Anne Haverstock, all the answers are in that book.

Revealed in Mist discloses why Lord Selby is hiding out in the country. (The investigation in Revealed in Mist and the one in Farewell to Kindness dovetail.) The young viscount and his lady who first appeared in my imagination at this assembly, demanded to have their story told in the book that became Candle’s Christmas Chair. And Major Alex Redepenning will reappear as hero of A Raging Madness, where we will finally find out how he got injured.

A new cover, so hot off the press it isn’t in the eretailers yet.

Hidden from the earl who hunts them, Anne and her sisters have been accepted into the heart of a tiny rural village. Until another earl comes visiting.

Rede lives to avenge the deaths of his wife and children. After three long years of searching, he is closing in on the ruthless villains who gave the orders, and he does not hope to survive the final encounter.

Until he meets Anne. As their inconvenient attraction grows, a series of near fatal attacks draws them together and drives them apart. When their desperate enemies combine forces, Anne and Rede must trust one another to survive.

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The Secretary’s Secret

Sebastian Beringer covered his notes with one arm, trying to do so in a way that would not draw fire from his angry employer. If need be, he would claim he was writing a love letter. The Merry Marquis, whose love affairs were legendary, would surely not snoop further.

On no account could he allow the man to know that he was actually writing his second article for the Teatime Tattler; not when it was the first article that had Lord Aldridge pacing the length of the study with quick, angry strides, ranting about ingratitude and charging Bas with finding out who on the crew of his sailing yacht was a cursed spy.

“You will not believe what this low-life scum wrote,” Aldridge fumed.

Bas could quote it word for word, having worked over it again and again in spare minutes, and read it six times in its splendid printed form in The Teatime Tattler. The extra money that Mr Clemens was paying would come in handy, though Lord Aldridge paid well. But the glory of being in print!

Not, of course, that he could ever claim it. That would be career suicide for a private secretary, whose job was to keep secrets. Possibly, as angry as his employer was, bodily suicide as well.

He was not quite sure what had the man in such a taking. Surely nothing in the article would come as a surprise to the London reader, already inured to scandal from the Merry Marquis and his brother, Lord Jonathan Grenford?

After all, it was a mere two paragraphs, about a yacht trip and a mysterious woman.

During his recent excursion to the ducal estate at Margate, the M.M., accompanied by his younger brother Lord J. G., sailed Lord A.’s private yacht to the southern coast of Essex, where they left it for several days.

Of what purpose was this voyage, our reader may ask? This correspondent was not in the brothers’ confidence, but can disclose that a certain woman’s name was mentioned several times. Who, you may wonder, is Antonia? And what is she to the M.M.? What, indeed, is she to Lord J.?

To find out the brothers’ destination and the identity of Antonia, read Jude Knight’s Revealed in Mist. And see below the blurb for an excerpt.

Revealed in Mist

Prue’s job is to uncover secrets, but she hides a few of her own. When she is framed for murder and cast into Newgate, her one-time lover comes to her rescue. Will revealing what she knows help in their hunt for blackmailers, traitors, and murderers? Or threaten all she holds dear?

Enquiry agent David solves problems for the ton, but will never be one of them. When his latest case includes his legitimate half-brothers as well as the lover who left him months ago, he finds the past and the circumstances of his birth difficult to ignore. Danger to Prue makes it impossible.

#~*~^~*~#

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Excerpt

David joined Gren and Aldridge for dinner in a private parlour Aldridge hired.

“We need to return to Margate,” Aldridge said. “His Grace said Jon was to go there and stay. I tried to leave him behind, but you know what Jon’s like. He sticks worse than a burr.”

Gren made a rude gesture. “Aldridge only let me come because he needed someone to crew the yacht,” he told David.

Aldridge just grinned. “I have a crew. And you were not much use draped over the rail puking, Jon.”

“You sailed from Margate?” David asked. “Clever.”

“Yes, to Ipswich. His Grace’s spies at the castle will think we are on a pleasure cruise for a few days. It’s good the days are getting longer. We sailed at first light yesterday, then rode all day to get here. We can make it back again by tomorrow, late afternoon, if we change horses regularly.”

A succession of maids carried in dinner: a roasted bird, a leg of lamb, and a stew, with a variety of side dishes.

“The claret is acceptable,” Aldridge decided, and they talked about food and wine till the last maid left the room, blushing and dimpling at Gren.

“I think she likes me,” he told Aldridge and David.

“Do they not all like you, Gren?” David asked with a sardonic smile.

“I expect she likes your coin,” Aldridge suggested.

Miranda makes her move!

A Lady Correspondent had not intended to eavesdrop. Truly. She was just sitting in an alcove catching her breath and, it must be admitted, admiring the two Grenford brothers who were leaning on a pillar just in front of her. She could not help but see Miss de C accost them. She could not help but overhear all that transpired. At one point, she nearly spoke up, as horrified as the target of the brothers’ focused attention, but no. Surely Miss de C would be most embarrassed to know anyone else had witnessed her humiliation. She sank back into the shadows. But was she not planning to write the story for the Teatime Tattler? No. No she was not. However she disguised the name and circumstances, everyone here tonight would recognize the event to which she referred. The brothers had been careful of the silly girl’s reputation. She could not destroy it.

Miss Miranda de Courtenay took one last look into the mirror, adjusted her domino mask, and left her room. There was no turning back now. Her mind made up, she prayed her brother Adrian would not remove her from the ball the moment he set eyes upon her scandalous costume of a Greek goddess. If she were to win her bet with her sister Grace, she needed to make an impression on the man whom she had chosen as her target. She had no desire to lose that wonderful bonnet her brother had brought her from Paris and she already looked forward to winning the bottle of perfume from her sister.

Entering the ballroom, she had a moment of hesitation as her eyes quickly scanned the occupants of the already overflowing room. She took a deep breath, wondering if she could truly pull off an outside appearance of confidence when deep inside she was a nervous wreck. I can do this and must remember my purpose, she thought, whilst her gaze continued to flit across the crowd. Ah ha! There he is. There was no mistaking the handsome form of none other than the Marquis of Aldridge, along with his brother, the equally devastating Lord Jonathan. ‘Gren’, he had asked her to call him, and surely such an intimacy must mean he intended to propose?

She shrugged. Either man would do. She pushed back her shoulders and began advancing toward the two gentlemen, one of whom was leaning upon a pillar looking utterly divine. Neither man had a costume other than their evening attire and the masks placed upon their handsome faces; one white, the other black. Perhaps this is what set these two gentlemen apart from any other within the room, for they needed no other enhancement to draw attention to themselves. She had chosen wisely when she set her cap. Inwardly she sighed, wondering how she would feel once she actually received a proposal of marriage from the man known as the Merry Marquis.

Grace’s warning that she should stay far away from this man in particular flashed through her mind, but she ignored it. She dropped down into a proper curtsey, hoping against hope that the men found her attractive as she knew she appeared.

“Good evening, my lords,” she purred. “Were you perhaps looking for me?” She was unprepared for the smile that made her insides churn in a wave of nervous jitters. Being on the receiving end of the Marquis’s charm was deeply disturbing.

His voice was pitched to carry just as far as her ears. “Why, Miss de Courtenay, how delightful you look. Aphrodite herself come to enthrall us with her beauty.”

Her cheeks flushed with heat causing her to question her own stupidity for wearing such a daring gown. But it obviously had the desired effect and could only serve as one step closer to winning her bet. “You are too kind, my lord,” she said offering her hand.

Gren leaned forward to whisper in her ear. “What a charming blush. I would love to see how much of you it covers, my dear.”

A gasp escaped her. How could it not? For all she pretended to act as if she knew all there was to know about men, she was an innocent at only twenty years of age. Miranda instantly became aware that Grace may have been correct when she warned her about this pair. She could feel the warmth of the man’s breath as he lingered near her ear.

She glanced down at her gown and was shocked at how much of her cleavage was there for his viewing pleasure since he towered above her. Good heavens, she really was a fool to have chosen this costume but the die was cast and she had no one else to pursue in her attempts to win what she was now thinking a silly and foolish bet.

Raising her chin, she took hold of her fan and playfully slapped the gentleman’s arm. “My you are a bold one, are you not?” she teased, all the while wondering how she was going to get herself out of this mess she was in and still save face with her sister.

“As are you, my sweet,” Gren said. “And I admire boldness. Do not you, Aldridge?”

“Indeed. Boldness in a woman is highly desirable,” Aldridge agreed, his lids half closed, his voice husky. “Exactly how bold is she, Gren, do you think?”

Miranda glanced between the pair. This was not exactly how she thought this conversation would be leading. Perhaps, if she could just get the marquis alone for a moment, she might still be able to get him to offer for her. Surely he would be swept away by her beauty and propose on bended knee in no time at all.

She turned her full attention to the gentleman, all but ignoring his brother. Rude, perhaps, but this was a matter of grave importance. “My Lord Aldridge, perhaps you could spare me a moment to have a private word with you, just there, by the alcove?”

“Oh no, my dear,” Aldridge said, lifting one aristocratic eyebrow over twinkling eyes. “We must be more careful of your reputation. I would not for the world risk your good name ─ or your brother’s good health.”

“Fie, Aldridge,” Gren scolded. “How would the child know the way these things are done? She is very young still.”

“It will be my pleasure to school her,” Aldridge murmured, his words for his brother, but his eyes captivating Miranda’s and not letting them go. “Very much my pleasure. And hers, too, of course.”

Eyes wide and turning scarlet, she could barely breathe at the implication of his words. Right here, of all places, on the sideline of the ballroom for any and all to hear. Good heavens!

“My Lord, I─” Her lips snapped shut. Any further response was beyond her, as she felt, not just Aldridge, but his brother as well step closer, one to each side of her. When had this situation become completely out of her control?

“But you will share, Aldridge, will you not?” Gren asked. “After all, Miss de Courtenay’s lures have been as much for me as for you. And we have shared a mistress before”

Aldridge nodded. “It is only fair to the lady. The duties of the duchy will prevent me from giving her the devoted attention I used to be able to pay my lovers.”

Miranda’s head swiveled between the pair of brothers. She opened and closed her mouth several times before she was at last able to squeak out some form of a response. “Sh-share?” she stammered. Her hand rose to her throat as if that would cover her embarrassment and heaving bosom.

“I assure you, good sirs, that I am not yours to be,” she quickly looked around so she was not overheard and whispered, “shared between you.”

“Aldridge has grown stuffy,” Gren assured her. “If you were our mistress, my love, I would make sure you never felt neglected.”

“Mistress? Between you?” she cried out in alarm. All thought of trying to squeeze a marriage proposal out of either man was gone as she tried to wrap her thoughts around their outrageous proposition.

Both men frowned, straight eyebrows drawn down over identical hazel eyes. “You would prefer just one of us?” Aldridge asked.

“I suppose that’s fair,” Gren said to his brother. “I dare say she is still an innocent, despite the way she has been pursuing us. She might struggle to meet the needs of us both.” He turned back to the gasping maiden. “You choose then, Miss de Courtenay. Whose mistress would you like to be?”

“I will not be any man’s mistress but a wife,” she huffed, stamping her foot as though that would drive her point home. She looked between the pair and still could not believe they would offer such a proposition as to actually be their mistress. What a fool she had been!

“Grace was right about you,” she whispered gazing directly at Aldridge, as if he were the root of all her problems. She hated to admit she had knowingly brought this whole ghastly situation upon herself with her own sense of arrogance and pride. Humiliation consumed her even as tears welled up in her eyes, both from embarrassment and frustration that she had lost the stupid bet with her sister. At least she still had her virginity intact. God help her if she stayed any longer with this dangerous pair before her.

With tears rushing down her face, she mumbled an apology and dashed from the room, barely even acknowledging Grace when she entered the ballroom. She would have been appalled if she had witnessed her sister’s silent toast with her glass of wine to the gentlemen she had just left.

Aldridge and Gren returned Grace’s salute with a nod and a smile, but Gren’s eyes are clouded. “Poor innocent,” he commented. “I didn’t expect it to upset her so much.”

Aldridge pursed his lips. “She might act like a vixen on the hunt, but she is no more than a foolish kitten. Our agreement with her sister had us honour-bound to offend but not injure.”

Gren grinned. “I kept to my lines, Mr. Propriety. The frown returned to crease his brow. “But I am sorry for the silly chit.”

“Better hurt feelings and pride than ruination,” Aldridge said. “If she’d tried her tricks in London some rogue would have had her out in the garden or off in some secluded library before her brother or sister knew she was on the loose. Yes, and flat on her back with her skirts up whether she wanted or not, with some of the people you and I both know. We have done her a favour, Gren.”

“We’ve won Grace her bet, that’s certain,” Gren concedes. “Though I imagine she is happier to have her sister safe than whatever fribbet they wagered.”

Mission accomplished, the two brothers begin to move through the ballroom, still talking. They were sons of the hostess, and Mama would expect them to mingle.


ABOUT HOLLY AND HOPEFUL HEARTS

When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favorite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?

Holly and Hopeful Hearts is a Bluestocking Belles Collection is on sale now through December for $0.99.
25% of the sales benefit the Belles’ mutual charity the Malala Fund!

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This is an original piece by Bluestocking Belles Sherry Ewing and Jude Knight.

Miranda and the Grenford brothers can be found as secondary characters in the Bluestocking Belles’ 2016 holiday box set entitled, Holly and Hopeful Hearts. Miranda, in particular, is in A Kiss for Charity by Sherry Ewing. Aldridge and Gren are interwoven in several of the novellas and are written by Jude Knight. They also appear in Jude’s latest release, Revealed in Mist. You can learn more about Jude and Sherry and where to find their published work by clicking on their names on this website.

The Teatime Tattler recommends the virtues of Prudence

rolinda-sharples-clifton-assembly-room1The Season is off to an excellent, if early, start. Lady S., daughter-in-law of the Duke of W. must be delighted with the attendance at her soirée, though perhaps less than pleased with the behaviour of some.

While this year’s crop of debutantes has not yet been served up to the marriage mart, those remaining from previous seasons were in eager attendance, every mother hoping to steal a march on all the others in attracting the attention of wealthy or titled bachelors or widowers with a mind to wed, while avoiding fortune hunters and those with more sinister intentions.

In corners of the main reception rooms, the powerful decided the disposition of whatever pawns they controlled: brokering treaties between nations, political parties, trading enterprises, families, or potential marriage partners, depending on the interests of the negotiating parties.

brummellBut the affairs of the great are far from the only business conducted at such an event, and last night was no exception.

In rooms set up for the purpose, gentlemen and ladies with a yen for such things offered up the evening to fate represented by the turn of a card.

In the ballroom, fashionable gentlemen eyed one another in the endless struggle for elevation in the eyes of those they are pleased to call friends, while those more given to energetic pursuits danced or stood in small groups discussing horses or hunting or pugilistic exploits.

Ladies spoke sweet flatteries to one another’s faces and shredded appearances and reputations behind one another’s backs. Maidens sought husbands, wives sought lovers, poor widows sought protectors, and wealthy widows amusement. Everywhere, couples—as they have since the beginning of time—bargained for affection: temporary or bound by vows before a cleric; some under the eyes of stern chaperones and others in less well-lit corners on the dance floor or the chilly terrace.

In small darkened rooms throughout the mansion, those desiring a tryst found a few moments of privacy. Among them, we are assured, was Lord S. himself and also his son, Lord E., who was seen to absent himself from public places on two separate occasions, each time with a different companion.

Our informants also observed Lady G., the duke’s spinster daughter, meeting with a much younger man who is believed to have been Mr. W., widely rumoured to be the unclaimed and unwanted base-born son of the Duke of H.

One can hardly imagine that a lady of such pristine reputation would be indulging in an amorous encounter, but that leaves only the possibility that she is employing Mr. W. in his capacity of thief-taker. Has her ladyship lost a valuable item, perhaps? Is she acting on behalf of Lady S. to investigate the activities of her brother or nephew? Or both? We will watch developments and keep you informed.

As if that were not enough, Mr. W. and an unidentified woman, possibly one of the army of companions in attendance on various matrons, were involved in the most shocking event of the evening. They combined to effect a rescue of a foolish damsel who allowed herself to be enviegled into one of the aforementioned private rooms.

maidenOne would expect a maiden in her second season to show more sense than to respond to a note from a man, and certainly the girl’s protectors to display more awareness of their charge’s whereabouts. Was the title ‘Earl’ a lure that caused her and her chaperone to cast discretion and rational thought to the wind?

We could have advised the young lady that this particular earl has been known to ruin and abandon foolish young women who go apart in his company. His recent ascent to the title on his father’s death has clearly not changed his character.

Fortunately for the damsel, the man (we hesitate to call him a gentleman) was interrupted in his evil pursuit, and she was delivered intact, having had a salutary scare, to Lady G., a well-known defender of the innocent. And her own family name and fortune mean that any sanctions against her from the arbiters of social standing will be mild.

As for the Earl in question, we are assured that he has been banned from ever entering the household again. And where Lady S. leads can other hostesses be slow to follow?

Yes, the Season is off to an exciting start indeed!

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The Sutton soirée is the scene of the first chapter in Jude’s new historical mystery, Revealed in Mist, currently available on pre-order and to be released early in December. Mr. W. and the unnamed companion appeared in The Prisoners of Wyvern Castle, a novella in Hand-Turned Tales, as the rescuers of the blind earl and his countess who were the hero and heroine of that novella. You may also have met them (as David Wakefield and his mysterious woman partner) investigating a crime for the hero of Farewell to Kindness.

Their pasts could bring them together or separate them forever

revealed-in-mist-smallPrue’s job is to uncover secrets, but she hides a few of her own. When she is framed for murder and cast into Newgate, her one-time lover comes to her rescue. Will revealing what she knows help in their hunt for blackmailers, traitors, and murderers? Or threaten all she holds dear?

Enquiry agent David solves problems for the ton, but will never be one of them. When his latest case includes his legitimate half-brothers as well as the woman who left him months ago, he finds the past and the circumstances of his birth difficult to ignore. Danger to Prue makes it impossible.

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Revealed in Mist is on pre-order at most eretailers. Sadly, not on Amazon, since Jude is in Amazon jail for getting the final version of Gingerbread Bride to them two days late, only eight days before release. Circumstances beyond Jude’s control doesn’t cut it with the Amazon guards, so no pre-order. But if you want the book in Kindle format, pre-order from Smashwords, iBooks, or Barnes and Noble, or follow Jude on Amazon for an email the day the book goes live.

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About Jude Knight

Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.

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The duke’s by-blow

Gerald Ficklestone-Smythe
Manager of Cowbridge Mine, Llanfair

kitchenThe boy was gone when I got back from the funeral. Little bastard. I told him I’d kick him to next Tuesday if dinner wasn’t on the table, but nothing was prepared, and he was nowhere to be found. And he’d let the fire go out. He’ll come back when he’s hungry, and I’ll have the skin off his back, see if I don’t.

Where else is he going to go? London? To the duchess? He is stupid if he thinks she’s going to want her husband’s by-blow, and so I told him when I took the money for his trip. I had a right to it, didn’t I? I took his mother back after the duke had finished with her. I gave her a home. I even let her keep the boy.

The duke owed me that money. Yes, and more. Made a harlot out of my daughter, and turned her off with a measly few hundred pounds. Then wouldn’t pay more when that ran out. Then, when my daughter lay dying and couldn’t keep house for me any more, that pernicious swine sent his wife to steal the boy I raised, promising him I don’t know what.

The boy said he’d stay till his mother died, and the duchess returned to London without him. And now my slut of a daughter is dead, and the boy can’t be found, but where could he have gone? He has no money for the coach fare, and it’s a long walk to London, especially with winter coming on, and the Black Mountains between here and England.

He’s no fool, the boy. He’ll be back.

 

Jeremiah Penchsnith
Captain of the Merry Molly, Bristol

320px-steep_holme_looking_over_the_bristol_channelWe didn’t find the lad till we was near Avonmouth. ‘E was hid in the coal, but we saw ‘im when ‘e tried to escape over the side. ‘E fair wriggled when we caught ‘im, begged us to let ‘im go. But ‘e owed us ‘is passage, and so I told him.

If we let away every lad who wanted a free trip over the Bristol Channel, we might as well set up as a ferry, and that’s what I said.

Give the lad credit, ‘e worked ‘ard. Four trips ‘e did wiv us, not counting the first. And then he left us in Bristol. I’d’ve kept ‘im on, I would. Good worker, that lad. I ‘ope ‘e gets where ‘e’s going.”

 

Maggie Wakefield
Farmer’s wife, Ditchford Frary, East Cotswolds

cotswold_sheepHe was a mystery, young David. Turned up in a snow storm, he did. Bessie the dog found him when Matthew went out after the sheep, huddled up in the midst of the flock where they’d taken shelter in the lee of the old stone wall.

Matthew brought them all home: boy and sheep, the boy limping along on a stick because his ankle was swollen to twice its size. “I’ve a lamb for you to warm by the fire, mother,” Matthew said, and then stood aside. Just a sprain, it turned out to be, but a bad one. I would not turn man or beast out in weather like that, let alone a boy, and no more would Matthew, so of course we let David stay.

Where did he come from in that awful weather? Wales, he said, but that couldn’t be, could it? Wales is a long way away, across the wolds and then the water. And mountains, too, they say.

David was a good boy, so perhaps he was telling the truth. He made himself useful until he could walk again. He was a good hand in the kitchen, and he read to me and Matthew at night, which was a great blessing, for our eyes are not what they were. Not that I’ve ever read more than enough to piece together a few verses from the Bible. Not like David. It was a treat to listen to him, and I was sorry when he left.

But he had people waiting for him, he said, so off he went, off to London. We got him a lift as far as Oxford with Jem Carter. I hope he made it to his people. A fine boy like that? They would have been missing him, I’m sure.

 

Sir Philip Westmacott
Gentleman, London

curriaMy tiger? He’s taken off. Ungrateful brat. Good boy with the horses, too. But there you go. That’s what I get for taking a boy off the streets. I found him in Oxford, you know. Oh yes, I told you before, didn’t I. He made sure I got back to my inn after a rather exciting evening. Didn’t rob me, either, though he could have. I was somewhat—er—elevated.

I told him to come back in the morning for his reward, and he was waiting outside in the stable yard when I woke. And all he wanted was to come to London with me. I bought him a suit of clothing, of course. Couldn’t be seen with him in the rags he had. Not livery. Not in Oxford. But I thought silver blue, to set off his dark hair. It would have looked stunning against my matched blacks.

We arrived last night, and this morning he was gone. Ungrateful brat.

 

Henry Bartlett
Gatekeeper, Haverford House, London

Of course I didn’t let him in. A boy like that? Tidily dressed enough, and nicely spoken, but what child of substance is allowed to walk around the streets? But he wasn’t a street urchin, either. He asked if he could send a note, and he wrote it right there on a piece of paper I found him. Never was a street urchin that could read and write.

Anyway, I sent it in to the duchess. Told him he’d have to wait, but it wasn’t but an hour before Her Grace’s own maid came down to fetch him, and the next thing I knew, he was part of the household.

He seems a pleasant enough lad; always polite. But it just doesn’t seem right, raising the duke’s bastard under the same roof as his legal sons. The duke agrees, or so goes the talk in the servant’s hall. But the duchess got her way, this time. And we’re all to treat the boy as if he were gentleman. Her Grace has hired him a tutor, and word is he’s off to Eton in the autumn. And the little Marquis follows him around like a puppy dog.

What will be the end of it, do you suppose?

Revealed in Mist

revealed-in-mistLast time spy Prudence Virtue and thief-taker David Wakefield worked together on a case, they parted in bitterness. When different employers send them to investigate a spying ring that blackmails aristocrats for access to secrets, they need to decide whether to combine forces.

Are they allies? Or opponents?

With friends and families too close to the investigation for comfort, they need to co-operate to find the blackmailer and the spy behind him.

They are professionals. They can work together without becoming entangled. But David and Prue find that murder, secrets from the past, and love can foil the most determined of plans.

Revealed in Mist is in final editing, and I’ll soon be announcing the release date. Keep an eye on my book pages to find out more.

An excerpt from Revealed in Mist

David frowned at the fire in the small hearth. The private parlour he had hired was small and shabby, but at least its size made it easy to heat. And it was neutral ground, which mattered. David hadn’t had a prolonged conversation with his expected guest in a decade and a half.

He must have been seventeen or eighteen on the last occasion, staying at Haverford Castle in Kent between the end of the school term and his first term at university. The Duke of Haverford’s son and heir, the Marquis of Aldridge, would have been 12. The day had begun happily enough with the boy tagging along while David went out after small game with a gun. It had ended with David beaten and driven from the property.

Aldridge had tripped and knocked himself out, and Haverford, finding David leaning over his unconscious heir, had not waited for explanations.

Once the young marquis left school and entered Society, they met from time to time, usually when the Duchess of Haverford insisted on David coming to one of her entertainments. Her husband, the duke, was almost always engaged elsewhere, but her sons often attended. They paid their mother the courtesy of not being rude to her protégé, and he responded with the same polite reserve.

He was expecting Aldridge now. Older brother to one of the courtesan’s lovers. David’s despised father’s oldest legitimate son. His half-brother.

A knock on the door heralded Aldridge’s arrival. A maid showed him into the private parlour. He’d clearly been treating her to a display of his facile charm; she was dimpling, blushing, and preening.

David examined him as he gave the girl a coin “and a kiss for your trouble, my darling.” The beautiful child had grown into a handsome man. David had heard him described as ‘well-put together, and all over, if you know what I mean.’ The white-blonde hair of childhood had darkened to a guinea gold, and he had his mother’s hazel eyes under a thick arch of brow he and David had both inherited from their father.

Aldridge navigated the shoals of the marriage market with practiced ease, holding the mothers and their daughters off, but still not offending them, and carrying out a gentleman’s role in the ballroom with every evidence of enjoyment.

But his real success, by all accounts, was with bored widows and wives, where he performed in the bedroom with equal charm, and perhaps more pleasure. Society was littered with former lovers of the Merry Marquis, though he had the enviable ability to end an affair and retain the friendship.

Aldridge ushered the laughing maid out of the room and closed the door behind her, acknowledging David’s appraisal with a wry nod.

“Wakefield. You summoned me. I am here.”

David ignored the thread of irritation in the young aristocrat’s voice, and took a shot in the dark. Lord Jonathan was unlikely to be the blackmailer, Lady Georgiana thought, but was probably also being blackmailed. Would he have confided in Aldridge?

“I have some questions I wish to ask about the blackmail.”

Aldridge arched a brow, a trick they had both picked up from the duke. “Tolliver has engaged you?”

David hid his surprise at the spymaster’s name. “What is your brother paying blackmail for?”

Uninvited, Aldridge grabbed a chair and straddled it, resting his chin on his forearms. “Our brother,” he said, flatly.

“That won’t prevent me from turning him in if he is a traitor,” David said.

“He isn’t. He’s young. He’s an idiot. But he isn’t a traitor.” Aldridge met David’s eyes with an uncompromising glare of his own.

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