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Category: Elizabeth Ellen Carter

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.”

A Famous Artist Asks For Help

Dear Mr. Clemens,

Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun. A self-portrait. The late 18th-early 19th century French portrait painter was one of Marie-Antoinette’s favourite court painters

I am writing to ask if you will lend your considerable influence as one of society’s leading doyen in sponsoring a talented young artist I have taken a liking to.

Miss Laura Cappleman, you may have heard, made a successful debut in the Season of 1814, but the events after that time have been largely tragic.

You might think it quite selfish of me to make light of the poor girl’s misfortune, but it seems to have quite the unexpected outcome.

You see, her experience has made her art one of a kind. When she paints scenes of the Oriental marketplaces of Africa or of life inside the Ottoman harem, one is utterly transported.

One can feel the beating heat of the sun, smell the pungent aroma of the spices, shudder the menace of the large eunuchs and their scimitars, be awe-struck by the opulence inside these pleasure palaces.

Miss Cappleman knows these places first hand. If her name didn’t ring a bell when I first mentioned it, I’m sure you remember hearing about her abduction in August of 1814 at the hands of white slavers. It was covered in The Times.

The story of her rescue two years later is one of the most remarkable tales I’ve heard. I’m trying to persuade her to draw on her experience more to create great art for the world to see.

The Royal Academy summer exhibition is the perfect opportunity for this young lady to make a debut of another sort – a launch into the artworld which is her due.

A word in the ear of the Royal Academy directors and sponsors to consider this impressive young artist would be considered a personal favour.

Yours,
Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

Revenge of the Corsairs

Madame Vigée-Le Brun stood in front of the still life. She pulled a small pince-nez from her reticule to take a close look. After a minute or two, the great French artist left that painting without comment and examined the portrait of Victoria.

Pull yourself together, Laura! If she were to enter the Royal Academy’s exhibition, her works would be judged worthy or wanting in a heartbeat. If she were to exhibit at all, many people would be staring at her work. Yet this somehow, seemed different.

After a length of time, the French woman looked up from the portrait and spoke. “I understand from your sister-in-law that you have returned to England only recently.”

“Yes. I spent time abroad.”

“Did you do anything? Did you see anything?”

Laura’s mouth dried. “I, ah, I mean, I spent time in Sicily and…”

The artist removed the glasses. “And you experienced nothing?”

“I beg your pardon?”

The older woman let out a long, put-upon sigh. “All I see is practiced technique, adequate color choice, and a schoolgirl’s sensibilities.”

Laura couldn’t help the gasp that escaped her mouth.

“I’m sure you are a delight to your friends and family, who no doubt praise you endlessly, but I am not here to coddle or to give you false flattery. I do not see the soul of an artist in these paintings.”

Laura fought a trembling of shame, and fear, and disappointment. It was a small miracle she was able to reply, “Then I am sorry to have wasted your time, Madame.”

The woman shrugged. “I said I would look at your works and I will.”

The third painting, she studied for a few seconds; the fourth, the landscape, received nothing more than a cursory glance. “I spent three years in Rome, I was inducted into the Accademia di San Luca,” she continued conversationally, either unaware or unconcerned Laura’s hope had turned to dust.

“How very nice for you,” replied Laura, bitterness dripping from each word.

“What I am trying to say to you, ma fille, is your work seems utterly unmarked by your time abroad. That, I fear, makes you a dabbler, someone who pretends to be an artist. If you can live on La Méditerranée and not be influenced by such histoire, people, and surroundings, then I’m afraid you will be nothing more than a very little talent.”

Laura looked down. Her knuckles were white, but her face, she was sure, was puce. Her disappointment of a few moments ago was now a rage. How dare that woman say she was unmarked!

“How dare you?” she repeated out loud, unaware Madame Vigée-Le Brun had approached her final painting.

“You have no idea what happened to me there. No idea! I have been scarred to the depths of my soul. I was seized and imprisoned for nearly two years in an Ottoman harem. I was violated repeatedly by a man who had the power of life and death over me. The only good thing I have left is painting. Can you blame me for not wanting it tainted?”

When she looked up, Madame Vigée-Le Brun was not looking at her; she peered instead at the last painting, the Tunisian market scene. “La! That is it – c’est de cela que je parlais!”

Her face animated, the woman turned the easel around so the canvas faced them both. Laura could feel the desert heat of its colors from where she stood.

“You are afraid of this beast that is locked in your breast? Let it out, my dear! You cannot hide from it! I see hints of it in this painting here. In this work, I begin to see the world as you see it.”

Revenge of the Corsairs out now exclusive to Amazon

Hearts and Diamonds At Risk

Ask Aunt Augusta

Dear Aunt Agatha,
I am a young lady with a dilemma. I think one of my dearest friends is going to propose marriage.

You might ask how I know, but one goes not need to be a Scotland Yard detective to see the signs – a particular look, a request for a private interview, hints made at a jewellers…

Now for some, this would be a delightful proposition, but as much as I am fond of my dear friend, I am not in love with him. So how can I kindly  refuse him without ruining our friendship and causing distress to his family and mine?

And secondly, how does a man disappear with an arm full of diamonds without leaving a trace?

Your faithful reader,
Caro A.

Dear Miss C,
My goodness what a conundrum you have my dear!

Let us address your problems one at a time.

Yes indeed, if everything is as you say, then it would appear that your male friend indeed may be proposing marriage but are you sure who the intended bride will be?

Are there other young ladies in your circle of acquaintance you can confide in to see if they concur with your tell-tale signs.

If they are in agreement, then you must break the news as gently as you can to your poor swain, assuring him that the fault is not is, but rather a woman’s heart is a fickle thing.

Have you asked any of your female friends how they feel about your unintended intended? A little matchmaking to nudge cupid along, might be just thing to help two people who truly do belong together.

As to your second question, I cannot answer for the male sex.

For the female of the species, the answer is two fold. One, to obtain an armful of diamonds, she must inherit or marry very well – preferably several times over. Secondly, a woman with such an armful, shows them off and so does not disappear without a trace.

Indeed, that is a question for Scotland Yard.

I wish you the very best,
Aunt Agatha

About The Thief of Hearts

The Thief Of Hearts. This Christmas is going to be magic!

December 1890. London, England.
Some seriously clever sleight of hand is needed if aspiring lawyer Caro Addison is ever going to enjoy this Christmas. To avoid an unwanted marriage proposal, she needs a distraction as neat as the tricks used by The Phantom, the audacious diamond thief who has left Scotland Yard clueless.
While her detective inspector uncle methodically hunts the villain, Caro decides to investigate a suspect of her own – the handsome Tobias Black, a magician extraordinaire, known as The Dark Duke. He’s the only one with the means, motive and opportunity but the art of illusion means not everything is as it seems, in both crime and affairs of the heart.
As Christmas Day draws near, Caro must decide whether it is worth risking reputations and friendships in order to follow her desires.

Available on Amazon

Excerpt

Caro’s butterflies returned as Bertie led her into the jeweller’s.

“Miss Caroline! A pleasure to see you again,” said the jeweller. “I hope you’ve come to tell me that you’ve single-handedly apprehended The Phantom.”

“Alas not, Mr Hargreaves,” she answered, “that is most certainly a job best left for the police. I’m here on a professional matter – your profession.”

Bertie looked up from the glass case in front of him.

“May I see the rings in that tray please?”

Mr Hargreaves was only too happy to oblige.

Bertie fingered row upon row of rings before pulling out two. The first was an oval cut sapphire – from Ceylon, the jeweller informed them – surrounded with round diamonds and mounted in gold. The second gold ring featured a faceted stone that shone pinks, blues and greens – Alexandrite, Caro learned – and that stone was surrounded by tiny seed pearls.

Bertie held them both out to Caro.

“You’re really good at hypotheticals, Caro, so let me try this one on you. If you were going to be surprised with a ring, which one would you prefer?”

Caro quelled her nerves and gave the question serious thought before answering.

“Both rings are absolutely beautiful, but I don’t think it would be much of a surprise if the girl knew she was getting a choice!”

Bertie shook his head with a smile and swept away the fringe that flopped over his brow.

“Seriously? You’re not going to tell me which one I ought to get?”

“I’m not the one proposing – you’re going to have to do that for yourself.” Caro grew serious. “But, this being a purely hypothetical question, let me put it back onto you. When you think of the girl you are planning to surprise, which ring reminds you of her?”

Bertie looked thoughtful for a moment and turned back to Mr Hargreaves.

“Could you put these two rings aside for me for the next few days, while I think about it?”

About the author

Elizabeth Ellen Carter is an award-winning historical romance writer who pens richly detailed historical romantic adventures. A former newspaper journalist, Carter ran an award-winning PR agency for 12 years. The author lives in Australia with her husband and two cats. 

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Roman Magistrate And Slave On The Run

The Litterae
your daily source of news in Rome – the Eternal City
Dateline: the first year in the reign of Maximinus Thrax
(that’s 235 AD for you pesky Christian types)

Roman Forum. The reconstruction of the 19th century. Painter Becchetti. Watercolour.

The Senate today has announced a warrant for the arrest of Marcus Cornelius Drusus, one of Rome’s senior magistrates.

The praetor is wanted for questioning in relation to providing material aid to Senator Cato Claudius Germanicus, who was executed last month following a summary trail at which he was accused of treason against His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Maximinus Thrax.

The Magistrate is described as aged in his early 30s. He is tall, muscularly built with black hair and silver-blue eyes. He is known to be an accomplished swimmer and may be found in upmarket Baths in major cities.

Baiae on the Coast of Naples. The acclaimed Seneca calls it a ‘resort of vice’

Reports from the provinces suggest that Marcus Cornelius is headed south towards the coastal resort city of Baiae where news has just reached us of the suspicious death of Agrippina Messalina Plinia, the magistrate’s ex-wife. It is not known whether there is a connection.

Sources close to the Magistrate say his absence from Rome may be related to his investigation into the mysterious Cult of Elagabalus.

The Litterae has learned that before his arrest, Senator Cato had been prepared to publicly name senior Roman officials involved in the group believed responsible for the murders of six boys as well as the death of a Greek doctor, Philomen Erasmus, in the past three months.

Ettore Forti (1850-1940)

Marcus Cornelius is thought to be traveling in the company of a medicae, a female doctor by the name of Kyna who was a protege of Philomen Erasmus and has herself been questioned over her former master’s death.

Kyna (last name not known) is originally from Britannia. She described as aged late 20s, short stature, slim build with long red hair.

We will be updating this story as news comes to hand. The next update will be on Aprilis XXVIII (April 28). Look for Dark Heart by Elizabeth Ellen Carter.


About The Book

Can love survive a dark heart?

Rome, 235 A.D.

A series of ritual murders of young boys recalls memories of Rome’s most wicked emperor. Magistrate Marcus Cornelius Drusus has discovered the cult extends to the very heart of Roman society.

Despite his personal wealth and authority, Marcus is a slave to his past – conflicted by his status as an adopted son, bitterly betrayed by his wife and forced to give up his child.

Kyna knows all about betrayal. Sold into slavery by her husband to pay a gambling debt, she found herself in Rome, far from her home in Britannia. Bought by a doctor, she is taught his trade and is about to gain her freedom when her mentor is murdered by the cult.

When the same group makes an attempt on her life, Kyna is forced to give up her freedom and accept Marcus’ protection. With no one to trust but each other, mutual attraction ignites into passion. But how far will Marcus go for vengeance when he learns the cult’s next victim is his son?

Can the woman who is free in her heart save the man who is a slave in his?

Dark Heart will be released on April 28 through Dragonblade Publishing.

Excerpt

“This is the place,” she said, more to herself than to Marcus who now stood behind her.

He leaned around her. She felt the heat of his body, exercised by the ride, as he pushed on the door.

It remained held fast.

“Open it,” he said brusquely to the unhappy Hadrianus who lingered at the top of the stairs.

“I… I don’t have the key,” the man stuttered.

“Find one!”

The volume of the yell amplified in the stone stairwell. Kyna jumped at its suddenness and volume, and noted with satisfaction that Hadrianus did as well. The man ran down the stairs with more alacrity than she would have credited him.

“You’re sure?” Marcus asked, his voice now soft by her ear.

“Certain,” she said, her voice matching his. “Behind this door is a dormitory of some sort with a fireplace set into the wall. High windows let in plenty of light. There is a courtyard with raised gardens.”

Hadrianus returned with an iron key.

“This is one of our disused wings, Magistrate. I can’t imagine what interest it has for you,” he said, fussing at the lock.

The door swung open, the squeaking of the hinges reverberating around the room. Dust motes danced in the air lit by the angled shaft of light through the high windows.

The room was deserted. Worse still, it was empty. Only a small table by the fireplace showed there had ever been any habitation.

Kyna walked into the room stiffly, a somnambulist in a horrible waking nightmare as fiendishly real as the ones that plagued her in the villa.

The pallets were gone; so were the boys. She moved to the large shutters at one end of the room and pulled open a panel. There was the courtyard, its blood red geraniums in bloom.

“They were here,” she breathed, softly at first and then again, louder. “They were here!”

She swung around and pointed a finger at Hadrianus. “They were here! Where are they?”

A flash of fear crossed the old doctor’s face as Kyna took another step toward him.

“I… I have no idea what you’re talking about. There’s no one here.”

Hadrianus turned to appeal to the magistrate.

“My lord, the woman is quite clearly disturbed. You can see for yourself no one is here – this room hasn’t been used in a long time – months, in fact.”

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