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Category: Character Interview

A Kidnap Threat To The Ambassador to the Kingdom of Two Naples!

Despatches from Palermo (1810)
by Lord William Bentinck, English Ambassador to the Kingdom of Two Naples

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

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

I find myself the subject of a most extraordinary plot – one of kidnap on the high seas.

As you know, I have entered delicate negotiations with the Bey of Tunis for the release of more than three hundred Sicilians who were forcibly abducted from their home by the corsairs of the Barbary Coast.

Not only is it a matter of justice, but freeing of these unfortunate souls would also build immeasurable goodwill among the people whose interest I am trying to further with my reforms.

So far, standard diplomatic tactics have proved fruitless with the Bey. I don’t know if you are familiar with this culture but it appears to be the custom for the all the promises in the world to be made but when it comes time to deliver, it is a never ending litany of excuses.

With Napoleon’s Empire at my back in Naples and the Barbary Coast Pirates at my front, it is no easy task set before me. You know of my penchant to follow my intuition and I have done so once again with two young men.

Let’s hope Captain Hardacre can deal with the captured French Frigate in a less spectacular manner.

Captain Christopher Hardacre is an Englishman who runs a merchant vessel out of Palermo. He’s come to me with the most extraordinary tale. It seems one of the pirates has acquired a French frigate and he harbours ambitions to abduct me and my wife and hold us for ransom.

It sounded like a ravings of a mad man – and I have to confess that if was just his testimony alone I’d ignore it, but in Hardacre’s favour is one of his men, an African by the name of Jonathan Afua who I’ve come to learn is a son of one of Ethiopia’s most aristocratic families. He strikes me as being a much more steady character than his captain. It is his grave assessment I’ve learned to trust.

As for the abduction threat, Hardacre has hatched an audacious plan to keep me safe in exchange for the claiming the French frigate for himself as spoils.

Whether Hardacre succeeds or not is immaterial as I have appraised Admiral Freemantle who has agreed that the next meeting with the Bey of Tunis should be done as a show of force so we will be arriving in Tunisia with a fleet that also contains the flagship The Milford.

I’ll write when I have more news,

William

 

Excerpt

Shadow of the Corsairs

Bagrada

Shadow of the Corsairs – out June 26 2018 – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DM9VJ5Z

Jonathan’s stomach soured.

Even though it had been more than a year since his captivity there, the very sound of its name reminded him there was work still to finish, a past that could not draw to a close until he had answers.

“Bagrada. Are you sure?” Elias asked. “We’ve sailed by several times over the past six months and there’s no noteworthy activity there.”

Hardacre looked up from the map of the Tunisian coastline. “Sharrouf is certain.”

Elias snorted and folded his arms. “I think you put too much stock in what that man says. He’s a snake, Kit, and he’s not to be trusted.”

“I never said he was to be trusted. He might very well hate Kaddouri as much as we do. But so long as he is a member of the inner circle, then he is useful to us.”

“Unless Kaddouri is using him to lure us into a trap,” countered the first officer. “We’ve stopped three of his raids over the past twelve months and helped free more than a hundred enslaved souls. He’d be just as keen to see the end of us.”

Jonathan shook his head. Kit and Elias bickered like he and his older brother used to. It was time for him to step in.

“What’s Sharrouf getting in exchange for telling you the location of Kaddouri’s fleet?” he asked.

“Information here and there to help with something.”

“Which is?”

“Kidnapping Lord William Bentinck.”

“You jest!”

Hardacre said nothing for a moment. The upturn of his lip was trouble, Jonathan knew that, and so did Elias who turned away with an exaggerated groan.

“Go on,” said Jonathan. “Tell us the whole thing before you make Elias’ head explode.”

“I might not have been completely honest with Sharrouf,” Hardacre confessed. This time, both ends of his mouth lifted and there was a twinkle of manic glee in his eyes. “I told him Bentinck plans another trip to Tunis to petition for the release of the Sicilian slaves, but I neglected to tell him Bentinck’s going with a show of strength instead of taking one ship with a single escort. Accompanying The Milford will be a dozen heavily-armed ships from the Royal Navy.”

“And both Bentinck and Admiral Fremantle know to expect an attack,” Jonathan concluded. “That’s a good plan. What makes you sure Kaddouri will take the bait?”

“Oh, he will. Sharrouf has told me he’s just managed to acquire a double gunned frigate.”

Elias rocked back on his feet. “How has he managed to get one of those? That would carry almost as much firepower as The Milford.”

An Interview with Mrs. Barlow

Susana’s time-traveling Regency lady, Lady Pendleton, came down with a stomach ailment and was unable to travel to Oxfordshire to complete the series of interviews she agreed to before returning to the 21st century. (Prior to that, however, she did manage to interview Jane Livingston the hero’s sister, while they were both enjoying the Little Season in London.) And she somehow contrived to send Mrs. Barlow, Lucy’s mother, to Susana at her winter home in Florida for a brief interview. Susana is determined that someday she’s going to find out how Lady P manages to do these things.

Susana: Welcome to Florida, Mrs. Barlow. I hope you enjoy your stay. May I offer you some refreshments?

Mrs. Barlow: [looking around her in wonder] No thank you, Miss Ellis. My stomach is still a bit queasy from the journey.

Susana: Oh dear, I hope you are not coming down with the same ailment that has sidelined my friend Lady Pendleton.

Mrs. Barlow: Lady Pendleton? Oh yes, the woman who sent me here. She’s a bit-er-eccentric, is she not?

Susana: [hiding a smile] Indeed she is, Mrs. Barlow. But kindhearted and quite harmless, really.

Mrs. Barlow: [looking relieved] I’m glad to hear it, Miss Ellis. This is all quite a shock, you know. She said you wished to inquire about my daughter Lucy?

Susana: Er, yes. It’s research for a story I’m writing. I understand you have five daughters?

Mrs. Barlow: [Sighing] Indeed I do. Five daughters to marry off and no sons.

Susana: And Lucy is the eldest?

Mrs. Barlow: Yes, she is already eight and ten years of age and of an age to make her bow to Society, but unfortunately, her father and I have not the means to stake her. [Shaking her head] A house in London with servants is enormously expensive. We cannot even stand the cost of providing her with a suitable wardrobe. [Sighing] It is very sad, really. Lucy is a delightful girl who would be a splendid wife, but there are few eligible gentlemen here in Charlbury.

Susana: I understand the young man next door recently returned from service in the Peninsula. Livingston, I believe. Andrew Livingston. Could he be a prospect, do you think?

Mrs. Barlow: [Sighing deeply] No, unfortunately he’s betrothed to some London chit. Since before he took up his colors two years ago. I suppose they’ll be marrying posthaste now that he’s returned. A shame really, because Lucy has always had a tendre for him. The Livingstons are an unexceptionable family and quite well-to-heel, and it would be a great thing if Lucy were to be settled so near, but no, he’s never seen Lucy as anything but a child.

Susana: What a conundrum! Are there no other ways for young ladies to meet eligible gentlemen in the country?

Mrs. Barlow: Occasionally, someone’s cousin or nephew comes to town for a visit, but there are few eligibles in that lot. There are assemblies, of course. Oh, that reminds me. [Perking up] There was a quite agreeable viscount at the last assembly who seemed quite taken with Lucy. He danced twice with her. Perhaps he will come to call soon. Oh my, that would be a marvelous thing for my girls! To have their sister a viscountess who can sponsor them in London when the time comes! I must urge Lucy to encourage him!

Susana: Was she equally taken with him, then?

Mrs. Barlow: [shrugging] These things resolve themselves over time. I don’t believe she was repulsed by him. He looked well enough, for an older gentleman, and his manners were unexceptionable. It is said that he was a considerate husband to his late wife, and seems to be devoted to his three daughters.

Susana: Oh, he’s a widower. No doubt looking for a mother for his daughters.

Mrs. Barlow: And an heir, of course. He still needs a son to inherit the title, and Lucy is young enough to manage that.

Susana: [Doubtfully] I suppose so, and yet—one could wish a love match for her.

Mrs. Barlow: [Stiffening] Lucy is a practical girl, and not at all the sort to waste time dreaming of the impossible. She will make a wonderful wife and mother and take great pleasure in using her elevated circumstances to assist her sisters.

Susana: I’m sure she will, Mrs. Barlow. I did not mean to imply otherwise. Please forgive me if I offended you.

Mrs. Barlow: [Relaxing] Of course. I’m afraid this is a topic about which Mr. Barlow and I frequently cross swords. He says Lucy is still young and will find her own way. But he’s never been the most practical man, and I suspect he’d be just as glad to have all of them at home with us forever.

Susana: An indulgent father then. [Glances at the clock]. Oh dear, it’s almost time for our visit to end. I wonder if you’d like to take a walk around the park, Mrs. Barlow. It’s such a lovely day, and you might enjoy the flora and fauna here in central Florida. Perhaps we’ll even see an alligator in the lake.

Mrs. Barlow: An alligator! Goodness!

Susana: From a distance, of course. But there are palm trees and snake birds, and plenty of sun to warm you before you go back to chilly England

Mrs. Barlow: [shivering] Chilly indeed! The weather has been exceptionally cold this year. By all means, let us walk a bit in the sunshine.

And so ends the interview. It may interest you to know that the winter of 1813-1814, when A Twelfth Night Tale takes place, was one of the coldest on record, so much so that in February the Thames froze and a frost fair was held for four days, during which an elephant was led across the river under Blackfriars Bridge.

Leah Barlow

Introducing Mrs. Barlow

Mrs. Leah Barlow, mother of five lovely daughters herself, has graciously condescended to provide Susana’s Parlour (see today’s post here) with some of her tasteful advisements on housewifely matters, such as meal planning and the rearing of children, in hopes that our readers will find them informative. Having recently set up a Twitter account where she will be sharing her most treasured household tips, she hopes many of you will follow her: https://twitter.com/lucybarlowsmom

Much of her advice comes from this manual, which she insists should be in every housewife’s possession:

The Cook and Housewife’s Manual, Containing the Most approved Modern Receipts for Making Soups, Gravies, Sauces, Regouts, and All Made-dishes; and for Pies, Puddings, Pickles, and Preserves; Also, for Baking Brewing, Making Home-made Wines, Cordials, &c.

Mrs. Margaret Dods (Christian Isobel Johnstone), Edinburgh, 1826

Available free on Google

About A Twelfth Night Tale

Without dowries or the opportunity to meet eligible gentlemen, the five Barlow sisters stand little chance of making advantageous marriages. When Lucy, the eldest, attracts the attention of a wealthy viscount, she knows she should encourage his attentions, since marriage to a peer will be advantageous to all. The man of her dreams was Andrew Livingston, her best friend’s brother. But he’s always treated her like a child, and now he’s betrothed to another. Perhaps the time has come to accept reality… and Lord Bexley.

Andrew returned from the Peninsular War with a lame arm and emotional scars. Surprisingly, it’s his sister’s friend, “little Lucy”—now a strikingly lovely young woman—who shows him the way out of his melancholy. But with an eligible viscount courting her, Andrew will need a little Christmas magic to win her for himself.

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Interview with Charlotte Clark from Cherishing Charlotte

Cherishing Charlotte is Book 3

of The Hertfordshire Hoydens

by Susana Ellis

Charlotte Clark is the oldest child of John (Jack) and Marianne Clark, who operate a charity school for boys in Oxford. Her maternal grandfather, a wealthy landowner who disinherited his daughter for running off with the tutor, appears to have relented somewhat, having invited his granddaughter to visit his estate, Heatherwyck. But does he have an ulterior motive?

Charlotte agreed to have tea with me at Miss Clemens’s Oxford Street Book Palace and Tea Rooms on Mount Street in London.

female model posing in a historical regency period empire waist dress

Charlotte Clark from Cherishing Charlotte

Susana: Thank you so much for meeting me today, Miss Clark. I know it is a bit of a journey for you from Oxford.

Charlotte: Indeed. It is only the second time I have been to London in all of my nineteen years. If not for Mama needing my help with Papa, I would have remained home with the boys. My twin brothers Robert and Thomas. They are ten. They are looking after the pig and chickens in our absence. [grinning] And the neighbors are looking after them.

Susana: Is your father in poor health, then? Is that why you have come to London?

Charlotte [taking a deep breath]: Yes. Unfortunately, he is afflicted with consumption. The local doctor doesn’t give much hope, but Mama wanted to consult a London physician. We didn’t have the money, but one of Papa’s former pupils graciously offered to provide the fee and lodgings at his home. Papa wanted to refuse, but Mama would not hear of it.

Susana: Your father must have made quite an impression on his students, then.

Charlotte [nodding enthusiastically]: Oh yes! He is a first-rate teacher. Many of his students who have been to Oxford or Cambridge have said that Papa is superior to most of the dons. I’m sure he would have been one himself had he not married Mama instead.

Susana: So dons cannot be married, then?

Charlotte: That is correct. But after he met Mama, nothing else mattered. He’s such a romantic, you see.

Susana: And your mother?

Charlotte [smiling]: Oh, she loves him madly too, of course. But she’s the practical one. Which is really quite fortunate for us, because it was she who managed to keep us fed all these years. Papa is more of a dreamer, and as she is fond of saying, dreams don’t keep food on the table.

Susana: And yet, she agreed to elope with her tutor. More romantic than practical, wouldn’t you agree?

Charlotte [shaking her head]: She was young and silly and at loggerheads with her father. Her mother had just died, and I don’t think she really believed he would cut her off, since there was just the two of them. But hurt pride can be pernicious. Mama has it in full measure. I’m sure she is determined to show him she could make a success of things. [sighing] Although she couldn’t have known how difficult it would turn out to be.

Susana: Do you think she regrets the decision she made, then?

Charlotte:  No. Yes. Well, in a way I believe she resents having to struggle so hard to survive when her father has Heatherwyck all to himself.

Susana: Heatherwyck?

Charlotte: Yes. Heatherwyck is my grandfather’s family estate. The Chapmans have owned it for five generations. Mama says it is one of the largest estates in Hertfordshire.  [biting her lip] Only recently I discovered she has hopes of reclaiming it. My grandfather invited me to spend the summer with him, you see.

Susana: Just you? Not the rest of the family?

Charlotte [stiffening]: : Yes. Just me. And his nephew, Wyatt.

Susana: Ah. So you suspect matchmaking.

Charlotte [teacup rattling vehemently as she sets it down on the saucer]: I know it!

Susana [delicately]: I don’t suppose there’s any harm in going, at least. It’s not like you can be forced into marriage, after all.

Charlotte [nostrils flaring]: That’s just what Mama says! Perhaps I shall like him. Or Grandfather will take a fancy to me and effect a reconciliation regardless. And it would be so good for the boys, you see, if he would sponsor them to Eton.

Susana: Why Eton? It sounds as though they are getting an equally good education at your father’s school.

Charlotte: True, but Mama has high hopes for them. So many political and social connections are made there. And they really are bright boys. [closing her eyes briefly] I shall feel obligated to fall in line with Grandfather’s plans for them. And for Papa. And Mama. What shall we do when Papa can no longer teach? [swallowing and holding back tears]. Mama might be a good manager, but when-if Papa is gone, there won’t be anything to manage.

Susana: It is quite a dilemma. I understand that you feel it is on you to become the sacrificial lamb for your family. That is a very great burden to put on such a young girl.

Charlotte [chin quivering]: Perhaps I should be more grateful to have the opportunity to make a difference in the future of my parents and brothers, but in all honesty, I have no wish to be a martyr. I am no Maid of Orléans, Miss Ellis. Burning at the stake does not appeal to me, any more than a marriage of convenience does. Do you not think me a wretched person?

Susana [reaching forward to stroke her forearm]: Wretched? No. Human? Yes. And a bit dramatic, perhaps. [takes out a handkerchief] Now, stop crying and and take another biscuit. I always think things look better after I’ve consumed a good dose of sugar. I wonder if we can order some fruit scones here, with strawberry jam and clotted cream?

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Cherishing Charlotte, Book 3 in The Hertfordshire Hoydens, is due for release in March 2017. Book 1, Treasuring Theresa, is available on Amazon. Book 2, Valuing Vanessa, is part of the Belles’ 2016 collection, Holly and Hopeful Hearts.

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